By Deanna Nguyen
In just the last 20 years, ufotable has put out some of the most gorgeously animated series in anime, rife with fluidity and sakuga. The renowned studio shines brightest with their use of mixed media to produce seamless animation and action sequences, all in worlds that feel alive.
Suffice to say, ufotable’s works are a feast for the eyes.
From the early days of Dokkoida?!, Ninja Nonsense and Futakoi Alternative, to the strides of Fate/Zero and the Garden of sinners, all the way to the smash hit Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, ufotable ever elevates the medium. And with a batch of incredible composers including the likes of Yuki Kajiura, Kenji Kawai, Go Shiina and Hideyuki Fukasawa, these become much more than anime packed with battle sequences–they become epic compositions.
Let’s explore some of their most brilliant and ambitious works!
For newcomers, Fate/Zero is the perfect entry point into the Fate universe. While the critically acclaimed series is the prequel to Fate/stay night, it aired many years later, following Studio DEEN’s adaptation. Fate/Zero takes a dark turn compared to its sequel, with an adult cast and plenty of grim scenarios.
Director Ei Aoki (ALDNOAH.ZERO, ID: INVADED) enjoys capturing the morally gray areas of character ambitions, which is evident in the show’s main protagonist, Kiritsugu Emiya. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because it is. But if you haven’t seen it yet, no spoilers.
In Fate/Zero, the Fourth Holy Grail War is violent on all fronts, whether it’s between the Servants or the Masters. Legendary and mythological heroes are reborn as Servants, some with their own vendettas to chase, while others remain loyal to their Masters. Fate/Zero grapples with mature themes and doesn’t shy away from tough choices—choices that lead to grim consequences and plant the seeds for the next Holy Grail War in Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works].
Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works] (2014)
ufotable’s adaptation of Fate/stay night holds faithful to the Unlimited Blade Works path from the visual novel, hence the title. The aftermath of Fate/Zero leads into Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works], with Shirou Emiya as the main protagonist, and the reappearance of Saber, his father’s Servant.
The cast is younger, with a few adults sprinkled in, but the themes of war are no less brutal.
What’s most noticeable about ufotable’s action sequences in Fate adaptations is that they mostly take place at night. There’s a lot going on and compositional elements abound, including moon lighting, 3D world backgrounds mixed with 2D characters, spark effects when weapons clash, and camera cut-ins for cinematic effect.
As the cherry on top, Kenji Kawai, who also composed the soundtrack for the previous Fate/stay night adaptation, keeps the suspense alive and intensifies the battle scenes!
God Eater (2015)
Taking a breather from the Fate franchise, ufotable adapted God Eater, based on a video game series of the same name from BANDAI NAMCO. ufotable worked on an OVA prologue for God Eater in 2009, but with the TV series, the studio expanded on the world with new tools under their belt.
Yuki Kajiura and Go Shiina teamed up to compose the soundtrack, a collaboration that matched the epic scope of the show. It premiered in 2015 with a 13-episode run.
God Eater takes place in the year 2071, with a post-apocalyptic nation called the New Asian Union as its backdrop. An organization called Fenrir fights off monsters known as Aragami by using weapons known as “God Arcs” in efforts to protect humanity. And soldiers who use God Arcs are “God Eaters.” Hence the name.
Tales of Zestiria the X (2016)
In keeping up with their video game adaptation momentum, ufotable took on Tales of Zestiria the X, which premiered the same year that God Eater ended.
The series is based on two of BANDAI NAMCO’s games: Tales of Zestiria and Tales of Berseria. Human and Seraphim alike live in harmony in a beautiful fantasy setting filled with the promise of adventure and discovery! The series’ main protagonist, Sorey, becomes the Shepard, a legendary hero who wields a sword that allows him to fuse with Seraphim and use their powers to purify monsters.
Go Shiina is the series’ composer along with Motoi Sakuraba. The show ran for two seasons, totaling 26 episodes. The anime storyline doesn’t completely align with the video games, but nevertheless, ufotable manages to transform the video game elements into a show with stunning visuals that’s certainly worth the watch!
Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU (2017)
Based on a browser game called Touken Ranbu, the Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU anime series centers on Sword Warriors who are based off of historical Japanese swords.
Following the orders of the Saniwa (the player character), these Sword Warriors travel to different periods in history to defeat the Time Retrograde Army—sword-wielding zombies who try and alter history. While there’s an army of Sword Warriors back at the Citadel, Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU focuses on the Second Unit.
Touken Ranbu received an anime adaptation that precedes Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU called Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru, which dives into the daily lives of the Sword Warriors at the Citadel. Touken Ranbu has also received several stage play adaptations as well, and to share the level at which fans adore the series, Touken Ranbu fans raised 35 million yen to restore the real sword Ishikirimaru.
Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family (2018)
While not entirely comedic like Carnival Phantasm, Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family steps away from the serious and dark tone of the original series in favor of letting its characters have a good time. It’s a mixture of slice-of-life and cooking, which is where ufotable’s flawless animation comes into play!
Shirou and co. interact in ways that the original series would never allow them to, which is to say they’re basically smiling and laughing more. With a focus on domestic life, the show zeroes in on Shirou’s cooking abilities.
Even with the more laid back atmosphere of this show, ufotable just couldn’t help but play to their action-based strengths with the volleyball scene.
Here is where ufotable slows down the pace and puts an extreme amount of detail into the ways Shirou chops up vegetables or peels off fish skin. And wow, does that food look delicious! For a dose of happiness, Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family is your best fix.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (2019)
What makes Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba so easy to love is that everything from its world to its characters and beautiful animation are always inviting–despite its grim setting.
The show brings something new to the table while maintaining the heart of the shounen genre. Oh, and ufotable helming the series likely adds to its fan-favorite qualities. The boundless sakuga from battle sequences paired with composition by Yuki Kajiura result in a fully-realized world with a cast of kids who are just doing their best to survive.
The show follows Tanjiro Kamado, a protective older brother to his family. Several tragedies occur and Tanjiro’s only surviving family member is his younger sister, Nezuko, who turns into a demon.
Determined to protect his sister from getting killed by the Demon Slayer corps and giving in to her demon instincts, Tanjiro goes into training and soon becomes a Demon Slayer himself, with Nezuko as his companion!
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba keeps tensions running high but takes needed breathers with comedic character moments, culminating in one of the coolest projects to date from ufotable.
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