If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my journey through Fate/Stay Night, it’s that I love Unlimited Blade Works to death. Each route has its charm, but I easily think Blade Works is the best all-around or at least the one that has grabbed and kept my attention, and I promise you that’s only half because Rin is the main focus.
That being said, Blade Works is not perfect by any means in the writing department. There are way too many overly convenient situations in the plot, like in the other routes, but Blade Works has them at an all-time high. Eventually, I will make a post detailing what I don’t like about Fate/Stay Night, but that’s for another day.
Now, you may remember that adaptation of the Fate route made by Studio Deen a while back. You know the one people like to trash a lot. I actually defended it in this post, and I still stand by that completely, even after watching Ufotable’s Blade Works. However, I think it’s time for me to stop holding back on Deen.
Because you see, Deen made another Fate/Stay Night adaptation. They took their own stab at Blade Works in the form of a movie. The Fate route has its issues, and I see and respect what Deen tried to do adapting it. Blade Works, on the other hand, is pretty awful. If you’re going to trash one of their works, it should be Blade Works.
So, why is that, and where did their adaptation go wrong? Let’s start with the most obvious reason: this adaptation was a fool’s errand. It was doomed before it ever began. Blade Works is too long and far too complicated to shove into a movie just short of two hours. At least if you want to do it justice, and believe me, this adaptation does not, and that’s me being generous.
If anything, this adaptation tramples on what makes Blade Works great and reduces it to a husk of what it once was. This is all the more obvious when Ufotable adapted Blade Works and did it so well it’s superior to reading the visual novel itself. Granted, they made the correct choice and turned it into a series, although Deen didn’t have that option at this point.
This begs the question of if there was ever any way to make Blade Works, well, work in a movie format. The short answer is no. You really can’t. Hell, look at Ufotable’s Heaven’s Feel adaptation. They had to do three movies to make things work.
Still, there are certainly ways Deen could have made things work a little better. And to be honest with you, they actually take some of the right steps. If I were to ask you what the most important parts of Blade Works are, what would you say? Think, I’ll wait.
You’d probably come up with Archer and Shirou, Shirou and Gilgamesh, and all the jazz between Shirou and Rin. Blade Works is a very heavy Shirou route, which is the main reason I love it. And guess what, the best parts of the movie are the fights with Shirou against Archer and Gilgamesh. They also have the most screentime dedicated to them.
Does Ufotable handle both of these better? Oh, hell yeah, it’s not even a competition. Gilgamesh’s fight with Shirou has some of the best animated moments of an anime I’ve ever seen in my life. But I can’t deny that the raw emotions in Deen’s Gilgamesh fight had their own charm even though it really went away from the source material.
The problem isn’t what they focused on. It’s that they didn’t focus on it enough. You see, they tried to do something, not unheard of, but risky. Deen made this in such a way that you can’t understand it unless you have prior knowledge of Fate. Almost every plot point is half-assed, and the prologue is practically skipped. That means this was made for those fans who want to specifically see this route adapted.
And for the most part, they adapt everything from Blade Works, but because they’re so tight for time, each segment is rushed just for the sake of fitting everything. Meaning those that wanted to see it won’t even be able to enjoy their favorite scenes in the way they deserve.
Take this, for instance. Do you know when we learn who Caster’s master is? During the church scene where Archer does a thing with Caster. Do you know how Shirou acknowledges that he knows her master? A quick flashback because we haven’t seen him up to this point.
But at the very least, it seems like Deen is committed to keeping this adaptation faithful. They’ve already made their attempt at splicing the routes in the anime. It’s time to give people authentic Blade Works, albeit rushed. And then they break that.
See, Deen didn’t try to separate this from their other adaptation completely. While it’s obviously a separate timeline, they wanted to keep it thematically similar to their Fate route adaptation, even if the route didn’t call for it. Part of this is that the Shirou and Archer setup is borderline nonexistent here. They want you to have Shirou’s backstory from another source, but the biggest offender is Rin. They ruined her.
Deen decided that they would just remove the Rin and Shirou romance entirely, and keep him more heavily fixated on Saber and alter whatever they needed to to make it work. For those of you who don’t know, Rin and Shirou’s relationship is not just “waifu of the route.” It is possibly the most important part of the entire route. Their connection is what dictates Shirou’s entire future.
It’s her fairly forceful concern that makes Shirou start to question his actions and realize that he lives an unhealthy life. It’s her that eventually gives Shirou what he needs to truly start to forgive himself and find happiness. She’s why Blade Works Shirou and Archer are different from each other and will remain different in the future. Deen figured all of that could be summed up with Rin being like “Yo, Emiya, you need to care about yourself more,” in a minute long scene.
You know the adorable, meaningful scene where Shirou confesses? Sweet, right? It still exists, just without any trace of romance. It’s one of those famous, deep, romantic, platonic moments. You know the one! Oh, what about the date where Rin teaches Shirou how to have fun? The date that really showcases how broken Shirou is inside?Yeah, we didn’t need that.
But there was one decision that just baffled me because the change doesn’t even make any damn sense! They were so determined to erase Rin as a romantic option, that rather than giving Shirou some of her mana by implanting her magic crest on him, they try to say that she’s giving him Saber’s command spells back, which somehow gives him the power to use Unlimted Blade Works.
Granted, they’re called “magic seals,” which sounds like some weird combination of both, but considering when they disappear, they’re just command spells for Saber.
Now, I don’t know if Deen knows how the lore works, but Shirou having the command spells shouldn’t do squat. A reminder, Shirou is so weak that he can’t supply Saber with enough power. Even when they were connected, Saber didn’t make Shirou stronger outside of healing. And that’s the problem. Shirou doesn’t have enough mana. It’s not that he isn’t being supplied enough. It’s that he doesn’t have enough to begin with.
This is why the magic crest is important. Shirou can share some of Rin’s immense mana to do the spell. So Shirou suddenly being able to use Unlimted Blade Works after getting control of Saber again makes literally no sense within its own universe. All of this, presumably, to highlight Saber and Shirou’s connection instead.
The problem is, Blade Works is focused on Shirou and Rin for a reason, not Shirou and Saber. Half of Blade Works Shirou isn’t even in the Holy Grail War by necessity. Blade Works is about Shirou, the broken human who Rin attempts to heal, not so much Shirou, the master fighting for Saber.
By removing this, you take away a lot of what makes Blade Works special. Not even to mention that Shirou is reduced to basically nothing. Little time is giving to him at all, making none of the Archer stuff hit hard at all. Throw that in with the fact that Rin doesn’t even get a chance to develop Shirou, and you’re not left with all that much.
Truthfully, I don’t recommend anyone watch this if they actually want something good. The only reason I would recommend it is after you see Ufotable’s so you can see what a bad adaptation looks like. Was it doomed at the start? Yes. It wasn’t ever going to work as a single movie. But beyond that, Deen made sure to do other things wrong.
It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but Deen really took liberties for the weirdest things. Everything they altered, made the story worse, and what they didn’t was rushed to the point it lost all meaning. This adaptation is weird, and really, let’s just be glad Ufotable decided to give Blade Works a real adaptation. Because the story really deserved it. Next time, we’ll talk about that much better one.
Thank you very much for reading
What did you think of Studio Deen’s Fate legacy? It’s an odd one. Full of kinda highs and pretty bad lows.