What They Say:
This is a story of EXTRA that will unfold on a forgotten moon. The Mooncell Automaton, a spiritron computer that exists on the moon, grants any and all wishes. A virtual spiritron world created within the Mooncell is SE.RA.PH. With the “Holy Grail” on the line, Mages and Servants must now wage a brand new Holy Grail War of the Moon.
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo alongside the English language dub produced for it, both of which are done up using the uncompressed PCM form. The series is one that works a good balance of action and dialogue as we’ve seen with past projects within the franchise and that’s pretty much true here. The dialogue ranges well with what it does so that the quiet scenes have the right menace when needed while the bigger scenes in battle with yelling and more come across sharp and clear. The action component is just as well-handled with lots of movement across the forward soundstage and a good sense of placement and depth, as well as a nice little bit of bass here and there. Both tracks sound good from what we sampled of them and they come across clean and clear throughout as we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2018, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across three discs here with plenty of space to work with. Animated by Shaft, it has a lot of the same kind of detail and design work we’ve seen from other projects in the franchise but enough differences that it feels not quite the same. Which works for the story being told and how it’s working its own path and style. The encoding here is pretty much perfect as we get a tight and problem-free encoding where colors are solid throughout, the detail is visible easily in a lot of the very dark sequences, and there’s some real vibrancy to a lot of scenes. Fluid motions are beautiful to watch here and it’s both the action and the quieter material through the detail of the design of it all that helps to really draw you into this world.
The packaging for this limited edition set is pretty nice as we get a heavy chipboard box done all up in white that gives it a great pristine feeling to it. The front panel has the logo in silver foil while underneath it is the rose design in red on top of the white, which is just strikingly beautiful to take in. The other side goes for a big key visual illustration piece that focuses on Saber in her red dress inside the ruins, which gives it an incredible amount of beautiful detail. Inside the box we get a clear Blu-ray case where it’s done with a good piece of artwork for the front with our two leads while the back has a breakdown of episodes across all three discs. The red spine is a nice touch and using that as the reverse side background helps to bind it all together. The other piece included is a really nice full-color booklet that has a couple of pages of interview material with the director, writer, and producers and then a breakdown of character material across the run as a whole. It’s got some great paper quality about it and the full-color material looks gorgeous within it. This fits in nicely with the other recent limited edition packages while still being its own thing.
The menu design for the release is pretty solid overall and fits in nicely with the franchise as a whole. The menu works a series of good clips moving in and out of the field throughout it with lots of bold colors to help define it after it loads up with the logo, the rose, and the volume number. It works with some good quiet moments just in what the characters are doing but also some action ones to ramp up the intensity while using the gears designs around the clips in order to really deliver something striking. The navigation along the bottom keeps it simple with standard selections that are quick to access both as the main menu and the pop-up menu where it has a kind of chained effect to it. Language selection is a breeze and navigating the copious extras works very well.
The extras for this release are pretty good as we get several promos and commercials – which are welcome in that they’re subtitled – as well as the clean opening and closing sequences.
The path of being a fan of the Fate/ realm is one that provides for a lot of points where it’s easy to fall off. I’d started with the original Stay Night anime series from the early 2000s but became a much bigger fan with Fate/Zero, which I got to revisit recently. Though I’ve enjoyed some of the other projects, such as the movies, the general idea behind much of these properties are new paths, new routes, new interpretations to explore. And there’s definitely an appeal in there. Fate/EXTRA Last Encore is a thirteen-episode series that aired in early 2018 and worked its own distinct path based on the 2020 game of the same name. There’s something far more storybook/fairytale about what’s going on here, more distinct at some times than others, but it also has this massive frustration that like the Apocrypha series kept me from feeling like I could connect with it.
The general premise introduces us to the leading male character of the game (i.e. us) that’s known as just the Performer. There’s a deeper history to that this connects to the game where the main character there was Hakuno Kishinami and had a similar series of mental gaps when it comes to his past. Here, he’s part of a sprawling school that exists on the moon in order to draw out the key players needed for the larger game that’s afoot. But all of this, tantalizing as it is, is wiped away very early in the first episode and we discover that it’s on the moon. The Performer is able to survive this initial wave of change because he reaches for the sword in the stone ground when dealing with Shinji, who is trying to kill the Performer. It is a hauntingly beautiful series of works combined with confusion and uncertainty as you try to patch what you know from the other adaptations and games into this to make sense of it.
The sword allows the Performer to bond with his Servant for this game in Saber, who is done up in some beautiful red designs for her costuming and a real sense of personality that’s teasing and toying about the big picture. While most are familiar with the Saber of Stay Night that wasn’t properly summoned, here, she’s at the top of her game and playing it to win. Which means serving the Performer well in keeping him alive through the path ahead, which he’ll face with friends like Rin or have to deal with the enemies, such as the various versions of Archer, Caster, and so forth. Naturally, the journey once past the initial floor that they deal with that brings Saber into his life, is in search of the Holy Grail. It’s just the reason for the journey given form while the truer story is about the Performer discovering who he is, which plays out in quite some overly dramatic ways.
Honestly, I’m somewhat at a loss when it comes to this series. What it feels like is that director Akiyuki Shinbo and Shaft were given license to just play with one of the more unusual side-story paths/adaptations available. I can’t compare to the game directly as I never played it but this feels exactly like what I’d expect him to direct with its style and pacing. It has all the familiar hallmarks of the Fate franchise so that the familiarity is there but Akiyuki Shinbo’s style and… predilections give it a vastly different feeling. My initial impression with its dreamlike nature and the visual design of it all was that this was “what if we crossed the Fate franchise with Princess Tutu but had Shaft animate it.” When you then realize the scripts were written by Kinoko Nasu who did the Garden of Sinners novels, it simply becomes clearer just how different and intriguing this work is.
The familiar threads of the Fate franchise are here in full but it’s able to do something that a couple of the other side story style projects have done in really feel different. This is a series where I was fascinated by its visual design and pacing, soaking up the style and intent, but I felt like everything was at a distance. Part of that is part and parcel with what our lead is facing in not knowing who he is as it creates that distance and builds the barriers around it that he has to knock down. I don’t think it was broken down enough for me to connect with the Performer but I could enjoy the story, the growth, and the luscious visual design that the work employs. It’s a striking work that takes us through the familiar cast with a new spin while still retaining their core essence. I’ve long admired Akiyuki Shinbo’s skills even if at times it seems like he plays it too safe and familiar. But what we get here is intriguing and exciting to watch and experience. Aniplex’s release is solid throughout with a really good package to it but more importantly a gorgeous encode for the bilingual presentation. Fans of the series will be very pleased with the end result.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, PV & CM Collection, Textless Opening and Ending
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: October 22nd, 2019
Running Time: 339 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.