DVD Review: Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works (2010) / Director: Yuji Yamaguchi / Cast: Ayako Kawasumi, Kana Ueda / Distributor: Manga Entertainment / Release Date: September 30th
Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works is the movie version of the Fate/Stay Night anime series, which in itself is an adaption of a video game pitched at a firmly adult audience. Alas, it’s very clear from the first five minutes of this feature that a lot has been lost in translation.
Though movie takes a different direction for the animated series, the core idea is still the same; seven spirits of ancient heroes are summoned to Earth by magus in order to battle it out and determine who should rule the world; in essence, a hybrid of Highlander and Pokémon. The work it is based on is dense and contains multiple alternate story paths and endings. The TV series followed one of these paths, and the movie tries to tell another such route. Unfortunately this means that the whole thing is a bit of a mess. Rather than simply picking the best bits and making a movie, they attempt to condense a very long story into 107 minutes. The result is messy, poorly paced and confusing.
If you aren’t into anime it’s highly likely that this will leave you cold; the style of storytelling is uneven and it relies on the viewer taking a lot in very quickly. In addition, significant details from the series are glossed over or dealt with too quickly for a casual viewer to catch. This makes for a confusing and disappointing display that swiftly becomes boring. Fans of anime who are new to the franchise should have fun with this, though they are advised to seek out the series first, as this is not a good introduction.
Those familiar with the series and who have played the “visual novel” it’s based on will enjoy identifying the various plot twists and deliberate differences. Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works has fantastic looking action sequences that will make you want to watch them again and again. However the journey getting to these scenes can be tedious and plodding.
There are some nice touches, however: the naive and damaged magus Shiro contrasts nicely against the bitter and jaded spirits he deals with, and the action scenes are certainly quite fun. The voice acting is adequate, but there’s a little too much emoting through yelling rather than actual acting, and the dub is a little samey in parts. It is quite gory in parts and really does rely on the same sequence of shocks and emotions to keep the viewer watching. Overall, this is one for the fans.