Before I get into the real meat of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works and find out what makes it tick, I'd like to point out that this review is going to be equal parts an overview of the pros and (many) cons of this movie, an insight into the reviewing process itself and a lesson in how to write a screenplay. Why, you ask? Simply because it seems Studio Deen need to be told how to do it right.
But let's start from the top: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Bean Works is set in an alternate timeline to Studio Deen's previous Fate/Stay adaptation, Fate/Stay Night, but with the same basic premise: Seven mages are chosen to fight in the Holy Grail War, summoning legendary heroes from the past to help them in their goal of surviving a humongous battle royale. Emiya Shirou is one of these chosen mages who befriends another chosen mage, Tohsaka Rin, straight off the bat, therefore pretty much neglecting the whole “fight to the death” scenario. Shirou then summons Saber quite by accident and sets about his mission of being the only person in the War who seemingly wants to fight every battle himself as some kind of suicide mission.
I feel I need to interject at this point. Despite the previous paragraph, I did actually enjoy the plot to F/SN:UBW because the premise is an interesting one and Unlisted Blade Works is a lot darker than the original series. Whereas the best scene in the 2006 edition of the Fate/Stay universe was undoubtedly a snarky but honourable Archer taking on a vastly overpowered Berserker in a dark, tear-soaked, nihilistic setting, this 2010 update decided to build its very foundations on that atmosphere and pepper it with some truly gory (not to mention, simply cruel) moments. Yet, overall, the story failed horribly.
A rule of reviewing I've learnt to live by is: Always view a series/movie as a standalone piece of art. This isn't steadfast but it works. Take Code Geass, for instance. Fantastic first season, terrible second season. However, memory of the first meant that it took a while for me to see R2 for what it really was: a steaming pile of horse manure. To apply this to Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Widgets, the only thing that really holds the story up is the fact that everybody already knows the characters and the basic plot. Take out this foreknowledge and despite it being a complete reset, the viewer is lost from the start.
To say that pacing is an issue is like calling the duckbilled playpus “a little different”. The first ten minutes is a barrage of plot points, not to mention a pointless exercise in dot-to-dot, which results in a laughable summary of the Holy Grail War and Emiya's involvement in it playing out like an animated version of a wiki entry (or my overview above even). Characters are thrown at us and the writers cross their fingers that they'll stick. No-one gets an introduction, everyone just appears. Then disappears. Twists fly at you in a flurry before you've even had time to check if you're still in Kansas. And the reason for all this is because Studio Deen have done the ridiculous thing of trying to squash a whole game's worth of plot into a measly hour forty-five [insert facepalm here].
The animation has changed very little from the Fate/Stay Night series, with only minor touch ups with regards to character design. Gilgamesh notably loses his golden suit of armour but the symbolism behind this is beyond me. The artists themselves seem to have attended the “Dragon Ball Z School of Art” (probably sat next to the Bleach artists) with their tendency to spawn crater-inducing aura explosions all over the shop and giving every familiar the unerring ability to fly into battle despite it being pretty common knowledge that King Arthur wasn't a flier. It would have come up at some point if he'd been caught doing that (then again, if they couldn't figure out he was a she, then who knows what else they left out!).
Aside from the psychedelic sex scene which implodes into lots of lovely blue diamonds, which was nice and all but completely inconsequential mumbo-jumbo – aside from that, there's no subtlety to the art. It hammers away at the viewer like the plot does – in short, sharp sword stabs. One of the things I liked about the original F/SN was the decision to show Shirou being slightly repulsed by Saber's rather manly body, but it was quite clear that she occupied the damsel in distress role in UBW. Quite how anyone managed to mistake that ample bosom in Anglo Saxon times is anyone's guess.
It's worth noting that this score is also lowered by ufotable's 2011 effort, Fate/Zero, because while I'm conscious of my reviewing rule about viewing in a vacuum, it's clear to see what can be done with the right tools and only a year later, no less.
The only saving grace. The opening is almost tribal and the soaring melodies give a good springboard for the movie that the action unfortunately doesn't take up and run with. Kenji Kawai's score uses the chorus as an instrument, rather than letting words drown the heart-thumping soundtrack. This only lets up at the end when a power rock ballad invades, but even then, it oddly suits the movie's ending of bitter-sweetness.
The cast of voice actors is largely the same as the 2006 version, but they all seem to have learnt a lot in the four year gap. Gone are Shirou's constant mewlings and thankfully, he's learnt more words than just Saber's name. Noriaki Sugiyama even managed to make this Shirou sound worthy in his ideals and that takes some effort.
Sure, we all like Saber and the other familiars, especially the unpredictability of the villainous Gilgamesh and Archer going rogue was a touch of genius too, but then he flitted between different alliances like an indecisive whore. Hint, Studio Deen: there's a reason I use “touch” – if you put your whole hand on it, you smother the “genius” part.
The overriding problem with the characters though, is the lack of any semblance of characterisation. In the mind of F/SN:UBW, characterisation means saying the character's name. In this manner, we meet Lancer, Ilya and Shinji – then promptly don't see them again for half an hour or more while more names are thrown at us. Plot twists were severely let down by the fact that characters appeared from the smokescreen to audible gasps, only for the viewer to go “Wait a tick, who's he?” Shirou's teacher is the perfect example: Was he even introduced before that scene? I mean, even Scooby Doo introduced the ghost's real identity before they got to the unmasking bit. That's logical, isn't it, Studio Deen? Here's a tip for you: real scripts should go:
Basis → Character building → interaction → internal struggle meets external forces → twist.
It shouldn't go:
Basis → twist → twist → twist → twistwistwist → deus ex machina → end.
I'm afraid, try as I might, I can't add anything else under the banner of characters because there literally isn't anything else to say about them. Key conversations were never had, back stories were never completed, motivations were never even discussed (except for Shirou, briefly): with failings like that, how can a character even be called a character?
In my mind, this movie was made purely to pander to the substantial number of fans that the Fate/Stay Night franchise has attracted, and if you look at the figures, it worked, topping the Blu-Ray sales for the month it was released.
Yet, there are flaws that cannot be dismissed under the heading of “For Fanboys Only.” Fate/Stay Night: Unloved Bone Wank suffers from ADHD, seemingly unable to stay in one place for more than five minutes, and that makes it feel fragmented. There are many lessons for Studio Deen to learn from this venture, the most important of which being that they simply cannot force that much plot into a movie so short. There's no chance to build the suspense and characters with action happening every two seconds and there's certainly no room for internal monologues which could have helped to bring it all together.
What Studio Deen should have learnt in Scripting 101 is: Plot twists shouldn't come thick and fast, they should be used sparingly. A game is not the same as a film. They should have cut large portions of the plot out and focussed solely on the driving force of the movie. Sure, a lot of fans would have complained. Sure, reducing a cast of this size down to a mere handful despite the premise specifically stating there are seven mages and seven familiars has a risk of opening major plotholes. And I agree, the plot would have had to be cut, pasted and sewn back together later on an unholy number of times to avoid the hulking great mess that UBW turned into. But if a little plot had been sacrificed in order to make this a pleasurable and all-inclusive experience, then this movie could have gone where only Fate/Zero is starting to take the franchise now.
Hi, so we have a film Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works ..
The film follows a series of Anime - Fate / Zero (By the way this anime I will do a review) After seeing this film, I can only say that I have a really good feeling and a very pleasant experience :) This film basically finishing the entire series Fate / Zero (Which of course is to have a sequel, as I heard). The film is full of tension and action, and more beautiful animce perhaps do not deliver .. maybe just that I wish you a pleasant sight :)
You know, after watching the series of the same name, I would never think it would continue or developed to be such a big franchise. However, the ending of the series didn’t quite satisfy some folks or that it went some confused and/or dazed (I was just confused some of the time in this show) but luckily after 3-4 years when the series ran in 2006, there was a movie adaptation coming to the fray in 2010 in Japan, but I didn’t know if it was one of those compilation movies where they just put scenes from the show and make it different somehow.
Shirou Emiya finds himself an unwilling participant in a deadly competition where seven Mages summon heroic spirits as servants to duel each other to the death. They compete for the chance to make a wish from the Holy Grail, which has the power to grant any wish. Shiro is unskilled as a mage and knows nothing of the Holy Grail War, but he and his servant, Saber, enters into a temporary partnership with another Mage, Rin Tohsaka. However, problems arise between Shirou and Rin's servant, Archer, who seems to seriously despise him.
You know what, I could go over how I feel about the characters and story of this show but I would be repeating myself from the series’ review. However, I will say that the story has a very darker tone, compared to the PG-13ish tamer nature of the series, cutting out some of the high school filler and anything with the two non-major characters and while it does a retelling of it, some characters who you expect to make it out alive in the series, without giving spoilers away, some of them got some fucked-up deaths and for some of the latter part of the movie, it’s centered around Shiro and Archer, as opposed to Saber, who still have a major role in this but more in the background. Also, you know Shiro still has ideals of him becoming a champion of justice, being a hero and all that while Archer, who’s been through it all, became cynical about it and feels the need to kill Shiro to remind him of that.
Honestly, I’m with Archer on this, mainly because I still stand by the fact that Shiro is that noble jackass who has these traditional hero traits but when it comes to him going against opponents that are more stronger and powerful than him, he is still the hard-headed moron that doesn’t get it that he can easily die of that. Sure, you can say he may not be strong, but he has heart but you forget that you also need brains to fighting an opponent or uses their advantages against them, which Shiro did sort of used in the end.
For the animation by Studio DEEN………this actually does resemble the animation in Fate/Zero but this is on a movie budget so of course, it’s going to look better than the series since that was made in 2006-07 and the movie in 2010 with the fighting animation more fluid, the brutal scenes feel more gripping as you watch it and maybe felt some scenes that involves a lot of blades, hence, Blade Works. The music has the mysterious and haunting tone that it was going for but I barely notice some of it as I watched it.
The Sentai Filmworks dub with used the original (sort of) voice actors from the series, provided by Bang Zoom Entertainment and if you remember, I said, they used THREE DIFFERENT VOICE ACTRESSES for Saber and this is the second one voiced by Michelle Ruff and for her performance…..it was nothing outstanding. She did fine or close to Kate Higgins to an extent as Ruff always works her monotone voice in most anime characters and it was just a “meh” performance. The dub as a whole was more of a step up from the TV series, it was a 60% improvement over the TV series.
FINAL VERDICT: The movie passes on levels that it took a darker tone in the franchise, making it more serious than what it was but alas, it still suffers from the same problems with the same characters. If I could say this, I would just watch the movie and just skip the show now that I have seen it and like many others say, some of the answers will be further explained in Fate/Zero.
As a precursor, I would warn people that this review is from an irredeemable player of the visual novel. FSN is based on a visual novel that I adore and as such my review comes from a fan that has the original source to compare it to.
Fate/stay night is the story of the Holy Grail War, a secret competition held between magicians to obtain a device that will grant them any wish. Magicians summon Servants, spirits of heroic beings from myth and history, to do battle against other magicians in the hopes of attaining the Grail. Shirou Emiya, an amateur magus with no knowledge of the Grail is fatefully swept up into the war when he accidentally summons the Servant Saber, strongest of the seven Servant classes. Shirou becomes determined to win the competition to protect the unknowing public from the dangers the war presents in a bid to make true his dream to become an ally of justice.
The movie Unlimited Blade Works is based on the second of three routes that can be taken in the game. While the anime series predominantly focused on the Fate scenario with little references to UBW and Heaven's Feel, this film is all UBW. Unfortunately, it tries to cram in the same amount of material the anime covers in 24 episodes within a movie that clocks in under two hours. If you are not familiar with the source material or even the anime, you are going to be entirely lost with what is going on with the plot.
Technically, this show has a few things going for it. The budget of the show compared to the anime series shows, as does the couple years difference in animation techniques since the series aired. Unfortunately, it has all the same problems DEEN series do: some off-model work sneaks in, and some of the graphics can be distracting. As a sword fanboy, I also got rather distracted when the swords Gilgamesh spams in one scene clearly includes Elven and Rohirric swords from The Lord of the Rings films. Music is a different matter, as the epic quality of the series only improves with the soundtrack here.
As a fan, however, I have to shy away from positively promoting this. While I enjoyed it on the whole, part of the enjoyment was merely from knowing what would happen and wanting to see it in glorious high-def animation, rather than as a viewer gaining an anime experience. Because of the length, much of what makes the plot intriguing and characters interesting is sacrificed. The spectacle is great, but dramatically speaking, it falls far, far short of its source material. Additionally, the official localization in English is a tragedy, with many of the lines losing their significance due to how they were translated. One such instance in which Archer berates Shirou was subtitled as "You're still green in the bones!" rather than "Your ability to conceptualize the framework is still weak!" The latter is actually a partial hint, rather than merely an insult. Some of the subtle references the movie still maintains is further lost by the translation.
Overall, while my own personal score for the series is high, as a review I cannot say this comes as the highest recommendation. Really, your best bet is to check out the anime series first, or better yet check out the visual novel before anything else.
For starters, to watch this movie and get any sort of semblance out of the plot you really just have to be familiar with the series. This can be explained by the Fate/Stay Night series. Also, one more thing to understand is that this is an ALTERNATE ROUTE from the Fate/Stay Night series that shows different endings, battles, etc.
With that said, the movie was excellent. The animation was good for its time (not the best, but certaintly not the worst), the sound was good, and the best part was the story and the characters. In Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks you learn much more about the main character (Emiya) and the heroic spirit Archer than anything else. If you have seen Fate/Stay Night, this is an excellent compliment and will answer many questions you had about the two (trying not to give spoilers). If you enjoy the series or the visual novel its based on you will definitely enjoy this movie.
Overall I gave it a 9/10 simply because while I understand that movies need to be concise, I feel there could have been just a bit more of that "something" that I can't seem to put my finger on.