As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the biggest fan of Fate/Stay Night(the VN or the anime) or Fate/Zero(which I did use to like). In particular, I don’t like how the survival game setting mixes with the themes. The themes themselves, however, the philosophical discussions around the nature of reality, cause-and-effect, and life and death, those I do like, and I do like how the Fate universe is woven into the greater “Nasuverse”(after its principal creator, Kinoko Nasu), especially when it comes to the characters. And out of all of the components of the Nasuverse, I like the Kara no Kyoukai series of movies the most(this may or may not change as I read/watch Tsukihime).
Kara no Kyoukai, subtitled The Garden of Sinners, is based on a 2-volume novel. Owing to the fact that it’s structured more as a series of character arcs and meetings rather than a game, I think it explores its themes much better than the Fate anime. Sure, the same rambling monologues regarding paradoxes and stuff like that do still happen, and they’re no better than in Fate/Stay Night, but when it comes to actually showing the consequences of the characters’ ideals and methods, Kara no Kyoukai is much more satisfying in my opinion.
I watched Kara no Kyoukai in between finishing watching Fate/Zero and starting to read the Fate/Stay Night VN. Compared to Kara no Kyoukai, the characters in the latter felt like a sore disappointment, Shirou in particular(he basically just wants to be the very best like no one ever was so he can save everyone). In contrast, even though their backstories were occasionally pretty unbelievable, the characters in Kara no Kyoukai made a much bigger impression on me. In particular, the part where they’re all teenagers/young adults with some amount of trauma or mental burdens really resonated with me. I liked the fact that the antagonists weren’t evil for evil’s sake, they were all driven down a path of despair and destruction because the world is a cruel and unfair place. Some more believably than others, but in general I really liked that I could sympathise with the antagonists at least to some degree.
Not that the protagonists are boring or anything. I’m still kind of on the fence about whether I like Mikiya or not(leaning towards loving him after seeing Mirai Fukuin), but Shiki is my favourite anime character of all time(so far). Sometimes she shines purely through the rule of cool, but most of the time, in my opinion, she’s one of the triumphs of the writing in the series. Not only is she a strong female character, but that part of her personality(or personalities, rather) still leaves room for her to be just a regular teenage girl from time to time. And while she’s portrayed as being anything but normal, I still think that the fact that her strength(which is not always a positive force in the world) is not necessarily always at odds with her girlishness. Also, she’s voiced by Maaya Sakamoto, so yeah…