I was going to start with my review of the second Heaven’s feel movie with this history lesson but when I realized how long it was I decided to make it its own post that I would put up before the actual review. I know for some people this is common knowledge but the heyday of visual novels is in the distant past enough that it is worth talking about for some better context for one of my main points in the review.
Manga has always been the primary source of material for anime adaptations and probably will be for the foreseeable future. But there was a time when visual novels were being turned into anime left and right. It seemed like there was a minimum of one visual novel based anime every season with some seasons having half a dozen on the docket. While you still see visual novels being turned into anime it seems that light novels have really become the king of that niche.
The thing was the common wisdom about visual novels was that the way to really get them to sell was to have sex scenes. Therefore almost all of the male-targeted and even a good deal of the female-targeted visual novels had at least some erotic content. That is great when you’re just selling to the niche market of visual novels readers but when you try to go into the broader anime market it causes some problems. You can adapt all the content of the original game but then your titled is banished to henati anime market. It also means that you cannot port your game from the PC to any popular video game console. The most common tactic was to remove the explicit scenes one way or another. You can keep anything that would be considered up to an R rated scene but you cut out or heavily edit anything X rated. As I understand it some games were made specifically so that the sex scenes were made extremely modular so they could be removed from the game for a simple adaptation to consoles and anime. All the naughty bits are written and placed in the game so they could be removed without skipping a beat.
The problem is that some games like Fate/Stay Night have sex scenes that are important parts of the story. If you take out those scenes it leaves some big plot holes that take a decent amount of massaging to smooth over. In the case of Fate/Stay Night the author of the game wrote new scenes that replaced the sex scenes with far more PG-13 magical rituals. All of the anime versions of Fate/Stay Night have used the all new scenes in the Fate/Stay Night Realta Nua version. This has led to memes involving CG dragons and crystal fish. That was all fine and good for the Fate and Unlimited Blade Works paths. The sex scenes were honestly mostly fan service when push comes to shove. While they added some character and plot development they could be altered with minimal disruption to the story.
The problem is the Heaven’s Feel storyline is thematically sexual. Sex, love, and lust are all fundamental parts of the character and story of Sakura. The PS2 games change most of the sex into erotic blood drinking. A ton of vampire literature has shown that overall this is not the worst substitution it still abstracts a lot of Heaven’s Feel that was a bit stronger with the sex scenes. Whenever adapting Heaven’s Feel came up as a topic in fandom one of the biggest questions was what would they do with the sex scenes. Would they use the lighter PS2 scenes or would they use rated R version of those moments? There were decent arguments for both choices but for the longest time, it was mostly an academic argument.
The choice went from theory to practice when Ufotable decided to follow-up their very successful Unlimited Blade Works TV series with a trilogy of Heaven’s Feel movies. While they had gone with the crystal fish from the PS2 version for Unlimited Blade Works they went for the original content for Heaven’s Feel. Now overall the scenes are all basic cable sex scenes (they are not even HBO sex scenes) they are not the self-censored blood drinking scenes.
For many Type-Moon fans, this is the first time they have experienced the original version of any path of Fate/Stay Night since all the commercially available versions of Fate/Stay Night use the PS2 version as their source material. While the content of the original is common knowledge to most Type-Moon fans the more casual fans have probably only gotten the general gist of the scenes or know the parodies and jokes more than the actual material itself.
OK. That should catch everyone who is not a mega Type-Moon nerd or a visual novel historian up to speed. Next time I will actually share what I think of Lost Butterfly.