Chances are that most people who are into otaku media in any form at least heard about Fate/Stay Night already so there likely isn’t a need for a long introduction. Fate/Stay Night was Type-Moon’s first title released as a company instead of a doujin circle. The first version came out a while ago in 2004.
The story revolves around the Holy Grail War in which Servants are summoned to fight with each other by Magus. I’ll just assume that most people reading this are a bit more familiar with the story and setting than this though. I’m pretty sure that there actual Reviews of it already on here that go more in depth on the Story, but I’m just writing my thoughts and not really a Review.
The version I read of Fate/Stay Night (F/SN) was the original version from 2004 in Japanese. This was mostly due to me wanting to experience F/SN how it first came out. There are some downsides to this version, there are no voices, the resolution is just 800x600 and so on.
The definitive version of F/SN would be the version that got released on Vita and is an upgrade of those Realta Nua Versions that came out for PS2 and PC. For most people it should make more sense to go for the Vita Version. I’m not sure how Heaven’s Feel is handled in the All-Ages port, but the H-Scenes don’t really matter in either of the Fate or Unlimited Blade Works Routes.
I’m aware that a lot of people probably wrote a ton about Fate/Stay Night, but I really really need to talk about it even if I’m not saying much that is new. One thing is that I mostly forced myself through the Fate Route back when I’ve tried F/SN with the English patch ages ago. Back then I didn’t know why, since I liked the story and setting. As it turned out I would never finish the english version and reading the original text I realized that it was the prose that pulled the experience down for me.
Nasu is definitely one of the better writers this subculture has to offer and his prose pulled me in and kept me reading. This makes me think that it might be a better idea to just watch the anime adaptions instead of reading the VN of F/SN for people that can’t read the original text. (I should mention that I only watched Heaven’s Feel 1. presage flower so far.)
This doesn’t apply as mucht to people who don’t really care about the prose or can just ignore this and still enjoy it, but I’m not really one of them.
I would say the pacing within a scene is pretty good, but there are some problems with the pacing when looking at how all of them fit together. To be fair I enjoyed reading all those cooking scenes even when bigger things where on the plate besides food. Heaven’s feel used a bit too much of those Introduction scenes for my taste where we see things from a different perspective than Shirou. Overall those scenes are pretty cool, but also slow down the pacing. Trimming some stuff here and there could make it a tighter experience, but on the other hand there wasn’t anything not worth reading.
I’ve seen plenty of jokes regarding the writing in the H-Scenes – to be honest they are not as bad as what people tend to say. Sure there’s maybe a line here or there that’s a bit strange, but believe me there is way worse in the world of Eroge than this. Some of them where quite a bore to read though. Sure writing H-Scenes is not his strong point and that is fine considering that they are not the core of his works. It just doesn’t make sense to read Fate/Stay Night for that content and there are mountains of works that focus on that aspect so rather choose one of them then.
All those great Battles in the VN make easily up for that. Before finishing it the Battle that hyped me the most was the one the beginning of UBW in the graveyard, but than came Heaven’s Feel and just blew me away a couple of times. Which made me glad that Heaven’s Feel would get adapted into movies and not something else and my hope is that they’ll really go all out in the third and last movie.
It’s not just the good prose that made this a classic of the medium, the story is entertaining, the soundtrack is good and I guess it brought us Saber which used to be their way of making money for F/GO came along. The route structure is used in a way to explore different facets of the story that add a meta layer on them when seen as whole. There is an ridicilous amount of dead ends which come with more or less story. Information that is introduced at the beginning is still important at the end and every route get’s you deeper into the world. At the end of it you pretty much know everything that there is no know about this Holy Grail War (and plenty about the previous ones).
Then there’s the high production value that is easily above most stuff coming out even today. Those small animations they use in the battles which make the scenes dynamic with well-fitting sound effects and pull you into the fight even though at it’s core you’re still reading something. The sound design in general is great and the Soundtrack was fitting and didn’t annoy over the length of the VN which is really long. That the original version came without voices is a bit of a negative. I’m assuming there just wasn’t enough money back then to get this voiced.
Something to keep in mind when reading F/SN now is that with it being a classic comes the fact that a lot of works took inspiration from it and some things might not seem as innovative as when it originally came out. Unless there are some drastic changes in the industry in the future, F/SN will likely be the last Eroge that influenced a lot of creators way beyond the small niche of that medium. Not that there aren’t creators outside of the niche inspired by Eroge anymore, but F/SN sold numbers that are way beyond what anything nowadays could.
Despite being a great work, it might even be feasible just to read this for the importance F/SN holds in the otaku subculture. Yes, it’s definitely that important.
I don’t have any hesitation to say that it comes highly recommend from me, it’s just too bad that there probably never will be a translation that does Nasu’s prose justice. Not that there is anything else by him with a good translation.
Time to talk a bit about the story... don’t read any further if you have not finished the VN, since I will be talking about Heaven’s Feel content that wasn’t in the first movie.
You’ve been warned about Spoilers. (There is still some none Spoiler content at the end of the article.)
- SPOILERS -
It’s quite interesting how Saber got so ridiculous popular considering how the Fate route was mostly about introducing the setting, the magic system, the holy grail and most of the cast. Despite there being no real future for a relationship, there wasn’t much hopelessness in it. The route feels way more melancholic than hopeless, maybe also romantic. The ending made me a bit sad and yea I’ve read that there is an epilogue in Realta Nua that brings this a lot closer to a happy end. I still need to listen to Garden of Avalon which is just seems to be Arthuria’s back story. Looking back that fight between Rider and Saber between skyscrapers was the most over-the-top battle that the whole game featured.
Unlimited Blade Works had more of a focus on the action, since all the necessary explanations where in the route before. The fight with Berserker in the graveyard really hyped me up to an unbelievable level and that was basically just the beginning. There’s also that clash between Shirou’s ideals which maybe will lead him to becoming Archer. Which is the biggest reveal in UBW and something that I did know before reading UBW. It’s really hard to remain unspoiled for a work of this caliber. This was still where I wasn’t really expecting that much bad things to happen. I even believed that Ilya would be saved somehow until the end despite her heart being ripped out by Gilgamesh. While this certainly is Rin’s route it is also as much about Shirou/Archer himself.
At last comes Heaven’s Feel and we learn that the lesson learned from UBW that you can’t protect everyone and just need to find that one person to protect until the end will lead you down a path he never wanted to walk. HF felt like pure hopelessness all that knowledge from the routes before is enough to make the reader see early on that it shouldn’t be possible to end in a positive way. Yet again I was aware that HF deals with sexual abuse, but holy shit when certain things come up it came like a punch right into the gut. A really strong part in that played the fact that I’ve spent so much time with Sakura over the length of this, even if there weren’t all those cooking scenes in HF which as I mentioned before liked reading. I’m not ashamed to say that after reading that I slept like shit.
There are a ton of reveals in it that will shine a different light on the rest of the work and makes it likely that I’ll reread the whole VN sometime in the future. For example the true purpose of the Holy Grail War is an important part and shines a way different light on the whole ordeal and let’s not forget how we learn that Rin and Sakura are actually sisters.
Heaven’s Feel is tackling things that I don’t think much other works are willing to tackle and even when I don’t see how those works could become as popular as F/SN did. There where some lines from Sakura that reminded me way too much of a certain view on ‘purity’ that is so common in this subculture. Which made me quite uncomfortable when reading them and then again when I was thinking a bit deeper about them. In a way Sakura seemed to be the purest heroine in a sense that has nothing to do with anything physical. Maybe I’ll take a look at that some time else.
Besides that Rider had some really interesting scenes that made me wonder how her route would’ve turned out if it wasn’t cut. There are some scenes that are likely taken from the scrapped route. That one where they talk about whether Shirou likes Sakura or Rider more could easily fit in there somewhere.
Then there’s Ilya who plays an important role in the route, too. Similar to Rider there was originally a route planned for her, but compared with Rider there is a lot more in Heaven’s Feel that is likely from that scrapped route. Despite her butchering Shirou in a ton of the bad ends during the game Ilya is truly an Angel in the end. I don’t like how Fate is the only route where she lives to see the end though.
Kotomine is quite interesting in how he only finds enjoyment in other people’s suffering. There’s probably interesting things to say about everyone in the cast, but I already wrote way more than intended.
- SPOILERS END -
I don’t think that I could say which Route or which Heroine I like the most. The routes are all different from another and I wouldn’t want to miss experiencing any of them. In the end it is one big connected story anyway and to actually get it missing any of the main parts just doesn’t work. The heroines all hold a special place in my heart after all the time I spent with them. Okay, sure I like Ilya the most – technically not a heroine though. Maybe just maybe Heaven’s Feel is slightly about the others, since after finishing F/SN I bought the first HF movie right away.
Fate/Stay Night didn’t change my life, but it’s an experience that will stay with me. I really liked it. I feel like I could go on and on and on about Fate/Stay Night, but this should cover the main points I wanted to get of my chest.
To sum it up Fate/Stay Night is still worth a read even more than a decade of it came out.
I’m shamelessly useing this post to join SIXTAY DAYS OF WRITING, even though I would’ve written this anyway. Not like AniTay should be missing on that event either. Maybe someone can even guess what the next article will be about...
I usually write some tweets about whatever I’m reading and I’m generally pretty active on twitter if anyone is interested. My feed isn’t quite SFW even though I wouldn’t consider it NSFW. (https://twitter.com/xjpegx)