Monday, December 29, 2014

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (TV) - First Cours Review

"I am the bone of my sword -- steel is my body and fire is my blood."
If you have so much as set a single foot into the anime community since 2006, you have most likely heard of the Fate series by now. And even though its first anime adaptation (Modeled after the TypeMoon visual novel) propelled it down a critically ignored hill of decency, the series has come a very long way.

Following the success of Fate/Zero, the prequel and first story in the Fate universe, studio ufotable announced that it was going to reinvent the original TV series. However, this time it would follow the route of Rin Tohsaka as opposed to the Saber version of the story. Needless to say, ufotable once again paints a beautiful image of exactly how the story of Fate should be depicted, while at the same time, adding new bits and pieces to renew the interest that readers of the visual novel once held in regards to the series.

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works follows both the aforementioned Rin Tohsaka (Smoking hot super-mage) as well as Shirou Emiya (Redheaded not-so-super mage guy). The two are tossed into a battle that occurs once every few centuries, in which seven mages each summon a "Servant" of a particular class in order to help them attain the legendary Holy Grail. However, the grail can not be obtained until only one mage is left alive.

Unlimited Blade Works does an outstanding job blending action with the dark undertones of mortality, as well as friendship, betrayal, and the struggle of growing up and making the right decisions. Bloodshed paves the way to a new beginning (Or end) for each person fighting for the grail. Your attention will be fixed to the screen for literally every second of your time spent with this installment of Fate. Each episode's ending is overflowing with suspense, essentially beckoning you to spend more time with the show. In order to better describe what's in store for you, allow me to break this show up into a few key components.

Music: 10/10
As always, ufotable brings you an onslaught of up and coming J-Pop/Rock artists, while bringing back the ones viewers loved from Fate/Zero (LiSA/Kalafina). And shall you make it to the final episode, a special surprise is in store for those who watched the first anime or played the VN. Never in my life have I had as many chills as I did hearing Disillusion come on as this first part of this story came to a close. It was like being hit by a literally tangible wave of nostalgia. And on top of the music, the original voice cast from the 2006 production returns once again. But this time, they are stronger and more emotional than ever. No complaints from me this time.

Characters: 10/10
I've always had a soft spot for the characters in the Fate universe. In fact, Rin is constantly fighting for the number one spot as my favorite character in all of anime every time she speaks. Each mage has a motive and ideals that keep them going as they put their life on the line for the entire duration of the show. Each servant is based on a historical icon (Fiction and non-fiction) that even history lovers would enjoy. They each bring to the table a so-called "Noble Phantasm," accentuating a certain aspect of their past -- something that made them into icons. Even the characters you will wind up disliking are complex in their own ways. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the cast of the Fate series is the best cast in all of anime. And for that reason, they attain the highest possible score from me in this category.

Art: 10/10
ufotable is quickly becoming known for their beautiful artwork. People all over message-boards and forums in the anime community have even been talking and gossiping about their budgeting for a while now, considering they consistently deliver some of the best art to date. Fight scenes are easy to follow, but at the same time a spectacle composed of vivid color and speed rivaling that of a Boeing 747. Character design in spot-on and landscapes are a huge improvement from the prior production of Fate/Stay Night, as well as looking nearly identical to its prequel, Fate/Zero. Each image is not only captivating, but refreshing in knowing that there is a studio out there who is able to deliver beauty on such a consistent level. Once again, no complaints from me.

Story: 10/10
TypeMoon has no qualms with telling dark stories. In fact, they love it. They build up each character almost perfectly and give them all their own time to stand in the spotlight. Character development is omnipresent and viewers go into each episode with open jaws and clenched fists, hoping their favorite master will come out on top. The Unlimited Blade Works route, which in my opinion is the weakest of the three different arcs, even comes out as mesmerizing. The story simply can't go wrong -- it just needed a studio who would be able to make everything else just as remarkable. It doesn't suffer from the same sporadic pacing issues that the 2006 Fate suffered from. ufotable picked a route and they stuck to it, adding many new flavors and new reasons to watch the series along the way.

There's always a shining star every anime season to emerge on top of its rivals. For Fall 2014, that show is Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works. It closes the season with a bang and is already climbing the charts on various sites for "Highest rated show". It most likely won't wind up at the very top, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it was executed perfectly and deserves the score I am about to give it.

Unlimited Blade Works picks back up for its second cours in April 2015. I'm looking forward to it more than you can imagine. You should be too.

Overall score: 10/10

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