When it came out in 2017 Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel I. presage flower (here is our review of Fate / stay night: Heaven’s Feel I. presage flower), the first film of a trilogy, we were thrilled because we were aware that behind the production there was ufotable, the studio that also took care of the transposition of the series Unlimited Blade Works. Heaven’s Feel, however, could also mark the end of the adaptations of Fate / stay night, because it is the last playable route of the acclaimed visual novel created by Kinoko Nasu e Take Takeuchi.
Even if the first feature film did not completely convince us due to some narrative choices of the authors, it still managed to start a valid trilogy. Lost butterfly manages to improve the situation considerably.
A different scenario
Although Fate / stay night: Heaven’s Feel – I. presage flower is a new beginning, it is aimed above all at those who already have a smattering of War of the Holy Grail and on early events, thanks to the Unlimited Blade Works series. In the face of this, newbies may feel disoriented because they have no way of understanding what is happening, also because the fundamental explanations are reserved for short and fleeting sequences during the opening credits. Yet, the first film lays the foundations for what could be the best route: the fifth war proves different, not only because there are two new contenders, the Master Zoken Mato and its Servant Assassin, a new, more ruthless version, but also because a dark shadow is decimating the citizens of Fuyuki and feeds on Servants. The twists are by no means few, but it is the final one that completely overturns the fate in an unexpected way: Shiro is no longer a Master, as Saber is captured by the mysterious entity and an evil version of him appears.
Lost butterfly begins where presage flower ended. Sakura is convinced that with the disappearance of Saber now Shiro is no longer in danger, but the young man still decides to continue the war: he wants to eliminate the dark entity that is sowing victims in the city. Since he is not a very skilled wizard and no longer has a Servant to protect him, he takes advantage of the alliance with Rin ed Archer. The two are preparing a strategic plan for action when Shiro finds out that Shinji he kidnapped his sister Sakura, only with the aim of eliminating him using Rider.
At this juncture the first of the many twists is revealed, which many may have already guessed from the final stages of the previous film: although Shinji uses Rider, in reality he is not the designated Master of the Mato, because his magical power is not strong enough, but Sakura is, who gave the Command Spells to his brother to make him participate in the War in his place.
Precisely for this reason, Shinji feels a deep hatred for his sister, so much so that he wants to kill her: as a result, the girl is unable to control the magic, seriously injuring her beloved Shiro. To remedy the mistake made, the young woman tries to take her own life.
After recovering and learning the truth about Sakura, Shiro decides to protect her and help her endure all the pain she has suffered over the years. The young hero wants to eliminate Zoken, probable creator of the shadow, but to do so he must forge another alliance, with the Master Illya von Einzbern and her Servant, the beefy Berserker.
We prefer to stop here to avoid falling into nasty spoilers, because the lost butterfly tale, although it develops slowly, has more than one revelation in store that manages to keep glued to the screen for the entire duration of the film. All without putting aside a satisfactory construction of the main characters, juxtaposing the others, but not ruining the overall quality of the work.
A dark story
Lost butterfly continues on the road paved by presage flower and offers a story that at first approach may seem static, but which presents numerous twists and information that further enrich the characters, their families and the subplot that frames: events and explanations that converge in a striking ending, which heralds an even more impactful last part.
Perhaps, the only drawback attributable to the writing is how an important revelation concerning the main actors is treated, which leads us to follow future events with different eyes: we had the impression that in order to manage this situation, the guys from ufotable assumed that the viewer was already aware of some key aspects of the plot, without giving it the right thickness. On the other hand, even if not well emphasized, what is revealed may still manage to amaze those who do not know the salient points of the story. This, however, is only a small defect of a raw and “dirty” story, characterized by situations that are not at all sweetened. We move from a well-contextualized violence from a slightly horrific atmosphere, to some sequences that lead to eroticism, up to topics such as sexual drives. The gloomy atmosphere manages to highlight the gloomy and immoral themes of the work, which at different times displace the viewer with malice and arrogance. When Kirei explains to Shiro and Rei that Zoken has been subjecting Sakura to magical experiments since she was a child, with Worms of the Emblem (which have a deliberately ambiguous form), it is no coincidence that he uses the term “raped“.
It is introduced a controversial issue such as that of child abuse, addressed without being too explicit and burdensome, but still letting people understand what happened, so that they can try discomfort for the violence suffered by Sakura. The co-star herself claims that she is no longer pure, hinting that she may have been raped by her brother as well.
In the face of this, the viewer is led to feel compassion and empathy for her and for what she had to endure, to the point of wanting to justify her actions. Sakura has been stripped of her childhood and innocence by her grandfather’s greed, so much so that it wears out her soul: she was treated as an object and not as a human being. The strong shock she suffered led her to an emotional and psychological breakdown that has made her empty and scared, and now the young woman cannot control the magic and everything that has been done to her emerges with an uncontrollable destructive and self-destructive power. The only time she felt truly happy was the time spent with Shiro.
For his part, the hero manages to understand the pain and suffering that Sakura has had to endure over the years, and tries to be close to her, not as a simple friend, with the intent of lighten his suffering, accepting his darker and more evil side.
It is therefore clear that the relationship between the two is the focal point of the events: on the one hand Shiro who wants to win the war to free Sakura from her pain, on the other, the student is afraid of losing her beloved. The particular care taken in the development of the relationship between Shiro and Sakura compensates for a barely hinted construction of some supporting actors, who are nevertheless charismatic and well characterized.
This, however, is not to be considered as a writing error, but a narrative choice: where Unlimited Blade Works focused on the relationship between Shiro and Rin, putting aside the other performers, Heaven’s Feel juxtaposes the other Masters and Servants to put the center stage the whirlwind of emotions that overwhelms Shiro and Sakura.
Ufotable at maximum power
Once again, ufotable showed off an artistic sector able to offer a wonderful glance. The scenes are characterized by a purely cinematic cut and boast an impeccable and superfine design, free of smudges, both for the rendering of the characters and the setting, with an obsessive care even for the small details. The Carthusian trait manages to best represent the emotions of the characters: for example, it is possible to notice Sakura’s desperation in her now empty eyes. The complex and accurate visual sector manages to make you forget a CGI that turns out to be secondary, even if in some situations it stands out particularly: the only defect attributable to the production.
The artistic component boasts fluid animations and a soundtrack suitable for every single sequence, thanks to the work done by the composer Yuki Kajiura, who previously collaborated with the studio for Fate / Zero and Unlimited Blade Works. The guys from ufotable have channeled all their artistic flair into the fantastic and galvanizing clash between the corrupt version of Saber and Berserker.
Although it may seem a bit long, even if interspersed with less animated moments, the duel is impressive, with a design that allows you to clearly distinguish the two contenders in each shot, with a frenetic direction and fluid animations that make it adrenaline and explosive. The lyric-like soundtrack is pressing and gives even more emphasis on an already sensational contest.