Fate/Stay Night Prologue: Let’s Make Some Magic

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 00 [720p].mkv_snapshot_12.52_[2014.10.06_13.09.50]

I don’t usually review things episodically, but as this is something I’m actually going to try and watch week by week as it comes out (shocker, right?), I figured I’d give it a try. This week, in the 50-minute long prologue, we follow the high-school-student-by-day-mage-by-night Tohsaka Rin, meeting various colourful characters along the way including mysterious faceless redheads, effervescent teachers, smarmy archery club members, and the hunk of tanned muscle and magic that she inadvertently sends crashing through her living room.

As this is Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, and we know it’s going to be following the second route of the game, my speculation post is rendered somewhat moot. However, it’s still going to be interesting to watch how events unfold. This episode adapts the prologue of the visual novel almost directly, except for naturally enough streamlining a few parts and adding details that actually make some things make more sense. There’s not too much leaning on the fact that this is a sequel series just yet, though there have already been a few little additions to enhance the continuity (little things, you know, like acknowledging that Rin’s mother exists). Mostly, we’re just thrown gently into the world and nudged to gormlessly observe.

Short of being the info-dump prologue people have bemoaned Fate/Zero for, this serves less as a set-up of the entire cast and world but a set-up of the character of Rin, who’s immediately an interesting bundle of contrasting facets—mature and sophisticated enough to be looked up to by her peers, and advanced for her age in her magic abilities, yet she reverts to a childlike state of snappy anger and/or flush-faced uncertainty when faced with failure. She can recite a summoning ritual to the letter, but simultaneously forget that all the clocks in her house are wrong by an hour. She has all the pragmatic chill of an ideal mage, and participant in this Grail War thing, but a compassionate streak shines through. She’s a girl with many masks, and behaves quite differently depending on who she’s with.

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 00 [720p].mkv_snapshot_04.43_[2014.10.06_13.15.29]

Thus, we get the sense that Rin, as a protagonist, is competent enough to be cheered on by the audience, but also fallible and human enough to relate to, and the amount of information we glean from following her progress is the right amount to make us confused just enough to be curious. There is, though, some exposition necessary since this is a first glance into a convoluted world, and even brings on some As You Know Bob-ing from Archer, who, once he’s been fished smug pose and all from the wreckage of Rin’s lounge suite, feels the need to explain things she should already know. Then again, the pair so far are keenly fashioning themselves into a pain in the other party’s ass, so some condescending comments come part and parcel.

If you stumbled across this episode with no prior knowledge of Fate, I think you could satisfactorily gather that magic exists, but not in plain sight; there’s something going on called the Holy Grail War which requires a person named a Heroic Spirit to be summoned via magic circle, who is then named something like Archer or Saber depending on the weapon they use; the summoner has a symbol on their hand called a Command Seal that allows them to order that spirit around, and is quite convenient for getting them to stop sass-talking you and clean up their damn mess.

When these spirits, the Servants, fight, there’s a definite sense of otherworldly, next-level power, and ordinary humans do not want to get caught up in it unless they know what they’re doing. If you’re an innocent bystander, like that faceless ginger, you may well end up getting lanced into status as a silent witness.

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 00 [720p].mkv_snapshot_38.59_[2014.10.06_13.14.40]

Until, of course, Rin comes along and saves you, with some cryptic reasoning that she could never look ‘her’ in the eye again if she let you die. Well golly gee. I wonder if that kid’s going to become important?

What does the future of the Holy Grail War hold, now that the first battle has been fought? Will Rin make that shadowy memory of her father proud, and continue to annoy that mysterious deep voice on the phone? Aside from being the perfect stand-in butler, what is Archer’s true identity? What’s the connection between Rin and that younger student, Sakura, that she seems so keen to keep quiet about? And who is that radiant armoured blonde that appears sword blazing at the cliffhanger??

Tune in next week to find out! The wait is already agonising. Watching things not in marathon format is weird.

Less coherent notes:

  • Superficially, I am in love. The animation is gorgeous so far, and the soundtrack is atmospheric and pretty. It’s also nice (and/or heartbreaking) to see locations we got to know in Zero ten years older and still relevant, even if only fleetingly.
  • I have already spotted a bunch of parallels and I am upset. They’re even using a similar format to Zero’s in the episode previews
  • “I’m afraid I have no sword”. Really, Archer? Really? You literally have the opposite of no sword
  • Who knew a guy could make a ponytail and skintight blue armour work so well?
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14 Comments

Filed under Alex Watches

14 responses to “Fate/Stay Night Prologue: Let’s Make Some Magic

  1. Great read! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on future episodes.

  2. memmy

    Long time lurker, first time poster.
    I was fangirling so hard seeing the fight between Lancer and Archer animated and seeing a few visual quirk from the VN like their classic posture or Archer talking with an eye closed.

    And I’m probably cruel, but I can’t wait to see when Kotomine will give his gift (the knife) to Rin.

    • I did notice that, yeah! I also spotted a lot of little references and callbacks to Fate/Zero, but they weren’t too heavy-handed so that was nice… just kind of left there for in-the-know viewers to pick up on, and allowing first timers to enjoy it regardless. On that front, I have a lot of hope so far… I’m going to try and keep my reviews spoiler free as much as I can, but I will be doing a LOT of comparison between all the works that have led up to this. Ah, my heart is not ready.

  3. Traintop

    Rin. Protagonist.

    Oh, if only.

    • Ha, well… UBW is the route that kind of puts her and Shirou on equal grounds in terms of them being dual-protagonists, and I think this anime is definitely going to draw that out since it has the opportunity to get out of Shirou’s head and widen the perspective of the world. That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway! They work well sharing the story, since there are so many parallels between the two of them and this is the route that focusses on that the most.

      • Cookie Biscuit

        I think I read somewhere that ufotable is planning to have parts that go outside Shirou’s perspective, so hopefully this means Rin really is a dual-protagonist! She was really great in this episode and it’d be a shame to stick to just Shirou. Although I don’t have a very good opinion on Shirou, I’m looking forward to having this opinion changed by this series.

        This episode was amazing and I’m glad it’s shaping up to be the rightful companion series to Fate/Zero and the adaptation the fans deserve.

      • That would certainly make sense–the VN dips into other people’s narration here and there anyway, but taking the oportunity to make this even more of an ensemble piece would be pretty awesome.

        Shirou’s an alright kid, really–things like the Fate route don’t exactly make you warm to him, but he gets better written as the story goes along, and something new like this is certainly a way to freshen up his portrayal and make him just as likeable and interesting as Rin. I like his story, but that being said, I’m kind of looking forward to not being IN his brain the entire time 😛

  4. Rocco B

    I wouldn’t say “weapons” that determined their class. Their class are determined by their strongest attributes they have. It’s kind of a complex procedure. And the servants can fall in to multiple classes.

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  7. Ya know, upon going back to rewatch this episode I’m finding that Archer’s expressions (especially when he first meets Rin) are REALLY telltale. It’s kinda cute, to be honest.
    …Though I could be just jumping at nothing. But I WANT TO BELIEVE~

    • Oh, I think that was definitely deliberate. And I know exactly the look you mean–a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “omg it’s her??” expression that looks VERY Shirou, before he puts on his suave mask. I do love that bit

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