It is very rare that I get to take a moment to enjoy a great anime film on the big screen. So rare in fact that I have only done it twice. This time I was fortunate enough to attend the North American premiere of Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel I. presage flower (Fate/stay from now on), and needless to say I am very happy I did. The film was shown at the Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles and the fans came out in force to show their support. Many of the people behind the film were in attendance as well including Tomonori Sudo (director) and Yuma Takahashi (associate producer).
This film is the first part of a planned trilogy that is based on the third and final route of the Heaven’s Feel visual novel. The story is centered on high school student Shirou Emiya (voiced by Noriaki Sugiyama) who is thrown into what is known as The Holy Grail War. This war pits mages and their summoned servants against each other in a battle to claim the coveted Holy Grail. Shirou Emiya is the adopted son of Kiritsugu Emiya who participated in the previous Holy Grail War.
Fate/stay begins just about a year before the events of the rest of the film. Things may seem a little slow for at first as it takes some time out set things up. Then about 15 minutes in, after what amounts to nearly of year in the life of our main character leading up to the Holy Grail War, the movie skips to the present day where things are pretty much in full swing. There is no way for a newcomer to fully grasp what just happened. If you are not aware as to why Shirou and RIn have teamed up, or if you have no idea who Rin is in the first place, you wont find out here. The movie assumes you are all caught up on events and that will be more than a bit jarring if this is your first exposure to the material. It does however become easy enough to follow after that.
Once the movie really starts rolling it hits you full force and doesn’t stop until the very end. We witness a bond form between Shirou and a young girl named Sakura Matou (voiced by Noriko Shitaya). We see this bond grow throughout the film and watching their heartfelt and often hilarious interactions with each other was one of my favorite things about Heaven’s Feel. Shirou and Sakura’s desire to protect one another with a war looming all around them becomes more the focus of the film that the actual war itself and I love that the filmmakers chose this direction.
That is not to say the The Holy Grail War doesn’t shine because the battles we are treated to are brutal, brilliantly animated and often fatal. Fans will be in for an emotional roller coaster ride anytime a battle begins with their favorite characters dueling it out with one shocking, edge of your seat moment after another. The main battles occur somewhat late in Heaven’s Feel but there is more than enough action throughout to satisfy.
From the very beginning it is very easy to see that great care was taken in crafting the visuals for Heaven’s Feel. There are even touches of 3D in the environments that are beautiful and while the film would have worked just fine without them, the attention to every single detail is greatly appreciated. There are scenes that were so well drawn that I swear I walked (and slipped and fell) on one of those very roads on one of my recent trips to Japan. Fate/stay literally featured some of the best animation I have seen in sometime especially on the big screen.
Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel is a mature and extremely well written film that does not disappoint in its visuals, beautifully composed soundtrack or acting. Newcomers may have trouble jumping in at first but it doesn’t take much to figure out what’s going on with a good audience in attendance you will fully understand what the critical moments are based on their reactions. Fans however are in for a huge treat with this movie and the knowledge that this is just part one of three. It was a big risk to release a film that leans more towards its fanbase than luring in new fans but it pays off in a big way and I was all in from start to finish. If I wasn’t a full-blown fan before I am about to become one right now.
Final Score 9.25/10
Tickets to see Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel are available and can be purchased @ fatestaynightusa