It is important to say this out of the gate, even more so than with Fate/Apocrypha – this is a film for people who have been watching Fate/Stay Night from the beginning. This, to a large degree, has to do with the structure of the original game. Heaven’s Feel is the third route of the game, played after (in order) the Fate and Unlimited Blade Works routes. Consequently, the story of the route has a lot less focus on explaining the Holy Grail War, Servants, or mages, because you’ve played through the game twice already.
Consequently, Presage Flower puts all the explanations of the Holy Grail War, Servants, and the clues that Archer is secretly Future Shirou aside. Instead, the focus of this route and film is on Sakura and the Matou family. This isn’t to say that Rin isn’t present – as if you’ve seen Fate/Zero you know that Rin is actually Sakura’s sister (with Sakura having been adopted by the Matou family when both were children). So, Rin is still a major part of the plot, and that will certainly be a significant part of the trilogy.
Consequently, because Sakura is the focus, while there is plenty of action in this movie because Sakura is not an action character, the action is not the focus of this film. That said, the action here is considerably more brutal. As an example, in the fight with Illya and Berserker outside of Kirei’s church, when Shirou takes a hit for Saber, in the two past TV series he’s merely ended up bleeding out a lot. Here, he is straight-up disemboweled, with some of his entrails and other internal organs getting spilled across the sidewalk – making his regeneration even more dramatic.
Minor aside, the visual that we get for Shirou as he’s in a regenerative slumber reminds me a lot of the imagery we get for Deadpool in Deadpool 2 at the various points where he almost dies.
Anyway, the increased level of gore makes for a much more violent and tonally dark film than the earlier three series. To be clear, those series are very dark, especially Fate/Zero.
Ufotable’s animation is, as usual, gorgeous. We have some tremendous backgrounds, and sweeping camera moves through the few fight scenes. There’s also a bigger sense of horror to this installment than the earlier ones. Part of this is due to the fact that the film is clear from the get-go that Zouken is the main antagonist and he is a creepy mother-fucker, both in terms of his mannerisms and because he’s a mix of a lich and a Spawn of Kyuss. Part of this is also related to how his servant works – which I’m not going to get too far into, because I don’t want to spoil things.
I’m definitely going to see the next film, and if you’ve missed it in theaters both times, and it ends up on Netflix Instant, I’d recommend seeing it there. However, this is an Aniplex USA release so the physical release could be very expensive. Considering how this film fits into the larger narrative of Fate/Stay Night if you’ve made it this far, then you’re probably enough of a fan of Fate to be really invested in seeing this movie, so if there’s an affordable enough release, I’d recommend picking that up.
As yet the film is not available for pre-order on DVD or Blu-Ray so no referral link here. There is some Heaven’s Feel Merch at Tokyo Otaku Mode.
EDIT – 7/12/2018: The film is now available for pre-order at RightStuf on Blu-Ray.
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