Part of the Fate Franchise
Genre(s): Action, Fantasy, Magic, Sci-Fi (loosely)
Age-Appropriateness: 17+ (Violence, Profanity, MUCH fanservice)
TheAwersome Rating: 6.2 / 10 (Nothing special here)
Premise: Tsukimihari Academy is an artificial high school that serves as the setting for the next Holy Grail War. Created by the Moon Cell computer, the school is inhabited by Earth-projected souls that have the potential to become “Masters.” After 128 are chosen for a Tournament, all other life is to be purged. Awakening in a pool of his own blood, Hakuno Kishinami has nearly no memories – only strong feelings of hatred that he can’t understand. He struggles to escape from a pursuer and finds a crimson blade in the ground. Pulling it, he summons his own servant, Saber, and begins his journey to the Moon Cell’s core where the digital Holy Grail lies.
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: Hoooh boy and I thought the Fate franchise already had a complex setting, then they go and try to Matrix/Tournament/Kingdom Hearts this into… whatever this is. There’s no immersion into this world which only loosely follows what you know about the Fate-verse. No, instead you sit down for a nice teacup of a single-cour anime which they fill up using a firehose of exposition in the first two episodes.
Don’t try to make sense of this. Realize that it’s done by Shaft and think of this the way you think of the Monogatari series – bizarre but interesting visuals that break the norm, but don’t break their own norm. Existential dialogue about being fake vs. real coupled with dramatically cocking your head backwards over your shoulder. That will at least get you to drink the kombucha they served in your teacup with the mindset “expect kombucha, don’t expect tea, cuz this ain’t it, Chief.”
TLDR: Monogatari-style plot, Fate functionality, and Final Fantasy-type final boss. Kind of a chore to watch.
That’s not to say this show is without merit, just not enough to make the rest of it worth your time IMO. Fate/Extra is based off a video game series, not a visual novel mind you, which is pretty apparent with a plot of simply “beat seven levels and fight the boss.” The beginning is incredibly confusing, showing a battle scene and then jumping to a school setting, then jumping into weird time skip city-scape confusion.
It is possible to appreciate and enjoy this, but it will require going back and watching the first episode probably 2 or 3 times throughout the series. Watching this straight through after previous Fate installments feels a lot like playing an old NES game without reading the manual first. You have to figure out the controls and mechanics on your own and have no idea what the story or plot is, because it’s all in the instruction manual you don’t have because you bought the game at Software Etc. or Blockbuster used. The main character Hakuno even describes the whole ordeal as “like watching an unfinished dream,” which is exactly how this feels. Neat concepts, but not quite finished and didn’t really have a solid “beginning” so to speak.
If you adjust your mindset to Monogatari rhythm and visuals and watch the first episode a few Extra times (ba-dum tss!) then this at least won’t be Bad. But that’s quite a bit of prep work if you ask me.
The Alice in Wonderland episodes are top notch Madoka-flavored creepiness (because hey, Shaft does well that which they know), easily my favorite part of this series. The OP and ED are quite good as well, but poor Netflix I’m sure was expecting Apocrypha-level quality and got this.
As far as Chronology goes, I think this takes place some thousand(s?) of years after the events of Fate/Stay Night [UBW]