I’m a die hard fan of Fate/Stay Night.
I consider original VN to be the ‘great work’ of it’s genre, and the franchise to be basically the ‘Star Trek‘ of anime, in which it has some of the most provoking and powerful series out there, but is also chalk full of some of the dumbest, funniest shit. Like with all running series, Fate has a mixed track record, with some excellent home runs, and more than a few clunkers. However what has been an absolute joy to watch, have been the Ufotable film adaptions of the Heaven’s Feel route, the third and final route of the OG Fate Visual Novel. I’ve already reviewed this film before twice, but now that I has come out and I’ve been able to sit down and watch it once more, I want to do a proper Re-Dive into the series. So join me after the cut as I dive into Fate Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel II. Lost Butterfly
I heaped praise upon praise on this movie when I first looked at it, which I think it is very much deserved. Lost Butterfly is probably one of the best anime franchisee films (note I say franchisee films) ever made. It has beautiful animation, top quality voice acting both dub and sub, and it is absolutely Fate/Stay Night firing on all cylinders. This is a good movie, a fucking really, REALLY good movie. Yet I must be honest and objective as much as i can be, and looking at this film again, there are a few things I think that do hold the movie down a bit. They aren’t deal-breakers, but they are there, so let’s get them out of the way first.
Lost Butterfly is absolutely the middle chapter of a trilogy, and suffers like most middle chapters do of not having a real clear beginning and ending. In fact the entire first fifth of the movie feels a bit rushed, trying to get the characters into the places they need to be for the real meat of the story to get going. While what happens is absolutely not bad at all, what is there feels like it is a few longer cuts and deleted scenes from being as good as the rest of the film. Furthermore, Lost Butterfly, like it’s prequel Presage Flower is absolutely 100% not a film for anyone who isn’t a Fate Fan, even more so than Flower which expected you to go in knowing what the Holy Grail War was, the idea of master and servants, and at least one Saber. These are flaws of the film and must be addressed as much, however they thankfully don’t have much staying power as the film goes on and steps it up on ever conceivable level.
The crux of Lost Butterfly, that is the tragedy and fall into darkness of Sakura Matou is without a doubt, the strongest material ever presented in the Fate universe. Sakura’s character, long since shoved to the corners of the fandom as “always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” comes into full force here, and as the curtain is pulled back on her past, the horrors inflicted upon her, we are taken on a ride that keeps on escalating over and over again. Her relationships with Rin, the sister who never was, with Shinji, the brother she was to replace, and Shirou, the man who remains her last real tether to sanity are all engaging, thought-provoking and extremely well done, having you at the edge of your seat and seeing the problems from all sides. While Sakura is absolutely the victim in all of this, a girl who has suffered simply because she was ‘passed over’ to become a mage, it is a credit to the movie that the viewpoints of the other characters are examined and given equal weight. While you want to root for Sakura and hope she gets saved, you also can’t deny that the other characters have their reasons for wanting to take her out.
The central theme of the movie however, which I can now after three viewings I can safety say is just a simple phrase: “Close your eyes.” That phrase, meaning to ignore the problem and press forward, to refuse to acknowledge the crisis or problem the whole crux of what this second chapter is based. Shirou Emiya closes his eyes to the fact that Sakura is the shadow, that her continued presence will not only harm innocent people, but the very fibre of his moral core. Rin Tohsaka closes her eyes to the suffering and cruelty inflicted on her sister, merely because she wants to believe that Sakura lived a happy life. Shinji Matou closes his eyes to the fact that he was never meant to be a mage. Illyasviel von Einzbern closes her eyes to the truth of her father Kiritsugu, preferring to hang onto her hatred of her father instead of looking at the uneasy truth. And Sakura Matou closes her eyes to the fact that she has a great inner rage and anger at the world, and that what is happening to her is far more serious than she wants to believe. That theme runs throughout this entire movie and when everything is done, we see full on what happens when you close your eyes to a problem and that problem scales fully out of control. It is a powerful and deadly idea that Ufotable and Fate both play here to absolute perfection.
In terms of animation, of course there is little that needs to be said. It’s Ufotable, they got money, and you know they came to play. Lost Butterfly is one of the best looking anime films of the decade and everything you might have loved from Demon Slayer is in this movie and cranked up to eleven. While there is only one fight scene of note, it is Ufotable throwing everything AND the kitchen sink at it, and it is sheer popcorn spectacle. There is nothing else that can really be said about it, it’s just that damn good.
Fate Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel II. Lost Butterfly, coming back to it after all these months still remains a great, a fucking GREAT movie, and probably one of the best franchisee anime films ever made. While the problems are a bit more noticeable after a few more viewings, I loved every single second I watched this movie, and I can’t wait to watch it again this holiday along side Presage Flower and continue to discover new depths and turns to the plot, something that I rarely say for most films. I cannot give enough praise to this film and to the story that Ufotable is trying to create. With the final chapter Spring Song coming this year I only hope that they are able to stick the landing, because this has been one hell of a ride so far.