So what exactly is Fate/Unlimited Blade Works? (spoiler-free)
With Sentai Filmworks’ latest acquisition of the Fate/Unlimited Blade Works movie the entire line of Fate-related anime adaptations is now licensed in the U.S. In fact it is surprising that this movie wasn’t licensed up until now, considering that the original fate/Stay Night series (released by FUNimation Entertainment between 2006-2008) sold very well in the U.S. Even the obscure fighting game Fate/Unlimited Codes and the generic Fate/Extra made it to the west.
Arguably though, it was Aniplex of America’s decision to release Fate/Zero in the West that prompted Sentai to rise to the challenge and license Fate/Unlimited Blade Works.
But what is this movie really about? Is it a new story that takes place before or after Fate/Stay Night? Is it just a recap movie? Or is it something different altogether?
The answer is simple, and I’m going to provide it without revealing any spoilers. Fate/Unlimited Blade Works is the name of the second route in the Fate/Stay Night game. The original Fate/Stay Night game had three routes, two of which were not available when you started the original game. Upon playing the game for the first time only the initial route was available. This route was named Fate/Stay Night (big surprise here huh). This one plays exactly like the Fate/Stay anime, minus one obscene scene that was replaced by a roaring dragon in the anime…
Upon completing this route you were given the choice to start a new game in which several new optional scenes took place. If you made the appropriate choices during those scenes the story would then branch off from the Fate/Stay route and enter a different route called Fate/Unlimited Blade Works. This route was different from the initial route in three important ways: the outcome of some of the battles between the Servants was different, Shiro (Saber’s novice master) took part in the actual fighting instead of just playing a supportive role, and the story revealed who Archer (Rin’s servant) really is.
So while Fate/Unlimited Blade Works is part of the Fate/Stay Night timeline it is in fact a retelling with enough meat on it to appeal to those who know the original series like the back of their hand. The movie can’t really cram the story of the original Fate/Stay Night route, so those who haven’t see the anime will be lost in terms of plot and characters. This movie is all about battles and revelation regarding characters which you are already supposed to know and care about from previous Fate iterations.
The original game that started it all. Ironically Fate/Stay Night was
never released in the U.S. and has no legal English translation.
But what does the name Unlimited Blade Works mean?
Well, it certainly isn’t meaningless as Stay Night was (seriously, why give the game a name with no in-game meaning?). While the name Unlimited Blade Works has a meaning (and we are still in the spoiler-free zone here folks) it is also a little weird name to begin with. You see…there is no Unlimited Blade that Works. The developers of the game had “difficulties” in translating their thoughts into English. The name actually means Unlimited Bladeworks. Think about clockworks – the inner workings of a mechanical clock. Now replace the clock part with swords and make it work with unlimited swords. What you get is Unlimited Blade Works – a Noble Phantasm that only appears in this route of the game and gives it its name.
And that’s it really. I hope this information answers any question you had about this upcoming release. If, by any chance, you are interested in the third route of Fate/Stay Night…let’s just say you’ll have to play the game in order to see it. The third route is called Heaven’s Feel. Unlike the two earlier routes in the game Heaven’s Feel has zero potential to become an anime due to the fact that it is nothing but a gore fest filled with sex and crawling insects. Whether or not this is exactly what you wanted from the Fate franchise to begin with is none of my business.