Title: Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel – I. Presage Flower
Length: 1 x 120 minute movie
Genre: Fantasy, action
Year of release: 2017
It’s of vital importance to mention that, as opposed to the safety net of my own home, I saw this movie in a theatre. This is partly because I rate as in the image below, which represents physical reactions to ratings related to a 1-5 score. In a 1/5, which corresponds to 2/10, I wouldn’t even be remaining in my seat! This is why it’s quite infrequent I actually review that low; if I’m not being paid to watch crap, why bother finishing it? Something even worse than that, then, is extremely rare, and the reason I finished Presage Flower – the only reason I could find to be compelled to not start snoring aloud in front of it – is because of the price of admission and respect for my fellow theatregoers.
Because this movie was part of an anime themed festival, the theatre was rather busy. The crowd were really into anime, too – you should have seen the applause at the climax of the Boku no Hero Academia movie, and I missed half of the final monologue during Kimi no Suizou wo Tabetai because of the sound of sniffling noses (and even some wailing). There was no such response to Presage Flower’s bleak ramblings. With the credit roll, the movie finally decided it had wasted enough time setting up its sequels, and the silence that followed was not one of reverence, poignancy or power – it was simply awkward. Murmurs began to fill the theatre as we realised that the movie was ending just as it began; overheard were the more enlightened readers of the original visual novel speaking up, explaining what just happened; it became abundantly clear that the only thing that the movie had achieved in its bloated two hours was utter confusion, and a hefty amount of boredom.
One only has to look at its confused direction to realise how this all came about. The Heaven’s Feel story is the third, and final, route of the original Fate visual novel, so I will forgive some instances of the movie expecting us to know what’s going on with tertiary characters and plot systems. It’s relatively forgivable that studio ufotable decided to montage one of the major sequences of the whole story – where protagonist Shirou is caught between one of the first battles in the Holy Grail War between Rin, her servant and Lancer – because they had already animated this scene a few years prior in their adaption of the Unlimited Blade Works route. Because of this, the move is completely baffling to first-timers, meaning the experience is strictly for veterans. Yet, later in the movie, Shirou is explained the entire convoluted Holy Grail War system in an overly long, dull, characterless monologue, and further, aspects of Shirou’s father – outlined within Fate/Zero, which ufotable did several years prior – are treated as unknowns. The decisions to save time and capture the audience are majorly clashing, as the movie comes across as too apologetic for the fans and expecting too much prior knowledge from first-timers.
This fundamental identity disorder is deeply rooted, too, creating something more vague than nondescript. In the several anime adaptions of the other Fate’s visual novel routes thus far, Shirou is known to be quite a marmite figure, where his immature and greatly exaggerated ideals, chauvinistic rhetoric and power-progression feeling like a narrative copout can deter some viewers, while the simple, inspirational messages of his arc can entice others. I can safely say that Presage Flower’s Shirou has almost no tangible qualities to speak of, period. Almost all of his persona’s development is outsourced, and this sop isn’t given enough dialogue, internal monologue, or narrative power to come across as a human being with agency. This extends to the greater cast, whom the movie expects us to be aware of, or merely gives a whistle-stop-tour of their traits – see Rin, Saber or Shinji, who make something more akin to cameos. However, the Heaven’s Feel route is dedicated to the quiet Sakura Matou – the sister of Shinji, who cooks for Shirou and treats him like a brother-figure, and is, as you guessed it, the romance option here. The either sparse or information-overload dialogue means that the pair’s chemistry is restricted to their domestic life (whereby she helps around the house), her looking up to him (for reasons that are, naturally, vague) and Shirou wanting to protect her (discriminately, ish). O, and Shirou having a wet dream of Rin seducing him, but Rin turning into Sakura when things get steamy. Truly a romance for the ages; in other words, right about the par for a horny interactive story’s adaption.
Barring the exposition sequence, it sounds like an awful amount of cuts, right? The lion’s share of the runtime is dedicated to action sequences and atmospheric shots. The action scenes are serviceable – visually impressive barring some jagged CG models and being a little too interested with the dynamic camera to be interesting – but the problem is that the movie cannot narratively draw enough importance to them.
I’m not going to preach about the rules of story structure, because the idea of a rulebook sounds oppressive. However, a movie still has to achieve something, and concepts like the ‘three act structure’ – which can be simplified to mean that there is setup to a conflict, the conflict, and then a resolution – can guide a story to accomplish something. Stories function on the basis of goals and obstacles, but Presage Flower doesn’t understand this very basic concept of storytelling, and further fails to serve as sufficient information as a lead-in to the next movie. Put simply, what is the goal of Presage Flower? The reason the audience I sat with were so confused when the credits began rolling is because there was no goal set out within Presage Flower – no conflict, character arc or subplot was setup to be resolved, so the movie merely decided it had had enough. It has ideas, sure. One such is solving the riddle of what Master is affecting Shirou, Rin and Sakura’s classmates, but there is no foreshadowing to feel like an ah-ha, no greater cast developed to feel significant and nothing further is done with this information, and it’s setup and solved within the middle of the movie with no fanfare. The movie attempts to setup a greater antagonist, too, but is split trying to foreshadow Sakura’s involvement with them and slowly, nebulously developing both aspects that neither are substantial at the movie’s unsatisfying denouement (if you can even call it that).
These things were not Presage Flower’s goals, because Presage Flower had no goal. Ultimately, Presage Flower is a movie with no purpose. Its charmless slice-of-life scenes, exposition-filled dialogue and outsourced or simply delayed character developments means the movie lacks a compelling emotional touch; its narrative has no attachment to a conflict that it seeks to resolve within its runtime, making almost no progress to that goal, and sets no self-contained arcs or conflicts to make a fulfilling movie with. Consider this: Presage Flower has already sought to outsource key events – what event in this movie would be considered important enough to keep? Perhaps one event near the end, but that’s merely inviting a plot to occur later in the trilogy. When the Heaven’s Feel trilogy concludes, Presage Flower’s endless setup will leave it in a sorry state where almost nothing can’t be trimmed; there is nothing to gain from watching Presage Flower that can’t be attained on the Wikipedia summary page – it might even make more sense!