Compared to the first 6 episodes, there aren’t much bonus tweaks here. And while it’s still really good, the cracks present in its source are starting to show.
As much as I love the Unlimited Blade Works storyline, I’ll admit that Fate Stay Night as a whole doesn’t function well as a Battle Royale scenario thanks to two major flaws. One is that every plot twist revolves around a convenient exception to well-established rules. They range between Gilgamesh’s existance after the 4th grail war and Caster summoning her own servant to Rider being eliminated by a non-servant and Archer’s identity. Sure they have decent explanations for each of them to avoid plot holes, but it lacks impact compared to the battle of wits in Fate Zero. The other issue is that certain characters get little to no attention depending on what route is chosen. Aside from Shirou and Rin, every other character can either hold tremendous influence over the narrative or have their entire backstory held back in favor of a quick exit. And when your premise deals with 7 different sides fighting to the death, you kind of need that investment for each side to feel tension.
And you know what? For a while they seemed to be countering these problems seamlessly. The amount of screentime they dedicated to side characters and additional foreshadowing to crucial events while also keeping the focus on Shirou and Rin is what kept me enthralled for the first 6 episodes. Simply put, they knew how to take their time building up to hectic moments by fully exploring what happened around it. So it disappoints me now that they’ve ditched that approach in favor of following the source by-the-book, ditching any chance to explore Sakura, Rider, Shinji and Caster. There’s definitely enough content and connections to make it progress smoothly, but it just doesn’t feel as fully featured. For die-hard fans of the visual novel, I can understand them having a blast seeing their story shown exactly how they remember reading them. For me though, it reduces an endearing experience to a sequence of cool events that I’ve practically memorized by now.
But to the story’s credit, Fate Stay Night was always more of a romantic superhero story rather than a Battle Royale. It was more about Shirou’s journey as a hero shaped through the romantic routes of 3 heroines rather than a 7 way bloodbath questioning what a hero should be. So despite the amount of detail they put into this world and the Holy Grail War, it was merely written as a vehicle for character progression and constant action. And given that they haven’t drastically diverged from what it’s based off of, it’s safe to say it’s doing this fine. My disappointment stems from the fact that it seemed to be pulling double duty, but I can acknowledge the fact that it’s achieving its original goal. The action scenes still blow me away, the bits of romcom are genuinely entertaining, and we finally get to see Shirou take decisive action as a master.
Purely on an action-based level, these episodes offer everything you’d want out of a battle between legends. Watching Archer dodge hundreds of Caster’s beams and clash swords with Assassin mid-air is absolutely jaw-dropping, making his threat level spike depending on who’s side he’s on. Saber gets a ton of love with her fights against Assassin and Caster’s skeletons, especially when she dodges Tsubame Gaishi or has her grand entrance into the classroom. And even if I complain about Rider’s quick exit, her death scene is definitely a sight to behold. But probably because I haven’t seen these animated yet, the two moments I remember the most were Rin’s invitation to the rooftop and Issei’s stripping. It’s cute to see how persistent she is to apologize for her servants actions regardless of what romantic misunderstandings might happen in the process, and seeing them reconcile so easily made for a great segue into battling Shinji together. And hey, it’s pretty hilarious to see Shirou’s blunt solution to seeing if his friend has command seals. Little priest boy better hope those abs don’t get any more exposure. 🙂
It’s not like there isn’t fun to be had here, but I get the same feeling right now that I did during the mid-point of Attack on Titan. Even with all the amazing fight scenes and attention to detail for adaptation, the excitement I felt for a possible improvement has lowered. Hopefully the last 3 episodes can take this sour taste off my mouth and have me gushing like before.