A neat idea with a lot of promise that ultimately falls a little flat.
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 1-24.
Both the English and Japanese tracks for this release are available in 2.0. For this viewing, I took in the English dub. The mix was basic, with dialogue along both channels, though there was some noticeable directionality with the sound effects. I didn’t detect any drop out among any of the tracks, but I do have to say that for a series with as much action as this, a 5.1 mix would have been nice to have.
The visuals for this release are pretty good. Shown in 16×9 anamorphic widescreen, colors and lines were clean, though I did note some soft focus at times. However, there were no technical issues that I saw, which is nice considering how much of this anime takes place at night. Noise is often an issue with so many dark colors, but I can’t say that I saw anything.
The four discs for this release come in a single-size amaray case with center inserts to carry the discs. The front cover has a nice montage of Shiro, Saber, and the rest of the girls, while the back has a lot of screen shots with the summary and technical details. It’s a nice, compact package, and I can appreciate that.
As with most DVD releases, the menu for this set is pretty basic. Along the left of the menu is an image of some of the characters with the series logo placed at the bottom. Set apart to the right is the episode list and submenus. A starburst is used as the cursor, and stands out well even though it is a similar color to the background. It’s different enough to be noticeable.
Other than clean versions of the OP/ED, there are no extras on this set.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a disaster destroyed much of his hometown ten years ago and killed his parents, Shiro Emiya was raised by a foster father, who taught Shiro a few rudimentary magical skills before passing away himself and leaving Shiro as owner of his shrine and estate. Living on his own, Shiro has forged a decent life for himself, determined to follow his foster father’s example and help anybody out who needs it. Unfortunately, that also means that people tend to use him, and he is often ridiculed for not being able to say no to anybody. But he doesn’t care; he is just determined to live out his life as cleanly and quietly as possible.
However, staying late at school one evening to clean the archery club’s practice hall, he comes across two strange men—both in traditional battle garb—fighting each other. As soon as they become aware of Shiro, the one known as Lancer attacks Shiro and leaves him for dead. Soon after, Rin Tohsaka, the most popular girl in school and master of the one known as Archer, uses a magic stone to heal him before disappearing.
Once Lancer realizes that Shiro did not die, he tracks Shiro to his home, determined to finish the job, but in his desperation, Shiro somehow manages to call forth his own Guardian Spirit—a lovely young woman named Saber who is reputed to be the most powerful spirit around. Saber manages to chase off Lancer, and Shiro unwittingly finds himself embroiled in a secret competition to find the Holy Grail, which is reputed to grant the wish of whomever wins it. The only problem is that Shiro is absolutely against any form of killing, but finding the Holy Grail is dependent on the deaths of the other six masters and their Guardian Spirits, and Shiro is left to figure out how he can survive and not be a murderer at the same time.
I had heard quite a bit about Fate/Stay Night before checking it out, though I didn’t really know its premise. Due to the hype, I had a lot of hope for it, but while I enjoyed it, it didn’t quite live up to that hope. I certainly liked it overall, but I went away from it feeling that I wanted to like it a lot more than I did.
I think a large part of the problem I had with it is that it didn’t really break any new ground. While the whole idea of the war for the Grail and the way that it worked was a neat idea, it was also very predicable the whole way through. I was able to pinpoint every “twist” before it happened, and what the ultimate outcome would be. In fact, only the appearance of the ultimate Guardian Spirit was a surprise to me, and that’s only because it came completely out of left field. There was no hint that there was another one to go through.
Another issue was the characterization. I liked Saber and Rin well enough (though even they were pretty cookie cutter), but Shiro was a fairly bland protagonist. He’s the ultimate harem anime protagonist—nice to a fault, looks after others before he looks after himself, has an inner strength he doesn’t realize, etc. But there’s nothing about him that makes him stand out from the crowd; you could drop pretty much any other harem protagonist in here and not miss a beat. The only character that I really enjoyed was Shinji Mato, Shiro’s longtime friend and the antagonist of the first third or so of the series. He was a wonderful bully-type, and the extremes his personality shifted between when he held the advantage to when he didn’t were almost comical in how quickly he’d flip, but it came off really well. The only issue is that in the grand scheme of things, he’s a bit character, and when a bit character is the best you have, there’s a problem.
I will say that I did like the idea of the Guardian Spirits being mythical and historical people reborn. If you couldn’t tell above, the Guardian Spirits are named after the type of warrior they are (there are seven: Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Berserker, Caster, and Assassin). Saber is not Saber’s real name, but her real identity is conceals the secret to her power, so it’s imperative that she keeps it secret. They get a lot of mileage from this concept, and it’s used really well. That said, and this might not have been intended, the snark in me had a lot of fun with Saber’s real identity.
Fate/Stay Night is an interesting exercise, but ultimately one that disappoints. It’s not that it is bad, just that it is very derivative. It’s predictable, and the characters are stereotypes. While I enjoyed it for the most part, I also won’t suggest that I am ecstatic that I watched it. If you like supernatural action, then you’ll probably find a lot to like with this, but don’t go into it expecting to be blown away, or you will likely be disappointed. Mildly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 19th, 2013
Running Time: 600 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System