Thirty Day Anime Challenge: Days 13 to 17

FMAbrotherhood

Earlier this month I was reading Matt Doyle’s excellent blog. He had just completed a Thirty Day Video Game Challenge. That reminded me that I had yet to finish the anime challenge I started way back in July. Oops! I better make some long overdue progress on that by answering a few more questions today. For those of you who only subscribe to this site for reviews, and therefore have no interest in this series, I recommend that you check out these reviews penned by other bloggers instead…

Anime: Sword Art Online (Season Two)
Manga: Black Butler
Movie: Aquaman
Video Game: Pokemon Red/Blue

DAY 13: CHARACTER I AM MOST SIMILAR TO

I pretty much resemble any anime character who is a stereotypical geek. Perhaps you could compare me to a male version of Moriko Morioka, as I stay indoors all day, am terrible with face to face interactions and often play characters of the opposite sex in video games. I once asked a friend what animated personality I remind them of. They said Master Roshi, as I am a bald headed pervert. Can’t argue with that logic!

DAY 14: ANIME THAT NEVER GETS OLD NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES I REWATCH IT

These days I don’t have enough free time to re-watch shows. Just keeping up with the current season’s anime (and older stuff that I want to check out) is a big enough struggle. Many moons ago however, when I limited my anime viewing to DVDs, I wasn’t averse to watching a series multiple times. One particular box-set that got a lot of mileage was Full Metal Alchemist. No matter how many times I watch FMA it never gets old.

DAY 15: FAVORITE ANIMAL SIDEKICK, PET OR SUMMON

I had to rack my brain to come up with an answer for this one. Generally I am not a fan of mascot characters. You can blame eighties cartoons for that. Back when I was a kid, the cartoons I watched often featured comic relief mascots who were super annoying. Anime critters aren’t all bad though. I recently had fun traveling with Pikachu in Pokemon Let’s Go for example. After much thought I am going to pick Taromaru, the pup from School-Live. He’s very cute and played a big role in the show’s emotional finale.

DAY 16: ANIME WITH THE BEST ANIMATION

There were many contenders for this category. Garden of Words has some exceptional visuals, as does anything that has Studio Ghibli’s name attached to it. The last Madoka movie is also worth mentioning, due to a particularly impressive fight sequence. All those nominations however have the benefit of a motion picture budget backing them up. With that in mind my vote goes to Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. Who knew that a TV production could look so amazing? One could say that Ufotable’s artists brought their A-game to the (ufo)table in that series.

DAY 17: FAVORITE SUPPORTING MALE CHARACTER

I had to think long and hard for this one. Nothing immediately came to mind. Most of my favourite male characters, from the world of anime, are protagonists. Although I suspect a better answer will come to me later, I’m going to go with Akio Furukawa from Clannad. His childish antics make me laugh, as do the scenes were he gives Tomoya a hard time. Akio isn’t a one note comedic character though. During tough times he acts as a second father to Tomoya and is selfless when it comes to his family. This is evidenced by the reveal that he abandoned a career in acting in order to support his daughter. Instead of the stage he now works as a baker. The family business depends on him because his wife hasn’t got a clue when it comes to recipes. Octopus tentacles and bread do not make for a tasty combo.

 

Review of Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works

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Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is a twenty-six episode anime series, which takes place a decade after the events chronicled in the exceptional Fate/Zero. Once again a septet of rival mages must square off in mortal combat to determine who shall claim the fabled Holy Grail – a magical artefact capable of granting its owner any wish they desire. In line with the competition’s rules each participant is permitted to summon a heroic spirit to act as their servant/bodyguard. These mighty familiars take the form of legendary warriors who, depending on their preferred fighting style, are classed as either saber, archer, caster, assassin, berserker, lancer or rider (the last one on that list is so attractive that most guys would gladly ride-her.)

OVERVIEW

Unlike its predecessor, which covered the Holy Grail War from the perspective of all seven challengers, Unlimited Blade Works’ narrative focuses mainly on Shirou and Rin. The two teenage magicians have formed a temporary alliance in order to take down their mightier/less scrupulous rivals. Shirou Emiya is inept when it comes to spell casting (his powers are limited to incantations that enhance an object’s durability) but thanks to a strong sense of justice (and healthy dose of plot armour) he is able to overcome the odds whenever push comes to shove. His partner/love interest Rin Tosaka on the other hand is an accomplished magus who specializes in techniques that store mana within shiny gemstones. In case her twin tails hairdo hasn’t given it away already, she is a tsundere.

Studio Ufotable, who also worked on the show’s prequel, have once again succeeded in dazzling audiences with their pristine artwork. Although it may only be July, I very much doubt that any other show scheduled to come out in 2015 will surpass Unlimited “Budget” Works’ visuals. The sublime animation and CG enhanced particle effects make every Heroic Spirit duel a true marvel to behold. The spectacular action set pieces don’t however come at the expense of story. Fate/Zero may have delivered a more cerebral plot, but Blade Works is no slouch in the storytelling department either. Twenty-six episodes is pretty lengthy, by modern anime standards, but it’s barely sufficient to accommodate this rich visual novel inspired tale. To squeeze it all in a couple of episodes end up running for over forty minutes.

VERDICT

I am pleased to report that Unlimited Blade Works is a worthy successor to Fate/Zero, which is high praise indeed given that I awarded Zero the runner up spot in my Top 5 animes of 2014. Unlike Studio Deen’s subpar 2006 rendition of Fate/stay night, Ufotable have done the source material justice. Not only are the production values superior, but the narrative is vastly more intelligent too. The most prevalent example I can cite is how do-gooder Shirou Emiya is portrayed. I found Studio Deen’s take on the character to be insufferable whilst the Unlimited Blade Works version comes across as a decent protagonist. Of course one’s opinion of a character can only be enhanced when the script doesn’t have them spouting nonsensical lines such as the infamous “people die if they are killed.”

Despite all my praise Unlimited Blade Works does have some minor flaws. The biggest one would have to be how the story’s pacing dips during the segments that deal with Shirou and Archer’s rivalry. It would have been nice if some of the exposition could have been annexed in favour of longer fight scenes or giving more screen time to the supporting cast (particularly as a number of prominent Fate characters failed to do much in this route of the visual novel.) For a series based on an adult title I was also unimpressed by the manner in which the novel’s more intimate moments were circumvented. I wasn’t expecting porn, but what’s wrong with a tasteful fade to black that cuts to the morning after? Forget the birds and the bees… in the world of Fate/stay night it’s all dragons and dolphins.

FINAL RATING: FIVE STARS