When the news broke that there was going to be a new Fate/Stay Night anime in 2014 the speculation was fast and furious. The original Fate/Stay Night anime sits in place between the infamous meme spawning Lunar Legend Tsukihime and the critically acclaimed Kara no Kyoukai anime. It is not utterly reviled in a way that still makes Arcueid fans salty today but not really that popular either. Firmly in the mediocre middle. The Unlimited Blade Works movie is a bit shinier but the plot is a threadbare attempt to cram the whole story into 105 minutes. So when ufotable was announced to be doing a new Fate/Stay Night anime the crowd went wild. But the immediate question was what exactly was it going to be about.
Would it be a new TV series or a series of movies like Kara no Kyoukai? Would it animate all three paths of the visual novel, would it just be Heaven’s Feel, or just Fate again? Some people even speculated it might be the lost and forbidden Illya route. (But those people are weirdos and no one invites them to parties.) In the end it seems that the anime will be an entirely new version of the 5th Holy Grail War. It seems that if nothing else the broad strokes have been written by Nasu so it is about as official as its going to get without him making it an all new route on an updated version of the visual novel.
This was certainly a bold choice. The safest choice would probably have been just animating Heaven’s Feel. It is the only route that has not gotten an animated adaptation, it is a fairly popular story (despite its focus on fan whipping girl Sakura), and it is very much a style of story in ufotable’s wheelhouse. Also the fan base has been waiting for Heaven’s Feel for quite a while. Its darker edge and less idealistic Shiro definitely make it more American fan friendly.
Actually doing all three routes would be the safest bet. It would take the bad taste out of the mind of the fandom that disliked the work that Studio Deen did as well as give everyone everything they wanted. (Other than an Illya path. But as I said before we don’t mingle with those undesirables. They have Len and Kagetsu Tohya.)
So why go for a new and frankly untested road when there are several solid choices so far? I think it has to do with Fate/Zero.
Type-Moon fandom has always been a vocal niche but a niche none the less. Fate/Zero changed that a little. It hardly made Type-Moon fandom say a phenomenon like Bleach or Naruto. It did however bring in a fairly large audience that might have otherwise skipped over say a Fate/Extra CCC or Mahou Tsukai no Yoru anime. Gen Urobuchi’s involvement played no small part in that. And so while many of the people who boarded the train at Zero station are not going out to play through Tsukihime or read Fate/School Life they would be interesting in finishing Saber’s story with Fate/Stay Night. And herein lies the rub.
Warning: Spoilers for a decade old visual novel!
Heaven’s Feel does not feel like the best transition from Fate/Zero. Saber gets killed fairly early into the story, then her corpse is corrupted into Saber Alter, and then she is killed again. In fact any attempt in-game to save her lead to a bad ending. As Saber is really the only significant point of view character that survives to have a significant role in Fate/Stay Night (OK for one episode Rin was a point of view character but let us overlook that) it would be a little strange to merc her that way. It is not impossible to believe that the audience would still follow along with the story despite the linking character dying. It is not as if Gen Urobuchi fans are strangers to death.
That might be Saber Fan #1 prejudice speaking. Maybe all the Gen Urobuchi fan would high-five over the death and defilement of Saber. Maybe I am the silly goose.
There are some major benefits to a new path as well. It would let there be some more links to Fate/Zero. Most of the 4th Holy Grail war was a sketchy mass of important plot points more than a complete story when Fate/Stay Night was written. Now with that Fate/Zero is fleshed out this new path can tie both tales together in a far stronger manner. It also lets all the surviving Fate/Zero characters show up as much as the audience would want.
First of all while Illya is fairly important in Fate and Heaven’s Feel she mostly just makes a cameo in Unlimited Blade Works until get gets her heart ripped out and stomped on the floor. Also if nothing else it lets Saber recognize Illya which has always been a minor inconsistency that Nasu has basically had to hand wave away up to this point. We also could get a bit more of Aoi Tohsaka. Her date of death has never been determined in the series so she could still be around.
Flashbacks of Tokiomi Tohsaka, Kiritsugu Emiya, or Irisviel von Einzbern are hardly out of the question. Also Waver Velvet is still alive and could make an appearance. He did briefly get a mention in Fate/Hollow Ataraxia so he is still running around being important. On top of that it is a good chance to touch upon Bazett or Caren so they come up a little more organically in Fate/Hollow Ataraxia. Also if Caster or Assassin’s original Masters were ever going to show up in any formal sense (outside of a materials book) this is their chance.
As a side note: What is up with people hating on Fate/Stay Night Rider? She was always sort of neutral figure in fandom. She distinctly had her mega-fans and detractors but overall fandom was neutral on her with a general warmth towards positive. Sort of like a lesser Rin while still being more memorable than Caster (Who it seems most people can’t even remember enough to hate). From that I understand a love for Fate/Zero Rider has caused a shift towards disliking poor Medusa. Can’t we like the both of them? Must Rider fandom be a zero sum game?
None of those characters have to show up. In fact trying to cram all of them in there is the worst sort of pandering that would probably lead to a soggy mess of a new route. The thing is those are all new possibilities that could be touched on by this new anime. New themes, unseen pieces of information, and old mysteries can all be explored in ways that rehashing the tried and true paths would not allow. Plus this might be the best chance to hold some of that Fate/Zero crowd in ways that the old Deen anime could never do.
Only time will tell how things go when Saber goes back to the future this fall.