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Fate/Stay Night is one of those things that start out promising but then only ends up dragging it's feet. The prologue starts promising enough with Rin as the main character and there is some decent setup for what's to come... and then the perspective flips to Shirou, perhaps one of the most obnoxious and unlikable protagonists I have seen in a long while.
While I can see what the writer tried to do with him, the execution just fell on it's face more often than not. It's about as subtle about as a brick to the face and yet it can't seem to hold it consistent of whether it wants to pick apart or embrace him. Made worse by the fact that what it shows and what it tells are often in contradiction with each other. And that's before even getting into his annoying idiocy, stubbornness and sexism. I know they are character traits, but with how they are shoved in your face and with how they are put together just makes him absolutely insufferable who just seems to win fights cause the writer said he did so.
The overall writing doesn't fare much better. The moment to moment writing is just painful to read and that's before even getting into the endless amount of filler and numerous pointless exposition dumps. Characters like to state that Kotomine is a walking exposition factory, but I'd say the other characters are far worse. In fact, the novel can fill exposition dumps completely out of the blue for even the smallest of things. It's clear that it tries to build a world yet it never makes use of any of it, often coming up with exceptions and contrivances to favor the heroes through Deus ex Machina's and endless amounts of Plot Armor. In fact, at times it get's kind of ridiculous. And as previously mentioned, what it tells and what it shows often contradict each other. The whole thing just comes across as pretentious.
As for the routes, I would say that Fate is by far the worst, putting a lot of Shirou's unpleasant traits front and center without treating them accordingly. And while Unlimited Blade Works does improve quite a bit it still suffers from many of the VN's underlying problems as well as having an unbelievably shallow and forgettable main villain. Heaven's Feel I would call both the best and worst route. Best in that it finally decides to ditch a lot of the Plot Armor as well as giving more screen-time to perhaps the novels best character, Kotomine. In fact, he might be perhaps the brightest spot of the whole thing. Even Rin get's more interesting in this route. Sadly it's once again held back by Shirou who completely derails cause of another problem, Sakura, a character whose sole existence is as bait for shallow empathy and Shinji, an equally empty character whose sole meaning of existence is to create said shallow empathy for Sakura.
In general, this was a VN that was its own worst enemy and was just a painful slog to read through and takes way too long for anything interesting to start happening, and even then its just not worth it.
Shirou cooks, cleans, and generally acts in whatever way any visitor wants him to act. He\'s alot more passive and quiet than most other shonen protagonists and generally tries to listen people\'s problems when they have them. He likes attention and adulation, but has trouble getting it out through words, so he works for attention through actions, (like maintenance and cooking). I don\'t see how any of this is sexist or shallow. Shirou isn\'t some egomaniac like Sengoku Rance or some sink-or-swim know-it-all like Kazami. The paths of the game are about him trying to connect with people, which is a lot of the filler you are decrying.
Sakura\'s backstory involves a look on abuse. I agree that the game took it too far with its revelation of Shinji raping her as it made any of the scenes where Shirou talks to Shinji full of cringe. But everything else does portray how abuse survivors act, clinging to other families, possibly specific individuals to give them some measure of stability and validation. The Heaven\'s Feel path goes into detail about how this does not work long term, thus Sakura\'s eventual breakdown. Sakura\'s backstory is very grim, but certainly not shallow.
I guess we\'re opposites on many subjects, I found Rin to be the most standard character in the whole visual novel. Pick a tsundere with a superiority complex from an anime and you\'ve got Rin in a nutshell. Heaven\'s Feel makes Rin more relevant and sympathetic than other paths, but otherwise I found her kind of boring.
I don't see how that changes anything (couldn't include comments on it since I ran out of space) I said he was obnoxious and idiotic, not an egomaniac, and sexism doesn't translate to misogyny, though they are related. Like I said, I get what Nasu was going for, but the actual execution just fell flat. Also, all that cooking is just part of the problem with all that filler I mentioned.
And the problem with Sakura (again ran out of space) is that her whole character is basically suffering and next to nothing else. The narrative tries way too hard to make her sympathetic and ends up completely overdoing it making her just a collection of cringe. The same issue with Shinji, but with trying to make him hateable instead. I know he is supposed to be hated, but I end up hating him for the wrong reasons. It's less "Oh man, this guy's a complete ass and loser" and more along the lines of "Why is this character even in the story?" and "What a waste of space."
As for Rin, I never said I liked her, I just said that she started good and seemed like an interesting protagonist (but I ran... well you know the drill) but once the perspective flips to Shirou she becomes just as you describes. Only in Heaven's Feel does she start to show a more interesting side, and even then it's barely.
There was in fact a lot more I wanted to say about this VN, but reviews here on Tv Tropes can only be so long.
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