Entry #25: Fate/stay night (Unlimited Blade Works) (SoA 2017)

fate stay night

(Recommended, once again, by an unnamed lurker.)

First things first, allow me to apologize for the lack of posts/anime viewing recently. I took an unexpected three-day hiatus from the Summer to recover from a hefty plate of “irl overload.” Secondly, allow me to apologize again as this post will be short and sweet. My internet is being unkind to me at the moment and I want to keep the anime train rolling without a hitch.

Fate/stay night (UBW) is an overall okay series. Not great, probably not even good, but “okay.” It employs a lot of what one would expect from a fantasy battle shounen with a little extra in the art/animation and narrative departments. As such, the popularity and/or fanfare behind this anime is likely due to everything syncing up in exactly the right way to touch upon the general mass’s love of all things shiny, fantasy, and serious. Somewhat cynical, yes, but when many of the top-rated anime on such databases all employ these scenarios, they tend to blend together, especially to a veteran of the medium such as myself.

Fate/stay night (UBW) seems like something of a follow-up to Fate/Zero’s massive success, taking what they felt worked from the former series to recreate the sequel series originally made many years ago. In this sense, they do a mediocre job, as while the dialogue is still eloquently put and morally gray, they end up saying far too much to say one simple thing. “I am altruistic! Monologue with me as I tell you all about how altruistic I am!” “You are naive! Altruism is dumb! Monologue with me as I tell you why I feel altruism is dumb!” It doesn’t have the same impact that Urobutcher’s writing style allowed in the aforementioned Fate/Zero, but on its own, it still has more charm than many others of its kind.

What surprised me more than anything was how much I actually cared about the characters. Aside from Emiya, because “lead male protagonist” is all that’s needed to describe him, characters have a little depth to them that I wasn’t expecting. Rin particularly stole the show with her constantly changing attitude, cunning, and sprinkle of tsundere archetype. This certainly helped me to follow along with the more intimate details, and I was even more surprised that I started to remember aspects from Fate/Zero as the story continued along. A nice touch to sprinkle in some nods to the previous work. Though Gilgamesh isn’t as… “likable” as ten years prior.

A perfectly decent series worth recommending to people who like the battle shounen genre. It has enough insight to the characters and a typically constant tone that makes it engrossing almost throughout. There’s a little too much emphasis on THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! and overindulging in dialogue to make it a truly worthwhile experience, but still manages to keep itself afloat on an even basis. I’d recommend Fate/Zero over this, however.

Personal Score: C+

Critical Score: C+

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Early Impressions: Sakura Quest

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Three episodes in, I’m worried this is a bit too similar to past P.A. Works… works.

Everyone I know adores, or at least enjoyed, Shirobako. Everyone I know adores, or at least enjoyed, Hanasaku Iroha. Not so much Glasslip or Tari Tari, but not every studio can have hit after hit consistently. Within the last five years, P.A. Works has become something of a niche entertainment outlet, specializing in slice-of-life shows with an overarching message of commitment, hard work, and improving the lives of the people within a certain community. With both Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako (and Glasslip) under my belt, Sakura Quest feels a little bit of a throwback to old times. Much like the sense of having a sequel release too soon that hardly differentiates itself from its predecessor, I can only feel a reserved hostility that makes me yawn in contempt.

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Of course, it would be somewhat unfair to simply base Sakura Quest‘s quality on its predecessor’s ability to cement the same themes. Almost like the Mega Man series, the work of Pixar, or Tyler Perry sitcoms, Sakura Quest is another product of a factory that specializes in a certain type of anime, with very little distinction from others. And with that context, my hesitance to go all-in with the themes it tries to present are (hopefully) justified. My tolerance for the same old, same old can only go so far.

For those who are fairly unfamiliar with P.A. Works, Sakura Quest is a decently enjoyable little break from the chains of zany charisma and fantasy muskiness. In the same vein as Tsuki ga Kirei, it takes a grounded, casually progressive approach to characterization and plot developments. Unlike Tsuki ga Kirei, the structure is a tad more episodic, with each episode taking on a different challenge for the female lead to face while already combating her displeasure with staying in unfamiliar territory. The emphasis on an overarching plot is always looming and hammered in, but it’s vague enough to allow a number of shenanigans and activities to take place. All extraneous details aside, the anime does a good job with what it has, and sets up nicely for some inevitable moral proceedings and social commentary on pleasantries in life.

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Something else that’s become standard with P.A. Works is its effort with animation. Characters are cute, believably spastic, and varied in their make-up, though somewhat similar when it comes to young, female faces. Animation, despite the casual setting, does enough to make characters express themselves through fluid movement. I also really like how the female lead looks so radically different than the citizens of the rural town. I just like how the female lead looks, regardless. P.A. Works knows how to turn ordinary into extraordinary, and it’s no surprise here.

As critical as I am about its “copycat” status, Sakura Quest definitely has potential to be a fulfilling experience. Characters are entertaining through their status and importance to the goal at hand, along with base personalities. The best part is that nothing seems so exaggerated, a show that can manage to entertain through the simpler things in life… almost like Hanasaku Iroha. Or Shirobako. In any case… with only three episodes in, it’s hard to recommend it despite its formulaic (for its studio) approach, though fans of past P.A. Works… works that don’t care about this kind of thing will feel right at home. Time will ultimately tell.

Quick Thoughts on Onihei

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A fairly simplistic series in an age of simplistic series.

There’s not much to say about OniHei that can’t be explained within its synopsis. An episodic series with an overarching plot involving a crime fighting team of samurai in the Edo period. Each episode introduces a character as it delves into their personal struggles and how it relates to the recurring major characters. Typically these characters are subject to scrutiny through their actions, which is normally brought to light in a justifiable explanation. This formula is then repeated for thirteen episodes.

Of course, not every episode is exactly the same from A to Z. What differs from episode to episode is simply too little to make it seem as though one isn’t watching the same episode with different characters. Structure and narrative personality isn’t really what the series aims to embellish, instead relying on character motivation/interaction and a love for cool samurai battles. Only issue with the latter point is that the animation swerves between passable and mediocre.

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What strengths Onihei possesses include the central character, Heizo Hasegawa, the leader of the Arson Theft Control (aforementioned “crime fighting team of samurai”). While the perspectives change with every episode, his is one that stays important for most of them, as his role as leader, caretaker, and judge encompasses the whole of the series’s themes and time period. It’s one thing to have a role, but Heizo makes use of all of his roles in a likable and relatable light. Admittedly, he’s not so entertaining that he carries the show on his back, but he’s a consistently bright(ish) spot in a series that can become dull depending on the episode.

What kills this series is its inconsistency. Episodes tend to blend together in a dull mesh of good vs. evil and haphazard visuals. Some episodes are tolerable, with memorable (enough) characters and situations, while others were a handy sedative. This horrid quality flip from week to week made me somewhat hesitant to even continue with the coin toss between fine and not fine. Word usage is no hyperbole, either: the most these series accomplishes is being “fine.” Its use of storytelling and structure doesn’t allow for anything more than base enthusiasm for recurring characters, whose importance varies depending on the roulette-like story. There’s only so much one can pretend to care about before it becomes a deadly cycle.

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Onihei is only recommended as a passable watch for a rainy day. Some of the stories are genuinely entertaining from beginning to end, but collectively, the series suffers too much from its determination to make every episode something different, without making it different. It feels as though it’s a passion project inspired from something that did it better. Effort is there, just nothing in the sense of intrigue within most of its characters or flair of drama.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Quick Thoughts on Porter Robinson & Madeon’s “Shelter”

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I wasn’t originally intending on watching this six-minute music video, but some serious debates over on MyAnimeList left me intrigued. It seems this music video has caused somewhat of a ruckus in the anime community for its poetic, storytelling genius in the form of a six-minute montage of sorts. Most people adore it (ranked within the top 300 as of writing this), while a few are decrying it as a clichéd attempt at making the viewers care for a pretty little thing whose loneliness overpowers her. Where am I in all of this? Outside, looking in.

Upon finishing the video, I can see why people would be so enamored with it. It offers some nice imagery and a few “deep” lines suited for the emotional demographic that anime typically aims towards. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it edgy, but the lines can be construed as something one would typically see on a melancholic Tumblr post about self-worth. People seem to enjoy things that offer some deeper level of interpretation and a sense of meaning, so long as it doesn’t feel like overkill (though some wouldn’t even mind that). Shelter does a decent job of keeping itself emotionally stable while also highlighting the harsh reality the lone heroine has to deal with. The only real issue with it is if you aren’t inclined to care about a sob story at face value, then this video won’t really be for you.

It’s six-minutes long, people. Can you establish something with so much weight in that span of time? Not usually, and Shelter is yet another case. Again, if one isn’t inclined to care at face value, then you won’t care about what’s playing on-screen. That won’t change whether at minute one, minute three, or the final second. From my own perspective, the video is a harmless attempt at trying to tell a depressing story with a bittersweet moral. I didn’t have any conflicting feelings, nor did I have any uplifting feelings. They remained complacent. That’s essentially what the video is to me, so that only leaves one more aspect to pay attention to: the music.

I’m not really a fan of the genre of, well, what can you call it? Techno pop? I’m not entirely sure. Regardless, the music wasn’t all that bad. It sticks into your brain and sets up camp without you expecting it to, with an occasional head bob every now and then during the (everlasting) chorus. I thought it did a better job of setting the mood of creative exploration than the darker undertones of the heroine’s reality, but the slower piano piece at the end made up for it. I’d probably listen to it in its original form every once in a while, but I’d hesitate to say I’m a fan of it. Decent listen.

Overall, it’s harmless. I feel people are trying to make it more than what it really is, though kudos to A-1 Pictures and Porter Robinson for trying what they could. It’s something one can think about without feeling anything of loss, with an alright tune to go along with it. Superbly overrated (Why are people taking the ratings of a music video so seriously?), but worth watching to satisfy your own curiosity. Where’s the harm in that?