By Type Moon. Released in Japan by Enterbrain. Released in North America by Udon Entertainment. Translated by M. Kirie Hayashi.
I didn’t review the first of these artbooks when it came out three years ago for several good reasons. I wasn’t really into Fate then, I almost never buy artbooks in general, and I’m not sure exactly how I’d have reviewed it, except to point at it and say “Oooooh, pretty!”. The first volume is subtitled “Art Material”, and is what it says, showing off the big cutscenes and promotional materials for the visual novel. It’s gorgeous, and I recommend it, but you can’t talk about it for 500 words. That’s not a problem with the second artbook just released by Udon. This gets deeper into each of the characters in the original game, showing all their sprites, discussing their character with the writer and illustrator in great detail, talking about the weapons used in the VN, and also showing off the original character sketches and commenting on them. There’s a lot more text here.
For the most part, this book limits itself to the characters from the original Fate, though it does assume that the reader is at least aware of its sequel, Fate/Hollow Ataraxia, as Bazett comes up in the ‘character relationship’ charts and is mentioned once or twice. We get long sections devoted to each of the three heroines, reminding you just how many sprites there are of each of them. Shirou, obviously, gets far less page time, as being the player character his sprites were rarely seen. We discuss why everyone loves Saber and how on earth she does her hair up like that (they agree she uses magic to achieve it), how much the strength of Rin as a complete character took the creators by surprise, and also how difficult they found it to distinguish Sakura and not make her main design “too boring” (the dangers of being the good, sweet girl).
Other surprises that I found within were the fact that Taiga, one of the most comedic characters in the game, was originally going to be a mature “big sister” type – and also get killed off, potentially. Needless to say, when the Taiga we know came into being the death got deep-sixed, and instead we get things like the Tiger Dojo. If you look at the character sketch section, you can see Taiga’s original design, and in fact it’s Ayako – something the authors readily admit, the illustrator just repurposed the old Taiga sketches for Rin’s friend. I was also amused at the discussion of Rin’s other friends, who only appear in the opening prologue. You wonder why they bothered to have sprites at all, and the creators explain they were told to add some as it was felt there just weren’t enough characters.
There’s three more artbooks after this, though I don’t know if Udon has licensed them all. The third shows us backgrounds, Tiger Dojo stuff, and the new CG and sprites added for the PS2 version; the fourth goes into all the other Fate spinoffs that aren’t Ataraxia (at least, spinoffs at the time the book came out, which was six years ago), and the 5th is the Ataraxia-focused book. If they’re anything like the job Udon has done with this artbook, they’ll be a treat. Essential for Fate fans.