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DVD Review

DVD cover

Fate/Stay Night
Volume 1


Starring (voice): Ayako Kawasumi, Kana Ueda and Noriaki Sugiyama
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 12
Available 04 January 2010

It has been ten years since the last confrontation between the master mages for control over the Holy Grail. Now another war is on the horizon, one which will draw Shirou into its dark heart. As a survivor of a calamity Shirou, to honour the memory of his father, uses his magical gifts only for good. But how much will goodness keep you safe in this new war of the mages...

Fate/Stay Night: Volume 1 (2006) is an anime adaptation of an adult visual novel (2004), which was originally released for the PC and adapted as a light novel and the inevitable manga in 2005. The anime version, an adaptation of the light novel, was directed by Yuji Yamaguchi.

Volume one holds the first four episodes of this twenty-four episode series. The show is in no rush to descend to the depths of a ‘fight of the week’ format and essentially uses the first three episodes - The First Day, Fateful Night and Opening Act - to introduce both Shirou and the audience to the world of Fate/Stay Night.

When we first encounter Shirou he s an idealistic young man, partially out of reverence for his father’s memory, a man who dreamed of becoming a defender of humanity and only doing good works. When his father is killed Shirou is adopted by Kiritsugu Emiya, who cares for him. The story leaps ahead ten years and Shirou uses what little magical abilities he has to help people, but things in the city seem to be getting worse by the day. Unknown to Shirou this tide of crime is linked to the new war of the Grail.

Shirou is not the only student at his school with powers as he is soon to discover when Rin Tosaka summons a magical servant, Archer, to help him in the coming fight. Shirous first introduction to this new reality happens when he inadvertently witnesses a fight between Archer and another Servant, Lancer. His act of bearing witness places his life in danger when Lancer attempts to kill him. Without a great understanding as to his abilities, Shirou accidentally summons his own Servant, the powerful Saber.

Rather than being delighted at her summoning, Saber is disconcerted to discover that not only is her master an almost novice mage, with little power, but that he appears ignorant of the Holy Grail War. She takes him to see Kirei Kotomine, a priest who is more than he appears. Through him Shirou and the audience discover the background to the fight between good and evil, a fight which panders to Shirou’s own sense of justice. Here he determines to grow stronger and win the war, but Shirou remains inexperienced and weak compared to the other masters.

The last piece of the introduction is handled in episode four - The Strongest Enemy - wherein Shirou is attacked by Berserker and his Master, Illyasviel von Einzbern. Here we start to learn about the powers of the Servants when Saber has to heal Shirou of a fatal blow.

So far, so good. The animation is sharp and clean with an impressive 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer and the narrative is engaging. It will have to be seen if this can be maintained, or if we are looking at another show which is little more than an excuse to arrange a weekly fight. There is a strong link in the story to the Arthurian legends with many of the characters set to appear as the story unfolds.

On the down side the show only comes with an English or Japanese 2.0 audio track, with optional subtitles. The original Japanese track is the preferred audio here as the dub track is a little below what we have come to expect from a modern transfer. The only extra on the disc is a creditless opening sequence and some trailers.

So, a good beginning, but then how many shows have we seen which start out strong only to descend into formulaic hell by disc two? Time will tell on this show.


Charles Packer

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