This is my second review, and the first one that I prepared for by taking notes on throughout the series. Since I'm still feeling out this reviewing thing, I don't yet have a firm rating scale, so bear with me, okay?
At first, Fate/Stay Night's story seemed to have potential, but I rather doubted that the potential would be fulfilled. Surely the story would be cheesy or lackluster, especially seeing how the first few episodes went. Negative reviews gave me little hope of improvement. Imagine how glad I was to be proven wrong!
First, the bad: Why was I expecting cheesy or lackluster?
I remember one scene with a conversation between Emiya Shirou and Saber (the main characters) somewhere in the first few episodes. Shirou made some comment, probably about saving lives, that the authors appearantly thought significant or touching. I know this was supposed to be significant because Saber said, "Oh, Shirou!" And I said, "Oh brother!"
That scene wasn't the only failed attempt at significance within the first few episodes. Thankfully, this wears off after a few episodes, and, for the most part, we're allowed to find significance ourselves by watching the story unfold. Shirou's speeches happen less and less often, and Saber never again has to tell us that a comment was supposed to be touching.
Now, the good:
Suspense, magic, swords, a touch of romance - Fate/Stay Night brings all these and more into the story, even if it is a bit slow on the uptake. By the end of episode six, I wrote in my notes: "Okay, I'm in, regardless of what ____ said in his review."
What hooked me? The battles. These were, perhaps, a little cliche as far as magic-type battles go. But we still saw some physical technique, and I wanted to see what weapon or display of bravery would come next. I particularly liked how Shiro's skills evolved.
Fate/Stay Night has a wide cast of secondary characters, and I sensed that they each had a story of their own to tell, even if there wasn't time to tell it in the 24 episodes. This added more to the overall story.
Sum it up:
- A little slow on the uptake and somewhat repetitive in Shirou's comments
~A bit straightforward, but at least hints at multiple facets to the story
+Developed, suspenseful, with a fitting final episode
Enjoyable, yet not superb.
I don’t usually pay much attention to the animation, except to note its style. If the animation is horrid or incredible, I might notice. For the sake of this review, I even took notes on the animation in Fate/Stay Night. So, here it goes:
In some reviews and comments I’ve read about Fate/Stay Night, people have said that they watched the whole thing only because the animation was really good. Having now seen it, I must say… do you all need glasses?!?
In my humble opinion, the animation was not bad, but neither was it superb. I shall split it into two categories: characters and general animation
Characters – outfits come in character section below. This is for the art/animation itself.
Shirou, the main character, seems a bit underdone. It seems like the artists took five minutes to decide on a firm looking face, strong but normal sized body, and basic eye and hair design. That five minute sketch became the permanent, unimpressive character design.
I have one other complaint regarding specific characters, and shall paraphrase what I said in my notes after episode 5: That teacher of Issei’s looks like the priest/supervisor, who in turn looks like Shirou’s dad. If those three aren’t related, I’ll pound the artists for their unoriginality.
Turns out, the three truly had no family ties. And yet the main physical difference between them was the hair style (even hair color was the same!). Oh, and one of them had glasses. I realize that they are only secondary characters, but that is no excuse to create them nearly identical. The artists managed to make all the other characters pleasingly unique. Surely they could have scrounged up one or two more new designs.
The rest of the characters, like I said, were unique and wonderful to look at. Even Shirou, depending on the scene, was pleasing. I could tell that he was strong, though in a quiet way that the artists did not emphasize. Tohsaka (bossy school mate and important character), especially, was beautifully done.
In episode 15, I say the first big flaw in the animation. While entering Saber’s core, Shirou encounters a dragon (why? I have no idea). They way the dragon flies around is pretty cool – I found myself thinking it would be pretty thrilling to watch in 3D. However, the dragon’s style conflicts with the other animation, especially when next to Shirou. Shirou reminded me of an animated character in an otherwise live action production – except he was the one that belonged. This short scene was enough to bring the entire animation rating down .5 in my book. In the next episode, during a fight with Berserker, I noticed something similar.
While usually pleasant, the animation quality is inconsistent, sometimes in the same instant. Colors seem a bit faded, though not bad, and the art isn’t always detailed or brought to its full potential.
All together, I give the animation a 7.
The music was beautiful, simply beautiful. Opening, ending, background: almost all the music was wonderful. The second opening song was a bit disappointing in comparison, but still good.
Voice acting was all around good. I don’t usually take note of voice acting, so I don’t have much else to say about that.
Background sounds were well done, too.
I give sound a 9.7
Let’s start with first impressions! Here’s what my notes had to say after the first four episodes:
Shirou – His words give more impact than they deserve. Kind of repetitive.
Saber – Really? A girl with a puffy blue dress, hair ribbon, and a sword?
This better not turn out to be a strong girl/pathetic guy anime.
Other characters – at this point, even less noteworthy.
Needless to say, I was not impressed. Thankfully, the characters improved with each episode. As of episode 8, Tohsaka’s character was still the best. She was not a central character, though, so I remained skeptical. At episode 9, Saber intrigued me more and more. "Hurray! She was more than some girl in a puffy dress!"
Ilya, a manipulative little brat who has few qualms about killing, succeeded in making me love her despite her evil tendencies. No other anime character has accomplished this.
By episode 16, I could safely say, “Yay! Shirou isn’t just some pathetic guy!” Moreover, Saber continued to evolve.
My conclusions regarding characters:
Tohsaka was one of the best developed, dynamic characters. And not dynamic in the comic relief or stereotypical way.
Shirou – For someone who supposedly only cares about others, Shirou is very selfish regarding Saber. This part of him does not mature until the final episode, when he suddenly realizes every wrong stance he’s had. Yep, he learns the most at the end, a little late for my taste.
Saber – She has a cute little nose, a stubborn personality, and a learning curve that almost matches Shirou’s. And the authors left some holes regarding her. As I watched, I waited in vain for the development I hope for, leaving these three questions:
How, exactly, did she fail as king?
What makes her think someone else will do better?
Has any one stopped to think that if history changes and a different person becomes king, it will affect all events leading to present time and to the future?
Characters could have been worse, but they could have been a whole lot better, too. I give them a 6.5
Fate/Stay Night was enjoyable enough that I want to see its companion movie. I gave it 4.5 stars because I enjoyed it. However, I can’t be so generous in this review.
To calculate the total score:
Story x2 because story is the most important part
= 7.64, or 7.6
Fate/Stay Night is a must for fans of magic and some types of fantasy. I’d put it in the same genre as Kaze no Stigma. It has magic, a tiny bit of romance, fights, and age old heroes. If you enjoy this genre, you’ll probably enjoy Fate/Stay Night. Otherwise, I'm not sure.