Review

by Kim Morrissy,

Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel III. spring song

Synopsis:
Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel III. spring song
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:

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

At last, the twisted, gruesome tale comes to an end. This film is the grand climax of the Heaven's Feel movie trilogy, where the fraught emotions of the remaining characters come to a head, the truth behind the Grail War is revealed, and a desperate fight to protect what is precious breaks out.

This is also the part of the story where the adaptation choices in the previous films really affect the emotional payoff down the line, which means that some parts of this film work better than others, for better or worse. The heart of Heaven's Feel is Sakura, so it makes sense for the films to focus their limited runtime on her, but it has come at the expense of other important characters like Ilya and Kirei, both of whom turn out to be just as integral to the overall plot of Heaven's Feel by the end.

In its original context, Heaven's Feel was a story which revealed many of the hidden truths and connections in the world of Fate/stay night. It isn't just a story about Sakura's problems and Shirou's earnest desire to protect her; the truth behind the Grail War is linked to the backstories of multiple characters. The early parts of this film desperately try to play catch-up on some of the cut dialogue and themes that were originally present from the beginning of the route, but there's a feeling of too little, too late. As a result, the resolution ultimately comes off as a little half-baked, despite all the gravitas that this film gives it.

On the other hand, every emotional beat involving Sakura lands with perfect precision. I'm glad these films managed to stick the landing with this, because it's almost enough to make me forgive all the other parts of the adaptation that don't quite work. Despite her subdued presence in the first two films, Rin ends up stealing the show here. The last film revealed that Rin and Sakura are actually sisters, and it was nice to see that relationship explored further. Their scenes moved me even more than Shirou's attempts to save Sakura did, because it was cathartic to see selfless acts of sibling love after the horrors Sakura had to put up with from Shinji. If this was just a story about Shirou trying to save Sakura through the power of his romantic love for her, I don't think I would have rooted for Sakura's redemption so earnestly.

spring song also doesn't disappoint when it comes to the action scenes, which have been a consistent highlight across this trilogy. As always, the technical qualities of the animation and special effects are mind-blowing, making effective use of both 2D and 3D elements in a way that only ufotable seems able to pull off seamlessly. The only fight I was mildly disappointed with on a technical level was the Berserker fight, which renders Berserker as a 3D character in key parts with not much expressiveness in his movements. It was a rare feeling of choppiness in a film filled with dynamic action and creative choreography. I also wasn't too big of a fan of this fight because of how abruptly it plays out on a narrative level—Berserker definitely had a better showing overall in the previous film.

It's also a bit ironic that the last fight in this film is a one-on-one fist fight. By its nature, this kind of fight can't play into ufotable's many signature strengths with special effects and compositing. It's not exactly underwhelming, and to the film's credit, the desperation of the two participants is conveyed extremely well through the animation, but it's also a case where the film's action peaks earlier than its actual narrative climax.

This review might have more nitpicking than the previous ones, but in all honesty, I still loved watching every second of this film. All things said and done, these films are my favorite Fate adaptation. The music, the action, the drama... It all comes together into a tight and emotional package. Even if it's not the complete story, the moments that were adapted bring the text in the visual novel to life with a vividness that no other adaptation of a Fate property has ever achieved. No, this goes even beyond Fate. An author can only dream of having their writing realized through cinema this way.

My favorite moment in this film is when the blood washes away and the serenity unfolds. More than any battle, this moment is what will stick with me when I think of Heaven's Feel. That peace, that loss, that catharsis.

It was all worth it, to hear that spring song in the end.

Grade:
Overall : A-
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : A

+ Brings catharsis to Sakura's tale, incredible production values
Adaptation choices from earlier films negatively affect climax presented here, some fights aren't completely satisfying

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Production Info:
Director: Tomonori Sudō

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Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel III. spring song (movie)

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