Fate Stay Night
A game is played every few years. Seven magic users known as masters are chosen in a contest to to obtain the holy grail, which will grant a wish. Each master commands a "servant", a former great hero in history. Masters and Servants battle until only one master remains. There are very few rules, and pretty much anything is allowed provided regular people don't see them.
Shiro was an ordinary high school student, with an unusual talent for fixing things. On the way home Shiro witnesses a battle between two servants. When they catch him watching they pursue him to his home. Just as he's about to be killed, a beautiful knight saves him. Her name is Saber, and she will become his servant.
Shiro's talent for fixing things is in fact magic enough to qualify him for the grail war. While he has no desire for the grail itself, he wants to save people from becoming casualties in the battles, as he almost was. There's also the question of what the other participants would do with their wish. But as the contest ensues, Shiro begins to understand Saber's pain from her former life. Perhaps he can save other people, but can he save her?
Fate Stay Night is among the most popular visual novels in history. Seeing how similar popular visual novel adaptations have sub par results, I didn't have high expectations. While it didn't turn out bad, it isn't as good as it should be. Later on I played through the visual novel, and saw why a few points where the anime went wrong.
The visual novel contains three significantly different plots (for multiple play-throughs). The anime follows one, while cherry picking story points from the other two. Sometimes it works, by adding good "side story" kind of matierial, but at other times it's half baked. To me the biggest problem was the characters.
Shiro is the protagonist bent on the ideal of becoming a hero. The visual novel spents time on Shiro discussing and thinking on his phylosphy, and why he acts the way he does. The anime skips over that. Shiro is nearly killed repeatedly like a total moron, but it's never explained why. This seems like it's because his character is half assed, but if they explained his deeper ideals it makes sense. The problem was character development.
Saber's cold personality makes her very distant, and hard to relate to for most of the series, although she thaws a bit towards the end. The relationship between her and Shiro isn't particularly compelling, and none of the other characters are anything revolutionary either. This becomes problematic since they can't seem to drive a plot which seems good, but it's like everyone stumbles through it.
It a while to warm up to, but by the end I felt Fate Stay Night was a decent title. Considering the overwhelming popularity of the source material, it seems like it should be much more. A fair watch that I found myself indiffernt about.
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