The Holy Grail Wars have picked up again and a whole new generation is being forged in the fires of it.
What They Say:
Raised by a mysterious sorcerer after the horrific death of his parents, Shiro Emiya has only just begun to help others using the small tidbits of magic that he’s learned. However, when he’s suddenly caught in a battle between two more powerful Magus, Shiro finds himself performing a spell above his expected ability, summoning the beautiful spirit warrior Saber to protect him! But safety is only momentary as Shiro and Saber now find themselves thrust into in a secret world of dark magic and deadly challenges: a no-holds barred duel to the death known as the Holy Grail War!
At stake is a prize of unimaginable power, but can the inexperienced Shiro and Saber survive long enough to even enter the contest? First they’ll have to withstand waves of treachery and assassination, even as Shiro scrambles to learn everything he’ll need to know to stay alive as seven teams of Magus and Spirit Servants face off in mortal combat!
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release is done using the original Japanese language track and the previously released English language adaptation in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless audio codec. The series is pretty dialogue heavy in general with a bit of atmosphere that has some payoff here and there when it comes to the action side of it. The show is one that spends a lot of time with the characters discussing the situation and going over it in detail, and that has some decent placement at times and a touch of depth in a few scenes. The show does well with the mood music and the fullness of it as it builds up but it gets to shine a fair bit when it comes to the action. It’s not one that really stands out in a huge way but there’s a good flow to it and you can tell that things ramp up during it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This collection has twelve episodes to it with eight on the first and four on the second. Animated by Studio Deen, the series has held up fairly well over the years and the visual presentation here comes across showing a better look than I recall from the DVD release many years ago. The transfer captures the look of the show well with lots of clean colors, good looking backgrounds with minimal noise and nothing in the way of cross coloration or line noise. The series doesn’t have a huge amount of detail in a way, though it has a good look, but it’s one that definitely comes across well here and feels more vibrant in general.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case which holds the two discs inside. The front cover uses a good looking grouping of characters with some traditional imagery in that we get Shirou and Rin along with their two servants, Archer and Saber. The colors are generally darker when it comes to all of them outside of Saber, and with the red mist style background it comes across as a bit much in some ways but generally holds up well because of the flesh tones and more. The logo is kept small and simple along the lower right where we also get the collection number and the Sentai logo. The back cover is laid out in a straightforward way with the text heavy premise along the top half with a decent tagline included. There’s a good array of images across the middle that are a lot more colorful than the rest of the cover which works well. The production credits are just below and the technical grid lays out everything clearly and cleanly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty nice as it goes with a good look that fits in with the series well. The two main menus on the two discs use static artwork, with the first one breaking it up with the black and red magic sigil along each side while the middle has two of the main characters and their servants that has some good detail and comes across vibrantly. The second disc uses the same framing aspect with two of the servants in the middle with an action flow to it. The bottom portion is where the navigation is as it lists it by episode name and episode title as well as submenus for the special features and languages. It all loads quickly and easily that makes for good accessibility. The language menu defaults to English with sign/song subtitle and is something that can be changed on the fly during playback.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the Type-Moon visual novel game of the same name that debuted in 2004, Fate/Stay Night is a twenty-four episode series that’s a part of a fairly large and sprawling franchise. The same year that this series debuted, back in 2006, a twenty volume manga series also kicked off. This series has actually seen release before in the US as Geneon released it on DVD, so it’s not a completely fresh viewing for me. In the way that it feels fresh though is that it’s the first time in watching it since seeing the Fate/Zero series from last year, in which it tells the story of what happened ten years prior to events here. There’s obviously some minor disconnects in how the stories all come together for any number of reasons, but the influence of watching Fate/Zero and going into this definitely impacts it.
Fate/Stay Night introduces us to a fairly normal modern day period where there’s one significant difference. Over the years, there have been four Holy Grail Wars fought in secret to gain control of the Grail that will give the winner of it their wish, should they be worthy. Though it’s unclear the time difference between past Grail Wars, and we do find that there were some bloody ones, it’s been ten years since the previous one. And that one ended in a way that left a lot of casualties and fallout in the city that it takes place in. Only a select few people are able to compete for the Grail and they must do it in secret. There are some family lines involved in it and some of those have weakened over the years so they’re not quite the Mages they used to be, some of which can’t use magic at all anymore but study it.
While they’re the ones that orchestrate the plans to win the competition, as they have to remove each of the opposing Mages from it, they generally don’t do it hands on. They’re able to bring about Servants to operate as their offensive side. While there are exceptions here and there, the Servants are generally important people from history, Epic Heroes, that retain the memory of who they are for the most part and able to use some creative abilities. Each of the Servants are invoked under a particular class, such as Archer, Lancer, Assassin and more. Berserker, for example, is revealed to be Hercules from history and has quite the strength to him, even though he doesn’t seem to be the most coherent of Servants since he does little more that grunt and growl.
The series gives us a protagonist in the form of high school student Shirou Emiya, a young man who lost his father in the fallout from the last War, though he did learn some things from him along the way. Shirou’s lived a decent life since then and has a few friends but is generally a good kid with an unusual ability. He’s able to fix broken down equipment rather easily as he can see the “circuits” of them and that allows him to “magically” fix them. He does hide this ability overall but it’s useful and has given him a good niche in life beyond just doing alright at school. Due to his circumstances of upbringing, he lives alone but has a lot of people that check in on him, including fellow classmate and childhood friend Sakura who spends a lot of time cooking for him.
The start of the Grail War changes things for him though and he starts to get clued into it as he ends up taking on a Command Seal after seeing what’s going on. His real introduction to the whole world of it comes from Rin Tohsaka as she has a long history with the Grail War through her family and an early instance ends up allowing Shirou to invoke his own Servant in the form of Saber. With Rin, we get a lot of explanations about things as she partners with him in the short term so that he gets some of the foundations of what’s going on. Part of her reason comes across as they she can’t in good conscience take him down easily as it wouldn’t be fair and she has that sense about her. Shirou has it as well when it comes to Saber as he doesn’t like her fighting and gets himself involved a lot, taking the brunt of things at time and creating a lot of tension between him and Saber.
The first half of the series that we get here is the kind of work that takes a fairly slow and steady approach to introducing the setting, general concept of it all and the varied characters. Between the masters and servants, some of which are skirting around the edges here, are all interesting since you try and suss out the servants original Epic Hero personas and the masters all have their own quirks due to lineage and events that took place ten years prior. There are some decent reveals along the way with both sides of it as we see who is who and some of the master connections, but also seeing the reveals about who may be a master as there are a few in the school that aren’t made clear right from the start.
The show has a good flow to it and I do find myself enjoying more here in seeing twelve episodes at once as opposed to the longer run I had with the previous singles release. There’s definitely a slower approach to it as it builds out everything, and it goes for a kind of interesting form of magic with the whole circuits thing. While Shirou is the lead, it’s Rin that won me over more, especially from the Fate/Zero connections that are now clearer. And in a way, Shirou lost points for me with some of his personality points that get explored later in the set. He’s so intent on not letting Saber fight, even after she proves herself repeatedly and how he has little in the way of ability himself at the time, by being “chivalrous” in a way. But he takes it further by going the whole route about how women can’t fight, shouldn’t fight and it’s his job to protect her. They make the point as the situation changes and his attitude with it, but it’s still there for a lto of it and is pretty awkward and lowers your opinion of him.
Fate/Stay Night was pretty popular when it first hit and for good reason. It’s grown more since then with the Fate/Zero series and the Unlimited Blade Works feature as well as plenty of manga and more. Going back to this now after taking all of this in, Fate/Stay Night definitely comes across as more mellow overall, but it’s just spacing its material out differently. And while some of the servants are familiar, it’s a different crew of masters with very, very different goals in mind. It also changes a lot since we have Shirou as our eyes into the world where he’s coming into new and uncertain, trying to grasp it and stay alive. There’s a lot to like here and it’s a good story, but one that focuses just a bit more on characters in a way others haven’t and the bonds between master and servant. It’s definitely a great series to have back on the market and in high definition for the first time.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 29th, 2013
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.