DVD Review: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – Part 2
25/07/2016 Leave a comment
The curtain will soon fall on this seemingly never ending war for the holy grail; but will it end in victory, defeat or misery? Well let’s find out as we take a look at MVM Entertainment’s DVD release of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – Part 2.
Fuyuki City will be changed forever following the events that will come to be known as the Fifth Holy Grail War. With the Masters and Servants slowly revealing themselves and their intentions, the stage is set for the grand finale, and at the center of it all is Shirou Emiya and Rin Tohsaka.
The Holy Grail War continues, with each Master and Servant duo making their move for the omnipotent wish granter. Caster’s plans have been set in motion, beginning with taking Saber captive while Rin and Archer go their separate ways to continue their fights on their own. Without Saber’s aid, Shirou’s principles are put to the ultimate test. With many battles to come with expected and unexpected enemies, Shirou’s resolve begins to take form. Is his desire to protect people and become a hero, genuine? Or are they simply borrowed feelings? And will it be enough to carry him to the end?
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works continues to provide that artistic brilliance that so very few animation studios manage to produce and with this second instalment it manages to become even better. A questionable – and perhaps longwinded – approach to storytelling is presented itself within this second half of the franchise and while it does manage to provide that conclusive ending I can’t help but feel it did it in a rather uncharismatic way that resulted in the loss of life too soon into the show. All-in-all it’s a great selection of episodes; but some better direction could have been had for a more compelling storyline but at least it remains faithful to the original source material.
This second instalment of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade begins just a few short hours after the battle with caster which saw Shiro’s servant, Saber, become captured and processed by Casters rule breaker ability. Personally I found it to be a rather odd starting point as the first half of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works was treated as its own independent season – and even had a rather conclusive but cliff-hanger styled ending – so I expected the opening of the second half to provide that ‘recap styled narrative’ one would expect from a fresh start; but alas it wasn’t to be. Instead Shiro and Rin opt to discuss a plan on how to defeat Caster and reclaim Saber; a discussion which leads them both to suggest recruiting another master and servant – in this case illyasviel von einzbern and her servant Berserk. It’s a relatively natural way of bringing illyasviel back in to the anime, as she hardly had any screen-time in the previous half, but unfortunately it’s short lived. It’s an action-packed segment which sees illyasviel and berserker make their well overdue re-appearance into the series but as opposed to helping Shiro and Rin, who she knows are coming, she ends up defending herself against Gilgamesh and his onslaught of attacks.
It’s a relatively confusing segment as while we know why they are fighting, as all masters and servant fight each other for the grail, it’s unclear why Gilgamesh has picked this time and place. Oddly enough this question is answered later on in the series – so much so that you may actually forget that he was even in illyasviel’s castle to begin with. Of course this ‘small depressing segment’ is nothing more than gap to build-up to the fight with Caster; one which sees Archer betray Rin and Lancer join forces with Rin and Shiro for that added protection. The rules – if the holy grail had any – seem to change at every turn and as one may imagine a fight between several masters and servants, all of which are beautifully animated with a natural blend of animation and CGI, beings to take place. It’s another short-lived battle and it’s one that sees Archer’s true intentions come about; spoilers aside it is an event which takes up the majority of time through this second half of the series and while it is ‘interesting’ to watch you can’t help but wonder if they would just get on with it. It’s an arc with sees Archer and Shiro fight over ideals, dreams, future and consequences – but it is done in such a roundabout way that you can’t help but feel it could’ve been done in half of the time it took; of course on the positive side it does bring about some interesting sword clashes and – at the same time – another betrayal that was long overdue and in the making.
That betrayl is non-other than Gilgamesh; a heroic spirit – a king in a former life – whose been working with the fake priest in order to claim the grail by pretending to be the servant of the cowardly Shinji (and no I am not referring to Shinji Ikari). The result of this deception is that Gilgamesh attempts to use to Holy Grail in order to kill every human on the planet and with most of the servants gone theres no-one to stop him; well other than Shiro and Saber that is. It’s a destructively battle between Servant and Master and, once again, it’s a fight which is beautifully animated between different set pieces and mixtures of animation and CGI. From one perspective this is what Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works has been working toward – the penultimate fight with Gilgamesh over the grail but in my eyes the actual story is between Shiro and Archer with everything else just a backdrop; slightly disappointing but true.
Questionable story telling aside – be prepared for a lot of dialogue with small amounts of fights – the main reason I enjoyed this series was its art and animation quality; sure enough the story is decent but the detail to animation is just amazing so the Blu-ray should be exceptional.
Just like with the previous release of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, and with most MVM Entertainment released titles, only a selection of bonus materials are included and this time they are all located on the third and final DVD disc.
As illustrated in the screenshot above viewers will be able to find Promotional Trailers, each of which last for around 6 minutes and contain English Subtitles, as well as the inclusion of textless opening and closing songs. Considering Fate/Stay: Unlimited Blade Works is adapted from a visual novel it’s a shame that more content could not be included; but at least we get the bare essentials.
Media: DVD 9 x3
Running Time: 2:04:56 (Disc 1), 1:32:02 (Disc 2), 1:31:16 (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
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works continues to impress with this second instalment into the series and it’s a release which brings a lot of heartache, and headache, with its unusual progressive manner, complex narrative and extensive dialogue. Personally for me I had most enjoyment from watching the beautifully animated fight sequences and it’s general animation quality as while the story it offered was interesting it drifted away from the core principles of what one may expect to receive. My expectation was that the characters would all fight to own the grail and while this was abundantly clear in the first half this second half is all about reclaiming something that was once lost; be it Saber, a dream, a future, or a relationship.
As mentioned this second instalment resumes pretty much where the first half left off, which is slightly bizarre considering it is classed as a second season, and it seems Shiro and Rin attempt to formulate a plan to defeat Caster. Illyasviel is a logical choice, and acts a nice way to bring her character back into the series, but unfortunately this isn’t to be one Gilgamesh opts to attack her in order to retrieve the holy grail in human form. Its an action-packed confrontation between Gilgamesh and Berserker but just like the battle with Caster it’s relatively short lived. Instead the confrontation between Archer and Shiro, which sees Shiro’s ideals and dreams become the talking point, acts as this half centre point but when all is said and done it’s the penultimate fight with Gilgamesh that sparks the ending of this series; with all cards on the table for one final fight for the grail. Whichever fight that takes place its all short-lived and in the end its discussion and dreary narrative about ‘what could’ve been’ that makes the series move forward and while this may seem interesting it’s actually rather disappointing as it makes this second half go from exciting to just dreary.
You can talk about this second half of Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works all you like but, as the illustrations and boxart suggest, it’s all about Shiro and Archer rather than the grail itself. Once again I’ll complain that characters, such as illyasviel, Lancer and Shinji, hardly make any impression which is a shame as these characters all had interesting stories to tell; but we will never get to see them. In regards to this DVD release by MVM Entertainment, which discs i assumed mastered by Hanabee in Australia, then everything is pretty much spot on with a great English Dub (provided by Aniplex) and subtitles to go along with the Japanese audio track. My only gripe with this DVD release would be the single instance where no subtitles are presented for a Japanese song being played in the background or that the disc menus are rather simplistic – if not functional. Another note to mention is that this series would have greatly benefitted from a 5.1 audio track as although lots of talking is done it would’ve given the sword clashes and explosions that much needed “boost” to make it sound more explosive.
Overall Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – Part 2 is a great release; both in consistent presentation and quality as well as animation. Although I main naggle at the dreary narrative of the story being told this was adapted from a visual novel; so its no surprising that a lot of dialogue would be brought over. Of course i’m not referring to the amount of dialogue I’m just referring to the fact they speak in code rather than actually saying what’s happening – a feat which quickly becomes tiresome during the discussions and fights between Shiro and Archer. Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – Part 2 is one worth adding to the collection; but for the optimal experience I would suggest going for the Blu-ray rather than the DVD as that added quality is sure to shine through.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – Part 2 is now available on DVD within the UK. The Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release will be available later in the year.