Fate/stay night Movie: Heaven’s Feel (1-3) Route 2 – The Best Mainline Fate Since Zero

Sakura DID Something!!!!

Here we are at the end of the mainline Fate reviews. I thought about breaking each film out into its own review, but let’s be realistic, you aren’t going to watch just one of these randomly as that would make no sense. Instead, we are talking about the Heaven’s Feel films as a set. By the title, I hope you could guess that these are well worth watching. If all you wanted was a quick recommendation, well there you go! For those of you who want a little bit more though (and if you have read my Fate retrospective up until now, let’s not kid ourselves, you do), join me as we talk about why I enjoyed these films.

Is This Friendly to Fate Newbies?

The short answer is, I wouldn’t recommend it. However, I did watch these with someone who had seen absolutely zero Fate prior to the films. They gave these a fairly high rating and thought they were easy enough to follow. So it is possible. Though, again, I wouldn’t personally recommend that.

To make things super easy I’ll post another watch guide below as I have in previous reviews. This is how I’d recommend navigating the mainline stuff if you want to watch these movies. If we factored in other stuff, there’d be a little more to it, but those extra things would not be required in the slightest. Here’s the watch order guide:

  • Zero – This is optional, as mentioned but would strongly recommend it as it is just really good.
  • Fate/Stay Night 2006 OR Unlimited Bladworks – You need to watch at least one of these to best understand the films
  • Heaven’s Feel Films (1-3)

That’s all you need to get into these films. It might be slightly daunting, but you probably aren’t watching these movies if you don’t already like Fate at least a little bit.

What’s this About (Some Things Never Change)?

In case you somehow missed what this Fate thing was all about, let me do a fast recap for you. Like always, the Holy Grail War is back on in Fuyuki City. Shirou finds himself caught up in the whole affair as the war’s seventh master after summoning the most powerful servant, Saber. Basically, the premise hasn’t changed at all. We meet Sakura, Rin saves his butt and introduces him to Kotomine, Illya attacks them with Berserker afterwards, and so on. There are a lot of familiar beats across these three movies if you’ve seen any of the other versions of the story. This makes sense given what’s being adapted here and shouldn’t be all that surprising.

With that said, the story quickly deviates from the usual way the events unfold. Even the events that always happen, like the meeting with Kotomine, happen differently compared to every other version. These differences is where the story shines, that, and the way it is told is generally improved across the board.

But First, For Your Consideration…

This is what Fate was missing, apparently.

Everything Else

Jokes aside, what makes the Heaven’s Feel trilogy so good is that it doesn’t spend time beating around the bush. Kotomine is upfront with Shirou about his involvement in the previous war, doesn’t hide the fact that he’s a master, but he’s not the only one. Illya is initially the same, but she too reveals her true nature and connection to Shirou way faster than any other version. Rin conceals that Sakura is her sister like always, but when it’s clear that Sakura is involved she stops hiding it. In short, these movies don’t dance around plot points.

There’s an argument to be made that skirting some of these plot points like early iterations of the story do isn’t inherently bad, but after awhile you do start to want the series to just get to the point. I’ve seen every mainline Fate now, plus several other spin-offs, and I get it. I don’t need to see the exact same thing play out in nearly identical ways every single time. So this was a huge breath of fresh air.

Putting that aside, remember that I also watched this with a Fate newbie. They found there was plenty of mystery and engagement to be had without the plot playing coy. That signals to me that this the way the films went about delivering the information was a good call no matter how you slice it.

The changes aren’t the only thing that stands out in a positive way when it comes to the films though. Everyone’s favorite boy-to-hate, Shinji is an actual character alongside Sakura. He’s still a cartoonish villain in the franchise, and Sakura is very much in a passive role for most of the film, but their inclusion in the story is a lot stronger. They don’t feel incidental.

Once Sakura becomes more active in the plot (another big win, but these are about her after all), the story has already done most of the work to keep the viewer invested. This is still a Fate thing, so the ending is kind of silly, but it is the best conclusion to a mainline story outside of Zero by a wide margin. That’s because all the stuff setup in other versions, along with the promises made here, pay out.

That’s really it, the movies reward fans for caring. That might sound like it isn’t a big deal, but the longer I’ve spent with the franchise, the more I wished it would do that. Everyone got to feel awesome, we got more Saber Alter that I didn’t know I wanted until watching the Illya magical girl show, .and I had a pretty good time seeing it all unfold. What more could you ask for?

Well, I can think of a few things. Like I said, the ending is a little goofy. It tries a little too hard to be clever and force a happy ending, but the movies get away with it. This gets away with that whole “rule of cool” idea. Trust me, there’s enough cool in this thing to freeze Hell over for a couple hours if it wanted to. I could say a lot more about these, but I’d just end up spoiling everything. I’ll quit while I’m ahead with a final remark:  Do I recommend this one in spite of a few rough edges? Absolutely!

This isn’t the last stop on the Fate journey, but it is the end of the mainline series look. I hope you enjoyed my commentary and will consider reading the other content that is yet to come with this franchise. If you did, leaving a like, comment or making a donation via the buttons below is greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading and see you next time!

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