Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is one of the highest-rated and most popular anime in the Fate franchise, which comes as no surprise given that it was animated by Ufotable, known for their work on other Fate titles like Fate/Zero as well as many other anime series, like Demon Slayer. The anime, which was released in 2014, adapts the second route of the original visual novel by Type-Moon.
If you are new to Fate, I’d personally recommend watching Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works after you’ve seen the 2006 Fate Stay/night anime. While not as visually impressive and a bit slow in pacing, Fate Stay/night covers the first route of the visual novel and provides essential background that will help you further understand the characters and the events in this series. Watching it first allows you to appreciate the advancements in animation and storytelling seen in Unlimited Blade Works as well. That said, if you absolutely don’t want to watch Fate Stay/night from 2006, you won’t be entirely lost if you start with Unlimited Blade Works.
For more on the Fate watch order and why I recommend this, check out our Comprehensive Guide to Fate.
They released two seasons of Unlimited Blade Works, totaling 25 episodes. If you’re like me and want to own your favorite series, Aniplex of America came out with a Fate/stay night Unlimited Bladeworks Complete Box Set, which includes all of the episodes as well as the OVA, that I highly recommend checking out. But if you like streaming anime instead, you can watch the series now on Crunchyroll.
What is Fate/stay night Unlimited Bladeworks about?
Fate/stay night Unlimited Bladeworks is set in the picturesque Fuyuki City, which is nestled between the sea and mountains. It is here that an ancient and mystical ritual called ‘The Holy Grail War’ takes place. This fierce contest pits seven Masters, each wielding control over Heroic Spirits also known as Servants, in a battle of wit and will for the Holy Grail—a mythical artifact said to fulfill any wish of its possessor.
Servants embody legendary figures across various classes—Saber, Lancer, Archer, Rider, Caster, Assassin, and Berserker. Bound by a pact, each Master-Servant pair engages in a life-or-death battle, aiming to be the last duo standing. Among these contenders is Rin Tohsaka, a young and powerful mage. Bracing herself for the much-anticipated Fifth Holy Grail War, Rin, with her Servant Archer, steps into the fray as the last scion of the esteemed Tohsaka lineage, following her father’s demise.
However, the War’s complex web ensnares one unexpected participant: Shirou Emiya, a classmate of Rin’s, who inadvertently finds himself in the middle of the conflict and is nearly killed. That is, until Rin intervenes, saving Shirou, which inadvertently intertwines their fates. Together with Shirou and his Servant Saber, Rin embarks on a perilous journey to unravel the conspiracies that shroud the Holy Grail War.
Exploring what makes Fate/stay night Unlimited Bladeworks a good anime
Top-tier animation and fight scenes
The animation in Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is exactly what you’d expect from Ufotable—and I mean that in the best way possible. This is the same studio that brought us Fate/Zero and Demon Slayer. So, it’s no surprise that they’ve absolutely nailed it with the crisp, clean animation and flawless battle scenes seen in Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works.
What impresses me most about the fight scenes in Unlimited Blade Works is how Ufotable makes perfect use of pacing. One second, everything’s in slow-mo, letting you catch every detail, and the next, it’s all fast-paced action, perfectly encapsulating the ebbs and flows as well as the chaos of battle. In Unlimited Blade Works, you’re an active participant, and how they animated the series, makes it feel like you’re right there, in the middle of all the action. They have this uncanny ability to make every moment, every clash, feel important, and for this reason alone, it’s one of the most striking anime you can watch.
Another thing that impressed me is how they balance the high-octane fights and the quieter moments in Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. The battle scenes are as dramatic as they come, yet there’s a sense of realism to them, especially considering the stakes and the abilities of the characters. The action in Fate is one of its biggest appeals, but that’s not all it’s about.
The more subdued scenes, where we get to see our characters in their everyday lives or strategizing their next moves, are just as impressively animated and exciting to watch. These moments give us a breather from the intensity of battle and add layers to the characters, showing them in a new light, but they also expand upon the world-building and the lore of the series. Whether it’s a quiet conversation or a scene of them just going about their day, the attention to detail in these scenes makes the world of Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works feel alive.
In the thick of the battle, we get to see some of the best-animated action scenes in all of anime, but the anime as a whole is beautiful to watch as well.
Exciting lore and a complex story
Fate/stay Night Unlimited Blade Works, much like all of the anime in the Fate franchise, stands out for its complex storytelling and interesting lore. Out of all the anime I’ve watched, the lore of Fate is amongst the best, and while Fate/Zero might take the top spot for some, including myself, Unlimited Blade Works is close to it.
This is especially true when you consider the Heaven’s Feel trilogy movies that followed its release. Though different stories altogether, these movies add a lot to your understanding of select characters as well as the war itself. Since Fate is such a vast universe with rich lore, it is important to watch it in order. I have a Fate watch order in the works and will update this post once it’s live. On its own, though, the storyline of Unlimited Blade Works is exceptionally well-crafted with a story that develops from beginning to end in thoughtful and exciting ways.
The ideals and motivations of the main characters, which are mirrored or juxtaposed by those of their Servants, are a core part of the story’s appeal. Their dynamics not only allow us to connect with the story, but develop the plot as well. On top of all that, the Grail War, of course, is a key element that keeps you invested in the series. The way the War unfolds, along with the strategic developments and twists that occur as well as the knowledge you learn about the war itself, are well-thought-out and are placed perfectly throughout the episodes so that they are most impactful.
Since the series explores its characters’ lives and their relationships, while also following the thrilling evolution of the Grail War and the tales of heroic legends, Fate/stay Night Unlimited Blade Works sets the standard when it comes to storytelling and crafting lore in anime.
Interesting messages and themes
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works explores a lot of complex and compelling themes, which comes as no surprise when you have a cast of characters that represent the entire moral spectrum from the heroic to the morally gray, and even the downright twisted. Each character and their Servants reflect the ideals that drove them to fight in the Holy Grail War, and it’s these ideals that the show highlights the most. As the series dives into the characters’ motivations, you are reminded of how closely hope is intertwined with despair and how being a hero isn’t as cut and dry as it sounds.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works takes a hard look at what heroism truly means, showing the dark side that comes with it, including the difficult decisions and sacrifices one must make in their journey to become one. Every character is pursuing their vision of the world, so moral ambiguity and ideals are a central theme of the series.
The series also highlights the concept of wishes—what the characters desire for themselves, others, or the world. It does an amazing job of portraying not just the wishes themselves, but also the heavy costs that are often associated with them. Potentially my favorite thing about Unlimited Blade Works, though, are the moral dilemmas that are presented throughout the episodes. The line between right and wrong is often blurred in this series, reflecting the complexities we often encounter in real life but framed in a more complex light since it takes place in the Holy Grail War.
Unlimited Blade Works is relatable thanks to the way it explores the human condition as well as the conflicts that we often have—varying ideals, ethical choices, clashing personalities— and places them in a high-stakes, fantastical scenario, which adds drama and intrigue. Despite it being a supernatural and fantasy anime, it’s still entirely and utterly human because of its characters, messages, and the themes it explores. It’s the series blend of real human dilemmas and a fantastical setting that makes Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works one of the best anime you can watch.
Well-developed characters and relationships
In Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, our protagonist, Shirou Emiya, isn’t your typical hero. He’s thrown into the fray of the Holy Grail War, seemingly more by accident than design, which instantly grabbed my attention. Something is intriguing about a character who stumbles into such a high-stakes battle, especially someone as unversed in the War as Emiya. Watching him evolve from an average guy to a key player alongside his Servant Saber was one of the biggest highlights of this series.
Then there’s Rin Tohsaka. In this iteration of the story, she’s much more than a supporting character; she’s central to the plot. I found her character development in Unlimited Blade Works to be particularly well done. Her interactions with Archer, which are filled with tension but also mutual respect, showcase their complex yet effective partnership. They’re like two sides of the same coin, often at odds but always aiming to support one other.
The dynamics between Saber and Emiya, and Tohsaka and Archer, are what make this anime so amazing. It’s not just their individual stories that are compelling, though, but also how these characters interact and clash with others. As expected for a story where the main focal point is war, the enemies they make are just as important as their allies. The conflicts and the antagonists of the story are flawlessly crafted and it’s the antagonist/protagonist relationships that make this series such a strong watch.
In Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, the interplay between the characters stands out. Every interaction, every choice they make, influences the story. The Fate franchise explores various routes, each highlighting the impact of these relationships. It’s interesting to see how altering just one relationship can lead to a completely different story, but it shows that our relationships can impact our fates just as much as our personal growth. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works’ rich tapestry of characters and their interconnected fates are ultimately what make this anime, but it’s so much more than that as well.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is one of my all-time favorites in the Fate series. When it comes to shows filled with action and fights, picking the right animation studio is crucial, and Ufotable was the perfect choice. They delivered animation and fight scenes that were close to flawless. But what sets this series apart is the characters and their interactions, which are some of the best I’ve seen in any anime. Unlimited Blade Work is also a complex and fascinating anime with incredible world-building and deep lore, so it invests and pulls you into its story.
As mentioned earlier, I do recommend checking out the 2006 Fate/stay night first before you watch Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. If you start with Unlimited Blade Works, it will be even harder to go back and watch Fate/stay night, especially given the massive, and I mean massive, advancements in animation. Unlimited Blade Works adapts the second route of the original visual novel, so, if you want to start at the very beginning, you’ll want to watch Fate/stay night (2006) first because it adapts the first route.
That’s not to say you can’t skip Fate/stay night and go straight to watching Unlimited Blade Works, if you give it a shot and absolutely don’t watch it, but just know you will be missing the first piece of the puzzle and some background of the story if you do. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is one of the highest-rated in the franchise for a reason. It’s one of anime’s best and most prestigious of holy grails, and I couldn’t recommend it more, especially if you enjoy diving into complex storylines.
Where to Watch Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works
You can watch Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works via the Complete Box Set released by Aniplex of America or you can stream it now on Crunchyroll.