DVD Review: Fate / Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – Part 1
18/04/2016 Leave a comment
Type-Moon returns for another go at the Fate/Stay Night storyline; but how does this TV adaptation of Unlimited Blade Works fair on DVD? Well lets find out in our latest DVD review.
The Holy Grail War has begun. An ancient ritual, seven masters and their seven holy spirits fight to the death. It’s said the winner who possesses the Holy Grail is granted any wish they desire. Rin Tohsaka has been training to become a master her whole life, just like her father.
Rin and her servant Archer form an unlikely bond with Emiya Shirou who finds himself becoming the master of Saber, one of the most powerful servants in the Holy Grail War. Working together they have to survive knowing only one master can remain. Saber, Lancer, Archer, Rider, Caster, Assassin and Berserker.
Who of these seven heroic spirits will earn the mythical Holy Grail and what will they wish for?
Near perfection; this is the phrase I sprouted once finishing off the final episode of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – Part 1, otherwise known as Season 1; and yet after taking some to reflect I realise that this series could’ve been absolutely perfect if a few changes were implemented. The story, the characters, the animation quality, the music and even the pacing; everything is pretty much spot-on and yet if the episodes were a bit more continuous between each other and more conclusive when needed then this release would’ve been pretty much perfect. Of course ignoring these aspects it would’ve been nice if this series started with the basics by having the inclusion of a 5.1 Surround Sound track for its English and Japanese audio tracks.
It may sound like I am nitpicking; but all ‘should’ become clear as I explain myself. For now; let us start at the beginning. Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works is the re-telling of TYPE-MOON’s original Fate/Stay Night visual novel and acts as a sequel to Fate/Zero – a series which has previously been released onto DVD (and Blu-ray) by MVM Entertainment in the UK. In any event Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works sees seven mages, known as Masters, and their summoned familiars, known as Servants, take part in the Holy Grail War. It is war that is fought in secret and sees these seven mages compete in an attempt to claim the Holy Grail; a unique item which will grant any master or servant the one wish they ultimately desire. It’s a story we are all too familiar with, especially if you have seen Fate/Zero or the previous anime adaptation of Fate/Stay Night by Studio DEEN and yet interestingly enough this Unlimited Blade Works variation feels completely fresh and new.
It feels fresh not because of the new animation style by Unfotable, as this style of animation was used in the movie adaptation of the franchise a few years prior; but because it starts off with two 45 minute OVA styled episodes which heavily focus on Rin Tohsaka and her ordeal of getting Archer as a servant . It’s an unusual way of starting a series; and yet it completely hooks you in to what’s about happen to next. For instance events seen from Rin’s perspective from the first two OVA styled episodes are later repeated from Shioru’s , the true protagonist of this series, perspective and it makes Rin’s personality and appearance become easier to understand as the series moves forward. You would be forgiven for thinking that Rin is the protagonist but in actuality it’s mainly Shirou which despite being seen in ‘voice only’ throughout the first two episodes doesn’t make an appearance until the third episode.
It’s a fresh new approach to the Fate/Stay Night franchise; and one that comes welcomed. Not only do we get a great insight into Rin’s own personal ordeal of school life and mage-craft but when Shirou enters the fray we get to re-live it all again from how we initially remembered it in the original anime adaptation. Except this time; its visually superior. So what exactly can you expect from Fate/Stay Night? Well as previously mentioned it is about seven mages taking part to defeat each other for the Holy Grail and that’s exactly what happens… so to speak.
After the summoning of each familiar, and introductions of the rules from the ‘fake priest’ at the church, who Fate/Zero fans should immediately recognize, we see Rin and Shirou enter a partnership to take down the other mages and quickly thrown into a battle with Illya and her Berserker. It’s an exciting battle but one that, in my eyes at least, is over too quickly and then is quickly overshadowed by new events unfolding in the school. This is where potential problems lie within Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works and the reason why i classed this series near perfect despite enjoying everything it offered.
Events that transpired within these first thirteen or so episodes are nearly always left at a cliff-hanger. For instance the battle between Saber, Archer and Berserker ends on a high-note and neither Berserker nor Illya are heard from ever again throughout this first part. Elsewhere the events which see regular citizens passing out from exhaustion and confusion between master and servant reveals a Caster as a formidable enemy and as a result many battles take place; each of which end on a cliff-hanger with no resolute ending being found. It’s not disappointing per se; as a good cliff-hanger is always welcome; but it is the fact that characters appear and leave without anything being done about them.
The fight with Berserker for instance; it would’ve been interesting to see him return to the battlefield with Illya to take-on Caster or the Assassin class servants when Rin and Shirou were having trouble; or even if they made a brief appearance in the street. Basically just something to keep the viewer aware that they do exist in the show. A tease if you like; but alas that is not the case.
What we get with this first half of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works is an extensive introduction into the world of mage-craft and servants, which are actually heroic spirits, and an endless stream of battles that really only involve two other masters. The real talking point of these episodes however is the plan that Caster has put into motion; and by the end of this set you will be begging for the next release to be available as despite my criticism that’s exactly how i felt.
Despite being such a respected and heavily produced, animated series we only receive a relatively barebones selection of bonus materials on this DVD release of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – Part 1. In short viewers will receive ten minutes worth of Japanese promotional materials, two textless songs and a selection of trailers for other anime releases.
Personally it is a disappointingly selection of content but the variety of Japanese Promotional materials included does, partly, make-up for it. As part of the promotional content you will find the inital teaser trailer, announcement trailer, standard trailer and a selection of character TV Spots. The trailers on the other-hand are mostly Sentai Filmwork related, which suggests the discs have been authored by Hanabee, and are for titles which MVM Entertainment do not hold the license to. On the outside it is a disappointingly selection; but dig a bit deeper into he promotional side and you will find there is some variety to be had – even if it is just the same video content repeated time and again.
Media: DVD 9 x3
Running Time: 2:22:28 (Disc 1), 1:31:04 (Disc 2), 2:18:34 (Disc 3)
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 720 x 576 (576i)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps
An exceptional produced anime series with a selection of lovable cast members and a progressive story that doesn’t know when to stop. I never really enjoyed Fate/Stay Night or its prequel Fate/Zero but the story told within this adaptation, and its presentation, destroyed my distaste and for the franchise and ignited my passion. Yes; i am now a fan and it is all down to this single half series release of the franchise.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works features thirteen episodes of progressive storytelling that sees our protagonists Rin Tohsaka, and her Servent Archer, as well as Shirou Emiya, and his servant Saber, take part in the Holy Grail War that seems them take on various heroic spirits in a bid to win the grail. Each episode progresses at just the right pace; with the right amount of comedic element mixed with tragedy and intense ‘on the edge of your seat’ action that only so few anime series manage to pass off. The events within this first half may seem narrow-minded, with its introduction and first fight quick turning into an unravelling mystery of discovering the masters lurking at school; but fortunately enough it provides the right amount of depth – even if the events do not provide a conclusion.
Providing a conclusion is not one of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works strong suites; and as such discussions, fights and even enemies are left unfinished and these enemies are left wondering around the city for another time. This was my annoyance with the series and the fact that characters previously introduced do not make a re-appearance unless it is absolutely vital; case and point Lancer and Berserker; as other than their appearance early you never see them again until the re-cap at the very end of this first part. You could call it a Directors choice I guess; as it keeps them a mystery until later episodes, but it is a tad disappointing.
Ignoring the series itself This DVD release by MVM Entertainment is everything you would come to expect from a distributor; however some questions have to be raised with the authoring of the discs. Each DVD Menu uses static backgrounds and while the artwork is nice they feel extremely cheap and basic for something that is supposed to be of ‘high quality’. More bizarrely however is that final disc features five episodes, with the final episode being 45 minutes long, as well as containing the bonus content where as the second DVD discs only features four episodes (at 25 minutes length). As someone who wants the best out of their product it would’ve made sense for the second disc to have five episodes so that enough space was guaranteed on each disc. Of course this isn’t a problem per-se; it is just a personal observation as, where possible, this would’ve provided the better quality product.
The quality itself isn’t low; as there is no distortion or noticeable pixilation to be had, but it would have seemed more logical to present the episodes across the three discs as I described. Speaking of logical presentation Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Work features an impressive soundtrack, both in music and background music; so it is a shame that only Stereo sound is used for the series. As previously mentioned a 5.1 Surround Track would’ve given this series the bigger experience it deserved and during some fights its noticeable that the Stereo sound wasn’t good enough to provide the experience you would expect. Once again it is a personal observation, and it does nothing to hamper the experience in Stereo; but i just can’t help but imagine how good it would’ve been in surround sound.
What we have here than is an exceptional series with highly produced DVD release by MVM Entertainment; sure enough i have provided a few ‘quirky’ reasons on what could’ve made the release better but as it stands now then this release is pretty much perfect – jus bring on Part 2 already!
Fate / Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – Part 1 will be available on DVD and Collectors Edition Blu-ray from the 25th April 2016 within the UK.