Review: Fate/Extra: Last Encore [Netflix]

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After waking up in a bizarre world, magic student Hakuno Kishinami is shocked to learn that everything and everyone he knew has changed dramatically. People he knew are now enemies, and the school he once knew has all but gone. With the help of the enigmatic Saber Servant, Nero Claudius, he must learn how to survive in order to gain not only the elusive ‘Holy Grail’, but to remember who he once was.

 

 

Release Date: June 30th, 2018
Format: Streaming [Netflix]
Studio: Shaft
Certificate: 15
Language: Japanese, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: English, French, Polish, Arabic, Japanese

Fate/Extra: Last Encore is a 10-episode series by animation studio Shaft (Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Monogatari series), who are well known for their very unique take on anime. Directed by Yukihiro Miyamoto (Madoka Magica: Rebellion, Arakawa Under the Bridge, Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl) and Akiyuki Shinbo (pretty much every Shaft show and movie), this is an adaptation of the 2010 PSP game Fate/Extra. Acquired by Netflix Japan before airing on Japanese television between January and March 2018, I had had my eye on this since it was announced in March 2016. At this point, Shaft were already busy with their critically acclaimed adaptation of slice-of-life drama March Comes In Like A Lion, had started plans to end their long-running Monogatari series, and were about to adapt the short story Fireworks into a movie (which released in the UK last year), so they were making plans for the future. With the Monogatari series close to finishing after 10 years, and with the die-hard Madoka Magica fans desperate for more news regarding the ‘movie project’ Shaft have been teasing for nearly 5 years now, this Shaft fanboy is always eager to see something new by the studio. I really didn’t expect they would turn to the Fate franchise, but considering how different Fate/Extra‘s story is compared to other Fate stories, it’s ultimately no surprise.

Netflix have the licenses to show a lot of shows from the Fate franchise; from the very first outing of Fate/stay night in 2006, to last year’s Fate/Apocrypha which Netflix also have exclusivity for. Now Netflix only need to get the rights for the Fate/Zero prequel show, the Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya magical girl spinoff show, and all of the Fate films too, and they’ll be pretty much complete – considering Prisma Illya‘s very lewd content, I highly doubt that Netflix would want that, however. Turning back to Fate/Extra: Last Encore, our mage/protagonist is Hakuno Kishinami, a rather lonesome student who doesn’t really have any cares in life or great dreams for the future. In this virtual world of SE.RA.PH that he lives in, he feels this strange sense of rage but can’t understand where it comes from.

The school he and his colleagues live in is a very strange place, and we are not given that much insight into what kind of place he lived in in the first episode, as when the virtual world determines who the successful applicants are, the school (and all the remaining inhabitants) is purged. Determined to fight, Hakuno finds himself awakening the Saber servant Nero Claudius, who takes him on the journey that all the successful Masters took. We are led to believe from the opening episode that all successful Master applicants left to fight to reach the Mooncell Automaton, the fabled AI on the Moon that grants any wish. But the world Hakuno and his Servant arrive at turns out to be very different than what they expected.

The thing is…to the Fate newcomers, or those who have played Fate/Grand Order and are curious to know more about the franchise, I’m not sure whether Fate/Extra: Last Encore is the best show to begin with. I suppose my doubts come from the fact that the Fate franchise is extremely detailed, with stories branching off into totally different directions, making it extremely difficult to determine where beginners and newcomers should start. The die hard followers would normally say one should begin with the 2006 show Fate/stay night, but considering there have been so many adaptations of these new stories released now (Zero, Heaven’s Feel, Unlimited Blade Works, Apocrypha, etc.), I’m not sure if it really matters anymore, as pretty much each story can operate alone. You can enjoy watching Emiya and Rin work together to fight in the Fifth Holy Grail War in Fate/stay night, while at the same time enjoy a much younger version of Illya become a magical girl in Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya…or even watch the Fate cast learning how to cook in the recent sketch show Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family. This rather intellectual story that we see in Fate/Extra: Last Encore is very different from the others, emphasizing far more on science and technology than its ‘predecessors’, which focused a lot more on fantasy. And even with returning characters like Rin and Sakura making appearances in the show, it’s evident to see how contrasting Fate/Extra and, say, Fate/Apocrypha is…and their respective animation studios actually have less to do with their differences than you would normally think.

Shaft certainly haven’t shied away from violence here; Fate/Extra: Last Encore is a rather bloody show to watch. Right from the purging in the opening episode, people are stabbed to pieces and cut in half, blood spewing everywhere, with Hakuno himself being the victim of many fights and beatings throughout the show. But how can he survive all of this violence, you may ask? Well, this is a virtual world after all, plus he has a strong and very pretty Saber servant to watch his back.

Nero Claudius…Red Saber…Umu-chan…whatever you want to call her, she steals this show with little effort. Whatever Hakuno needs to do in order to survive in this battle royale, Nero can do, and look good while doing it too. Having only known battle and having Masters who cared for them, she finds great comfort in having someone like Hakuno as a Master, who doesn’t have anything in the way of ‘extra baggage’. Did I say Nero Claudius is awesome already? No really, she has overtaken Mash Kyrielight as my new favourite Fate Servant. And her Japanese voice is just perfect for her too. Sakura Tange, famous for being Sakura Kinomoto (Cardcaptor Sakura) and infamous for being Chloe Lemaire (Girlfriend Beta), manages to get the kind-hearted and loyal Nero Claudius just right. I only wish that Atsushi Abe’s (A Certain Magical Index, Bakuman, Shugo Chara) character had a little more in the way of passion, then I would applaud him as well. It’s also great to hear veteran voice actress Romi Park (Nana, Bleach, Full Metal Alchemist, Attack on Titan) make an appearance in this show as well, playing boy genius Leonardo Bistario Harwey. In the English dub, Cassandra Lee Morris steps up to play Nero Claudius, with Billy Kametz playing Hakuno, and Mela Lee reprising her role of Rin Tohsaka, Hakuno’s close confidant in SE.RA.PH. I won’t lie; the dub does sound rather corny at best, but I do like how the English scriptwriters have successfully managed to create a working script that sounds passable around the abstract and unusual Japanese script by Kinoko Nasu, the original writer for the Fate/Extra game (along with Fate/stay night and Fate/Grand Order). Lines have been changed or dramatically altered to make the English dub flow better, and so it’s just a shame that most of the English voices themselves sound pretty forced and generic. Only Cassandra Lee Morris and Mela Lee stand out in their performances. The opening theme is “Bright Burning Shout” by Takanori Ishikawa, and the ending theme is “Tsuki no Hanataba” by Sayuri.

Bright Burning Shout” is one of the best opening themes I’ve heard in a long time, with an effective and minimal opening animation to compliment it. Oh, and Netflix did keep two very important things about Red Saber that came from the game and also appears in Fate/Grand Order; her open bisexuality and her umu’s.

Here’s the trailer used by Netflix for Fate/Extra: Last Encore:

Shaft were the perfect studio of choice here. Their abstract art style, unique and detailed script-writing and deep character building make Fate/Extra: Last Encore a very memorable show in the Fate franchise. In it, we see echoes of past Shaft shows such as the Monogatari series (with its detailed script that goes on tangents) and Puella Magi Madoka Magica (with its surreal art style and innovative animation direction). They successfully manage to take the more unusual and bizarre aspects of the Fate franchise and combine them all into something that is both undeniably Fate and undeniably Shaft. While this show won’t be as ‘immortal’ as other Shaft shows I have previously mentioned here, this has been a real pleasure to watch, and this is coming from someone relatively new to the Fate franchise. I had been looking forward to this show for over a year and a half, and it has been worth the wait. I accept that some Fate followers will find Fate/Extra: Last Encore a little too surreal and abstract for their liking, but Shaft is Shaft. I guess that’s my defense…

Verdict

80% Great

Fate/Extra: Last Encore is a very colourful show, with a detailed plot, heart-racing action and Shaft trademarks left, right and center. The studio have done a great job in building a bizarre world where people fight to the death for the big prize. However, if you're only just getting into the Fate franchise, this might not be the best show to start with, as the plot can be confusing for the unfamiliar, and the complex script can throw Fate veterans off. But if you're wiling to dive in with an open mind, this show comes highly recommended.

Fate/Extra: Last Encore is available on Netflix now.

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Disillusioned ex-weeb. Simulcast writer for The OASG. Making plans to teach English abroad. Blizzard games fan. Also follows Formula 1 and esports.