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fate/stay night

Man at Arms: Reforged photo
Man at Arms: Reforged

Watch Man at Arms bring Saber's Excalibur to life

Servant not included
Sep 21
// Salvador GRodiles
Ever since Man at Arms switched to a new group, I started to miss the old team's style, since their weapons were more accurate than the current gang. Nonetheless, the main thing that both blacksmiths have in common is that t...
Anime Sneakers photo
Anime Sneakers

Get your Fate/stay night gear on

When you are a head to toe otaku
Aug 13
// Hiroko Yamamura
No hardcore Fate/stay night fan would hit the town without a pair of officially licensed sneaker from UBIQ. The shoe maker is coming out with two sets of kicks, inspired by both Saber and Archer. I can't say that I'm a fan of...

Final Impressions: Unlimited Blade Works

Jul 16 // Josh Tolentino
Except here, by virtue of Unlimited Blade Works' big reveal, we know that the journey of Shirou Emiya has only just begun. Here, after the world has been saved from a big hole spewing red jelly, and a jerk with blond hair's been taken down a few notches, only here is where Shirou Emiya continues down the path to becoming his ideal self.  It's worth pointing out that that self, not even a day before, had been hell-bent on killing him, but Shirou doesn't care. He doesn't care that Archer, the man he would become, wanted nothing more in the world than to un-become, to kill his younger self before he could suffer the pain of learning the true cost of sticking so doggedly to his ideals. That's a price that, here in episode 24, Shirou Emiya is willing to pay. But we knew that already. Shirou's heroic resolve here isn't in question, and it's been the true ending of this scenario since its time as a visual novel. The boldest thing about 2015's take on Unlimited Blade Works is the very last episode, which is an epilogue, and as far as I can remember, is almost entirely new material.  Set months after the final battle, the last episode explores the rest of the "True End" scenario, where Rin and Shirou have graduated from high school and are studying at the Clock Tower in London, headquarters of the Mage's Association. There we catch up with Shirou's not-so-great fashion sense (ew, green cardigan?!), Rin's new hair, and Luvia Edelfelt, a side character from the not-quite-canon spinoff/expansion, Fate/hollow Ataraxia. Brief words are exchanged with Fate/Zero survivor Waver Velvet, and a visit is paid to the alleged grave of King Arthur himself at Glastonbury Abbey. That's all well and good, and frankly not enough anime series actually have a decent denoument, preferring to end things right after the climax and saving the cooldown for the credits. But the most important thing here is hearing Shirou opt out of enrolling at the school, instead opting to do...whatever it is he planned to do next in his quest to become a Hero of Justice. Rin not only expects, but supports the decision, allowing him to drag her around for a change. It's a Big Development because at the traditional end of Unlimited Blade Works, we're filled with hope that the future can be changed, that Shirou would grow up differently, and become someone other than the Archer that would die for his beliefs and spend a purgatory enslaved to an unfeeling cosmic force, every moment confronted with the impossibility of his dreams.  And yet here, we see him consciously, deliberately, rejecting that potential outcome. Here, he's choosing to take another step down the road to becoming the white-haired, dark-skinned, red-clad cynic that seemed to hate everything that he became. At the same time, though, that's where all the difference lies. Shirou himself, through the crucible of confronting his own future, has chosen to accept it, judging the consequence to be worthwhile. He knows how impossible his dream is: A world where no one will ever have to suffer. But he's judged the struggle to put it into being to be worth the pain it will cause him, and possibly the compromises he'll be forced to make. That might sound fatalistic, but contrast his self-awareness here to the essential tragedy of his father, Kiritsugu. All his life, Kiritsugu made those compromises while searching for a miracle with the power to undo the need for sacrifice. Finding out that that miracle didn't exist was what broke him. Shirou faced the same challenge, but thanks in part to seeing - and fighting - his own future, as well as knowing how it turned out for dear old dad, chose to accept that cost. It's an interesting contrast to other, similar stories, especially once you try reading it - as so many other anime can be read - as a parable on growing up and learning to live with the hypocrisies and compromises of adult life. So many heroic stories reward protagonists for never compromising on their ideals. The takeaway for the teenaged Japanese audiences is to highlight the virtue in sticking to one's own guns, and never to accept the old men who undermine one's resolve with platitudes about "how the world works".  Here, though, Unlimited Blade Works, and more specifically this particular adaptation of it, shows another side of that resolve, acknowledging the truth about ideals: That they come at at price, and are often impossible to achieve, and that the true heroism lies not in simply holding those ideals, but to seek them all the same in the face of that impossibility, and to judge the price worth paying. 
Unlimited Blade Works photo
The Life After
And so the hero's journey begins. That's actually the weird thing here, as in these kinds of stories, most heroes are "born" at the beginning of the tale. A Link To The Past's hero is born when a green-clad youth leaves ...

Annotated Anime: Unlimited Blade Works episode 22

Jun 08 // Josh Tolentino
Alas, friends, there is none. Fans of Rin will have to content themselves with a really good angle on her socks, as her plan to get Shirou ready to face Gilgamesh in the final battle involves some shirtless German. Speaking German, I mean, not a shirtless person-from-Germany, much as some fans might prefer that particular scenario.  In any case, the episode is quite obviously the calm before the storm. Gilgamesh and his apocalyptic plans are out in the open, and he's co-opted Shinji's pathetic body to serve as the vessel for the grail (which, incidentally, has a new design for this series and looks way cooler than the fleshy pustule it used to be portrayed as). And while Rin and Shirou do the (non-sexual) deed to transfer him enough mana to use Unlimited Blade Works in the coming fight, we get Ufotable's own take on the famous/infamous "CGI dolphins" scene. For the uninitiated, such a scene was common to the all-ages adaptations of Fate/stay night, with abstracted "diving through memories" scenes replacing all the hot sexing. In DEEN's adaptations, the scenes involved stiffly animated dragons (for Saber) and dolphins (for Rin). Ufotable's version is...neither. Rin's "dolphin" here is more of a greenish amoeba-thing. I guess it's a little less cheesy than a dolphin, but ultimately it's no less obvious that they're covering up for the absence of doin' it. Oh, and there's some memory work establishing just where Rin developed feelings for everyone's favorite ginger boy, and it seems to be rooted in a never-ending attempt to successfully complete the high jump in middle school. Which brings us to where I'll be leaving you this week, with this clip that whole scene reminded me of: [embed]33927:4795:0[/embed]
Unlimited Blade Works photo
Wait...those aren't dolphins
This one's likely to be a short recap as Unlimited Blade Works downshifts, in preparation for the final two episodes. Instead, I invite viewers whose main experience with the Fate franchise is via Fate/Zero to ...

Annotated Anime: Unlimited Blade Works episodes 20-21

Jun 02 // Josh Tolentino
And honestly, it's almost sad, come to think of it. Ufotable have done a stellar job so far with Unlimited Blade Works, not only making an adaptation that actually manages to outdo the original game by deepening and strengthening its ties to Fate/Zero, and thereby enriching the "Nasu-verse" as a whole (unless you're one of those types that regards Fate/Zero as a mistake, at least). Unfortunately, the need to fill out 24 or 25 episodes has undermined the integrity of this last leg of the plot, adding in stretching where the story simply couldn't take any more padding out. Where filling in the little spaces in the canon with flashbacks and "side material" used to work for things like Caster's backstory or Ilya's relationship to Berserker, here feels like Shirou and Archer repeating themselves endlessly.  In part that's due to the fact that this debate isn't new. Idealism vs. Cynicism is one of the foundation conflicts of heroic anime storytelling, and Idealism, here represented by young Shirou and his determination to be a hero, no matter what it will cost him, always wins out. We know what happens here, even if we've never played the game or read the Wiki spoilers. At the same time, the bedrock of the conflict isn't what really matters here. This is where this particular attempt to adapt Unlimited Blade Works really shines: Ufotable's slight tweaks to the pace of the encounter, as well as keeping its canonical resolution (rather than the truncated version we saw in Studio Deen's 2007 feature) make the conflict all the more clear and comprehensible.  Even being able to read the original (translated) text back in the day, I always found the Archer-Shirou conflict a bit hard to pin down, particularly with regard to the relationship between Archer's motivations and Shirou's fixation on self-sacrifice. I'm not sure whether to blame it on the translator or Nasu's style of prose, but being able to see it play out in front of my eyes helped me understand just why Archer turned out the way he did, and just how much Shirou needed to beat the self standing before him. It especially helped that the whole thing was juxtaposed onto Saber's own internal conflict, and her own desire to avoid her heroic destiny. In that way it served as a bit of a coda to the game's original "Fate" scenario, which is unlikely to get its own Ufotable-produced series at this point. That said, from the most important perspective, namely that of a viewer joining the party through Fate/Zero (certain sectors of the otaku internet would call such a person a "secondary"), this does look like a lot of nonsense that should've ended when they started playing that awesome Aimer insert song. But they didn't, and inadvertently drained the otherwise great character work of much of its power.  Secondaries do get their own payoff, though, besides seeing a Lancer-class character act with great nobility and heroism once more: The emergence of Gilgamesh (who Saber amusingly calls "Archer") as the true final boss of this piece. He goes full Ultron here, declaring his intent to purify the world of all those unworthy to be ruled by him, and then gives Shinji more than he ever bargained for.  We're in the final stretch, though I really can't imagine how they're going to be able to keep this thing rolling another three episodes. Given what's about to happen next, I can only hope Ufotable find something as better than CG dolphins to represent the proceedings.
Unlimited Blade Works photo
Fight The Future
And here we are: The fight that defines the whole of Unlimited Blade Works: The final battle between Shirou Emiya...and Shirou Emiya, or rather, Shirou Emiya's future self, as Archer, the embittered hero. It goes about as wel...

Annotated Anime: Unlimited Blade Works episode 19

May 17 // Josh Tolentino
But let's not blow things out of proportion: Six good episodes outweighs a seventh less-good one, but it's hard to imagine that anyone but a Type-MOON fan with an *ahem* an especially hard lore-boner would get maximum enjoyment out of this week's installment. Given the need for Ufotable to fill some time I honestly hadn't expected the show to move straight ahead to Shirou's showdown with Archer. In a way it hasn't, since the episode saves the actual fight for next time, but I had assumed from the epilogue of episode 18 that episode 19 would be shifting focus to some sideline event while the Rin Rescue Rangers™ made their way to Einzbern castle. This was not the case. Instead, we skip straight to the main event, or rather the opening to it, as the squad arrives to confront Archer, though the primary confrontation that occurs here is of the conversational variety. If Rin's dream-time monologue gave viewers an insight into Archer's state of mind, this installment's lectures get deeper into the facts of Archer's past - and by extension, Shirou's (possible) future. At this point it's been long enough since I first played Fate/stay night to know how much of what's revealed here is new or expanded information, but they certainly get into much more detail than the Unlimited Blade Works movie ever managed to, exploring the circumstances of Rin's summoning Archer, his nature as a "Guardian" (an unusual type of Heroic Spirit), and to hearing the motivations for trying to murder his past self straight from the horse's mouth. The results, while intriguing for the dedicated fan, delve perhaps a little too deep into the weird rules of Fate creator Kinoko Nasu's "Nasu-verse" than is productive, especially not for the more casual, Fate/Zero-originated audience Unlimited Blade Works seemed designed to cater to. It doesn't help that what's actually said doesn't really make it clear just what Archer is, either. I'll take a stab at it, though. At some point in his future (detailed in the cold open), Shirou made a deal of some kind wth a big ol' CG effect, agreeing to become a Guardian in exchange for the power he thought he needed to fulfill his ideal of saving people. Except that as a Guardian, Shirou (now Archer) was more akin to a force of nature, an agent of balance. And forces of nature are rarely known for their compassion and life-preserving qualities. The tension between the merciless mandate of Guardianship and the broken little boy that just doesn't want anyone to cry took its toll, leading to the Archer of the present, now possessed of the belief that things would be better had he never existed, or at least never stuck to his heroic ambitions. But of course, Shirou won't ever give up on his ideals. It's who he is, for better and worse, and Archer knows it. Hence, the goal of murdering his past self. Honestly, it's a powerful conceit, and gets straight at the heart of Fate/stay night's three scenarios and their exploration of one's relationships to one's ideals and dreams. Unfortunately, it's all too caught up in Nasu's love of esoterica and oddball fantasy rules, and the strong core message gets drowned out the way Ufotable's digital effects can sometimes drown out the nice 2D linework (I'm looking at you, guy who adds too much damn smoke to all the fight scenes!) We also catch up with Rin, who suffers quite roundly. First there's sexual harassment from Shinji, who's even more of a dipshit here than he was in any previous take on Fate, then the reveal that Kirei was not only alive, but also murdered her dad back in Fate/Zero. And she's tied to a chair, and her Servant turned out to be a real tool. Being Rin is suffering. If there's anyone who comes out ahead here, it's Lancer and his fanbase. Ufotable's been especially kind to the Hound of Culann, giving him no shortage of badass moments in recent episodes, and even laying the groundwork for a fun little Rin x Lancer ship. If you've ever wondered why Fate/Extra's version of Rin showed up to the Grail War with Lancer in tow rather than Archer, their interactions from the last few episodes should make that particular story angle a no-brainer. But, as many fun little asides there are in this installment, it's hard to avoid the impression that Unlimited Blade Works is trying to run out the clock a little. There's more elegant ways to go about conveying this information, but unfortunately, the show's scheduled for several more episodes. [Watch Unlimited Blade Works on Crunchyroll!]
Unlimited Blade Works photo
Where You See Yourself In 10 Years
Ufotable's take on Unlimited Blade Works may be in many ways the Fate/stay night adaptation fans always wanted, but it's not without its sticking points. Besides the usual caveats that can be attached to a prop...

Annotated Anime: Unlimited Blade Works episodes 16-18

May 11 // Josh Tolentino
The pain train's next destination, of course, is the newlywed's paradise of Kuzuki and Caster. The most successful pair of Grail War participants this time around finally meets their end, but not before some of the best action of the season so far, as Shirou and Rin take the fight to their foes, with some unexpected help from Lancer. In fact, Lancer practically steals the show, his gruff Irish charm causing Shirou to get all possessive of his new girlfriend. After seeing both DEEN and even the game continually give Lancer the shaft in terms of characterization (there's a reason his Carnival Phantasm incarnation can't stop dying), having Lanceer  Everyone gets a chance to show off (though Kuzuki shows off by practically feeding Shirou his own ass), but the marquee attraction is the big ol' fight between Lancer and Archer, and it's a doozy. Once again Ufotable does Lancer some small justice by emphasizing just how good a fighter the guy in blue tights really is, and how powerful his Noble Phantasm, Gae Bolg, can be. Indirectly, this also makes the fact that Archer had planned out the whole engagement even more impactful, as to hold back when the other guy is playing for keeps isn't usually a survivable strategy. Rin's fight with Caster is also a treat, if only to see Rin get right up in Caster's face, right as the witch was monologuing, and punch the piss out of the mature lady. The show may have worked hard to make Caster a more sympathetic antagonist, but damn, it does feel good to see her get knocked on her ass. Atsuko Tanaka, Caster's voice actress, has turned gloating into an art form, and seeing that act taken down a peg is immensely gratifying. But, as is written, the final blow goes to Archer, who had been planning to ambush Kuzuki and Caster from the start. His latest betrayal of people who trust him is given more weight here, as well, as in the Unlimited Blade Works movie it was shown as a storm of swords flying out of nowhere. Here, even Kuzuki gets a final, ineffectual blow in, as if to twist the knife into the sides of Caster's fanbase.  Following that up is the big reveal: Archer is Shirou from the future. But, of course, every Fate fan already knew that part, and Ufotable all but spells it out through flashbacks, lengthy character analyses delivered by Rin's dream sequences, and Saber saying, out loud, that Archer is Shirou's "...". If it wasn't clear before, it sure as hell is, now.  We also get the much-anticipated use of Unlimited Blade Works itself. Archer's wasteland of an inner world is full of copied weapons, and since Shirou is Archer, it's the place where takes the first step on the road to becoming the person he will be. This is where Ufotable cheated a bit, by opting not to animate that bit where Shirou deflects a rain of swords through the power of discovering his abilities, but then again, the time it actually was animated didn't turn out quite so well: [embed]33802:4730:0[/embed] I'm willing to let it pass, on that. Besides, there's some good payoff right after, in the form of a deeper conversation between Rin and Archer. Whereas in even the game the bond between Rin, Archer, and Shirou seemed somewhat taken for granted (a bad situation considering that Rin isn't the obvious love interest out of Fate/stay night's shipping selection), here it gets shape and texture. Like seeing Archer "sell out" his old Master, as if to punish her for having the temerity to read him like a book. Even Gil could tell, and when he takes notice, you know you're probably not in the best position. Next week...I actually don't know. We've a few episodes left before Unlimited Blade Works has to wrap up, so only time can tell just how Ufotable have managed to fill in those gaps.
Unlimited Blade Works photo
They've Got The Touch
The last time we checked in with Unlimited Blade Works, we'd seen the lengths Ufotable was willing to go to give the passing of Ilya and Berserker the gravitas that moment deserves. It worked, for the most part, though t...

Annotated Anime: Unlimited Blade Works episode 15

Apr 21 // Josh Tolentino
The fight alone between Gilgamesh, in all his cruel glory, and Berserker, in all his savage might, is an able representation of how far we've come since Studio Deen's adaptation of the arc back in 2010. I've said it before, but their animation on this broadcast TV series regularly puts that feature film to shame. Of course, I can't blame them too much, either. Circumstances were different, then, and if nothing else, Deen's take condenses out the Fate franchise's propensity for tedium. Then again, quite a few of the fans appreciate that "tedium" as important world and character-building, so maybe it isn't so bad (it isn't).  That aside, the fight is interspersed with looks back at Illya's own past, exploring just what happened to her in the wake of Fate/Zero. In many ways, Illya was an more important - and explicit - link back to Fate/Zero than even Saber, Kirei, and Gilgamesh were, despite the three all being involved in Fate/Zero's plot to a much greater degree. That's because Illya represents the ultimate result of Fate/Zero's dense tangle of plots: A little girl who lost her parents, fated to suffer some ominous doom in her future. This wasn't nearly as clear back in the original game, naturally - Fate/Zero was nothing more than a twinkle in Urobuchi's eye at the time - but during this run, Illya's own actions and motivations have been thoroughly shaped by Kiritsugu's choices. Revenge on Kiritsugu through Shirou, curiosity about her new "stepbrother", and as of this week, the machinations of Grail-kun, have all built her into walking proof of this show's status as the current, definitive representation of Fate/stay night at large. Yeah, I said it! It's also a testament to Ufotable's own graphic sensibilities. The violence on display, particularly in the flashback where Illya's chased by wolves, or when Gilgamesh finally ends it all (with Rin having to manhandle Shirou to keep him from interfering and getting everyone killed) is unsettling, to say the least. It's far from "gore porn", though, and if anything it underscores how cruel he can be. At the same time, though, it's almost possible to sympathize with this devil of a man. He's cruel, ruthless, and his sadistic streak does his reputation no favors, but he's kingly in his villainy, in the way philosophers have always claimed that rulers are held to a different moral standard. It's weird that as a viewer, I can say that Gil is awful, but at the same time think that Shinji doesn't deserve to have him as a Servant. That's what good characterization is, and I'm of the opinion that it couldn't have happened for Gilgamesh without all the additional context that Fate/Zero and now this show have provided. And that's what's happening for Illya and Berserker here. Despite barely being present in Zero, and missing for much of this show, the extra breathing room and Ufotable's apparent carte blanche with regards to new plot development have given her a depth that was far harder to discern  in the source material. That makes it all the more sad that she's dead now, doesn't it?  Rest in peace, kiddo. 
Unlimited Blade Works photo
No Brakes On The Berser-Car
And so ends one of the sadder stories (and backstories) in Fate/stay night's large (some might say overly large) collection of sad backstories. Of course, having a sad backstory is par for the course in a Type-MOON-based fiction, so that's not remarkable in and of itself, but Ufotable's presentation of such in their take on Unlimited Blade Works is certainly worthy of note.

Annotated Anime: Unlimited Blade Works episodes 13-14

Apr 11 // Josh Tolentino
Fans who know how this story goes won't be surprised: We're pretty much at the nadir as far as fortunes go for the good guys. To recap: Shirou and Rin are alive, but have lost Saber to Caster's cheat-dagger, the Rule Breaker. Shirou's been stabbed through the shoulder (by Excalibur, no less), and is no longer a Master, due to Caster stealing his Command Seals. Everything's turning up villain, too, as Caster has taken over Kotomine's church to try to summon the Grail herself, and played dress-up with Saber in this arc's most creepily erotic scene. Look, I get that Fate/stay night had to have its sexy times for commercial purposes, but wedding-dress Saber with the panting and whatnot feels even more gratuitous now than it was in the original. As a fan, I'm sort of happy they left it in (and it certainly is done now than Deen managed in its 2010 movie adaptation), but it's kind of gross. Then again, the show's done a lot to make Caster seem like a properly formidable antagonist, so I guess this could be counted as a net gain, since it makes her look like a real creeper. That aside, heroic hopes are crushed a bit further when the big twist hits: Archer completes his face-heel turn, and betrays Rin to free himself from their pairing. The sting's made all the more painful in this go-around because just earlier that morning Rin seemed to have come to an understanding with her jerk of a Servant. Their bond of mutual respect and closeted admiration had finally set in, only for Archer to break it once again upon the altar of opportunism. What a dick! Well, if nothing else, fate (and Fate) throw fans a bone, because there's always a silver lining. That silver lining is the closest anyone in this show comes to confessing their feelings, which, for a tsundere like Rin, really does take being pushed to the edge of disaster. And it's adorable. I had wondered back when this show began, how ufotable would make the most of twenty-four episodes when Deen could stuff the whole plot into a not-terrible feature-length movie. It turns out that going long with it was the right decision, as the character arcs and relationship-building feel much more natural and less forced when given this much space. It also helps that ufotable's been able to fill the gaps adeptly, to the point that I've begun to consider this work a more "definitive" take on the Unlimited Blade Works scenario than even the original game. It's not even so much a question of "canon" as of presentation. Just like Gintama and Naruto work better when animated than in their "lead" manga formats, having it done this way just feels more "right" to me. And just in time to validate my view comes this week's episode fourteen, which fully capitalizes on ufotable not just having that extra time to fill, but also its experience making Fate/Zero. I've mentioned in previous recaps that the most interesting viewpoint one could examine for your average Unlimited Blade Works audience member isn't that of the die-hard Type-Lunatic or the fresh eye that's never seen anything else, but of the Fate fan who got their start by watching Fate/Zero first.  From their point of view, episode fourteen's examination of both Caster's tragic past and Shirou and Rin's attempt to visit Ilya in her castle feels completely at home, a natural extension of the work ufotable's been doing with Fate/Zero's adaptation. Caster's backstory, which as far as I'm aware has never been flashed back to before, is a scene straight from the Zero playbook, with Caster's first Master being exactly the sort of clean-shaven monster Gen Urobuchi likes to pen. It's genuinely disturbing to see this jerk liquefy little girls to make magic crystals, then beat on his Servant for daring to be the better wizard, so much so that you feel relieved when he gets his comeuppance, and feel a little more pity for Caster's lot in life (and the afterlife). Forever to be used, abused, and betrayed, it's no wonder that she herself became a monster. In fact, you almost feel retroactively angry at Archer for his contemptuous dismissal of Caster's character. "You don't know what she's been through, man!" is what you want to yell at the screen when rewatching those episodes. Seeing Ilya again, after so long, is also a good callback to Zero. She was always a bit of a non-presence in the original game Unlimited Blade Works scenario, relegated to get fridged by Gilgamesh practically off-screen. But now, callbacks to Fate/Zero, as well as speaking roles for her maids Leysritt and Sella, deepen her character, as well as shedding light on her motives in this and other scenarios.  All in all, episode fourteen feels like a checklist of why everyone was so excited back when it was first announced that ufotable would be adapting Unlimited Blade Works. It shows that they "get" the material, and have both the talent and wherewithal to improve on the original.
Unlimited Blade Works photo
Welcome to Wedding Night
When last we checked in with Unlimited Blade Works, ufotable's big, fabulously expensive-looking adaptation of Fate/stay night's most beloved story arc left our heroes in the lurch. Though an adorable date opened episode twel...

Annotated Anime: Unlimited Blade Works episodes 9-10

Dec 14 // Josh Tolentino
Case in point: A scene of Taiga speaking about Shirou and Kiritsugu's differences, with Saber listening intently, takes on a new dimension when viewed in the context of Saber's own dealings with Kiritsugu in Fate/Zero. In that story Kiritsugu's take-no-prisoners pragmatism (a disturbing echo of Archer's own attitude in the present) put him at odds with Saber's warrior pride, and their relationship at times bordered on open hostility.  By comparison, Shirou and Saber are much more closely aligned on that moral scale (though Rin seems to have come around). It's almost painful to see the character work on display in Unlimited Blade Works, knowing that ufotable won't be taking a crack at adapting Fate, which is "Saber's" story arc in the greater Fate/stay night canon. That's some spilled milk worth crying over, let me tell you. That's not to discount Rin, of course. Her journey from reluctant foe to steadfast ally has been just as eventful, and it's a joy seeing her open up to the ginger blockhead, then immediately try to find an excuse that doesn't make her look too sentimental. It's a shame that some of those depths can't help but be left unplumbed in this series, tied as they are to her as-yet-unexplained (though retrospectively obvious) to Sakura and the Heaven's Feel storyline. Meanwhile, the hunt for the hidden Master continues, with Shirou and Issei sharing an awkward moment and Shinji really underlining how much of a little pissant he is, alternately begging and blaming everyone and everything but himself for his failure, then getting an out from Kotomine in the form of a "new" servant, Gilgamesh. After a revelation from Issei about a mysterious woman who's moved in at the Ryuudou temple, the trio posse up to ambush the man who may or may not be Caster's Master. Episode ten's prime action sequence is a pleasure to behold, not only for some of the most able production in the series to date, but also as the moment when Shirou finally graduates in from a clueless putz to something approaching useful. It's all thanks to the sword-porn crush he has on Archer's daggers, which he manages to duplicate using Projection magic. Seeing him grope them out of thin air (yes, "groping", just look at Shirou's hand movements) helps the trio avoid a catastrophic defeat at the hands of Kuzuki, who despite not being a mage, and is a guy not to be trifled with. Hell, dude can fistfight Saber like Bruce Lee dispatching a nameless minion, and last time almost punched Rider's head clean off.   The battle ends in something of a draw, as Saber gets her second wind (notice Caster doing a "Chekov's Gun" with her fancy dagger in that scene), and we shift back to Shinji being a creep and Gilgamesh being the monster he needs. It's funny to see just how blind Shinji is to the mess he's gotten himself into, almost like watching one of the weird little penis-bugs scurry around before Gilgamesh stomps them into paste. It's only a matter of when and where he'll put down the foot, so to speak.
Unlimited Blade Works photo
More like the Holy Skinship War
Perhaps I was being premature when I declared that Unlimited Blade Works had finally gotten over its tendency to swing between "boring" episodes and action-packed showcases, because the last two weeks have seen a return ...

Annotated Anime: Unlimited Blade Works episode 8

Nov 30 // Josh Tolentino
The tragedy I'm talking about, of course, is the death of Rider, one of the most underappreciated Servants in Fate/stay night.  I always liked Rider. As a character, she couldn't hold a candle to Fate/Zero's Rider, or even a bunch of folks in the same game, but she had a charm all her own as one of stay night's few older females, and, in the storylines where she survives at least, she can rock a turtleneck like no other.  In a lot of ways, the most galling aspect of Rider's death was that even ufotable, a studio that's done more than any other (even Type-MOON themselves) at giving Fate/stay night a rich texture, couldn't find much to do with Rider. Not even with a virtually unlimited budget and two full cours, that they've used to flesh out individual characters and establish strong connections to Fate/Zero and the rest of the "Nasuverse". Ultimately, all they were able to do for my favorite purple-haired bookish Gorgon was give her a few lines to speak in episode five, a handful of good fight poses (as well as the opportunity to make Shirou look like a putz), and a gruesome death at the hands of Caster's as-yet unknown Master.  Perhaps it was inevitable. As one of the game's three routes, Unlimited Blade Works was never kind to Rider, and ufotable may be saving the real goods for when they turn the Heaven's Feel route into a movie next year.  Besides getting me all riled up over the abuse of a favorite character, Unlimited Blade Works delivers the goods on the character front, opening with a cute vocal performance by Ayako Kawasumi, as Saber tries to hide her being miffed at Shirou behind her always-even tone. Even without seeing her about as "huffy" as a royal can be, you can hear the peeved tone behind the otherwise polite verbiage.  Contrast that to Rin's acting the perfect tsundere as she flails around trying to find ways to make amends for Archer's unprovoked assault on Shirou. She eventually settles on a lecture, because Rin can only be who she is. I'd have it no other way, mind you. That said, despite being a story where Rin is the destined heroine, Unlimited Blade Works has given Saber a great many good moments, including a top-class summoning sequence as Shirou blows a Command Seal to call her in like the world's most adorable (and deadly) Terminator. Shinji's also given the boot from the immediate tourney, though he's even more of a scumbag this time around than ever before seen, so he certainly has whatever happens to him from here on coming. And really, deciding to melt everyone inside your school, (End of Evangelion-style), because you're pissed at a girl who rejected you? That's some Elliot Rodgers bullshit right there, buddy. Not cool. As much as I gush over this show, it's not perfect. For one, it was really weird to end the week with Shirou talking about being used to seeing dead people, as matter-of-factly as a guy might talk about knowing what Photoshopped images look like. In any case, now that events are heating up, hopefully we can expect that future episodes will be as well-balanced as this one was. And if not, let's just hope they continue to look this good.
Unlimited Blade Works 8 photo
R.I.P. Rider
After harping on and on about Unlimited Blade Works "odd-numbered episode"-based sense of pacing, it seems that ufotable have seen fit to show me the boot, by implanting some of the tastiest sequences yet in this week's installment, which for all other intents and purposes serves as a pause for place-setting, punctuated by a tragedy of the highest order.

Unlimited Blade Works photo
Unlimited Blade Works

Unlimited Blade Works' opening gets an ideal 8-bit remix

The Retro Grail War has begun!
Nov 30
// Salvador GRodiles
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works has been a great adaptation to the original visual novel game's second route so far, and Studio Megaane is ready to make people rejoice with his next move. In other words, the show's&nb...

Annotated Anime: Unlimited Blade Works episodes 4-7

Nov 28 // Josh Tolentino
When last we checked in with Rin, Shirou and the gang, Saber and Archer had fought Berserker to a draw in ufotable's epic expansion on the first duel. Even Rin got a chance to shine, tossing jewels about like they weren't hideously expensive. As we open episode four, it's revealed that Ilya's go a mad on for her red headed stepbrother as a way of getting revenge on poor Kiritsugu, who can't catch a break, even when long dead. Shirou recovers from the fight, and decides to...go to school, against all proper logic and Rin's own insistence. This doubles up as a "date episode" of sorts, introducing Kuzuki, who is obviously a Master, and reminding the world that Mitsuzuri exists, as she ends up a plot device of sorts in episode six. What never jived with me when it came to Fate/stay night was the proliferation of unimportant side characters, by which I mean the classmates, like Mitsuzuri, Rin's friends, and even Issei. For the speaking roles they have, they never seemed to carry much narrative weight, and Fate's core cast is large enough to handle the task of making the world seem bigger than Shirou, the many girls somehow associated with him, and his enemies. Further still, they're rendered even more superfluous by ufotable's ensemble approach to pacing and structure, which ends up strengthening the core cast even more. In truth, the classmates were a holdover from Fate/stay night's visual novel structure, where players rarely if ever left Shirou's perspective. From that view, all the world-building had to come from Shirou himself, or people he talked to, and ultimately the classmates served as those terminals, particularly the more mundane aspects of Shirou's school life. That's barely a gripe, really, but it's something that stands out in light of the series. Of course, the happy side-effect is seeing a few moments of domestic bliss before the action scenes take over. It's moments like seeing Sakura and Taiga demand to harem it up with Shirou stay over to keep an eye on Saber, and of Rin's reaction to Shirou's blithe insistence on acting like nothing's wrong with him going to school in the middle of a death battle that drive home just how weird the Fifth Holy Grail War is. This is, of course, speaking from the perspective of this show's hypothetical ideal viewer, one who watched Fate/Zero first (and never played the game), and thus sees Unlimited Blade Works as a sort-of sequel to that work. Compared to the Fourth Grail War, this one's chock-full of people who don't actually want to have anything to do with the Holy Grail itself.  Shirou wants to win so bad things don't happen, Rin wants to win because she likes winning, Archer doesn't even want to bother, and would rather kill Shirou (more on that in a bit), and Ilya wants a shot at Shirou, and by extension, dear old dead daddy. Not even Shinji seems to have a particular wish in mind. Everyone's just bumbling around and doing whatever. It's a whole Grail War full of Ryuunosuke-types, more or less. Of course, that's part of the charm of it. If Rin had a real reason to want the Grail, she's be much less likely to be so adorable about wanting to kill Shirou properly. On the downside, seeing the Fifth Grail War from the perspective of more of its participants really, really makes Shirou look bad. I'm not kidding. It's amazing to see just how much of a putz Shirou looks like from a newcomer's perspective. He's got a moral fiber second to none, but nowhere near enough resources, know-how, or even common sense to make anything happen. We're seven episodes in and he's practically helpless against everyone except the girl that kinda-sorta likes him. It's both hilarious and distressing, because this guy's supposed to be the hero of the story.  Of course, it's not a spoiler to say that this state of affairs will turn around eventually, so seeing him this way should make seeing him as a badass that much more satisfying...eventually. Let's just hope it doesn't go on too long, because absolutely everyone is showing poor Shirou up. Speaking of showing people up, episode seven delivers the goods in a way that puts most other shows this season, and more than a few movies, to shame, in a set of truly glorious action sequences featuring first contact between Archer and Caster, and Saber and Assassin. It's a thing to behold, and truly cements ufotable's ascendance to top-tier status (as if it wasn't already there). Even as I write this, I've been looping the bit where Assassin uses his super-move, Tsubame-Gaeshi, and I can't help but think it a minor tragedy that the blu-rays of this series are likely to end up as a hyper-expensive Aniplex USA box set rather than a more affordable, traditionally licensed release. Not that they aren't worth it, mind you, but that the typical price point of such things puts them out of reach of a lot of anime-buyers, and this is a thing that should be sold wider than the premium market. Returning to the plot, Archer shows his colors here, and while I shan't spoil his and Shirou's connection, it's obvious that Archer knows more about himself and about Shirou than he's letting on, or willing to tell Rin. In a lot of ways, his attitude strikes me as a more arrogant, cocksure version of Kiritsugu, one fully aware of how far he's fallen and embittered by that fact. That awareness is what separates Archer from Kiritsugu, and Shirou from Archer. But it wasn't that Kiritsugu was "unaware". In Fate/Zero, Kiritsugu was tortured by the fact that he knew how much he didn't know. He knew of no other way to live than by the grim calculus of sacrificing the few for the many, and the main reason he sought the Grail was in the hopes of using its power to find a better way to save the world. The reason he decided to destroy it instead was because the Grail, in its corrupted state, couldn't find that way, and would've only made his "wish" come true through the means that Kiritsugu knew - through unimaginable holocaust. Archer, for his part, sounds like a guy that's already been let down completely, but unlike Kiritsugu, who was broken and too powerless to do anything about his betrayal, he's in a position to do something about it, and that involves good ol' fashioned murder. Of course, Rin isn't about to take all that lying down, so we'll have to see what she plans to do about this rank insubordination soon. I for one can only hope that the show will be able to top itself by the time this is all over.
Unlimited Blade Works photo
Also, Happy Thanksgiving!
Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers, as well as you savvy non-Americans who've appropriated their holiday as an excuse to stuff your faces! You might be full of coma-inducing food right about now, but we've got a n...

Annotated Anime: Unlimited Blade Works episodes 2-3

Oct 28 // Josh Tolentino
Don't get me wrong, it's all still fantastic to watch, and that kind of exposition is important in a setting with as many weird rules as Fate's, but standing in a church while George Nakata mocks Shirou's self-righteous redheaded ass doesn't feel like the best use of the time. Thankfully, the next episode makes up for all of that by going beyond - far beyond the call of duty, adapting and expanding on Berserker, Saber, and Archer's first fight in ways that set this show above even the source material. It feels cliche to call episode 3 a visual tour de force, but it really does help establish Ufotable as a top-tier studio. And not just for smoothness of animation or the complex, handcrafted sequences that usually populate all those "sakuga" showcase videos, but a real consistency of craft, and some really well-integrated use of CG effects. A lot of anime fans treat CG as the devil, and they're not entirely wrong to do so. Anime CG is usually pretty bad, and is often the sign of production shortcuts or other unsavory crutches. But I couldn't imagine Unlimited Blade Works looking better for its absence, at least not with the way it's used here. Here the CG is integrated into every aspect of the lighting and coloration, making all the magic effects really "pop", and drive home the superpowered aspect of mage and servant combat. Beyond that, the lengthy fight scene, which as far as I can remember goes far beyond the original game text, helps emphasize just how nuts combat can get when Servants are involved, and how seemingly suicidal people like Shirou come across as when they vow to fight alongside their Servants. Incidentally, it also establishes how much of an incredible feat it is to fight on the level of a Servant, which certain people will do, eventually. That's not really a spoiler. Another notable aspect of the show is just how deep the callbacks are to Fate/Zero. Scenes involving Kirei and Gilgamesh, as well as really subtle bits like Saber's reaction to seeing Ilya introduce herself, connect Unlimited Blade Works to Fate/Zero in a way that makes the original Fate story look like the sequel. Perhaps the most interesting perspective to watch this show from isn't that of a Fate/stay night fan, but from a non-gamer whose engagement with the Fate franchise began at Fate/Zero. How would such a viewer react to this less dark, more conventional story? Would they be angry that this weird newcomer named Shirou took over for all these adults with dark pasts from the last grail war? That's a viewpoint I wouldn't mind hearing.
Fate: UBW photo
Talking and fighting
The more I watch of Unlimited Blade Works, the more I'm convinced that everyone would've been better off if each episode were an hour long rather than the standard length. It'd work, even if the show became bi-weekly because ...

First Impressions: Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works

Oct 18 // Josh Tolentino
Come to think of it, the fact that this show even exists is a bit of an anomaly. Anime series almost never get real "do overs", much less for reasons like "the last people to try didn't do it right". Unlimited Blade Works enters rarefied company, standing alongside such notable properties as Evangelion and, er...Negima!. It's a testament to Type-MOON and the Fate franchise's brand power, as well as Ufotable's craft, that not only were they able to get another Fate adaptation green-lit more than ten years after Fate/stay night's popularity peak, but also craft it to such a high standard. And I'm not kidding about that either: The show is gorgeous. It's not quite up to the visual level of the Garden of Sinners movies, but the first two episodes - both of which are twice the length of the average weekly - match Fate/Zero, another Ufotable gig, at its best. The quality of their craft is visible even when many scenes are almost static in their lack of overt activity.  Character designs also show off a more refined interpretation of Takeshi Takeuchi's originals, striking familiar poses and acting out familiar scenes. In more ways than one, the show feels like Fate/stay night the game, except executed on a higher level. This plays out particularly well during fights, as Ufotable manages to incorporate the colored flashes and streaks that represented motion in the old game art, but in the full range of motion and dynamism afforded by very expensive animation. The first encounter between Lancer and Archer is a thing to behold. Of course, this sheer faithfulness to the source has its downs as well as ups, represented well by this two-hour prologue. Though the episodes aptly recreate the opening scenes of the game, practically verbatim, their contemplative tone could easily be interpreted by non-fans as overly ponderous. Listening to Rin and Archer explain the value of Command Spells or watching seemingly pointless interactions with schoolmates of no clear importance ends up an albatross around the neck of Unlimited Blade Works' pacing, and this time there's no first-person viewpoint to show us characters' thought processes as they go through the mundanities of place-setting and world-building. But it all still works, and in some cases the distance of perspective helps separate the audience from the character, bringing Shirou's personality quirks and character flaws into greater relief, making him more relatable as more than the generic harem lead he came across as in the game. It's an interesting feat to manage considering that most visual novel adaptations suffer from that distance, and also speaks to the depth of the source in some key ways. For better and worse (mostly better), Unlimited Blade Works feels like a throwback of sorts, based as it is on the little chuunibyou game that could, highlighting how far we've come since then, and how rare that kind of success ends up being.
Unlimited Blade Works photo
The Holy Grail for Type-Lunatics
These day it's hard to imagine an active otaku who isn't at least passingly familiar with Fate/stay night, Type-MOON's juggernaut of a visual novel series.  I'm sure those sorts of folks exist, though, and the duty ...

Anime photo

Ufotable's take on Fate/stay night UBW looks hot

Oh, and so does Heaven's Feel
Jul 28
// Elliot Gay
In what can only be described as a "oh wait, really?" kind of moment, Ufotable revealed this past Sunday that their upcoming new Fate/stay night TV series would be adapting the Unlimited Blade Works route of the video game. ...
Fate/Stay Night photo
Fate/Stay Night

Fate/Stay Night remake to air in fall 2014

ufotable is up to bat
Jan 28
// LB Bryant
I'm a freak. I admit it. Why am I a freak? Well, according to the Type-Moon fans in the audience it's because I actually really liked the original Fate/Stay Night series created years ago by Studio DEEN. Yes, despite its flaw...
Fate/Stay Night photo
Fate/Stay Night

UDON to publish translated Fate/Stay Night Artbooks

Unlimited Art Works
Jan 04
// Pedro Cortes
UDON is forever busy bringing fans delicious art books to this side of the Pacific. Adding to the huge list of titles they're releasing in the near future, Fate/Complete Material Volume 1: Art Material will be available June ...

First Impressions: Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA

Jul 16 // Elliot Gay
Fate/Kaleid Liner Prism Illya essentially utilizes every magical girl trope you can think of, mixing it with the DNA of Type-Moon's popular Fate franchise. What kind of monster did they end up with? Your guess is as good as mine. Illya is a young girl with a bit of a crush on her step brother, Shiro. She finds herself constantly hoping he'll fall madly in love with her, caught up in her own fantasies. If only there was some kind of magic she could cast to make things go her way. One night while taking a bath, Illya is shocked when a talking magical rod named Ruby smashes into the bathroom and knocks a naked Shiro out cold, offering her the chance to become a magical girl. Skeptical and untrusting, Illya turns down the opportunity, but ends up getting tricked into entering a contract with Ruby. Things escalate even further when she's forced into a transformation, becoming magical girl Prism Illya. Just when things can't possibly get any worse, a young woman named Rin appears, claiming to be Ruby's true owner. She demands that Illya give the kaleidostick back, and while our heroine certainly wants to, the stubborn magical item refuses to budge. Wacky hijinks ensue, and Rin comes to the conclusion that she might as well leave Ruby with Illya for the time being. Things are about to get crazy for the young magical girl. I wasn't super familiar with studio Silver Link before coming into Fate/Kaleid, so I honestly wasn't sure what to expect from the animation or art. While I still think the faces look odd, this isn't a bad looking show. It certainly doesn't go above and beyond the call of duty, but it's competent and the brief bits of action in this first episode looked fine.  Illya is an adorable protagonist, and much to my surprise she's not quite your standard magical girl lead. When faced with the opportunity to acquire magical powers, she immediately rejects them, throwing the offer back in Ruby's face. It definitely feels like a parody of the genre, and to that effect I think Fate/Kaleid actually works. The whole sequence in the bath, while certainly fanservicey, is also genuinely funny. Rin and newcomer Livia are fun additions to the cast, with the former bringing a familiar face to the show and the latter being a wild card. It's fun getting to watch Rin play off of somebody as proud as she is. This is a show designed for fans of the Fate franchise, and it shows it with every cameo, every reference, and even in the way character's interact. It's a window into a universe where Illya doesn't have a cursed fate, Shiro has a happy, somewhat normal life, and the world doesn't completely fall to pieces. That being said, as much as I enjoyed episode one of Fate/Kaleid, I can't recommend it to anybody that isn't already a Type-Moon fan. Much of the show's appeal comes in the form of familiar characters in an unfamiliar situation, and I can't imagine that changing much over the next few episodes.  So I guess I'll be sticking with Fate/Kaleid for now. It's not exactly high on my list of priorities, but I don't mind turning my brain off for a bit to enjoy some stupid fun.  [Watch Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA on Crunchyroll!]
FI: Fate/Kaleid Liner  photo
I don't even know who I am anymore.
As much as I've enjoyed the Fate/Stay Night franchise, I have to admit that I've always felt that something was missing. Last year's Fate/Zero was a fabulous series filled with beautiful action, lovely animation, and a grippi...

fate ufotable photo
fate ufotable

More Fate/stay night anime, confirmed by ufotable

Will fans get what they wished for?
Jul 12
// Jeff Chuang
During the premiere of the new 3D Garden of Sinners: Fukan Fukei movie in Japan, a preview video confirming animation studio ufotable's next Fate universe project was screened. Various witnesses reported the PV sigh...
Fate/Kaleid licensed photo
Fate/Kaleid licensed

Sentai Filmworks licences Fate/Kaleid magical girl series

All the Illya you can handle.
Jul 07
// Elliot Gay
Earlier today, I watched the first episode of Fate/Stay Night spin-off, Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya. It's cute, a bit weird, and the faces seem kind of off. All told, I actually enjoyed it more than I was expecting to, so ...
Fate/kaleid Liner photo
Fate/kaleid Liner

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya finally gets a trailer

Surprise! It's full of cute things.
Apr 26
// Elliot Gay
A three minute preview for Silver Link's upcoming Fate/stay night spinoff anime, Fate/kaleid Liner Prisma Illya has hit the web, and it's full of cute things. This should surprise approximately nobody.  The original man...

Fate/Extra CCC gets another character introduction video

Jan 31
// Elliot Gay
It's hard to believe that Fate/Extra CCC is finally hitting Japanese shelves in March. I'm still looking forward to seeing where this quasi-sequel goes, though I have to admit that the Sakura lookalikes have ridiculously stu...

Shaft's Fate/Extra CCC opening is very Shaft-like

Jan 24
// Elliot Gay
Despite my feelings toward Imageepoch, I'm actually reasonably excited for their upcoming PSP game, Fate/Extra CCC. The first title was a solid dungeon crawl with a fantastic story, so I'm looking forward to jumping back int...

A Daily Dose of Battles: Saber vs Beserker

How the mighty have fallen
Jan 23
// Hiroko Yamamura
Let's literally kick things off with our first themed Daily Dose of 2013! The week, your favorite Japanator editors let you know which famous anime battles get their adrenaline going, fists clenched, and showcase what we all...

Friday Night Fights: Tenchi Muyo's Tenchi vs Saber

Dec 07 // Salvador GRodiles
[embed]27418:1907[/embed] [embed]27418:1908[/embed]
Who wields the greater sword of power?
*ding, ding, ding* It's over! Poor Dragonar-1 Custom, he had the proper weapons to obliterate Lancelot Conquista, but not many folks on here got to experience his show. Lancelot Conquista wins! (5 > 2) Two i...


These Fate/Zero cushions are manly as hell

So much man action
Dec 05
// Elliot Gay
There's no hiding that Fate/Zero filled me with all sorts of happy feelings. It's one of my favorite shows from the past five years, and I go to bed every night while caressing my BD sets.  Ok, that last part isn't true,...

Fate/EXTRA CCC's Gilgamesh is as arrogant as ever

Nov 15
// Elliot Gay
I really dug Fate/EXTRA for the PSP. Despite its many issues, I found the story to be an engaging take on the Fate/Stay night mythos. I was pleased as punch to read that a sequel was in development, and then disappointed as ...

Some noteworthy figure pre-orders to check out

You know, so you can part with more of your money
Sep 03
// Kristina Pino
Every now and then, I feel like I've got to remind you folks that being an anime fan doesn't stop at enjoying the manga and animated adaptations thereof, but continues on to the realm of expensive plastic merch that you can i...

This new Fate/stay night [Realta Nua] trailer is awesome

Ufotable strikes again
Aug 30
// Elliot Gay
I can't wait for this November. As a Vita owner, not only do I have Atelier Totori Plus to look forward to, but the Fate/stay night [Realta Nua] port as well. The latter just got a new trailer and it's making the wait all the...

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