On 21 February, 2019, just a day before this piece was written, the Facebook page of ODEX Indonesia teased the screening of Fate/stay night Heaven’s Feel II. lost butterfly at Indonesian theaters. This is one of the most awaited animated films that have aired in Japan recently, with ODEX’s post already having over 300 reactions at the time of this writing. Meanwhile, the post advertising the release of Love Live! Sunshine!! The School Idol Movie: Over the Rainbow published on 1 February received only about 150 reactions in a span of 21 days. As an aside, however, both releases were nowhere close to the hype for Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative. Published on 17 February, the advertising post for this movie received more than 15,000 reactions. Extraordinary.
I have watched almost all of the previous “mainline” Fate anime adaptations: the first Fate/stay night anime from studio DEEN, Fate/Zero, the first half of Unlimited Blade Works (UBW) TV series, and the first Heaven’s Feel film (I was in a kind of anime slump when season two of UBW came out). Being this invested, naturally I was very much looking forward to the second film, and thankfully enough, I had the opportunity of watching Heaven’s Feel II in a Japanese cinema. Be careful that there will be some spoilers from this point onwards.
By far, the biggest talking point upon the film’s release was the leak of the sex scene between Shirou and Sakura. Japanese viewers took out their phones and started recording (please keep in mind that this is illegal and neither the writer nor KAORI condones cinema recordings). The footage went online and spread like wildfire. By now everyone with some interest in the film seems to have known about the scene; in the ODEX post above, for example, a big chunk of the comments expressed worries about possible censorship of the scene by the infamously conservative Indonesian Film Censorship Board. With these concerns in mind, how important then, is this particular scene towards the understanding the plot and the overall enjoyment of the movie?
Although a bit cheap, there is an economic argument to be made for the scene. Originally an erotic visual novel, it naturally follows that the majority of the Fate fanbase are male. My own observation (such as, identifying which of my friends are fans of the series) also provides evidence for this claim. Sex is a part of, and is one of the main drawing points of the original medium of the Fate series, which is aimed at the male demographic. Sakura in particular is the most submissive of the three love interests of the main routes of the visual novel, which plays kind with the male desire to be dominant over a woman—a friend of mine who watched the film with me said that “everyone I know who likes Sakura is a dude.” Including a sex scene with the character that appeals most to the male fantasy is an effective way for the movie to attract the majority audience of its source material. People would want to see the film more, and then buy tickets, increasing revenue and profits. The virality by which the footage of the scene spread across the internet might also be considered its success in “marketing” the film.
Of course, this argument disrespects the role that the scene plays in furthering the story of the film. Fans of the franchise would be quick to note that Heaven’s Feel is the darkest of the three main routes in the original visual novel. Shirou’s idealism and desire to become a ‘hero of justice’ is one of his main defining traits in the Fate and UBW routes. Heaven’s Feel Shirou is more pragmatic than his counterparts and is more driven by his desire to protect Sakura. Arguably, therefore, the romantic feelings between Shirou and Sakura in Heaven’s Feel carries more weight, and is more central to the premise of the story, than those between Shirou and Saber in stay night and Rin in UBW. This is not to say that those relationships are not important, but being a visual novel narrative where story progression is facilitated by the decisions of the main character (Shirou in this case), then his priorities must be clearly established. In stay night and UBW, Shirou’s sexual activities with Saber and Rin are done out of necessity, i.e. mana transfer. Kim Morrissy in his review of the film for Anime News Network notes a fact that I overlooked due to the language barrier: blood is the medium used for mana transfer in this film, which means that sex is purely emotional rather than “a dirty power up.” Shirou and Sakura makes love not out of a need for magical power, but their genuine feelings toward each other. The scene sums up what is most important to Shirou in this route, and sets us up for the third film with a clear focus. How will his bond with Sakura shape his actions as this trilogy comes to an end?
As a whole, Heaven’s Feel II is a sensory spectacle. The fight scenes are long, but are able to maintain an incredible level of intensity, so much so that I did not touch my popcorn at all when they were happening. There is a pervading sense of chaos and unpredictability about the movie, and Yuki Kajiura again does a wonderful job with the score to make sure that the audience are always on edge, which makes the small moments of respite (such as the one discussed above) even more memorable and important. The film is rich in animation but like the first film it does expect its audience to have a good understanding of the Fate universe (at least, just the main one), as the storytelling does tend to be a bit cryptic and leaves interpretation to the audience. It is highly recommended for people familiar with Fate. Be prepared for a visual and auditory experience that will keep you on the edge of your seats, yet also for a beautifully crafted story of Shirou finding the one thing for which he will give everything. Enjoy the film!
The Indonesian Anime Times | by Robert Setiadi