Alright! It’s that time of year! I believe this is the first time that I am writing a last impressions for a show that I also did a first impressions for. It has been an interesting journey. If you read my first impressions article (which I recommend you do; this article was written assuming that you did), then you will know that I was super excited for Fate/Extra Last Encore. I made some grand statements about me singing its praises until the end of time. They were some impressively strong words in favor of this show. But it looks like I’ll have to retract some of them. I certainly did enjoy Fate/Extra Last Encore (henceforth Fate/Extra), but I am a character who has fallen deep, deep into the Type Moon rabbit hole.
Even after having completed the series, there are still so many unanswered questions that I don’t think I can provide a comprehensive summary. Having said that, here is my best recap of the plot of Fate/Extra. There is a Holy Grail War, but this time it takes place on the moon, and it’s run by this computer thing called the Moon Cell. Instead of seven masters, there are 128, except our protagonist, Kishinami Hakuno, is the extra 129th master. There is a number of floors that one must ascend. In order to continue, a master must defeat another master, but by the time Hakuno starts, the war has already been going on for hundreds of years. There is now only one master per floor, the “floor master”, and it’s basically just a series of boss battles instead of a battle royale. Hakuno has to fight his way to the top and figure out why everything is out of whack… I think… His motivation for going all the way to the seventh floor is something I could never figure out, as I will discuss later in this article.
With that out of the way, let’s start with my “final impressions” on the thing that confused me the most: the progression of the story. The pacing of Fate/Extra was all out of whack. After I watched the first few episodes, I thought that the show was going to be 22 or 24 episodes. There was the exposition and setup episode, then the show spent two episodes on the first, second, and third floors. Seeing this pattern, I thought, “Okay, seven floors takes 14 episodes, a few episodes here and there for additional exposition, two or three for the fight with the big bad, and one for the conclusion. That should be around 22”. What I didn’t expect was for the show to end after only 10 episodes. When the show skipped the fourth floor, I figured that my 22 episode estimate was wrong, and that the show was instead 12 or 13. I did not expect it to end after 10. I felt robbed. The ending didn’t feel like a conclusion at all. Rin and Rani continuously mention making it to the seventh floor, and it comes up almost too many times to count. I thought that if they were going to talk about it that much, then they would take the show all the way to the seventh floor. But no. After the sixth floor, the show ends. There is no real conclusion other than the fact that Rin gets saved from the endless fighting the Moon Cell has forced her to partake in. Episode 10 ended on a great setup for a fight with the big-bad. One more episode is all it would have taken. But the show just… ends. After all that build up, nothing. It’s like riding up to the top of a roller coaster, and as soon as you reach the top, the ride stops and everyone is told to get off. It was very confusing and made me kinda mad. Here I was, sitting around for weeks thinking that the show was over, and then the ending episodes gets announced!
The issues don’t stop there. While Sakura Tange does a great job as the voice of Saber while basically carrying the show, the way the dialogue is written leaves a lot to be desired. When compared to the writing of Unlimited Blade Works and Fate/Zero, Fate/Extra’s characters come across as flat and one-dimensional. Earlier in my first impressions article, I made a prediction that Hakuno’s “Dead Face” was an amalgam of negative emotions that had no real wish, which I was mostly right. But as time passed, I realized the flaw in having this kind of character. It is due to the nature of the Holy Grail War itself. People fight each other to have the Grail grant their wish, so a character with no wish who just goes through the motions gets boring. Saber doesn’t seem to have that much of a wish either. She just wants to get to the top, because she’s a Servant and that’s what servants are supposed to do. To be honest, the only reason Hakuno seems able to do anything is because Rin and Rani want him to make it to the sixth floor. Despite the fact that there are fewer characters to write for than a regular Grail War, and the chance to have each floor present a new kind of challenge that allows us to see a different part of each character, the writers still managed to make the leads flat characters with few defining features.
In spite of having harped on the writing and characters, I would like to praise the animation. I think the animation staff did a pretty good job on this. The fight scenes are visually engaging, and the camera work gives us some pretty screencap-worthy shots. My only complaint at the beginning of the show was the way Rin was drawn. It wasn’t the switching of knee socks for knee-high boots, but it was how her head and shoulders were drawn. Her lower eyelashes were longer than usual, her shoulders and neck were thinner than in other works like Unlimited Blade Works. These changes made her look like a middle schooler rather than a high schooler. As the series progressed, however, her appearance improved, and by episode 5, she looked like a high schooler again.
Speaking of design, the designs of the individual floors were well done. I particularly enjoyed the third floor, home of my favorite sad child, Nursery Rhyme. The design of the floor was very similar to a witches’ reality marble from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, with storybook style drawings, backgrounds that look like a child’s collage, and lots of scissors.
On the other hand, the soundtrack is fairly average. With so many shows airing all the time, if a soundtrack wants to stand out to this mediocre band nerd, then it needs to have some tracks that stand out or else it will just sink into the sea of all the other soundtracks. This is especially true for orchestral soundtracks. Throughout the course of the show, I didn’t find any other tracks that stuck out to me the same way that the Nutcracker-esque track from episode 1 and Celtic Carol track from episode 2 did. Now two tracks isn’t particularly bad for a 10 episode show, but the soundtrack didn’t do much to enhance the show’s atmosphere. It didn’t make the fight scenes seem any more exciting and didn’t add much intensity to dramatic scenes.
Still, despite the average soundtrack, my opinions of the opening and ending themes haven’t changed. Takenori Nishikawa knocks it out of the park with “Bright Burning Shout”, and Sayuri’s “Flower and Banquet” is a very good ending theme, with a fast paced middle section to prevent viewers from being bored, and a slower ending section to bring down the intensity at the end of each episode. The only bit that seemed strange was the sudden cut to the slower section, but I attribute that to the required editing of the song length to 1 minute and 28 seconds.
In my first impressions article, I implored my readers to watch Fate/Extra Last Encore if they had the slightest interest in the Fate franchise. Sadly, I have to revise that statement now. Upon further review, I must say Fate/Extra Last Encore is a show for already enfranchised viewers, and even then, it’s subpar. If you are new to the Fate franchise, don’t watch this as your first Fate show. If you have already watched Fate/Zero and Unlimited Blade Works and still want more, then you might give this show a try, but even then, it may not be right for you.
Now, as is tradition, it seems, let’s do the numbers, on a scale of 1-10, with 5 being average and 10 being the pinnacle of art.
Voice Acting: 6
Arbitrary Multiplier of x2:
Final Score: 58