Fate/stay night Unlimited Budget Works (1st Cour Impressions)

UNLIMITED BLADE WORKS

-I am the bone of my sword-
体は剣で出来ている。
-Steel is my body and fire is my blood-
血潮は鉄で心は硝子。
-I have created over a thousand blades-
幾たびの戦場を越えて不敗。
-Unknown to Death-
ただの一度も敗走はなく、
-Nor known to Life-
ただの一度も理解されない。
-Have withstood pain to create many weapons-
彼の者は常に独り 剣の丘で勝利に酔う。
-Yet, these hands will never hold anything-
故に、生涯に意味はな
-So as I pray, UNLIMITED BLADE WORKS-
その体は、きっと剣で出来ていた。

Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works is, hands down, the best anime adaptation I’ve seen of anything non-manga, period. It sounds like I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.

ufotable really outdid themselves here. Ever since their Fate/Zero adaptation, the studio’s really become Type-Moon’s little pet animation studio. For good reason, too. I don’t know if the animated openings for the original visual novel and its Réalta Nua PS2 port were done by Studio DEEN or some other company, but it was really easy to tell that Type-Moon switched to ufotable for the Réalta Nua openings on the Vita version. That distinct animation style, that quality…

There’s really talented staff working at that animation studio, and it shows. The only other anime I’ve followed from ufotable were just OVAs and movies, such as their Tales of Symphonia and Kara no Kyoukai adaptations, which are naturally some high-quality stuff when it comes to animation. But the animation for Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works, a *TV series*, feels like it’s almost about the same quality. In fact, bits and pieces manage to seem just a bit more polished than even their Tales of OVAs or their openings for the Tales of games in general. Dayum, son…

GARcher by Ufo-tan

Caladbolg II: The Fake Spiral Sword

Anyways, I’ll save more of my gawking at the animation for later and go over the actual adaptation quality. I’ve read the visual novel, and so far, the anime is almost flawless and is as faithful as an animated adaptation could be. You can say it’s… optimal. That’s the best way to describe it.

Granted, since it’s in an animated medium, there are a few lines of narration missing here and there, but it doesn’t really hurt it that much overall, especially since ufotable finds ways to imply the same context by using the anime medium to its advantage. It’s not like its The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya where Kyon’s POV narration is near-untranslatable, even though that still ended up with a good anime adaptation regardless. Either way, the anime makes up for any missing bits with a lot of cool new scenes added into the anime that were written by Nasu himself, so that’s a plus.

(Really, the only scene that’s kind of wonky compared to the source material is when Caster takes Taiga hostage in Digimon Adventure 02‘s Dark Ocean instead of Shirou’s house and Archer appearing at the very last minute to save the day, but it’s really, really minor.)

Based Illya

My favorite anime expansion so far has to be the scene in episode three where Rin was battling Illya. The scene just seems like a really cool way to pad out the Saber/Archer vs. Berserker fight at first, especially since Illya uses an advanced version of Irisviel’s magic from Fate/Zero which makes her way more awesome than she already is, but if you’ve read the visual novel, you’ll realize that Archer’s totally bullshitting when he said he was unable to kill Illya, despite being able to snipe down her familiars. Nice, ufotable, nice.

Based bath time Illya

To make up for Illya’s minor role in the Unlimited Blade Works route, we reward you with a bath scene. PRAISE.

ART THOU MY MASTER?

So many versions of this shot now…

I suppose it really helps that ufotable is just adapting one individual route and expanding it with more scenes, rather than smashing a bunch of elements that are vaguely similar to the other routes into it and creating a mess. The entirety of Fate/stay night only works as a narrative with three alternate storylines, all of which don’t really reconcile with each other as one story no matter how hard you try. Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works works well as a standalone anime, but to give anime viewers the same experience as originally intended, they’d have to create three separate anime series for each route. They’re already turning Heaven’s Feel into a movie series like Kara no Kyoukai, so we have two routes down. The problem is that Studio DEEN’s old Fate adaptation wouldn’t work as a replacement for the visual novel’s Fate route due to its spoilerish nature. So as of now, if you’re only interested in anime and nothing else, there’s no solid 100% order to go about things.

Well, that’s only assuming you’re not interested in reading the VN. While ufotable clearly recommends reading the Fate route first before watching their anime (an iOS version of it was released a little before the UBW anime premiered), I don’t think the Fate route is necessarily 100% required. Although it does explain a few things that the other two routes don’t, the reason why I’d recommend reading the Fate route first is because I want the anime viewers to experience the progression of the theme. The Fate route was the presentation of the hero, Unlimited Blade Works was the analysis of the hero, and Heaven’s Feel was essentially the destruction of the hero. That’s the largest thing anime-only people will be missing out on until ufotable ever remakes the Fate route.



SELF-EXPLANATORY

The good adaptation is complemented by the amazing animation quality. There are no words to describe how much the animation gives justice to the action present in Unlimited Blade Works, and it’s really clear how talented the key frame artist, in-betweeners, etc. over at ufotable are. It’s one of the smoothest and shiniest animation I’ve seen in an ages, at least when it comes to anime with a ton of action. I’m exaggerating when I call this “Unlimited Budget Works”, but c’mon. It’s as if Type-Moon, a company which makes whatever it wants like Mahoutsukai no Yoru with no shits given, formed a contract with a Servant called ufotable, which has Rank EX in all of its stats. Thus, unlimited supplies of mana money was put into this.

I mean, damn, look at how much the Blu-ray costs. You get what you paid for. Even the clouds look goddamn amazing.

Okay, in all seriousness, the Blu-ray’s daylight robbery. And the amount of detail in the character models don’t compare to some other shows animated by juggernauts like Madhouse, but that’s just Takeuchi’s art style.

Megane Rin

ufotable Rin (Anime)

Visual Novel Rin

ufotable Rin (Visual Novel OP)

Speaking of art, it took some time for me to get used to Rin’s design in the Unlimited Blade Works anime. It’s not bad or anything, but her facial structure is really different compared to how she looks in everything else. Even in the Réalta Nua Vita openings animated by ufotable, Rin has a lot more… fat in her cheeks? Otherwise, she’s a real qt in the new anime.

The only cons I can think of so far is the soundtrack that they use for the anime. It isn’t bad or anything, but it doesn’t feel quite as powerful without the familiar VN soundtrack and even the arrangements of it by Kawai Kenji for the DEEN anime. It’s not that big of a deal, but they definitely need to play the EMIYA theme and Die Lorelei during their respective scenes in the second anime adaptation. The former is, well… iconic by now and its own arrangement for Kiritsuugu in Fate/Zero of all things, and the latter adds to the Illya feels in Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven’s Feel.

Likewise, I don’t mind Ideal White as the opening theme, but the Réalta Nua Vita opening would have been way more fitting as an opening theme. I mean, compare the actual opening for the anime with this fan-made edit:

One word: Superior

It was pretty neat hearing the original F/sn theme song “this illusion” being sung by LiSA at the end of episode 12, though.

Story-wise, as a person who already enjoyed Unlimited Blade Works in the VN and experienced the slideshow-of-a-movie by DEEN, I have my own speculations on how they’re going to handle the rest of the storyline in the second cour that’s going to air in April. First off, in the visual novel, there are decision points in Unlimited Blade Works, and depending on affection points and whatnot from the choices you make, you’ll either end up with the true ending or the good ending.

From what we’ve seen of Fate stay/night Unlimited Blade Works so far, they’ve gone with a few choices that are Saber-centric, like Shirou taking her on a tour of his school. I’m pretty sure they’re going for the good ending, or at least a combination that involves it. If you’re a newcomer and it gets to that point, feel free to look up the true ending on YouTube or something.

Based Baseball Saber

They actually did the unseen baseball incident

Interestingly, there’s one choice that you can make that’s helpful for getting on the good path, which Shirou didn’t go for in the anime.

After Shirou strips down Issei to prove that he’s not Caster’s Master, he either chooses:

Worried About Sakura, go to Matou
(this happens in the anime)

  • Runs into Rin while trying to check on Sakura at the Matou household
  • Rin tells Shirou to hide to hide with her. They spot a blonde foreigner outside the Matou house
  • After that, he tells her about the stripping incident in person

Or

Meat’s on Sale, buy for Saber

  • He goes shopping
  • He finds Liz (one of Illya’s maids) having trouble buying something because of the language barrier, so he helps her
  • Shirou goes home to call Rin about Issei.

The whole point of the alternate scene is


So ufotable either decided to forgo that scene because they felt it would have made the twist of UBW more obvious than it already is, or it was just a holdover from the voiceless version of the VN that otherwise makes no sense with the voice actors that they currently have.

Saber's too cute

Anyways, bottom-line. The UBW anime is awesome. You should go watch it.

I look forward to the second cour coming this April. Cheers!

BROserker

Anime BROserker

イリヤバーサーカーは、強いね―――

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I am the leather of my wallet

TO BE CONTINUED

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