Well okay, I'll tell you about this show. Figures you wouldn't know about it... Baka! But... don't get the wrong idea. I'm not doing this because I like you or anything. It's just that you would just be lost without me! Stop looking at me like that!
Today we're looking at Fate/stay night, which prominently makes use of the Tsundere character trope by way of one of the main characters: Rin. Hence why the opening paragraph is phrased as it is! Clearly you should have known that though, Baka.
First off, the setup of the show is familiar to everyone. There's a game taking place between several individuals in the real world. The players aren't aware of who each other are, but they know that they need to kill the other players (or their servants, we'll get to that) to win and get access to the Holy Grail, which will grant their wish. The show takes this premise and adds the twist that each player is able to call forth a "legendary hero" to help them on the quest. They are called servants. These heroes in the show (by extension the franchise) appear to take some inspiration from real heroes (aptly so in Saber's case).
Our protagonist is Shirou, whom is unaware of the game at the start of the series, a young man that shows himself capable to using magic to fix and alter the composition of an object. Early on, when in danger, he calls Saber (his servant) forth to aid him quite by accident. After that, the series takes off on a journey into a strange world of magic and fighting other players.
The characters of the show feel very familiar. You've got the somewhat competent but undertrained Shirou, the no-nonsense fighter character Saber, the Tsundere Rin, and a variety of characters that play every anime trope straight. Even so, the relationship between Shirou, Saber, and Rin makes for an interesting topic of discussion in the series. Rin plays the Tsundere trope straight as can be: fluctuating between seemingly enjoying Shirou's company and coldly brushing him off. She's a rather complex character that I actually liked quite a bit more than I should have. Saber, on the other hand, starts off singularly on a mission to win the Holy Grail, even though it is clear Shirou has feelings toward her. This romantic subplot is pretty good, although it takes a while to gain the right traction.
If you can zigzag the fact that they aren't very original characters, the characters do a good job with their respective tropes.
The show is pretty damn watchable. It mixes action, magic, and mystery into a rather delicious cocktail. While it is never explored in-depth, I thought that the magic in the show was done rather well. It isn't used as a deus ex machina as many shows fall prey to, but it didn't make magic gimpy like others. Even the main character's powerful ability doesn't come totally out of left-field, they laid the groundwork for it well.
The show has the audience piecing together various facts about the magical world and how the Holy Grain war and its namesake are supposed to function. This injects a healthy bit of mystery into the show. It doesn't take it to the extent that shows like the previously reviewed RahXephon does, but it does give you a little of mystery to work over in your mind.
Lastly, the action of the series is a pretty good high note. It isn't action-packed, but the scenes that are there are well done. The animation work on the fights and in general is worthy of a notable mention; the animation teams did well in making the scenes flow and making the characters dynamic. All together, it is a very well drawn and storyboarded series.
Sometimes, though, the magic in series seems like it isn't anywhere near fleshed out. There isn't much of an explanation into what the gems that Rin uses are, nor are Rin's exact powers ever really fleshed out (might be intentional).
Furthermore, whoever is supposed to be running this madhouse of a game sucks at their job. Everyone breaks the damn rules. For a secret society of magical families, they don't seem like they're very interested in the fact that everything in the game is going to crazy town.
All-in-all, the show justifiably feels like we are missing part of the story when you watch it. The cumulative amount of questions and unexplained happenings are enough to make you realize that there is supposed to be more to this.
You would also be right. Fate/stay night is an anime adaptation of a visual novel. It suffers from compression pains it would seem. Random aside, I have not played the visual novel, but it seems that it is definitely not safe for children (which has hilarious side-effects on the show as I'll get to). Keep that in mind if you decide to jump over to the visual novel.
One of the most jarring slips in animation quality in the series was the gigantic slip in the CG sequence. Let's get one thing straight, the visual novel apparently plays this scene out very differently, such that the show runners likely forced the story writers and animators to come up with a way to avoid the situation altogether. What we got out of this was a hilariously badly animated dream dragon that eats off the dream character's arm. I'm serious.
The whole thing almost feels like a Take That! from the animation guys to the show runners. It is so obviously out-of-place and meshes so badly with the standard animation in the series that the animation guys must have done it on purpose.
I consider this series good, not really great though. It has certain qualities that it pulls off really well like the animation, the main characters, the central relationship, and the action. On the other hand some qualities aren't consistently well done like the worldbuilding, the plot, and the supporting cast.
The plot as-is can be good, but you get the sneaking suspicion that you're missing things in the story. This feeling is justified when you realize that the visual novel it is based on has three plot branches. This show only covers one. Even then, you need to realize that visual novels are big, so the show compresses some items down to save on time. What results is a show that occasionally exhibits signs of compression pains.
Even so, the show is capable of being great at times. The complexities of the magic in this world and Shirou's grappling with his distinct lack of power compared to Rin are nice. Rin's rather obvious reasoning for helping Shirou out repeatedly is endearing too, despite her Tsundere status.
This show will be best for people looking for a basic, simple show about magic; bonus points if you're looking for a show about a magical game where people kill each other. The romantic subplot doesn't get pulled to the front of the story in this series, so don't go in expecting that by any means.
P.S. I've been looking for a way to have a article open like that, thanks Fate/stay night!
Fate/stay night is not available for streaming.
EDIT: I have figured out that this is not entirely true. The Anime Network streams it from their website, but only the first episode is free. The rest of the series is locked behind Anime Network's premium pay wall.
As usual, I claim no ownership of the images herein. Credit for the "good section" image goes here.
I'm looking at Attack on Titan or Date a Live (skillfully avoided again) next time.
This is part of my Anime Review Marathon that I began in October 2013 to record my thoughts as I watch a variety of anime on my ever growing backlog. These reviews won't come out on a persistent basis, they'll come out when I feel I have seen enough of a series to pass a judgement on it.
You can see all my articles on Dex's Corner.