Fate/Stay Night. Spawned by the (at time) indie Type-Moon, Fate/stay night is a massive Visual Novel that has grown to be one off the faces of the industry, to the point it has spawned countless anime adaptations (making ufotable addicted to that type moon money), creating a series that ballooned to be one of the largest in the Otakuverse. To fans, this popularity wasn’t without merit either: Fans truly believe that core of the series, the original Fate/Stay Night Visual Novel was extremely well written and it was well received because of it. Even myself have said positive things about this series, but I have been enlightened* : The Writing is Amateur, regardless of the medium that you experience it. Regardless of your enjoyment of the work, there are flaws with that work that prevent it from aspiring greatness, flaws are rooted in the nature of the work itself.
*not at all, tbh.
Note - this article assumes knowledge of Fate/stay night itself and you may be lost without that knowledge while reading the article.
Before we begin mentioning the many issues of the works known under the banner of Fate/stay night, let’s examine the Visual Novel itself (to avoid comments that blame the anime adaptations as the cause for criticism) and the relationship that the work has with the medium. The Visual Novel medium has some inherent flaws that affect nearly every work in the medium, and Fate/stay night is one of the faces of the genre for a reason: It’s not just because it became popular but also due to the fact that Fate stay night is an epitome of what visual novels are. It takes everything both good and bad about Visual Novels but ultimately columnating in a hot mess that is impossible to experience properly in any other medium, while being so convoluted and ridiculous that one has to willingly accept its flaws to enjoy the work.
This starts off with the structure of Fate/stay night, as the way the story is structured is a cause of many of the problems, from making the work excruciatingly boring to read, and even being incomprehensible at times. Fate/stay night was released in 2004, and Fate stay night was structured like it’s contemporaries. While many Visual Novels today are increasingly more and more linear, Visual Novels at the time were monsters, epic stories that branched off in all sorts of directions. Fate stay night is that kind, a Visual Novel in the way that one comes to think when they hear the word, with many branching paths and bad ends. And while most stories have true ends at least, Fate stay night takes this branching up to 11: there are bad end branches but the story as a whole is broken up into 3 main routes, Fate, Unlimited Blade Works, and Heaven’s Feel, stories that contradict each other and essentially mean you have to experience the story 3 times. Many characters rely on development in other routes making characters flat and boring, the stories have fundamental differences in theme that can make the work feel inconsistent and more.
While the stories have their differences and flaws, the big problem is that FATE STAY NIGHT IS SO FUCKING LONG AND IS PACED LIKE A SNAIL. The work in it’s entirety is larger than one million words, as long as the Bible, 2 times as long as War and Peace and as long as the entirety of the Harry Potter series. The game can easily take 45-60 hours of reading, and considering that this is a visual novel, much of this reading isn’t that great. It’s a overly convoluted story that disregards the ideas of an experience or pacing to try to tell a story that is ridiculed with deus ex machinas and other bullshit like that. Also, don’t forget the hours and hours on end of SLICE OF LIFE, with most of that millions of words dedicated to the tedious monologuing about the day to day. To many who play this game, the slice of life is no issue… but it takes a special someone to be willing to stomach hours on end of the day to day with limited actual plot progression. When I originally played this game, it took me the span of a month to get through the whole thing, and at times I definitely checked out, being bored of the moments that this story was presenting, getting irritated by the “senpais” and talk about food and cooking. In comparison to the Gen Urobuchi work, Fate stay night is not concise and tries to do everything. Telling a slice of life, telling a low fantasy, telling an epic shounen, and of course, all while having it’s terrible porno moments that one simply never forgets.
Fate’s H-Scenes are infamous for how poorly written they are, with writing straight out of trashy YA novels, the cringy dialogue that one cannot help but laugh at because of how horrible they are.The poorly directed, poorly written, poorly implemented, extremely out of place scenes with terrible excuses like “mana transfer” are some of the worst the industry has to offer and leaves it’s mark on the series. You cannot easily remove them as they are ingrained in the plot, and any attempt to replace them has lead to infamy, CGI dragons, Out of place Dolphins and a haunting feeling that you know what was removed. H-Scenes are crucial to one’s experience with fate stay night,
The poor writing doesn’t stop here: while fans of the series may defend it’s strong premise and epic story to say that fate stay night is good, the actual moments are as dull as can be, with the actual writing being quite terrible. Nasu doesn’t write great prose: it ignores the tried and true rule of “show, not tell. Everything is tediously and boringly monologues, it overly explains things, thoughts do not logically connect to others and you will slowly be driven insane by the idiotic thoughts of one of the most irritating, sexist main characters that the otakuverse has to offer. Emiya Shirou, in his quest to save everyone, becomes an asshat, an idiot that thrusts his own body because he wants to defend the women that are significantly more capable at fighting than he could ever dream of.
A few months back, I wrote an article about how Subaru was a flawed character through the logic of fate stay night, but the dipshit in this work has as many flaws as that idiot in that work. Both are suicidal, both make decisions that only serve to burden the others around them with the defense of wanting to help or save them, and more. He is fixated on his superhero complex, this makes him irritating to see, his motivations dumb, etc. One can go on and on about how poorly written this main character is, the stupid things he does and more, but I don’t feel like writing 6 pages on that.
I do want to however discuss the choices he makes, or the choices you have to make by proxy. Shirou is a hard character to truly understand, and the decisions you have to make don’t make these easier. For many, these do not match any logical conclusions, were helping a character you care about or trying to stay alive could easily send you to your death. This makes Fate/stay night a work that will lead you to bad ends often, so much so that they even try to incentivize seeing bad ends so you don’t rage quit every time you see the dipshit doing something so stupid you want to throw your monitor out of the window.
All of this in the original, “definitive” version of the work. The anime, has to take this hot mess that ignores the concept of “one’s time” or “a linear story” and has to piece this shit together. There is no way you can get the true experience, and what we have gotten has been rubbish. This work was intended to be experienced in order, with fate -> unlimited blade works -> heaven’s feel. Removing one makes it impossible to understand the characters or motives, leading to a much less pleasant work. The adaptations fail to even translate the routes properly, each adaptation being a haphazard show that fails to be a good standalone work, let alone being a good adaptation. I am under the firm belief that all a work needs to do is capture the essence of the original while being a good work by itself to be a faithful adaptation. To make the audience have the same feeling of highs and lows, moving them in the same way is all they need to do. With the Fate stay night anime, what we got was hot garbage that can’t even come close to this.
Starting with the 2006 anime, we get a horribly animated work by studio deen that abuses bloom while failing to comprehend the basics of storytelling. They decided to take the most bland part of the work and sprinkle random parts of the other routes in a shitcake that is impossible to understand, padding out the show with boring slice of life and failing to use it to build up on anything, leading to extremely boring television. The fight scenes are a joke, and overall it comes out to be an experience that makes you feel like you wasted your time.
The 2010 adaptation of Unlimited blade works wasn’t that much better either. Still shitty visuals even though they had a movie budget, and because they tried to cram what is essentially 300,000 words into 1 hour, they couldn’t tell the story at all, leading to a rushed mess that can only serve as fanservice to those who are so disillusioned with Type-Moon’s cash cow that they actually would enjoy a work that disregards the concept of pacing AND exposition.
It was so bad in fact, that type moon completely ignored that it existed and tried again in 2014 with the TV version of Unlimited Blade Works. Better thanks to based ufotable, but still a rushed mess with a bland soundtrack and a story that feels extremely soulless, rushed to lead to events you don’t care about.
At it’s best it is a hot mess, and at it’s worse it is unbearable to experience. All of this adds up to a tragically flawed work with major issues you have to willignly ignore to enjoy, regardless of medium. Let this be a lesson to fans: don’t let the ufotable visuals dazzle you or the shounen flash allow you to let you become disillusioned… your favorite anime/visual novel is shit.
Thank you for reading! This is Rockmandash Reviews, a blog focused on everything revolving Visual Novels, with stuff like tech and anime every now and then. If you want to read more of my writing, check out FuwaReviews and AniTAY where I am a contributor!