Which Anime/Studio has the best animation?

It’s been a little while since I did my last editorial so it’s time to finally get back with it. I’ve had this one in drafts for a bit. Animation is certainly a critical aspect for any show you’re watching. You can have the world’s best script but if the animation is terrible or sub par then it’s going to hurt the product. Likewise if an anime has stellar animation then even if the story and such isn’t great it can at least be visually exciting to watch. Some anime know how to make what would usually be standard dialogue really interesting with the visuals or general angle direction while others allow a show to just drag on. For example shows like Railgun and Dr. Stone have excellent direction while to this day I would say Naruto Shippuden’s is pretty weak where it actually succeeds in making parts of the war not very eventful.

I’ve broken this down into a few categories though to tackle some of the nuance for animation. In general I consider hand drawn to be the absolute best. When in doubt always go for traditional hand drawn because you can’t go wrong there. The next tier would be CGI. CGI is at its best when it is supporting hand drawn such as the auras in Dragon Ball Super or many of the attacks in Fate Stay Night. When you blend it together it can look amazing but when the whole show is CGI…it usually can’t keep to the same standard. Your final resort is flash animation. You’re very limited with this style but of course that makes it all the more impressive when you can nail down a good fight. Teen Titans Go for example is a show that manages to have a good fight once in a blue moon. Don’t even get me started on claymation or such for a show though. Let’s….just not.

Best looking anime: One Punch Man

While this is a pretty easy pick for me it’s fairly relative. I would consider shows like Fate Stay Night, Sword Art Online, and Railgun to also be at a really high level like this. Part of what helps One Punch though is that it’s only 12 episodes though and each episode is just at such an insanely high level. Madhouse deserves the props for this one. They grabbed a whole lot of talent for this show and it really shows. Whether you pick a fight like Genos vs Saitama, Boros vs Saitama, or really any fight in the season it looks incredible. It’s hard to see a show beating this one outright but animation is something that is always improving so I certainly would not count it out. For something like this that’s tech based there is always something ready to surpass you at any moment.

Best animation company: Ufotable

So when I’m talking best animation here, I’m thinking about what company comes to mind first when I’m thinking of a bunch of incredibly solid looking anime. Ufotable may not have nearly the extensive resume as other companies like Pierrot, Toei, and J.C. Staff but the shows/movies they do churn out tend to look amazing. Just look at Fate and Demon Slayer. They consistently make waves with how good looking the products are and they keep it up for the whole run. You can tune in to any episode of Fate and expect the same high quality animation. There are no episodes that look bad or off model. That’s very impressive. There’s always a lot of attention to detail so every little movement adds up and it flows together like very few anime can match.

Favorite animation company: Studio Pierrot

All right, so what do I mean by favorite? Well, Pierrot I would say is the strongest company. Not only do they have incredible animation but they do it for incredibly long running shows. Bleach, Yu Yu Hakusho, and then recently Black Clover are great examples of this. Sure, an individual level may not be able to quite reach Ufotable and it’s hard to take down One Punch from Madhouse, but the shows above are 12-26 episodes. These three shows from Pierrot are over 100 episodes and they look excellent. I know Clover gets a lot of shots fired for its animation for some reason but the fights tend to all be rather top tier. To date there’s only one big fight where I didn’t care for the animation and in that case they were experimenting with a different style that didn’t clique but it’s not like they got lazy or anything.

You can watch pretty much any Bleach fight right now and they all hold up amazingly. Yu Yu Hakusho’s fights still have a lot of impact to them and Black Clover has a lot of energy. This is why Pierrot’s always been my favorite company. They always turn up when they need to and I think it takes a special skillset to really handle these kinds of long running anime. It’s just very difficult and seeing as how these three are some of the best looking anime I’ve seen for 100+ titles then it stands to reason that Pierrot can make a case for being the best company. I won’t put them as the best, but they’re certainly my favorite.

Most up and down animation: J.C. Staff

I thought about Studio Deen for this one since they also get a lot of shots fired but I actually haven’t seen a whole lot from them. What I have seen (Original FSN and Orphen 2020) have been pretty solid. Particularly Orphen 2020 which had a lot of dynamic moments. So J.C. Staff would be my main pick for this one. Mainly because at their best when they have time they tend to churn out some phenomenal titles. I don’t think it’s even debatable that Railgun S and T look amazing. The first season was quality as well and to date I’ve always really liked the very first Railgun from the original Index season a lot. Then you have some of the more recent titles where they’ve had a bit of a tough time like parts of Index III, Accelerator, and One Punch Season 2. So the first gif I’ve attached is the big rematch with Accelerator while below is more of a low key fight from an earlier season. I would make the case that the fight below looks better despite the one above being a lot more important narrative-wise. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad looking fight per say, but it would get destroyed by pretty much every Railgun S/T battle when it should be able to compete with those. Especially considering a character like Accelerator who has so many cool abilities as part of the vectors.

In these cases I would say it’s less about animation being bad/off model and more about just taking a lot of animation shortcuts. For example, instead of animating a full jump, zooming out so the character appears far. Effectively using less animation to get the same visual across. It’s noticeable but it’s not necessarily going to look really bad. There are many companies you could choose for worse animation but J.C. seems to work well for range since at their best they can keep up with anyone and at their worst you feel like they’re taking on too much work. They do seem to be taking a bigger workload than the other companies though. Just compare their history to the other anime companies I’ve already listed. It’s a huge section to sift through.

Worst looking anime Pop Team Epic

Keep in mind of course and this applies to all categories but I’m only considering anime I’ve seen. I wouldn’t be surprised if something like Berserk would go under this. From what I’ve seen Pop Team deserves this almost hands down. The only show close to it would be FLCL which also looks awful. That first season is borderline unwatchable…I mean the same is true for the sequels but at least the animation got better in those. So Pop Team has to take this. The fact that there is a ton of reused footage in every single episode just further reinforces my point. The show needed the bare minimum of animation and it couldn’t even pull that off. Of course it’s a style choice but that can also just be an excuse to not animate a whole lot. The styles keep changing throughout and yet it looks awful episode after episode. When recommend anime to anyone I can tell you that this would probably be my last choice.

Best looking CGI show- RWBY

RWBY is totally computer generated and you know I had to include RWBY in somewhere here right? The fact that Rooster Teeth has made this show so effectively on what is considered a fairly low budget makes me wonder why every other company struggles so hard with CGI? Clearly anime know how to use it well when fusing it with hand drawn but why is it so hard when a show is completely CGI? I don’t get it. It shouldn’t be so hard. Maybe time consuming short term but in the long run since your character models can adapt to the animation paths it should save you time I don’t see why it can’t be polished more. RWBY continues to show us what true solid animation is and it allows me to keep on hoping that one day CGI shows will all be held to this bar.

So that’s my roster for best looking animation for shows/companies. As you can probably see from my selections I do really enjoy traditional looking anime a lot. A lot of times the more “unique” and out of the box anime don’t work quite as well. Additionally I like striking colors. It’s why you probably wouldn’t see a lot of the more mainstream theater films making the list. For example movies like Your Name or even Digimon Tri tend to go for a more washed out look so there’s less color. Compare that to the show version like the original Digimon Adventure or Pokemon and the color is basically exploding off of the screen. More color is always a good thing and if you throw that in with seamless animation and colorful special abilities then you’re really in business. For that reason action shows will always have an edge over other titles because there is more that you can do to show off the animation. By that token in theory it should also be easier to see if a show is low budget though so high risk high reward. It’ll be interesting to see if any of the winners for the various categories change over the years but right now they all have a pretty strong position in the rankings.

Demon Slayer Review


It’s pretty neat to be reviewing the anime and manga versions of Demon Slayer almost back to back. When Ufotable jumped on to animate this series it was definitely a big deal. The manga went from being a pretty big Jump title to suddenly being a house hold name and breaking all kinds of records. It’s easy to see why though, Ufotable easily appears as the best animation company at the moment. (Although I’ll still take Studio Pierrot as my favorite company. They are able to keep a top rate level of animation for long running shows which is just as impressive but more on that in a future editorial) Their animations are just spectacular and the adaption of the manga is quite accurate. It’s certainly top notch in that respect but of course that also means the anime can get extremely violent. Ufotable isn’t about to shy away from such things so while this series is held back in that regard, you won’t be forgetting the battles.

The series begins with a kid named Tanjiro heading down the mountain to sell some wood and gain money/supplies for his family. Unfortunately when he returns it turns out that his family was murdered by demons. The only survivor is his sister Nezuko who has also been turned. Fortunately she is able to resist the urge to eat humans but she can no longer be in the sunlight. Tanjiro convinces an ex Demon Slayer to train him so that he can fight demons and ultimately find a way to turn Nezuko back to normal. It’ll be a difficult journey since we don’t even know if a cure is possible and most people won’t trust her since she is a demon. Still, Tanjiro does not intend to give up and is ready to brave any hardship to protect her.

We get quite a lot of training initially and you can see why being a Demon Slayer is not something that just anyone can do. Most people simply wouldn’t be willing to train for years at a time risking their life in the process just to get a job that we don’t even know has a salary to risk your life against monstrous evils. Fighting demons has to simply be something you are very resolved to do. Otherwise it simply won’t work out. In fact we see this later on in the series as a lot of people either dropped out or didn’t have the proper motivation and got bumped off pretty quick.

I’ll quickly talk about the animation part right off the bat to get it out of the way. It’s exceptional as you would expect. One thing I really liked here was how the show gives all of the characters very distinct eyes. Eye colors have always been a fun anime thing and I really enjoy when titles go all out with it. For example Shinobu has very dead eyes which makes sense for such a mysterious character and then Tanjiro has two layered eyes which are cool. They just stand out. It’s a little harder to get this across in a manga although Slayer did that well there too. To date the best example of a manga doing something similar is Kaguya: Love Is War but for the most part you usually have to wait for the anime. The fight scenes are absolutely on point with Tanjiro’s battle against the spider creature getting a ton of hype back when it came out. You would see that one everywhere. The animation’s just very consistent and even small things like the little character heads for bumpers during the more comedic episodes were fun.

Naturally the soundtrack is also quite good. It really sounds like a Fate soundtrack to me at times with maybe a little Naruto on occasion. I wonder if Ufotable has some kind of jurisdiction over soundtracks so they have to have a certain style. It all works very well for the series though of course. You can expect a lot of high intensity tracks to be played during the fights really cementing how high the stakes are.

Naturally as mentioned the series can be incredibly violent. While I wouldn’t put it on the same level as Fate Zero, it’s probably right after Attack on Titan for being the third most intense series I’ve seen. Characters are blown up, ripped apart, and suffer catastrophic injuries over and over again. Since the demons can regenerate it isn’t always a big deal to them until they finally lose their head. The show isn’t afraid to just show all of this straight up. Naturally a lot of random civilians also get thrown into the crossfire and don’t quite make it.

Some of the demons have pretty twisted backstories as well. The Spider demon saga probably had the most moments like this even though it also had the most epic fights. The spider demon son who was the main villain for example would just rip another demon’s face off and liked to punish them with his whips. The father demon was also demented as he terrorized the others. It was an extremely warped version of a family and you would expect no less from a demon tribe. Still, those scenes are definitely quite dark. In the final episode we basically have Muzan crush and dismember a bunch of his demons to remind them of their place as well.

In such a world even the heroes are rather jaded to the point where you even have one of them stab Tanjiro’s sister a few times. Those scenes are pretty tough since it makes it hard for you to root for some of these heroes. It’s always good to see Tanjiro jump in to help out. He’s definitely a very solid protagonist in any medium. Nezuko also deserves a lot of credit for staying strong in these circumstances. The level of violence means I’d be recommending this to a very select crowd based on their tastes but overall it really does limit the show a lot because of how frequent it is. More realistically this wouldn’t ever make the list on my recommendations for anime viewers.

Season 1 covers a pretty good amount of content even going into the big Hashira meeting and through to the beginning of the Train section. As the train arc is getting a movie I figured the show would end with the heroes walking out of the house so it was nice that we got a bonus scene at the end here. It also makes for a good ending point with a fresh adventure on the way and the opening act stories completed. Lets turn the clock back a bit though and talk about some of the opening stories.

The first mini arc is Tanjiro’s entrance exam to becoming a Demon Slayer. To do this he must survive a few days in a deadly forest with a lot of demons. This is one of those tests where you feel like the proctors could probably keep an eye on things a little more. After all it turns out that a super powerful demon is around picking people off and nobody figured it out. Ah well, it’s fortunate for the demons at least. It worked well as a first big fight for Tanjiro and he got to show off his opening water breath techniques this way. By avenging all of the students who came before him, Tanjiro started off his journey on the right foot.

Then you have the arc where Tanjiro meets two demons who are on the side of good such as Tamayo and Yushiro. They were good allies to have around for sure. Yushiro may have given Tanjiro and Nezuko a hard time throughout but he was quite devoted to protecting Tamayo which is important. Tamayo’s mastery of medicines was also handy. In this arc the group is attacked by a pair of demons who can use a soccer ball and one who can control the direction you move in. These were definitely deadly opponents to fight and Susamaru had to be the standout villain of the series. She was really confident in her abilities and even fought Nezuko rather fairly in a battle of brawn with her kicks. Ultimately Nezuko was still getting stronger at this point so she wasn’t quite ready to win such a battle but she made it awfully close.

Susamaru’s partner isn’t quite as memorable but his attacks were great. Honestly it’s hard to see how this guy could be defeated once he gets the arrows on you. Tanjiro did a great job of surviving but that had to be one of the deadliest fights for him. If Susamaru had just kept the arrow going up it could have been the end. I assume he has some kind of ability limit which prevents him from doing so, however it’s still a great attack. This arc was a great showcase for Tanjiro and Nezuko to fight.

After that we have the arc with the house that is always changing rooms. Tanjiro and a guy he just met on the road named Zenitsu. This Demon Slayer is afraid of just about everything though so he won’t exactly be the most reliable ally to have around. The demon in charge of this mansion may not be the most powerful in a direct fight but he can cause the house to keep shifting gravity angles so if you jump at him you’ll suddenly find yourself going backwards or to the side. He can also shoot shockwaves at you while you’re disoriented. Fortunately the heroes have some backup with a guy named Inosuke who is another demon slayer in the mansion.

It was nice to get 3 different Demon Slayers at the ready here. The fight with the demon was also pretty solid here with a lot of dynamic visuals of having to get used to the place shifting so much. I imagine even the toughest of fighters would have some difficulty adjusting to such a thing. Initially Inosuke was definitely a very antagonistic member of the group though, going as far as being ready to destroy a fellow demon slayer in order to take down one of the demons. Tanjiro had to go in and teach him a lesson. It’s definitely a common theme here that Tanjiro has to headbut/punch people back onto the right path. Inosuke ends up being more of a regular hero after that.

Then we have the iconic mountain arc. A family of spider demons have been murdering a whole bunch of Demon Slayers and essentially own the mountain. It’s difficult to deal with them because they can use their strings to manipulate the movements of the slayers and force them to destroy each other. Additionally one of them has the ability to turn others into spiders and then you have a member with pure power. Tanjiro’s crew is sent over to help out and it’s quite a bold order if you think about it since they were sent in as backup for a group of much higher ranked fighters. Needless to say this isn’t exactly easy. The three of them get split up and all have to deal with their own opponents now.

It was a nice showcase for all of the fighters. Ironically Zenitsu is really the only fighter able to handle his opponent without help. I guess it goes to show that his thunder breathing is really good. The show also highlights the weakness of only knowing one style though. Then you have Inosuke’s battle which is pretty solid. He has his confidence shaken at one point but then recovers enough to attack. Ultimately it wasn’t enough for him to win but he put up a really valiant effort. Finally you have Taijiro who had the iconic fight that everyone was talking about with the final sequence. The fight’s definitely top notch with all of the speed and energy attacks going into it. Nezuko and Tanjiro also got to team up for that effort.

The spider arc is probably also the darkest one though with the origin of how the demon spiders came to be. You’ve got betrayal but also a whole lot of punishments within the ranks. Anyone who defies Rui really ends up getting punished. He shreds his own family of demons quite a bit. The flashback where he effectively takes off one of their faces is pretty brutal and he also puts Nezuko through a lot. At that point Tanjiro definitely knew he had to step in. Rui’s tactic of taking his own head off to prevent anyone else from doing so was a pretty smart idea though. We know that demons can’t destroy each other so it makes sense that if he delivers himself a fatal blow then it’ll be tough for anyone else to do so.

You can definitely be a bit sympathetic to some of the other demons. Particularly the mother one had a pretty tough road. The sister seems sympathetic initially but then she has the flashback where she betrayed another demon and you figure she’s more manipulative than anything. One of the standout scenes of the arc aside from the flashy Tanjiro fight is certainly when two members of the Hashira show up. It’s always hype when you see backup of this level. You only get to experience the first fight for an upper rank once so this was a great way to do it. Gyu and Shinobu show up to offer much needed support and also show how much stronger they are than the average fighter.

Giyu immediately shows why he is the best character in the series (At least as of season 1) here. He’s incredibly powerful but also very reliable. Giyu was quick to defend Tanjiro when it counted. He’s certainly a lot slower to jump to murdering everyone compared to Shinobu. Shinobu’s also a great character though. I appreciated her backstory of why she hides her emotions. Effectively she is trying to fulfill someone’s last wish even if she really doesn’t agree with it. Her style of combat is also unique. She’s quietly quite sinister at times with the demons and it’s hard to say if she would have even kept her end of the deal with her offer to one of the spider demons. Perhaps though, we’re also shown that she has a kind side so maybe if the spider demon had agreed to the terms she would have been okay. That said, I can’t see this demon being able to resist humans the way that Nezuko could.

Finally the show ends with the heroes training at Shinobu’s estate and also meeting up with the Hashira. Naturally a lot of these guys are all in for murdering Nezuko and don’t really want to listen to reason. Giyu appears to be the only reasonable one again, even having to step in to stop the snake pillar from crushing Tanjiro. These hero meetings are always pretty hype though because now we’re really getting to see the whole roster of top level allies. All of these guys will be important down the road that’s for sure. I was glad Tanjiro wasn’t standing for their attacks on Nezuko and quickly jumped in. Nezuko is definitely given quite a hard time being forced to restrain herself so often.

This was a nice way to end things. We essentially got a preview of the future here and the villains had a similar meeting. For contrast Muzan spent it slaughtering all of his members except for one who is given another chance. Compared to how the leader of the Slayers handled the meeting by building everyone up, it was quite the contrast to be sure. We also get a good training arc here and I would say Tanjiro once again proves to be at the front of the class with Inosuke and Zenitsu both throwing in the towel early on. You can’t be a quitter and expect to reach the same heights as someone who trained hard from the start. Tanjiro’s good deeds are always rewarded as the teachers were inclined to give him tips on how to be stronger due to this.

I didn’t really talk about the characters earlier so lets run through the main ones. Tanjiro is an exceptional lead as you would expect. He’s always a nice guy who is still resolute in his mission to take down the demons. He’s very quick to protect Nezuko as well as anyone else who is threatened as seen in the proctor exam when he stopped another trainee from threatening the overseer. Nezuko is also a very solid heroine. From the start she is able to restrain herself from eating humans which is huge and she is also quick to support Tanjiro in his more difficult fights. She is a demon after all so her abilities are quite solid even if Tanjiro tries to protect her from having to engage in these battles.

Zenitsu is pretty good at his role of comic relief but he’ll likely always pale in comparison to the other characters. He’s not exactly the most heroic guy to the point where he hesitates a lot and always waits at the back of the line. He’s not a reliable sidekick to have and he is a little too obsessed with every girl he meets. For those reasons I wouldn’t say he is a quality character. Inosuke on the other hand is pretty great. He’s a vicious fighter who doesn’t give up very often. Inosuke loves competing with Tanjiro and in this way he continues to hone his skills. I like his competitive attitude although Tanjiro pretty much never jumps at the bait which really works Inosuke up. He certainly helps the dynamic.

Then you have Kanao who will have a much bigger role in the future. As of now though she has a pretty solid role here as she starts off pretty emotionless but Tanjiro at least shows her the potential of unlocking her emotions. She definitely had a rough backstory though so it’s easy to see why she sealed her emotions off. At the time I’m sure that was very helpful so she wasn’t hurt as much as she would have been by the tough conditions. Tanjiro’s teacher was also a pretty reasonable character although I thought he did a particularly poor job at preparing Tanjiro for the road ahead. Some basic things like teaching him more about breathing for long periods of time or at least a heads up that all of the other students went missing so something may be going haywire at the school. Instead he basically left Tanjiro to his own devices and we learned later on that he partially just didn’t want Tanjiro to succeed. It’s easy to see why since he doesn’t want anyone else to die but it’s rough on Tanjiro.

Overall, Demon Slayer is definitely a pretty intense show. It has really high production values and a lot of hype moments. While the best fight has to be Tanjiro vs Rui, I would say the most hype moment of the show was when Giyu faced off against Shinobu since there’s nothing Tanjiro can really do there except hope that Giyu comes out on top. The pacing of the episodes are solid and it all goes through in a breeze. The show tends to go too far with the violence though so expect some intense scenes in virtually every episode. As long as you don’t mind thing getting a little violent then I can definitely see you enjoying this one quite a bit. If you love the concept but want something a little tamer then I’d say to check out Yu Yu Hakusho which also involves quite a bit of demon hunting while also throwing in some tournaments for good luck. It’s pretty unique that the show continues with a movie before presumably going back into show format so if you want to stay current then you’ll need to check out the movie.

Overall 5/10

Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Review


It’s time to look at the legendary Fate Stay Night show. If you know anime then odds are that you have to have heard of this show at some point or another. The fate franchise has always been pretty massive and so it makes sense that when you take the best animation company and put them on this project, it’s going to be a big hit. I have a separate editorial talking more about animation soon, but for the sake of argument right now, Ufotable does have the best visuals. This show is definitely real solid and one of the things I like about it is how there are a lot of moral debates and philosophical discussions. I always like that kind of thing. The show’s first half is rock solid and while the second half stumbles a bit I would still say this is a very good show in the end.

The plot revolves around a kid named Shirou who lives a rather ordinary life at school. He is treated as a bit of a pushover due to his ideal of wanting to help everyone at all times. Still, he’s satisfied with where he’s at, but then he suddenly gets thrown in the middle of a big fight going on and is fortunately able to summon a servant in time to survive. He is now a participant in the Holy Grail War and must take out the other masters. Throughout all of this, he needs to keep his ideal of being a Hero of Justice. Ultimately that will be the toughest part of the journey.

Lets quickly talk about the Holy Grail War to really understand this. 7 Masters are chosen to be in this war. They are chosen by the Holy Grail and typically come out of prestigious magic families. Each master is then to summon a powerful servant who is a mythological hero of legend. The Holy Grail will only appear once a single servant remains so the idea is to destroy the other servants. Of course, the easiest way to do this is to take out the master since the servant can’t continue to exist without one. There are a lot of different methods to try of course and the only result that matters is victory.

The concept of the Grail War is definitely another gold mine. It’s basically the Hunger Games but with each player having an immensely powerful guard at their disposal. It makes for a great dynamic as well as trying to figure out who each Heroic Spirit is. Good luck though because a lot of them are pretty obscure. I dare say only two of them you would be able to figure out and even then it’s hard to say. The others I definitely would not have had a shot from the start. So from here the show really picks up. It’s got a very serious atmosphere throughout. Not to say that the show is without its happy moments of course. I’d say it’s definitely more upbeat than the original but there’s always a sense of foreboding.

The very episode (Episode 0) was the perfect pilot for the series. An easy 10/10 episode with a lot of replay value. It explains what is going on very smoothly while also giving us two fight scenes. I thought this was a clever way to also start the series off a bit differently by having Rin as the main character. While it might be a little hyperbolic to say that this is flatout the best episode in the series, it really might be. I’ve basically seen it 5 times (Twice normally, twice abridged, and once via reaction) and I can’t get over how well it is done. The characters are immediately interesting, the animation is out of this world, and the soundtrack is epic.

In general the first half of the series is pretty near perfect. I think the first 12-13 episodes (I forget what is exactly the halfway point but you’ll know it because the theme song from the original show plays) are basically 9/10 caliber. It has set all the pieces on the board and now you just need to see what happens next. I would consider this show to be an action mystery with some horror elements. At this point things are as dire as ever for the heroes. The villains really have all the cards and the problem is that there are different villain groups so you don’t know who to go after. I also thought the song here was perfect and suitably emotional.

Let’s continue with the strengths of the series. The animation is absolutely masterful. One Punch Man is still the best looking anime if you ask me, but this would probably take second. Ufotable really does not disappoint and all of the fight scenes here are excellent. There is no such thing as a poorly animated fight here. Everything’s just on point and it does a really good job of showing how powerful all of these characters are. You really feel the vast difference between the spirits and the humans. It also just makes a difference having great animation, really sucks you into what’s going on. The scenes just feel very powerful and you’re especially taken off guard in the beginning. Both the Archer vs Lancer (Round 1) and Saber & Archer vs Berserker fights happen within the first few episodes and quickly show you that you’re going to be in for an amazing ride.

The soundtrack is also top tier as I mentioned. The best theme in the show is probably the Archer theme. It was a really good theme to have show up whenever he pops in. Both of the openings are also excellent as well as the remixed version of the original theme song. Then you have Last Stardust which is a great emotional theme near the end of the series. Pretty much every theme in the show is really solid and you can keep on jamming to these tunes for a long time. It’s got a lot of replay value just like this show.

The script is also excellent. It’s a little harder to describe what an amazing script is without watching it but the show’s just super interesting. Just about any conversation with Archer and Shirou is one to watch. In general you could also say the same for any conversation Archer has. He just has a really good way with words and articulating what he’s thinking in a way that makes you really think about what’s going on. He’s certainly manipulative and uses this to great effect. Due to the nature of the show being a mystery, it’s also important that everyone acts cryptically without being too obvious. I thought it was all handled rather subtly. Due to how the show goes through 3 routes so you have to watch them all to understand everything, that spins perfectly here as not every plot line is actually explored, adding to the overall mystery of what’s going on here.

Now to the second half. First, I have to say that while it couldn’t execute nearly as well as the first half it is still pretty solid. We get quite a lot of top tier fights in the second half and they may even surpass the first half. Shirou vs Archer, Gilgamesh vs Berserker, and Rin vs Caster are all excellent fights. There’s a lot of variety in these action scenes so none appear to be identical. Since the tournament is getting closer to ending that means everyone is forced to start making moves so now the plot is at its most explosive. In particular I think that’s why Gilgamesh vs Berserker is a fight that particularly shines. I always like when villains attack each other because it’s harder to tell who will win. In this case you’ll have a really good idea just by context clues but it’s still great. Especially because Gilgamesh is a third party at this point so you really don’t know how he is going to affect things.

So what was weaker about this half? Well, it did start to creep a little more towards the Fate/Zero edge that I’d prefer to avoid. It never gets nearly as over the top gritty as that show but it goes farther than it needs too. One brutal scene is when Illya is blinded by Gilgamesh. It’s a pretty brutal scene and one that feels really unnecessary at that point in time. I don’t see how the scene really adds to anything. Then we get an origin story where a bunch of dogs get slaughters. That felt rather extra as well and there were much better ways to show a bond. Additionally I don’t see how the character got so injured by them when his durability should be so great.

The Caster and Saber stuff could also be a bit sketchy. It doesn’t go super far or anything, but why? Caster didn’t really seem like that kind of character. Especially from her origin where she is played as more of a sympathetic character. Why did we need kid sacrifices again? She did good in putting a stop to this even if it wasn’t in the best possible way. At the very least she was way better than her master. Finally there’s the Shinji and Rin stuff by the end. The show really wanted to do its best to make sure there was no way you could like Shinji. It succeeded of course and he’s definitely one of the worst in the series. These scenes together don’t negate all the good we get in this part of the series of course, but it’s also why it can’t come close to matching the first half. The first half of Stay Night is ideal and you could just watch it over and over again.

Shirou is the main character so naturally there’s a lot to say about him. He’s definitely a very solid character. Shirou does act a bit too much like a pushover during the start of the series but at least he has a better reason for it than most. He wants to be a Hero of Justice but is ashamed at how weak he is. As it stands, Shirou currently doesn’t have the ability needed to accomplish this goal. So in a way he punishes himself by doing all of these extra stuff. He’s still getting to help other people out which is ultimately his goal and that’ll just have to do. This war gives him a chance to really test his ideals and work to not let this game corrupt him. He does an excellent job of this and is definitely a very good main character. I already wrote an editorial about why his ideals are correct so it almost goes without saying that I think he’s great. He can also fight when needed and steps up when the chips are down. The other characters give him a hard time but would be in a tough spot without him. I’m not really on board with Shirou’s romance plot though. I think that could have been whittled down some.

Saber is the main servant here or at least she works with Shirou. In the first show she is definitely the main heroine with a ton of screentime but you could argue that her role is smaller than that of both Rin and Archer this time around. She’s still a solid fighter although I consider her to be over hyped in universe. When she is first being summoned there’s a huge deal about the Saber class being the most powerful and that everyone’s in trouble. Then she proceeds to lose almost every fight she gets thrown into or when she has the upper hand she is unable to close the deal. I’ll have more to say on that in another time. Power isn’t the only factor in how likable a character is though and so I still like Saber quite a lot. Her goals and motivations are pretty strong as well. She’s an excellent tactical fighter and is always ready to jump into the action. Her moves may be considered a bit more straight forward and basic next to what some of the other Servants can do but her physical stats are still high enough where she is able to get the job done this way.

Rin gets a huge role here so it’s important that she be a good character. Fortunately that is the case and part of why episode 0 is so good. She’s just a very interesting character and prepared well for this tournament. She may have messed up a bit with the time but that’s a pretty easy slip up. One of the reasons why she is really good is the fact that she can actually fight. Unlike most masters who don’t engage in combat she can actually charge the field along with her servant. She has a lot of good back and forth discussions with Archer. I think she tends to be a little too lenient on him given some of the actions later on though. She just figured out too many things which in effect made her sympathize with Archer even more but after a while it is a stretch. Either way Rin is definitely a highlight here though and has too many good scenes to name. I’d say her biggest highlight is probably the battle with Caster.

Then we have her servant Archer. He’s a very mysterious entity from the beginning as he claims not to know who he is which makes battle tactics quickly. Also, he’s an Archer but always uses a pair of short swords. Still, this guy is pretty powerful. He gives all of the other Servants quite a tough fight as the series goes on and his role is massive next to the original. The anime perfectly nails his confident attitude and the design is extremely crisp. He gets a lot of great dialogue with almost everything he says being memorable. Again, I already talked about him a lot in my editorial so I won’t go as far into this. Additionally I can’t talk about his appearances in the second half of the show as much without going into spoilers. Needless to say, his reasons for doing what he did was interesting but given his goal I feel like he could have made a move a whole lot sooner. I suppose maybe he wanted an even playing field so he could really have a battle of the minds. It’s a reasonable guess but he went really far in doing this to the point where he was basically willing to destroy everything. Not really a proper goal for a Heroic Spirit right? The guy’s definitely not very heroic compared to some of the others. He is quite jaded and even if he ends up doing the right thing at the end of the day in a lot of cases, it’s hard to call him a hero for the most part. Of course, there can be solid debates on that well. Regardless, Archer is a very interesting character and actually rose to being my favorite in the franchise. That was Gilgamesh for a while but I’d say that Archer surpassed him with this one. A mysterious enigma like Archer who manipulated everyone is just hard to top.

Rider doesn’t get much of a role here. She got a bigger one in the original show and even there she didn’t really do much at all. I think fans of her will be a little disappointed at just how quickly it’s all over. She was never one of my favorite servants thugh so I was okay with it. Illya was always one of my favorite masters though so it was too bad that her role was reduced. In particular I missed the scene of her kidnapping Shirou. I thought that was a really ominous moment in the series and one that definitely raised the stakes. She’s still really fun here too of course. She has a lot of great dialogue and was definitely showing Rin up during their fight. Her role may not be huge but she’s as confident and smug as ever so she’s definitely still a winner as far as I’m concerned.

Berserker is one of the big servants. I always thought it was interesting that his debut is that he’s basically the strongest servant. It seems to happen 3 times in the series, first for Saber, then for him, and finally for Gilgamesh. He is quite impressive though and his Noble Phantasm is very practical. I also like the fact that he is shown to be very agile despite being a Berserker. It makes him a complete nightmare to fight and he is consistently shown to be a very tough fighter. I liked the guy and despite his tough exterior, he does feel like a real hero unlike some of the other spirits.

Lancer really stood out in this version. He stole the show quite a bit and from all of the heroic spirits he is easily the most heroic. He has a very solid honor code and is willing to resist orders to do the right thing. I also liked his ultimate attack. It may not work a whole lot due to plot hax and all but otherwise reversing cause and effect is almost impossible to stop. How do you stop something like that? He’s just a very cool character and whenever he appears you know something cool is going to happen.

Gilgamesh is also a character that just radiates power and a cool personality. I like how smug he is and as you can tell, this show is filled with a lot of fascinating characters. I just wish we could have gotten more scenes with him and Archer. I think you have the potential for a lot of great character dynamics with them because if you think about it they’re very similar. Regardless he is one of the coolest villains in the series. He doesn’t fear anyone and you never get the feeling that he’s outmatched. If he would get serious a little sooner then I think he could have caused some real damage to the others here.

I already talked a bit about Shinji earlier so no need to go back into that. He’s a pretty terrible character. Kirei on the other hand is a lot more interesting. The fact that he’s more of a moderator is an interesting role in itself. He knows a whole lot more than most of the other characters and in a tournament like this that’s a huge advantage. He will be able to have a bird’s eye view of things. The voice chosen for him is perfect as well and I always did like the claw type weapons he uses. I’d have liked to see him do more in the series. Then you have the crew at Shirou’s home like Sakura and Taiga but they don’t really get to do anything here. Sakura has some interesting scenes with Gilgamesh but they’re completely off screen. I was surprised Shirou never tries to ask about that but I suppose at this point in time he was trying to keep her out of this. Taiga’s a reasonable comedy character. Her scenes don’t amount to much by themselves but it was good to show Shirou’s normal life before everything completely changed. She’s also good at fencing which is nice to note. At least it means she can fight a bit in self defense although it won’t help against a servant.

Caster gets a huge role in this series to the point where you could call her the main villain of the series. She may not be a close quarters fighter but her magic is so versatile that she can go head to head with just about any other servant. She tends to bend the rules quite a lot, making a mockery of the whole thing. That’s a solid way to approach things for a Caster though and I liked her plan. It was really just about perfect if you ask me and she just took too many risks by the end. She got way too greedy and it cost her.

Assassin is a pretty interesting character as well. In part he doesn’t feel like an Assassin though because the guy fights with a sword at close combat and quite well. He was easily overwhelming Saber after all. He’s very honorable and really just got a bad hand here. His actions are quite limited but he will leave a solid impression on you. Definitely a really fun character. Then you have Kuzuki. He does give some power level issues here though. I am glad to see a master who can fight but he should not have been able to do anything against Saber. I can understand the magic amping up his attacks to deal damage but he should have been far too slow to land any hits. No matter how the show tried to explain it I couldn’t buy into that. He made for a solid antagonist though. His set of ideals are definitely quite different compared to the other characters and how dead inside he is was pretty interesting. He’s a villain who isn’t pretending to be anything else.

There are more characters of course but those are the big ones. So I think this is a pretty good recap of the series. Ultimately one last thing to say here is that Fate has a ton of themes. That’s part of what makes it so much fun is there’s a lot to discuss and think about here. Every character has quite a lot of motivations going on here and a full plot to themselves. When you add that to every character then you’ve got a large multi layered story. It’s hard to find a story with as much depth as Fate. Typically you see this kind of atmosphere the more you get into pretty intense territory like Attack on Titan so Fate was able to grab that atmosphere without getting mired with the usual negatives that come with it. That in itself is pretty impressive.

One quick thing to note here is that the power levels can be a bit iffy though. I already touched on the whole Kuzuki managing to take on Saber and even overwhelming her in close quarters combat. I don’t see how that’s possible. Then you have the fact that Saber is supposed to be the strongest Saber but gets beaten left and right by just about everyone. I have an editorial for that at some point as well. How is she losing to Archer near the end of the series when the guy’s been without a master for a while and is super weakened? This is sometimes an issue for various shows where all of the characters have a lot of hype so we get a lot of deadlocks. There are quite a few of those here. Still, in this show it’s not like everyone lives so things do come to an end. Some fights just aren’t as believable as others. Archer vs Shirou made sense with the realization that one character was holding back for legitimate reasons while Gilgamesh vs Shirou is more suspect.

Overall, Fate Stay Night is definitely a show I would recommend. It’s got a top tier production behind it and now I can finally understand for real why it’s titled Unlimited Budget Works by fans. The series has a ton of replay value. When you’ve got a story that already has a good plot and then throw excellent music and animation at it you know you’ve got a winner. Ultimately I still did prefer the original version ever so slightly. It does lack in animation and soundtrack compared to this one but I thought it really nailed the uncertainty and the scary atmosphere of Fate. Perhaps it is due to the animation being darker and more misty but that show’s pretty hard to top. I also thought no moment in this show was quite as powerful as the Archer vs Berserker fight from that series which I never forgot. It was a real highlight for me. Either way, whether you’re a Fate fan or not you should definitely check this out. Unlimited Blade Works definitely sets a pretty high bar and there’s a lot to talk about here.

Overall 7/10

Clash of Ideals: Shirou vs Archer Who is right?


It goes without saying that this editorial will contain complete spoilers for Fate Stay Night. If you haven’t watched any of the routes yet, particularly Unlimited Blade Works then you should hold off on reading this editorial. I will do my best not to go too into depth here with spoilers as they aren’t really needed for the most part but some of them are inevitable. Particularly any involving Shirou and Archer.

I really like philosophical debates. It’s something that I always find fascinating in a show or movie. Shows have a better opportunity to really get the views across though as a movie only has so much time. It’s also difficult to try and portray both versions well. Typically as soon as the debate starts you know which one the movie or show is going to portray as correct. As a result the other one may end up being portrayed with strawman arguments that don’t really work. An example of a recent movie that did this really well was Infinity War. While Thanos is a villain and there’s absolutely no denying that, the goal he was fighting for at least made sense and had its own logic. Same for Light Yagami in Deathnote. There are classic battles of good and evil to be found here with good arguments made for both. Even when the villain is losing he doesn’t suddenly disregard his ideals, they just ended up losing.

A big part of Fate is the difference between Shirou and Archer’s ideals. They are both pacifists who effectively work as heroes but go in very different paths. Shirou believes in the concept of being a Hero of Justice. He believes that this is an unshakable concept and as a hero you don’t compromise. Shirou wants to save everyone he possibly can without exception. If someone’s in trouble he’ll jump in even if he doesn’t really stand a chance in a fight. He’s always been about helping everyone ever since he inherited this dream from his father Kiritsugu. Part of this stems from how Shirou had to survive a mass death experience as a child. He saw first hand how it feels to have your life saved and it also underscored the value of life to him. Shirou may not have a lot of power at the start of the series, but he uses it to help others.

Then you have Archer. Archer was once a hero who believed in such ideals, but has become quite jaded with humanity. Part of the reason for this is that his role in life is to be an eternal deterrent force. He is forced to travel to different time periods where there is a conflict and destroy the evil side. He would destroy 10 people to save 100, 1000 to save 10,000, etc. After a while, Archer had claimed more fatalities than even most villains could. Technically he was helping to provide balance to the world, but after a while the whole thing seemed futile to him. He had to compromise on his ideals many times until he finally came up with the ones he has now. He won’t save everyone and believes that’s impossible. Instead he will always look for the logical choice of who to murder to save someone else. It’s a very different framework as you’re actively looking for targets. This eventually even leads him to target Shirou as that kid would ultimately go on to murder many people in the future if he wasn’t stopped.

It’s an interesting loop there and the show has lots of debates on this. Shirou and Archer confront each other on their ideals quite a bit and absolutely do not get along.

So in the end, who is right here? The show plays it out in a way where you’re left to your judgment on this to an extent. Shirou is the main character and he is a good guy while Archer is unmistakably a villain so to an extent you can say that Shirou will have the edge here but the show never demeans Archer’s arguments. In a way a lot of the show is Shirou basically admitting that he thinks Archer is correct, but that won’t stop him. “You may be correct but that doesn’t mean you’re right” was a pretty good line there since it shows Shirou may believe that Archer is logically correct but that it still isn’t the right thing to do morally. Shirou ultimately holds true to his ideals and Archer hopes that he can manage to carry it out, but we have already seen that it didn’t work out for Archer.

I think another subtle aspect the show gives us that makes the debate more interesting is Archer’s portrayal. To counter the fact that Shirou is the main character, Archer is portrayed as being a lot more effective. He’s far more confident than Shirou as well as being more powerful. He has everything that Shirou has ever wanted in terms of ability. Shirou’s main grievance has been the fact that he currently lacks the power to be a true Hero of Justice. He has the ideals but not the power and that’s part of why he really can’t stand Archer. It works for the audience well too because Archer’s points become more compelling considering the amount of power he has. If Archer, one of the strongest characters in the show (I know that’s debatable but purely from what we saw in the show I would absolutely say this) says it is impossible to save everyone then it adds credibility. He just appears to be very wise and knowledgeable. The way in which he articulates his thoughts always makes him appear to be a step ahead of Shirou as well. This brief clip below shows how they both decline Caster’s offer but how different their responses are.

In general he’s just a lot cooler than Shirou although of course you can’t factor that in when considering the arguments. It intentionally does make this task more difficult though. Even Shirou is always incredibly impressed with Archer, below is a scene where Archer effortlessly takes down an opponent that Shirou couldn’t even touch.

There are 4 main timelines in Stay Night: Fate, Unlimited Blade Works, Heaven’s Feel, and the one where Archer comes from. There are tons of other timelines of course but those are the main ones. Whether Shirou holds true to his ideals is what you have to decide, but I believe he will. He’s already lived through a lot of conflict and had to reaffirm his ideals so I don’t see him having any more trouble in the future. The whole final fight with Archer and Shirou was really about ideals. In terms of pure ability Archer could have destroyed Shirou in an instant but what he really needed was for Shirou to relent and say that Archer was right. Winning the physical battle meant nothing if he couldn’t win the verbal one. So, short answer here is that I think Shirou is definitely right on both accounts. Let’s tackle the first element of being a Hero of Justice first:

Should you try to save everyone?

This is one that My Hero tackled as well with Lemillion being satisfied with saving 1 million people while Deku aims to save everyone. They both failed Eri initially, but that’s the concept Shirou is going for. You have to at least try to save everyone even if it appears to be impossible. The instant you decide that someone can’t be saved you’ve compromised on your ideals. It will become easier in the future to suddenly decide that someone else can’t be saved and that’s when it’ll all start to snowball. That’s exactly the issue Archer came up to. As soon as he started murdering someone, he found it easier to keep on going and that didn’t exactly work out. At the end of the day as a hero your duty is to try and save everyone.

Shirou throws himself into danger quite a lot in order to do this. He may be outmatched and certainly got a lot of heat for this but he made the right decisions. In the first show he was a bit overboard with how he would try to fight instead of Saber though. I understand fighting side by side with her like in the second show more which makes sense, but he does need to realize that he’s weaker. If he dies then he can’t help anyone else. I think you gotta risk your life if there’s someone that needs saving but if there’s someone else that’s already doing the job then jumping in is more about getting the credit. In this case he just thought she couldn’t handle it so at least the intentions were good.

This is a point for Shirou. Archer tries to say that saving everyone then goes as far as counting the villains and will always be impossible. He’s right if you take it to the extreme of course, but in that case Berserker was attacking Saber and going for the kill. In that sense it makes sense to save Saber and not worry about Berserker at the moment. It’s not to say Shirou wouldn’t try saving him in the future but in that moment it wouldn’t make sense. What it boils down to is that Archer is looking at this from the numbers and sees that it’s impossible to save everyone. As a result he thinks the whole notion is no good. I understand that take, but he is missing the important piece which is that you always have to at least try to save everyone.

One Life vs Many

The second point is risking it all to save one person at the possible expense of many. This is a point Archer would be completely against. Lets say you have one person tied to a bomb that’s about to blow up. You can disarm it right away but the person attached to the bomb will die. Alternately you can try to untie him but the process will take a while so there’s a large chance that the bomb will blow up first and destroy 10,000 people. Archer would very quickly take out the bomb so that only one person dies while Shirou would just trust himself to be able to untie the hostage in time. This is another one where I agree with Shirou. I’ve always thought that you have to try and save the one even if it risks the many. There is just no point in everyone living if you had to sacrifice someone. If it doesn’t work then you all die together at least.

It’s why that always ends up being one of the most sympathetic reasons for a villain. In Sub Zero this is what made Mr. Freeze a compelling villain because he was just trying to save his wife the whole time. At no point in the villain do you forget that he is in fact a villain. It’s important not to lose sight of that. However, it’s a goal that you can understand and relate to because there aren’t many things you would not do in order to save your significant other. A lot of times this one is portrayed as the right thing to do is to save many lives. It’s a very interesting concept and one that has had many books written about it. It’s a very popular philosophical take. I’ve always been with the one life here. You have to do all that you can to save the one even if it ends up risking the many. If someone close to you is at stake then even if you have to fight off whole legions to save her then that’s what you have to do. In quite a few series this ends up with the heroes being forced to take on a ton of other “Heroes” (They start to lose their status when they defend this) or villains. Sometimes the hero even relents to the peer pressure and submits which is always unfortunate and can ruin an ending for me (Flashpoint Paradox) but at the end of the day you have to stay true to your ideals.

It may be logical to sacrifice one if it’ll save thousands or even millions, but the numbers don’t matter to me. Even if it’s to save the whole universe, if you have to sacrifice someone to do it then that’s clearly not worth it. You can’t sacrifice your ideals to save everyone. At the end of the day the one life that is in trouble is the one that you have to worry about. Even worse is if you want to save someone but don’t do it because someone threatens you. There are quite a few Saint Seiya characters who are guilty of this but this editorial’s about over so I won’t go into that here.

So at the end of the day Shirou was right. I do appreciate the debates he had with Archer in the show though. Both characters were given a fair opportunity to explain their piece and rationalizations. It’s also portrayed in a way where you aren’t meant to feel bad with siding with one over the other. Both of them have very valid takes and I imagine there will be fans of both ideologies. It’s not as if one of them is the “correct” option. It really depends on if you’re looking at it logically or morally. The value you put on your ideals vs the amount of lives. There are a ton of factors here and it’s what made Archer an excellent antagonist and he is still one of my favorite characters in the series. I could really link the entire 21 minute fight as clips here since it’s all great stuff with the back and forth but I try to keep the clips minimal with the editorials. They should enhance the points as opposed to overtaking the whole thing. That said, if you want a good debate just look up Archer vs Shirou dub on Youtube and you’ll see theh whole thing there.

Archer did have another good point that is worth remembering as well. You need to know why you are saving people. People say that doing the right thing is its own reward. In a lot of ways what that saying also means is don’t expect a reward for doing so. A lot of times doing the wrong thing will be easier and doing the right thing will go unnoticed. There are times when doing the right thing will ultimately hurt you temporarily as well. He reminds Shirou that if he’s going to save people, it needs to be what he actually wants to do as opposed to doing it for someone else. It’s an important distinction and something to keep in mind. Doing the right thing is always what you should do, but you need to have a strong resolve as well to accept the consequences. Ultimately I do prefer Archer’s more heroic version from the 2006 version though despite all of this. Since all routes are technically the same character I suppose that means he was never super heroic but if you just saw that show you wouldn’t know any better. That may be worth an editorial some day as well comparing both Archer versions but that’s definitely for another day.

The Hero of Justice is a valid ideal and one that I agree with. Shirou wins this round.