In today's article we will finally talk about Fate / Stay Night, one of the milestones if not THE milestone of Nasuverse.
The turning point of Type-Moon
To the detriment of the unexpectedly positive results of Tsukihime and the positive reception of the products dedicated to it between sequels and spin-offs, although the Type-Moon label was officially released in 2000 from the dojin field, it remained in fact a circle of dedicated amateur enthusiasts to a rather narrow niche audience.
The profits generated by their first real productions were undoubtedly sufficient to offer the public something new, however there was need for something that had a greater impact than Tsukihime.
Play it all for everything
To succeed in this aim and truly grow Type-Moon, which has become a true commercial organization, Nasu had to bet everything on a project that he had buried long ago and which would have dictated definitively, towards success or failure, the future of the 'company.
Today we know that the result of this bet was a historic moment in the industry, giving the public what the critics will define one of the best Visual Novels of all time and a work that definitely changed the genre.
Inspiration and development
As we already know, many of Nasu's early works were written in his student period, in which he delighted in narrating short stories and in the construction of his narrative universe.
In those years one of the works with which he was strongly passionate was the historical fantasy novel titled Makai Tenshō by Yamada Futaro, which told of numerous heroic and legendary historical figures brought back to life to use their magical and superhuman abilities in battle.
Fascinated by this idea, during his university studies Nasu began to write a draft of a story with the aim of publishing a volume entitled "Fate".
Temporarily set aside the project to dedicate himself to the founding of Type-Moon with Takeuchi, in the face of Tsukihime's success and new commercial needs, Nasu decided, supported by his partner, to brush up on the idea of his old draft and transform it into a Visual Novel .
The many doubts
Although the basic idea was already structured in a very similar way to the final product, the duo harbored many doubts about Fate's chances of success due to the Bishojo nature of the title, which would have had as its protagonist a young sorceress, who did not marry with the tone and general idea of the story.
To adapt to the target market, it was Takeuchi who proposed a new character design, reversing the sex of the protagonists and adapting the traits of the other main characters in the story to make them more attractive to the contemporary market.
The different routes
Nasu therefore wrote several routes for the various heroines: the story versions of Saber and Rin would have composed the first half of the general plot, and then reunited in a single point from which the other branches would start, linked to a different approach to the central theme work.
In this sense, Saber would represent "the question", Rin "the answer" and Sakura, together with Illya, should have been his possible "applications".
The length of the four routes, however, posed a new problem for the author, who thought of releasing Saber and Rin's routes as "Fate / stay night" and the routes of Sakura and Illya in a separate version entitled "Fate / other night".
This option would have been too expensive for customers, therefore Nasu chose to discard the Illya route by combining its central elements with that of Sakura.
A fifth route, dedicated to Caster, had been hypothesized and sketched and then ended up almost completely discarded if not for some elements integrated, too, in the Sakura route.
Alongside the narrative component, Nasu has designed specific and exclusive rules, parameters and attributes to the context of Fate with the aim of laying the foundations for extending the project beyond the Visual Novel sphere.
The Visual Novel
On 30 January 2004 Fate / stay night makes its debut on the PC market, also this time under the eroge label, presenting to the public three distinct storylines entitled "Fate", "Unlimited Blade Works" and "Heaven's Feel", dedicated respectively to Saber, Rin Tohsaka and Sakura Matō.
As usual, the reader is offered limited decision-making freedom in certain points of the narrative in which they can make the protagonist of the story act, narrated in the first person as in the case of Tsukihime, based on the situation so as to continue the story in certain directions .
The 40 Dead Ends and how to avoid them
Unlike the previous Type-Moon work, however, Fate / stay night does not have the Good / True End duality and each route has a unique ending, with a total of 40 Dead Ends obtained if wrong decisions have been taken or the requirements for the regular ending.
For this reason, at the end of each Dead End there is the Tiger Dojo section, a comic sequence in which Taiga Fujimura and Illya discuss the ending just obtained and how to avoid it in the form of short gags.
The Codex of Fate
Novel also offers free access to the gallery of images already seen, to the soundtrack, to a list of endings to keep track of its progress and to a codex in which it is possible to examine, as they are revealed in the narration, the weapons present in the history and the Status window of each Servant, which outlines all the features discovered such as the identity of the Master, the real name, the statistics, the skills, the Skills, the Noble Weapons and various details on their personal stories.
The use of occasional sound and visual effects to accompany the narration also contribute to the immersion of the reader in the sequences presented, creating a varied and engaging experience together with the soundtrack that defines the atmosphere and emphasizes the textual descriptions.
The Fate / stay night events are set in 2004, over the course of about two weeks, and take place in Fuyuki, a fictitious city based on the real Kobe and located on the coast of the island of Kyūshū, characterized by the presence of three noble families of magicians.
And it is precisely in the shoes of the young and talented heir of the Tohsaka family, Rin, that the reader is placed while the girl is about to conclude a complex ritual in her sumptuous villa.
The war of the Holy Grail and the Servants
Thanks to his thoughts and his narration we discover therefore that every sixty years the city is the scene of a bloody conflict between magicians, the War of the Holy Grail, in which the legendary chalice selects seven magicians as Master. Marked by three Command Seals, they battle each other until the last survivor who, as a reward, can draw on the Grail's powers and see his own wish fulfilled.
For this purpose, each Master has the right to evoke a Servant, a familiar summoned by reincarnating the soul of a legendary hero from a spiritual dimension outside of time and space, placing historical and mythological figures at his service in one of the seven Classes available: Saber, Archer, Rider, Lancer, Caster, Berserker and Assassin.
The ritual that Rin is meticulously performing serves to evoke one of these seven figures, so as to take part in the Fifth War of the Holy Grail.
At the end of the prologue, which culminates in a fierce fight between Servant and announces the arrival of the Saber-class Servant, the animated opening sequence accompanied by the notes of This Illusion, sung by MH defines the tone and atmosphere of mysticism and mystery of the story we are about to read.
The protagonist of the story
The reader therefore gets to know the true protagonist of the story, Shirō Emiya, a student of Fuyuki's Homurahara Gakuen, in which he works as a handyman performing repairs in his spare time for the student council president, his dear friend Issei Ryuudō.
Unbeknownst to his friend, Shirō makes use of the magical arts to perform his works, skills he learned from Kiritsugu Emiya, his adoptive father, who took him into custody following a terrible fire that ten years earlier consumed a large section of Fuyuki and to which only the boy miraculously survived.
His dream is to become a Paladin of Justice, a guardian able to protect the weak and innocent of all humanity, always making himself available to those who need them, an ambition that once belonged to the late Kiritsugu, the which belief has fascinated and inspired the young Shiro in following his ideals.
However, his skills with magic are very limited and the progress is practically nil, making the teenager uncertain about his future.
The breaking of the balance
His life changes during one evening when, during the cleaning of the school archery dojo, Shirō accidentally witnesses the battle between Archer, supported by Rin Tohsaka, his Master and popular classmate of Shirō, against Lancer, admiring speed, ferocity and competence in battle.
Discovered by the contenders, however, Lancer pursues Shirō to eliminate him and keep the secrecy of the magical society intact, piercing his heart.
Shortly thereafter, he was found dying by Rin, who spent all his resources to get him back on track and make sure of his return home.
In the Emiya estate, however, Lancer intervenes again to finish his job, forcing the boy to defend himself with difficulty, fleeing until he finds himself in a warehouse of the estate, with his back to the wall.
Preparing for the inevitable end, just before Lancer manages to deliver the coup de grace, a young and beautiful armored warrior repels the enemy by presenting herself as Saber, the last Servant to be summoned to sanction the start of the Fifth War of the Holy Grail.
The success of Fate / Stay Night
Fate / stay night had an explosive success, remaining the top seller until the middle of the month following its release and remaining in the top 20 for over a year. It quickly accumulated a total of 400.000 copies sold, only on PC, only in the Japanese market, earning the status of best seller until reaching in 2016. Counting also the reissues, also sold internationally, stood at a total of over 5 millions of copies on Japanese territory only. The title has managed to gain unanimous approval from the public and critics as one of the great masterpieces of Japanese videogame history, a leading exponent of dojin circles and a turning point for the sixth videogame generation. Of its kind, it is considered one of the most representative titles and the second best Visual Novel ever, preceded only by Clannad, for setting a new standard for all titles of the same genre produced subsequently.
The reasons for success
Thanks to the enormous success there is, of course, the already widely appreciated writing of Nasu, here dealing with deeper and more significant themes than those of Tsukihime, which have made the work able to involve a greater number of readers compared to the chronicles of Shiki and Arcueid. Added to this is the proposed concept: the use of historical, mythological and legendary figures as key characters of history and their use as battle instruments, with all their skills, deeds and characteristics universally known to all. This strongly stimulates the imagination of passionate readers, adding a component of intrigue and mystery by maintaining the secret of their identities, causing the revelation of the true name of a Servant, usually identified through his Class, to occur first only through clues subtle and often implied, surprising and striking when one of them decides to discover his cards completely, making his identity clear.
Appreciation of Design
Even the dynamics of the story, aimed more at striking strategically than at the open confrontation, and the way in which it intertwines with the protagonist and his ethical and moral position, involves the reader more, emphasized by the aforementioned sound effects and work of Keita "KATE" Haga.
Particularly praised were Takeuchi's character design and the artistic direction, which at the time was considerably higher than the productions of the same genre, appreciated for their care and visual quality as well as for the elaboration of the backgrounds and the variety of sprites for the characters, which have numerous emotional expressions. which make the reader 's involvement even easier.
The Tiger Dojo was also considered an appreciated innovation that not only gave way to not retrace wrong decisions by explaining how to avoid getting the Dead Ends, but created a relaxation from the emotional tension of some Game Over, softening the gloomy moments that could precede them.
The new face of Type-Moon
The work was the kick-off of a franchise whose earnings are estimated, as of 2018, to be almost 3 billion dollars, allowing Type-Moon to break out not only as a Japanese company, but as an international software house, selling in 5 elaborate continents of various kinds and of different nature.
The first multimedia transposition of Fate / stay night was the manga by Nishiwaki Datto in 2005, serialized on Shonen Ace, focused mainly on Unlimited Blade Works, however integrating some elements of the other routes creating an unpublished version, published in Italy from 2008 by Star Comics.
In 2006, however, an animated transposition was transmitted by Studio Deen, a series of 24 episodes that tells an unpublished story that mixes elements of all three scenarios of the Visual Novel, largely departing from it, appreciated as a work in its own right but unknown by the continuity of Type-Moon and their products.
The transpositions on the screen
In addition to the animated series, the studio was commissioned to produce an animated film based on the Unlimited Blade Works route, released in 2010, which saw the return of most of the cast of the series both in terms of production and in the shooting of the dubbing roles. Despite the good earnings, this film has been severely criticized because of the narrative rhythm and the superficiality and haste with which the plot of the original route was presented.
In 2007 a PS2 version of the original Visual Novel was published, Fate / stay night [Réalta Nua], which proposes the three original routes, integrating however the full dubbing of the dialogues (absent in the original) and the removal of the sexually explicit scenes, replaced by alternative processes of mana transfer or by different narrative circumstances that allow to circumvent their inclusion.
Fate / Stay Night: Réalta Nua improvements
In addition to the new animated opening sequences, each dedicated to a route and all three accompanied by the song Ougon no Kagayaki by Number 201 and MAKI, this re-edition of the Visual Novel offers new musical arrangements and a new epilogue for the Fate Route called " Last Episode ”accessible once all the endings of the original Fate / stay night have been obtained.
The Réalta Nua version was re-proposed in 2012 for PlayStation Vita and PC and includes three new animated opening sequences by Ufotable set to music by Earthmind with the Arcadia songs for the Fate route, Horizon for Unlimited Blade Works and Another Heaven for Heaven's Feel.
Also by Ufotable is the animated adaptation of Unlimited Blade Works released in 2014, dedicated in particular to readers of the original Visual Novel including some new original additions written by Nasu himself, followed by a trilogy of films dedicated to Heaven's Feel, two of which released in October 2017 and January 2019.
A new Nasuverse
With Fate / stay night, which proposed both familiar concepts to Tsukihime readers and completely new ideas for the narrative universe, Nasu has reshaped the future of his works, indelibly changing his project.
Fate is the giant of Type-Moon in terms of popularity, and even before the spin-offs he managed to eclipse all the other works of Nasu thanks to the introduction of the Servants and their power in proportion to the other characters of the Nasuverse, to the role central to Akasha in history, the Holy Grail, Angra Mainyu and many, often elaborated, different concepts that greatly enrich what was previously built making Visual Novel a central piece of all Type-Moon lore.
Fate / stay night is however only the zero point of this huge commercial work, which will see sequels, prequels, video games of all kinds developed in its name and, above all, numerous spin-offs.