Posted by AidanAK47 on 11 May 2018 with categories: Anime Reviews, Reviews by AidanAK47

We have seen an influx of Fate adaptations over the last year and sadly each has proven to be disappointing except for a cooking slice of life short series which is weirdly better than it has any right to be. This movie was the last of the Fate adaptations that I needed to see but sadly remained out of my reach due to screenings being nowhere near where I live. So I waited and now with the Blu-ray release I can finally experience it and by god it’s perfect. This is only the first of three movies covering the Heaven’s Feel route of the original visual novel. As for what that means to the uninformed, the original first visual novel of Fate/Stay night was a choose your own adventure style game where the story could turn out one of three completely different ways. The first path where Saber is the main heroine is called Fate, was adapted by Studio Deen in 2006 but while the only adaption of this route it is considered lackluster. The second route is called Unlimited Bladeworks where Rin is the main heroine and has been adapted by Deen into a movie and again by Ufotable into a TV series. This movie is the very first adaption of the previously unadapted third route called Heaven’s Feel where Sakura is the main heroine and more or less is the grand finale of the original game. When compared to the other two routes Heaven’s Feel is generally considered darker in tone and quite a few consider it the closest thing to a true sequel to Fate/Zero. Take that statement with a grain of salt however as it certainly isn’t intended to be a sequel but rather a conclusion to the original game. As a long time fan of the series I was curious as to how Ufotable would handle the adaptation and if this first movie is an example of what the full trilogy will be I would consider it a prefect adaption. Not only did this first movie cover the important points of the beginning of the route but actually improved the pacing and story with extra scenes.

In the visual novel it was briefly mentioned how Sakura started to come to Shirou’s house to help out but Ufotable actually shows it right from the start which I feel was a great introduction for her. The expanded action scenes and original scenes of things that happened outside of Shirou’s perspective really added much needed context to the story while giving justice to characters whom in the visual novel were sent off less ceremoniously. If there is a character that truly benefited from the animated adaptation it’s most definitely true Assassin. It’s nice to see a master who uses an Assassin class servant as they were intended to be used and despite being an antagonist you could always see how under powered he was when compared the powerhouses that are other servants. The animation really shows Assassins fighting style of avoiding direct confrontation and relying on traps and tricks to catch servants off guard. Even Shinji was given more context which made him more understandable though obviously still not likeable. The small nods to Fate/Zero help continuity better than the original story did as of course Zero was originally made after it. Animation of course was fantastic as this is indeed Ufotable with a movie budget and clearly no expenses were spared in making this thing as gorgeous as humanly possible. The fight scenes are absolute works of art and exhilarating to behold. Soundtrack was also quite excellent and despite my misgivings with Yuki Kajura I found this soundtrack quite effective and only remembered it was Yuki’s work when the choir jumped in at the opening credits. Through admittedly I wasn’t quite paying attention to the soundtrack but that in itself is a sign of grown from Kajura as her soundtracks had a tendency of stealing attention away from a scene whereas here the soundtrack worked more in tandem with the visuals.

Out of the original three routes, Heaven’s Feel is considered the darkest story and for good reason. As dark as Fate/Zero? Not certain if it’s that level but we are dealing with some pretty heavy stuff here. For one it’s clear that this version of the Holy Grail war has far more collateral damage than any other. It was said in the background that accidents where happening and people were dying in the background of other series but here it’s gotten to the level of being a massive concern. The people of Fuyuki know that something is going on and more and more incidents are happening. Shirou’s friends are no exception to this as even they are victims of the war. On top of which we got this mysterious creature floating around draining people into comas and the movie certainly shows how eerie this thing is as well as how dangerous. With Sakura being the main heroine as well we glimpse the abuse she has to endure at her home. This is a pretty heavy story for both the servants and the masters with bleak prospects to come.

The movie of course isn’t without flaw. It assumes you have at least seen the Unlimited Bladeworks adaptation and makes no effort to ease in newcomers as it quickly montages things previously covered. Small references to Fate/Zero have been added by Ufotable too so some knowledge of that can help. Despite efforts to improve the pacing of the story there are points of this movie which feel rather slow and rely on it’s atmosphere and soundtrack to carry it. The CGI while well done can be distractingly noticeable at times such as the scene between Lancer and Assassin on the truck. I would even go so far to say that maybe Ufotable over polished it. Also indeed this is a film for Fate fans so those who couldn’t get invested in previous iterations most likely won’t find anything here to change their mind. Naturally as well this film is only one third of a story so it doesn’t end conclusively and only is one part of a story. But for a Fate fan such as myself I loved it and thought it was the best it could ever be. If the other two movies are as good as this we could very well see the Fate anime to call Fate/Zero’s undisputed position of best Fate Adaption into question.

5 Responses

  1. Avatar Evaluation says:

    I don’t want to start a Fate war, but I really need to know at this point.

    First, let me articulate my own subjective Fate experiences:

    – No familiarity with Fate games or novels or anything.
    – Seen Deen’s FSN, didnt think much of it.
    – Seen UBW movie, didnt remember much of it.
    – Seen Fate/Prototype, thought an actual good series could have had come out of it.
    – Seen FZ, was much amazed by it
    – Seen many of Fate adaptations and spin-offs and whatever, was annoyed and bored of it.
    – Seen UBW series, was much intrigued by pointlessness and stupidity of it.

    Now I have seen this Heaven’s Feel movie and all I saw was disjointed series of good looking, but vacuous scenes that served no purpose whatsoever.

    I have never felt attached to a single Fate character (excluding F/Z of course) or anything F/SN related – maybe that is my problem. But then, again and again these glorious super true-to-original adaptations come and show me how unimportant and thematically-dry this entire thing is.

    I am fairly sure a single randomly picked F/Z scene of any F/SN character managed to say more about the character’s personality, desires and struggles than all of FSN’s adaptations together. How many times do I have to watch Kotomine Kirei’s useless smirk, that – correct me if Im wrong – is there to only show how oh-so-evil he is. All these reiterations keep reiterating how they have no clue why they exist, while flashing their updated art/animation and novel, cough cough, storytelling approach that will surely, this time, revolutionize Fate universe and change us all into believers.

    So I really must know at this point:
    – Am I missing something integral (from the game perhaps) or is FSN in its entirety one big joke?
    – Why is Kotomine Kirei evil if not to just be evil cause spooky reasons?
    – Why is Shinji so retarded – is that a running joke or am I supposed to take it seriously?
    – Is there a single character that has more than single trait in FSN story?
    – Why is Saber so freakking emo and is it truly supposed to be cringe-worthy?
    – Why is it not socially acceptable to raise these questions?

    • AidanAK47 AidanAK47 says:

      Well to address some of this.

      “– Am I missing something integral (from the game perhaps) or is FSN in its entirety one big joke?”

      Well you say you don’t want to start a Fate war but this pretty much is like walking into a anime convention and asking why all anime is crap. Truly how am I supposed to respond to this? What am I supposed to say to convince you otherwise?

      – Why is Kotomine Kirei evil if not to just be evil cause spooky reasons?

      Well you make notice that Shirou and Kirei exemplify the standard traits of the Superhero and Villain dynamic. Shirou is a normal human who pretty much holds to all the virtues of superman while Kirei is born evil and destined to be evil. But the twist here is that Shirou shows just how utterly broken a human being you have to be to adhear to the virtues of a superhero and while Kirei is practically genetically engineered to be evil, they does not mean that he wants to be. If you examine his actions before the fourth holy grail war you could find that Kirei seemed to be subconsciously trying to find a compromise between his evil nature and being a good person.

      “– Why is Shinji so retarded – is that a running joke or am I supposed to take it seriously?”

      Shinji was brought up under the impression that he was better than other people simply on the fact that he was part of a mage family. Only to find that he is worthless as a mage. So he’s basically a teenager trying to prove his own superiority despite all things pointing to him having no worth

      “– Is there a single character that has more than single trait in FSN story?”

      Actually they are more well rounded than Fate/Zero. Yes, you don’t believe me. But well as great as Fate/Zero is, the story is very straightforward. It is one that leaves no room for interpretation. The things you take from that story are the very things the author intents you to take out of it. The characters are so defined by the plot that if you were to remove them from it, you wouldn’t have any real idea of how they would interact. Case in point, tell me one thing about Kariya which is not related to his tragedy or role in Fate/Zero. Does he have any hobbies? Whats his job even? Meanwhile the characters of FSN can literally be lifted from the plot and thrown into something completely different and it still works. I honestly have difficulty understanding how you consider them to have only one trait unless you are boiling them down to Shirou=Idiot, Rin=tsundere, Illya=loli which is vast oversimplifications.

      “– Why is Saber so freakking emo and is it truly supposed to be cringe-worthy?”

      Emo? Saber is Emo? Guessing you are talking about Saber Alter. Short answer, Grail corruption. You don’t take a dip into all the evils of the world and walk out the other side squeaky clean. In all honestly Alter may be a better character than Vanilla saber. Saber Alter sees her past self (Original Saber) as naive and an idealistic fool. She disagrees with her past self on what a king should be. She believes a king should be feared and hated. You could even consider it a factor of her taking the words of Isekander and twisting the interpretation.

      “– Why is it not socially acceptable to raise these questions?”

      Well it’s not a matter of being socially acceptable but rather the correct attitude to ask those questions. If you are genuinely curious about say, Dark Souls, you don’t walk up to a player of it and ask “Hey why is your game an unfair shitheap with about as much depth as a puddle?” Because it’s rude and well, ignorant because you simply have only a limited scope on the thing in question. True you have watched anime adaptions but there is a lot lost in translation in regards to adaption. Look I am by no means claiming this franchise is perfect, it has many many flaws which I can point out but at this point I would say it’s likely not for you.

    • Avatar Evaluation says:

      You responded just like I wanted/hoped you would. So thx. You also do not have to convince me, showing me your perspective is more than enough. I do think that arguing here is inevitably pointless, but I think doing so for just a bit can prove interesting.

      So Kirei is evil for the sake of it. Great. Can you please point me to a single scene in any FSN adaptation where any of his thought-provoking dilemmas are at least hinted at?

      I’d have to be blind to not see Shinji has an inferiority complex. And that’s my complaint. His faces could go toe to toe with Code Geass’ best memes. Every second he is on screen is a waste of time for me.

      I mean the Saber in this movie, that lives and walks with Shirou, wears hoodie, constantly frowns, doesn’t talk 1st half of the movie and acts like a doll-plaything. What’s that all about?

      Well rounded characters huh. No I think I know what you mean. Its the strength of the VN as a medium. And you make an interesting point about FZ characters and I readily agree. Although I don’t think any one of us believes FZ’s is inherently a bad approach.

      So, let me change my complaint, it is the childish presentation of conflicts and (lack of) driving force of the characters that I find fault with here (I think). Lets count all the various emotions characters in this movie are capable of displaying: anger, surprise, smug.

      They keep doing these smug faces, as if the series lacked self-consciousness. “Ha, what do you think you can do with a stick” is hardly a meaningful line (and it could be if the full weight of his mastery of magecraft was made apparent (like Tousaka’s in FZ) instead of making him overly-evil old dude that talks too much). In fact virtually all of Matou elder’s lines are like this.

      In the end, I think I’ll never be able to judge any Fate (SN) without playing through the game, although I think I’d still feel roughly the same about the adaptations. Perhaps they are simply a cream for those who are already familiar, like Eva Rebuilds. But I think the work still has to maintain a level of intelligence and I have serious doubts about that with this movie.

      • AidanAK47 AidanAK47 says:

        Well alright, I don’t mind having a bit of chat about Fate.

        On Kirei that’s actually rather difficult as funny enough Heavens Feel is the route where he shines in the main game and this dilemma is brought more to light. His general motivation for assisting the Grail is connected with his dissonance as a character and one of the big evidences to this is regarding his wife which is also covered in Heavens Feel. SO in regards to hints in the animated stories I would point to Fate/Zero where Kiritsugu was researching the masters and remarked that Kirei was well on his way to becoming a valedictorian but dropped off that path to become an executor(Heretic hunter) instead. Why? My theory is that subconsciously Kirei took that path because as an Executor he could make people suffer while, at least in the eyes of the church, being morally right. Also on how Gilgamesh pointed out that Kirei views his own happiness as a sin.

        I am certainly not going to deny that Shinji’s a bit too over the top and designed to be hate-able. Again heavens Feel has a role for him considering his connection to Sakura and there is a thing where Shinji wouldn’t be quite the little shit he is if it wasn’t for his grandfather and circumstances. There was once a time when he was friends with Shirou and as this movie remarked, he does like Shirou as much as he hates him. Like it pisses him off that Shirou allows himself to be used by other people and admires him to a degree but at the same time hates that he admires him because it makes him feel inferior. Its subtle but you may notice that when Shinji tells Shirou to clean the archery range, he gets pissed off when Shirou agrees to do so. Almost as if he wanted Shirou to lash out or straight up refuse.

        Oh…I didn’t quite think it was that bad but to her is coming straight after the events of Fate/Zero which she left in pretty desperate straits. I think she has some right to be gloomy.

        Fate/Zero’s approach isn’t bad, far from it. Indeed I would consider it a strength that Gen can pace his stories so well and keep them focused. It’s effective for short stories or stories with a large cast of characters which doesn’t have the runtime to flesh things out. It proves to be a weakness through when he goes for longer works with Psycho Pass being a prime example of how his weakness with characters can prove undoing.

        I have skipped though the movie just now and I am afraid I don’t see what you mean by the characters only being able to display anger, surprise and smug. There’s a lot of subtle motions going on in the animation. Like Taiga talking to Sakura about how Kerry was Shirou’s hero and asking if Sakura had some hero of her own causing her to play with her ribbon and almost seems like a callback to Kariya. Sabers eyes wavering when Shirou mentions about Sakura going back to a normal life and Saber sees the same symptoms in Sakura that she did in Iri. Taiga reminiscing over a picture book. Zouken asking Shirou about Einzbern kindly once he heard that he was an Emiya but dropping it the moment he knew Shirou had no idea what he was talking about. Sakura’s awkwardness with Saber because she knew that she was a servant. You may not see it but there is a lot of emotion here besides outbursts. As for these smug smiles…I see smiles but not quite the smug.

        I don’t expect the Game to change your mind, even more so if you are not a fan of Visual Novels as it is a pretty niche genre and I think you would be better playing something new than something you know 2/3 of the story of. Not everything can transfer in an adaption nor should it as I don’t think these adaptions would benefit with Shirou’s continuous inner monologue. But it is important to note that Fate/Stay Night was never intended to be anime. In fact it was never intended to be broken up like this either which does make it like we are getting only pieces of a story. Fate, UBW and Heavens Feel are all part of a complete package, never intended to be separated or viewed as separate entities. And here we have a Third of a story which in turn is the Third of a full visual novel.

        • Avatar Evaluation says:

          Sorry for my late reply.

          I have rewatched Fate Zero recently and could see the things you mentioned. I love Kirei in FZ. But still, having none of FSN out there (FSN, UBW movie, UBW series, HF movie 1) to touch on this matter and merely presenting Kirei as an antagonistic force makes me uncomfortable and disinterested.

          “it’s subtle but you may notice that when Shinji tells Shirou to clean the archery range, he gets pissed off when Shirou agrees to do so.”
          That is not subtle at all. The movie throws it in my face; ‘look at me how subtle I am’. Subtly in your face is an oxymoron. Its similar to when the show pretends to criticize fanservice, to cover the fact that it just gave you fanservice. Anyway, the portrayal and behavior of this character is so extreme I can not take it seriously.

          Again, I somewhat disagree about the subtlety of the presentation of character’s responses. What you call subtle is simply (intended) lack of accompanying music. Making the obvious silent doesn’t make it any less subtle, why doesn’t studios like KyoAni and Ufotable get this is beyond me – they just overuse the ‘silence’ technique for the ‘wow’ effect.

          “Ha-ha-ha-ha. I don’t recall saying single word about whether I myself had lost.” – is just one of the many cringe-worthy lines the movie offers.

          I have quick-compiled some screenshots here: The images speak for themselves. Most of the movie Saber – no – virtually every character constantly frowns. It’s as pervasive as it is silly. And the smug faces are plain as day. I can see the movie is trying to slow down and come off as meaningful and evocative frequently, but how am I supposed to take it seriously when characters all play a pissing contest with each other and have the same ‘oh so serious’ or ‘oh your-tears-are-so-yummy’ face?

          I think this goes beyond problems of adapting across the medium or having an affinity to a VN medium.

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