Another Fate show is upon us, and as my favorite anime priest would say:
I love the Fate/ franchise. It is my favorite anime series. Sure, Fate/Apocrypha wasn’t AMAZING, but it was still good enough for me to enjoy it.
So it is no surprise that I am in love with Fate/Extra Last Encore. I will sing its praises until the end of the earth. After the less-than-stellar Fate/Apocrypha from last season, I have been blown away by the piece of art that is Fate/Extra Last Encore (henceforth Fate/Extra). I despair at the meager vocabulary I have given myself, for none of these words can express the ecstasy I feel when I watch this show. And that is saying something, because I am going into this show almost completely blind. I know that Fate/Extra is based on a dungeon style JRPG, and I have the info from watching Stay Night and Apocrypha, but that’s about it. I have no clue what the Moon Cell is, or what a “Dead Face” is, and I’ve only heard about SE.RA.PH. because its existence is mentioned in the bio for Tamamo Cat in the Fate/Grand Order mobile game.
Because I have minimal prior knowledge, the story has opened in a pretty confusing fashion, even for a Fate anime veteran like myself. So far though, it appears to be a different version of the Holy Grail War, with Servants and Masters fighting for the wish-granting Holy Grail. Some exposition is given through dialogue that the war is taking place on the moon, and that there are supposed to be 128 Masters, with Hakuno being the unexpected 129th Master. These Masters are selected at the end of episode 1, and all the unsuccessful candidates are then unceremoniously murdered by these robot looking things with lances. The introduction of this “Dead Face” thing looks like it will be an interesting and new addition to the chaos that is the Fate universe. I have no clue what it is, but based off of the focus on Hakuno’s negative emotions, I would speculate that the “Dead Face” is probably the incarnation of negative emotions like hate and sorrow. If I were to further guess, I’d go out on a limb and say that the “Dead Face” is the avatar of the aggregated emotions of all the other students who died at the end of episode one. It’s a wordy way to say that the “Dead Face” is a really angry sadboi. I look forward to how that is going to develop.
I’ll admit that I haven’t actually watched that much of Studio Shaft’s previous works. For example, I’ve seen none of the Monogatari series, but I’ve seen enough clips of those shows to have a general idea of the studio’s animation style. Now though, I can really tell you what I think of Shaft’s work: I think it’s beautiful. While the distance shots are sometimes lacking in detail, the closeups and faces are so well done that they more than make up for it. The bizarre and bold color palette, with its massive color contrasts, stimulates the eyes. The attention that is given to the lighting and how it affects the environment gives the show an entire extra level of immersion into the world that is being built for you to enjoy. The lens flares are fantastically amusing to see and add drama to any shot that they are used in. There haven’t been any big fight scenes yet in Last Encore for Shaft to animate, so I can’t really make a huge comparison to ufotable’s flashy fight scenes. But with what I’ve seen so far, the greatest difference between the two animation styles is that Shaft’s style seems softer, with objects in the background looking less defined. This lack of definition is not a bad thing. It means that in each scene, there is one point or area that the show wants you to focus on.
Actually, to be perfectly honest, the only thing in terms of animation that leaves anything to be desired is the opening sequence. The backgrounds look a lot grainier when compared to the rest of an episode. This is disappointing because the opening is something I am going to watch every episode. It was nice to see Saber’s hair down during the sequence, though. It’s a fashion that I have never seen before, and I think I like it. Speaking of Saber, I adore her character design. This feeling of happiness I get every time I see one of her facial expressions is better than any drug.
The voice acting is above average. Hakuno sounds like a pretty generic character so far, but I am only three episodes in, so there is plenty of time for that to change. Sakura Tange’s performance as Saber is what really stands out to me. You can feel the energy coming out of her performance. I would pay unhealthy amounts of money to just have a drama CD of Saber. On a similar vein, I would also pay money to have Nakata Jouji make an audiobook as Kotomine Kirei. He has only spoken a few lines so far, but oh, his voice is like that of rich dark chocolate. I normally like to think I’m confident in my sexuality, but his voice really puts that into question sometimes.
And finally, what kind of “reviewer” would I be if I didn’t talk about music? I’ve only seen two episodes, and two tracks have already stuck out to me. The first track was the slow heavy waltz that plays when Hakuno goes down to the incinerator, with its heavy emphasis on the downbeat and use of the harpsichord, makes the scene feel like a black comedy, but the lack of anything funny presents the thought that something is very wrong. The mystery of the incinerator is augmented by the addition of the clarinet part; it reminds me of the Genie scene from the Nutcracker Ballet. The second track that stood out to me was the bagpipe music in episode 2, when Hakuno and Saber step out of their room and into the city as the festival is revealed. Heavy in bagpipes, flute, and upbeat strings, and sounding just like a Celtic Christmas Carol, the track supports the city’s atmosphere of celebration. With two memorable tracks in the first two episodes, I look forward to what else composer Satoru Kosaki has to show us.
In addition to the soundtrack having fun and exciting tracks, the opening and ending themes are stellar. I loved T.M. Revolution’s work in Thunderbolt Fantasy, and hearing him perform another powerful opening theme for Fate/Extra brings me great aural pleasure. Sayuri did a great job with her ending theme. I’ve fallen in love with her other anime themes, so “Tsuki no Hanataba” sounds like it’s going to be another winner.
In closing, please watch Fate/Extra Last Encore. If you have even the slight interest in it, start watching. If you found any other part of the Fate franchise interesting: Unlimited Blade Works, Heaven’s Feel, Apocrypha, Fate/Zero, heck, even Fate/Grand Order; I encourage you to give this show a shot.
Fate/Extra Last Encore is now streaming on Netflix.