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Fate: Stay Night Vol. 1 by Dat Nishiwaki

Fate:Stay Night is not a slow, drawn-out, romantic drama, or a hyper-active fighting manga full of absurdity and funny quips.  It is the best middle ground you could hope for, and I mean that in a good way.  In the course of one night, Shirou Emiya finds out that he has joined a mystic war for the Holy Grail and that he has been linked to the war for ten years.  Every ten years seven magi are chosen by the Holy Grail to fight for the right to have a wish granted by the Grail.  Each magi is given a mythical hero, like Robin Hood, that fights for them until only one person is left alive.  Shirou doesn't know anything about this when he sees two strangely dressed people fighting after school.  Or when one of them tries to kill him.

I love that Fate: Stay Night moves quickly but it doesn't feel like it's going so fast you can't catch up.  There is a nice balance between fighting and talking.  Shirou is your average clueless guy that gets thrown into a strange fantasy situation and now has to fight almost certain death.  What makes Fate: Stay Night different are the mythical heroes.  You only meet four out of the seven in this volume, but they clearly steal the show.  If you have ever wondered what would happen if this-person fought this-other-person then Fate: Stay Night is a dream come true.  The mythic characters have all the personality and charisma.  I will continue reading it just to see who else shows up.

On a side note, this manga is different from most others because it started as an anime, not the other way around.  But it's not a quickly made rip-off to capitalize on the popularity of the anime.  Characters are given memorable introductions and the action feels fluid instead of like screen shots of the highlights from the anime.  I have to admit though, my favorite part of the manga is the extras in the back where you get the author's impression of the characters.  They are simply hilarious.

--Lauren

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