Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works DVD Review

Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works starts off well, setting the scene with an audio explanation of the situation, describing the premise of the film in an easy way for the audience. I assumed that the rest of the film will follow suit portraying the information quickly and easy to digest, but then after five minutes the film appears to just give up.

The main confusion derived from this film is that it is not based on the anime series of the same name but in fact the visual light novel game that started off the franchise. The visual novel splits off into a number of scenarios mainly focusing on Shiro Emiya’s love interest. The series is based on Saber and Shiro and the film is supposed to be Rin and Shiro, however even that is not made clear.

The editing becomes sloppy and nonsensical, an example of this being at the beginning when main protagonist Shiro Emiya is walking his friend home and cuts his hand, then it skips to him being in the school with no sign of his friend. And guess what, it then flicks to something else and never returns to that scene. How did he cut his hand? Was this an image of the future, the past, or of the present? The film rather oddly never actually tells you. I wish I could say that it made sense after that but I can not. I was watching it with someone who has no background knowledge of the Fate/stay franchise and he was constantly asking questions, then it lost me part way through, adding in fight scenes with no purpose or build up. 

The film itself is also trying to squeeze the equivalent of hours of story into a much shorter time span and as such things like character development are almost non-existent. Which is a shame as character development is a key element when it comes to crafting a compelling story that the audience can identify with and form bonds with. But with this film it seems to forget that and instead adds lots of flashy fight scenes and ridiculous jump cuts. An example of poor character development is that of the character Saber, who is a recognisable character even if you have not experienced the series, games or manga. However, in the film all we see of her is her fighting skills and that’s it. Therefore she is not a character you can relate to or even feel for. She is distant and there as a plot device. 

Story aside the animation itself is very polished and crisp and the transfer you get on the disc is certainly up to the standard you would expect from a Manga release. It is just a shame that the disc comes with no extras as it would have been nice to have a little featurette that explained the difference between the series and the film. In fact, for a film like this it would have certainly helped ease the frustration that was felt when reviewing this.

The film is visually exciting with the fast pace fight scenes, so if you don’t need a deep storyline and just want a lot of flashy scenes then this is definitely the film for you. However, if you need the depth of character and intricate twists and turns that are found in the series, then you will be disappointed. In fact this format reminded me more of the clip show format adopted by a variety of American TV shows, the only difference here being that the concept is done poorly and as such leaves you feeling confused and unfulfilled.

Overall a pretty disappointing portrayal of a beloved story, the one good thing that comes out of the film is that it gives a different take on the Fate/stay night concept. People who are fans of the series will be disappointed with this retelling, but for new people it will introduce them to the franchise. This film will tide you over until the next instalment of the franchise is released in 2014 in the form of the prequel to the series called Fate/Zero.

Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works is released on Monday 30th September by Manga Entertainment. 

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