The Holy Grail Wars begin to reach its epic conclusion. After Saber’s defeat of Rider, Shirou (Noriaki Sugiyama) must know dig even deeper to the secrets behind his father’s death and admit to his own feelings for Saber. But it won’t be easy, as the final stages of the war come to full circle. Tohsaka (Kana Ueda) and Archer come face to face with Illya and her “Berserker” servant. Caster (Atsuko Tanaka) and her master have their own plans to summon the Grail at the cost of a human sacrifice. But even if Shirou and Saber (Ayako Kawasumi) overcome the powers set before them and save Sakura, can they truly make the ultimate sacrifice to make the world safe? Click for Review of Collection One Here
“Fate Stay Night” may be an anime series that took a lot longer than I expected to pick up. It paid a lot of attention to character development and establishing its groundwork that it wasn’t until the 8th episode that it really became interesting. Collection Two includes episodes 13-24, and this half is the one where the action picks up and the where all the groundwork it spent time on comes to its climactic finale. It would be easy to say that this collection may be the better half, but really, one would not appreciate the thought and the depths of its characters without realizing what they were all about. This makes what they had to lose in this adventure much more effective, and really, “Fate Stay Night“ has a pretty well-developed core story.
Secrets become revealed (also serves as groundwork for its prequel “Fate Zero”) and the story is actually more intricate than I first thought. Themes of redemption, sacrifice and greed are all part of this fantasy-adventure as well as a romantic subplot. I appreciated the way the series was able to connect everything in this second half, that even when some rules were changed for the purpose of misdirection, the revelations did not feel cheap. It is the writing’s credit that while there were things that I did not buy into, I understood the motivation behind them. I feel that while I did not like the transition from enemy-to-ally in regards to Illya (Mai Kadowaki), I was able to accept what was presented to me. The series also missed an opportunity to bring Sakura (Noriko Shitaya) and her brother’s death into exposition. I thought it was a little careless of the writing to miss that detail, but thankfully, as much as the script had flaws in them, it was able to make me look pass them since the primary elements in its narrative were nicely done.
The heroes and villains this time around come into further development as well as the secrets of the “Grail Wars”. It was a nice approach to see “Berserker” and Illya become a strong part of its story in their role as combatants. Tohsaka’s “Archer” servant (Junichi Suwabe) also come into central focus as viewers become privy to the “Unlimited Blade Works“ and what they mean. I guess the servants’ depths were all about their goals and skills in battle and the writing does a good job in making them much more interesting. The links to the past and the relationship between Shirou and Saber also come strongly into play. Shirou learns to make greater use of his magical skills while Saber’s reason for being was a nice touch to make the conflicted relationship between the two much more sympathetic. Frankly, I did not care much for the Shirou character in the first 12 episodes, but he grew on me. I enjoyed their ‘blooming love’ for one another because it did not come from nowhere, the viewer could easily feel the emotions between the leads. A new character also gets introduced in the mysterious servant called “Gilgamesh” as the darkness of the Holy Grail wars reaches its final conclusion.
The episodes contained in this collection were delightfully action-packed. From episode 13 and on, I believe only two episodes did not have any battles in them as they served as a set up. Archer’s battle with Berserker, the struggle between Saber and the Assassin class servant, Tohsaka’s stand off with Caster and the final face-off between Saber and Shirou against Kirei Kotomine (Joji Nakata) and Gilgamesh (Tomokazu Seki) were all the series’ highlights. The battles and set pieces were carefully build up to generate the intensity needed. I became invested in the battles because a lot of emotions had been accessible, and this made the stakes carry a much needed sense of urgency. I feared that the battles could become repetitive, but mixing up story and character development as the battles progressed were a smart move on the part of the writing. It made it effortless for the viewer to be invested in them.
The visual effects and sound were efficient in bringing their cinematic experience. The animation work in the battles weren’t perfect, I thought that it had a little too much posturing in some scenes (sure, they looked cool and Archer is a show off), but the drama in the battle set ups were on hand that its expected style did not bother me. Voice acting was well done, however, the film’s soundtrack could’ve been stronger to carry more intensity in the battles.
I withheld my recommendation for “Fate Stay Night” since I have only seen its first half and I did not know where the story was headed until I completed this series. It is a shame that I neglected to finish this collection much sooner, but hey, better late than never right? “Fate Stay Night” had some chinks in its armor, but really, they were little dents and spots that one would barely notice (But really, why does human sacrifice always seem to involve a woman in a dominatrix outfit??). The series took a little loger to take off, but thankfully, it managed to come up with elements that made me look pass its flaws in the first 13 episodes. Much as Shirou wasn’t that compelling a character in the beginning, he immediately grew on me because of the scripting and the characters around him. The series also had its share of surprises, and several twists and turns that made it a good fantasy-adventure. It is a tale of love, sacrifice, redemption, honor and realization of the truth that hits all the correct spots.
Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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