A Brief Guide to the Fate Serieson January 10, 2017 by Max Williams
You’ve likely heard of Fate/stay night. You probably saw those words written together on a forum once and wondered what the hell they were supposed to mean strung nonsensically together with a random slash in. Maybe you simply know Fate/stay night is that thing where ‘people die if they are killed’ (which is, ironically, not all that accurate).
Fate/stay night is just the tip of the Fate iceberg. Whether you’re interested in what you’ve seen around and want to get into the Fate series, or you’re new to it and want to know what a hollow ataraxia even is and if you should care, you could probably benefit from a roadmap. Or several roadmaps running parallel and occasionally crossing over as you stumble deeper and deeper into Nasu hell. Welcome.
“What’s Fate about, generally?”
The various instalments of Fate revolve around a thing called the Holy Grail War. This, as it sounds, is a war for the Holy Grail, which has the ability to grant any wish to the one who wins it. The Holy Grail War usually occurs every 60 years. The Grail selects a bunch of potential Masters to compete in the War, and the first seven who summon a Servant get to participate. A Servant is a spirit from history or legend, who fights to help the Master eliminate the competition and get the Holy Grail. Of course, this is just the basis. Absolutely all of these rules get broken somewhere or other within the Fate universe, but that’s no surprise.
The big gun of Fate. Perhaps the jewel in the crown. Fate/stay night is the visual novel where it all began. As such, it’s the best place to start. Sounds simple, but stay night is actually divided into three distinct routes. These are the supremely uselessly named ‘Fate’, ‘Unlimited Blade Works’, and ‘Heaven’s Feel’. It’s best to do these routes in order. So much so that the original PC version wouldn’t let you do them any other way. You can play stay night patched in English, but there’s no official western release.
If you don’t want the commitment of the visual novel, there’s also the anime adaptations. However, the Fate route’s adaptation is widely accepted as really bad. So you can either suffer or start with Unlimited Blade Works and break the precious route order. Or play just the Fate route and then jump over to the anime for UBW onwards. Just to make it even more complicated, there’s both a movie of UBW (by Studio Deen who made the Fate route anime), and a series (by Ufotable), who made the Fate/Zero anime. For consistency’s sake (and lots of extra quality Archer time), I suggest the series.
To round things off, Ufotable are making a trilogy of films to cover the Heaven’s Feel route. Getting familiar with stay night is a mammoth task on its own, but it’s well worth it!
After Fate/stay night
So what now? Well, do you want to go forwards or backwards? If you want to power on forwards, then it’s on to Fate/hollow ataraxia, which is stay night‘s direct sequel. Of course, this was also never released in the west, so you’ll have to do some digging.
If you want to go backwards, then it’s time for Fate/Zero, Urobuchi’s series of prequel novels adapted to anime by Ufotable. But, if it’s a prequel, surely you can start with Fate/Zero? Isn’t that easier than getting straight into the multi-part Fate/stay night mess? Well, you can, but it’s advised you don’t. For emotional effect and getting used to the world of Fate really.
Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA
PRISMA☆ILLYA is an alternate universe spin-off of Fate/stay night. It’s a magical girl series following Illyasviel von Einzbern, and features characters and elements of stay night but also a bunch of new stuff that doesn’t come up elsewhere in Fate. As such, it can be enjoyed standalone, if you’re willing to overlook the series backstory from all of the above. PRISMA☆ILLYA has both a manga and an anime.
Fate/Extra can be pretty much considered stand-alone from Fate/stay night and all its offspring. It follows a Holy Grail War with 128 Masters (wow) run by a supercomputer on the moon. Fate/Extra is available in English for PSP (if you still have one of those), or digitally for PS Vita. There’s also a companion game, Fate/Extra CCC, which has some additional stuff, but wasn’t released outside of Japan. Extra will be getting an anime in the form of Fate/Extra Last Encore, providing another gateway to the series.
Fate/EXTELLA is a sequel to Fate/Extra, so a natural progression for players of that. It’s a hack ‘n’ slash game where you play as the Servants directly, in the style of a Warriors game, so even if you know nothing about Fate you can probably jump right in and enjoy the ride. It also includes some of the characters from Fate/stay night and Fate/Zero, so there’s a lot of great characters to choose from whether you’re a fan of the stay night side of the series, Extra, or totally new.
Apocrypha, like Zero, is a series of light novels. The upcoming anime series for Apocrypha has finally brought it onto the radar! Apocrypha is set in a parallel world where the events of stay night and Zero never happened. It has its own huge Holy Grail War between the opposing Black Faction and Red Faction, with twice as many Servants as the one in stay night. It’s really exciting to be able to suggest the Apocrypha anime as a new potential angle for getting into the Fate series, even if it’s an unusual one and not even out yet.
“What about everything else?”
None of that matters. Well, that’s a bit harsh. The other things you’re most likely to come across in Fate are Grand Order, strange fake, and Prototype.
Grand Order is a mobile game which amalgamates a bunch of different Servant characters from across the series but has its own separate plot. It’s got/getting some anime movies, for those who aren’t into playing mobile game in Japanese.
Fate/strange fake is another light novel series (and also a manga), which theoretically takes place 10 years after hollow ataraxia, but plotwise has little to do with it, stay night, or Zero. Out of everything, it’s similar, but not actually connected, to Fate/Prototype.
Fate/Prototype is exactly what it says on the tin – the first draft of Fate/stay night, which later got made into a twelve-minute what-could-have-been OVA.
This still isn’t everything. There are other instalments – mostly tie-ins to stay night – but in the overall scheme of things, you’re unlikely to come across them, and they won’t help you with the ‘getting into Fate‘ thing (is that what this was about…?), so you can pretty much ignore them.
“My brain hurts.”
Yeah. It’s pretty daunting. But Fate is an amazing series once you get into it! I strongly recommend you give it a try! It’s packed full of action, intrigue, and beautiful art. It’s super exciting, and has loads and loads of interesting characters. It’s weird and intense and there’s really nothing quite like it!
Of course, this is just a brief guide to the Fate series focused on trying to provide some kind of order rather than speaking at length on why it’s so good. So, for anyone who’s already decided to take the plunge into the world of Fate and just needed to know where to dive in, I hope it’s been of some use! Let this pave the way for a Fatetastic 2017!