To commemorate the release of Unlimited Blade Works, I’ll be covering the anime that started it all: Fate Stay Night.
Saber, Archer, Lancer, Caster, Assassin, Rider, Berserker. These are the name of the seven Servants who serve the seven Masters in the fight for the Holy Grail, a magical artifact said to grant the wish of the one who holds it. This is the Holy Grail War, a competition between the seven Masters and their servants that has occurred four times in human history. The last Holy Grail War occurred in Japan, destroying part of Fuyuki City in a great fire, leaving 8-year-old Shirou Emiya badly injured.
10 years later, Shirou has become a normal high school student who strives to become a Hero of Justice who can protect everyone. However, his world turns upside-down when he accidentally summons a servant, Saber. The Holy Grail War begins again, with Shirou doomed to be one of the Masters in a game of kill-or-be-killed.
Fate Stay Night (FSN for short) began as a visual novel with many different routes and outcomes. This anime is simply one of those routes. Of course, it couldn’t fit everything from the visual novel into the anime, so many concepts were cut or glossed over. That does mean that some scenes felt a little incomplete. However, even with those limitations, FSN delivered a well-developed story.
But this is where the anime starts to have problems. There are seven Masters and seven Servants in this battle royale, but not every Master is given equal screen time. Shirou is given the most amount of attention, as expected, but many of his rivals are glossed over, like they don’t really matter. The story isn’t so much a battle royale as it is little arcs, each dealing with a particular Master. As a result, I didn’t get the sense that the War really was a free-for-all, and I felt cheated.
The Characters: The character development in this show suffers heavily, but that’s partly a function of the story itself. There are fourteen characters total, so it’s difficult to flesh out every single one. However, the most important characters are poorly developed as well.
Shirou Emiya: There’s not much to say about Shirou. He gets a little bit of backstory and some development, but that amount of development is minimal and ultimately makes him a bland character. His level of integrity and sense of honor and justice is suffocating and really doesn’t lend itself well to him as a character. He’s just too noble and virtuous.
Saber: Of all the characters, Saber gets the most development in the form of a backstory, but due to the limitations of the show, that backstory goes instead into Saber’s character relationships. Ultimately, Saber winds up more or less in the same position as Shirou: potentially interesting, but not.
Archer: Archer’s not a very prominent character, but he is the perfect example of the problems with the storytelling and characters. Archer’s importance to the show and his amount of screen time are horribly inconsistent. He barely appears, but is also critical to one of the the show’s main concepts. Archer failed. He was a cool character, but was just not treated very well.
Final Verdict: It might seem like I am bashing FSN, and, to a certain extent, I am, At the same time, there were certain limits to what FSN could and could not do, and within those confines, it worked very well. I cannot call a show bad only because it had limited material.
Final Grade: B-