Stoic Sword-weilding Superheroines, Part 1 – Fate/stay night

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I haven’t seen this show so I recently picked up the DVD. The only volume out now has the first four episodes (obviously). Despite the name of the show (Fate/stay night? What the hell?), I liked what I’ve seen so far. It centers on Nobel Peace Prize future recipient (not really) Shiro Emiya. A high schooler who gets involved in some life-death contest with magicians for the Holy Grail. One of these is magicians, a fellow high schooler, Rin winds up helping Shiro understand what’s going on. there are seven magicians who fight for the Grail and they each have a “servant” who fights for them. Each of these servants comes from a special class of fighters (why do I get the feeling that I’ll be watching an anime with card battles?).

As luck (and the plot) would have it, Shiro sees Rin and her Archer servant fighting a Lancer servant. They notice Shiro and break of the fight to go kill Shiro. Its a rule to leave no witnesses behind. As the Lancer is about to skewer Shiro, there’s a flash of light and a blonde servant appears and fights off Lancer then Rin’s Archer. This new servant realizes that Shiro, despite having some weak magical skills that allow him to fix things, isn’t a magician. But somehow he summoned her and they’ve now got a bond. She tells him that her class and name are Saber. Rin shows up and takes them to a priest who is the referee of this Holy Grail war. By the fourth episode, both Saber and Shiro are both injured but decide to fight on in order to win the Grail. Both have their own reasons: Shiro is fighting because 10 years earlier, as he finds out, there was another war for the Grail that wound up destroying part of the city and took the lives of his parents. The man who adopted him was a magician who apparently took part in this war. Saber is fighting for her own reasons, but they aren’t made clear.

As I mentioned earlier, I like the series so far. Geneon releases the second volume in March or April, so it’ll be a wait to find out what happens next. I bought the regular DVD which has a the Japanese versions with English subs, a credit-less open, some previews of Shakugan no Shana (the other DVD I bought), Ergo Proxy, and GunXSword. There also a few sketches of the main characters that were introduced in this volume. I thought the animation was fine (with Kanon out, I can’t help but wonder how FSN would look like if Kyoto Animation did it). They kept the original Japanese opening and closing themes. Overall, a standard release.

I tend to watch the DVDs I buy with the English subs. However, the first time or two I watch with the English dubs just to hear and decide if I like the English voice acting. I think that the voices for the main characters are perfectly matched. I didn’t like the voice used for Sakura, it just wasn’t believable for me. Surprisingly, that’s the only voice I didn’t like. I also didn’t like the voice over that Shiro does, I think its unnecessary.

The characters designs are good. And its clear that the show is going focus heavily on Saber and Shiro (and his attraction to her). She’s a trained fighter with armor and an invisible sword. He’s not. She’s stoic and he wants to help people. In fact, he nearly gets himself when he jumps in the middle of a fight that Saber is having with a huge Servant (I really believe that he’s the type who’ll get himself killed trying to help others. And he’ll get you killed too, unintentionally). Saber is as stoic as they come, but being an anime, I’m sure that we’ll see her grow in terms of emotions.

That’s what I find interesting about the two DVDs that I bought. FSN and Shakugan no Shana both feature cold, emotional-less, sword-wielding heroines. There’s an appeal with these kinds of characters. They can effectively kick-ass and take names, but at the same time you know they have a vulnerability. And its in their emotional growth that the attraction seems to come from. We’re willingly manipulated into wanting whoever they’re paired with help them grow and by extension fantasize that we’re that lucky character who helps them/wins their affection. And damned if I didn’t want to be Shiro. I know its obvious and as I mentioned, we willingly buy into. At the same time, its enjoyable.We have sports teams that we’re devoted to, riding the emotional waves as they win or lose. And its no different in anime. Take Kanon for example, Makoto was my favorite character and at the end of her storyline I cried. There I said it. I, a thirty-something man cried for an anime character (but then I cried when Darth Vader in died in Return of the Jedi, so go figure).

Anyway, I like Fate/stay night (can anyone explain to me just what the Hell the name means?) and I look forward to buying the rest of the DVDs for FSN but I wish they’d make them available sooner instead of releasing them every few months. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to resign from the Manly Man club (and fantasize about helping Saber grow emotionally).

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