「I. presage flower」

First, some context for Fate/stay night. The Fate franchise is such an unwieldy juggernaut at this point that I fear that there are anime viewers who get lost before they even start. There’s a prequel in Fate/Zero, and various alternate-universe spinoffs, but it all started with the original visual novel Fate/stay night. That, itself, was a tale in three parts. Something like the first Fate route was adapted by Deen many years ago, ufotable adapted the middle Unlimited Blade Works only recently, and now they’re back with the third of the trilogy, Heaven’s Feel. I say ‘trilogy’ because while the three routes exist in parallel and do not follow each other chronologically, each builds on the one that precedes it and together they form a cohesive thematic arc. As far as anime goes, one should really watch them in order. Therefore, the first question this Heaven’s Feel movie has to ask is, having already had the various iterations of Fate/stay nights preceding it, how much old ground will it retread? How much allowance will it give new fans? The answer seems to be: not much. Kotomine will give his melodramatic speech about the Holy Grail War but for the most part nothing from previous series will be explained. By the way, who’s Kotomine? Well, Heaven’s Feel assumes you already know him, along with all the other kooks in weird clothes who will drop in unannounced. This scene? Old fans have seen it, what, three times already, so Heaven’s Feel is happy to montage its way through all of it. So, just a warning: ufotable is working off its previous two adaptations (Fate/Zero and Unlimited Blade Works) and knowledge of those two works will definitely help. Heck, watch Kara no Kyoukai as well while you’re at it. Can’t hurt.

One thing that Heaven’s Feel takes extra time on, above and beyond its source, is what happened prior to the start of the Holy Grail War: the prologue. But more than provide exposition or setup, this prologue is for building Shirou’s relationship with an easily overshadowed character of Fate/stay night: Matou Sakura (and, by extension, her easily reviled brother Shinji). This is an addition to the original visual novel, but I welcome it. For one thing, Sakura is supposed to be the female lead of Heaven’s Feel. Each of the three routes of Fate/stay night had a designated love interest for Shirou, and just as Saber was the ‘heroine’ of Fate and Rin the ‘heroine’ of UBW, Sakura plays the star role in Heaven’s Feel. But Sakura was always the weakest of the three heroines. For one thing, she just does not have a lot of presence. Whereas Saber and Rin are ubiquitous in all three routes (Saber is always summoned as Shirou’s Servant, and Rin always becomes his ally), Sakura stays behind the curtain for most of the most part. I have the feeling that she’s had more screentime in this film than she’s had in all of the other Fate/stay night adaptations combined. The larger point, though, is that, unlike Saber and Rin, Sakura is never a protagonist. in Fate Saber is at the very least the deuteragonist, arguably more important than Shirou at times. In UBW, Rin readily takes the lead. But Sakura? You can tell for yourself, right? Heaven’s Feel is her route, presage flower is her movie, but she’s not given much agency here either. That’s not her fault, nor even the fault of the writing. That’s just the character she is and the role she plays. She’s not a protagonist. She’s a victim. Which makes the additional development afforded her in the prologue, even if just from Shirou’s perspective, extra necessary. It still needs to be stressed that Sakura’s role, such as it is, will still be large and still be important, and we should get to know her as much as possible while we can.

Even though Sakura is not the same kind of leading lady as Saber or Rin, she’s the actually perfect kind for Heaven’s Feel. After all Heaven’s Feel is supposed to be a counterpoint to the rest of Fate/stay night and I hope that you can already tell that it’s going to be a very different sort of anime from UBW. I may have mentioned this when I was blogging that show, but Heaven’s Feel is where writer Nasu Kinoko shows his true form. The Fate franchise has a reputation as being something of an action-thriller, filled with over-the-top fight scenes. This is especially true with UBW which was a roller-coaster ride that only occasionally paused for characters to monologue. Those who have read some of Nasu’s older works like Kara no Kyoukai or Tsukihime know that his true speciality is horror. Of course, there’s only a fine line behind thriller and horror, but Heaven’s Feel definitely leans towards the latter much of the time. And this is Japanese horror, the kind you may be familiar with through cult classics like The Ring or videogames like Silent Hill. The essence of Japanese horror is not gore or zombies — though of course Heaven’s Feel has both — but claustrophobia. It is less about momentary terror brought by jump-scares and more about a pervasive, crushing atmosphere, a persistent discomfort and paranoia. This is one of those things I wish presage flower emphasised more, and where the text medium of the visual novel may actual have an advantage over anime — forced to visualise in our own heads, readers are more susceptible to the suffocating horror and fall prey to our own dark imagination. No matter the form, though, horror is about exploring disempowerment, which contrasts the entirety of Fate/stay night. Heroes are all about empowerment, about human triumph, about overcoming great odds. Even in death heroes do not fade but expire dramatically, inspiring stories where they are immortalised. Not so in Heaven’s Feel. The main foe, such as we see it, is not some villain to be defeated. It is a formless monster. It cannot be fought. Heroes that stand against it are not felled in glorious battle, they are devoured, ignominiously, one by one. This is the kind of story in which Sakura is placed, this is the reason foes are now more creepy than powerful, and this is why, after only the first volume of Heaven’s Feel anime, most of the old cast are dead and Saber is already gone. Nasu is sending a message. This is not the same Fate/stay night. Prepare yourselves.

An effective message, but a rather unfair one to leave us with as a cliffhanger. I suppose the purpose is served — after I finished watching presage flower I immediately wanted more. Even after two hours, it does feel like we’ve hardly started. Maybe it’s a masochistic thing to say in the face of horror, but still: more, please. If you feel the same way, please join me here again for lost butterfly

Many thanks to Pancakes for helping with the pictures for this post.


ED Sequence

ED: 「花の唄」 (Hana no Uta) by Aimer



  1. Slowly the “fate/Night” ramen top class bowl are about to become standard and no special anymore. But i admit they quality is top class, but … how many times did we saw this Holy War?.. If they repeat it ever and ever and ever, then there is no “curiosity” anymore

    This is just an friendly reminder

      1. To continue your analogy, why are you skipping straight to the penalties without caring for the other 90 minutes? Why do you already assume that Germany and England will be in the finals? Why is football still the most popular sport in the world?

  2. I watched this too long ago to really remember, but I definitely recall warning my friends that it’s best not to go into it not even remembering at least the general plot behind the previous routes.
    What you said about Sakura not being a protagonist was something I didn’t really consider. Had I thought this way at first I might have enjoyed it more. It’s a story about her yet it doesn’t seem like it is at the same time, at least for the first half.
    Because there’s so much action (and death) going on I guess it would be difficult to make Sakura feel relevant. Obviously, she IS relevant, but I think to truly appreciate the story there’s a need for her to feel so, too. I suppose putting in Sakura scenes might feel off when the cast are actually in an ongoing war with so much happening (though the other routes also have a lot of slice-and-lifey moments), but we still need enough to be concerned about her story and wellbeing. It sure is difficult… (I did appreciate how she appeared from time to time, sort of like bringing Shirou back to earth after all the crazy experiences, the last bit of normalcy left)

    Otherwise, animation is as expected from the fate series and there’s enough happening for it to be easily satisfying. Just really looking forward to Rider in all her glory.

  3. well a “PRESAGE” is simply a sage herb right before it matures and can be used for fondant potatoes.

    And a “STAY NIGHT” is a night when you DONT MIND if your jump off stays in ur crib.

    BROOKLYN otaku
  4. Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is? Insanity is doing the exact… same fucking thing… over and over again expecting… shit to change… That. Is. Crazy.

    This summarize the whole Fate/stay night shit.

    1. Except things DO change; quite a lot actually, especially in Heaven’s Feel. The only thing being the same is the setting of the Fifth Holy Grail War up until after Saber is summoned and attacks Archer, but after that, things very clearly diverge from one another.

      That’s why the opening credits sequence didn’t bother showing us all of the beginning all over again – showing us just a montage/slide show of it instead – because it’s everything we’ve seen before and then they start us off where things start changing.

      1. I’m just tired of the same old characters living the same story with some changes. After a couple of times it’s a dull and boring plot device. There are more interesting (or, at least, new) stories that should get an anime adaptation; this whole Fate thing has become a milking cow like Dragon Ball.

  5. No one has really mentioned this, but thanks for the great write up, especially the beginning where you mentioned the supposed “chronology” of the Fate/Stay Night universe.

  6. https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20stay%20night/Fate%20stay%20night%20Heavens%20Feel%20-%2001%20-%20Large%20010.jpg
    While I didn’t mind that Saber was the main heroine (for the fate route), I sometimes want to look for anime that actually has either a childhood friend (Taiga) or a likable HOT girl (Sakura) as the heroine. Which was why I liked the Heaven’s Feel route since Sakura was the main love interest and I felt she totally deserved Shirou. Though I wonder if there is an alternative Universe where Taiga has her own route.

    Anyway, Anime that uses the same type of ending as Heaven’s Feel, where the Main Character chooses the girl that liked him from the START, is sort of rare; up to date, this movie is one of the few ones I know, aside from a certain ninja manga, that has this type of ending. Not to anger anyone, but I sort of hate anime like Fuuka and Aria The Scarlet Ammo. In Fuuka Show Spoiler ▼

    On the side note, I wonder if it was possible for Ilya to live a long happy life with Shirou. Yes I know her body was modified, where she was destined to live a short life, but I wonder if it was possible to “fix” Ilya’s modification. Meh.

    Anyway, thanks Passerby for writing this up.

    1. Try kaleid liner prisma illya if you want her to live a happy live with shirou from the start. It is only after some meddlesome mages can’t solve their problems the normal way that illya her live is not normal anymore but magical.

    2. A Taiga route where she tells her Yakuza Grandfather something is amiss and her Grandfather contacts a fellow boss who is known to deal with the supernatural, rest is Kara no Kyoukai spoilers Show Spoiler ▼

  7. One thing I especially appreciated was the more obvious connections with Fate/Zero.
    Fate/Zero being a prequel made later, meant references to what happened then were intentionally vague. To the point where, after F/Z was released, everyone was like “Why doesn’t Saber recognize these people?” Specifically referring to Kotomine and Ilya.

    But Kotomine was upfront about his role, he talked more about Kiritsugu and Saber warned Shirou about him. You could also tell that Saber was visibly bothered by the appearance of Ilya.

    Another point is what says that this movie was a successful adaption. It kept that feeling that things are not going how they should be. Compared to Fate and UBW, where the split off point was basically “Archer isn’t incapacitated”, very early on you can already tell Heaven’s Feel strays off the path.

    Over the course of the movie I really got the feeling that things are going terribly wrong. Everything pre-established is falling apart.

  8. I loved seeing this in a theater. Loved seeing so many female fans, almost half, I’m 56 back in my teen’s girls was rare in the D&D, nerd interests, and comic worlds.
    Many gasps, cheer and laugh moments in the theater. Favorites Saber Pwning Rider and Shinji going from smug to panic loser. The priest and his ultra hot tofu. The great fights. I was a very well done good looking film.
    Lancer actual does himself in for a change although I’m sure his orders did not help. Silly Lancer, you don’t chase an Assassin into an area that they clearly could have prepared ahead of time, either get them before that or withdraw for another day.
    I have seen some Sakura and Rin sister moments were they act as sisters in Fate/Stay in the Kitchen (Actually called Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family) and a bit of her elsewhere so I probably will be more pro Sakura than some. Also, love my Rin and Sakura Craft Elements in the game Fate Grand Order.
    I have read Fate Grand Order made over a billion dollars last year.
    Now that I think about it Rin and Sakura should have grown up together in Prisma but Prisma is after Rin goes to college. And in Apocrapha who knows except they should exist but there is no longer a grail war in their hometown. (not a spoiler it stated at the start and in series description) Ah the fun of the Nasu multiverse.

  9. https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20stay%20night/Fate%20stay%20night%20Heavens%20Feel%20-%2001%20-%20Large%20009.jpg
    I appreciate Heaven’s Feel: Presage Flower solving one mystery that has been plaguing both the anime adaptations of the Fate route and the Unlimited Blade Works route: How Sakura started spending a lot of time at Shirou’s house.

    In both the Fate and Unlimited Blade Works anime, it’s established that Sakura is just there at Shirou’s house in the morning and after school without showing how they met, so props to ufotable for including that much-needed backstory in this first Heaven’s Feel movie. I can’t wait to see more of Sakura’s story revealed later on–despite knowing that this route is darker and edgier than Fate or UBW. (Heck, even Fate/Zero.)

    Again, thanks to ODEX for bringing the movie over to my corner of the world, and I hope they’ll do the same for Heaven’s Feel: Lost Butterfly. (Need to work on a better, grammar-compliant shorthand name for these movies… LOL)

  10. https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20stay%20night/Fate%20stay%20night%20Heavens%20Feel%20-%2001%20-%20Large%20039.jpg
    Sometimes, I would really wonder what would have happen if Saber had just answered Ilya’s question, seriously since maybe Saber could have avoided fighting Berserker. Sigh, main characters always make the hardest choices.

    Because of how crazy Zoukan is, I am curious what would have happen if Zoukan had forced caster to unleash the Argon Coin.

    Anyway, on an extra side note, after the 5th grail war, what happens to Kirie’s command spells? just incase anyone knows.

    1. Nothing would’ve happened as the Argon Coin isn’t that impressive in the first place. At best it can summon a dragon (that isn’t all that strong) but Caster doesn’t have the ability to do so in the first place.

      I assume you meant the 4th grail war. He still has them. Dunno if he just kept them or that he just got them back as all unused command spells from previous wars are recollect and given to the supervisor.
      Show Spoiler ▼


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