Fate / Stay Night

Genre: Fantasy, Action, Romance
Score: Excellent

Fate/stay night chronicles a two-week period in the life of Shirō, an amateur mechanic and high school student. Ten years ago, Shirō was caught in a massive inferno that incinerated his parents and consumed a large portion of the city; as he was dying, an enigmatic man discovers and treats him. Unknown to Shirō, Fuyuki City is the setting for a secret and violent war among competing magi. For the past two centuries, seven sorcerers assemble and engage in battle, each gambling his or her own life to obtain the Holy Grail, a legendary object capable of granting wishes. These sorcerers (known as Masters) are aided by spiritual familiars known as Servants, who are the reincarnations of legendary heroes from across time.

There’s a strong, well-explained plot which twists and turns as the story progresses. The series starts off fairly light-hearted (and not dissimilar from plenty of other action series) but after a few episodes and the major players have been introduced, the series takes on a much darker and more sinister tone. Pain and suffering feature pretty heavily in the series, and they certainly aren’t afraid of inflicting serious physical and emotional damage on both major characters and the city’s population at large with equal vigour.

Every major character and quite a few minor ones develop as the series unfolds and we learn more about their ideals, morals and goals, and why they fight. Of course the story is primarily focused on the relationship between Shirō and Saber, both emotionally damaged characters that find strength in each other. Their relationship strengthens from battle to battle and as they learn more about each other’s pasts a deep bond forms between them.

This series is one of the best I’ve seen in the last couple of years.

Marcus adds:

Score: Excellent

I’ve finally seen Fate/stay night, and agree with Minotaur’s Excellent rating. What at first seems to be a typical action series gets deeper each episode.

His review mentions the pain and suffering, and that can’t be denied. The series has the rare and important element of being willing to kill main characters, making you truly unsure what’s going to happen and who’s going to survive. But at the same time, it explores the characters in real depth as well. Despite their vastly different lives in separate eras – a legendary warrior and a loner mechanic schoolkid – the connection between Saber and Shiro is based on a fundamental similarity in character.

One of the themes is that of interpreting the actions of Shiro’s adopted father, who was connected to the previous war in which Shiro’s parents dies, but is no longer around to answer questions. We see various perspectives on his father’s actions, and seemingly incompatible descriptions of what it says about him. What’s revealed is a subtle take on how other people can shape us, for better or worse.

It also stays blessedly clear of going down harem or fanservice routes, despite the opportunity, staying focused on the plot. Not one episode is wasted or filler.