Fate / Stay Night Vol. #5 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Fate / Stay Night

Fate / Stay Night Vol. #5

By Chris Beveridge     August 25, 2007
Release Date: August 21, 2007


Fate / Stay Night Vol. #5
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
In the aftermath of the last battle, only four Servants remain. Two of them inhabit Ryudou Shrine, making the next fight a dangerous one, as Shirou will have to face Assassin and Caster within their domain. Unfortunately, Shirou doesn't have time to strategize when one of his closest friends is taken there to be a sacrifice. Even with Saber and Rin by his side, Shirou rushes into battle at a great disadvantage while another Servant from Saber's past emerges onto the scene...

The Review!
Before anyone can catch their breath, the situation changes again as another Servant makes a grab for power ahead of everyone else.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
The design for this cover is simply great as it has the attractive image of Rin and Sakura together in the foreground with some vibrant colors while the background is of Caster and Kazuki as the sigils fly about. There is a good dark look to it while still providing the right amount of sexy fanservice. This volume's reverse side has the same style as the Japanese covers that features Sakura. 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 replicates the front cover artwork and it opens up to a two panel spread that features Sakura in a couple of different outfits. The back lists the release months for all six volumes of the series.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The extras are a bit minimal this time around but there are some neat moments to be had here. There's a brief promo video which highlights the various characters with some good shots and overall choreography. There's also a collection of various TV commercials, mostly for the CD singles, which albeit brief are very interesting to check out.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As the series races towards its conclusion, Fate / Stay Night has hit up some rather strong episodes as it focuses on the character relationships and the battles. Though the enemies are dealt with rather quickly all told, it means we're not sitting with one main villain the whole time who manages to continually thwart the hero. Even better is that it forces Shirou to grow along with events and keeps him on his toes. Though a weak lead in general, he continues to grow better than most.

The fifth volume has an interesting story arc that is relatively contained within the first three episodes. Though Shirou's situation has changed now that Illya is living with them, it doesn't have much impact on the storyline here as she's effectively minimized for the bulk of it. This works in the shows favor as it avoids coming across as too much more of a harem show than it already is. Having Shirou dealing with Saber, Rin, Sakura and more and then adding Illya on top of it would have been too much. Illya does get a few cute scenes before she essentially takes a nap for the bulk of the volume which does fit in with the lighter moments of the series.

The three episode arc is interesting in that it brings us back to the Assassin character, albeit at the tale end of things, by revealing that he's actually a Servant of another Servant. It's a rare case but not unheard of where as Servant is called, in this case Caster, who ends up killing off her Master and taking on another of their choosing. With Caster being so highly skilled in the magic arts, she's able to take mana in from others and call forth her own Servant. The Master she has isn't skilled in the arts at all for a Magus nor is he interested in just about anything. The connection this new Master brings to the table is interesting but it isn't really all that well explored unfortunately.

Caster however brings some fun to the table. While her true identity is revealed fairly easily, the one thing she does have is a real sense of fashion about her. Not for her own outfits of course but rather those she brings to her dark little cave. In an effort to call forth the Holy Grail herself without having to go through the numerous battles, she entices other Masters before her for sacrifice by kidnapping Sakura from Shirou's place. Sakura is essentially a zombie at this point but Caster sees fit to dress her up in some highly revealing and sexy black bondage style material that is a perfect contrast to her usual sweet and innocent self.

As interesting as this arc is, and it is interesting as it brings us the trio of Shirou, Saber and Rin as a team again, it's what is revealed towards the end of it that really gives clue to how the final episodes will play out. I'm not a fan of having someone mysterious yet connected to certain folks appearing this late in the game as it doesn't feel natural but there is a layer of discovery to the show as there are Masters and Servants we haven't met yet. The arrival of someone from outside of the game in a sense adds some serious uncertainty to events which keeps it from being far too predictable. This is highlighted in the rather unusual date episode that closes out the volume as it doesn't even play out like you'd expect. It does have its cute moments however, particularly when Saber snares a lion.

In Summary:
Fate / Stay Night is a series that continues to be interesting when I watch it but for some reason can't really synch with me in the long term. The show has a slow pace to it which works for the way it intends to build atmosphere and it punctuates it with some great action sequences that are brief yet intense. Great looking character designs and an interesting enough story without too many major plot holes yet it just doesn't seem to click as strongly as it should. These episodes are engaging and fun to watch, even as Shirou handles everything in a really awkward manner, but it feels as if its missing a strong hook in order to elevate it to the next level.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Promo Video,TV Commercial

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 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.

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