Getting into Fate is not that hard, actually


Ach ja, from the outside, Fate must seem like this unclimbable Mega-Franchise. Just typing “fate” into the MyAnimeList search bar and you are greeted with way more entries than any newcomer should deal with. So, here is the question: “How do I get into Fate and what order should I watch it?”

In itself a perfectly normal question. There is a lot of stuff, what should I watch first?, being more than reasonable to ask about any bigger franchise, especially those not easily labeled as Part 1-9. However, when it comes to Fate, this question more often than not bears a lot of baggage behind it; That it is notoriously hard to get into Fate and the watch order being a heavily discussed topic.

I won’t deny the second part. There are many different opinions as to what order Fate should be watched in, however most of those different opinions as well as the fact that they are different is mostly due to Fates unique circumstances of its adaptations, so let’s take it look at those.

Originally, Fate/stay night, released in 2004, was a Visual Novel split into three routes: Fate, Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven’s Feel. Those routes have to be played in this exact order, since this is just how you progress through the game. A year later, the sequel Fate/hollow ataraxia was released and finally, in 2006, Fate/Zero, a prequel Light Novel series to the original game, came to be. While there a many more series and games to the franchise, those three are what I consider to be “Core Fate”, as all the other spin-offs are more connected in spirit and name than by actual content. With the exception of Lord El-Melloi II Case Files, every spin-off can be watched after some exposure to Fate in general, though I would recommend having seen at least one route of the original Fate/stay night, as most spin-offs do reference parts of the original three routes.

With that in mind, the pool of possible starting points basically comes down to the “Core Fate”-entries.
As of writing this post, no anime adaptation for /hollow ataraxia has been announced yet, so it will not be included, though I will promise you that this whole discussion will start anew if it happens to be adapted, since HA is a whole other beast.

Beyond that, every route of Fate/stay night, as well as Fate/Zero has been adapted:

  • 2006: Fate/stay night (Fate Route)
  • 2010: Fate/stay night Movie: Unlimited Blade Works (UBW Route)
  • 2011: Fate/Zero
  • 2014: Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (UBW Route)
  • 2017-2020: Fate/stay night Movie: Heaven’s Feel (Heaven’s Feel Route)

The reason I wrote them down in release order is simply due to how obvious it is to see why there might be a good reason for all the discussions to exist: It took 14 years for this story to conclude, Unlimited Blade Works was adapted twice and Zero is just vibing in the middle of everything. Yeah, where do you start?, especially when not everything was adapted yet.

Before going into the argument of possible watch orders, there is still some context needed concerning Studio Deen’s adaptations.
Fate/stay night (2006), while mostly following the Fate route, also includes some plot points from UBW and Heaven’s Feel, resulting in a somewhat confusing ending and several weird scenes. Adding its… inferior production values, compared to Ufotable’s installments to the franchise, many people consider it to be not worth watching at all, since the Fate route is also to be considered to weakest one of the three. And while I don’t necessarily agree to entirely skip it, there is also not really a case to be made for watching it beyond some meta-narrative reasons like seeing all of Shirou’s character arcs and progression between each route. You don’t need to have seen the Fate route to understand Unlimited Blade Work, unlike the fact that you have to see UBW to understand Heaven’s Feel. This is also the reason why simply pointing to this series as the starting point is difficult.
Then there is Deen’s Unlimited Blade Works Movie… don’t watch it. It is a really rushed adaptation and since there is another, universally considered better adaptation, there is no real need to watch it. Take a look at these scenes from the german dub, if you want to have a… both good and bad time.

So, we are here: You watch Fate/stay night in the order of Fate, UBW and Heaven’s Feel, maybe skipping the 2006 adaptation of the Fate route… Cool, so where does Fate/Zero come in to?

Fate/Zero is hard to place. While being a prequel, it should absolutely not be watched first, as most of its emotional and thematic impact comes from the knowledge gained in the original routes. Also, to fully understand Zero, you need to have seen Haven’s Feel. The easy answer would thus be to watch Fate/stay night in its original order and proceed to Fate/Zero, however there is a good argument to be made to watch Zero in-between the original routes, as it can enhance the viewing experience and Ufotables’s Unlimited Blade Works adaption kinda takes Fate/Zero into account…

Watching Fate eventually comes down to how willing you are to spend time on it and how you want to watch Zero. The only “proper” order would be to just read the Visual Novel and then go ham, though most people don’t read VN’s and rather want to watch anime, so here we are.

In the following, I will describe several possible orders and why one would watch it that way:

Route Order:
[Fate/stay night (2006) –>] Fate/stay night: UBW (Series) –> Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel –> Fate/Zero
Well, it’s the “release order” of its source material, starting with the Fate route and ending with Zero. Only thing to debate is to whether skip the 2006 adaptation or not.

Release Order:
[Fate/stay night (2006) –>] Fate/Zero –> Fate/stay night: UBW (Series) –> Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel
The release order of their respective anime adaptations. Most people probably inevitably watched it like this, though as already mentioned, don’t watch Zero first. If you still want to skip the 2006 adaption, the next order is the one you want.

“UBW-Zero-Heaven’s Feel” Order:
Fate/stay night: UBW (Series) –> Fate/Zero –> Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel
This one skips the 2006 adaptation, introduces you to the world via Unlimited Blade Works, gives you the chance to appreciate Zero and ends with the movie trilogy.

Personally, I watched it in release order, though Heaven’s Feel wasn’t completely out yet. In my opinion, either watch 2006 or UBW, get into Zero and cap it off with Haven’s Feel and you are good to go.

Keep in mind, the purpose of this post is not to argue for a specific order, but to show that it is not as complicated as often presented to get into the Fate franchise. Ask yourself how you want to watch something and then just go for it. None of the orders I have seen floating around are necessarily wrong, though please ignore anyone arguing for Zero as a starting point, as “it is the chronologically first entry” is bad argument… that is not how prequels work.
Fates peculiar circumstances make it virtually impossible to give a “correct” order, but there also is not a particular wrong order to go about. For anyone still in doubt, I have hopefully gave you enough information to make a well informed decision.

Beyond “Core Fate” however, you are absolutely free to go:

  • Lord El-Melloi is a sequel to Fate/Zero following some of the aftermath of the grail war
  • Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family is the SoL cooking spin-off nobody knew they needed
  • Prisma☆Illya is four seasons of moral decay and one really good movie
  • Apocrypha and Extra are two different approaches to the holy grail war
  • Grand Order is… a whole other beast

Fate is fantastic, don’t let its size intimidate you ^^

local_offer Fate
folder Anime
calendar_today 2021