The truths of ten years past are revealed and Emiya finds himself in a far more dangerous position.
What They Say:
The Holy Grail War continues to escalate as a series of shocking revelations explain the history connecting Saber to Excalibur. In a lethal game of chess, pawns and knights are expended one by one, slowly whittling down the number of surviving players. And as a massive wave of comas begins to take down the cities, it becomes clear that the only possible path to victory is an assault on the Master and Servants of the Ryudoji Shrine! But when Sakura is taken with the intention of sacrificing her in order to summon the Grail, Shiro is forced to choose between two equally lethal options: Let Saber’s mana continue at its existing level, almost certainly insuring her death as the battle wages on; or resupply her mana from his own magical circuit, reducing his power below that of the other Magus, and leaving both of them open to magical attack. The price of winning could mean potentially losing everything in the climactic conclusion of FATE/STAY NIGHT!
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, albeit with a bit of a spoiler, as we get the image of Rin holding a very different look for Sakura and a background image of a few other players in the war. The colors are generally darker when it comes to all of them outside of Rin, and with the reds, blacks and blues for the background 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)
Revisiting the first half of Fate/Stay Night after so many years, and after watching Fate/Zero, has certainly been an interesting experience. With its slower pace overall and more relaxed nature, it’s definitely a far more mellow show than I recall and the tension doesn’t seem quite as strong. In a way, it’s a series that I can see being remade in order to connect it better to the other works, but there’s a certain charm to it all, particularly having seen some of these characters are kids elsewhere and their evolution with it. What really gets me with this series is seeing the few survivors of the previous Grail War and their positions here after being so invested in them in Fate/Zero.
With this set of episodes, the foundations have been laid and more reveals start to come along with it all as the forces thin out. Those Masters that have survived to this point are making more of an effort to get a better position, which has Ilya taking advantage of the way Shirou is by capturing him easily. With Saber down and practically out after using her Nobel Phantasm to save him. Ilya’s position as a Master is one that’s almost comical at times because of her age and her look, which is disarming at times, but she’s backed up by the power of Berserker, which is the hero known as Hercules. Berserker is one of the odder characters in general because of how they portray him, but it definitely brings some power to the game and makes for an interesting fight.
This one in particular since it has Saber running the mission to save Shirou, which is difficult for her but also for Archer as he’s not exactly keen on being drawn into yet another seemingly pointless fight. But with Rin having partnered with him, she still sees it in her interest. The actual encounter in the mansion has a lot to offer, from Ilya’s revelations about who Berserker is and what she’s trying to achieve with the grail to how Archer provides some key information to Shirou about how he can survive in the long term. Though the storyline deals with the way the Masters and Servants are dealt with here as there are losses on each side, it largely becomes instructive for two things. The first being that Shirou begins to learn more about his magical circuits ability and the way he can create weapons of immense power, even if they’re “fakes” in a way. The other is that it finally puts Shirou and Saber on the same page about what they need to do to work together.
While there’s a lot of slow moments that deals with some of the core character issues, particularly as Shirou starts getting to know more of Saber’s past, it also begins to move more towards the final battle for the Grail itself, but not in a way that’s entirely expected unless you knew events from Fate/Zero. What we get here that makes a twist is that as Shirou gets closer to understanding what’s left of those that operating as Masters and Servants, there’s an eighth unaffiliated Servant out there that’s practically operating as a Master himself. That confrontation, tied to another fight that gets underway as Shirou and Saber start to be more proactive about what needs to be done, introduces us to Gilgamesh, a true Epic Hero. He’s a fascinating addition, though I like the reveal of another Servant that we see who is actually a Fictional Hero, something that adds a decent little twist to how they’re all realized into the Holy Grail Wars.
What Gilgamesh brings to the game is a connection to Kirei, who has been playing a very long game since the previous Grail War to achieve what he wants from victory with it. We get flashes of it here, which makes me want to revisit Fate/Zero to see how it all ended there again, but it’s just a lot of fun to see how Gilgamesh goes over the top here in his fight against Saber to try and make her his since they had quite the battle before in the previous War. He’s just so superior and sure of himself and his position while she is fully adamant in her resistance. They have such a lengthy history between them, and he knows all her secrets about what she wanted to do in her past and how she failed in it, that he’s able to push and prod her a lot but it also provides reveals about his own past.
Fate/Stay Night is largely about the relationship between Saber and Shirou in the midst of this war and the way they’re connected to it. We get a lot of her past, which he can see because of their connection as Master and Servant, but also how his time from the last War and how he ended up part of the family he did came to be. The two of them have a pretty chaste relationship for obvious reasons, but it has a certain delicateness about it that’s really fun to watch since she’s partly oblivious and his love is rather pure for her. They have a good common cause in a way, with their own agendas of course, but the show has a really good growth arc for both of them across the entirety of the series. And also seeing how he becomes comfortable with his abilities in order to try and help her to win combined with a greater understanding of his own special place in things, the two find a really delicate and often hard to watch path that does in the end lead to a very engaging relationship.
Fate/Stay Night is a series that earned its popularity when it came out because of its game origins and the story itself, particularly with the characters. Over the years though, it became eclipsed by the newer works which were tighter and obviously better animated, but there’s still a lot of very good things here. From the perspective of seeing the other works, it’s now easier to look at this as an epilogue series with its pacing and structure. Similar to the other series, Saber is less a favorite than some of the others, but there’s a lot to like with how it takes characters that had suffered heavily as kids and are now part of something bigger than them, where you have Shirou that’s unaware or the very engaged Rin. While Fate/Stay Night may not have aged well in some ways in the short term, it’s a good part of the overall mythos of the franchise and definitely worth checking out to get the full story.
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: March 19th, 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.