Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel I. presage flower Review/Ramblings

Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel I. presage flower is a film.

It is something that I watched, at a theater in Northeast DC. A theater that looks beautiful until you see the room that they show the movies in. Where all the little things go right. You can see that concept they were going for with the decor. In the end, however, the screening room sours your opinion of that theater.

Those emotions of seeing something do almost everything right, but failing to put everything together, is what I felt when I first played the route.

Heaven’s Feel is advertised as the deep route. The route that explores why the Holy Grail War exists. The route that focuses on the death and despair it wages. It gives the entire universe time to shine. All those characters that get killed off in two seconds in the other routes? They get all the time in the world!

But something felt missing. The route lacked the excitement I had while playing Unlimited Blade Works (Disclosure: My favorite route), or just plain old Fate. Maybe the differences got to me. Maybe I’m just salty that Rin doesn’t get all the screen time in the world in this route. In the end, I liked playing Heaven’s Feel, but the grand picture fell flat to me.

One important thing to get out of the way: Do not go see this film if you haven’t seen Unlimited Blade Works. This is not the film that wants to introduce you to the Fate Universe. Fate/Zero is also required viewing if you want to understand all of presage flower, and probably the other two parts as well.

presage flower is a movie that doesn’t want you to know what it wants to do with itself. There’s a prologue centered on showing the “normal” life of the main characters. That prologue takes up the first thirty minutes of the film. All of those characters have moments of development throughout that prologue. They each have moments where they shine. There’s a lot of interesting cuts and backgrounds. However, a few of the characters and a lot of the concepts get thrown to the wayside when the movie moves onto the chaos.

presage flower skips a lot of moments shown in other adaptations of other routes. Forty minutes into the movie, it enters the key scene we all know with Shirou “dying” only to be saved by Rin. Except there’s one massive change. As soon as Shirou “dies,” there’s a few moving pictures shown for 30 seconds with text in the background (what could be “opening credits” though they don’t credit much in those 30 seconds). Suddenly, Saber is shown walking next to Rin and Shirou walking through town. Yes, this movie skips the entire summoning of Saber. In fact, this movie does not show the summoning of a single servant. At least not live.

It seems that this film is just a greatest hits of the first part of Heaven’s Feel. However, it’s one of those greatest hits albums that doesn’t have all the hits that reached the top of the charts, in exchange for minor hits. A lot of the scenes seem minor, like pieces of development between minor characters, or fights that seem minor compared to others, but they get a lot more attention compared to what could be considered the “major scenes.” One of what would be the “major scenes” get 45 seconds of animation that isn’t even close to perfect, with stills that aren’t creative, and with OST that simply doesn’t fit in the background. However, there are some nice highlights. One highlight is the fight between Rider and Saber. You see 30 seconds of Ufotable at its very best, before the fight takes a completely different turn. And I liked the way Ufotable handled that turn. The fight between Lancer and Assassin is also something only Ufotable could’ve done. The animation, the shot selection, and the OST combine it to be one of the best fight scenes this decade.

Sometimes you see the all-out nature that made me love Unlimited Blade Works. Sometimes you see Ufotable just wanting to be different, with wanting to try out different shots, wanting to try out different styles of narration, wanting to not weave these scenes together, but to make the scenes Ufotable likes look pristine.

Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel I. presage flower accomplishes what should be its main goal. The goal of setting the audience up for Part 2. It handles the twist that the players expect almost perfectly. It sets up the reveals following that twist perfectly. However, what Ufotable did to make me excited for what they can do with this arc was one major thing. For you see, Ufotable did the unthinkable. They made Shirou look like one of the greatest characters in anime. That is something their UBW adaptation couldn’t do, and is something that Deen definitely couldn’t do.

The main problem with Shirou is that he always puts out the message that he’s a Hero of Justice, but that message feels baseless. In Heaven’s Feel, they actually show the meaning on why he considers himself one. Whether it’s the constant callbacks to Fate/Zero, or the backstory leading up to the action. For the first time in FSN, Shirou feels like a worthy Main Character to carry a franchise as noteworthy as Fate. When there’s a break in the chaos, and Part I finally ends, there’s a small monologue from Shirou. It doesn’t seem different from his various monologues in UBW or in the Deen adaptations, which didn’t have the best reception. Combined with the development he had, however, the monologue is the perfect note to end this movie on.

Maybe I’m just diving too deep into what was originally an eroge.

TL;DR — For most of its 2 hour runtime, Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel I. presage flower looks like the greatest Fate product ever released. But the full package doesn’t come without some laziness on Ufotable’s part.

Score — 8.8/10