Fate / Stay Night Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, May 15, 2007
What They Say
Obsessed with obtaining the Holy Grail at any costs, Shinji and his Servant, Rider, press their attack on a still weakened Saber. Thus it becomes imperative for Saber to begin training Shirou to improve his martial skills and aid her in the battles to come. When the final confrontation with Rider comes along, Saber is forced to reveal her hand. Who is she really? Saber's true identity is finally exposed, but which Epic Hero is she?
The battle against Shinji gets kicked up a notch as Shirou becomes a more active participant in the battles.
For our primary viewing language, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Both tracks for this release are done in a good solid stereo mix that comes across very well here. The show has plenty of moments of useful forward soundstage directionality to it when it comes to the dialogue and action effects. The somber and quiet atmosphere is also very well served throughout the show. The series has a very distinct mood to it with the soundtrack it wants to use and the in show pieces by Kenji Kawai build it up perfectly. In listening to both language tracks, we didn't notice any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006, this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Similar to other moody and atmospheric shows that Geneon has released recently, the transfer for Fate / Stay Night is in excellent shape and looks fantastic throughout. Beyond a couple of very minor moments of some shimmering when at least a medium range distance shot is occurring, there isn't anything to really take issue with here. The colors look very good, generally maintaining a very solid feel without much in the way of break-up or general background noise. The dark colors are very good looking while the vibrant areas shine just right. Cross coloration and aliasing are basically non-issues as well here, which leaves just a few areas of gradient visible but that's entirely a source issue.
Using artwork either from a rental version or maybe a reversible piece, the cover art here is another solid looking piece. Saber continues to be a solid draw in her design and this cover lets her strike an action pose while Sasaki fills in the background to add a bit of menace. This volume's reverse side has the same style as the Japanese covers that features Rider. The back cover is similar to the front in that it's a dark and stylish piece that features a wheel image that has images from the show along the way, one for each episode. Topped off with some character artwork it helps to maintain that really atmospheric feeling to all of it while providing the summary in the middle of it. The bottom portion is pretty standard though with a listing of the discs extras and basic features as well as the production information and a technical grid. The insert included has a new piece of art featuring the battle between Saber and Rider that opens up to a two panel spread that features Illya, showing off designs and shots from the show itself. The back lists the release months for all six volumes of the series.
Not really pushing the boundaries of creativity much, the menu goes with the simple design of a lighted magic circle in the center of the screen while other more obscured ones rotate in the background. The foreground circle has the logo along the top and provides your basic set of navigational points, including my disliked combination of extras and setup. Individual episode access is here though which is a plus. A bit of vocal music plays along with the menu but the way it all comes together it feels like it slows down in an odd fashion before it restarts. Seamless menus continue to elude most designers, though more from technical barriers than anything else. Access times here are decent but I dislike that the setup doesn't allow for choosing English with subtitles. The disc played according to our player presets though.
The extras are interesting for this volume though the labeling is slightly off. The first extra is the opening and ending songs done as music clips though they're listed as commercials. The first one runs just under two minutes while the second one finishes just under a minute and a half. I rather enjoy the live action music clips so they were a good bit of fun to watch. The other extra is an interesting piece, something of a rarity in general these days, which is Rider's Diary. It basically has a voice over of various clips from the show from Rider's perspective.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a bit of a delay between this volume and the last, getting back into the show took a few minutes to remember exactly who was who and what the entire deal was about. Once it gets past the prologue and opening however it all came flooding back and Fate / Stay Night proved very easy to settle into once more.
The series gets just up to the halfway point here and looks to set the stage for the next half while cleaning out a few remaining plot points. The introduction of the next phase kicks in early as Saber finds herself being drawn out by another Servant. This time it's an Assassin named Kojiro Sasaki who is very much in the traditional Japanese warrior mode. Their meeting puts things into context about the kind of abilities the two have but it is more focused on setting a promise of what's to come between them. Where their meeting causes the most relevant problem is in that Saber goes off on her own to meet with him and leaves Shirou behind.
Like many male leads, Shirou has been little more than a milksop at times as he's fairly weak and easily confused. Of course, living with several women will do that to you as will his situation in general. Thankfully though, he's starting to become more assertive and intent on not being someone that Saber simply defends constantly. The two have a mild conversation about his wanting to learn the sword and become a partner at her side which allows some discussion about their pasts and goals. Though Saber's is still relatively shrouded in mystery, Shirou becomes clearer about his reasons for wanting to fight and to be on the front lines with her. This kind of near equal partnership is very different from just about every other Master / Servant pairing out there and gives it all a better balance.
A good deal of time is spent in going through the relationship that Shirou and Saber now share and though it's slow paced it helps to make them a more interesting pairing. Time apart has Shirou thinking of her and their time together has them working to achieve the same goals. Neither character has been particularly interesting in the series though they're attractive and fun to watch. That's actually something that I can say about most of the cast actually, which isn't a surprise given how many people are running around and end up off screen for several episodes at a time. With the focus more squarely on these two now though their appeal has grown considerably.
What proved to be the most fun though is the pair of fights that happen against Shinji and Rider. Shinji's off his nut for a few reasons which makes him the unstable villain for the first half of the series. After being rejected by both Shirou and Rin for pairing up in the upcoming battles he's decided to eliminate Shirou first and foremost. Shinji's wild-eyed look at times combined with his frantic voice make him an amusing character to watch since he's fairly unpredictable. This nature actually brings out some great moments in Shirou such as when Shirou had him by the neck against the wall. Shirou's dialogue during that felt rather surprising coming from him.
As good as the character moments and tension is throughout, some of the best scenes come back to the action side of things. Saber's battle with Kojiro early on is fairly timid but hints at things to come. Shirou's bouts with Saber are fun to watch but also do the same in that they hint at how he might change. The best material comes with the matches between Saber and Rider as they go hard against each other. Rider has been one of my least favorite of the Servants so far but the way she's animated in this one as well as the extra time to allow her to really show off helps change that opinion. With her being something a bit more than a normal Servant she's able to really go to town against Saber as well as how she toys with Shirou. There are a number of solid action sequences in this volume that help to carry things along at a good pace.
Designed more to close out a particular arc and build up the characters and their connection to the viewer, Fate / Stay Night is in a transitional mode here as it hits the halfway mark. There is a lot of good material to it and some very well done scenes that provide some great action and tension but it does feel like they're holding back some. The action scenes are well animated as they have plenty of quieter scenes with little movement to it to help balance out that budget. Character designs are consistent and attractive and the animation overall continues to look great. The biggest change for me is that Shirou finally went from being pulled around by events to trying to control them. I long for the day when most male leads aren't pushovers and can be assertive once more.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Rider's Diary,Music Clips
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fate / Stay Night