I’ve pretty much picked this entire series clean. I’ve said all I can think of saying. I’ve reviewed each film multiple times, discussed the central relationship and given my thoughts. Now we finally put this to bed with a final look at, not the three films, but at the entire story as a singular product. So, one last time, join me after the cut as I take a dive into Fate Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel
When all is said an done, after looking it over again and again. I do not think I’ll ever be able to know if Heaven’s Feel would have been better as a 25 episode series, or the three films it became. But what I can say is that what we have is an exceptional piece of work. To gush about the animation is foolhardy at this point, for Ufotable brings their A-game and then some to every millimeter of these films.
What is more important is what these films are. Unlike Unlimited Blade Work’s self reflection, or Fate’s building of a world. Heaven’s Feel is a story about not trying to become a hero of all, but to become a hero of one. That is the road that Shirou Emiya finds himself down on. Instead of confronting his own hypocrisy, or arrogantly trying to bend another to his will, we see Shirou being forced to confront the biggest question of all. One that will redefine not only his life, but the very marrow of his existence.
Is it better to be a hero for one?
That is the question that Heaven’s Feel asks. Throughout its run, through movies and television series, through battle after battle, the story of Shirou Emiya is about answering that question. It is the question that Sakura Matou, now finally given the spotlight and time she so rightfully deserves, is begging for. A woman condemn to a living hell, whose only crime was being born second into a world where second is never allowed. Until these movies she has always been a character in the background, the cheerful and quiet kouhai whose heart was as big as her bosom. It is in these films that we look into that past, and see a woman haunted by the choices other people made for her, who so deeply buries a hatred and loathing that when finally allowed to surface, destroys everything in its path. It is only Shirou, realizing that the crisis in front of him is more important than the crisis that may come, who can stop that from happening, and his decisions and trials remain, in this blogger’s view, Fate’s greatest moment.
Of course fans of the visual novel will, and have, criticized the series for cutting other plot lines out. That Illya’s story has been put to the side. That Kirei, revealed to be the villain all along, had his role in the story rushed at the last minute. And yes, those are legitimate grievances, ones that do raise their head in the final installment. But I cannot deny that the trade-off is worth it, for as much as it is Shirou’s story, it is also about Sakura, and giving her this spotlight, especially in lost butterfly is important. Yes, it comes back to bite them in the butt near the end, but letting Sakura’s story be about Sakura, is and remains my mind, the best decision that could have made. And this is coming from a die-hard Illya fanboy. Adaptations are hard, and despite some failings, Heaven’s Feel remains one of the best adaptations it could have been.
The other characters of course are not left in the dark. Rin Tohsaka remains as ever, the Tsundere with a will of absolute iron. Shinji Matou, once the series own Draco Malfoy, becomes a villain that is as vile as he is pathetic. Archer is the stoic warrior who learns to see the trees in the forest. True Assassin rises to claim the servant title that Fake Assassins never could. Rider, the long ignored servant steps up to deliver the series most breath taking battle. It is only Saber, oh sweet Saber, the face of the franchise, one of the most iconic anime designs of the last twenty years, that gets the short stick. Her time as a villain is spectacular, but there is also a sense of loss that she remains the series one character who has not gotten the love and time she deserves.
And that remains the big question for Fate/Stay Night. Where do we go from here? While the mobile game continues to rake in millions and spin-off series keep chugging along, there remains the state of the Fate route. Will Ufotable adapt it? Will Nasu, long having said that if he does, there would be considerable re-writes, pull the trigger? To the dismay of many, they seem to have respect for the Studio Deen adaptation, but we can only hope? I like many hope that Ufotable and Type-Moon will eventually finish off this great saga. I have faith that they will, but it is an answer that I feel will come later rather than sooner.
And if this is all we get. If the story of Shirou, Rin, Sakura, Saber, Archer, Kirei and Illya ends here. Then Fate/Stay Night couldn’t pick a better way to go out. The Heaven’s Feel trilogy: presage flower, lost butterfly and spring song are a love letter to the franchise, and while not perfect, they are far better than anyone might have hoped. Beautifully crafted with a story as moving as it is exciting, it serves its role as the very possible swan-song for this series. I loved these movies, some more than others, but I love them nonetheless. Should you ever decide to walk into this world, I hope that you will take the time to watch these films and let yourself witness the Fifth Holy Grail war.