While this definitely follows the template of the UBW route, it’s very clear now that this is not a by-the-book adaptation. And so far, it’s all for the better. 🙂
First off, the content that was originally present here is executed with stunning grace, especially the fight with Berserker. It’s well-choreographed and gorgeously animated, but the true beauty about them is the sheer speed and impact they manage to capture. Even when these strikes cause craters and practically run on bullet time, not once does the action become hard to follow or overshadowed by the destruction. Aside from that, the servants are portrayed with far more nuance than previous incarnations. Berserker is finally portrayed as a superhuman fighter rather than a sluggish brute with power, emphasizing his invincibility by how much damage he can take up front. Blocking some arrows or passing through exploding jewels is one thing; seeing him regenerate after being killed by a noble phantasm is quite another. Saber showcases a tactical side to her attacks rarely explored even in Fate Zero, and Archer can demonstrate his power with a bow BEFORE releasing his equivalent of a tactical nuke.
Even the dialogue-heavy moments manage to escape boredom because they always get straight to the point and bring a fresh perspective of it through these characters. Explanations about the war answer just enough to give a clear picture of what’s going on without resorting to exposition dumps or philosophical monologues. The rest can be inferred off of their choice of words and character interactions. When Kirei explains the history of the Holy Grail War, you can feel the malice targeted toward Shirou, baiting him with the risk of further casualties. When Rin reminds Shirou what the stakes are now that he’s involved, the sense of frustration and worry she has seamlessly blends together in her responses. Some may complain that rushing through the talking makes the dialogue feel empty, but I think the amount of information that’s told combined with how it’s presented makes up for what previously consisted of endless lines of text.
Speaking of which, I still think they’ve nailed this adaptation when it comes to the originally prominent characters in this route. Archer and Kirei clearly have some ulterior motives involved with this war, but they manage to hide well under the guise of a cautious servant and enthusiastic teacher. Rin is clearly not someone to take lightly as an opponent considering her magical prowess and decisive actions, but her strong moral center and trusting nature make an alliance with her seem very appealing. Shirou can still seem too reckless to some people, but I think he crosses the line between bravery and stupidity very well. He’s known the fear of death more than once and clearly understands that jumping into this fight will likely end him permanently. But he not only faces those fears by rejecting the thoughts of running away, but convincing others that he can’t do it alone. And it’s thanks to this that Saber shows genuine surprise and appreciation over having a master that would fight alongside her, even if he’s incompetent as a master.
But what really surprised me is the amount of additions they made around the central plot line. Some of these are callbacks to Fate Zero, but they’re mainly there to make this route work as a standalone story. There’s constant flashbacks to Kiritsugu teaching his son about the ugly side of being a hero, and Gilgamesh gets an early introduction into the story now that his involvement with Kirei is no longer a secret. Illya has an entire battle sequence dedicated to her using the same wire familiars as her mother, all while dropping small hints of her past as an abandoned child. Saber is more expressive about her appreciation for having a master willing to treat her as a comrade, and Archer was the one that saved Rin from Illya BEFORE attacking both allies and enemies. Even small changes such as where Rin and Shirou reunite make more sense in context of the story, taking place in the forest she fought at rather than having her wait at the graveyard Saber was fighting at. All these additions make up for a character’s lacking presence in the original VN while having us believe there’s more going on outside of Shirou’s point of view.
Sorry for the delay in posting this, but midterms caught up to me for the past few weeks. Thankfully I had more than enough to talk about these two episodes to continue writing throughout. At this point, we’re definitely getting more out of this story than we bargained for. Rather than simply restrict itself to what was originally written, the writers seem to be putting the extra effort to make this better. Sure the major plot points, character relations and overall focus seem to remain faithful. But just like how the visuals added so much more to paragraphs of words, what they’ve written in-between promises more than we ever expected. And that has me very excited.