The Fate Series’ Magical Animated Portofolio – Part 1

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The Fate franchise has been around for almost two decades now and is still going strong. As is it often the case with things that stick around for a long time, newer fans may feel overwhelmed by the impressive amount of content. Games, manga and anime adaptions, light novels, you name it and the Fate franchise most likely has it. Inevitably, fans will come to wonder, “Where do I start?”

Have you ever had to untangle your headphones? It can be pretty annoying and it may take quite a while till you can finally listen to that sweet music you’ve been meaning to enjoy, but that doesn’t mean the entire process is as daunting as you think it is. Most often, all you need is a gentle pull on a certain bit and the entire mess of cables comes undone.

The Fate anime franchise is much the same way. It’s pretty sizeable, and people love to overdramatize how much of a hassle it is to get into it and settle on the right watching order, but once you sit down and actually try to make sense of it you’ll realize that it’s so much easier that you thought.

Fair warning, this articles doesn’t go into detail regarding the manga serializations, light novels and games of the Fate franchise, only as much as it is necessary to give the proper context to the anime adaptions. The reason is that a lot of the source material for the anime adaptions, when there is any, has not had an official western release. Long-time fans have made do either by reading them in Japanese, their original language, or with fan-translations online at best, or reading summaries at worst.

If you’re a newbie, and chances are you are if you are reading this article, then you may have a hard time coming across such content. That’s why this article will only concentrate on the readily accessible anime adaptions.

 

Fate/stay night

This is the where everything began, sort of, back in 2004. Fate/stay night was the first instalment of the franchise in the form of a visual novel. It has three main routes, all cantered around Emiya Shirou, a boy who got caught up in the Fifth Holy Grail War against his will.

The first of these, the Fate route, was adapted into a 24-episodes anime in 2006 by Studio Deen, although it is not the most faithful of adaptions, borrowing elements from the other two routes as well. The route revolves around the relationship between Emiya Shirou and his Servant, Saber, and explores the young boy’s motivations for becoming a hero of justice.

Studio Deen went on to adapt the second route, Unlimited Blade Works, in 2010 into a 105 minutes long film. While an overall decent adaption, it had a fast pace and a lot of the content from the visual novel was cut. In 2014, Ufotable adapted the route in 26 episodes, plus an OVA portraying an alternative ending of the second route. Unlike the first route, this route’s heroine is Tohsaka Rin, a young magus and fellow Master in the Fifth Holy Grail War who takes a liking to Shirou. Aside from the change in heroine, Shirou’s ideals are pitted against reality, and he must prove that he is indeed walking on the right path.

The third route of the franchise, Heave’s Feel, was also adapted by Ufotable as a movie trilogy. The movies came out in 2017, 2019 and 2020 respectively both in Japan and worldwide, each with a runtime of about two hours. A wrap-up of the story, answering all the questions asked in previous routes, Heaven’s Feel tests Shirou’s ideals to the breaking point, forcing him to choose between becoming a hero of justice and Matou Sakura, his girl-next-door-type love interest.

Fans often decide to skip Studio Deen’s adaption due to its outdated (but nonetheless decent) animation and slight unfaithfulness and dive straight into Ufotable’s Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. The latter is one of the most popular entries in the franchise, thanks to its faithfulness to the source material, its outstanding animation and the fact that it has had enough time to cement itself in the hearts of the fans.

All in all, the recommended watching order (as well as the one that makes the most sense) is as follows: Studio Deen’s Fate/stay night -> Studio Deen’s Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works and/or Ufotable’s Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works -> Ufotable’s Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel I. presage flower, Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel II. lost butterfly and Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel III. spring song.

 

Don’t worry, the other anime adaptions are more straightforward than this. Check out Part 2 and find out about the other Fate works more closely related to Fate/stay night: Fate/Zero, Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files {Rail Zeppelin} Grace note and Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA.

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