The great thing about the original Fate Stay Night is the fact that it has three different routes. Once you have the ability to choose all three, you can pick what story you prefer and ignore the others. Don’t like Saber and Shirou as a couple? Go read or watch Unlimited Blade Works. Think Rin is just a glorified Tsundere and prefer to have your sword waifu? The Fate Route is waiting for you. And if you don’t care for both of them, you can go through door number three, and pick the final route.
This ability to choose the direction the story goes is the hidden strength of the OG Fate visual novel, and adapting each of those routes into their own series has allowed fans to have three separate servings of the characters, stories, and world that they love, and each is different enough to be its own complete entry. However, the anime journey remains incomplete, as the final route’s story has yet to be fully told. We only have a piece of it now, so after cut let’s take a dive into the first installment of Fate Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel. Presage Flower.
Out of the three separate story routes of the visual novel. Heaven’s Feel is the one that feels the most separate and unique of them. While both Fate and Unlimited Blade Works have their own themes and ideas and focus on two separate female heroines, they also cover similar story beats. In a sense, both feel like they are two sides of a single coin. Heaven’s Feel, however, is far different and remains the longest, darkest and most in-depth out of all the chapters of Fate Stay Night, and the plot wildly diverges from the simple Holy Grail conflict of both Fate and Blade Works.
Yet, a full review and reflection upon Heaven’s Feel is almost impossible now, because unless you have read either the visual novel or a summary of it, there just isn’t enough in the first installment to really dig into. As beautiful as Presage Flower is, as much as I enjoyed it, it is mostly a movie focused on setting up what is going to happen in the next two installments, so Presage Flower can feel almost like a glorified preview of what is to come. Aside from one of two moments in the middle, and the admittedly gut-wrenching and excellent ending, there just isn’t really much in Presage Flower.
Sakura Matou, the heroine of the Heaven’s Feel route is a character who, up until now, has been wildly underused in the Fate Franchise. A supporting character in the 2006 anime, and pretty much a glorified extra in the adaptation of Unlimited Blade Works with a few cameos in the other spin-offs. Sakura Matou has not yet had her chance to shine and while Presage Flower does excellent work in preparing us for what is to come, it is still preparation and I found myself wanting to just get into the amazing moments that I know are coming.
Furthermore, Presage Flower is not a film for someone new to the Fate Franchise as it skips almost the entire introduction events shared by the previous installments and instead drops you right into the action. Now while that’s respectful to the fandom to not tread over familiar ground, since both Presage Flower and Blade Works are done by Studio Ufotable, and therefore they have already shown you the intro chapter. This is something I would absolutely not show someone who wasn’t already very familiar with the Fate Franchise, as they would be confused right out of the gate.
And honestly? That’s all I can really say. I’d love to go more in depth, but Presage Flower just doesn’t give us that opportunity. Everything that is going to happen, the revelations of Sakura, the actions of Rin and Archer, the fate of Saber, the path of Illya and the choices of Shirou is all stuff we are still waiting for, stuff that I hope that the second installment: Lost Butterfly wastes no time getting right into.
Fate Stay Night: Heavens Feel: Presage Flower is not a bad movie, and I know it will absolutely get better once we have the second and third installments to watch all at once, but right now it is only a beginning and a beginning that is more concerned with getting ready for what is to come, than being anything by itself. If you are a die-hard Fate fan, absolutely check this movie out for the set-up and as always wonderful work by Ufotable, but if you are just getting started in this world; wait until Lost Butterfly is at least on Blu-ray.