Monday, 26 June 2006 20:46

Fate Stay/Night (TV, 2006)

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Folks, meet Emiya Shirou. They call him the carrot top of Japan...well, not really, but there you have it; an orange haired Japanese boy enrolled in High School. A family friend has been coming over to take care of him since his adopted father passed away, going well into a few years now. Honestly, if this cliche hasn't been overdone, I don't know what is. However, one night, while staying late at school, he comes upon two men fighting to the death with some seriously hardcore edged weapons. One of them notes his presence, and after the duel, in which both broke off the fight for another time, the one who is called Lancer, tracks him down and attempts to kill him. This leads into a chain of events where he finds out he is one of the chosen Magi to fight in a war for the Holy artifact which can grant any desire. The Magi, who are the masters, are given leave to summon one servant to aid them...these servants typically being Eiri, the valorously slain; and quite by accident, Shirou manages to summon the best of them, the Sabre...which was surprising to all, especially Sabre, who greets him with the question, "I ask you, are you my master?"


I want to find out who made all the bonehead decisions of this anime. I want to find them, and bludgeon them with a tire iron until they bleed out from head trauma.

If the characters and original story by Typemoon wasn't so strong, they'd have had a complete and total writeoff of a series. As is, they fucked this one as much as they could, which is ironic all things considered.

Anyway, I'll get to the specifics of that in a bit. If you'll note in the synopsis, Eimya Shirou is sounding a LOT like a harem anime protagonist...and there are arguments to the effect of this story being a harem anime. There are massive differences, as is Typemoon's forte. Honestly, all Shirou'd need to be is a wishy washy pussy, and we WOULD have your typical harem anime protagonist, if not a harem anime. Heh, fortunately that's not the case. See, Eimya Shirou knows exactly what he wants to be, and that's to be a protector of the helpless...a champion of justice, and fulfill his father's dream to do the same. This leads him to being, while polite and nice, both forceful and righteous in both action and, unlike nearly all harem anime protagonists, behavior dealing with both men and women. Like a lot of harem anime protagonists, in a world where powers of some sort are in play, this man has some powers of his own. In this case, the ability to trace out the composition of things, and to reinforce them...later to being able to make copies of just about anything out of thin air, if he can trace the original item. Typemoon has created a whole mythos behind practically every little thing that goes on in Fate, and this is no different. Shirou is actually a poorly trained sorcerer, whose only real gift is tracing sorcery...which is rather a shame as the boy has serious talent, from what was stated in the ancillary information concerning this series.

In any event, there's a lot about this series that screams harem anime. The childhood friend, Sakura, who comes over to help him every day, the mysterious female transfer student, Rin Tohsaka, the overbearing female teacher who treats him like a younger brother, Taiga, and eventually, the loli little sister type, Illya.

Considering this is a Typemoon based production, you just KNOW none of this is going to fly. They excel at taking the cliché's and warping them into something barely recognizable. You see, aside from Sakura, none of these girls are looking for anything romantic concerning the boy. Illya sees Shirou as a sort of brother, and has very good cause to do so. Taiga, is the same, and Rin...well I take that back. Rin does have a bit of a crush on Shirou, but if you didn't read up on the information concerning the game, you'd NEVER know it; but it does explain much of what she does in the anime, and why she does it. Rin is also a bit of a closet hentai, considering what else she winds up doing in one of the game's scenarios, but I'll get to that later as it relates to one of the bone head moves that the production team put into this story.

In most harem animes there is a lead female, an alpha of the pack, if you will. Well, this anime has a lead female too. However, there is no waffling, there is no long drawn out story where the acceptance of the feelings on both their parts IS the, the second Shirou sees Sabre, you can tell it in his eyes, he has the look of, "My God...she is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," after which he's thinking, "Oh, my god! Oh, my god! I'm gonna die!" but that's beside the point. This is rather funny, as Sabre is a marshal minded girl, being, among other things, a warrior in her past life. There's more to it than that, but I won't spoil it, as who Sabre really is, is among one of the biggest things that floor you in this anime, heh. But keep in mind, this is Shirou, champion of justice wannabe, who wants to keep a girl from fighting in such a dangerous situation...despite the fact she could wipe the floor with him any time she wants to a dozen times over (and does so quite often in their training sessions). This leads him into direct conflict with Sabre a number of times, and with his own idealistic values through this entire war.

What is this war, you ask? This flows into the very premise of this anime. Basically that once every 60 years or so, mages are called to compete in battle to summon forth something called the Holy Grail...they are called by this very same Holy Grail, if I understood the premise correctly, and in turn are granted the boon of a single servant. Each of these magi, called Masters in this game, summon a servant from the classes of: Archer, Sabre, Berserker, Lancer, Caster, Assassin, Rider, and though it only appears in the sequel to the game, known as 'Fate - Hollow Ataraxia,' Avenger. The souls of these servants are actually great heroes, or Eirei as they can be called, of all the ages, past, present, and future; though in the past couple of conflicts they've been able to summon other types of souls...greatly cursed souls of immense power of which the current Caster and Rider are. Each of these servants, being not only superhuman, also possess weapons and/or abilities of immense power which they call "Noble Phantasms." Typically these are only activated at full power during a final battle, as the revealing of a Noble Phantasm reveals the identity of servant, and thus, often how to beat them. Each servant is bound to their master via command spells, of which most masters get three. Most of the time, the servants take orders, but should they need to be compelled, these come into play. You use up your command spells though, and there's Hell to pay, as the servants can, and sometimes do, turn on their masters. Problem with that, is that if they do, they no longer have a supply of mana to keep them in this world...and they want the Holy Grail as badly as the masters do. With the Holy Grail, any wish is possible.

This is about as much sense as the premise is presented in the anime. The rest is complete and total gibberish. I mean, sure, you can extrapolate what's really going on in both how it plays out in the story, but when it's explained, often it's complete and total nonsense. I can't tell if it's the translation, a possible miscommunication inherent in the original language, or, most likely, a complete and total mishandling and misunderstanding by the anime production crew concerning the original concept of Typemoon's game. I say most likely the latter, as that's not the only thing they fucked. Seriously, most of the above information has to be decoded from one of the "side" characters of the anime, Kotomine, when he explains it. Every single time he opens his mouth to explain a situation mechanic, it makes extremely little sense, and comes off as, "I'm making this shit up, contradicting myself at every turn, and sounding wise and powerful while doing it? I rock!" The other really knowledgeable person who explains herself, Rin Tosaka, is not immune to this...but if anything her explanations lack too little in the way of required information when she starts talking.

But honestly, mechanics aside, where the story really shines is in its character interaction...which is taken directly from the Fate scenario of the game. There were three scenarios in the game: Fate, Unlimited Blade Works, and Heaven's Feel. The Fate scenario is also called the Sabre path, as in this, is the girl you choose to romance in the can romance either Sabre, Sakura, or Rin. In this instance, they chose Fate, with a bit of some of the other scenarios tossed in, often I thought to good effect, to be honest...though in a few instances, they REALLY needed to build up to some of the scenes more. By tossing in the situations from some of the other scenarios, they forgot that those situations had some story telling built up in their story paths...but not in this one. Thus they needed to ADD that information into the anime storyline...which they didn't do. This made things seem pretty choppy at some points, and completely contrived and nonsensical at others. Still others, you don't even notice to be honest, but comparatively speaking, the ones where you don't notice are completely dwarfed by the ones you will. Note to writers and directors: Build up is a good thing.

The Fate scenario is Shirou learning about how his ideals not only cannot work in the real world, but also, can keep you from doing the job that needs doing...not to mention can keep others from doing the job THEY can and should be doing. His first and probably biggest hangup was Sabre, as I said. First, she was a woman, and he really had this thing about a woman fighting. His second problem was he didn't believe for the longest time, that there wasn't something he couldn't handle...or teach himself to handle. After getting chopped to ribbons, and getting Sabre chopped up a few times, this rudely disabused him of this notion...he learned that teamwork can do the job better than going at it lone ranger style. Third, and finally, he was madly, completely, and totally besotted with Sabre, which activated every protective male impulse in his body, not to mention driving him toward romancing her...which she (and everyone else) was at best puzzled with, and at worst, annoyed least at first. She too, had things to learn, though in her case it wasn't handled quite as well as Shirou; though that had just as much to do with the shoddy mechanics explanation as it did some lackluster story telling. Honestly, they needed to concentrate more the arguments concerning her wish for the Holy Grail, with some die hard brutally honest arguments...what they did have, though it got the idea they wanted it across, were, at best, completely half assed, and worst...brushed over.

Still, watching the characters of this story grow and learn is the real highlight of it. Watching the very unorthodox romance Shirou and Sabre is amusing, touching, and at times, a trifle disconcerting. Part of their growing experience is having to do things that they wouldn't otherwise normally fact would only do in the extremest of situations that they find themselves in. You see, Sabre was an incomplete summon...worse, she couldn't receive mana replenishment from Shirou due to this and to his near complete newb status as a sorcerer. This puts them into a very bad predicament after getting into a fight with Berserker and Rin losing her servant (whose Identity is probably one of the biggest WTF?! moments of the entire anime...but in a good way, heh). Sabre needs mana, and needs it now. Keep in mind this IS based on an H game, so you can see where this is going. However, in a lot pagan and wiccan practices, the act of sex carries with it TREMENDOUS powers and importance; and there's a lot of mythos in this story. The idea of replenishing Sabre's mana with sex is not without basis, despite the queasiness of some of the fandom concerning what happens. In the game, it was both Rin and Shirou who impart their mana to Sabre...mostly Shirou, but Rin helped out a bit too, and from the look of it, rather enjoyed her part in what she did. Technically, I suppose, it WAS against Sabre's will, but they didn't force her...even Sabre knew this was their only chance to make it through this.

After several centuries of nothing, Sabre's first time winds up being on an old bed, in a moldy broken down tiny ass shrine out of necessity, and with another woman participating with Shirou in a Sabre sammich. Needless to say SHE has one helluva story to tell after this one.

Or she did anyway. Let's talk about the anime, and one of the great anime bonehead fuck ups of all time. Seriously though, let's face it...we were not going to SEE what happened in the game happen in the anime. Still, there's always the P-13 pushing R rating starting and cutting away real quick you saw in Tsukihime, Onegai Teacher, and the like. Nothing wrong with that, it's what I was honestly expecting. Heh, here you see that instead of a mature production staff what we really have are the third grade types who giggle and laugh and get all embarrassed and run away when the subject of sex even thinks about coming up. Instead, they do this entire quasi spiritual mystic ritual designed to transfer some of Shriou's magical 'circuits' into Sabre (since he wasn't using them all anyway, he doesn't figure this is a problem). For this ritual, it requires a lot of physical contact they say......................neither Rin nor Shirou barely touch Sabre at all in any bit of this. This leads into a nice psychedelic trip 'inside' of Sabre where Shirou sees a dragon, representative of Sabre's soul, and gets his arm bitten off, symbolizing them pulling some of his circuits out of him. All very symbolic, and all complete and total, "You've got to be fucking kidding me!" when you actually see it.

This isn't the only time this happens. Later, in the story, we get to a point where Sabre and Shirou are kissing...and you don't see that. The camera pans around them, too embarrassed to focus in on the act. Later, when you'd expect they'd wind up having sex after the fact, you see them both fully clothed, in positions you know that should have been indicative of sex having happened, and talking.

Okay, the first time, I can understand what happened to an extent. I liked the characters too, and I didn't like the idea of them being forced into a situation like that...but I could see the original situation as happening. The second time though? That was the biggest load of absolute horse shit I've seen in awhile. It's about like this weird Japanese fixation on not hugging girls who are crying on you. Girl is crying, fucking HUG her, don't just hold her by the shoulders, you fucking wanker.

Sorry, didn't mean to go off on a tangent there.

Anyway, the point is, there are a number of these really DUMBASS decisions made about this story, but the characters and the way the characters interact with each other overshadow and eclipse the dumbassness of said decisions; which says a lot about the story and its characters if even a moron couldn't break it down.

As far as the animation goes, they treated this series right. The animation doesn't get any better without going a full 30fps movie quality; the colors are vibrant and the atmosphere suitably surreal. The music is also suitably gothic, which is very much in tune with the very heart of this story.

All in all, I recommend watching this, but be prepared to smack your head and groan more than a few times when they just drop the ball for whatever reason. Also, after you're done, I recommend spending a lot of time over at wikkipedia, catching up on all the ancillary back story and other information concerning this series. It'll make everything make more sense, and clear up a few of lingering questions one might have concerning the WTF?! nature of the handling of a lot of this anime...that is if you're not going to play the game first.

And so I leave you with this single statement: A lot of really bad shit goes down in this story; however, Illya gets major karma points for wasting Shinji...even if she is a cold blooded murderer, heh.

Additional Info

  • Title: Fate/Stay Night, フェイト/ステイナイト
  • Genre: Action, Romance, Supernatural, Thriller
  • Director: Yuji Yamaguchi
  • Studio: Studio Deen
  • Licensed: Geneon
  • Network: TBS, Saitama TV, Chiba TV, Tokyo MX TV, Sun TV, TV Aichi, TV Kanagawa
  • Format: Television
  • Episodes: 24 & 1 movie
  • Animation: Groovy (+5)
  • Writing: Good (+2)
  • Pacing: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Voice Acting: TOASTY! (+4)
  • Soundtrack: TOASTY! (+4)
Last modified on Tuesday, 20 March 2012 22:41

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