This review will be split into two parts: The main 10 episode series, and the 3-Part finale special, for quality reasons.
Main 10 episodes
Born directly from the father of Type Moon, Kinoko Nasu himself, Fate/Extra: Last Encore is a fascinating title in the franchise of Fate, and the Type Moon universe at large. Despite Nasu’s attempts to inform everyone about the intentions behind this anime and how everyone would be at an even playing field here, mass confusion broke out. It is only loosely based on the game, and due to the unique circumstances of the show’s narrative, it has been deemed unfit as a start. Perhaps this explains the disgustingly poor reception of this wonderful show.
Such a shame, since this anime is a sheer, flooring spectacle. It does not stop. It explains as it goes along, showing the sheer brutality of its style and depictions of events. Regrettably the blitzed pacing makes us ask questions in order to connect how characters figure things out or otherwise do something important in terms of progressing the narrative. Thankfully it is the only severe problem with the narrative, as all other questions you ask slowly get answered. The anime should let itself breathe more, as its crammed tightly with exposition that moves at a lightning pace, whether that be exposition about the setting or about a character. It clenches you by your wrists and never lets go, as it flies off into the hellish world it wants to show you as it unfolds before your very eyes! A disorienting start that gives you an oppressive, dreadful vibe, and never lets that vibe escape. It is ubiquitous throughout this precisely crafted, chaotic spectacle of a series. The series gradually pieces itself together like a puzzle. The information we learn shows is that this is no ordinary Fate anime; this technological nightmare of a system the character's life in is equal parts bewildering and horrifying. The more you learn, the more crushing everything feels, as the setting is nothing more than an automation of atrocity in which mankind has no hope beyond one last chance at survival. Nearly everything makes sense in broken context of this ravaged, now disorganized world of the frightening future, despite how brisk the pace is and how convoluted things can be regarding the floors and the vile, disturbing setting. The visions Hakuno has are largely an exception, excluding visions of the past. Sadly, that alone makes this a daunting choice, no matter where you are in terms of Fate expertise, and what makes or does not make sense will not only be difficult to explain, but will likely be lost on you regardless. The excessive flashbacks do not mitigate this issue either.
The scenery is a glorious feast for the eyes, and the directing conveys this omnipresent sense of dread masterfully. SHAFT and the main director, Akiyuki Shinbou, as well as an added director, Yukihiro Miyamoto, mastered their craft perfectly with the most brimming of creative architecture your ever-pleading eyes can consume. An interesting idea that helped sell the distorted and discomforting feel of the events and setting was how often times, certain parts of the images on screen would distort as if it were a static channel on a TV or a moment of poor connection. The fight in the opening alone is proof of their luscious visuals, even if the fights in the show itself are a bit more into the territory of clumsiness to an extent, depending on the fight. Said fights are certainly far superior to Apocrypha, however, as all of them have the lovely styles and kinetic movement to rival the 22nd episode of that series. The designs are wonderful as well; everything blends perfectly with the fascinating, layered, brisk, and intense nature of the show. It is every bit as beautiful as this show’s incarnations of Rin and Sakura, and Saber herself. The rose petals and all of the attacks look majestic and vibrant, almost as much as the aforementioned architecture. Locations like the school, and Wonderland, are distinct and mesmerizing for the eyes, with such beauty only being comparable to the uniqueness of it all. The only issue is the occasional tampering of brightness that has no purpose. Other than that, the visuals are beyond exemplary.
The music, while not able to be as much of a pleasure to the senses as the visuals, is still wonderful and interesting. The Opening, "Bright Burning Shout" by Takanori Nishikawa, is fantastic, perfect for a series of action, given how adrenaline-pumping it is. The Ending, "Tsuki to Hanataba (月と花束)" by Sayuri, functions in mucha similar way, with a more emotional tinge to it, though the vocals may prove bothersome to some. The background music works well for whatever scene it is in, blending in wonderfully with the mind-bending environments and the crystal clear mood of every scene. Each smaller setting within Last Encore has its own music, so aside from the opening and ending, if you hear a track in one primary location, it will almost never be played anywhere else. Think of it like video game level music, almost. None of these tracks are absurdly memorable but are ultimately nice accompaniment.
What is most raw of all is what it says. People are full of desperation. They cling to survival to the point where they forget what makes life meaningful in the first place, regardless of any conflict or glory or despair. People can lose a sense of purpose and identity, a sense of life. They can be swallowed up by hatred, by confusion, by pettiness and vanity. People must always have a drive to make their lives fulfilling, finding out the meaning in things and what purpose they wish their life to have. They cannot let fear or hatred hold them back, let alone consume them as they proceed to make pathetic and ruinous decisions. They must make their lives truly have value, even with the inevitability of death, as the dead leave a legacy of decisions and worth for the living to interpret. The protagonists and each master servant pair each convey this in their own fascinating ways, with standouts aside from the beautiful and boisterous Saber and the unnerving and interesting main protagonist with his nightmarish powers that haunt him most of all, including this show’s fascinating and visceral incarnation of Shinji Matou, and other masters. Each master has a strong desire, far more than the main protagonist, and it can be fascinating and even disturbing to know what they’re in for, particularly due to the magnificent presentation of each of these, courtesy of Shinbou whose directing is phenomenal. Other characters, such as Rin, are merely there for other narrative reasons, but are entertaining nonetheless. Saber, however, is the ultimate joy, and Hakunon is fascinating to see get pieced together.
Fate/Extra Last Encore is arguably the most fascinating of the franchise's installments. It is a sheer spectacle in a completely different way to its brethren, and what it attempts to convey is far removed from what installments such as UBW and Zero wanted to tell, and what concepts works such as Apocrypha and Grand Order failed to properly explore. Does that make it the best? Not necessarily, but it is the most intriguing. It is the most terrifying and somber, next to Zero, the supposed holy grail of the franchise itself. Yes, UMU; it's such a fascinating work in so many respects deserves the respect it sorely lacks! Incomplete work or not, this work is a sight to behold. As I bid you adieu and await the continuation, I implore for this series to get the respect it truly deserves, as it is a passionate risk that pays off surprisingly well.
3-Part Finale Special
The crowds have stationed once again. The blazing curtains rose one more time. The long-awaited final act has arrived at last. Who could have guessed, once the pieces were finally put together, once everything clicked, that this play would be covered in rotten tomatoes?
These new and even returning adversaries are pure dirt in comparison to the more fascinating ones faced prior. Even the production, which shined beautifully at first, slowly degraded as everything began coming apart at the seams! The director of this performance no longer had anything interesting to present. Despite the answers to questions asked prior making sense and the puzzle of the world-building and scenario of the setting finally clicking without a hitch, nothing that happened along the way made any sense! Beyond the final minutes that leave a satisfying conclusion, reveals and outcomes were as underwhelming as the elements pulled out of nowhere here were absurd. The final 48-minute stretch is especially guilty of this offense. Such a dreadfully dry and elongated final outing this turned out to be. How, despite having a perfectly reasonable path in sight, did they stumble so hard? It should have been easy to write this finale, but now the once terrifying and interesting scenario has become as ridiculous the Last Order and Apocrypha installments that had brought shame in yesteryear!
Not everything collapsed, however. Despite the props showing their unfinished nature at times towards the very end, the production is as, if not even more stellar than before, with beautiful movements between the spectacles of this act's early half. Even in the disaster of a finale this act had, the visuals still burned beautifully (along with the script). The new music choices were as complementary and well-done as ever, even if memorability still only extends to the songs played at the opening and closing of the performance. Even the main duo along with their one remaining partner from before managed to be entertaining when nothing else was towards the end. Still, this already bewildering play has finally burnt to ashes, much to my despair.