[Anime Movie] FATE/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works

Zero Phoenix

The Second Coming of Hazama
"I am the bone of my sword
Steel is my body and fire is my blood
I have created over a thousand blades
Unknown to death
Nor known to life
Have withstood pain to create many weapons
Yet these hands will never hold anything
As I pray
Unlimited Blade Works"

Introduction: So Unlimited Blade Works has been out for awhile now and as a FATE fan I finally set aside time to experience this full-length movie based on the Night scenario. Does Unlimited Blade Works live up to the legacy of FATE's other entries or does Type Moon come up short? The answers may surprise you.

Plot: Heroic Spirits are summoned to Japan to participate in the war for the Holy Grail. Whoever wins the battle for the Holy Grail will have the power to grant any wish their hearts desire. This is the story of Emiya Shirou, a typical high school student who is pulled into a war the likes of which he has never seen. The battle for the Holy Grail will force Emiya to come into conflict with supernatural enemies, the longings of his heart, and the personification of all his beliefs. The plot is relatively the same as the anime, video games, and novel. That being said not only is the story top notch but Type Moon has seen fit to introduce new elements into the foray, elements that make UBW seem like a brand new creation even if you have ventured into the world of FATE already.

Focus: If you're even slightly familiar with FATE/Stay Night the anime or the video game you already know the story inside and out. However, UBW retains the essence of the basic FATE formula but places a greater emphasis on the duality between our main character Emiya Shirou and the Heroic Spirit Archer. Rather than have Shirou as the main actor on this stage, the screen time is split between Emiya and Archer largely. In this movie we see Shriou's beliefs tested by the events surrounding him and questioned by Archer. Archer finds Shirou's ideology to be a juvenille escape from reality. Shirou believes that he can save everyone and he will put his life on the line without hesitation to prove it. Archer on the other hand believes that it is impossible to save everyone because life is never that simple. These and other ideologies shared and contrasted between the two forces the main characters and the viewers to re-evaluate what a hero is and how a hero stands up to reality.

Presentation: Unlimited Blade Works is the bell of the ball who is learning how to dance in this regard. If you've seen FATE/Stay Night you will immediately notice something amiss when you watch Unlimited Blade Works; pacing. For the first 20 to 30 minutes of the movie Unlimited Blade Works is all over the place. At the risk of spoiling anything let me give you the bare bones.
The movie opens up with Tohsaka Rin summoning Archer just like in the anime. The scene then jumps to Archer and Lancer fighting. Then the scene jumps to Emiya getting injured and Tohsaka saving him. Then the scene jumps to Lancer attacking Emiya again. Then out of nowhere Saber shows up and then we're suddenly outside the church.
It looks like Type Moon cut and pasted episodes one through six and said, "What the hell that'll do for the first half hour of the movie." There are literally no transitions for the first 20 or so minutes of the movie. If I didn't know FATE like the back of my hand I would have been asking, "What the hell is this?" Long-time fans of FATE will keep up with the movie with little difficulty. Newcomers however will be scratching their heads for the first 30 minutes if not the entirety of the first hour. With that out of the way, once the pacing catches up with story the anime is brilliant. The events in the movie play out in a way you wouldn't expect and every couple minutes brings in a new twist that you didn't see coming. Best of all you always know what is going on yet nothing becomes predictable. Still, if you're not at all familiar with the FATE universe then it's best to watch the series before taking on Unlimited Blade Works.

Animation: Type Moon went all out. Period. Watching Unlimted Blade Works is like watching an animated painting. The clothing and hair on the characters move with life-like fluidity, much like the characters themselves. Even with regards to the fight scenes, the artists and animators at Type Moon really take animated battles to another level. Even if you've seen anime your entire life, you'll be blown away by how the characters move. The speed at which these blows are struck and the rapid pace of the fight scenes are impressive. What is great is that the quality of Unlimited Blade Works does not drop just because the characters are in battle and THAT is going to shock a great deal of people. Typically in anime, when a big fight scene plays out the animation quality goes down to save money. (Naruto versus Pain anyone?) This even happens in gorgeous movies like Escaflowne: The Motion Picture (Escaflowne versus Alseides had a few ugly cels believe it or not.) Not here. In Unlimited Blade Works every scene is stunning. I do have two complaints even in this regard however. The environments, while beautifully drawn could have used more detail. The level of detail in the Einsbren mansion is jarring. You see rubble left over from battles, destroyed banisters, torn curtains, light streaming in through broken windows, etcetera. No other environment in UBW is this detailed however so while the anime is gorgeous some might wonder why aren't all the environments as detailed as they could have been. In any case the anime is definitely a feast for the eyes. It's no Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust but it's damn good.

Character Development: FATE fans might be disappointed that Type Moon doesn't spend much time shipping ShirouxSaber but given that some 20 episodes of the anime did that already I think it's something they can deal with. Type Moon is obviously shipping ShirouxRin in this thing. This is actually good for the viewer and the work itself especially when Rin calls Shirou out on his recklessness. Shirou clearly has a savior complex which almost seems to stem from a mental issue that developed when he was a child. Rin drags these issues out into the open and forces Shirou to re-evaluate himself and his life. A very believable undercurrent of affection flows under the surface of Shirou's and Rin's relationship. What is great about this is that even though the movie is very fast paced, this relationship doesn't feel underdeveloped. Despite knowing the ins and outs of this relationship courtesy of previous FATE scenarios I found myself rivited by the growing bond between Shirou and Rin. Also of note is the animosity between Shiro and Archer that is always there in the background during their interactions. During the anime, there was always venom between the two due to their different beliefs. In UBW works however this venom explodes into several violent confrontations between the two. We learn more about Shiro and Archer through each of these battles and despite the fact that their beliefs are diametrically opposed, neither is less morally correct than the other. Thank goodness UBW didn't cop out and try and claim that morality is black and white though. Type Moon knows better than that. There is clearly a black and white good and evil dynamic, however it is interesting to note that Shiro and Archer aren't operating within these confines. Neither of them is in the wrong but they're both dealing with a reality they refuse to accept. Where UBW takes a hit though it with regards to Gilgamesh. I'm not one to root for the bad guy but anyone familiar with FATE knows that Gilgamesh is a charismatic character. It would have been nice to get some background on the guy other than his name and how he screwed over the people of Uruk. But that's a moot point.

Music: Admittedly, this is an area in which Unlimited Blade Works fumbles and never recovers. Anyone who has seen FATE/Stay Night is probably familiar with the ambient music that sets the tone for suspense in many of the scenes as well as the pulse pounding tempos throughout the battles. Here however that's not the case. The opening does have it's fair share of drums and chanting that set the tone for the movie but the score isn't exactly epic. It's not bad but it's subpar compared to the scores one is used to from the FATE universe. Fans who have seen FATE/Stay Night can recall the battle music played when Berserker and Archer squared off. And I'm sure anyone who has seen the series can remember the theme of the King of Heroes Gilgamesh. I've been listening to Kirameku Namida wa Hoshi ni for the past two hours and I still can't figure out why the hell this piece wasn't in the movie. The scores in the movie, while not bad are easily forgotten.

Notable Pros: On a side-note it's a given that Saber knows how to lay the smackdown, but long-time FATE fans will appreciate the fact that Rin has stepped her game up. Nothing this reviewer likes more than strong independent females so while it's expected that a heroic soul like Saber can bring the hurt, it's more impressive to see such power come from Rin who is well, normal by comparison. Don't piss her off. Simple as that. Also, despite how dark the movie is there is some humor here. When Assassin fought Saber he had this to say, "I thought she was a beautiful little flower but she turned out to be a ferocious lion." Apparently Assassin's talent for analyzing women hasn't improved since the anime. Shirou was the leading male and the damsel in distress in the series. In the movie however Shirou went to the school for Badass Normals and graduates valedictorian.

Notable Cons: Gilgamesh gets a Greenwhich, Conneticut haircut and goes from pimp to preppie. As badass as he was in the anime, he seems to lose a few points in UBW. Must have been the loss of his powerhair. Also, there are two GIGANTIC asspulls toward the end of the movie but at that point the stuff you've seen is already so off the wall what the hell right? The ending also wraps things together a bit too quickly. It's not a terrible ending but it feels rushed.

Conclusion: Unlimited Blade Works is a no-brainer for any fan of the FATE franchise or any of Type Moon's other titles. Newcomers however should watch the anime series first or they'll probably end up lost. At the very least they won't have as great an appreciation for the film as they would if they were familiar with the universe. UBW gives the viewer more and more and it's easy to ignore the little faults (music and pacing) once you get into it. When it comes to Type Moon, you'd better believe the hype.

I am the bone of my sword

The world that I create houses and unlimited number of blades

My name is Unlimited Blade Works


Active Member
Not just in the first 20-30 minutes, there was literally no transitioning in this movie.
This movie was by and far made for the enjoyment of the fans who have played the VN, because everyone else would be confused about what was going on.
Anyone can enjoy the battle scenes though.