The Summer of Love III continues! We have now reached the final piece of story released so far for the series! With all the characters in place, and the evil defeated for now, it is time to sit down and explain how we got here. Where Miyu came from, why she is so important and why the Shirou Emiya of her world was so dedicated to saving her. Let’s not waste anytime and get into the film Oath under Snow, after the cut!
If the 3rei is Fate/Illya taking a proper step into the larger world of Fate, then Oath under Snow is the show seizing the franchise by both hands. Out of everything in the series so far, it is this film that is most rooted in everything that makes a Fate/Stay Night series what it is. There is a holy grail war, different classes, character journeys, epic battles, and of course Shirou Emiya being Shirou Emiya. I was surprised at watching this, the second time I’ve seen the film at just how different the feel and tone of the movie was. If anything this felt like it could have its own unique universe because there is very little aside from Miyu that ties it to the rest of Fate/Illya.
And in that regard, this prequel film tells of the story of Miyu, revealing her past, who she is and why she has been so important to the Ainsworths. A child of the Sakatsuki family whose children are gifted with omnipotent wish-granting abilities until they turn six years old. The young girl finds herself brought into the world of Kiritsugu and Shirou Emiya who, after finding her during a horrible accident decide to take her in to their care. While the elder Emiya wishes to use Miyu to fullfill his Fate/Zero ideals, Shirou instead views Miyu as a little sister and when, left to raise her alone, provides the love and affection she needs to live a happy life. Of course paradise only lasts so long and when the Ainsworth family connect the dots, the next holy grail war begins and all carnage is let loose.
For a movie a little under two hours, Oath under Snow crams a lot into its narrative, meaning there is little time for any fluff or filler. It is also a film that depends on you knowing the general gist of a Fate series and the backstories of the characters who crop up. Kiritsugu Emiya is a particular case about this, as if you don’t know anything about him from Fate/Zero you will miss out on his general character and motives, especially since he comes off as more antagonistic here. Kirei Kotomine likewise fares better if you know more about him, but it was good to see our lovable priest actually in a good-guy role compared to his ambiguous self. But the most notable is Sakura Matou, a calmer and happier version of herself who finally gets a real moment to do something. Like always, she is the kouhai to Shirou’s Senpai, but also steps more into the Rin role, providing emotional support and a comforting ear to her plights. And while her moment of heroism is brutally cut short, it was great to see Sakura, so often the black-sheep and neglected female in the Fate series arrive with more to do and say.
Still, Oath under Snow is Shirou Emiya’s movie, and I will say that out of all the incarnations of the character, it is the Miyuverse’s version that is the best. While he doesn’t have the long character journey from Unlimited Blade Works, the Shirou of this timeline is everything he wants to be. Calm, collected, properly trained by his father, and fully committed to his ideals and beliefs. He has no qualms about fighting for what he wants, and ruthlessly cuts a path through the other servants for it. While the film does not have the glamour and flair of the Ufotable series’, it doesn’t hold back and makes you wish what the Shirou of Blade Works or Heaven’s Feel might have been with this type of power. It’s a great film for fans of the character, and absolutely the highlight of not only this, but the entire Fate/Illya series so far.
As always there are some foibles. Like I said, the animation of the film can’t live up to the expectations of what a fight scene with Emiya entails. Sakura fans do get the short end of the stick despite the good shown here, the Ainsworths themselves feel very one-note villains, and despite this being her flashback story, Miyu doesn’t really do much. There is also a severe lack of the charm and good humor that was always present in the rest of Fate/Illya, but considering the story, that can at least be forgiven. None of these however sink the film and as long as you go in with reasonable expectations, you can find them easy to get over as you get invested all over again.
Oath Under Snow, as the current capstone to the Fate/Illya story is a good addition, filling in the gaps of Miyu’s life, and getting the series back into the Fate world proper. If you have gotten this far into the series then I’m sure you are already committed to the ride, and if this is your first stop, then at least you know the backstory of everything. I enjoyed my time with the film, not blown away, but I was never not entertained. Give it a look for yourself and see what you think, but I’m sure if you’ve been following this blog series, you already know what you want.
And with that, next week will end The Summer of Love III with our final post: a last reflection on the entire series. Stay tuned!