I think it is official: I am a masochist. I must enjoy pain. I like a feeling in my gut that whatever entertainment I am consuming is dicking me around and screwing with my head. Otherwise there really can be no explanation as to why I continued to watch Studio ufotable's "Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works" the kinda sequel to their "Fate/Zero", one of the best anime series of this decade.
Now this is not a review because I have not seen all of "F/SNUBW: Ridiculously Long Abbreviation" yet. This a rant. The difference is that with a review, I would have seen the entire show and come up with a final definitive opinion on it. With a rant, I am just generally pissed off, am abandoning all reviewing structure, and will just jump into my point, willy-nilly. The point I'm making is this: "Unlimited Blade Works" sucks. Technically "Fate/Zero" is the prequel to this, so that is the work you're supposed to experience second. But that's not how I did it, because "Fate/Zero" was awesome and I never would be interested in this whole franchise otherwise. As somebody coming from "Fate/Zero" - not somebody who has played the original hentai game this now-hentai-less show is based on - this has been an awful sequel. I should have dumped this episodes ago and never written anything at all (I held myself back for a long time before this, too). But here I am, still chugging along, trying my best to find a silver lining.
Here's some positives: "Unlimited Blade Works" is probably the biggest blockbuster of an anime series ever released. The anime is stellar across the board. Any one screenshot from this show is cinema-quality. Action-wise too "Unlimited Blade Works" is fantastic. "Fate/Zero" is clearly blown out of the water in terms of fluidity of movement, expense in individual fight scenes, and definitely in background drawings, which are gorgeous beyond even Miyazaki at some points. However "UBW" will never manage to surpass the final climatic fight of Kiritsugu vs. Kotomine (spoilers) from "Zero", which is currently a good candidate for being the greatest single fight scene in anime history. Here's why: no matter how much money you pour into your animation, you cannot replicate the emotions and build-up that "Zero" had to create that fight. Because "UBW" just does not have those sorts of characters, does not have those emotions, and instead is mostly the tale of a high school dimwit and his bitchy girlfriend.
"Unlimited Blade Works" took a roughly six month hiatus in order to finish the second half of the twenty-six episode series. Since it's return it has actually been better than ever. Last week's episode was easily the best of the series, and the one before that was the second-best of the series, both focusing on backstories of previously purely villainous characters and showing stunning plot twists in the story. But while it was suddenly a legitimately good show, it also gave me a glimpse of what this show should have been from the very beginning. Instead this week we returned to our regularly scheduled programming: Rin and Shirou bickering. That's when I finally snapped and decided: I need to tear this show a new asshole. Not later when it finishes, but now.
|Yeah, Shirou gets this face a lot on a daily basis, I imagine.|
Already an issue comes about where while "Fate/Zero" was a story of many characters, who were often equally sympathetic, "UBW" decides it has to just be about Shirou. This fits with the original visual novel, where you played as Shirou who had to choose between three hot chicks to bang, each one leading to an alternate storyline. This newest "Fate/Stay Night" series is an adaptation of the storyline where Shirou hangs around with Rin has many hours of belligerent sexual tension, then presumably at the end they bang. Being a far more simplistic story in structure, "UBW" also makes it so that the Shirou-Rin team are the only ones who can be considered 'the good guys' with everybody else being plain old evil.
Already I hate this. I fucking despise this decision. But that's criticizing the story for being what it is, it's like complaining about a Romance novel for being shallow and smutty. My real complaint comes when the story is just not nearly as interesting.
|All the awesome fight scenes in the world cannot save "Unlimited Blade Works" from being inferior.|
If you were to mold up the most generic anime protagonist imaginable, he would not quite be Shirou. There's just a bit too much personality and backstory for him to fit, but Shirou is in that kind of league. The guy does have some psychological underpinnings for his hero complex... though his father had the same thing and still was not a total moron. So really his best qualities are a repeat of the themes of "Fate Type-0" just done worse.
Now that it is not a game, that Shirou has no particular connection with the audience other than being the stupid guy who needs everything explained to him, he is atrocious. And really do not get wrong, in terms of bad anime protagonists, Shirou is probably merely mediocre. But you have to realize what he's replacing. Shirou and his equally generic tsundere** are here, instead of Kiritsugu the badass anti-hero assassin, or Rider the King of Conquerors, or Kariya the tragic man killing himself to save little girls from their horrible fates, or the nihilistic priest discovering and relishing what a psychopath he truly is. I know I'm going backwards here: "Fate/Zero" is the second story, "Fate/Stay Night" is the original, but goddamn we have lost so much to gain nothing narrative-wise.
|There is just TOO MUCH ACTION on this show! How can you ever keep up!?|
Worse, Shirou is a horrible player at the Holy Grail War. If he had been in "Fate/Zero" he would have been wiped out in a single day. Rin constantly yells "baka" in her typical anime female form, but she can hardly call herself Hannibal at Cannae either. They are saved only by a sluggish pace where none of the villains seem very interested in doing much of anything until the heroes are sufficiently ready for actual battle. So if much of the pleasure of "Fate/Zero" was the brilliance of the players and their ability to come up with new tactics and manipulations, I guess you're shit out of luck. I hope you like Rin's thighs! The one character you are supposed to hate, Caster, the evil witch Medea who has so far been the main villain, is ironically a brilliant tactician who has been doing everything she can to win, exactly as the heroes of "Fate/Zero" would have done. Now in a whiplash of tone that kind of behavior is considered despicable.
Whatever, Shirou and Rin and their long awkward blushing friendzoned annoying teenage quarrels can fuck right off, Blue Highwind has joined Team Caster. Go Evil!
"UBW" has finally picked up its pace upon its return from hiatus, so I suspect there will be no more picnics or visits to the highschool to boost up Shirou's Social Links. However it already feels like it might be too little too late, since the "Unlimited Blade Works" route will leave entire subplots from "Fate/Zero" unaddressed. Sakura was something of a big deal in "Zero" with the most tragic backstory of pretty much anybody. Looking ahead into spoiler territory, "UBW" has no particular plans for her, or her evil grandfather with a face that looks like Satan's left testicle. All of this will just lie wide open, completely ignored. But don't worry, the ufotable isn't going to ignore it entirely, they'll just make a movie to spread out the money train even longer. Why have one complete story when you can have two incomplete ones?
|Sakura: "What the fuck, Shirou? Your boring life stole all my screentime!"|
Ultimately "Fate/Zero" was a tragedy, "Fate/Stay Night" is an action shonen series. When your story will most likely have a happy ending you can never have moments as glorious and beautiful as say, Rider's last charge. But even if the tone and purpose is different, I will have to disagree with this "UBW" series' methods. I understand that the hentai game is extremely popular in Japan and in the West, and those fans will be furious over any change. But couldn't we streamline the best parts of "Zero" and the best parts of the original Fate? Being faithful has simply wasted mountains of cash and incredible animation, along with Rin's lovingly-depicted ass. Do not tell me we could not have a taught fast-moving action series with multiple villains in all the time that unfotable could not cut at least four of the episodes of the first season of this show to fit in Sakura's plotline or at least get the story moving! I don't care how much I'm ruining your precious hentai game's story, that's still going to be there for you to enjoy and fap to. What I would like to have along with that is a good anime instead of a shitty one.
But it's too late now, I'm stuck with this show. It is unfortunately not so unwatchable that I can put it down, I do need to see where this goes.
EDIT: A few weeks later I saw a few more episodes of this show. Basically every character I liked and every remaining plot thread from "Fate/Zero" still around was fucked up the ass and that was it. I had nobody left in this show to care about. So I'm free now. This is one of the worst anime series I have ever come across in terms of disappointment.
* Tokiomi Tohsaka is still my least favorite anime character of all time. That is the second and probably not the last bit of hyperbole that will be used in this rant.
** I hate tsundere characters, by the way. I find the entire fetish towards this kind of female character creepy. I also don't understand it: why would you want the kind of girlfriend who is going to be moody and mad at you for no apparent reason and can never be honest with her feelings on any level?
*** If you actually are a fan of this romance, remember, this is essentially a male-gaze version of any Young Adult book written for girls, and is just as empty and exploitative.