Being home for the Christmas Holidays means I can spend some time with some old films or anime. I’ve already given you my renewed thoughts on the second Heaven’s Feel movie: Lost Butterfly, but last night as I went back to the first film I thought it was high time I give it a proper Re-Dive as well. Join me after the cut as I take another look at the first film in the Heaven’s Feel Trilogy: Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel – I. Presage Flower
In my first review of the movie, I claimed that Presage Flower was more concerned with setting up the next two parts of it’s story, then actually really being a story in of itself. Going back to this film now that Lost Butterfly is out, that is still very much the case. Out of the complete two-hour run time, the first fifty minutes (fifty!) are all build up, building up the main characters, building up the atmosphere, and building up the ideas the movies are about. It’s a slow almost melancholic pace, but for someone like myself, who is very well steeped into the lore of Fate/Stay Night, I found it to be quite thrilling.
And that is probably the biggest thing about Presage Flower. It is a movie that rewards you for being a fan of the Fate Franchise. As much as I love this film, it is 100% not something for a non, or even casual Fate fan. It is instead a movie that expects you to have done at least the basic amount of homework in regards to the series. If you don’t know what the Holy Grail War is, or who characters like Rin, Saber, Kotomine, and Kiritsugu are, then you probably be completely lost at about 20 minutes into the film (this film montages much of the initial set up that is present in each VN route). That is a knock on the film through and through, but what is good about it, is how much Presage Flower respects and rewards the viewer IF they are a Fate fan.
The best part of this film on a meta level, is going into it having watched Unlimited Blade Works and Fate/Zero and feeding in everything from those two series into these films. Knowing all about Shirou’s personal struggles, Illya’s need for revenge, Rin’s desire to win the war, Saber’s relationship with Kirei, and the background of Sakura helps this movie immensely, especially in the relationship between Shirou Emiya, and Sakura Matou. While this first chapter does not have the emotional gut punches that Lost Butterfly later brings, the quiet and gentle moments between Sakura and Shirou, from their first meetings, to the intimate conversations in the tool-shed paint a picture of two youths discovering that their friendship is, or always has been, something much more.
Even better though is, the sense of unease that permeates through this entire film. While Unlimited Blade Works was rather clear cut in the overall story. The Heaven’s Feel route and Presage Flower in particular make things out to be more mysterious. Even when they are caught up in a life or death struggle of magic and servants, both Rin and Shirou understand that is something is off, that something isn’t quite right with this version of the Holy Grail War. This is compounded by the appearance a creature called The Shadow, who I totally forgot just how unsettling and scary it is in this movie. I never was able to really appreciate just how good Presage Flower putting the viewer into its uncomfortable atmosphere until Lost Butterfly came out, and now that it has, it makes this film even better.
The animation of course is Ufotable at their best, and honestly this was a film that I was more pulled in by just how beautiful it is. While the few fight scenes present are once again the studio hitting it out of the park, the real treat is just how much effort, love and care have been put into the background scenes, the settings and things like the weather. This was my fourth viewing of the movie, and I honestly was just blown away by how beautiful Ufotable the setting of Fuyuki city, and the countless little details put into scenes. I honestly do think that Presage Flower is (so far) the best piece of animation to come out of the studio.
Last time, I said that Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel – I. Presage Flower would be a better movie once it had one or two of it’s sequels to watch with it. Over three years later and with part 2 in our hands, I can safely say that is the case. Presage Flower is a great movie, but it is also one of those franchisee films that expects you to do your homework before you watch it. If you have done that (and considering that Ufotable did the other two series, you absolutely should!), then you will enjoy a movie that respects your time and rewards viewers with deeper characters and a better understanding of the plot. If this is your first run with Fate however, you are probably going to be 100% lost. Regardless, Presage Flower is an absolutely beautiful movie with great action, but even better quiet moments that help set up the fireworks and chaos that is to come. I am sure my thoughts and appreciation for this movie will only increase once Spring Song lands later this year, but for now, this is absolutely a film worth checking out. Once you get that homework done….