Type-Moon’s Nasuverse is home to some of anime’s biggest franchises and yet its appeal seems lost on many people. The works within this universe, such as Fate/Stay Night and Kara no Kyoukai are frequently derided as poorly written, chuunibyou trash that’s lacking in any real depth. To be honest, those criticisms aren’t wrong, but they do fail to understand why these works appeal to people. The Nasuverse is popular because it’s appealing on an aesthetic level and because it’s so vast that it’s easy to hook people with the many subjects and genres it spans.
I think I have to start by explaining what I mean by aesthetic appeal. Aesthetic appeal is where something is appealing not for content, but for form. This is fairly common across all media, but in more critical spheres it tends to be looked down on. It’s not that I don’t get why; it seems obvious to me that critical people would prefer works with more substantive appeal. But it seems foolish to disregard the fact that people like stuff that appeals on an aesthetic level. To put it more simply, people like stuff that looks cool and that’s a totally valid reason to like something.
And the Nasuverse certainly looks cool. I don’t necessarily mean this in a visual sense, though it certainly applies there. What I mean is that the concepts of the Nasuverse have an inherent cool factor, one that often goes disregarded. As I said earlier, this comes in many forms, but it’s the central driver in bringing people into the Nasuverse so it can’t be overlooked.
The obviously cool part of the Nasuverse is its absurdly complex lore and magic systems. This is a world where every route in the visual novels is canon, a world where every rule that exists is quickly broken. It’s really not hard to see why this kind of stuff is cool. As a fan of the Nasuverse, I exemplify this. I love knowing about the Aristoteles and the various kinds of vampires and the existence of the True Magics and the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception. These things are all over-complicated and aimed squarely at a chuunibyou audience, but that doesn’t reduce the fact that they’re cool. Convoluted lore can be fun to dive into even if it doesn’t make sense and everyone knows why weird powers are cool. It’s just a universe which has a lot of stuff, making it easy for people to find things they like.
And nowhere is this truer than the Fate branch of the universe. Fate/Stay Night and its dozens of spin-offs make up the most popular franchise in the Nasuverse and one of the most popular in anime and it should be obvious why. Fate has all the stuff I previously mentioned, adding way more lore to the Nasuverse, but it also has one key aspect that appeals to people incredibly well: the Servants.
Servants are the ultimate draw of Fate. Sure people, myself included, will defend the VN for its interesting use of the route structure to develop Shirou as a character, but that’s not actually the draw and it’s certainly not the appeal of Fate as a wider franchise. The Servants are what really bring people in, with their unique powers, personalities, and designs, all wrapped up in a historical or mythical figure. Using the identities of famous people is a genius way to bring people in, because it’s the most blatant crystallization of the cool factor I mentioned earlier. Regardless of execution, it’s undeniable that people are interested in seeing King Arthur fight Gilgamesh or Alexander the Great, especially when they have memorable and attractive designs.
And as Fate shows, the Nasuverse is ever open to expansion. There’s hundreds of Servants at this point and we constantly get more and more lore, and yet we’re still mostly constrained to seeing a few small magical conflicts in Japan. Every story we see is regarded in-universe as a minor one, which is a lot to say considering the kinds of things that gets portrayed. If the Holy Grail War is just seen as a tedious formality that can be ignored by the greater Mage Association, what kind of things are mainstream mages getting up to when they come into conflict. We don’t know, but that lack of knowledge only makes it more interesting.
Expandable universes are always gold because they make it easier for fans to create their own content. It’s easy to come up with your own servant or your own power in the Nasuverse because it provides you with so much detail and information that the rules are all laid out. It’s almost structured as if it were an RPG, with the rules all being there so you know how to create your character. Of course, the stories themselves break these rules all the time, but we still know they fit the general trend and that gives fans enough to work with. All the materials are there to make a fanfic or something along those lines, which makes it easy for a fandom to form around the franchise.
Personally, I did get sucked into the Nasuverse when I was younger. I played Fate/Stay Night when I was 15, which was probably the perfect age to get into it. At that point I could overlook some of the flaws in the writing in order to enjoy the cool parts, which I easily did. Chuunbiyou might be an insult, but there’s a reason the term was made. Chuuni stuff is legitimately cool to young people, something that shouldn’t be disregarded. I’m not as into chuuni narratives anymore, but now I’m stuck in this fandom. I still love knowing all of this lore even if I don’t care as much about the actual works of the Nasuverse anymore. The aesthetic of it all is still so appealing. I’ll never stop thinking that the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception is the coolest power in all of anime. I guess I’ll always be a Type-Moon fan, and I hope you can get the appeal.
4 thoughts on “The Appeal of the Nasuverse”
You’re definitely right that the whole franchise is easy to get hooked on because of its similarities to RPG’s. There is so much going on that could be seen as customisable fans feel as if they’re almost a part of the world themselves.
Thanks for the read! 🙂
You have some interesting points about the world and how open-ended it is! Thanks for this post. It was a fun read.
I tried to watch the Fate/Stay Night anime recently. I loved the feel of the world, the rules, the dog-like flow… Everything, really. It didn’t suck me in like I thought it would, though. I got this feeling that the anime wanted me to care about the characters, but it didn’t really put the time into showing me why I should care about them. It was a cool concept overall, but the execution created a huge gap that I wasn’t able to get over. I didn’t finish watching the first season. I did, however, enjoy the experience other than not caring about the characters. Your post has given me a new appreciation for this series not as a magnificent work, but as a fun ride for the audience as far as geeking out about historical and mythical figures fighting, and having the open-world feel for generating more fan-created content and RPGs.
This may explain some of the unpopularity of the critical reviews of the Nasuverse works. You can rant about the faults of storytelling and the rambling prose, but most of the fans don’t care–for them the prose is of secondary importance to debates about power levels and “can Shiki kill servants?”
Yeah, that’s the gist of it. The idea of aesthetic appeal and other ways of appealing outside of traditionally critically good ways is something I plan on exploring in the future.