I made it. The final route of Fate/Stay Night in its brutal, beautiful, painful, compelling entirety. The whole run of Heaven’s Feel after the divergence point is an experience similar to the time I watched the Nausicaä movie then read the manga through to the end, which is really saying something coming from me. The quality and sheer scope of the storytelling meant that I felt an even greater attachment to the characters; if ‘equivalent exchange’ is a recurring theme in the F/S N franchise the same idea applies to the emotional (not to mention time) investment you put into it, which in my case turned out to be one hell of a lot.
She’ll make a man of him yet
Heaven’s Feel was immensely rewarding for me but was the darkest instalment of the visual novel as a whole. That said, even the most disconcerting moments were relevant to the plot and were important in drawing attention to the plight of the central character. Sakura always stayed in the background in the earlier routes, serving little purpose other than to cook meals and blush a lot but this route is the point where she has chance to shine; it really shook up everything I thought I knew up to that point about some of the supporting cast too.
The first route of F/S N was the main inspiration for the TV series but what’s unlocked at its completion, Unlimited Blade Works, isn’t represented much there so came as a pleasant surprise to me. It goes off in a different direction that’s just as interesting in its own way and expands on themes that were merely touched on before, making some clever parallels between characters and bringing in a startling variant on the underlying fate vs free will theme. Additionally, rather than making Ilya and Berserker the main antagonists it’s Caster and her master who drive the events along this time around.
Epic foreshadowing? You betcha
Shirou’s relationship with Saber is played down to give his screentime with Rin room to breathe but at the same time there’s the all-important explanation of Archer’s origins that gave this route its true impact and makes the story focus on Shirou’s fight more than Saber’s. It goes without saying that what’s coming up is as spoilerific as hell so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
My blogging kohai has a lot to answer for. With one full story thread of the Fate/Stay Night visual novel under my belt I can see where he’s coming from in terms of the connections that hold everything together, although it’s taken a fair while in getting there. Since I’m not a gamer the idea of spending hours and hours on something like this is pretty alien to me but as I said in my warm-up post the interactive nature of the VN works wonders in bringing the story to life in a way that the TV version couldn’t (although my not being sloshed this time around must have helped). It’s only part of the full picture of course: there are two other routes to follow afterwards but this one concentrates on the Shirou/Saber relationship in particular.
“..into the uncertain divine/we scream into the last divide…”
I wasn’t as fascinated by Saber in the TV show but when the events are geared towards portraying events from her and Shirou’s point of view I had a much clearer picture of her circumstances and personality so felt for her predicament much more keenly. While Rin is the tsundere character (not a bad thing I might add!), Saber is I think someone even more interesting, with a imaginatively-realised backstory that I can’t help but admire on so many levels.
The visual novel is strange creature. It’s a quintessentially Japanese medium so that alone makes it worth mentioning on this blog but this peculiar mix of ideas and storytelling is something that I’ve heard a lot about but only recently experienced for myself. Are these things video games in the style of books, or books in the style of video games? Both? Neither? It poses interesting questions in terms of semantics too…
“Don’t mind me. I’m just playing…I mean reading…that is I’m, um, oh sod it.”
Like the duck-billed platypus, which looks like less of a supporting argument for the theory of evolution and more a product of a supreme being with a wicked sense of humour, the visual novel is an unlikely mixture of varied components. It has the text and semi-static images you’d expect from a light or graphic novel, but has an interactive element that’s akin to a simplified version of a computer game. This blend of disparate media types in turn has some interesting effects on the way you experience its style of storytelling; the logic behind it is certainly easier to explain than that of a little furry bugger that still goes to the trouble of laying eggs.
Most anime I watch is watched alone. My family and most of my friends aren’t really into that sort of thing so it’s only on occasional visits to fellow fans’ places that I can enjoy the experience of watching anime with other people. For over-analysis and appreciating the mellow slice-of-life shows it’s fine to be in an empty room but sharing the experience on a simple entertainment level, or discussing ideas on more complex series, is a refreshing change.
I had already joined my good friend and generous host in catching up on Xam’d and Kurozuka then we sat through the first disc of Planetes too, which incidentally left me really impressed. He also suggested the first few eps of the Fate/Stay Night anime and since Owen had been recommending the visual novel to me in recent weeks I thought “Why the hell not?” and poured myself another glass of cider.
At this point in the evening we were sitting back with a few drinks, planning our upcoming trip to Tokyo later this year and generally having a laugh. The occasionally NSFW joke-laden commentary on what we were watching was turning us into an older and more well-educated, if inebriated, British equivalent of Beavis and Butt-head. Whether it was the relaxed atmosphere because of the alcohol or the communal viewing I don’t know, but whatever the reason F/S N was surprisingly enjoyable. In fact we marathoned the whole lot in one sitting.