It took about a year for me to finally finish this thing. No, it isn’t about the movie.
Something I never get tired of in visual novels is the ways that writers take advantage of the branching and resetting in the overall plot of the game. What’s fascinating about Fate/stay night is that its narrative progresses across all of its different routes. Even though the story begins and ends in each route, the narrative continues and both Shirou and our understanding of the world and the other characters grow from route to route.
In that light, Heaven’s Feel is the perfect end to the entire thing. In each arc, Shirou’s heroic ideals are the thing that is being challenged. In Fate and Unlimited Blade Works, the worst that could happen was that Shirou would lose his life because of it. But if you’re a hero, that’s not such a bad way to go, I guess. Things are not so easy when the thing you would lose is the life of your love.
It’s that classic moral dilemma: would you kill one person to save a hundred? Fate/stay night poses that question a little more specifically. What if that person was yourself? Shirou goes ‘hells yeah’. What if that person wasn’t yourself? Shirou goes, ‘I’ll save everyone’, but he can’t. What if that person was your beloved? ‘…’ What if the one you love is the direct cause of those peoples’ deaths? ‘……….’
It’s not just the difficult part of Shirou’s ideal that’s attacked. He can’t save everyone, but failing at that is understandable and human. But the sense of justice from being a hero is also under assault. All he has to do is kill whoever’s been taking the lives of innocents, what’s so hard about that? Oh, it’s his lover, well, that kinda sucks. What is a hero to do?
I don’t remember where I read it, but each route is supposed to represent a different stage in life. In childhood, we cling on to our ideals at the expense of everything else. In adolescence, we try to reconcile our ideals with everything else. And in adulthood, we recognize what’s really important and we throw away our childish things.
It’s in UBW that a lot of people say that Shirou becomes GAR and mans up. But really, it’s in Heaven’s Feel that Shirou mans up for reals. Fate/stay night is about Shirou growing up and it appropriately ends with him throwing away his childish ideals for the one he loves.