Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel 2: Lost Butterfly (Cert 15)

1 Disc Blu-ray/DVD (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 117 minutes approx.

Release Date: July 13th  

The second instalment of this latest feature length retelling of the Fate/Stay Night saga offers no concession to casual viewers or anyone with a poor memory, continuing the story from where the first film Presage Flower left off, with not even a helpful recap to help set the scene for its return.

So, unless all prior events from the first film, or indeed the very first TV series from way back when, are indelibly imprinted into your mind, here is a brief refresher: In the Holy Grail War, Shirou Emiya’s servant Sabre was apparently killed at the end of a hellacious battle knocking Shirou out of the contest, but because he wants to protect Sakura Matou he decides to keep fighting anyway.

We rejoin the story right after Sabre’s supposed defeat and Shirou needing to find a way to stay in the fight, spurred on by his chance meeting with fellow master Illyasviel von Einzbern, her servant being Berserker. Shirou decides to consult with Rin Tohsaka for a plan but are interrupted when they learn Sakura has been kidnapped by her twisted brother Shinji.

In confronting Shinji and his servant Rider, it is revealed that Sakura is in fact Rider’s true master and she severs ties with Shinji, driving him to anger, dousing Sakura with a potion causing her to lose control of her mana then flees. To keep Sakura steady a fight ensues, with Rin lending her servant Archer to ward off Rider, ending when Shirou is injured and Sakura breaks down in sadness.

Lost Butterfly opens with an eventful twenty minutes or so of stunning fantasy action and some shocking revelations, but only means to carry on with the latter. Not to fret, there is more action to come and plenty of gore for the bloodthirsty among you, but the focus of this second film in this trilogy is on Sakura and her relationship with Shirou. If it sounds like it will be a sappy ride, disabuse yourself of that notion for there is nothing sappy about the way this romance pans out.

Many of you may know that the visual novel series this anime adaptation is based on is in fact an adult one, and by adult, we mean of the prurient variety, and not just for the violence. Kudos to all the scriptwriters for eliminating this aspect from the stories for their adaptations, as one unaware of this fact would never have noticed from watching the many anime versions – until now.

Naturally, Sakura would appear to be the least likely candidate to be the conduit for this; meek, uncertain of herself, simpering, loyal and sweet, she is the totem of purity and innocence in this tale, at least that is the perception we are given of her. Prepare to have this image shattered as we discover Sakura’s docile demeanour is born out of a history of abandonment, tragedy, and abuse that has left her tainted and dangerous.

After Sakura’s mana runs wild, she is examined by priest Kirei Kotomine, discovering an infestation of crest worms from her adopted grandfather Zoken Matou that feed on Sakura’s mana by arousing her. Suddenly Sakura is looking like an Otaku’s wet dream girl but this being a fantasy tale there is a twist – to satiate her darker side Sakura has to drink human blood which Shirou is happy to provide but when the craving becomes too much, an unstable demonic version of Sakura hits the streets and night, flesh hunting.

Of course, there is the matter of how the worms came to be inside of Sakura and this is where her tale becomes desperately sad and uncomfortable to watch. We knew that she was adopted by the Matou and we knew brother Shinji was a vicious bully but we didn’t know how bad it was. Now we do, and even though the content isn’t explicit or graphic, Shinji’s frenzied attack and near rape of Sakura is still distressing to watch, thanks to anime’s bizarre fetishistic approach to this subject.

Since Shirou’s kindness is essentially a mental panacea for the suffering endured at the hands of her family, Sakura only has one way she feels she can repay Shirou and again, it isn’t visually explicit but whilst the eroticism isn’t shied away from, the incongruity of its presence in an adaptation that has actively eschewed it in the past, is as divisive as the scenario surrounding it.

If, by this point, you are wondering, “What has this got to do with Holy Grail Wars”? this would be the major stumbling block with regard to the job of this film in continuing the story. Whilst exploring characters further and delving into their pasts is always welcome, these are often best left to adjuncts; in this context, it serves only to distract from the matter at hand, relegating it to a secondary concern.

That said, it doesn’t prevent the action from being entertaining and visually stupendous, but questions will be raised concerning the sudden allegiances that shouldn’t be. Archer is the servant who gets to showcase his talents this time around, with Sabre only making a very brief appearance. Rider also reveals a lot more of her fighting prowess, along with what hides behind her Bret Hart-esque shades.

There is little need to reiterate in detail the bar-raising quality of the excellent production courtesy of Ufotable. Pretty much worth the price of admission alone, they expand upon their repertoire through acutely mimicking the surreal obtuseness of Shaft in the truly nightmarish scenes involving Sakura’s descent into sadistic madness.

Perhaps I am being a little oversensitive towards the Sakura content in lieu of current situations, which most fans may not bet an eyelid to, which is fair enough. Looking at it objectively, Lost Butterfly is a strong “middle chapter” entry but certainly feels like one in places by not advancing the Grail War. Unfortunately, thanks to COVID-19, this year’s final chapter won’t be arriving as expected. Boo!

Extras:

English Language 5.1 DTS HD-MA

Japanese Language 5.1 DTS HD-MA

English Subtitles

PV and CM Collection

Japanese Teasers

Japanese Trailers

 

Rating – *** ½   

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