From the perspective of a translator, the first Fate/Complete Material Artbook was easy mode. It had the most artwork and the least amount of text out of all the Type-Moon artbooks. While it was still a decent challenge for a translator it is a cake walk compared to the later books. The first book was mostly just the CG from the game with some extra material. In many ways, it works perfectly as a test of the viability of the licensing of the series for the English market. Start off with the easiest book to adapt before diving into the more complicated morass of the later books. Character Materials has interviews and long boxes of text. There is still a lot of artwork but this book has meat. Since Type-Moon fandom is such a lore based fandom it makes the book much more valuable since this is where the real insights and revelations are held. The true Dark Souls starts here.
The first part is without a doubt the heart and soul of this volume. The book goes through all the cast who have fully drawn sprites. So that means everyone from Saber all the way down to Leysritt and Sella. A few extremely minor characters like Otoko Hotaruzuka don’t get their own section but those are some deep cut characters who often only really show up in Fate/Hollow Ataraxia in any real capacity. I mean they have whole individual pages for each of the Fate/school life trio so they are not casually cutting of characters.
Each profile has a brief bio, some stats, a relationship chart for that character, and then some but not all of their character sprites. It is mostly what you probably already know about the character (especially if you read their extra material in the visual novel) with a few original insights. The real revelations come with the interviews with Nasu and Takeuchi. There is no set pattern for the questions they answer. I’m guessing they tried to answer a universal set of questions and then just printed the ones that actually led to interesting answers or conversations. Almost all the characters start with their origins and then go out from there. Past that point, it mostly comes down to how much the story focused on the character. Clearly, the three heroines get the queen’s share of pages leaving everyone else in the dust. Illya as the girl who was almost the 4th heroine she gets almost as much as the main trio.
Past that point, it mostly comes down to how much the story focused on the character. All the other characters get anywhere from four pages to a single page . Clearly, Gilgamesh and Shiro get more attention than Kojirou and Zouken. Depending on your thought process you might be surprised how many pages Taiga gets but for everyone else, this should come as no surprise. I was a little surprised that Berserker got short-changed. For his prominence, he gets far fewer pages that I expected. I was not expecting him to get Rin’s number of pages but it seems a little odd he gets the same treatment True Assassin does. Also, there are no pictures of Caster with her hood down in the front half of the book.
After that, there is a weapon’s section. It is probably the least interesting part as it is just a reprinting of the weapons section from the visual novel. After that is the draft section. It has a lot of concept sketches and rough drafts for the game. Takeuchi does all the commentary on the character designs and event CG, Koyama Hirokazu talks about the weapons, and Chihiro Aikura talks about the class tarot cards. Takeuchi sheepishly admits that his comments in this section reiterate a lot of what was said in the first part but there are some interesting original insights. The rejected versions of characters give you some real perspective on the development of faces you know and love. Lastly there is a short section of more promotional materials for Fate/Stay Night that were not included in the first book. These also have much more commentary than promo art in the first book.
The most important takeaway from this book was the insight into why Saber could not name Mordred as her successor. Takeuchi mentioned that Saber’s ahoge became known as the Mark of the King around the office. Mordred does not have her mother’s ahoge. Therefore she cannot be King. Mordred is such a silly girl. If she has just groomed herself a cowlick she could have inherited the throne.
I do have one major piece of criticism for Udon’s release of this book. Far more than the first book the spine on this one seems far flimsier. I’m guessing they are using the same type of spine but since this book has 18 extra pages I think the limits of the spine are a little more exposed. I already have a little crease in the spine which never formed with the first book.
I was surprised how much I got out of this book. If you have read the Type-Moon wiki you probably already know about 70% of what is written in this book. The thing is that information is really piecemeal bits of information scattered around various character’s pages. Here is flows in a much richer fashion because it comes off as a natural piece of a conversation as opposed to aside into a longer write-up. It is one thing to know that Rider was originally going to be Perseus but it is another thing to hear how the character was instead slowly turned into Medusa and why.
Overall it is exactly what I wanted out of the next book in the series. After this is probably the richest book when it comes to pure information. The World Material is the “Rin Tohsaka Explains Magic Systems” dial turned up to 11. The sort of stuff I love but I assume any translator dreads. Bring it on!