Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: $29.98 US (DVD), $39.98 US (Blu-ray)
Running Time: 105 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

For the heroes of the Holy Grail War, the battle is on!

There are a number of feature-length animated films based on popular anime series that is aimed at the fans of the series its based on while alienating the rest of the viewers who aren’t familiar with the characters or the main plot and then there are the rare movies that not only serve as a proper introduction to said series but also offers its loyal fans a story that is a satisfying addition. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is the second one as it caters to the show’s fans as well as making it accessible for those who always wanted to check this series out.

Unlimited Blade Works certainly takes up some of the film’s running time recapping the events of the anime series’ first season as it explains the story, introduces us to the characters and the fascinating world of Magi and their Servants. You see, seven Magi are locked in an epic battle known as the Holy Grail Wars as they fight to obtain the power of the Holy Grail that could grant them a wish as well as give the winner unlimited power. Magi don’t battle alone since the most talented of them have the ability to summon Servants – the spirits of legendary heroes that will fight on a Magi’s behalf.

One of these Magi is a young high school student named Shiro Emiya who has a partnership with his Servant named Saber who is a beautiful female knight. Shiro is participating in the Holy Grail Wars for one reason … to put and end to it and become the hero the world needs right now. You see, Shiro is connected to a horrific event known as the Fuyuki Fire that took place ten years ago that changed his life forever. Unfortunately, despite his noble intentions, Shiro doesn’t have that killer instinct that is needed to win this war since every other Magi and Servant is prepared to kill.

Well, not everyone, as Shiro’s attractive schoolmate, a girl named Rin Tosaka, decides to work alongside him rather than battle it out. This, of course, doesn’t sit well with her Servant named Archer who sees Shiro as a weak boy who will not only end up getting himself killed but her as well. I mean, their opponents aren’t slouches. Take the little girl, Illyasviel who has a behemoth named Berserker as a Servant for instance. She becomes one of the toughest opponents to beat.

While the movie doesn’t get into very specific detail that the main series shows us such as the connection between Rin and the priest named Kirei Kotomine who is at the center of the Holy Grail Wars nor does it show us why Shiro bounces back from his injuries so easily or his relationship with Saber, which this movie only hints as one leaning towards a romantic one. That’s actually one of my few gripes I have with the movie because it was intriguing to see Shiro and Saber’s relationship bud just as it was fun seeing the relationship between Rin and Archer unfold.

With the introductions out of the way, the story takes a turn down a different path from the series as Shiro and Rin discover that somebody had put up an unusual barrier that is draining the life-force from all their classmates. We are introduced to Shinji, a deranged classmate who has a beef with Shiro and attacks him in the school using his female chain-swinging Servant named Rider but he’s clearly not the Magi who put up such a powerful barrier.

The identity of the attacker is revealed and it is the mysterious Caster who has taken control of the Servant Assassin who guards the Ryudo Temple. Battling Caster, Shiro is nearly killed if it wasn’t for Archer acting along without Rin. Since Shiro won’t kill, Archer attacks the boy in hopes of taking him out of the war once and for all. If it wasn’t for Saber, Shiro would have been killed. However, back at their home, Saber is stabbed with a mysterious blade by Caster, which nullifies the contract with Shiro.

Teaming up with Rin once again, the pair try to find help by turning to Illyasviel and Berserker only they arrive in time to witness the tragic end of a Magi and Servant in a bloody battle. Instead, they get help from a familiar face to those who know the series and it is the Servant named Lancer who offers them his assistance in the name of his Magi. Together, the trio attempt to rescue Saber from Caster and her ally who fans will recognize.

I will say no more because it would spoil the surprises and plot twists the movie throws at you and the awesome ending that makes this story very satisfying even for those who have seen the main series. Of course, even at a running time of 105 minutes those who are not familiar with the story will find themselves noticing the way the transitions between scenes that feel like the first 25 or so minutes are made up of some highlight reels that cover the most important parts of the plot. Although the appearance of Gilgamesh and Rider fit right into the story, Lancer isn’t even properly introduced … thus his involvement in the finale doesn’t have the emotional impact his character deserves.

Still, despite that annoyance, the movie is filled with exciting moments and intense battles that range from awesome to downright bloody. As I mentioned earlier, the movie does throw some cool plot twists and surprises, especially when it comes to the relationship between Shiro and Archer.

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is the perfect opportunity to become acquainted with this amazing series and returning fans will find this alternate path an exciting one that doesn’t disappoint in the very least. That said, the weak transitions are noticeable flaws in an otherwise stellar production that makes this story stand on its own. It’s great to see Shiro and Saber in a feature film and Unlimited Blade Works certainly lives up to the main Fate/stay night story that made the series such a blast to watch.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
Young high school students Shiro and Rin call upon their Servants to defend themselves from other like them as they are locked in a battle to obtain the power of the Holy Grail that could grant the victor of this savage war with absolute power. However, it is Shiro who is determined to play the role of hero as he and his knightly Servant, Saber, must face off against those who will stop at nothing to obtain the Holy Grail.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The movie does look good on DVD but the animation in this feature film definitely benefits from the Blu-ray treatment since there’s some soft lighting in certain scenes but other than that the action sequences are simply awesome and so are the visual effects.

AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The original score by Kenji Kawai is absolutely gorgeous and the Japanese voice cast is nothing short of stellar to the point that it will be your favorite way of watching this series. We love the voice talent that Bang Zoom! brings to the table such as Sam Regal, Tony Oliver, Tara Platt and Patrick Seitz but the Japanese voice actors make the dialogue work even better. You’ll also love the theme song at the end of the movie.

EXTRAS: D
There are no real extras to speak of in this DVD release except for a few Sentai Filmworks trailers and a DVD credits feature. We would have really liked an audio commentary track for this movie at least.

OVERALL: B+
Unlimited Blade Works will definitely make a Fate/stay night fan out of you and serves as a great introduction to the main series while giving already established fans something savory enough to satisfy. While the movie doesn’t smoothly transition from scene to scene in certain spots, that doesn’t distract from an overall epic story. This certainly needs to be among your collection, Fate/ stay night, fans.

Review copy provided by Sentai Filmworks

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