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Anime Reviews: Fate/Stay Night
Though it serves as the inspiration for the fantastic Fate/Zero, Fate/Stay Night itself is brainless harem anime garbage with some entertaining action scenes.
Title: Fate/Stay Night
Production: Studio DEEN
Series Length: 24 episodes
Air Dates: 1/6/2006 to 6/16/2006
Age Rating: 13+ (mild violence, brief partial nudity, dark or disturbing thematic elements)
Summary: Shirou Emiya is an ordinary, if highly optimistic, teenage boy who lives in Fuyuki City, Japan. He was raised by his adoptive father Kiritsugu Emiya--the very same man who found and rescued Shirou from the ruins of a great fire and has since passed away. When Shirou witnesses an intense battle occurring on school grounds, he finds himself cornered by a violent man calling himself Lancer, but when it seems like all hope is lost, Shirou somehow summons a beautiful armor-clad woman called Saber, who pledges to protect and serve him. Without knowing it, Shirou has stumbled into the 5th Holy Grail War, in which seven Masters and seven Servants do battle in order to obtain the Holy Grail, which is said to appear in Fuyuki City to the winner and grant any single wish. Determined to be a hero of justice who can save lives, Shirou decides to fight with Saber to achieve victory.
The Good: Exciting action sequences; character designs; ending theme
The Bad: Uninspired artwork; lackluster soundtrack; brain-dead characters; mindless harem fanservice anime formula
The Ugly: The CGI dragon
So, uhh...if you've already read my Fate/Zero review, you already know how this is going to end, and it's not gonna be pretty. Before I begin the slaughter, however, a story about my experience with Fate/Stay Night: Roughly 7 years ago, when the first subtitled versions of the series were being leaked onto the internet, I was really eager to check it out. It promised thrilling action, it promised gripping drama, and it promised awesome historical analysis into the mythological heroes. It really only delivered one of those things, and as I lost interest, the rushed subtitles didn't help matters much either, being more confusing than anything (starting off the infamous "People die if they are killed!" quote). Of course, that was then and this is now, so after watching Fate/Zero and enjoying it immensely, I figured it would be wise to go back and give F/SN another try. I was probably just an impatient little turd who didn't know any better, and F/SN probably was actually really good.
But no, I was right the first time. This anime is absolutely atrocious.
I won't mince words here: F/SN does almost nothing right. The only substantial thing this series does right is its action, and I won't lie, these scenes can be pretty exciting and nice to look at. This is obviously where most of the series' budget went, and it shows...most of the time. There's a lot of flair to the characters' attacks, there's a good bit of variety in the fight choreography and even some good camerawork going on. For a few minutes each episode, you almost forget that this show is terrible!
Another point of decency reached lies in the character designs, notably those of the Heroic Spirits, who act as the Servants. You can tell a lot of love went into these concepts, and it's not altogether surprising to find some of them cool (especially Archer). The regular human characters aren't too shabby, either, though considering the series' visual novel roots, it's both expected and maybe a little creepy. Anyway, some cool character concepts can be found here, so all you artists out there can look inside for a modicum of inspiration.
The last good thing I can talk about in F/SN is its ending theme, and holy crap it's amazing. I love pop ballads more than life itself, and this right here is a beautiful example of a pop ballad done well. I've never heard of Jyukai before, but now I feel obligated to find everything else she's done. Oh, and I guess the accompanying visuals are alright, too, if not tremendously lazy. "Let's have Saber looking into the distance gloriously like in every promo shot of her ever! And we'll have CGI grass! It'll be great!" Urgh.
But it's all downhill from here, folks. Now it's time to unleash the complaints.
First of all, it's great that the artwork is pleasant during the action scenes, but was it really that impossible to maintain the same level of quality for the rest of the series? Just minutes after an exciting battle, you'll be back in a normal, everyday scene, and all of a sudden the artwork is bland as hell and the backgrounds are stock and forgettable. What happened? I can understand something like this happening in Hajime no Ippo (fight scenes in a sports hall with spotlights, normal scenes in everyday locations), but here? Even when the battles take place in broad daylight, the difference in artwork quality is like, forgive the pun, night and day. Total disappointment.
Second, the soundtrack (aside from the aforementioned ending theme) is also bland and tasteless. I honestly cannot remember another single piece of music from this series, and there are about 30 different tracks. Now to be fair, I never was distracted by the soundtrack, so I guess it did its job, but to have not even a single tune stick out and be memorable is just shameful.
Oh, but here's where it gets better: the characters are about as intelligent as dirt. Where Fate/Zero had a lot of well thought-out plans and gambits going on, F/SN has nothing of the sort. The characters charge forward into certain death, never once coming up with anything clever, putting literally zero effort into thinking about tactics, and they succeed anyway. Only once did tactics come into play (they have to find a bunch of magic seals to dispel a magic field before the Mage who planted them finds out and kills them, because magic), but there's no tension or risk and it comes across as pointless. Way to go, guys, you finally used your brains and it was for a pointless search-for-thing montage.
Of course, it's hard to blame the characters for being stupid when the entire plot is stupid, too. The Holy Grail War is supposed to be big and epic and serious business, but that doesn't stop F/SN from indulging in the most vomit-inducing harem anime cliché there is: an attractive guy with the personality of a block of tofu somehow finds himself living with multiple girls, and then zany hijinks ensue! Uh oh! How will Sakura react to the news that her beloved Shirou invited a woman into his house? What a wacky misunderstanding! Oh no! Shirou "accidentally" walked in on Saber taking a bath, but Saber has no modesty and asks him why he's looking away! Talk about off-the-chain! Whooooo! Someone push a leash on this series, because it's nonstop untamed hilarity!
Urrrrggghhh. Do I even need to go into the whole "villain captures the shy girl for big evil plan" plotline or the hammy forced romance between Shirou and Saber to further exemplify how abysmal the story is? Do I even need to explain how the several dozen deus ex machina moments ruin any tension or credibility the scene may have had? It's infuriating, it's stupid, and it's a waste of my bloody freakin' time!
This is a bad series. I thought 7 years ago it might be a fun action anime. I thought recently that it would be a satisfying continuation of Fate/Zero. It was neither of these things. Sure, F/SN has some good action every now and then, but the series as a whole was about as fun as a hangnail and as satisfying as an infection from said hangnail. Do yourself a favor and just watch Fate/Zero and pretend this monumental turd doesn't exist. Pretend that the former's ending is conclusive, because you'll be a hell of a lot happier with that than forcing yourself to endure this garbage.
Final Score: 3 out of 10. Despite the potential for greatness inherent in this franchise, Fate/Stay Night takes the lazy route and offers only the occasional entertaining battle in between brainless dialogue spoken by cardboard characters with infuriatingly insulting fanservice thrown around like it's candy.