Review for Fate/Stay Night Heaven's Feel III - Spring Song
I didn’t actually think that we’d get to see the third and final Heaven’s Feel movie on home video here in the UK, before a release of the final Evangelion Rebuild movie. But Funimation so ruined their relationship with Khara, that there’s a genuine possibility that Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0: Thrice Upon a Time will remain streaming only. They’ve actually gone back and re-dubbed the first three movies for streaming to erase Funimation’s taint. With the Heavens Feel movies, the gap between the first two films was large enough for me to have forgotten the first film completely by the time the second had come out, and when the third film was in production, it was hit by a Covid delay that pushed its cinema release back even further. I was expecting this UK home video release around 2024, but we actually get it in quick order, just 18-odd months after the second film. Fate/Stay Night Movie: Heaven’s Feel III – Spring Song concludes the adaptation of the third path through the Fate/Stay Night game.
Ten years previously, a secret war over the possession of the Holy Grail raged between mages and the powerful servants they had summoned. It was a conflict that laid waste to Fuyuki City, and the sole survivor, Shirou was rescued by a mage and adopted as a son. Shirou Emiya has an instinctive rapport with machines, and can sense how things are supposed to fit together. Having inherited the Emiya estate, he now lives alone, and goes to high school in New Fuyuki, but his past has left a mark on him. His ambition is to help people, and become a champion of justice. He's unprepared for the havoc that is to come. New Fuyuki will be the battleground for a new Holy Grail War, as seven mages will draw forth their servants and clash. He's also unprepared for the fact that he will be one of the mages, and he's totally unready for summoning the most powerful servant of them all, a cute girl named Saber.
It’s hard at this point to talk about the plot of this film without spoilers for the previous two. The previous film revealed the truth about Sakura’s nature, about how her adoptive family saw her as a tool to obtain the Holy Grail, given her blood heritage. Her abusive childhood had its effect on her psyche, and at the end of the previous film, she had turned on Shirou, Rin and Illya, and embraced the darkness within her. Spring Song follows Shirou as he tries to rescue and redeem her, and in the process the truth about the Grail War is finally revealed.
The Fate franchise fell to ufotable to produce, and in the West it fell to Aniplex US to distribute. Both these things indicate quality. The disc may come from MVM via Madman Entertainment’s localisation, but it all begins with Aniplex US, and Spring Song’s 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer is impeccable. The image is clear and sharp, colours are strong and consistent, and the animation is unmarked by compression, aliasing or even digital banding. It looks divine. This is brilliant, as ufotable have delivered their best Fate production yet, the familiar character designs are shown at their best, in world designs that simply ooze atmosphere, while the magical effects and action sequences are breathtaking. All you need are a few lens flares and you’d be convinced that this was a Makoto Shinkai film.
You have the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 English and Japanese with optional English subtitles and a signs only track. I was happy with the Japanese audio, and appreciated the action and the music, while the dialogue was clear throughout, the subtitles accurately timed and free of typos. Once again, this is a film that really drives the action well. The sound design in this film will leave a grin on your face.
The disc boots to a static menu.
On the disc you’ll find a PV collection (4:20) and CM Collection (0:45), and 4:40 of Trailers.
I haven’t seen any of the physical extras in the Blu-ray Collector’s Edition to comment.
We come to that point in the review where I fight like crazy to avoid spoilers. Given how this film concludes the story that began in Presage Flower, and was developed further in Lost Butterfly, that is going to be harder to do than usual. This film is pretty much all climax, although there are a few twists and turns along the way, and there are plenty of revelations to be had as well. At least I am comfortable in saying that Spring Song is a worthy climax to the trilogy, and well worth the investment of time. Despite the year or so between the last two film releases, I didn’t need much prompting or reminding before I could get into the final film.
This is probably the most complex story arc of the three adapted routes, with rich story development, and a reliance on back story that enriches the experience. Once again, I do appreciate how much the Fate/Zero prequel feeds into this storyline, not least how it presages Sakura’s story arc. Adopted by the Matou family for her magical bloodline, her upbringing was one of abuse, so that despite her outward good nature, and her obvious affection for Shirou, the way her character turned at the end of the previous film was natural and understandable. That leaves Shirou, Rin and Illya at a disadvantage, given where they stand in the Grail War as this film begins. They are also at odds in how to deal with Sakura, with Shirou predictable in the way he wants to rescue her, while Rin as ever is pragmatic. Either way, it doesn’t look as if Sakura wants to be rescued. Rather she has some scores to settle with the Matou family that adopted her. And of course, there is the matter of who gets the Grail.
Naturally there also has to be resolution for the Heroic Spirits, notably Saber and Rider, as well as in no little way, Archer. But of the three routes, Heaven’s Feel concentrates more strongly on the masters, the mages that call forth the spirits to begin with. There’s also the Matou patriarch, Zouken whose arc needs resolution, and of course the enigmatic Kotomine, who plays a significant role here. Once again, allegiances and motivations aren’t set in stone, so it helps to keep your full attention on the screen for the duration.
There’s plenty of action to be had here as the plot teeters on the precipice, from one side to another. There are three significant confrontations in this story, and ufotable give it full whack when it comes to the animation quality. There is some serious imagination and eye-candy on screen. The most important thing is that the story hits all the right emotional beats as it heads to the climax, the road to resolving the Grail War and hopefully rescuing Sakura from the fate that consumes her soul. There’s challenge, heartbreak and sacrifice on the way that is all the good stuff that a decently told story needs. It’s not quite up to the standard of the original prequel, Fate/Zero, but of the two routes that ufotable animated, the trilogy that makes up Heaven’s Feel is the best one, which makes it the best anime adaptation of the game to be had.
It’s only when the coda of the film arrives that the adaptation missteps (and that only for people like me who have never played the game). I shouldn’t have to Google to find out why one character doesn’t make it to the end of the film, and then through a quick montage suddenly shows up again. The answer is there in the game, and spoilers to the game (and the movie) are available online, but it is a weak note to end an otherwise strong film on.