Fate / Stay Night [Unlimited Blade Works] – Episodes 1 - 12
(This review will be replaced by the full series review once it is complete.)
Note: I have never watched the previous Fate / Stay Night anime, played the game, nor read the visual novel before watching this series. Since I haven't watched the others, I am reviewing this series as a spin-off / sequel of Fate / Zero as that is how I see it. There may also be spoilers for Fate / Zero.
After Watching Fate / Zero, I decided to just leap directly into this anime. While I am glad I did, I find myself far more conflicted about several aspects of Fate / Stay Night [Unlimited Blade Works].
Yet another Holy Grail War has broken out, this time much earlier than expected. This sadly means that instead of strong adults, this war is pretty much just a bunch of immature teenagers with their almost just as immature summoned servants.
Unlike Fate / Zero, which showed us so many versions of what makes a hero and what is right and wrong, Stay Night [Unlimited Blade Works] is just good vs. evil. This will certainly make things a lot easier to stomach for those who disliked that whole shades of grey topic in Zero, but also removes some of what made Zero so different. Sure, that might still be addressed in the next season, but so far it is much more simplistic.
Part of this is due to the concentration on two masters and their servants, instead of branching out to all the others. Actually, at this point, we still know very little about the other masters and servants. Sure, we are given enough clues to who each servant is in our history, but the masters, outside of the main two, are still nearly an unknown as when they were when they were introduced... Well, aside from those who returned from the last series.
While everyone did not return from Zero, there are enough of returning characters to continue the story from where it left off at the end of the previous series. Actually, the plot continues so perfectly that this feels more like a third season than a sequel. Oh, and if you haven't watched Fate / Zero before watching this series you will probably be confused by several of the plots as they aren't clearly explained in this series. Watching this series without the previous one is definitely a bad idea.
At this point I'm beginning to suspect that the Grail isn't what everyone thinks it is. We were told it was supposed to select powerful people who wanted to use its power, but that doesn't seem to be the case this time. So far we know of three masters who don't even care about the grail itself, so why would they be chosen if not for a different purpose. Maybe it is actually some evil creature trying to get free but needs some poor sucker to make a deal to free it. From what we witnessed from its actions in Zero, it reminds me of a twisted Djinn that takes your deepest desire and twists it into some horrible nightmare. The truth about one of the summoned heroes, whose identity is sort of revealed near the end of the season, only seems to solidify this suspicion.
As much as I loved the animation in Zero, I loved Stay Night's style is even better. Going from one series directly into the next, I didn't really notice the changes at first, but one the camera flew across a large landscape, or during intense battles, the changes are outstanding and difficult to miss.
Sadly, most of the musical scores aren't as impressive this time around. They are good songs, but they don't seem to match the mood of the series as well as Zero's did. Well, except the ending song of the season, which might be my favourite song of the entire Fate series thus far. For some reason, the song in the opening credits remind me of the theme song from Friends...
If you watched Fate / Zero, you will likely find lots of enjoyment from Fate / Stay Night [Unlimited Blade Works], even if you disagreed with the ethical decisions in the other series. This is not an anime to watch without Zero, the other series, game or visual novel, though.
Fate / Stay Night [Unlimited Blade Works] is available free with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.