Note: The second paragraph contains spoilers for the movie. I’ve colored the text for the spoilers white so it will not show up unless you highlight it.
I watched the BD for Unlimited Blade Works recently and I was surprised how much I ended up enjoying it. The first act of the film is pretty choppy. Basically it’s “ya’ll remember the Holy Grail Wars, right? Yeah? Good.” Then it kind of feels like a video game, where characters are progressing to the next level, contending with low-level enemies in order to make it to the boss. I was pretty tepid on the movie until it entered the second act and started slowing down. After that UBW started to feel like an actual movie and I was entertained.
That’s not to say there aren’t still big gaps in the narrative, such as Shiro suddenly becoming a kickass fighter with some slick moves and superhuman agility, despite continually getting his ass handed to him prior. Also, how exactly did everyone know Shiro becomes a legendary warrior? Maybe I missed something but I don’t see how they were able to determine Archer was Shiro. Getting back to Shiro’s fighting ability, I did find it very satisfying to see Shiro finally realizing his potential and actually winning fights. The TV series merely flirted with the idea but ultimately favored Shiro being a useless clod who kept getting in the way and didn’t contribute anything of real value, much to my frustration. However I didn’t care for the scenes that showed Saber looking, shall we say, compromised and submissive. I don’t remember if that was in the TV series or not but it did a real disservice, considering how strong her character is otherwise.
Unlimited Blade Works a fine looking movie with lots of crisp detail and fluid animation. The production staff at Studio Deen was able to choreograph the fights in ways the TV series wasn’t able to and I found those scenes exciting to watch. And I’d be remiss not to mention the nice artistry of the backgrounds, particularly the surreal environment of Archer’s Noble Phantasm. I also liked the dub; it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the TV series but the cast didn’t sound like they were stumbling due to the long break and Michelle Ruff was a good replacement for Saber. Liam O’Brien and Sam Regal were solid as Archer and Shiro respectively and I rather liked “Tomokazu Seki”* as Gilgamesh.
In all, it’s a movie with problems inherent to covering a large amount of material in a 100 minute runtime but I found myself fairly happy with what I saw when the credits rolled. It you like the Fate/Stay Night series, or better yet if you’re familiar with the game it’s based on, Unlimited Blade Works is worth the time investment.
*The English voice actor credits on Sentai Blu-ray are a little strange. A couple of the actors in Bang Zoom’s dub decided to go uncredited so Sentai substituted the Japanese voice actors for those rolls during the English credit scroll.