An Introductory Guide To: The Fate Series


Happy Lunar New Year y’all! Lance here, snwlprd’s #1 fan (≧∇≦)/

But seriously, I'll briefly introduce myself. I have been a long time friend of our head honcho snwlprd and have recently decided to pitch in and try my hands on some content creation on my free time. Since as far back 4 years old, I have begun my hobby of video gaming (my first game was the original C&C: Red Alert) and has since then been my primary passion in my own time. Over the years, I have played games on the PC, PS1, PS2, Xbox360, PS3, PS4, and the Nintendo3DS. I always find some joy in almost any given gaming genre, though MMORPGs, competitive shooters and sports game have thus far have not pique my interests. My favorite genre in video-gaming is that of the RPGs, be it western titles such as Dragon Age, or JRPGs such as the Shin Megami Tensei series, or even SRPGs like XCOM or Disagea.



Throughout my childhood and later into my adolescent life, every so often I find myself picking up new interests and learning to enjoy them for the experiences unique to each medium. As such, I eventually got into manga, anime, Gunpla building, visual novels, light novels, and most recently some figure collecting. If all that sounds like an awful lot, that's because it is. With life getting increasingly hectic as I near my final years of University, I find myself only having enough spare time to partake in 1-3 of my hobbies at any given time. But such is life, and after all "Study hard, work hard, play harder!" (snwplrd, 2012)


But enough of that, once again I'd like to say nice to meet y'all! I'll
be in your care from now on. XD

Today I’ll be writing about a series that I hold in high esteem and much adoration much like other favorites such as the Persona games, earlier Final Fantasy titles, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Gundam. Today, I will write about the Fate franchise, and how one should go about experiencing this enormous franchise with its admittedly slightly high barrier of entry.

The Fate franchise as a whole originated from the visual novel released by Type-Moon in 2004, which has since saw massive critical and commercial success for the company and very soon ballooned into its own huge franchise with a sequel game, a prequel series, as well as many, many adaptations/spin-offs in the form of games, anime, and various written works. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. But worry not, because the majority of that material is mainly targeted for established series fans. For the purpose of this post I will only discuss the most relevant titles to the main story-line, as shown below:

With all that said, how should one go about experiencing the array of titles above? And in what order? To help answer that, I will briefly introduce and discuss each relevant entry before concluding with a few alternative sequences.

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Introduction:

The basic premise behind the Fate titles involves 7 chosen magi (known as Masters) participating in the Holy Grail War, competing  with each other to gain access to the Holy Grail, an omnipotent wish-granting device. To achieve said goal, each Master is assigned a Servant, which are reincarnations/materialization of various heroes, villains, or godlike-beings from history, tales, or mythologies. These (massively powered up) Heroic spirits and their Masters compete in a last-man-standing death-match where the Master with the last surviving Servant is crowned the winner.

This premise is the core attraction of much of the franchise, as the idea of having various historical figures and legendary beings fight each other to the death appeals to many people, including myself. If you find yourself lost at any point regarding how the whole Servant system works, here is an amazing spoiler-free summary by the good folks in Reddit, feel free to come back to it at ANY point when watching the series, when the information actually becomes relevant.
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Fate/Stay Night (Visual novel)


The one that started it all. The original Fate/Stay Night visual novel was released way back in 2004 and later remastered in the 2007 [Réalta Nuaedition with full voice-acting and many addition scenes and enhancements to existing scenes. 

Fate/Stay Night centers around the events that unfolded during the fifth Holy Grail War, mostly through the eyes of unwitting protagonist Shiro Emiya and his servant Saber. The interesting premise, excellent storytelling, badass characters (some more than others =P), and some awesome action sequencing quickly cemented it as an instant cult hit with much critical praise at the time.

Aside from its premise, what made Fate/Stay Night rather unique (and ambitious) at the time was how its story is made out of three parallel, but completely separate story lines that are played in a fixed sequence:
  1. Fate route
    • adapted as studio DEEN's Fate/Stay Night anime (2006)
  2. Unlimited Blade Works route
    • adapted as studio DEEN's Unlimited Blade Works film (2010)
    • adapted as ufotable's Unlimited Blade Works anime (2014)
  3. Heaven's Feel route
    • soon to be adapted as a film/OVA series by ufotable
These 3 routes, while perfectly serviceable in and of themselves, are written by creator Kinoko Nasu in such a way that each route will deconstruct certain themes in the route(s) preceding it, and assumes the reader has prior knowledge to prior events in the alternate storyline, even though the characters most certainly do not. This format provided the reader with a many surprises and revelations regarding previously unassuming prior events, while providing context and a degree of irony to the events that will follow. Unfortunately, this form of storytelling is rather unique to he original visual novel and has not transferred perfectly to the animated format, a big contributor to some of the problems in all of its animated incarnations, as they tended to focus on adapting one route at time, leaving out some of the context required or the interesting interactions between them.

If you would like to enjoy the original story in the best form possible (in English), the Visual Novel is the way to go, and one that I personally wholeheartedly recommend. These days it can be achieved rather easily by first obtaining a copy of the game, and patching it to the english translated [Réalta Nuaedition using this handy guideAll in all the Visual Novel is an excellent work and absolutely worth your time if you are willing to put the 60-100 hours or so needed to complete all three routes, it itself also being a good choice for a first Visual Novel to read.

But what about the animated works that adapted the original Fate/Stay Night to TV?


Anime adaptation recommendations:

  1. Fate/Stay Night (studio DEEN, 2006) - Not Recommended
    • While it was technically passable and I did quite like it back in the day as my first introduction to the Fate franchise. Looking back at it now IMHO it does a very poor job of adapting its source material, with problematic writing, weak characterisation, and poorly integrated plot elements from all three routes that do not gel well together and just spoils the experience overall for no good reason. It is not Terrible per se, but compared to other offerings there really are better alternatives. It doesn't help that the animation of this version has not aged well AT ALL.
  2. Fate/Unlimited Blade Works film (studio DEEN, 2010) - Avoid completely
    • With the generally all round better adaptation by ufotable now available, there really isn't much reason to visit this one. Skip this
  3. Fate/Unlimited Blade Works anime series (ufotable, 2014) - Highly recommended
    • After their highly praised and successful adaptation of Fate/Zero, studio ufotable has once again returned to animate the action heavy Fate/UBW route. While not perfect with some problems regarding characterizations of the side cast and rushed pacing towards the end, I believe ufotable have done just about as well as they could to bring the UBW to television, with gorgeous aesthetics, smooth action, and absolute best in class animation. There is a reason this version was nicknamed Unlimited Budget Works. I mean, just Look At This!
  4. Fate/Heaven's Feel - not yet released

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Fate/Zero


Penned by famed author and director Gen Urobutchi (also the man behind Madoka Magica). Fate/Zero started out as a series of 6 light novels beginning in 2006. It was later made into an Excellent anime series by studio ufotable.

Fate/Zero TV series
Released in 2011, Fate/Zero's anime series details the events that occurred during the fourth Holy Grail War, 10 years prior to the events in Fate/Stay Night.

Unlike Fate/Stay Night which looked at the Holy Grail War from the perspective of Shiro Emiya, Fate/Zero featured a large (mostly adult!) ensemble cast, each with their deep nuances and character motivations behind their participation in the war. Being adapted from Urobutchi's excellent work without the hassle of multiple routes, ufotable managed to make an adaptation that is able to tell a complex, thrilling, and oftentimes dark tale akin to a Greek tragedy. Add in excellent writing, good characterization (mostly), luscious artwork & animation, what you get is easily the best adaptation to date in the entire franchise, one that is a must watch even if it is the only part of the franchise you choose to watch.

In addition, Fate/Zero is perfectly fine as a standalone. You do not necessarily need to watch the original to enjoy it, though watching them both will undoubtedly add to your enjoyment in both.

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So... what do I do?

The specific answer to how a newcomer should approach the series really depends on whether or not that person is willing to read the Visual Novel.

If the answer is Yes, the answer is very simple. Simply finish all 3 routes of the visual novel, then proceed to watch the Fate/Zero, Fate/UBW, and Fate/Heaven's Feel anime by studio ufotable. This way one can experience the story as it was originally intended and avoid any unnecessary spoilers to certain plot elements. The additional benefit of starting with the visual novel is that the viewer may watch the anime adaptations in any order they desire.



But what if I don't wanna play the Visual Novel? Understandable, given its very substantial length of 60-100 hours of playtime with all three routes combined, depending on the reader's own reading speed. If one wants to take the anime only method, my personal recommendation do the same this as above, just without the Visual Novel. This method has the downside of missing out on the Fate route in Fate/Stay Night, which contains the majority of important characterization events for a few characters such as Saber and Illya. Options to remedy this is to watch the Fate/Stay Night adaptation by studio DEEN (though I won't recommend doing this), OR compromise and spend the 10-15 hours needed to read the Fate route in the Visual Novel (still less/about the same time as watching the not very good DEEN anime).

Ultimately, those are just my personal recommendations as really you should just watch the franchise in whichever way you enjoy the most. What I can give advise on is how NOT TO watch it:
  • If you haven't seen the Visual novel, avoid starting at Fate/UBW and Fate/Heaven's Feel as those two were made under the assumption that viewers have at least seen Fate/Zero or the Visual novel beforehand. 
No matter the case, I hope I was able to be of some help to those who aree interested in getting in to the franchise but are troubled as to where to start. Hope you guys will be able to enjoy the series as much as I did! ()




Afterword:

Thanks for reading my 'short' post today to the end! 

I hope you guys might like my first post and I wholehearted welcome any opinions, suggestion, or constructive criticism regarding my work.

Any suggestions on what you would like for me to write about the next time? It can be more detailed Non-spoiler-free articles on one of the individual titles listed above, or even your favorite characters are their backstory/mythos. Or would you like to hear about one of the other spin-offs in the Fate franchise, some of which are absolutely excellent in their own right. Hell, you can bring up any other anime/video game/manga/visual novel/light novel titles you guys would like to see, and either me or the other writers here may find the time to write about it, if we are able. Feel free to drop a comment below!

Thanks again for reading, until next time ( ´ ` )ノ











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