Just a few weeks ago, I made another post on Unlimited Blade Works. I talked about the fairly obscure Blade Works adaptation Studio Deen did. Everyone talks about their Fate route adaptation and rarely touches on Blade Works. We’ll just say that’s for the better. Read that here.
In short, it’s not very good for a lot of reasons. Some being the way they altered the story, but for the most part, it’s a rushed mess of what Blade Works could have been. It’s not so much that they did something inherently wrong. It was just never going to work.
The adaptation everyone talks about when you say think “Blade Works” is Ufotable’s. Rather than make a movie, they made a 26 episode series covering the Blade Works route yet again, this time, however, stomping on Deen so bad that their adaptation isn’t even recognized anymore.
Before I had gotten into Fate, I had always heard how good Ufotable’s adaptations were, but especially their Blade Works. I’ve heard it was one of the most beautifully crafted anime series ever. I had no doubt that it would be amazing going into it, and it ended up still somehow being better than I thought. It’s not perfect, but it is a perfect adaptation.
The Blade Works route, despite having a few problems, is really good. Ufotable’s Blade Works is not only faithful but is hands down one of the best adaptations I have ever seen in my life, and it even further cements that after seeing what Deen tried to do.
This is when we have to ask ourselves a simple question: what is the point of an adaptation? Well, there can be a lot of reasons, but in the case of most anime, it’s to bring the source material to life in ways it never would before. Fate/Stay Night, the visual novel, is a bunch of words in front of pictures. An anime can do a lot more than that. It also serves the purpose of extending the work to a wider audience.
While Deen’s technically did both, it also failed miserably in those regards. The decision to make it a movie along with altering the plot slightly, led to a rushed slide show of what Blade Works was, missing all nuance of the route. And it was a terrible gateway for new fans as you needed prior fate knowledge to understand it, meaning all the twists were ruined if you didn’t.
Ufotable, on the other hand, knocked it out of the part in practically every way. If I had to sum up what they managed to accomplish, I would say they managed to create a perfect adaptation that elevates every scene from Blade Works to new heights while also creating a perfectly detailed, story-rich entry point to learn even more about the Fate series. It is as close to perfection as you could get. My only problems with it are the problems with Blade Works itself. Not the adaptation.
One of the most important parts of the whole visual novel is the prologue. It’s long, and it’s text-heavy. It’s where you learn everything about servants, masters, magi, everything. It’s slow, but it isn’t bad, and it’s important a new viewer understands it. It sets a solid foundation for you to understand everything that happens.
Deen made the decision to rush through everything in about a 5-minute montage. There are hardly any words spoken. Now, they had limited time, so cutting out something that’s a constant for each route was the right move, although it doesn’t change the fact that it’s awful for new fans, and I highly doubt Deen’s previous adaptation secured them enough fans to make a move like that.
Ufotable, on the other hand, did two 47-minuet episodes on the prologue. That’s way more effort than Deen put in even back on the Fate route. It’s really good, it sets the scene, it does everything right, and it makes it so someone watching it for the first time can grasp all the complicated information dropped.
That’s one way that Ufotable did such a good job. It’s a fantastic, and I might even say, the best entry point for the series period. Not only is it just good as hell, it gives you all the information you need to know to not only understand Fate/Stay Night but a lot about the series in the future.
And that isn’t only present in the prologue, of course. Every single scene is handled with the same finesse and detail as the prologue is. Every single scene you can think of from Blade Works, Ufotable nailed while remaining pretty damn faithful. I can only think of one real instance when they altered something, but it was slightly, and nothing really changed in the grand scheme of things.
Basically, they changed where Caster shows up and holds Taiga hostage. It went from randomly in Shirou’s house to after the date with Rin. Personally, it makes much more sense this way than Caster kind of just camping at Shirou’s home. It makes her more threatening, and the scene just looks better overall.
I almost can’t believe I’ve gone this long without mentioning this. There’s a reason I just saw a comment calling this series “Unlimited Budget Works.” This anime is pretty. Pretty does not do it justice, nor does beautiful, or any other synonym you could think of. Ufotable is known for making things that look incredible, and Blade Works really shows that. While Deen’s didn’t look bad, and I think it has some charm and decent lighting, Ufotable’s sure makes it look like crap.
Now, if you were to ask what parts look good specifically, I would honestly just throw a blanket over it and say everything. That’s not untrue. Literally, everything looks amazing. Oh my god, the lighting, the animations, the art style, the facial expressions. It’s one of those situations where I need to stop and remember that someone had to draw this, and I’m reminded how amazingly talented we humans can be.
It has a budget, and you can tell. And if you’re going to have a budget, you better make it look like it. There’s a lot I could say about the art, but I’d be repeating myself. I could talk about the great VAs, but that’s all I could say. They’re damn good and bring the characters to life. There’s also quite a bit I could say about Shirou, but that’s for its own posts. He’s a phenomenal main character—honestly, one of my favorites ever. I love him so much. Ufotable made him better than ever. As a straight male, I will admit, I’m in love with that beautiful man.
But there’s one aspect that, while being related to the art, is important enough to talk about on its own. Those fight scenes. Wow, those fight scenes. Take your pick. Look at any of them, and you will be blown away. Seriously, they didn’t need to go that hard, but they did.
We’ve already talked about how Ufotable has done two things with this adaptation. They made it a phenomenal, faithful recreation of the VN, as well as making it a detailed gateway to pull new fans in. What we haven’t talked about is how they elevated the source material, and the fight scenes are one of the many ways they’ve done that.
The visual novel does a lot right. It has text, images, and music; you can bring a lot of things to life with that. One thing you can’t really is fight scenes or anything with constant motion. Type-Moon actually makes a great attempt, with the sound of metal bashing into each other, CGs flipping and moving around. It’s fun but isn’t the same as something fully animated.
So if you were to make the source material better in any way, it would be through those fight scenes. There’s more than enough information given to animate them, and you can always have some fun with fight scenes as long as you hit all the main points. Deen did fine. They are better than the VN, but they won’t win any awards. And then you have Ufotable.
Every fight scene is fantastic and goes above and beyond anything Type-Moon could have done and what Deen did. Those fight scenes are the biggest nail in the coffin for Studio Deen. You could pick apart things Ufotable did better all day, but all you’d need to convince someone is to show them the same scenes side by side. Ufotable makes Deen’s, which weren’t bad per se, look shameful.
Ufotable knows how to do good animation, and fight scenes are clearly no exception. And as far as the visual novel is concerned, that’s the one area that no amount of writing or CGs can fix. It needed to be properly animated to be brought to life, and that’s exactly what happens.
They aren’t only pretty to look at; they help tell the story. Seeing Shirou get beat down time and time again by Archer, but still getting up, bloodied and bruised. That moment of hesitation Gilgamesh has not wanting to use his strongest weapon against a human that ultimately causes his downfall. Stuff like that just can’t be portrayed with words. You need to see it. The fact that it just so happens to be pretty as hell is an added bonus. A monstrous bonus, mind you. Still, the fight choreography and art direction are what really shine.
So, let’s go over what each of these adaptations did. Deen made a 1-hour and 45-minute movie, that while adapting most scenes faithfully, and having decent art, ended up being a rushed mess of what it could have been. Sad, but I do see what they were going for. They just had no chance of making it work.
While Ufotable made over 11 hours of some of the most consistently beautiful art you’ve ever seen, adapting faithfully the amazing route that is Blade Works while elevating the series with amazing, powerful fight scenes and putting their own slight spin on things here and there to create an even better story. The whole 11 hours looks and feels like and probably had the budget of a feature-length film.
It’s wonderful for fans of the route. I could honestly cry. It made me so happy. It’s an amazing starting point for those looking to get into Fate. And it is really, really freaking pretty. Yeah, it’s no wonder we don’t talk about Deen’s Blade Works. Oh, did I mention that Ufotable also did an epilogue expanding on the ending wonderfully? Yup, even more for fans of the route. Why the hell not? Just keep spoiling us.
Really Ufotable just did everything right. I reiterate this. There’s not a single complaint I have about Ufotable’s Blade Works adaptation. As someone just getting into Fate over the past year and absorbing myself fully in everything Fate, Ufotable knocks it out of the park and does a perfect job.
It’s not often that an adaptation like this comes around, and there’s a reason people are still talking about it. If you like Fate, watch it. If you want to get into Fate, watch it. If Fate doesn’t seem like your thing, give this a few episodes. Maybe the VN is too slow, or maybe you watched Deen’s stuff. This is what would hook you, if anything could. It went very quickly to one of my favorite anime series ever, just like I knew it would. I literally predicted it before I watched it. Thank you for saving Fate, Ufotable. You’re actually the best.
Thank you very much for reading
Which adaptation do you think is better? I would genuinely be curious as to why people prefer Deen’s.