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 :)
I really wish I could give this 12/10 - but I just can't.
The reason? They haven't explained enough in this movie. It really should have been done over 2 movies.
If you have played the Visual Novel of Fate Stay Night, you will really enjoy this. If you haven't, then all you will see are a bunch of fights with non-explained powers and, to some extent, motives.
Disclaimer here: if you have not played the visual novel OR watched the anime series, I suggest you put this one off, or otherwise subtract like 5 from the score I've given. To put it bluntly, the movie expects and assumes that the viewer has some background knowledge of Fate/stay night's story. Most importantly, knowledge of the first two nights of the story are vital in understanding what is going on. For the anime series, this would encompass watching the first 3 episodes, as the movie chooses to forsake all the early development stuff, instead jumping straight to where the storyline branches off after a short introduction. That being said, I still strongly encourage new viewers to watch the whole anime series before delving into the movie. The very nature of it being a movie leaves very little character development time for anyone besides our lead characters. That means other lesser characters, though not by any means unimportant to the story, will potentially look like random character additions, which will likely take away from the viewer's enjoyment of the movie.
The movie in itself reminds me quite a bit of those expansion packs you might buy for various games; the original game has mediocre content, whereas the expansion will (usually) add something to the game that makes it worth playing. In a nutshell, the movie recreates the same world that we were introduced to in the anime series, with the same characters, but with a completely different story route. As such, the characters we've known from the series play very different roles in the movie, as some characters are killed off earlier while others stay around.
The time allotted for character development, unfortunately, is severely limited, so the movie focuses its time on just a few: primarily Archer, Shirou, and to a lesser extent, Rin. Saber, unfortunately, gets very little development time, but her on-screen presence during combat scenes makes up for this. For the other three, background information and other details that we didn't know about in the series are presented in such a way that makes the character interaction look incredibly believable, and also lets them be seen in a new light compared to the anime series. Shirou, in particular, is a bit less annoying and a VERY good deal less helpless than he was in the series... a plus, to be sure. Rin's tsundere qualities are also highlighted a lot more in this route, and Archer was a badass to begin with: he just gets a lot more screen time now!
Overall, for viewers that enjoyed Fate/stay night the anime series, definitely give this one a try. I also urge viewers that gave the series negative comments based solely on Shirou's behavior to check this out too. Unfortunately, for Type-moon fans who are familiar with the visual novel, there's nothing new presented in the movie; the visual novel still does a better job of telling the story. Though, it's always cool to see some awesome scenes animated.
*Warning! This contains spoliers for the movie Fate/Stay Night : Unlimited Blade Works and the some spoilers for the anime Fate/Stay Night.*
Fate/Stay Night : Unlimited Blade Works, a "movie" by Studio Deen following the Unlimited Blade Works route of the Fate/ visual novel. The first part of the movie are exactly the same as the Fate/Stay Night anime, Rin summons Archer and a day or two later proceeds to fight Lancer, another of the seven spirits summoned. Now our main protaginist Shirou happens to be there, just like in Fate/Stay Night, infact the the whole beginning is the same as the first two episodes of the Fate/Stay Night anime, up to Shirou summoning Saber. This takes the film about six minutes to get through, if that.
As I stated above, the first part of the "movie" is almost the same as Fate/Stay Night, with a few minor differences here or there. But from when Rider enters the scene, it is a completely different story in it's own right. The story follows Rin as the main female lead. instead of Saber, who is the main female lead of Fate/Stay Night and we get more to know more about Rin and about how much of a badass she actually is. Well... you would... if the movie was actually a movie and not a highlight reel of the Unlimited Blade Works arc.
The major downside to this movie is, you have to have seen Fate/Stay Night in order to even grasp what is going on, and how it even got there! If a new viewer were to decide to pick up this, they'd be lost in about sic minutes, which is just in time for Saber to appear and confuse people even more because, to be honest... there isn't much of a story. You can't get into it, there's no build up to major points! It runs in the annoying fashion of "Begnning > Twist > Twist > Twist > Twist > Twist > Final Battle > Ending." We get no build up to these twists, they're just thrown in your face.
Now, the story did have it's good points, like the Archer Vs. Shirou battle and why we find out that Archer has indeed been after Shirou all this time, bravo. Even the fight scene between the two was rather well done. That's about it though. I also like how Gilgamesh did feature earlier in the film and it didn't do what Fate/Stay Night did and have a "GILGAMESH OUT OF NOWHERE YOU STUPID MONGRELS!" and he does seem like a more formidable enemy than in Fate/Stay Night, but the ending fight scene between him and Shirou, which by all means is not a reason why I'm complaining, because it works. It's over in like three minutes and a fight like that, needs to be WAY more epic...
Sound and Animation
These two will be done together as I don't really have much to say about them as they are nothing spectacular, but above average. No better than Fate/Stay Night.
The Characters don't get must justice in this film, some getting next to no screen time. Saber, is just a plot point, no more. Half of the time, there was no need for here to even be in the film. And how she disapears in the end, really annoys me, just a smile and disapearing? That's not good enough, in my opinion. Characters such as Sakura are in the movie for about a minute if that.
One thing I do like about this film is, Shirou isn't a complete moron and jumping infront of Beserker's, he's actually letting Saber do her job which for once, is nice to see. He does become quite the badass as well, but it would have been nice to see him develop into one and not just run down some stairs and be like "Oh, by the way I can do this now."
Illya, Shinji and Caster get little screen time, which is a shame because I feel these characters help develop the story along quite a lot, especially Shinji, who in this is more of a formidable enemy as he "Gains control" over Gilgamesh as a servent. It would have been nice to see his descent into madness and some behind the scenes minipulation going on before he just turns up at Ilya's castle.
We do get a lot more of Archer and Rin, which is a plus point I guess, except Rin gets no development and Archer's story is just thrown in your face. One really annoying point for is that Kiritsigu doesn't even get mentioned as far as I'm aware. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)
There's not many good points I can take from this film, as it isn't really much of a movie more of a highlight reel. For someone who wanted a quick re-cap of the Unlimited Blade Works route would probably benefit from this movie, but someone new to the franchise wouldn't have a prayer to understand what is going on.
If you are intrested in the Unlimited Blade Works route, you could try the visual novel and if that's not for you, you could instead watch the series adaption of the Unlimited Blade Works route by UFOtable, which are the people who also brought us Fate/Zero.