The success of an anime is not solely due to its quality. There are many factors at work and a commercially-successful monster anime will have made the most out of these. The Fate/Stay Night anime is immensely popular yet we all know that the degree of popularity it has is not directly related to the quality of the show itself. Here, I will attempt to discuss what factors are contributing to Fate’s roaring success.

Spoiler Warnings! Take care, FSN newbs!

People Power!

A strong existing fanbase certainly is a big factor. The FSN game served as a springboard (a nuclear powered one too) for the anime. The game fans will certainly watch the anime and put in all their efforts to influence others into watching. They will also write good reviews. Since the majority of humans have malleable opinions, they will inadvertently be swayed and at least give FSN a try. It is less easy making someone stop watching a series, compared to making them start one. The strong fanbase will also produce doujin and other goodies to further attract people.

Mass the Merchandise!
Having the support of the merchandise companies is a big plus too. I was first attracted to FSN by the Rider figurine produced by Good Smile Company. People, having seen beautiful figurines of the characters, will be tempted to find out more about the series. The popularity of the show/game stimulates the production of merchandise, which will in turn further boost the popularity of the show/game. Remember how many Saber fanboys there were even before the anime began? How many of those actually played the game? A lot of them became fans through admiring the beauty of the art and merchandise.

Hyper Mode!
Hype is a very powerful tool for brainwashing. FSN was probably the most anticipated series of 2006, and everyone just KNEW it was going to be good, regardless of the truth. Rumours spread like wildfire about how the story was exciting and beautiful, how the characters were the coolest shit ever etc. Most people then engraved the impression that “FSN is great” into their minds. It is hard to change people’s minds once they have set it. It helps that FSN somehow lives up to some of the expectations. Gundam Seed Destiny failed miserably, but it was still a huge commercial success as the hype fooled many viewers into ignoring the repeated scene reuse, crappy story, bad animation, rubbish recaps.

Spread the Net Far and Wide!

The most popular shows will generally have the most popular elements of their day in it. This is to draw in fans of different genres and types, to capture a wider viewing audience and thus make it more popular. It is less commercially viable to target a niche group as opposed to the general mass of bloodthirsty fanboys and girls. FSN is action adventure fighting harem romance fantasy mystery historical drama. This appeals to an extremely broad range of viewers who will all enjoy aspects of FSN.

Character Love!
FSN has an extremely wide variety of likeable characters. Having a favourite characters WILL make you continue watching the show even if it sucks. FSN has tsundere (Rin), loli (Ilya), reliably cool (Saber), mature sexy (Rider), mysterious (Caster) to appeal to all sorts of male viewers. For the females, we have weak but improving stubborn never give up pacifist average joe harem/shounen lead Shirou, cool, arrogant but reliable Archer, really macho albeit crazy Berserker (now this one is a tricky one), elegantly Japanese Assassin, wild and dangerous Lancer.

This sounds familiar?!

FSN also cleverly makes use of familiar figures in history/folklore as the basis of the characters. Having references to such historical figures increases the familiarity of each character to the audience, thus creating a mental link which serves to further boost their image and identity. People have always wanted to see the historical heroes they read about in myths and classics, in action and FSN fulfils this desire, and even goes beyond that. What is more exciting than the cream of the human (or Gorgon) crop in a massive Battle Royale? Anyway, tonnes of other stuff use this tactic. The original Suikoden series, Ikkitousen, Kingdom Hearts (in a slightly different way), the Koei Romance of 3 Kingdoms game series etc.

Basically, modifications of existing popular characters are always very well received. Look at how many variations of Merlin, King Arther, Robin Hood, Huang Fei Hong, Musashi, Sherlock Holmes, Water Margin guys, Condor Hero people, Joan of Arc etc there are and people just never ever get tired of them.

Job Classes
This RPG-ish concept will appeal GREATLY to 20th Century boys… RPGs in the past and present have always had a job system such as Final Fantasy VI, Tactics, FF X-2, DIsgaea. Comic book heroes always have superpowers unique to them. The concept of having individuals with unique skills either battling it out or working together is very fascinating and provides food for lots of open discussion on combinations and matchups, feeding the imaginary battle fanboy with lots of material to work on. The servant system of FSN has each servant having a specific job class and its corresponding character traits. It’s hard to explain why this is cool but it is. It seems to be an escape from reality, where everyone is quite similar and generic.

This class system is sooo commonly used and loved. It appears in sports movies, war movies, mutant shows, School Life comedies etc. I feel it is part of us humans’ need to stereotype. It is something derived when we think we need teamwork or variety and we generalise each person to be of a certain class/job with certain sets of set skills. For example, in a football team, we always have tough tackling big defenders, spoilt and pansy creative midfielders, small but pacy wingers and the cool striker. In Ocean’s Eleven, we have the team, each of which have a job class and set skills such as planning, pick pocketing, explosives etc. X-men need not be explained. I quote my friend, “I love how everyone has their own skills and work together for the entire operation to be such a success! It is very thrilling and encouraging.”

Cool Moves!
Guys like cool moves. End of story. The cooler the move, the more guys you have watching the show. The bigger, the flashier, the better. FSN has the Noble Phantasm system, which is really awesome, since it not only brings cool HissatsuWaza (Deathblows) but link them to the historical figure involved. Doubly good. The more overpowered the move, the better. Guys like pure power. Strike Freedom was loved in spite of its uber lame pwnage that made the show suck. Actually, replace “in spite” with “because”.

They are HaWt!!
Beautiful yet conventional character designs are a must for an anime to be popular. These designs must be easily digestable for everyone. Eureka seveN, Noein, Inuyasha are just some of the anime that could have been a whole lot more popular if they were designed the “mainstream beautiful” way. The beauty of the FSN characters are such that even if the entire episode involved the girls and guys walking around doing nothing but changing their outfits, people would still watch them. Casual/new anime viewers that cannot appreciate the more “advanced” anime can easily start off with FSN, because the girls are hot. It takes some level of anime skillz to appreciate stuff like Pani Poni, Ichigo Mashimaro. My non-anime friends think they are ugly. So conventional beauty is the way to go to if you want massive audiences!

Wonderful Voices~
Famous seiyuu draw viewers. I watch everything Noto Mamiko acts in. FSN has a top cast of seiyuu.

Animation Quality
Let’s face it. Many anime viewers prefer slick graphics to a proper story. They are turned off by dated animation designs, choppy animation and cheap looking stuff. CG always gets the nod. The quality of animation attracts a sizeable fanbase. I have lured many around me into watching anime by showing them Advent Children, MS Igloo, Last Exile and Gatekeepers (its the powers and the eyes). FSN has amazingly slick battles and good production values.

In this case, FSN hasn’t done all that much. People who did not play the game may dismiss the opening and ending songs, since they aren’t exactly amazing. But music is important. Why else would GSD spend all its budget on hiring A-listers to do the OP and EDs, leaving nothing left for animation.

Yeah we all like and want sex, especially the guys. FSN, being an AVG, fulfils that easily. We get easy access to the HCG set, doujin etc.


These are probably the main reasons (other than the usual ones) why FSN is as popular as it is. In spite of its turtle slow beginning, major characters dying off without fleshing them out first and sometimes illogical plot.

9 Responses to “Dissecting the Success of Average Anime: A F/SN Case Study”  

  1. 1 Mariana Luz

    I totally agree what you said… =_=

  2. 2 jpmeyer

    Is F/SN the "average" anime or is it more like what SHOULD become the average anime?  I of course don’t mean this in the sense that every anime should be boring and random, but rather in the sense that the way that Geneon/Type Moon went about making/marketting everything seems to have really pre-sold the show to viewers and thus it doesn’t matter that it has a turtle slow beginning, major characters dying off without fleshing them out first and sometimes illogical plot.

  3. 3 Rainy

    I find the part about the how hype can have a major influence in luring fans into watching FSN very true. After about 5 episodes, I was yawning at the not-so-captivating plot, yet I still kept watching it, for this series has already been branded as the greatest series of the year, and how can I miss that? (Despite of FSN’s many flaws, like characters been not fleshed out properly, or illogically heroic protagonist)

  4. 4 L-O-N

    Heh.  Guess I must be one of the only persons that aren’t watching Fate/Stay Night then.  In it’s defense, I’ll just say that FSN was a huge game, taking about 80 hrs of text reading time.  It’s hard to balance between getting in enough of the material to satisfy the fans of the game and moving the plot and character development fast enough for the anime fans.  That’s one of the reasons why there only a few game-to-anime adaption that are watchable.

  5. 5 Chairman Zhang

    Well, I didn’t read the post because of the spoiler warning so I can’t really respond directly. What I will say is that I’ve enjoyed F/SN throughout and by throughout I mean every episode. Now, I must admit its probably because of two things: the first being the fact that I did not participate in the pre-release hype and the second being Saber. I actually do find the story captivating and although somewhat slow, I took the optimistic view and said that the slow beginning was because it was necessary for a comprehensible plot overall and that the fighting would start at the half-way mark (which happened even earlier). Of course, one may argue that this is no excuse for such a hyped up anime and I really can’t defend my stance if one were to apply it as a general rule. I guess its just a personal opinion…or maybe its just Saber.

  6. 6 tj_han

    Oh actually, I kept the spoilers to a bare minimum so anyone who’s up to date with the latest anime release should feel safe.

    In reponse to LON, I did not play the game but I cheated and I read the rather detailed summary of it. The summary was written way before the anime started, but is essentially the samet hing. I do not know how there is 80 hours worth of text reading? Could it possibly be due to the usual dating sim style of conversation, where everyone says the most trivial and pointless things just to mimick a real life conversation? This is common in a lot of AVGs but is FSN the game like that?

  7. 7 IZ

    Actually, the Fate/Stay Night anime is currently following only one path of three of the Fate/Stay Night game.There’s Fate, Unlimited Blade Works, and Heaven’s Feel. The reason why so many characters were killed off so soon is because it is following the Fate path, which only fleshes out Saber, Rin, Shirou, and Ilya.Unlimited Blade Works gets deeper into Archer’s story with a bit of Caster’s story, while Heaven’s Feel fleshes out Shinji, Rider, and Sakura.The reason why Fate/Stay Night is 80 hours of reading is because it is mostly composed of Shirou’s thoughts as the events occur. The anime doesn’t have this insight into Shirou’s mind, and that is the main reason why he is considered illogical. Also, while different paths have radically different stories, they all have some similarities between each other. As you progress from one path to another, you realize why one character did something in another path, amongst other amazing things. And as the full story comes into view, it’s hard not to be amazed at the amazing storytelling.One of the many faults of the anime is that it tries to squeeze too much information that a person not familiar with the game will obviously miss. For example, not many people will realize who Archer really was until somebody points out all the hints that the anime gave.It also doesn’t help to have a really bad director.

  8. 8 L-O-N

    To IZ:I haven’t completely played through the Unlimited Blade Works senario yet, but I had my suspicions already.  I think you’ve just confirmed it.  :)

  9. 9 kokanaden™

    tjhan maybe your warning of spoilers should extend to the comments section too.  rofl!
    In any case, much as I hate to admit, but I have to say that it definitely would be quite  difficult for anyone to understand what Shirou is thinking about, or catch the hints where ever they appear.  Afterall, F/SN is not your typical straightforward kind of story.  Still, given the constraints, I think the anime series has done quite well so far.  There is only so far an anime can go in revealing/fleshing out certains parts of the story/characters.  And this is where homework starts for the enthusiastic like me!
    Overall, i would say that its one of the better ones I’ve seen this year (not that I’ve watched that many)… after all, there was crap like Otome and Shana wasn’t there?

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