‘Fate/Stay Night: Heaven’s Feel’

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Greg Wang, Staff Writer

Ufotable’s beloved adaptation of the third route of the Fate/stay night series will finally draw to a close when Heaven’s Feel III. spring song begins screening in North America on Nov. 18. Spring song is the last movie in the Heaven’s Feel route, the longest route of the three in the original Fate/stay night visual novel. Fate/stay night tells a tale of mages vying for the Lesser Grail, a crystallization of magical energy that is supposedly an omnipotent wish granter. The mages summon Servants, powerful beings of legend, to defeat other masters and reach the Lesser Grail. Servants are bound to the mages, known as Masters, with Command Spells, which are used to compel Servants to do acts they would normally refuse to perform, such as suicide. As with all visual novels, the protagonist, Shirou, makes choices throughout the story that guide him to one of many endings.

The first route, referred to as the Fate route, is the first route available to the player, and is triggered by stopping Altria (Saber) from attacking the Archer class Servant. Choosing this will allow the player to continue down the Fate route, which is the best route for worldbuilding and explaining the mechanics of the world. In this route, Shirou chooses to save his servant, Saber, from her internal struggles about her past. Together, Shirou and Saber fight the two antagonists, Kirei and Gilgamesh, a Master-Servant duo that survived the previous war. The two eventually triumph, and Saber fades away at the end of the war. However, due to the game being marketed as an eroge, the route contains several awkwardly placed scenes, which were removed in Studio DEEN’s 2006 adaptation. While the adaptation was able to address many plot points, the lackluster animation and translation have led most within the Fate community to deem it as poor and irrelevant.

The second route, known as Unlimited Blade Works, is unlocked after the original Fate route is completed. The heroine in the Unlimited Blade Works route is Rin, the daughter of a former participant in the previous war for the Grail. Unlike Saber, Rin is a mage, and therefore serves as competition for Shirou during the course of the war. However, they form a coalition halfway through the war, and they manage to destroy the Grail, which Gilgamesh planned to use to eradicate humanity. Through Saber’s Noble Phantasm (her strongest attack) and Shirou’s newly gained ability of Unlimited Blade Works, Shirou defeats Gilgamesh and wins the war. In this route, Shirou chooses to stick with Rin, as well as his ideal of becoming a hero for the people. Similar to the Fate route, the route contains tasteless fanservice, which was removed in Ufotable’s adaptation of the route. Ufotable’s 2015 adaptation was praised for its astonishing visuals and effects, which would be reflected in the prequel series Fate/Zero and the adaptations of Heaven’s Feel.

The final route in the visual novel, Heaven’s Feel, focuses on the last heroine, Sakura Matou. Prior to the events of the war, Sakura was forced to undergo torture from her grandfather Zouken, who used worms to make her a vessel for the Lesser Grail. This resulted in a loss of the ability to feel happiness, which caused her to become timid and submissive. When Shirou meets her, she is a husk of a person, being timid and almost emotionless. In this route, rather than becoming a hero, Shirou betrays his ideals and vows to protect Sakura. However, he is unable to save Saber, who is corrupted by a strange figure concealed by a veil of black and red tentacles. Through various encounters with the mysterious figures, servants and civilians alike begin to vanish. Eventually, the identity of the figure is revealed to be Sakura, who was goaded into giving into her desires and became a corrupted version of herself. It is revealed that as a vessel for the Lesser Grail, Sakura became Angra Mainyu, a cursed being that bears the sins of humanity. Shirou holds himself true to his promise to protect her, and attempts to free her from the curse, which leads into the third and final part of Heaven’s Feel. Unlike the other two routes, Ufotable adapted more scenes that were unlimited, as they serve as plot points, as well as showing Shirou and Sakura have a different type of relationship. Ufotable’s first and second installments in the trilogy received high praise from the community due to its amazing visuals. 

“I felt that if you played Heaven’s Feel until the end, you arrived at the grand culmination of Fate/stay night as a whole,” said character designer Takashi Takeuchi.

Of the three routes, Heaven’s Feel is often considered to be the darkest, but also best, route within the visual novel, as it fleshes out the details that were neglected in previous routes. 

 

Graphic courtesy of PINTEREST.COM