This shallow dive is going to be a bit different because to discuss this movie the way I want to, I have to get into major spoilers of the film itself and overall plot points of the main Fate timeline. So before the cut, I’m going to list off the main points that people will probably want to know about the flick, then get into more spoiler stuff afterward.
- This movie is absolutely amazing and Ufotable has done it again. Well worth the wait and is the payoff we needed.
- Yes, this movie has a “sex scene” in it and it is done in a tasteful way that strikes a perfect compromise between adaptation and tribute to the original visual novel. I expect a bit more skin in the blue-ray release. I applaud the director for having the courage to acknowledge the O.G Fate visual novel.
- Illya’s role in the route has been scaled back significantly so far. Obviously, the director wanted to have the entire focus be on Sakura and Shirou. I (and I’m a huge Illya fan) agree that this was probably the best way to go. I’ll have more to say on this once I’ve read the Heaven’s Feel route.
- There is only one real action scene and while it is animated BEAUTIFULLY, it is a bit hard to follow sometimes.
- This movie, along with Presage Flower is absolutely not for first time Fate Fans. I said that in the last review, but it goes double here. You need to have at least watched Fate/Zero and Unlimited Blade Works to fully enjoy this film
Alright, after the cut let’s take a dive into the second movie of the Heaven’s Feel trilogy: Fate Stay Night Heaven’s Feel II. Lost Butterfly.
I once said that I believed that it was Illyasviel von Einzbern who was the “great tragic character” of the Fate Franchise. After watching this movie, however, I feel I might have to eat some crow on that. While Illya’s own history is rife with and loss tragedy, it is not the raw naked nerve that is the history and life of Sakura Matou.
Sakura may be the third heroine of the Fate route, but she has been a character that has been criminally underused in the greater Fate Universe. Simply put, before this movie she didn’t have much to make her stand apart from the other two heroines. Saber is pretty much the mascot of Fate with her iconic design and fighting abilities, while Rin Tohsaka has slipped into the shoes of Final Fantasy’s Cid and is the most recurring character, as well as being one of the best female heroines in anime. Sakura, however, doesn’t have much going for her aside from being the “quiet kouhai with big boobs”
Until this movie.
If you’ve watched Fate/Zero you have a gist of Sakura’s history: the little sister of Rin who was given to the Matou family to be raised as a magus, because the mage laws forbid any family from raising more than one magical heir. While her parents in Fate/Zero attempt to justify this by saying that it was to protect her, Lost Butterfly reveals that their giving of Sakura to the Matou family pretty much doomed their youngest daughter to eleven years of absolute hell.
Lost Butterfly may tell the story of the holy grail war spinning out of control because of the mysterious shadow, it is really about revealing the absolute horrors that have been put on Sakura. In the span of this two-hour movie, we learn that Sakura has been subjected to numerous magical tortures, physically and verbally abused by her grandfather and brother, and worst of all, subjected to the repeated raping and sexual assault by Shinji, who loathes Sakura for usurping his place as the Matou family heir.
All of this has, in turn, made Sakura become withdrawn and emotionally dependant on Shirou the first person who has ever treated her with kindness. What’s worse is that the arrival of the Holy grail war and the rampage of the mysterious shadow is beginning to unravel the final defenses of Sakura’s sanity. Combined with the holy grail war causing Rin, who is apparently indifferent to Sakura, and Shirou to work together and grow closer, this risks taking away the one thing that Sakura has left. By the time the credits roll and the final levee has broken, we see that Sakura has fully embraced her darkness and will be ready unleash a tide almighty rage upon anyone in her way. This entire movie can be seen as escalation after escalation into madness until finally there is nothing left but an unfiltered rage of a woman who has learned to treat the world the way it’s treated her: Pure Hatred.
Frankly, there is so much I want to talk about with this movie, because despite being excellently paced (aside from maybe being a bit too rushed at the start) there is just so much that happens, and all of it so different from the previous route Unlimited Blade Works. One of the best things about Fate Stay Night is that the three routes help fill in corners that would have otherwise been neglected in a single story. Feeding in the subtext and character development from other routes helps fill out the characters that play only supporting roles here. Most notable for this is Archer whose path in Heaven’s Feel differs wildly from his start turn in Blade Works.
Then there is Shirou who is probably at his strongest as both a character and a man in this film. While Blade Works served as a rebuttal to the very idea of Shirou’s Dream, Lost Butterfly shows what happens when the weight of real life comes into conflict with it. Seeing Shirou make the choice to put Sakura over his dream, to abandon his desire to be a hero of justice to protect her, and support her is deeply moving and made, even more, better when you feed in everything from Blade Works into his personality. While I still think Rin and Shirou make the strongest couple, his relationship with Sakura is done extremely well and hits all the right notes perfectly.
And there is so much more. The dream sequence (oh the fucking dream sequence), Gilgamesh, The fight with Assassin, Saber, Rider’s role, everything to do with Shinji. All of it could be posts on their own, and none of it feels forced or tacked on. Ufotable and the directors have pulled off an amazing feat here, juggling multiple balls and being able to handle it with the skill of a master. If there is any minor flaw, it is that Illya’s role is again, significantly reduced, but if that was the price to pay for everything else to work, then I pay it gladly, and I am HUGE Illya fanboy.
I could go on guys, but Fate Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel II. Lost Butterfly is not only one of the best anime films in the last five years, it’s one of the best FILMs I’ve seen in that time. It is a success story in every which way, and while not perfect (nothing is) it is solid final proof that Fate Stay Night is more than just a cash cow franchise that lives off waifu figurines. I absolutely cannot WAIT to watch it again and to see everything come to together in the final installment Spring Song, next year. If you are a Fate Fan, don’t miss this movie.