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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Fate/Stay Night, Vol. 4: Archer
Fate/Stay Night, Vol. 4: Archer
Geneon // Unrated // July 10, 2007
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted July 30, 2007 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Show:

Originally a visual novel style game released by Type-Moon back in 2004 Fate/Stay Night made quite the impression and garnered a following in Japan. Because of this, it should be no surprise that a manga and anime were released in the subsequent years. With 24 episodes under its belt the show was handled by Studio Deen (Rurouni Kenshin, Samurai Deeper Kyo) and has seen release here in America thanks to Geneon.

Fate/Stay Night tells the story of a war going on right below the edge of society. A show filled with magical beings, sorcerers, and intense battles is nothing new to anime but this one handles things a little differently.

For starters the lead character, Shirou Emiya, was not born into this magical life. His father who happened to be a Magi died when Shirou was younger and thus prevented the boy from learning all of the tools he needed to know in order to survive. Shirou knows some magic but it's limited at best. His greatest asset is a Servant (magical protector) known as Saber.

Using their magical abilities and Servants, the Magi fight each other in something called a Holy Grail War. That means poor Shirou is at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the field of new Magi who have been properly trained. Still, his tenacity and vigor for justice and protecting the weak keeps him going. He also possesses the ability to heal his wounds quickly which is a good thing considering he tends to put himself in the path of danger almost constantly.

In the third installment Shirou interrupted Saber's dual at the mountainside temple with the assassin class Servant. This prompted Saber to instruct her master in the ways of the blade so that he wouldn't be a complete waste of space and a nuisance. Their relationship grew more intimate and there were a few moments in between that hinted towards feelings between the two. At the end of the volume Shirou and Saber confronted Shinji and Rider on the top of a skyscraper. They won the battle and killed Rider in the process.

The fourth volume picks up the pieces of the third. Saber is recovering after using her hidden technique, Excalibur, and her mana is depleting rapidly. Shirou has no way of replenishing the magical essence because he is not a proper Magus so the only option, according to Tohsaka, is to order Saber to kill people for their souls. As Shirou contemplates his course of action he is abducted by Illya and taken back to her mansion.

Illya tries to convince Shirou that he should give in and become her Servant. Naturally he refuses but she rationalizes that if he has no Servant of his own he can't turn her down so she heads out to finish off Saber and kill Tohsaka in the process. Meanwhile those two, joined by Tohsaka's Servant Archer, have actually traveled to the mansion to save Shirou. This results in a big battle against Illya's Berserker, Hercules, which leaves Tohsaka without a Servant.

Given that Saber and Shirou are weakened and she just lost Archer, Tohsaka suggests bonding the pair with Shirou's magical circuits. This brings Saber back up to strength and connects her to Shirou more significantly than before. The two face Hercules and though Saber can't use her superpower Shirou effectively summons Excalibur.

The most interesting development to come from this installment is the revelation that Saber is actually King Arthur. Back when she was alive she effectively removed Excalibur from the stone and became the king of Britain. At this point it leaves a lot of questions unanswered because frankly, Saber is a girl. I'm sure in the coming volumes her past will be explored further but for now we're left to speculate about the details.

With the death of Archer, the confrontation with Illya's Berserker, and the details surrounding Saber's past, this volume became very interesting early on. From the onset this show has offered a lot of background and development to accompany the compelling story. Sure it's essentially a spin-off of Highlander in the sense that there can be only one who gets the Grail but it feels like much more than that. This is one of the most interesting shows being released right now and it's safe to say that Geneon did themselves a favor by signing it.

The DVD:

Video:

Fate/Stay Night receives a particularly vibrant and impressive anamorphic display on DVD. The show finished its run on Japanese television about a year ago so this transfer is about as hot off the presses as you can get. This is a dark series with a lot of deep shadows and it's nice to see that there is next to no blocking or artifacting that occurs. Grain is kept minimal as well though a few scenes feature heavier doses of it than others. Overall Fate/Stay Night is a very good looking program and Geneon gave the series an appropriate transfer that brings out its beauty.

Audio:

While the visual quality in the series impressed me I have to say that the sound quality didn't push the envelope quite as much. With 2.0 stereo tracks for English and Japanese a 5.1 surround mix is sorely lacking from this release. This is an action oriented show with some impressive sound effects and great musical direction. It seems only fitting that a series of this caliber would want to craft a greater sense of immersion. As it stands the presence on the soundstage is adequate as far as stereo presentations are concerned but the lack of rear channel support is disappointing.

Extras:

During the course of this fourth volume, the opening and closing animations for the show change. This disc offers a textless version of the new opening and another live action music clip for supplemental material. I would have appreciated a character diary like we saw in the third volume but I suppose you can't get everything you want.

Final Thoughts:

Fate/Stay Night may simply be another anime inspired by a video game but it feels like much more than that. The characters are interesting and the premise is compelling enough to create a rich atmosphere. The writing is very good as well and with each episode I felt myself being drawn in further.

With only two volumes left Fate/Stay Night pushes the envelope for drama and there are two climaxes in these four episodes alone. The series has maintained a fantastic balance between developing characters, furthering the plot, and delivering on the action. I can't wait to see what happens next and this has quickly become one of my favorite new series. Check it out and you won't be disappointed! Highly Recommended


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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