Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 00

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Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is quietly beautiful. Regal even. The first episode gives us peaceful landscapes and well paced introductions for all of protagonist Tohsaka Rin acquaintances and daily routines before introducing us to her other life. Her magic life.

If I had not been told that UBW was part of a larger, multi-series franchise, I would never have known. The world is shown to us without info-dump or talking head exposition characters and it is all very absorb-able.

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This 47-minute slow burn method is most definitely for the best, given how many characters UBW appears to be throwing at us. We’ve met nine of Rin’s fellow students and one teacher, with Rin’s relationship to each being implied through interaction as often as it is strictly spelled out.

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We’ve also met 3 ‘Servants,’ which are essentially familiars that help their mage-masters compete in a battle for the Holy Grail, which will grant its winner any wish, and through all of this we’ve learned about the world’s magic. Runes, gems, classes of Servant, the importance of timing, rings of binding and command, what fuels servants — a ton of stuff!

Yet I never felt blabbered at nor disconnected.

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UBW opens with a dream or a memory of young Rin saying goodbye to her father. Her isolation in the world, the magical-ness of that world, and her stranding in her family mansion are all clear through the setting, the filters and vibe.

Then teenage Rin wakes up and goes to school. She remarks on how empty it is — how no one seems around — and we know something is afoot. Something magical.

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Then Rin learns her clocks are all an hour ahead and that a perfectly reasonable explanation for the emptiness is around, but the mood stays and we know, as Rin knows, the world is still off without being told directly.

Though hinted at strongly in school, we don’t see Rin dabble in magic nor learn what that magic is until later. At home, she is warned that her time is up and only two Servants remain: Saber and Archer. Saber is the only one Rin wants.

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Rin performs a ritual, we learn a little bit about magic and can guess the meaning of other parts of it, and her Servant is brought forth. Upstairs. And he’s made a bit of a mess.

Unfortunately, Rin has forgotten her clocks being ahead and has mistimed the height of her magics (mana) and her new Servant has come in a bit off. While he doesn’t let this on immediately, he is not only testy but not entirely sure who he is.

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However, he is certain Rin is the only Master for him. Albeit, after Rin expends an unnecessary amount of magic and wastes a valuable resource she should have saved for later.

After some bonding, some probing of each other’s bounds, we become comfortable with Archer, Rin’s servant as much as she does and, for his benefit and our own, Rin skips school and shows Archer around her town.

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The following day we learn a little bit more about magic and the world we will be viewing. This time in the form of an evil barrier being built around Rin’s school, most likely by a novice but dangerous regardless. When activated, it will liquefy all the humans inside and allow their souls to be eaten by a Servant.

Later that night, while attempting to destroy the barrier, Rin and Archer meet their first enemy. Battle ensues and it is lovely.

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The battle ends quickly, but not before displaying animation skill saved for the best sword fighting anime sequences you will ever see, and an innocent is killed. Rin drains her pendant to revive the student (who we must wonder how and why he was there in the first place) but realizes later that the student will remain a target.

With Archer at her side, Rin dashes off to rescue the student again, or thwart her enemy along the way, only to run into Saber the servant she wanted to summon.

Then the episode ends.

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UBW is not very colorful in anime terms but it drips with detailed environments, depth of field focus, and a patience with everything that is enviable. That greatness aside, UBW’s magical fighting puts almost every anime to shame. It’s fluid, impactful, vibrant and the integration between the mage and her familiar is exciting.

The music, which is unobtrusive but masterful orchestral work, is good too.

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If I were willing to nit pick, I might ding UBW for Archer’s amnesia. It’s a bit …trope-y… but, I get the sense that it, too, is something we’re not being told about. The very fact that ‘Archer’ wields 2 swords and has yet to pull out a bow, and how he occasionally responds to his enemy and his master leads me to suspect he knows more than we do. More than Rin.

In short, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is nothing short of fantastic and utterly mind blowing as an opener to a show. Have an hour? WHY AREN’T YOU WATCHING IT RIGHT NOW?

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11 thoughts on “Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 00”

  1. I am so glad Rabujoi is reviewing this. ;-; (long-time reader who never says anything hi)

    I refreshed like fifty times last night in the hopes I’d see this and waking up this morning to it was great. :)

    You’re definitely in for a ride oigakkosan. :)

    Fate/stay night isn’t exactly multi-series, I’d say. The core of the franchise is the original visual novel released in 2004, which had three distinct routes, Fate, Unlimited Blade Works, and Heaven’s Feel.

    Studio DEEN released an adaptation of the Fate route in 2006, and a really, really truncated movie of Unlimited Blade Works in 2010. The Fate anime is passable, the UBW movie is a mess.

    So ufotable, who is currently in a great partnership with Type-Moon, chose Unlimited Blade Works as the first route to re-adapt. Prior to this, they adapted the prequel to Stay Night, Fate/zero, in 2011 and 2012.

    (Now that you’ve started Stay Night as your first foray, can’t recommend Fate/zero. It’s akin to watching New Hope and then watching the prequel trilogy and then watching ESB and ROTJ. I’d highly recommend Fate/zero, as it’s written by Gen Urobutchi, whose works this website quite likes, but only after you finish this Stay Night anime.)

    (Unless you don’t mind spoilers for all the twists in this, in which case, all the power to you)

    ANYWAY I’M SUPER GLAD YOU’RE PICKING THIS HAVE FUN :D

    1. it blew me away! Thanks for the context — I stumbled onto the wiki (to dig up voice actor names) and started seeing spoilers so I ran for the hills!

      extra high expectations for this in the coming weeks!

  2. Yup, this looks like another great franchise that we simply missed. I too was pleased with how easy it was to follow everything, despite the fact I was a complete noob. This is the best thing so far to come out of what should be a very good Fall. And this is just a ‘prologue’!

  3. The funny thing is that the prologue is considered to be the most boring part of the story by VN readers. <__>

    (There might be a stream of 10s ala y’all reviewing Kill la Kill xDl)

    One note of contention, if it’s all right. It’s actually Saber, not Sabre, though the confusion is understandable. ^^

    (ANYWAY SO EXCITED Y’ALL ARE COVERING THIS)

    1. weird… my sub had it as Sabre, which I just assumed was the standard french name for that weapon class. No worries! Saber is the Webster’s preferred anyway ;)

      1. Interesting. Crunchyroll has it as Saber. (If you type Saber in to Google Images, you’ll get a thousand pics of this Saber-class Servant and probably no actual sabers).

        Glad I could help out. :)

        (Next episode is also one-hour :D)

  4. I am also quite excited for rabujoi to be watching F/SN. It is also great that someone else has given the lengthy background on this remake by ufotable whom i completely respect for their flawless animation. Trying not to give spoilers, its pretty refreshing to see episode zero from Rin’s perspective, and I kind of wonder if it will continue this way through the rest of the series (I have only seen the studio DEEN version, and have not read the VN).

  5. Yaaaaaas! So glad this is being reviewed :’).
    Rin’s flashback is from Fate/Zero, you guys should definitely check it out after finishing UBW.
    I’ve been a frequent reader of this site since like 2011, Fate made me delurk lol.

  6. ufotable rocks. I was entranced by their work on Kara no Kyokai and glad to see them back in the F/SN universe. I have yet to watch 01, but 00 was mindblowing.

    Also glad you guys have picked this one up to review.

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