With the newest Fate series being released in English dub soon, I thought a spoiler free review was in order for anyone who hasn’t watched this anime yet. Let me get the obvious out of the way first. Firstly, yes, I don’t know how Ufotable managed to afford it but the series has fantastic animation even compared to it’s prequel Fate/Zero. Secondly, yes, it does act as a direct sequel to Fate/Zero so if you are going to watch this series I would suggest watching that series first. And lastly, yes, with Ufotable animating an adaptation of Heaven’s Feel in the future, all three story-lines of the Fate/ Stay Night visual novel will be translated into anime form with Studio Deen’s Fate story-line being the loosest of the adaptions.
Describing this anime using the classic Hollywood pitch I would say Fate crosses the tournament styled death-match formula of Hunger Games or Battle Royal with the magical summoning of ancient beings gimmick of Shaman King or Bartemaus trilogy. Shirou Emiya and Rin Tosaka are two of these magical summoners competing in this death match and, unlike the Stay Night story-line, Unlimited Blade Works spends equal time developing both of them. However, where Shirou’s ancient spirit, Saber, follows the role of servant perfectly, Rin’s servant, Archer, is a little more rebellious and has underlying motives to his actions. And for reasons better saved for the anime, these underlying motives involve Shirou in more ways than one.
So is this adaptation better than Studio Deen’s Fate series or Unlimited Blade Works film? Yes, a lot better, but not in every way. For instance the music, although superior, is not delivered to the same effect as the Fate Stay Night series or the UBW film in the later episodes. Another example is the pacing. Unlimited Blade Works stuck very close to the source material to make the adaption as close to the visual novel as possible where Fate filled out the series with events that weren’t in the visual novel. This made the excitement consistent throughout the older series where the newer series works more slowly, filling out almost entire episode with only the stunning visuals and sound track.
Considering the adaption is so faithful to the visual novel, I can’t honestly say more about about its plot and characters that I haven’t already talked about in my Fate/Stay Night visual novel review. Besides having a much better twist than the original anime, more character development than the original anime and the animation and music quality that justifies it being an anime of 2015, Unlimited Blade Works is more of a sequel than the original ever was. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, Fate/Zero was a terrific anime as well, but as far as working as the best standalone Fate adaptation, this would not fit that description.
During my Parasyte – The Maxim review, I predicted that Unlimited Blade Works could become my newest favorite anime of the last two years and though it didn’t receive the gold medal, it would still be on the podium. Granted, I’m going to have to alter my top 50 fantasy and anime list in the near future, it’s needless to say that this anime is going to be at least in the top 15. In the mean time if you have watched Fate/Zero, or even if you haven’t, this anime would get my full recommendation.
Total Rank: 8.5/10