As Kiritsugu forces her to destroy the grail, Saber wonders whether it is penitence for being unable to understand her subjects, however even with the grail’s vessel is destroyed Kiritsugu can only watch on as Angra Mainyu’s curse rains upon Fuyuki and sets the city ablaze.
And so as Ilya recounts her nightmare sure that her father will return, Kiritsugu attempts to save as many as he can but within the inferno he can only find death. Meanwhile it seems that Kariya has managed to survive a bit longer, arriving back to rescue Sakura while dreaming that he had and would now live happily with Aoi and Rin, Sakura seeing his fate as that of someone who defied Zouken.
At this point Kirei also awakes with Archer before him, unstained after being bathed in all Evils in the World, who tells him that what he sees around him must be his wish as the winner of the Holy Grail War. The sight humouring him to no end as the two embark to decipher it, Kirei spotting Kiritsugu but being disappointed when he sees the him mindlessly digging through the rubble in search of survivors. From here the protagonist of Fate/Stay Night, Shirou picks things up as Kiritsugu finally finds a survivor, his expression of joy at being able to save someone having an everlasting impression. Sometime after all of this Waver is still with the MacKenzies when he announces his plans to travel the world, and finds himself surrounded by Rider’s ghost when he returns to his room, digging through his purchases until he finds a gaming console and decides to give it a go. Ironically Kirei provides the sermon during Tokiomi’s funeral, and when he meets Rin an idea comes to him, as a memento of her father he gives the Azoth Dagger to her. The weapon he had used to murder her father.
In the far past Saber once more finds herself at the aftermath of the Battle of Camlann, remembering Lancelot’s words to her that while she was the perfect righteous king, her inability to punish him for his sins and allow him to atone drove him mad, leaving her determined to seek the grail once more. Back in the present it’s revealed that Kiritsugu’s constant trips abroad that were referred to in Fate/Stay Night were attempts to rescue Ilya, but with what had even been his specialty lost to the grail’s curse he found himself wandering around in the snow each time. However there was one person he wouldn’t lose, following the war he had adopted the boy he saved, Shirou and settled down in his former base, five years later confessing to Shirou his wish and failure to achieve it. Shirou swearing to achieve it in his stead as the grail’s curse takes his life, a light opening up to Saber.
A few things aside I don’t think that this episode could have been any better, Ufotable really managed to nail the ending. It may have been kind of tragic, an ending where the villain wins and the protagonist is left a broken mess, but there was still hope in that the story wouldn’t exactly be ending. Fate/Zero may have drawn to a close but the story would still continue through Shirou in Fate/Stay Night.
This feeling of continuation was easily being the thing that I liked the most about it, as the episode approached its end it almost felt as if it would keep going after the credits rolled, the story would step forward another five years as Shirou took on the protagonist’s role with Saber, more determined than ever, at his side. The light that shined down upon her could even be seen as Shirou’s call to her, suggesting that she was once more about to be summoned. Let alone every scene with Shirou was pretty much perfect, during the epilogue there was still that sense that he was just the kid that Kiritsugu had picked up and little more (and likely to Zero only viewers as well), but just how monumental they both were for him could still be felt.
Seeing these from Kiritsugu’s perspective however also made them kind of tragic to say the least, with Shirou’s romanticism removed Kiritsugu died a broken man, his dream had been shattered, the grail’s curse was slowly killing him, and excluding the likes of Shirou and Taiga he had lost everyone he ever cared about. The part that hit the hardest especially, was the reveal of what all his trips abroad were for, from Shirou we knew that he travelled a lot in those five years but to find out that each and every one of those trips were failed attempts to save Ilya, sure that he would come back for her, was just depressing. As a result of the grail’s curse even that which had once been his specialty had been lost and each time he would have ended up just wandering around in the snow, that thought alone is simply heartbreaking.
In spite of all these depressing sorts of endings there was one bittersweet one however, the exact part about Rider buying a gaming console with two controllers may have been omitted but it had the same effect. Holding back his tears Waver would embark on a journey to follow Rider’s footsteps while trying his hand at new things along the way, unlike the other scenes in this episode it didn’t exactly fit the mold that the prequel format set but it was still a welcome sight, something that I had even been looking forward to even. With it Waver’s story has come to an end and we’ve seen him grow from a whiny boy to the man who would go on to be Lord El-Melloi II, leaving things on the bridge just wouldn’t have been enough.
Other than that it was interesting to see how Kirei interpreted Angra Mainyu’s curse, by viewing it as his own wish and wanting to decipher it he’s been set on the path that would lead to him playing the villain throughout Fate/Stay Night, and by extension to him and Shirou duking it out at the end of Heaven’s Feel. Which speaking of this episode really seemed to foreshadow (though my perception of it is likely just obscured by wishful thinking), other than Kirei there was also Kariya’s pathetic end. Sakura would have seen it as the result of all those who go against Zouken and as a result, further break her spirit, and when Shirou steps forward to do what he couldn’t it could be seen as something that would have been going through her mind. Either way with Fate/Zero at its end I’m really hoping that Ufotable will be able to adapt Heaven’s Feel.
Who ever thought we’d see the day where there would actually be another good Type-Moon adaptation after Kara no Kyoukai, especially in the Fate series where Studio Deen‘s death grip dooms any to mediocrity? I honestly used to roll my eyes at anyone who said that Ufotable should adapt something, but now I’m convinced, with this they’ve proven that they can not only animate good OVA adaptations but can do the same with a television budget and time limit.
For one thing the art style of the show actually looked like Takashi Takeuchi‘s style, it was small but it was really one of the things that I really liked about this show, it didn’t have the disproportionate stiffness or the buckets of red paint of Studio Deen‘s attempts to adapt Fate/Stay Night and even at its worst it still looked great. Accompanying this style I also liked the background as well, like Kara no Kyoukai they had a certain crispness to them but with the advantage of being able to see some of the same surroundings from Fate/Stay Night, such as the Emiya household, the Tohsaka manor, the Einzburn Castle, or even just Fuyuki itself. The city really felt alive as the story took place within it.
Yuki Kajiura‘s soundtrack was also one of the things that I enjoyed about it, it could be argued that all her and Kalafina‘s music sound the same but even so I still liked it, it was a soundtrack that fit the show and the two Kalafina songs that came with it were good to listen to as well. The only downside was the wasted potential in it, the original soundtrack of Fate/Stay Night already has a number of simply iconic tracks, and after hearing Kajiura‘s version of Sword of Promised victory I was expecting to hear her versions of Emiya or This Illusion where they would have fit, just imagine what the ending would have been like if it had played out with the latter or even this? But instead stuff happens like the Battle is Strong being played for every action sequence, it wasn’t entirely bad as on its own it wasn’t an issue but it was still something I was kind of disappointed about.
Last of all the approach that this took as an adaptation was also something that I liked about it, it may have been a bit wordy at times as a result but I thought it managed to explain things clearly, this may have just been from reading the novel beforehand but I still think this stands. It was generally easy to understand how things worked and most of the time what the characters were feeling and as such sympathise with them. Other than that it was also interesting to see Urobuchi Gen practice what he had preached through Caster regarding the entropy of hope and despair, he would present hope to the characters and lead them on along the way before completely and utterly extinguishing it, it may have gotten to the point where you just knew that a character wasn’t going to get a happy end but even so it was still something that I enjoyed about the story.
Overall I really enjoyed this show, as a fan of Type-Moon it managed to fulfill all the expectations that I had for it and even surpass them, looking back on it I would even see Fate/Zero as being this year’s epic. That anime that comes around once or twice a year and stands above everything else. And once more it really has me wishing that Ufotable and Aniplex will be the ones handling it when the inevitable adaptation to the final route of Fate/Stay Night, Heaven’s Feel is greenlit, with this they’ve shown what they’re capable of and then some. Until then however I’ll be waiting for the anime for Ilya’s spinoff, Fate/Kaleid Liner Prism Ilya.