First Look: Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works

UBW-title

Alternative titles: Rin Route, UBW, That Stupid Show Where King Arthur Is A Barely Pubescent Girl, Fate/Zero 2
Visual Novel Adaptation by UFOtable
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Ten years after Fate/Zero, the Fifth Holy Grail War begins, dragging Shirou and Rin into a conflict between magi and legendary heroes. Unlimited Blade Works stars Rin and not Saber as the main heroine, and deeply explores Shirou’s ideals and personality. Also, there’s a lot of dull exposition.

Iro’s verdict: I am the bone of my sword

If you wanted a “proper” Fate/Stay Night adaptation (i.e. if you thought the DEEEEEN anime sucked), then you can’t ask for anything more than this. The premiere, “Episode 0”, faithfully covers the visual novel’s prologue to an almost absurd level, which means there’s a lot of poorly justified exposition and a cavalcade of irrelevant characters. But hey, that’s F/SN. The pacing was decent considering the extreme infodumping, the battle was pretty cool, and I enjoyed recognizing minor details from the original, so I imagine both newcomers fresh off the Fate/Zero anime and old-time fans should be able to find value in UFOtable’s newest big-budget adaptation.

My reaction to watching this

Jel’s verdict: Steel is my body and fire is my blood

As someone who has watched all the Fate related anime including Fate/Zero, this was exactly what I expected – a beautiful, animated cinematic rendition of Unlimited Blade Works, or at least the prologue bits. I am more interested in how someone who has not seen the series would react. Aside from assuming Rin is the main character, would any of it make sense? There are some bits and pieces of explanation on the Grail War but I still get the sense this is meant to be a sequel to Fate/Zero and not necessarily a stand alone series. I’d recommend watching that first as a better starting point, and as for the rest of us who are already on board I think this is going to do the series justice.

Marlin’s verdict: I have created over a thousand blades

Considering the prologue is the one part of F/SN that I actually did read back in the day, I’ll admit that the premiere was a bit of a slog in the first half. I understand the desire to keep with source material, so I’m not too disappointed with it. Still, it didn’t make the prologue any less boring. At least the ending did give a pretty satisfying fight scene. UFOtable fights do seem to be pretty similar, but they’re very effective to draw you in to the action. If this is the kind of quality we can expect to see time and time again, I can see me quickly enjoying what Unlimited Blade Works has to offer.

ubw1trio

Zigg’s verdict: Unknown to death nor known to life

This was exactly what I expected from a new Fate/Stay Night anime – the universe remains incredibly compelling and stuffed with fabulous ideas, but the method of delivery is so grating it pretty much ruins them all. This first episode is such a drag, with so much heavy dialogue and assumed foreknowledge that it swings between baffling and intensely irritating. I’d be even more lost had I not watched Fate/Zero, and even so I still needed a lot of prompting from Iro on various plot points. I’m also not super keen on the idea of setting this epic war of historical legends in that most mundane of locations, the Japanese high school. It lacks sweep and grandeur, especially compared to its dense, well-layered predecessor. Still, UFOtable’s animation and background work remains as excellent as ever and the fight was certainly very cool, so this wasn’t without merit. As someone who has no experience with the VN I’m intrigued to see what happens, but this was a slog and often a painful one.

Aqua’s verdict: Have withstood pain to create many weapons

Type-Moon must have failed to realize that Fate/Zero left them a ton of new, casual fans, because this adaptation of the single most boring visual novel that isn’t about girls with disabilities is definitely one for the fans. Not only does it adapt a route that by no means should be considered the ‘canon’ one for some, it also staunchly refuses to leave anything out, from the most insignificant side characters to the most banal slice of life segments. It’s a show that doesn’t try to improve upon its source material, and as such has all the same flaws. Fate/Stay Night to me is best known for providing explanations where there are none necessary. It is so obsessed with making everything convoluted, it spends an eternity exposing its own rules, only to break every single one of them later down the line. The result is a hideously boring, meandering prologue in which the many, many great ideas Fate/Stay Night possesses and admittedly, occasionally delivers on, are drowned out by its own blather. Things that don’t need to be explained, are explained, and things that do need explanation are left in the dark. The show oozes with production values, and most of ’em are wasted on talking.

You see, I don’t mind a slow burn. I don’t mind lots of talking. It’s admirable to see the effort and dedication UFOtable poured into this production, as it tries its best to slowly develop Rin, establish her personality, her likeable and less likeable traits, and her relationships with other characters. Yet wasting ten whole minutes of your show on getting the point across that she’s a little asocial? Wasting another two on people who’ll never do anything important in the story ever? Having half of your episode consist of a girl walking around town and every single boring side character taking turns to talk to her? That’s the problem with Fate/Stay Night. It’s the show every fan of the visual novel could’ve dreamt of. It looks incredibly polished. It’s got a phenomenal budget. Every single petty little detail is there. Every single faux-scientific aspect of its ridiculously pseudo-intellectual magic system is accounted for. Yet there’s a reason why not even the best book adaptations commit every single word in the book to screen. To casual viewers, Fate/Stay Night just looks clinical. Overly polished like the umpteenth soulless Hollywood blockbuster. Pompous, even. And don’t give me that ‘it’s only for the fans’ nonsense. Nothing looking this ambitious should have the gall to only present itself to a niche.

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Gee’s verdict: Yet those hands will never hold anything

This is likely to be the best adaptation of Unlimited Blade Works we’re gonna get, so get it while the going’s good. The first episode serves its purpose of the requisite Fate/Stay Night infodump and exposition. It’s not exactly super exciting or enthralling as someone who’s already quite familiar with the basic setup, but I suppose it’s necessary to get those unacquainted with the universe up to speed. Personally I’m of the mind that Fate/Stay Night is so imbedded in anime culture that like a superhero’s origin being explained in a movie, I believe it’s unnecessary. Like the secret of Dio’s stand or the true identity of Solid Snake, the events and occurrences in Fate/Stay Night are something everyone is going to be familiar with, whether personally or through cultural osmosis. Luckily, in between the required explanations, UFOtable brings their best work to the table, and Unlimited Blade Works is never tiring to look at. The fights are exciting and even the quiet moments are accentuated by UFOtable’s regular attention to detail. If you ever wanted to get into the Fate/Stay Night franchise and the larger Type-Moon universe itself, this anime is likely your best chance. It’s certainly the prettiest.

Euri’s verdict: So as I pray

Okay, I guess I’m that guy who knows next to nothing about the franchise and has jumped in with Unlimited Blade Works. I feel like this feature length episode does enough to explain what exactly is going on, with enough mention of the Holy Grail War and why that’s a big deal, though I don’t know (nor do I know if I should know) why Rin’s father is being pushy about it beyond bringing success to the family. I feel there may have been something lost in the explanation of why she wants a Saber so bad, why Saber and Archer are the only two she could have summoned, and why it seems to be both a name and a description of what these familiars are. I get the feeling I’ll learn more about this over time, but not knowing anything about the Fate series, it’s hard to say. I did quite enjoy it, and it has some gorgeous animation that I hope will continue throughout the rest of the series, but I must say I’m getting some pretty big Shakugan no Shana vibes from this. Maybe that’s just me? Also, way into the random German incantations. Es ist gross indeed.

ubw1ayako

Timmy’s verdict: Unlimited Blade Works

I have made it no secret that I am a big Rin fan so seeing her side of the UBW story has some great appeal for me. Couple that with what had to be the entire budgets of the original Fate/Stay Night series and the UBW movie combined packed into this first episode and I am sold. Sure there is infodumping and exposition abound in this first episode, but I can’t imagine a Fate adaption without it at this point. Bottom line: You probably already know if you are going to be into this or not, and if you don’t, this show is going to be really purdy and you might want to check it out.

4 thoughts on “First Look: Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works

  1. dem headers AHAHAHAHAH

    sup Saegusa, Himuro, Makidera and AYAKOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! *hugs* also dat Taiga kek

    ufotable Rin POV for almost one full hour, hnnnnnngggghhhh. also YES, lines are BLUE

    Lancer and Archer was just pure swag, the fight had me jumping up and down constantly and there was this unknown red-haired boy who showed up too…he’s already de– oh wait, nevermind…

    Nasu commentary was great but reaffirming Rin as the heroine was just golden, much rejoicing and yuetsu were had 😀

    ufo stay fucking godlike!

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