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Heaven’s Feel Trilogy Review: Redefining Heroism & Ideals

Hypocrisy repeats and redeems itself. Emiya Shirou has gone through so much change in the Heaven’s Feel route. It’s extremely fascinating to see such an immaculate and elegant characterization of an ideal. Along with that, it was also very pleasing to witness how selfish and selfless a person can become when nurtured by the circumstances. 

The fate of Emiya was quite a tragic yet astonishing one, with a lot of ups and downs in his journey. That said, today I am going to try writing a review on Heaven’s Feel Trilogy. Also, be ready to see the name Shirou in every paragraph.

This article is my understanding of the trilogy. It contains spoilers from F/Z, UBW and HF, so read at your own disretion.

Becoming Hero of Justice:

In the burnt-up realm of his dreams after rejecting the Holy Grail, Kiritsugu was only able to save a child. Emiya Shirou saw the man who was crying out of happiness because he saved someone. And that led to him believing in the notion of ‘hero of justice’. Although, there’s one thing to keep in mind that both of their interpretations regarding the ‘hero’ were different. Kiritsugu wanted to save the majority at the cost of the minority and Shirou wanted to save everyone. 

To be a hero of justice

In addition to that, Kiritsugu wanted to become a hero of justice for Shirley but he wasn’t able to keep his promise. However, Shirou never gave up on Sakura and decided to save her at any cost. Because it was the second thing that was closest to his ideals. It was always ‘I want to save everyone’. So when he couldn’t he chose Sakura, he adjusts his beliefs in the given situation and brings out the different yet same interpretation of his former ideal.

The Beginning of a Predestined Fate:

No, I never knew Shirou was going to die in the first place. It was this contrasting parallel between him and Archer that made the consequences more interesting. Because the moment Archer realized the beauty of his forgotten ideal, he lost. And when the opportunity came to put his ideal to test, Emiya was scared of losing people around him.

One of the most riveting duality in animanga

Still, they fought over an extension of a similar ideal to protect themselves in the past. The duality their journeys represent is amazing in every aspect. Moreover, their dilemmas are also explored very well by depicting two different sides on the same line. 

The Most Important Theme:

The most prominent theme that the Heavens Feel trilogy tries to put on the table is – whether you can stand for the ideal you believe in or not. Our beliefs and notions dictate who we are as human beings. And if we don’t stand by what we trust in the first place then who are we? The trilogy tries to narrate the importance of understanding our true selves. People act selfishly even when they try to be selfless. After all, we are nothing but ironies.

Fate as whole revolves around the exploration of ideals only

The other subjects that the route tackles are heroism, idealism, friction between real and ideal and vehemently pursuing what one believes in. Not to mention, that Stay Night, UBW, and HF are simply a deconstruction of the shonen genre. 

A Fragile Girl:

Amidst all this, one shouldn’t forget about Sakura too. The whole route puts so much emphasis on her characterization, it’s almost fascinating and surprising. We see the other side of her where she was abandoned by Tokiomi and left to the care of Matou. And there, she was violated and experimented upon every day. But still kept herself at bay and stood on both of her feet, waiting for someone to come save her. And when no one did, she broke. Although Shirou did try to but she was already in a state of heavy guilt. 

The tragic fate of Sakura Matou

In her traumatic and tragic life, she had only two things that kept her sane. The first being the ribbon given by Rin and the other one was the key to Shirou’s house. And she has been latching onto both of them for a long time. They were the only things that gave her life some meaning. The final route plays on this very thing. Because being able to save herself or not was entirely dependent on her choices, for better or worse. 

Amending Broken and Misunderstood Bond:

One of the key highlights of the whole trilogy was the conversation between Rin and Sakura in the end. So what happens when a helpless girl is left all alone with being deemed as a lost cause? She breaks. But the reason Rin stayed away from Sakura was that she was afraid and conflicted. She was scared of finding out the truth about her sister’s situation. In addition to that, Sakura was now a Matou and she at least had a family there. Moreover, if she did anything to save her, it might have lead to a war between Tohsaka’s and Matou’s.

Reconcilation of a misunderstood relationship between sisters

The movie clears up the whole misunderstanding. As a matter of fact, Rin even states that all she ever wanted was Sakura to be happy. Apart from their bond, we also get to see Ilya and Shirou getting together. The siblings’ love stay winning; not for long but at least it did for a while.

Animation and Soundtrack:

I seriously don’t think that I need to comment on the godly animation and marvelously crafted soundtrack. Every single melody compliments the scene so well, one of the few things which I consider perfect in every manner. Ufotable once showed again who’s the boss with the exceptional blending of 3DCG and 2D animation. The animators did a remarkable job in every movie. And the beautiful Yuki Kaijura did a brilliant composing. She did a stellar job and I couldn’t have possibly asked for more than that.

About the Shortcomings:

As much as I adore the movies, there are a lot of negatives to consider too. When a 20-hour VN is condensed into a 6-hour movie, it can’t possibly cover everything. That said, there were many things that could have been explored more for a better understanding. A few of the negatives I want to pint out are:

The most important negative being how Shirou is heavily misunderstood in the anime-only community. In fact, I was one of them too but a good friend of mine (Epiphany) was able to convince me otherwise. The characterization in the anime might seem cliche to most people but there’s so much more than that. 

Then there’s the relationship between Shirou and Illya, it never felt natural or right in some sense. There was so much missing to make them a compelling sibling. Apart from that, why does Lancer always get whacked over every time?

But this scene in the end was quite an emotional one nonetheless

There are so many unanswered questions too. A few of them which stands out are: 

Why was Illya wearing that dress before the sacrifice? How was Shirou able to survive in the end? Why don’t some servants get their ‘Alter’ form after the shadow engulfs them? 

And last but not the least, the final fight between Kirei and Shirou was underwhelming. I get it that it was a battle of ideologies but there could have been something more to make it interesting and compelling.

It felt like that there was something missing from the fight

The movies are kind of vague but enjoyable. But that doesn’t change the fact that I was keen to know the answers to stuff I didn’t know about. 

The Cherry Blossoms:

Heaven’s Feel was a wild ride. The trilogy was simply made to exploit and spit on the ideals of Shirou and to depict the tragic life of Sakura. Along with that, we also got to witness some of the best fighting sequences, side characters, Gilgamesh getting owned, and an unbelievably awesome soundtrack. It was a crazy wild ride through and through. Fate is simply one of the best pieces of fiction out there. And now it’s all over with movies and series, I am going to hop on to the VN sometime soon.

It was soothing to see when everything went back to normal. 

Heaven’s Feel was a phenomenal journey. 

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