“I’m just gonna check this out; it’s probably nothing…” Shirou Emiya
Relations between unwilling Master, Shirou Emiya, and his Servant, the warrior maiden Saber, are distinctly strained. He’s filled with guilt because she was injured fighting to defend him – and she, in her grave, straightforward manner, tells him in no uncertain terms that he must not confront any more rival Servants on his own, but must call her to fight for him. But is he listening? It seems not…
When a classmate goes missing, and people keep collapsing from exhaustion in the city, Rin Tousaka realizes that something is up. She tells Shirou that other magi must be draining ‘mana’ from unsuspecting victims to boost their Servants’ fighting power – and their school is next on the list.
Potential deadly rivals in the Holy Grail War, Rin and Shirou call a truce and decide to work together to try to track down the other Masters and their Servants. And it’s not long before Shirou senses the powerful presence of yet another Servant. Too stubborn to call Saber, Shirou finds himself in deadly peril again as Rider attacks. Who is her Master?
Then there’s Shirou’s schoolfriend, Issei. His family run the local temple up on the mountainside – and he tells Shirou about a mysterious and beautiful woman who’s come to stay there before her wedding; apparently her presence is proving a distraction to the monks. It’s not long before Saber (having given Shirou another stern lecture) is hastening off through the moonlit night in the direction of the temple.
Have you ever had the overwhelming urge to scream at the protagonist of a drama, “For heaven’s sake, don’t be such a (substitute appropriate term of abuse here)!” I was sorely tempted to quit ‘Fate/stay night’ several times during episodes 5-9, so irritated was I at the dumb-assed idiocy of our hero, Shirou. Sure, we know he’s a nice guy, too nice for his own good, with his innate desire to defend the weak and all that blah blah. But when you’ve already died once (or was that twice? I’m losing count) and been brought back to life and then you’re told by your guardian warrior not to do anything rash without summoning them… Well, what kind of idiot proceeds to walk straight into danger, deliberately ignoring the wise advice?
‘Fate/stay night’ is constructed on an attractive premise: the ‘Servants’ are dead heroes from the past who have been summoned back to earth to fight – not just so that their Master can win – but also to fulfil a deep, unspoken wish of their own. And there’s no doubt that this story works best when there’s a duel taking place. The best animation is saved for the action sequences; at other times, characters sit around drinking tea and…talking. There’s plenty of eye candy to please everyone: the undeniably sexy Rider appears for the first time – although Emiya is in for a surprise when he discovers who her Master is.
But this series wants to have its cake and eat it, producing an uneasy mixture of standard high school tropes (wacky teacher Taiga Fujimura, boy-girl tension, etc.) and as yet more girls take up residence in Emiya’s house, I sense hints of harem…
A disappointingly uneven sequence of episodes after a promising start. However… don’t give up on this series too soon; there’s better to come on the next disc.