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Greetings! Railgunfan75 here with my next anime review! Whenever you have a sequel to a popular franchise, the sequel always has high expectations. Many fans expect a sequel to recapture the magic that the earlier installments had. This is a tough goal to reach and in many cases the sequel typically fails. This could be because of unrealistic expectations of the fans or a failure of the creators to recreate the magic which they achieved before. However, there are occasions where the sequel breaks this trend and is able to recapture that magic. The subject of this review is one of those rare occasions and a sequel to the series featured in my last review. The series I will be discussing is Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works.
The setting is Fuyuki City. Ten years has passed since the fourth Holy Grail War and the events of Fate/Zero. A new generation prepares for a coming conflict. Another Holy Grail war is coming to Fuyuki City with only those involved aware of it’s existence. A survivor of the tragedy caused by the previous Holy Grail War, Shirou Emiya a high school student is determined to stop further tragedies from happening. Shirou gets his chance to fullfill his dream. After he accidentally witnesses a battle between participants, Shirou is attacked. He is saved from death by Saber, a spirit who comes to his aid and Rin Tohsaka a fellow master and classmate. Shirou discovers that he has been chosen to take part in the Holy Grail War. The Holy Grail is a conflict where seven mages and their servants fight for control of the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is a wish granting device which will grant the desires of the victor. Aided by Rin, her servant Archer, and his servant Saber, Shirou enters the Holy Grail with hope of fulfulling his desire to become a hero of justice. He soon discovers however that obtaining that goal will be not be as easy as it seems and the events of this conflict will have a great impact on his future.
I had high expectations for this series after I had enjoyed Fate/Zero and this series met those expectations. Just as was the case with it’s prequel, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works does many things right and has only a few flaws.
One of those positive areas is the plot of the series. The plot of Unlimited Blade Works is handled a little differently than in Fate/Zero. In Fate/Zero we see the events of the conflict from many different perspectives with a focus . In Unlimited Blade Works, the plot is much more focused on the main characters of the series. This choice for the method of story telling works very well because it allows the viewer to understand and connect with the main characters. This is important because the plot is character driven. In truth, Unlimited Blade Works is really about the growth of the characters with the Holy Grail War really being the catalyst for that growth. The series is really about Shirou and Rin’s journey to grow as people. While this is a change in focus from Fate/Zero, this change works really well and is just as entertaining. One aspect that does carry over from Zero is it’s focus on philosophy. Unlimited Blade Works is quite successful with continuing this trend. While there are not as many issues discussed as was in Zero, the core issues discussed are certainly fascinating and are even central to the plot of the series. To discuss the philosophies in detail leads to series spoilers but it’s one of the greatest aspects of the plot.
The series is well paced the episodes reaching a fine balance between advancing plot and adding depth to the story. Each episode ends at a point where the viewer is anxious to watch the next episode. The series is a great mix between action sequences and character development. The action sequences are also more than just fluff as they all serve a purpose in advancing the overall plot. In addition, the series even starts on a very interesting note. The series begins by showing the opening events of the series first from Rin’s perspective in the first episode then by Shirou’s perspective in the second episode. This is a cool way to approach the story and to introduce the characters. By the time these two episodes, the stage is set rather nicely for the rest of the series. From there the plot advances in a calculated and sensible manner concluding with an epilogue which allows the series to wrap in a very conclusive matter. I was left with very few questions once the series concludes which is a very refreshing thing to see. This is partially because of the plot not feeling rushed. For the most part, all of the important characters motivations are revealed and ample but not excessive time is taken on backstory. There are some plot points which can be confusing without prior experiences in the universe, but these are not backbreaking in any way. Also, the story is very focused which prevents the series from leaving plot threads dangling. This series falls into a rare category of actually being the perfect length. This is indeed an impressive feat. For these reasons, the plot of the series contributes to the series’ greatness.
Is there any negative points concerning the plot? In truth there really isn’t anything concerning the plot that hurts the series in any way. There a couple of small issues such as some characters not getting enough screen time and the fact there are some plot points which are better understood if you have viewed Fate/Zero but these are very minor and in truth really don’t affect the series in a negative way.
Another area where the series shines is the cast. The cast of this series is one of the most interesting group of characters that you will find in any any anime series. In the case of this review, I will just touch upon the main characters of this series.
The first character I will discuss is the character of Saber. I explored the character in detail in my Fate/Zero review and since the personality of the character didn’t change between the two series, I won’t examine the personality of the character a second time. One of the few carryover characters from Fate/Zero, she while one of the main characters has a lesser role in this series and serves a new master. Many characters would not be loyal to an inferior partner, but that is not the case with Saber as this instead strengthens her resolve to serve her master. Even in scenarios where she has no obligation to aid Shirou, she assists him without question. Summoned to serve Shirou Emiya, she faces a challenge of serving an inexperienced master. Despite this, she still has many awesome moments and some victories in battle. She maintains the same reasons to obtain the Grail as in the previous conflict, though she discovers the problems with her dream by the end of the series. This progresses the character in a huge way and it is nice to see such character growth. Due to events about halfway through the series, she takes on a secondary role in the second half of the series unfortunately. However, she is still an awesome character and is still one of of my favorites. She still carries herself with the strength and dignity that we have saw in Fate/Zero. I will say that Saber is still as awesome as ever. Despite having a smaller role, Saber still has plenty of noteworthy moments.
The second character I will discuss is Saber’s master, Shirou Emiya. Shirou is a survivor of a disaster caused by the previous Holy Grail War. Taken in by Kiritsugu Emiya from Fate/Zero, Shirou worships Kiritsugu as a hero and vows to be the one to fullfill Kiritsugu’s dream of being a hero of justice. Trained by Kiritsugu in basic magic, Shirou uses his skills to help others wherever he can. Shirou’s dream is one of the main things explored in the series and one of the main the primary things which defines him. Many of his actions are centered around achieving the dream even if the actions are self destructive. It is because of this that Shirou is actually of the most polarizing characters in this series. It becomes easy to respect his goal and dream, but it also becomes easy to shake your head at his actions. At many points (and other characters tell him this as well), his actions are kind of stupid. He is so willing to help others that he risks his own life particularly in scenarios when he doesn’t need to. Because of this there are moments where you root for Shirou and other moments where you just want to face palm. (If you are a Fate fan fan reading this, then it is important to note that Shirou is much less whiny then in previous versions,)Despite his blind idealism, Shirou possesses a lot of courage and a string moral code. This makes him a pretty solid character.
The third character which I will discuss is the servant Archer. Archer is Rin’s servant and another major player in the events of Unlimited Blade Works. Archer can be described as snarky and egotistical. However, Archer can back this up by being a bad ass. For a considerable portion of the series, Archer’s background is kept a mystery but is vital to the progression of the story. Archer is not afraid to do what is necessary to achieve his goal, whether it is moral or not. However in many cases, he does do the right thing even if he complains or adds some snarky comment to the situation. He also has a lot of respect for his master Rin despite disagreeing with many of her decisions. In turn, he has a lot of disdain for Shirou. The reasons for this are revealed as the series goes on, but the interactions between these two characters are some of the most interesting moments of the series. This makes him a complex and interesting character to watch as the viewer is constantly alternating between rooting for and against the character. Archer is the definition of the complexity which makes the Fate series awesome. This complexity also makes a very cool male character.
The fourth and final character is Rin Tohsaka. Rin is the latest in a long line of prestigious families which has taken part in every Holy Grail War. She doesn’t have a wish for if she obtains the grail, instead she wishes to win just for the sake of winning. Typically classified as a tsundere character, Rin is another character which believes in doing what is right even if she grumbles a bit along the way. Rin is a very strong character in both ability and in spirit. She also shows loyalty to her friends and companions regardless of the situation. This loyalty is even given to Archer despite his actions throughout the series which could be seen as questionable. It is not that Rin approves of such actions, however she prefers to focus on the positive things that occurred when she was working with Archer and sees the bond they shared as master and servant sacred. Rin tends to take things seriously from her education to achieving victory during the conflict. However, she does have plenty of softer and kinder moments as well. Such moments involve those with Shirou who she saves on multiple occasions despite it hurting her cause to do so. She is a great character and an excellent reason to watch this series. While she does fall into a stereotypical character trope, she is much deeper than other characters who fall into this type. In addition, she is one bad ass character who saves the day on multiple occasions. On multiple occasions, victories that Shirou achieves are because of some contribution that she adds. I could go on indefinitely as to why Rin is another of anime greatest characters and one of my favorites in any series.
There are many other characters which could be discussed, but I could write a novel discussing all of them. I will say that the supporting is full of fascinating and complicated characters. There are very few characters not worth watching in the series.
As was the case with Fate/Zero, the animation and soundtrack to this series are both amazing. For both it was clear that a lot of time and effort went into both of these aspects. In terms of the animation, the set pieces are just gorgeous. From the simple settings to the large set pieces, a huge attention to detail was executed. The action sequences are well animated and are a joy to watch. The soundtrack is just epic. The music is reminiscent of a live action film and does a great job of complimenting the series. The theme songs are a pleasure to listen as well. The opening theme songs of “Ideal White” by Mashiro Ayano and “Brave Shine” by Aimer do a great job of setting the stage for the series and getting you hyped for the upcoming episode. In addition both the Japanese and English voice casts do a superb job. You can’t go wrong with either viewing option.
Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works received a lot of hype before its release. Because of this, the series had very high expectations. Fortunately, the series not only meets but exceeds those expectations. An engaging plot, deep characters, stunning animation, and amazing soundtrack make this series a much watch not only for any Fate fan but any fan of anime in general. Because of this, this series receives a GOLD ranking and a recommendation to buy. Just like Fate/Zero, this series is a masterpiece and a must watch series. This series has my highest recommendation and I hope that you decide to check it out. It is well worth your time.
So concludes my review of Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works, It is my hope that you enjoyed this review. If you have seen this series and would like to express your opinion concerning this series or my review, comment below. Until next time, this is Railgunfan75 signing off. See you next time!