Review: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Part 1 [DVD]

Release Date
Blu-ray CE / DVD
Studio / Publisher
Ufotable / MVM Entertainment
Language / Subtitles
English, Japanese / English
4 (CE), 3
Run Time
384 Minutes

I’m a pretty big fan of Type-Moon titles and when a new Fate anime was announced I was overjoyed. My first entry into the franchise and Type-Moon, in general, was ten years ago with the first anime adaptation of Fate/Stay Night by Studio Deen. Now Ufotable has taken up the reigns with Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works and I couldn’t be more hyped for this release!

Fate/Stay Night, or simply Fate, was originally released as a Visual Novel back in 2004 and still commands a respectable pop culture presence today. The story has already seen an adaptation back in 2006 by Studio Deen which was released in the UK by MVM Entertainment. This adaptation was the sole reason for my love of Type-Moon works and, while it isn’t considered the best adaptation, I think it did its job. Fast forward ten years and Fate/Stay Night is back, this time coming from the fantastic studio Ufotable. Ufotable have enjoyed a pretty long history with Type-Moon having been adapting their works since 2009 starting with the Garden of Sinners (Kara no Kyōkai) film series. Personally I feel that the two are a perfect match for each other and have produced some of the best anime in recent years.

The main premise is that once every generation, a war takes place within Fuyuki City between Master and their Servants for the Holy Grail. Each master summons a servant, a powerful familiar who is a facsimile of a famous hero from human history. They then take part in an epic battle royale to decide the winner of the Holy Grail, an object that has the power to grant any wish. This can only happen when all of the opposing servants have been defeated. This generation follows our young and aspiring hero, Shirou Emiya, and the genius mage, Rin Tohsaka. Not only are their lives at stake but potentially the lives of everyone in their city. Part one focuses mainly on the relationship between Shirou and Rin with little interference from other characters, even their servants. Another main focus through part one is the villain Caster, her relationship with her master and her motivation within the Holy Grail war.

The Unlimited Blade Works storyline, or ‘route’, comes from the visual novel of Fate/Stay Night and, aside from it being considered the least favoured route, it has already seen an adaptation, from Studio Deen, in the form of a movie that stripped the story content to the bone. That said, this version by Ufotable is easily the best adaptation we have had of Fate/Stay Night to date. Following on from their adaptation of the prequel story Fate/Zero, it was hard to expect anything less. Ufotable have taken a story that brought me to the franchise and improved on it in so many ways.

When Fate/Zero came out, I’d always advised people to watch Fate/Stay Night first even though it is the sequel chronologically, it just worked better than way. Fate/Zero spoils some of the story elements within Fate/Stay Night initially but it seems that Ufotable have worked this into their adaptation of UBW. This makes watching UBW first a little confusing for some, as you’re expected to have seen Fate/Zero. This is not much of an issue but it might be something you’d want to consider before starting with this adaptation of Fate/Stay Night.

Ufotable have done fantastic work on previous adaptations of Type-Moon titles and why would this adaptation be any different. Ufotable have really upped their game with Fate/Stay Night; it has fantastic character models, good use of CGI backgrounds and outstanding action. One of the biggest within the series is how animated Rin’s face is. She’s always been rather stone-faced in previous adaptations but here she positively pops up off the screen with some of the most hilarious faces in anime.

The audio throughout the series is also top-notch and features some brilliant voice acting on the Japanese track. You’ll have to forgive me for not sampling the English voice track but I couldn’t force myself to change it. The opening theme, “Ideal White” by Mashiro Ayano, and the ending theme, “Believe” by Kalafina, are both amazing. It doesn’t end there though as a cover version of “This Illusion” from the original visual novel was used as the ending theme for episode 12, performed by LiSA. I could listen to each of these tracks over and over, never have I wanted an OST so bad.

On-disc extras include Promo Trailers, Clean Opening and Closing Animation as well as a selection of trailers for series including Beyond the Boundary, Black Bullet and No Game No Life. If you happen to go for the Blu-ray Collector’s Edition then you can expect an awesome Limited Edition Box with season one Key Art Poster, four Command Seal Stickers and a 24-page Artbook featuring concept art, storyboards and breakdowns by Ufotable.

I can probably go on and on about how great Fate/Stay Night, Type-Moon and Ufotable are but you should probably discover this for yourselves. Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Part 1 is a great continuation to the hit series Fate/Zero and a personal favourite of mine. The value for money doesn’t stop with the awesome Collector’s edition as quite a few episodes in this set tend to be 45 minutes so you can’t argue with that.