Genre(s): Action, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Supernatural
Age-Appropriateness: 14+ (Violence, mild profanity)
TheAwersome Rating: 6.9 / 10 (Better than expected, but not “good”)
Premise: After a mysterious inferno kills his family, Shirou is saved and adopted by Kiritsugu Emiya, who teaches him the ways of magic and justice. One night, years after Kiritsugu’s death, Shirou is cleaning at school, when he finds himself caught in the middle of a deadly encounter between two superhumans known as Servants. During his attempt to escape, the boy is caught by one of the Servants and receives a life-threatening injury. Miraculously, he survives, but the same Servant returns to finish what he started. In desperation, Shirou unwittingly summons a Servant of his own, a knight named Saber. The two must now participate in the Fifth Holy Grail War, a battle royale of seven Servants and the mages who summoned them, with the grand prize being none other than the omnipotent Holy Grail itself.
TheAwersome’s Thoughts: I have to say this wasn’t the absolute crap-show that the Fate fandom makes it out to be. It’s filled with problems, but it was better than Naruto in my opinion. This certainly has a much more Shonen feel than Zero, [UBW], or Heaven’s Feel, with annoying “funny” moments, and not as serious a tone. Something that bothered me the entire show was, you guessed it, our horrible protagonist. Despite being a “do the right thing, help people out” kind of guy to the fault of being a pushover, he seemed to be angry and mad all the time at people more than kind. He also takes chivalry to the hard extreme of just blatant sexism.
What I did like, though, is seeing Saber be a main character, as she isn’t really in the other routes. As awkward as they both are, I enjoyed the romance element and the character contrast between Saber and Shirou.
TLDR: Not horrible, but worth picking up if you’ve watched other Fate installments.
So why does this adaptation get such a bad reputation? There’s a lot of reasons. First off, art, animation, and cinematography are all quite lackluster, even for 2005 standards. Directing has an awkward shonen tone that leaves you asking “so… how serious am I supposed to take this?” Secondly, it isn’t as faithful an adaptation of the Visual Novel route as the other adaptations. Fate/Stay Night includes elements from Heaven’s Feel and Unlimited Blade Works that don’t really contribute to the arc of the Fate route and are basically just confusing spoilers. Shirou’s character growth is also an unsatisfying amalgam of the three routes in this adaptation, rather than taking a distinct direction for each one.
While we’re ragging on Shirou’s character in this show, his attitude is just despicable. Up until about the last six episodes his attitude is “Sorry, well experienced, trained, and seasoned warrior, I can’t have you fighting because you’re a girl and girls shouldn’t fight and do hard gruff things. They’re supposed to be pretty. Let me, an inexperienced 17-year old fight, despite that being the entire purpose you were summoned.” I spent a great deal of time (and Harbour can attest) groaning and yelling “Shut uuup, you’re such an idiot!” at the screen while watching.
Next, the final episodes and showdown involve characters that don’t really get introduced until the last quarter of the show. Considering the first two thirds deal primarily with Rider and Berserker, there isn’t as much context and relationship for the “Final Boss” as it were.
Then there’s mana transfer. In the original Visual Novel, an “eroge” (short for Erotic Game), there was a good handful of sex scenes. The reason being is that in the Fate Universe, magical circuits (mana, magical abilities, etc.) are passed down through a family line. How do you give someone magical circuits then? You make them family, via good old copulation. Obviously, this aspect hasn’t carried over to any anime adaptations, but they still have the “Mana Transfer” scene because it’s important for the story and character growth. In this one, they still had the requirement of getting somewhat aroused before starting, and then just “be on all fours over the other person who’s on their back.” Then a weird scene with a dragon biting off his arm? There was still the awkward foreplay, but then it was just flat afterwards.
Compare that to [UBW] where being prone was not necessary, just skin contact, emotionally opening yourself up, and exploring each other’s memories. It felt a lot more intimate and special in [UBW] than here, and far less awkward.
Overall, definitely not a good show to have be your introduction to the Fate universe, even though it does do decent world-building. The music isn’t bad though, and if you like Fate and have seen the other adaptations, it won’t be a total waste of time.