Fate/stay night Heavens Feel route – a Broken Dream and a Broken Girl

by eternal on November 21, 2009

Fate-stay night Heavens Feel (2)

The grand finale of Type-Moon’s 50+ hour epic is not quite what one would expect. Coming after the dramatic battle of ideals in Unlimited Blade Works and the story of the fallen warrior and the king of heroes in Fate, it’s hard to imagine what kind of climax could do justice to the buildup.

Thankfully, Heavens Feel fills those shoes with ease.

In retrospect, though, there was something more to my enjoyment of the story than the simple fact that it ‘s a well-written conclusion. It touched me emotionally in a way that no Type-Moon work has. It’s hard to define it with a word, but there was something in particular that resonated with me in HF, something that has little to do with filling in the back story and tying in the themes. It’s the one thing that makes visual novels hit or miss, the often deciding factor that draws the line between melodramatic and heart-wrenching. It’s the difference between observing Shirou’s struggle as a fly on the wall and observing it as a participant.

Fate-stay night Heavens Feel (5)

Matou Sakura, the shy but kindhearted student who finds joy in making her senpai smile.

Matou Sakura, the broken heir to the Makiri family and the plaything of a twisted magus.

Matou Sakura is both of these things, and her story is a punch to the gut because of it. Had she begun as a victim, it would have been simple: after all, Type-Moon stories are known for their unorthodox choice of haremettes. We can only guess at how many humans Saber was forced to kill, but both Shirou and the viewer are forced to accept this from the beginning. Saber was always wounded on some level, but we know that she’s a heroic spirit with an admirable amount of honour, so we place her on a pedestal.

And along the same lines, if Sakura were made a victim only as the story progressed, her tragedy would not have been as cruel. Innocents are hurt throughout the game – the coma victims at school, Issei’s family, the shadow’s prey. Pain as a result of the Holy Grail War is acceptable, somehow. It feels, both to Shirou and to us, as something that we simply must fight against. It feels like something that can be stopped if we keep fighting.

But nothing can change the past. Nothing can change a victim who was broken 11 years ago.

Fate-stay night Heavens Feel (3)

This is where opinions may start to diverge. Those who found Sakura ordinary may view her “development” through merely sympathetic eyes; others who found her boring may simply not care. Luckily (or unluckily) for me, I felt in sync with Shirou for the first time, echoing his thoughts as he spoke them. Sakura had always been around, drifting from conversation to conversation, appearing in the occasional picture on the internet. She had always seemed mildly attractive and potentially interesting, but I never gave her much thought.

Or rather, I never gave her much thought until the game forced me to.

In a word, the pacing was perfect. The ordinary days of exposition and planning with Rin, with a light sprinkling of foreshadowing scattered on top, quickly led into the development of feelings between Shirou and his kouhai. Their ordinary conversations became slightly more than ordinary, finding beauty in the most mundane tasks. I was right there with him as he saw Sakura in her plain clothes for the first time, as she clung to his neck, half asleep. The developing love story was just like any visual novel, filled with the romanticized bliss of everyday life.

But as we now know, it wasn’t long before that bliss led to an unfortunate discovery….

Fate-stay night Heavens Feel

In essence, the destruction of Sakura’s pure image is the main catalyst of the route. Like in a Shakespearean play, the climax is in Act 3 – the moment we realize that Sakura is broken and that her scars run deeper than even the protagonist can reach, the ending becomes inevitable. Along with Shirou, the viewer is forced to come to terms with the fact that the ending will not be pretty, and that we’ll be forced to compromise something if we want to heal her incurable wounds.

On the flip side, Sakura’s role in the story is to force Shirou to rethink everything. As the wiki attests to, the three routes represent Shirou’s growth, meaning that his ultimate fate is to compromise his ideal in the name of something more important. The two years of bliss he shared with Sakura were enough to change his heart, to make him realize that happiness exists in the world. When the time came to choose between the girl and the world, he realized that killing his loved one would be a worse crime than sacrifice the innocents… and by finding something tangible to protect, he overcame his guilt of 10 years and found his sense of self.

Fate-stay night Heavens Feel (4)One of the many examples of how the route forces the viewer into Shirou’s shoes, moreso than the average visual novel

If Fate was the exposition that introduces us to the Holy Grail War and the meaning of the word “hero,” and if Unlimited Blade Works was the dramatic conclusion in which Shirou fights against the embodiment of reality in defense of his selfless ideal, then Heavens Feel is without a doubt the hopeless downward spiral that throws everything we thought we knew into the abyss. Fate/stay night is a story that begins with the beginning, develops with the climax, and concludes with the true climax.

In HF, much like Shirou, the viewer is forced to acknowledge the cruelty behind the Holy Grail War. We are forced to cast aside our admiration for Saber as a perfect warrior, we lose our ability to pin the blame on characters like Kirei and even Shinji… and in the end, we must recognize that beliefs and ideals pale in the face of true happiness. Shirou’s affection for Sakura was enough to make him throw everything away, to make him – the person who shouldn’t be alive – consciously choose to sacrifice the lives of others. However, instead of using his self-sacrificing nature in defense of the world, he uses it in defense of the most important person to him. It’s a 20 hour journey to reveal a simple truth: there are things in life that give us happiness, and in order to have some semblance of a human life, we must protect these things at the cost of all else.

In this manner, Heavens Feel leaves the last word on what it means to be a Hero. In the beginning, a Hero was a selfless warrior like Saber who fought in the name of others. In the middle, a Hero was a person who stood by their ideals until the very end, fighting against the cruelty of reality.

But in the end, a Hero is merely a person who resolutely defends the most important person to them. This is the truth that Shirou found when he killed Saber’s shadow and attempted to sacrifice himself, the truth that he found by taming Archer’s projection and mastering it despite the pain. As much as his future self tortured him, with his body of swords threatening to punish him for his betrayal, his burning desire to save his loved one triumphed.

The interesting thing about the concluding route is that the events are lined up perfectly to force our protagonist to regain his sense of self. Indeed, Shirou was a magus with the ability to “project” his mind into the real world; and when he found a person who he wanted to protect above all else, his determination set him free from the shackles of his past and allowed him to attain the happiness that his master threw away. His ideal was broken by his love for a broken girl in a broken world, but when his priorities forced him into action, he was rewarded with a happier future than he ever had the self-esteem to desire.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Blowfish November 21, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Personally I prefered Unlimited Bladeworks over Heavens Feel but it was in every way superior over Sabers arc wich is pretty standart storytelling.
The part where I am straying from your opinion is that I cant agree with Shirou on throwing away his beliefs and deciding to save sakura instead of looking for the greater good.
Betraying your own beliefs you had your whole life long is for me the greater crime than sacrificing something thats precious to you.Beeing a hero isnt easy and often results in a downward spiral of death and destruction yet its the path he has chosen to walk and he should walk it till the end and not decide halfway through that his own happiness and that of the people around him is of more importance.

I know that this is a rather radical view but in my opinion its important to walk the path youve chosen for your life without looking back neither if happiness or disaster awaits you.

This is probably the reason why I am prefering Unlimited Bladeworks over Heavens Feel since its focusing on this part.

My view on Love and the fact that I am not the most social person is probably a big reason why I am writing these words.Its not like I cant understand where your opinion comes from.

Please Note that some stuff might be incorrect since its more than a year that Ive played through F/S N.


ETERNAL November 25, 2009 at 8:28 pm

It’s interesting that you should say that, because I felt the same way while playing UBW. I had already overheard some spoilers about the game, and I knew about how Shirou matures throughout the three routes, making the “adult” decision in the final route. To be honest, if it weren’t for the realistic portrayal of his change of heart, I probably would have preferred UBW too. And even so, some part of me tells me he made the wrong decision. It’s not because I don’t believe in love, but because it feels like he gave up too easily.

Long story short, I definitely see where you’re coming from. I’m not sure if I’ll ever write a post on it, but I think there will always be part of me that sees Shirou’s battle against Archer in UBW as his defining moment.


Jinx December 2, 2009 at 12:22 pm

That was my problem too. To me it seemed like he had given up. Of course, the irony is that the only time he became a true hero was the time where he had given up on being a hero. Yet somehow, he lost my respect in Heaven’s Feel. I expected him to forge his own path (symbolized by his ability) instead of succumbing to the the choice of Sakura or the world.

Then again, I never did like Sakura. Do I feel bad about her past? Yes. However, I just cannot empathise with her, which was strange, as she is the only Natsuverse heroine where that is true. Of course, now that I think about it, I know what my problem with Sakura is. She never did anything to improve her own situation. She was going down into hell and she simply dragged everyone along with her. She didn’t do anything. She was, to put it simply, a convenient damsel in distress.

To me, the true heroines of HF is Rider, Rin, and Illya. Rider for caring for her master and doing everything she could to save her master. Rin for that kick ass moment where she was able to rival the power of the Holy Grail (which oh so cool. I couldn’t help grinning like an idiot during that part). Illya. Poor, poor Illya. After UBW, everytime I think about her I feel sad. HF didn’t make me feel much better, especially the Happy Ending. I wished there was a route in which we could make her happy.


Thess November 26, 2011 at 9:14 pm

“Never did anything to improve her situation.”

Such a disgusting victim-blaming.

Go read something about domestic abuse before you open your mouth again. Educate yourself. Specially when someone was subjected to it since they were five years old.

What would Rin do? Oh, fare worse than Sakura, because she’s much weak-willed as one bad ending shows it.


Machspeed January 4, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Thank you. I sympathize heavily with sakura because she was placed in hell on earth against her will with no way out. I saw shirou as her knight in shining armor and HF gave sakura the salvation and retribution her past so strongly called for.

robotization November 22, 2009 at 12:07 am

Really interesting analysis of Heaven’s Feel; I especially agree with you about the development (evolution?) of the story throughout the three routes.

However, I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t really touch on the theme of justice. I believe that the portrayal of “justice” is the key difference between UBW and HF.

When Kiritsugu and Archer each became an “ally of justice,” a “superhero,” what did that entail? Death and despair. The harsh reality is that “justice” is defined by the majority. Killing the few to save the many: that’s justice. Now, is that fair? Killing the weak to save the strong?

UBW Shirou, even though he fully realizes its faults, continues to follow justice. He knows it will result in his own damnation, but he still chases after his ideals, striving towards a world where “everybody can be happy.”

HF Shirou, on the other hand, cannot ignore the damage that justice will cause. Following justice means killing Sakura, and Shirou cannot bear with that. He defies justice so that Sakura can be happy. Fighting against the will of the majority, he is no superhero. In fact, he could even be considered an anti-hero from an outside perspective.

Heaven’s Feel says that it isn’t wrong to go against justice in order to protect those you love; rather, it is the right thing to do. You shouldn’t go blindly following justice or you will end up as nothing more than a soulless tool.


Jing December 7, 2009 at 9:44 am

i very much agree, these two arc gives a different veiw on whats right. but depending on your taste and what you grow up on , your veiws will differ. since i grow up in very different way from others i like finding all the good points in each part of life. presonally if i had to chose the happyness of the world or mybeloved , i’ll be torn because should i give up on my heart and soul that will die with my beloved or will i save my beloved and destory everything around me for my heart and soul. its them or me , should i be selfless or be selfish??? in this case be honest if you had to watch the preson who you love more than anyone and any thing esle die in front of you or killed , can you watch? who will you save ?your beloved?, but if you do, you will end up killing innocent people, can you live with it? presonally i would save my beloved and be strong and live with the fact that there were people who die because of my decidsion, because hosestly i don’t know them, i don’t know their dreams or life so i wouldn’t feel much out of their deaths. its like 9/11 how many people still really care about it? they may remember it but how many of them feel or was truly affacted by this??? not that many and because of this not many people care and thats how its always been. something big happens and than it is forgotten over time and thats the course of history. so live for one self and teasure life.do good deeds and take care of yourself. make a diffrence in someones life, and you will know if you save someone or not. this is my justice.


Owen S November 22, 2009 at 5:08 am

Well done. Well fucking done. I have nothing to say. Brilliant piece that captures the pain and passion behind Heaven’s Feel, and when all’s said and done, I’m glad you truly got it. Welcome to the club, boy: you are now a man.

What I admired about HF most of all, if you asked me, was how Nasu’s a fucking genius in that he subverted the virginity clause; not only did he do that, he also turned that expectation on its head and made it into something else together–never have I ever felt so guilty reading an ero scene such as hers.

Thanks for giving me hope. Hope that, y’know, the rest of the ‘sphere won’t be such lazy fucks and actually get around to reading it in its entirety and not in a half-assed manner either. As long as there’s bloggers like you who have the passion and time to craft beautiful posts like these, I’ll be happy.


Aorii November 22, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I’m in awe by how well you managed to capture all the emotions of Heaven’s Feel. True End is indeed true end, and I just hope the rest of the Fate/stay night fandom comes to truly appreciate Nasu’s best and finest.

It’s a shame Japanese’s views on Heaven’s Feel is marred by their obsession with purity (or Sakura’s lack thereof).


Son Gohan November 23, 2009 at 5:46 am

I guess everyone prefers the route of his favourite heroine. Mine is Saber, therefore I like Fate’s route the best. I always disliked Sakura and HF didn’t change this feeling.
I pity Sakura for her broken childhood but directing your anger towards innocent people is NOT forgivable. She should have fought against Zoken for her freedom. She could have sought her sister’s or her senpai’s help, instead she chose to keep everything bottled up inside her and then she exploded, giving up to the Shadow.
I also dislike this route because Servants are somehow downgraded here, with Sakura’s Shadow easily swallowing up even the mighty Gilgamesh.
There were of course some good scenes, like everything involving Rider, which is at her best here. I also liked Dark Saber’s death scene, very emotional. Not to mention the hilarious “mapo tofu” scene with Kirei!


ETERNAL November 25, 2009 at 8:42 pm

Oh man, the tofu scene was hilarious. I could never look at Kirei the same way afterward XD

To address your point, though, it’s true that people naturally prefer the route of their favourite character. I think one of the main reasons that Sakura kept things bottled up and never fought back is because she was tortured from such a young age. I’m no expert on psychology, but it’s like those stories of child abuse you hear about on the news or in textbooks. It damages the person’s self-confidence, or something like that. Her decision to hurt innocent people was definitely wrong, but considering that she was treated as an toy by her family during her most impressionable years, I can’t say that I blame her.


ETERNAL November 25, 2009 at 8:41 pm

@ robotization: Well said! I have nothing to add to that. The concept of “justice” is fairly similar to the themes I talked about, but still, I think you hit the nail on the head there. It’s a nice way of describing his change of heart.

@ Owen: I-It’s not like I wrote this for you or anything! But… um, well… I’m glad you like it. :3

@ Aorii: Is that really the case in Japan? It’s a shame, because I think her lack of purity was a huge part of what made the route good. I can see why a person wouldn’t want rape and abuse in a typical fluffy nukige, but it does nothing but add to the story here. Well, I guess it’s their loss.


Jing December 7, 2009 at 9:13 am

well to say the truth i think each story or arc has its important. each arc interconnect to one another and gives me a greater understanding of it as a whole. fate was sweet because Shirou save saber from becoming a heoric spirit. in ubw he learns about how his own ideals will form to make archer and how much it makes his furture self suffer and hate those ideals. and finally in heaven feels he is free and learns of himself. the thing all of you have to realize is that though out the whole game , the one thing that every one around him has try to do is free his soul from the guilt and make him happy. rin herself realized this and try to save him, but she fail but sakura didn’t , a girl who is broken and save a detored soul. and thats where i stand, i believe each arc has it beatuy and i think that they are all very well done.


himeka December 28, 2009 at 1:05 am

I’d agree with you ‘Jing’
I like Fate route the best no matter what, it just for UBW route i don’t think relationship between shirou and rin is love, for shirounSakura i don’t think they suit as Ilya said in HF. Actually the only pair that Ilya likes is Saber/Shirou, and Fate route is the only route that Saber can be save, i bet everyone wants her to become happy at least once in her live(truly happy means not by someone else safetyness, her only true happiness)
And the true route of FSN actually Fate route not just by the name but the true origin of FSN is Fate route story and also the true end is FSN RN^^


Gilgamesh92 November 19, 2011 at 6:00 am

You must be blind or something if you think the relationship between Shirou and Rin isn’t love. How do you know the only pair Ilya likes is Saber and Shirou. Saber fanboys these days… BTW Fate route isn’t the true route of FSN, seriously stop making up things on your own.


Thess November 19, 2011 at 6:49 am

Fate route isn’t the route of FSN, honestly… It’s a multiverse. Check it out before making stuff up.

In fact, Nasu said: “Even if seems that many people voted pairing Shirou with Saber, I think that for Shirou, Sakura comes first.”

Either way, I think the girls fit Shirou in each scenario. Fate isn’t the ‘real’ one, they are all real, they are different dimensions.

Heaven’s Feel Shirou is COMPLETELY unfit for Saber. Hell, doesn’t he kill her?


Keira January 17, 2010 at 1:17 am

well, good entry. I like to see another Fate Stay Night around.

Heaven Feel is really a good route, I think it ‘s the best in character development, stories and themes in the three route. The way the character wrote the dramatic development of Shirou is impressive, and about Kirei, he has really become my favourite character in Naruverses. However, I can’t help but feel very ANGRY at the end of the route, the so called Good End. (Or true end, whatever).

I just cannot forgive Sakura. Oh Yeah, You killed a lot of people and then you are still loved. I don’t like the way they (Shirou, Sakura) could live so happy after the mess they had. Those people are to die because they’re just some “number”, some details in a game, but they are people with their hope and dream, and the murderer could not be forgiven so easily. I got all the bad end involving trying to kill Sakura (is this really a bad end or the author always makes it become bad ends. Screw him!) She really got on my nerves, sometime I became so angry that I call her a psychobitch, (yes I know about her miserable childhood) the same to Shirou, and I must say I hate her very much and hate seeing her happy very much. What kind of justice is that? What kind of justice is for those people who died for some stupid war they don’t even know about ? Like in Boogiepop, “they are not even victims, they’re just at the wrong place at the wrong time” The Good End makes those death seams nothing more than a convenient plot details. And I like the Normal Ends more, because she really had some punishment and ..yes, she’s not happy.

in Kara no Kyoukai, they once said that “Killing a person means killing yourself” , that’s why the Good End makes me so angry. IF she could show some serious remorse (not just some “mentioned” the author throws in at the end of the story), she could gain some of my respect. The same to Shirou, he’s really annoying.

If I was a person in this town, if my friends and families died for this stupid reason, and if I know the murderer, I would definitely go to Emiya house and kill her with the most miserable way. Or at least dying while trying to do so. She got a servant and a magi by her side, after all.

Well, I think I sound so crazy here, but to sum up, Heaven Feel is really a wonderful route, because it could make me think about it so much. The only reason I hate it is Sakura. Not only hate her, I think I could not stand her very existence – or the kind of person like her. I hate the way the story make Death Sounds So Cheap. Fate stay night is great, Heaven feel is great, but Sakura, she does really make me sick


Cherry Lover March 6, 2010 at 4:36 pm

The thing is, Sakura never killed anyone (well, excluding Shinji and Zouken). Zouken did. It’s just that he used her body and her powers to do it. She bears little, if any, responsibility for the actions of the shadow, because she was neither aware of or in control of them. Plus, she does feel guilty about it, very guilty. She just doesn’t let that guilt crush her, because that would serve no purpose. Besides, she served any punishment she might be due in advance, and much, much more besides that.

Oh, and the ends where you kill Sakura are bad ends for two reasons. With one exception, you fail (and, for good reason, since Zouken isn’t an idiot, and nor is Kotomine), leaving Shirou dead and Sakura totally broken (and, therefore, likely to turn irredeemably into Dark Sakura with no Shirou around to give Rin a chance ot fight her). The only time you do succeed (the Mind of Steel ending), Shirou had no idea that the shadow was Sakura (and, thus, IMO it was unquestionably the wrong decision), and the result, whilst perhaps a good ending for the town, is undoubtedly a bad ending for Shirou (which is the point, since he’s the protagonist).

@Jinx: I don’t get that argument at all. What exactly should Sakura have done to improve her situation? She had no way to fight Zouken with the worms in her, and when she was given to him, she was four. Try asking the next child abuse victim you meet “why didn’t you do anything?”, and see what sort of response you get….

Plus, she didn’t drag everyone else down with her. In fact, she did the exact opposite. She tried very hard to keep Shirou from finding out about her, because she knew he’d end up getting himself hurt trying to save her, and she also avoided pursuing a relationship with him for that reason. And, it’s not true that she didn’t do anything either. It’s just that when she did do things, they were counter-productive, like going to Zouken in order to force him to kill her once she discovered that she was the shadow. There is nothing that Sakura could really have done in HF to produce a better outcome, except for killing herself when Gil told her to, and, really, I think expecting a 15-year-old girl to do that is being just a little unfair….


Orisha March 27, 2010 at 10:17 am


In this arc Shirou was indeed my favorite character. Well I don’t agree with the Shirou becoming adult stuff; in the three routes, we can see Shirou pruchasing an ideal, even if Sakura is told doomed to die, Shirou still stubborned to save her, there is no compromising , no way to stop him trying to reach this impossible goal.

In my view, the beautiful thing in HF is the way Shirou’s state of a superhero saving everyone else becomes a true human being trying to save himself. In the last two scenarios, his soul is filled with an borrowed ideal and his life is empty. In HF, his love wash away the last 10 years and the result is a world where Sakura has to live.

… well, he doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice himself for Rin or Ilya either.

For me, HF is the perfect route to end the game, it’s the final stage where Shirou can possibly find happiness(or death, multiple times) :

In Fate, almost nothing has changed.
UBW true end is tainted with hope mainly beceause of his relationship with Rin and his experience with his (possible) future. (the fact that Shinji is saved is also a ray of hope in Sakura’s life, unlike fate route)
But it’s only in HF true end that we can see the materializing of Shirou’s happiness.

And sorry for my English, I hope I’m understandable.


ETERNAL March 31, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Your English is fine, don’t worry :P

Looking back, I agree that one of HF’s biggest strengths is the fact that it forces Shirou to pursue his own happiness. It will always be up for debate as to whether or not his decision to give up on his ideal was “correct”, but the story has already shown us that his ideal was borrowed and, to some degree, hollow. Perhaps it was for the better that he chose to fight for the happiness of himself and the most important person to him.


Jarmel June 2, 2010 at 3:50 am

A little late to the part but I’ll comment anyway. I understand the emotion but the arc, I really do, but I still can’t like it. Shirou turned his back not on his ideals, but himself. He negated something he built his whole life around, nearly died every night for, and scarred into his memory as he watched people die around him. The most natural ending is the one where he indeed does let Rin kill Sakura and it seems it’s a bit of a cheat that they force you to follow the other route. I also have a problem with how they pretty much magically upgrade Shirou unlike UBW where the man has to actually do some real training instead of the BS projection in this arc where he just “gets” the knowledge from Archer, although they did tone down what Shirou could do. The servants themselves also seemed to take a huge hit in this arc compared to the other ones.

Now onto the side characters, I like Sakura the least of all the heroines in the game because she isn’t one. As some other people have pointed out, she just drags everybody into the mess. That of course is natural for her, in regards to her upbringing, but again I think she doesn’t really qualify as a heroine. I had a little bit of an issue with Saber in that she really doesn’t show any emotion even in the end while Berserker, the one who was insane in the beginning, recognized Ilya and screwed himself up. I’m again fine with it as it makes sense but personally don’t like it. Rin also wimped out but they built that up so it was fine however pretty much nobody sticked to their convictions in this arc. Yes being an adult means making sacrifices or compromises however giving exceptions because it benefits you is somewhat hypocritical in my viewpoint.


Cherry Lover June 10, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Well, I’m pretty sure I’ve already responded to this exact same argument elsewhere, but I guess I’m going to have to do it again….

Shirou abandoning Sakura is not natural for him, and people who think it is are fundamentally misunderstanding Shirou and his true nature. What Shirou truly wants is to make people happy, and to see people smile. If he abandons Sakura, then he can’t do that. All he will ever see is sad people around him, because the people he saves are the random people who he doesn’t know. MoS Shirou is in basically the same position as Archer, in that he can only ever directly cause misery by killing people, even though his actions will save innocents.

Plus, Shirou has no reason to kill Sakura. She isn’t certain to do anything, and he believes that he can contain her and, if necessary, kill her before she hurts anyone else. Killing her would be going against his wish to save everyone he can, because she is an innocent person and she can, perhaps, still be saved.

As for continuing from MoS, it would be absurd. Firstly, it would require Nasu to work out a way for Shirou to win, secondly it would be a bad ending even if you did win, because Shirou would be utterly broken as a result, and third it wouldn’t be the Sakura route (and, indeed, there would be no heroine at all). Whilst it would perhaps be interesting to see MoS as a story, it wouldn’t be remotely fun to play through, because it would consist of a long string of shoot the dog moments (with Ilya and Rin, in particular) with no happy parts and no hope for a good ending. It would just be outright depressing and, most of all, it wouldn’t be the Sakura route, so he had to save Sakura there, or she doesn’t get a route at all (which you may be fine with, but I certainly would not be…).

As for the servants, they were no weaker in HF than in the other routes. It’s just that the shadow is specifically attuned to defeating servants, so they don’t stand a chance. And, Archer’s arm is there to force Shirou to make a choice between himself and Sakura. If he learnt everything in the normal way, then he wouldn’t have to make the decision to remove the shroud to protect Sakura.

As for the characters, Sakura is a heroine, she’s just a different type of one. She has mental rather than physical strength, hence why she can resist the shadow for so long. As far as dragging people into her mess, that is exactly what she doesn’t do. She hides everything from everyone, and even begs Shirou to avoid dealing with her situation, but he refuses in order to protect her. There is nothing more she could have done to protect him, or others, from being dragged into her life. She’s not perfect, of course, but to blame her for the situation is entirely unfair, and to call her weak is just ridiculous.

As for Saber, she quite clearly does care about Shirou. You only have to watch some of the bad ends to see that. However, she is Lawful Evil, so she cannot bring herself to disobey her master. As for not showing emotion, normal Saber doesn’t show emotion, usually, so there’s no reason to expect her Dark side to do so. Nevertheless, in several of the bad ends she tries as hard as she can to protect Shirou. As for Berserker, all that happens is that he is momentarily distracted by seeing Ilya and holds off just for a second. And, he is shown quite clearly throughout the game to be extremely loyal to Ilya (even more so than Saber is to Shirou, in HF at least), so I don’t think it’s that absurd, really.

As for Rin, she never ‘wimped out’, she did what her heart told her to do rather than following her father’s moronic ‘ideal’ (especially since killing Sakura at that point was nigh-on impossible anyway). And, really, if making exceptions for the people you love is hypocrisy, then everyone is a hypocrite. After all, I don’t see you giving all of your money to charity so that people in Africa can have food to eat, or inviting homeless people into your house and giving them a meal. Yet, if your family came to you and told you they were starving and wanted food to eat, I very much doubt you would throw them out onto the streets….


PandaL September 18, 2010 at 4:09 am

Another very late comment.

One thing I believe in HF route is that Shirou never really abandoned and went against the world to just saved Sakura. In both true ending and good ending, after saving Sakura, Shirou still tried to save, or successfully saved the world by sacrifying himself. He still tried to save as many people as possible. All he changed is the priority list in his heart.While giving up the borrowed list, the world(majority>minority)>himself, Shirou finally found his own list-Sakura>the world>himself. What he did is absolutely reasonable for a normal guy.Hearing people critizing Shirou’s choice in HF always reminds me an little piece of news I read on a newspaper.

In a serious car accident, a guy on the crashed bus saved 3 people on the bus before it exploded, and they were the only ones survived. People treated him as a hero for what he did. However, later people found out that actually the 3 people the guy saved are all his family. Then people’s attitudes towards him changed dramatically. People began critizing him for being selfish and only saving his own family, and some even doubted he intentionally ignored other injuries on the bus.

Did that guy do anything wrong? Did saving his own family a wrong thing to do? Why did he all a sudden receive all the critizing? It was not because what he did was wrong. It was just people at first believed he was a hero, but later found out he was actually more an ordinary guy, and the drop from hero to normal guy was just so large that it built a negative feeling in other people’s mind. In other words, while people already applying the standard of an unselfish hero on him, saving only his family, hence being selfish, became unacceptable.

I think HF received critizing just for similar reason. In UBW, Shirou was portrayed as an unselfish superhero standing by his ideal, but in HF, Shirou gave up his ideal and became (a very little bit) more realistic and selfish. Hence Shirou dropped from a superhero to an ordinary guy, and gave some readers a negative emotional impact. I guess the more one loves UBW, the more likely he/she will hate HF.(For multiple reasons……LOL)

But after all, we still should not forget the fact that Shirou did save or attampt to save the world by sacrifying himself.

Shirou’s priority list regarding to his ideal:
1,In UBW: the world(all people)>himself
2,Archer: majority>minority>himself —same as Shirou’s father once believed
(1 is highly likely leading to 2 (for example, when sacrify has to be made). In UBW, Shirou’s comflict with Archer is actually just the comflict between 1 and 2. UBW is a story about Shirou standing by 1, and refusing to turn into 2.)
3,In HF: Sakura(beloved)>all other people>himself


ETERNAL September 19, 2010 at 12:20 pm

That’s an interesting news article you described, and I think it serves as a good example. I agree that Shirou’s decision is perfectly reasonable; his selflessness was actually unreasonable in the previous routes, and he needed to value someone close to him personally as part of his development as a character. I believe his value of Sakura is different from his value of the world in UBW, though, since saving her would mean fulfillment for both of them. That isn’t selfish; it’s human. From a thematic standpoint, though, it’s a little saddening to see him put his goals on the backburner, even if he technically didn’t give up. It’s perfectly reasonable but, like you said, it leaves a lingering regret for some people who wanted to see him fully achieve his goal.

(Of course it all makes sense in the grand scheme of things, which is why I accept the HF end, but I can see why the ending lacks closure for some people)


yuke December 30, 2010 at 11:05 am

In all the route ,the writer said sakura has no any fault .she is just a yonng girl ,no any friend,no any close people .she has nothing but requirement .requirment for living in a no pain world. though nobody pay for her ,how can we blame her anthing .all the story just her to exert for her happiness. She do her best to reach her love ,to go against her broken fate.although there is little progress, also she make some mistake .even in life’s hopeless situation ,she insist on to protect her love .if change the position with sakura ,I don’t think those people who blame her can do batter than her .what make we so hit no her bad situation ,but her run after her love in that fate .the story make me recall The Diary of a Young Girl ,both them are searching for heaven in the hell ,this is the life’s most strike.


Roarke February 19, 2011 at 4:24 am

Basically, whether or not a reader will like HF’s story and theme depends on them liking Sakura. The main problem with that is, unlike Shirou, the reader hasn’t had Sakura cooking and cleaning for them for the past year and a half. No skill in writing or pacing will make the reader like Sakura as much as Shirou did at the beginning of every route. I personally don’t like HF, but I can… well I can’t imagine Shirou’s perspective because after a year and a half I’d be having sex with the girl, adding just one more reason to save her over hundreds of the faceless masses.
Let me interrupt that for a moment to say I like UBW magnitudes more than HF. I don’t buy into whatever the people who say “UBW doesn’t work because RinxShirou doesn’t work” think. Firstly because my own bias leads me to like her best, and second but most importantly, it’s summed up in one word: Archer.
After an eternity of death and despair, Shirou Emiya still loves Tohsaka Rin. How can you read UBW (and even his shorter farewell in HF) and not realize this? Where do you get this idiotic idea that they will somehow be driven apart?
As for thematic differences, HF relied on the fact that Shirou doesn’t really succeed under his own power. Once he gives up the ideal that gives him the potential to be a “hero,” Shirou becomes dependent on outside factors to save the day, just like an ordinary person. He’s still an incredible individual, but he’s human. UBW and HF are basically similar in that they both say: “It doesn’t matter what is most precious to you as long as you have that distinct priority and run for it.” I’m convinced that UBW Shirou would have dropped his ideal if he had to choose between it and Rin. It’s just that the set of circumstances in HF were perfectly aligned to make that choice a no-brainer. That said I fell into the “bad” (read: awesome) one anyway because I don’t like Sakura.
MoS was originally going to be Ilya’s route, incidentally. The route where, at the end, only Ilya knows that Shirou is Archer, and the audience.
I guess all I can say is there is no inherent moral superiority to any decision here. I just like UBW better because it’s awesome. The main bits of HF I liked are Kotomine and Sparks Liner High/Mind of Steel.

Great Review, btw XD


AoG February 19, 2011 at 5:03 am

Heh, well you’re welcome to your own

Most people seem to have the wrong idea bout Sakura, and miss many things going on in Fate and UBW that show there is much going on behind those eyes than Shirou’s dinner or cleaning his house. You’re perfectly within your rights to not like her, but I can’t say you’d be wise to just dismiss her. She’s important to Rin, she’s important to Shirou, and she has wishes and ideals that are just as strong. She was just not as lucky as Rin and Shirou were (and they were lucky, let me tell you). Rin’s genius, Rin’s talent, it could all have become nothing if she had Sakura’s fate. She was cultivated into what she is now, while another person’s talent, and life was used for a completely stupid purpose. This is what this game is about. People. Ideals are wonderful, but it is the people who are important.

Shirou went forward by his will, which was as strong as ever in HF. UBW Shirou used Rin’s power to use UBW, Archer’s example to cultivate his powers, so he is every bit as much using others to further his goals. What is important is the will to move forward.

Rin told Sakura very harsh things, and honestly, her and Ilya got on my nerves throughout the route. Ilya could have helped her and saved them (and the townspeople, ironically, I don’t know why most people who didn’t like the route didn’t think of this) by putting her into another body and destoying the old one. Then getting her a new body.

Really if you make a little effort and think, Rin and Ilya were quite silly with the way they acted. That is why I cannot really take seriously many of the arguments people make against HF. They seem to be getting angry or frustrated at the wrong people. And Sakura became a fine person in the end, so those people who call her housewife, and doormat are way off base. She learned magic, even with the issues she’ll have that Rin won’t with her magical alignment being messed up, she pushes forward. She took over Rin’s job for a couple years as supervisor. In this, she could be said to be one of the strongest, as she helped Shirou get back on his feet and took care of him, ignoring her pain and shock from the war for his benefit. Despite what people say, she is most definitely strong.


Thess November 17, 2011 at 3:31 am

“After an eternity of death and despair, Shirou Emiya still loves Tohsaka Rin. How can you read UBW (and even his shorter farewell in HF) and not realize this? Where do you get this idiotic idea that they will somehow be driven apart?”

Not sure if… serious?

Archer doesn’t love Rin romantically… Archer comes from a future/past where he loved neither Rin nor Saber (the ditched Illya route).


Orisha February 19, 2011 at 9:49 am

I didn’t think about getting Sakura a new body. One line would dismiss this possibilty, like “with all these worms, extracting Sakura from this body would kill her” or something, but there isn’t any canon explaination unfortunetaly.

And well , I’m not a fan of Sakura. I think the main problem I have with her is her soft voice: a pain. But I agree that she is the strongest in her on way.

Howewer I don’t agree with Shiro and Rin being lucky honestly. If we compare with Sakura, yes definitely they are luckier but almost every character in FSN have an awful past. The Rin’s training was quite harsh(again, nothing as terrible as Sakura but harsh nonetheless), she has grown alone, Kotomine being her only regular social contact for many years. If she is clumsy when she interacts with Shiro in UBW or Sakura in HF, that’s not only because of her personality but also because of her childhood.


AoG February 19, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Well, first off, I fail to see how the worms would interfere with a soul transfer. It’s really a quite good solution to the problem of Angra Mainyu. No host, no possession.

Actually, she is really lucky. At least with her training, she got some kind of benefit from it, and proper instruction on not to hurt herself. Sure it was hard, but not above what you’d expect from someone trying to perfect an art. The game shows us that Sakura had none of that, and her magical alignment changed, which makes it even harder for her to use magic now than before. Rin had no such problem. It was pride and her trying to deceive herself into thinking she could even compare to the sufferings Sakura went through (for no benefit) in order to distance herself from the girl to escape the guilt she feels.

But yes, you’re right, she is really clumsy, the issue here is that this clumsiness has consequences.

Also, it is fine for you not to like Sakura, but I like to put things into perspective.
As for loneliness, I’ll give you that she lives alone, but she seems to have been active in school activities. She goes shopping regularly with Makidera, who has a comabtive relationship with her, she has Ayako, and a host of people


Cherry Lover February 19, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Well, there’s no real good reason why Ilya couldn’t remove Sakura’s soul from her body and put it elsewhere (she does it often enough to Shirou), and for that matter, given her ability to keep Shirou alive as only a head in the first Bad End, I find it hard to believe that she couldn’t do something to stop the worms from harming Sakura further, especially once Kotomine had operated.

As for Sakura’s voice, well, that seems to me to be a pretty trivial reason to not like a character, TBH. Personally, I like Sakura’s voice (it fits her well), but even if I didn’t it wouldn’t make me dislike her as a character. And, yes, she is extraordinarily strong.

And, yeah, I’d agree that Rin and Shirou aren’t particularly lucky overall, but in terms of their magical abilities, they are, in terms of both what they were born with and the way that they were brought up, which is what I think Altima was getting at there. Sakura was likely born with similar abilities to Rin, but whereas Rin’s was nurtured by her father (albeit at the expense of her humanity and childhood), Sakura’s was totally wasted by Tokiomi’s stupidity and unwillingness to train her and Zouken’s attempts to turn her into a Matou (and she didn’t get a childhood either).

*Edit* Hmm, I didn’t see Altima’s comment there before I posted mine. Ah, well, never mind….


Orisha February 20, 2011 at 9:47 am

Yes that’s weird that Ilya wasn’t able to do something for Sakura. I wasn’t trying to provide an explanation, just that it is sad Nasu didn’t write something about that.

And well sorry if I wasn’t clear, I said that I wasn’t a fan of Sakura, not that I didn’t like her. She is not my favorite character but I like her, except her voice.

And yes about the luck of Rin and Shiro I was talking in overall term, since it’s the bad habit, in my opinion, of Sakura’s fans to always compare her life with the others. In that regard Heaven’s feel does the same thing: you finish this arc and you realise that in the two others arc, there will always be the problem of Sakura, no matter how well your story has ended.
(And I have no problem with that, I’m just observing facts)


龙龙 FReD July 9, 2011 at 11:41 am

Although I prefer Fate route to Heavens Feel route, Heavens Feel route is a very sad and beautiful story~ Do you know the Last Episode?


Lynx November 30, 2011 at 12:25 am

Well, very late comment, but I really enjoyed your review. Heaven’s Feel is also my favorite route of the VN.
Concerning some comments made here, I don’t quite agree with some. Sure, some people may decide which route they like better based just on which one focuses more on their favorite character, but that’s not the case for me. I’m a big fan of Archer, Lancer and Gilgamesh, so, following this logic UBW should be my favorite route, but it’s actually my 2nd fave. What makes HF better for me is the story. In my opinion, it’s the most well written between the 3. It’s also the most tearjerking. And even if it doesn’t have quite as much action as UBW, I still think it is the route with some of the most epic moments in the entire VN (Nine Lives Blade Works, Kotomine in general, the best bad ends[Mind of Steel, Sparks Liner High and the last one with dark sakura], the entire conflict in the einzbern forest, the last day, etc), and the final conflict just feels much more grand.

Maybe i’m just a sucker for darker stories, but HF just appeals more to me. The only real problem I have with it are the 3 days where almost nothing happens besides sex and some interludes. But even then, it was necessary to make room for the climax.
Also, I REALLY thought Shirou’s ideal was… Well, stupid, so I preferred his mature self from HF. It’s better to fight for something which will actually take you somewhere than…Ending up like Archer. Yeah.
Once again, excellent review.


Machspeed January 4, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Thing is, I would have liked any of the routes as long as zouken and the evil Matou line got demolished, retribution was carried out for zouken’s/matou’s evil acts (and treatment of sakura), and sakura was truly freed and happy in the end; and it just so happened that Heaven’s Feel did that and did it well.


Yuqing February 14, 2015 at 10:44 am

I think most people ignore a very important clued of Shirou killing his idea of the past 10 years. that is Shirou finds out what kind of person his father was and what exactly was his father’s idea on the second day of the war. So he gives up his ridiculous idea quickly after his falling in love with Sakura. However, in the UBW route Shirou does not realize it until the end of the story.


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