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Fate/Stay Night Complete Collection 2023 Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

12 min read

The Holy Grail Wars have picked up again and a whole new generation is being forged in the fires of it.

What They Say:
Shirou Emiya has only just begun to learn to use magic, yet when he finds himself caught in a battle between two powerful Magus, he somehow manages to perform a spell far above his expected abilities and summons a beautiful heroic spirit to protect him! But now he and the woman known as Saber find themselves trapped in a secret game of dark magic and duels to the death known as the Holy Grail War. A prize of unbelievable power is at stake, but can the inexperienced Shirou and Saber survive long enough to become real players? They’ll have to withstand waves of treachery and assassination as Shirou scrambles to learn everything he’ll need to know to stay alive as seven teams of Magus and Servants face off in mortal combat!

The Review:
Audio:
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.

Video:
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 twenty-four episodes to it spread across three discs. Animated by Studio Deen, the series has held up fairly well over the years and the visual presentation here comes across as 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.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard-sized Blu-ray case which holds the three discs inside. The front cover uses a good looking pairing in the foreground with Shin and Saber while some of the others linger in the background where they’re a bit more obscured along the top. The colors are generally darker when it comes to all of them outside of Saber and Shin, 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 bottom where we also get the complete collection. 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 top and lower middlethat 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.

Extras:
None.


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. It’s been about ten years since I last saw it – and we’ve seen a lot of properties since then – but it feels fresh after seeing projects like the Fate/Zero series that still resonates well for me and remains my favorite overall. Going back to what I had seen so many years ago again is always fun, weird, and interesting.

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 where it takes place. 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 are 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 than 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 times 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, the 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 see 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.

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 lot of it and is pretty awkward and lowers your opinion of him.

With so much set up in the first half, the back half gets more into things as the 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 is 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 are a lot of slow moments that deal 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 operate 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 in 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 long 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 come 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.

In Summary:
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 are 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.

Features:
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: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 2nd, 2023
MSRP: $79.98
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.