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Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works just had its first hour-long TV episode, and it was pretty damn cool! Sure, it was kinda ridiculously slow and not that much happened, but it was unbelievably gorgeous to look at. Easily better-looking than Fate/Zero and even Kara no Kyoukai, much less those shitty Studio DEEN adaptations. Plus, a large amount of my excitement for this show is based on three objective facts:
- Tohsaka Rin is insanely hot
- Tohsaka Rin’s voice is insanely hot, and
- Tohsaka Rin is best girl
Archer is about as hot as I could ever find a man to be as well, so watching this power duo is never going to be completely boring. Especially those scenes of Archer carrying Rin around town–I could watch that all day. But aside from how attractive this show is overall, I’m really excited about its pedigree more than anything.
Funnily enough, I don’t really know shit about Fate/Stay Night. It seems almost impossible for anyone to truly know shit about Fate/Stay Night. The universe of Type-Moon stories is so broad and dense that you could probably take a few semesters of classes on it and still be upstaged in a conversation with other fans. Fate/Stay Night itself is an obscenely long visual novel which you have to beat three times to get all of the different story arcs, and it’s got a sequel and a prequel novel which has an anime, and some tie-in games, and some tie-in manga which have their own anime, and all this alt-universe shit, not to mention Type-Moon’s other games take place in the same universe, but some of them are like a different version of that universe, the Tsukihime anime doesn’t exist, and Jesus Christ. Not to mention if you actually try to read the visual and light novels for any of this stuff, you’ve gotta power through Kinoko Nasu’s obtuse writing style to even get a handle on what the hell is going on.
Full disclosure: I’ve seen all of the Kara no Kyoukai films, read the first chapter of the light novel, read about twenty minutes of Fate/Stay Night, watched a clipshow of the most hilariously bad scenes from the original Fate adaptation, watched the Tsukihime anime, the Unlimited Blade Works movie, all of Fate/Zero, six episodes of Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya, and played a little bit of Melty Blood once, and never have I felt that I understood what the fuck was going on in any of these stories. Sure, I understand dramatically what actually happens in them, but the details of the universe and magic systems and power levels and all that shit that the wikis go into crazy detail about is still pretty much over my head.
And I’m okay with that. Not in the sense that I don’t care enough to engage with these stories on that level, although it’s certainly true that the main reason I haven’t played the visual novels is that visual novels are fucking boring and way too long. I do more or less think of myself as a fan of Type-Moon’s stuff, as Kara no Kyoukai is one of my favorite series, and I enjoyed Fate/Zero quite a bit. I love Takeshi Takeuchi’s character designs, I love the dark urban settings spiced with bits of Lovecraftian horror and fantastical magical stuff, and I love the aesthetic UFOTable brings to these works in their animation. What I mean really is that sometimes, not knowing shit is fun in it’s own way.
Whenever I see images or references to things I don’t know about in the Nasuverse, it gives me this sense of adventure and wonderment. Like there’s still so much more left that I haven’t even explored and don’t understand–nuggets of info and treats waiting to be discovered and appreciated. Sometimes I suspect that the mystery of wondering what the hell I’m looking at is more interesting than if I actually knew what I was looking at. It’s not to say that I’d be worse-off if I knew everything about the Fate universe, as I’m sure it would make Carnival Phantasm into the most hilarious and satisfying anime experience of my entire life, but somehow it seems like this far-off destination that I can’t even comprehend. I’m sure if I put my mind to it I could spend like a month powering through every single Type-Moon thing ever created, but somehow I feel like for the most part, it wouldn’t really improve my feelings on any of the works individually. I’d just have more useless anime knowledge than I did before.
I already know a lot of big spoilers for Unlimited Blade Works from having seen the film, but there’s still an air of mystique to the opening episode. Whereas Fate/Zero had a truly epic first hour-long episode, it kind of stabbed itself in the foot by introducing so much of the relevant information so early on, as there wasn’t much left for the show to explore. In this new series, we and the characters alike barely know anything going into this holy grail war. We don’t know who the other masters and servants are, or anyone’s motivations besides those of Rin and Archer. Whereas everyone in Fate/Zero always knew what everyone else was up to, Unlimited Blade Works already feels more tense and linear since no one really knows what anyone else is doing yet. This setup works much better for a scenario where learning about your opponent is half the battle, and I suspect will make less of the fights feel like a weird waste of time. I don’t know if the series will ultimately have enough in the way of memorable moments and heavy themes to keep it engaging, but I’d like to hope that these Fate/Stay Night stories are as popular as they are for at least a decent reason.
I’m not sure how accurate this anime adaptation is, but a lot of it felt like actually playing a visual novel. I recognized some of the poses the characters took as being exactly the same as the game, and the opening scene of Tohsaka walking around a school and stopping to chat with each important character along the way was so visual novel-like that it almost felt wrong in an anime. Even so, I’m sure that fans of the franchise will point out every little detail that gets skipped and tell everyone to go play the game to really understand what’s going on. Personally, though, I’m just down for whatever I get. If you want to keep up with my impressions of this show week-by-week, subscribe to my anime vlogging channel where I’ll be sharing my thoughts from here on out.