The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Fate/Stay Night

Title: Fate/Stay Night
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Studio DEEN/Geneon Entertainment/Fate Project
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 6 Jan 2006 – 16 Jun 2006

Synopsis: Emiya Shirou was orphaned in a mysterious calamity that happened ten years ago, of which he was the only survivor. Bearing a heavy respect for the now deceased man who adopted him as his son, Shirou lives his life inspired to one day become a protector of justice. However, in a bizarre twist of fate, he is caught up in the Holy Grail War, a free-for-all battle between a group of highly skilled magicians fighting for an unfathomable power that has the ability to grant wishes. Fate, though, has one more twist up its sleeve, letting Shirou summon the most powerful Servant to aid him in the War: Saber.

The Highlights
Animation: Starts fluently, but wanes with time.
Music: Does a commendable job of creating atmosphere.
Story: Some atrocious use of story-telling techniques.
Characters: Horrendously mismanaged cast.

The visual novel to anime conversion genre is one that has more than its fair share of mediocrity, to the point that many pundits argue that the stories featured in such games just do not naturally transfer well to the small screen. It’s not a contention that I particularly like to subscribe to, but Fate/Stay Night does little to work as ammunition for my case. This is an anime that initially appeared to offer so much potential and generated so much hype among the anime community, but eventually delivered nothing but a disappointing story laden with both plot- and character-holes.

Fate/Stay Night’s execution can only be described with the word that seems to appear most frequently while discussing visual novel to anime conversions: inconsistent. With the exception of the fluent final episode, the animation starts on a mercilessly pretty note, but noticeably tapers off with the passing of time. The visual experience is further hurt by some rather lackluster cinematography and flat choreography, which would have left many of the action sequences rather uninspiring to watch, had they not been saved by some decent music. It’s the intense background themes, mostly consisting of very thick string and vocal compositions, which need to be complimented for pretty much being the only working component in creating the right atmosphere in such scenes. I dread to think how the fight scenes would have been without them. Director Yamiguchi Yuji (Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito) again leaves me unconvinced about his prowess behind the camera. Many of the scenes more vital to the plot fail to establish the right atmosphere or show the right story-elements necessary to invoke the right reaction from the audience. Exemplifying this are the numerous plot twists that completely lacked foreshadowing, making them more often than not mind-boggling, rather than awe-inducing. And don’t even get me started on the “mana regen” sequence.

However, where Fate/Stay Night really falls over is where it matters most. Outside of Saber and Shirou, the cast is horribly mismanaged. The list of side characters of which we are shown mere glimpses of their backgrounds, and nothing more, is phenomenal. It may not have been quite as bad as Kannaduki no Miko, but the question must be posed: if no intention to make anything of these glimpses existed, then why show them? I cannot stress enough how frustrating the mismanagement of the side cast was; characters that were portrayed to be arguably more intriguing than the two leads were frequently relegated from the plot’s focus before a chance to reveal their full stories could come about. The component of the plot that did receive a respectable amount of attention was that surrounding Saber’s humanization, but not even this was without its flaws. Her changes were too sudden and could almost all be traced back to a single scene, making it, at times, difficult to swallow. I’d halfheartedly argue Shakugan no Shana(1,2) did a better job with a similar character transition, and fervently argue the same about Lunar Legend Tsukihime.

Fate/Stay Night is an anime that has created numerous talking points, but very few have been complimentary. The fights only rarely offer anything that isn’t totally clichéd to the shounen action genre, and far too many characters are left sorely undeveloped. Many fans of the game have argued that a story of Fate/Stay Night’s magnitude cannot be contained within a mere twenty-four episodes… but there’s no argument that this particular attempt at it was pitiful. Type Moon games have yet to make a flawless transition to the small screen, but at least Lunar Legend Tsukihime was a far more respectable attempt. Watch that instead.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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