I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the fan boy in me can’t resist…LET THE HOLY GRAIL WARS BEGIN ONCE AGAIN! Also, apologies for writing the longest post since the final Zankyou no Terror post. 🙂
Having read the visual novel to this, I was shocked by how well they not only adapted this introduction, but also made it relevant to Fate Zero. The prologue to Fate Stay Night was constantly ditched in previous adaptations, but it was done so for good reasons. Not only did it take hours to progress the story, but it mostly spent time on pointless monologues and cramming exposition that would be better explained in the actual routes. Not to mention the Fate Stay Night visual novel was written as a self-contained story, meaning that the connection with Fate Zero is relatively thin. So how did this manage to make a relatively uneventful part of the story so captivating?
Well part of it is because they fully utilized the fact anime is a visual medium. Hours of exposition can be simplified into 2 or 3 sentences while showing the rest in action. Inner emotions that were restricted to monologues can now be expressed by how the characters act and look. Still images with sword clashes are now replaced with gorgeous choreography. But aside from that, they also knew what to cut out while getting the point across. All the important plot points and character moments are kept here, but the daily life events and world building is spread throughout . They don’t shoehorn every piece of dialogue in school or all the details about the Holy Grail war. If it can be implied by something that we’ve already seen or will later be shown through Shirou’s viewpoint, they don’t hesitate in cutting that part out.
The other reason is that they focus on the one connection this story had to Fate Zero; the protagonists, and in this case Rin Tohsaka. The episode opens up with a dream sequence where Rin has to say goodbye to her family, only to wake up alone and forced to treat her own sister Sakura as a stranger. Her lifestyle is a natural result of how the 4th war ended, so the effects of that tragedy are ever present here. And yet that connection doesn’t deny the fact this is the children’s story, so they immediately use this connection as a segue for exploring what kind of a character Rin has grown into.
Now just like previous adaptations, we still have the arrogant, competitive and mischievous side of Rin Tohsaka here. When she’s not shooting down Shinji’s flirt attempts or scaring off gossipers, she’s ordering archer to clean the house or formulating strategies against servants mid-battle. But what Ufotable brings here that Studio Deen didn’t is the emotional aspects of Rin aside from having the hots for Shirou. We see her holding conversations with other classmates, helping Sakura as an acquaintance,and feel the shock Rin felt to compel her into saving Shirou without needing and explanation.
She shines best though when interacting with Archer, mainly because of how cocky both of them can be. We actually get to see how these two start off as dominant personalities before finding a sense of mutual respect in each other. She’s demanding for enough respect to command orders in battle, but she prefers to see him as a partner rather than a servant. This budding partnership not only brought out the competitive and kind side of Rin, but also a strong sense of justice that I couldn’t help admiring. Unlike the greedy, selfish masters of Fate Zero, Rin doesn’t have a wish for the Holy Grail and only participates as a way to bring honor back to her dead family. Maybe it’s naive, but it’s a motivation I can sympathize with and gives some depth to a character that stagnated due to bad adaptations.
Speaking of Fate Zero though, anyone worried about the new production staff should not be concerned anymore. Ufotable has taken their consistently good art quality, fixed the CG, made the base animation more fluid, and even improved their use of shaders and gradience. As a result, you’re looking at some of the best animation this medium has to offer; Production IG, Kyoto Animation, Madhouse, PA Works, Bones, GoHands, and even Studio Rikka should take notes. And as much crap Takahiro Miura gets for Oblivion Recorder, people seem to forget the breathtaking starry sky and cathedral fight proving he’s a capable director. Not a single frame here feels wasted; if it’s not serving a narrative purpose, the screen is focused on drawing the audience into its world. Considering how different Yuki Kajiura and Hideyuki Fukasawa’s music styles were, the music surprised me by how compatible their songs were. Most of the time they compromise on which gets the spotlight, but the moments they work together feel as if it was composed by one unique composer.
As far as I’m concerned, this is the perfect start to what could be a perfect series. I had every right to worry about this adaptation considering how dense and self-contained the visual novel is, along with the fact they’re f#cked up trying to adapt this twice. But while I can’t guarantee a masterpiece right now, I can safely say that most of my worries are gone. Episode 1 is apparently an hour long special like this, so you can expect a post on that very soon.