Review

by Kim Morrissy,

Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel II. lost butterfly

Synopsis:
Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel II. lost butterfly
Ten years after the Holy Grail War—a battle waged by Masters and Servants over the wish-granting container, the Holy Grail—another war breaks out in Fuyuki City. Shirou Emiya—the adopted son of Kiritsugu Emiya, who was a participant of the previous Holy Grail War—resolves to fight, carrying out Kiritsugu's dying wish. Shirou attempts to protect Sakura, a girl from the Matoi family who has been by his side for over a year. But once the Holy Grail War starts, there's a change in the air of Fuyuki City. Murders abound across the city, and the atmosphere grows ominous. The battle starts to go awry as secret maneuvers by unseen forces are put into play.
Review:

I called Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel I. presage flower my favorite anime film in 2017. I said that even though I considered myself only a casual Fate fan. I thought it was the best anime adaptation of a Fate property yet, even more than fan favorites like Fate/Zero and Fate/Apocrypha. Flash forward to just over a year later, and Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel II. lost butterfly is even better than the first film.

Please note that this review will contain spoilers for the first film.

This film is a lot to take in. From the very first scene, lost butterly is a sensory overload on both a narrative and a production level. The story moves quickly, with each scene upping the emotional and dramatic stakes significantly. The action is more plentiful than in the first film, filled with grand visual spectacles on a catastrophic scale. As the characters fight vainly against horrors they hardly understand, the ominous choirs in Yuki Kajiura's soundtrack cry out desperately amid the harsh metallic clangs of clashing weapons. This film is pure drama, and once you get caught up in its pace, it won't let you go.

The story picks up right where the first film ended, with Saber's mysterious disappearance mid-battle. Shirou still feels as if he has a duty to protect those around him, even though he's no longer a Master. With no means of fighting back, he's quickly swept up into the Grail War once again, although the real danger to his life may lie closer to home. When Shinji abducts Sakura, he sparks a chain of events that will force Shirou to make some of the toughest decisions he has ever made.

In retrospect, one of the issues with the first film is that it was mostly setup. Although it conveyed Shirou and Sakura's bond very well, it also contained a lot of fight scenes that didn't have much context beyond showing the threat level of the True Assassin and the Black Shadows. The second film, however, finally drives all of the emotional stakes home. This really is a story about Shirou and Sakura and how their choices affect the entire war.

Shirou and Sakura's relationship is difficult to describe because it changes a lot over the course of this film. Going by the earlier Fate and Unlimited Blade Works routes, you'd be forgiven if you thought that they had a more typical childhood friends dynamic. But there's a lot more to Sakura going on beneath the surface, and this film finally starts delving deep into what makes her tick. As a result, her attachment to Shirou is easy to understand. Their dynamic is compelling too, because there's a sense of sadness and desperation in their attempts to find normalcy in each other's presence that feels like a willful denial of reality. I can't say that I “ship” Shirou and Sakura, but their chemistry in this film felt raw and more profound than any of Shirou's interactions with his other love interests.

Although I found the relationships in this film to be compelling, I suspect that they will be controversial. Even in the first film, Heaven's Feel was a significantly darker take on the story than any previous Fate/stay night adaptation, and the second film takes that to a new level. Not only is it gruesome and violent, it also features sex, which makes this film the closest an anime adaptation has ever gotten to capturing the visual novel's pornographic roots. Some parts of the film allude to sexual abuse, although this is mainly left to implication rather than being shown. Still, if you're sensitive toward these issues, it's worth knowing about beforehand.

For what it's worth, I thought that Heaven's Feel dealt with its dark subject matter with an appropriate amount of sensitivity and gravity. What makes the story fascinating is that it's messy and complicated. It respects the agency of its characters while also acknowledging that not everybody can be a saint in their suffering. It's also worth noting that blood is used for mana transfer in this film, which means that sex primarily serves an emotional purpose in the narrative rather than as a quick and dirty power-up. I thought that this decision respected the sexual agency of certain characters better.

As for the violence, the film doubles down on that. Although it lacks a money shot like the Rider chase scene, lost butterfly has even more action scenes than presage flower did. It feels like each fight has more weight to it, because it's not just a matter of side characters being killed off ostentatiously. You never know when things are going to get brutal for the protagonists, because everything is on the brink of chaos at all times. Some of the imagery is downright eerie and will send chills down your spine. Not only is the animation an improvement (or at least equal) to the stellar first film, the visual direction ensures that every clash has a sense of weight to it. I'm not usually a fan of gore, but I felt that it was used appropriately here.

I went into this film expecting it to be a step down from the first film, but instead it amped up the stakes considerably. presage flower spent a lot of time building up a sense of atmosphere and a foreboding that something is not right, and lost butterfly capitalizes on all of that, delivering an emotional rollercoaster that left me itching to see how the finale plays out. While this may not be the most accessible of Fate/stay night adaptations for first-timers, the Heaven's Feel movies continue to do justice to the complexity and scope of Type-Moon's visual novel classic.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall : A
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A

+ Raises the dramatic and emotional stakes of the story, dark subject matter is handled effectively, fantastic production values
Inaccessible for people who haven't experienced the other routes of Fate/stay night, opening act is abrupt

Director: Tomonori Sudou
Screenplay: Akira Hiyama
Music: Yuki Kajiura
Original creator: Kinoko Nasu
Original Character Design: Takashi Takeuchi
Character Design:
Atsushi Ikariya
Tomonori Sudou
Hisayuki Tabata
Art Director: Koji Eto
3D Director: Kazuki Nishiwaki
Director of Photography: Yuichi Terao

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Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel II. lost butterfly (movie)

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