*SOME SPOILERS POSSIBLE*
Our story in Fate/stay night surrounds Emiya Shirou, who after being chased around town by a Lance-wielding guy with superhuman abilities accidently summons Saber, a noble knight who will act as his ‘servant’ during the Holy Grail War. Shirou now finds himself in a 7-way fight to the death with the other ‘masters’ and their own servants in the battle for the Holy Grail, who will grant the last one standing a single wish.
Now, while this sounds like an interesting premise, the story is rather slow at the beginning. At first, Shirou doesn’t want anything to do with the War and you as a viewer share Saber’s frustration at him not wanting to fight. You crave for some servant-versus-servant fighting which doesn’t come fast enough. It begins to pick up near the mid-point and from then on keeps a steady balance between combat and down-time, something which it should have done much sooner. In the earlier episodes you feel a bit starved for a good fight, but if you hang in there it picks up.
I also felt that the romance was bizarre and unnecessary considering the style that the anime is trying to convey (that of an ancient, holy war).
I have rather mixed emotions about the animation. On the one hand, the scene where Saber is summoned and the majority of the fighting segments are well done with nice lighting and the servant’s magical abilities rarely look choppy or cheap. On the other hand however, in the more calmed-down scenes in which our heroes are at school or at home, I feel like I am watching a much older series. This may be down to the art style, but during these parts I felt like I was watching an anime from about 2000 rather than 2006. Compared to other anime from 2006 such as Kanon, Fate/stay night can look behind the times at points.
The soundtrack of Fate/stay night suits the series’ style very well. The organs and choir-like tunes never really feel out of place, although one track (Unmei No Yoru) is played a little too much. It reminds me of the Castlevania video game series, which is no bad thing as it has some of most highly-regarded music in gaming. Good stuff.
Voice-acting is satisfactory. No outstanding or terrible performances. Honestly can’t say much more. (I didn’t watch the English dub, but from the dubbed footage I have seen it’s not bad. However, it will never match the original dub’s EKUSUKARIBAAAA).
Shirou dances upon the line between noble and irritating far too often than he should. It is standard for the protagonist to be courageous and selfless in this genre of anime, but he takes it a little too far. He keeps interfering on servant duels and derails the combat sequences on occasion just when they are about to get interesting. He begins to man up and learn his place near the end, but the damage had already been done.
Tohsaka is easily the best character and my favourite by far, simply because for the first half of the series you genuinely do not know her intentions. Is she helping Shirou simply because she wants to? Or is she planning something sinister? I was genuinely thinking like this for a while and it was probably one of the only things keeping me watching through the earlier episodes.
Saber while stoically awesome is rather one-sided as a character until she begins to open up in the second half, but I like her more for what she does on the battlefield rather than who she is.
The antagonists (mostly the rival masters) are mostly either loopy or twisted without much reason to be apart from obsession to obtain the grail and are really just there for Saber to use her sword on.
Fate/stay night isn’t either awful or amazing. It is an average anime with some good moments (that mostly include Saber) and a decent soundtrack. The story is very slow to get rolling and the characters (apart from Tohsaka) are all a little bland. You will be entertained when it nears its conclusion, but you just wish it had more similar moments throughout.
If anything, watch this before starting the incredible Fate/Zero, for without stay night, you will be a little lost.