Originally published on The Fandom Post
What They Say:
The boy made a decision to keep fighting, and to protect the girl. The Holy Grail War, where Masters and Servants fight to claim the Holy Grail. A new war has started again in Fuyuki City, 10 years after the previous Grail War. However, due to the participation of Zouken Matou, the patriarch of one of the Founding Three Families in the Holy Grail War, things begin distorting, twisting, and growing worse. Zouken summons the Servant, True Assassin. An unknown shadow covers the city, killing Masters and Servants one by one. Shirou Emiya, who has been fighting as a Master in the war, gets injured, losing his Servant, Saber. With his firm decision to protect Sakura Matou, Shirou refuses to leave the battle. While Sakura worries about Shirou, she also gets entangled in her own fate as a mage.
“I promise. I’ll – ”
He decided he wouldn’t betray her. However, their fervent wishes are about be crushed by the black shadow soon…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first Heaven’s Feel movie was a notable departure from previous Fate/Stay Night adaptations. Rather than the emphasis on action and world-building present in Fate and Unlimited Blade Works, Presage Flower featured a growing sense of dread, a feeling that something was deeply wrong with the Holy Grail War this time around. Major characters from previous routes were summarily killed off, Zouken Matou schemed from the shadows, and a mysterious creature kept appearing and attacking at random. By Lost Butterfly, however, these elements have moved out of the shadows and begun taking center stage in the Grail War.
Though much of the movie focuses more on horror and drama than action, it wouldn’t be Fate if we didn’t get at least some clashes between Heroic Spirits. Presage Flower gave us Lancer vs. Assassin, an excellent fight that Lost Butterfly quickly tops early on. It’s main fight, Berserker vs. Saber Alter (not much of a spoiler since it’s featured so prominently in the trailers), not only tops anything in the previous movie, it also takes its place as one of the best fights in the franchise. The Servants in Fate aren’t just powerful supernatural beings, they’re spirits of legendary heroes straight out of myths, a fact that you won’t soon forget after this fight. The two Servants launch devastating attacks at each other with almost no break, destroying everything around them as they use the terrain to their advantage for both offense and defense. There’s an incredible amount of force behind every single blow, aided by more of Ufotable’s top-tier animation and digital effects. This fight alone makes the movie worth watching, and it’s not even the climax.
Indeed, the second half of Lost Butterfly is fairly light on action, even compared to the first movie. Instead of more fights, it uses this time to expand on the characters, particularly Sakura. The first movie strongly implied that Sakura didn’t have the best childhood growing up with her nervousness around conflict and hints about self-hatred, something Lost Butterfly confirms. In spite of her meek demeanor, Sakura does have some steel in her when it comes to people she cares about like Shirou, but the film makes no bones about the fact that she and Shirou are both deeply damaged people. Sweet as their relationship is, and the film has a lot of great moments between them, there’s a strong implication that it’s not a healthy relationship. Sakura takes most of her self-worth and identity from her feelings towards Shirou and his affection, while Shirou in turn has someone to protect in Sakura. There’s no doubt that their feelings for each other are real, but the two of them will need to do a lot of self-reflecting and maturing before they can form a healthy relationship.
Amidst all this, Lost Butterfly occasionally dips into…uncomfortable territory. Sakura repeatedly acts ashamed at how she’s not a virgin thanks to being sexually abused, which is a realistic response from an abuse survivor, but has slightly awkward undertones none the less. The “damaged girl who is able to heal by having a sexual relationship with the main character” is not the best one to use, and Lost Butterfly has a habit of toeing the line around that. This is a slight issue, but not a fatal one since Lost Butterfly never crosses the line into overtly tasteless territory and does the best it can to grow Sakura’s character through this rather than boil it down to a trope. Even so, it would’ve been nice if the movie didn’t have this pitfall to dance around so much since there’s so much else to it.
Amidst all the action and romance, Lost Butterfly continues to grow the sense of dread from the first film, which is only enhanced as we learn more about what’s going on. The shadowy being that had only briefly appeared before continues to grow in power and influence and every scene it appears in is haunting in the extreme. It always feels out of place in the world, appearing and disappearing from one frame to the next, teleporting around, and sometimes seeming to lose its form in bursts of static. Though its exact nature remains a mystery for most of the film, we can absolutely tell that this thing is evil in a completely different way from past villains like Caster and Gilgamesh. Its very presence is a potent reminder that the Grail War is starting to come apart at the seams, and the characters we’ve come to know from the other routes are just as lost as we are.
One area where Lost Butterfly feels slightly lacking is Shirou’s own character. He’s not bad by any means, especially as we see more about how far he’s willing to go for Sakura’s sake, but it doesn’t do a lot to expand on him either. Fate/Stay Night is known for how much it interrogates Shirou’s ideals about being a hero, which Lost Butterfly touches on without really going that in-depth on. It’s understandably difficult to adapt since so much of Shirou’s development in the visual novel comes through internal monologues that would make an anime adaptation virtually unwatchable if fully included, but it still feels lacking. Even so, there’s still a lot of room for the story to correct things in the last movie, and the increased focus on Sakura does a lot to compensate for that.
Lost Butterfly also continues with Yuki Kajiura’s stellar soundtrack from the first movie, quite possibly improving on it. The main theme for the film is a quiet piece with chimes gradually increasing in volume and temp, starting out quiet and peaceful and turning into something sinister. This, along with other similarly haunting tracks, adds to the already unsettling atmosphere of the film while also perfectly encapsulating Sakura’s gradual collapse throughout the entire film. Yuki Kajiura’s soundtracks are pretty much always excellent, so it’s saying a lot that Lost Butterfly is one of her best yet (and that’s not even getting into Aimer’s also excellent ending theme for the film).
Though it’s not without its bumpy spots, particularly around its uneven pacing and weird ideas about sex, Lost Butterfly still stands as an excellent movie, particularly for Fate fans. Between the big Servant battle in the first half and the growing menace in the second half, Lost Butterfly encapsulates a lot of what made the first film so good, even improving on it in some aspects. Above all else, though, Lost Butterfly is the story of one girl trying to hold together as everything in her world begins to collapse. It’s intense, nightmarish, cool, and an all around great film that’s well worth checking out for anyone who liked Presage Flower.