|“||No, you are strong, Senpai. It's not because of your Magic Circuit or your talent, but because your mind is pure....I knew that from the first time I met you. I knew you would never betray anyone.||„|
|~ Sakura Matou|
Sakura Matou is one of the three main heroines of the visual novel and anime series Fate/stay night. Specifically, she is a minor character in the Fate route and Unlimited Blade Works and the main heroine of Heaven's Feel. She is the adopted younger sister of Shinji Matou and biological younger sister of Rin Tohsaka. Sakura has a long standing and obvious crush on Shirou Emiya, who sees her as family. After Shirou's father died, Sakura would often visit Shirou's home to help him with his daily chores. She is the true master of Rider during the Fifth Holy Grail War, but due to her refusal to fight Shirou, her servant was given to her brother Shinji instead.
She is voiced by Noriko Shitaya in the Japanese version of the anime and Sherry Lynn in the English version, the former of whom also voices Rydia and Kyoko. In the English version of the Unlimited Blade Works anime and Heaven's Feel movies, she is voiced by Christina Valenzuela.
Sakura is a beautiful young woman with violet hair, which she styles with a pink ribbon on the left side, and violet eyes. The ribbon she wears in her hair was given to her by Rin when they were children and is the first ribbon Rin ever made. Physically, she's noted to have very "large breasts". During school, she wears the standard Homurahara uniform. Her casual clothing consists of a pink cardigan, a white top and long cream-coloured skirt.
In the Heaven's Feel route, her appearance changes when she becomes Dark Sakura. Her hair turns white and her eyes turn red. She retains her trademark ribbon, though it turns purple. She wears a long black dress made of black ribbons, that are trimmed in red. The length of the dress and the length of the ribbons it is composed of vary. In this form, her face, dress and legs are covered in red markings.
Before Sakura was adopted in to the Matou family, she resembled her sister, having had short black hair and aqua eyes. Shortly after her adoption, her hair and eyes take on their violet color, which is a direct result of being implanted with Zouken's parasitic worms. Her clothing at this time consists of a purple dress, purple socks and black shoes.
While Sakura is outwardly shy, soft-spoken and eager to please, she possesses a great inner strength. As noted by Shirou, she can also be openly stubborn at times. However, she is prone to feeling resentment towards others. When she awakens as Dark Sakura under the influence of Angra Mainyu, her personality changes drastically; she becomes a devilish, evil, and cruel person.
Despite the cruelty she endures living with the Matou family, she is given brief reprieve from Kariya, her adoptive uncle and the only person who genuinely loved her. When he dies in the fourth Holy Grail War, Sakura mistakes Kariya's last attempt to free her from the Matou house as a warning from Zouken as the fate of those who disobey him. The incident cements Sakura's despair and resignation towards her own suffering. However, her own resolve is strengthened after she falls in love with Shirou Emiya and becomes closer to him by helping him with domestic tasks to express how she cares about him. During Fate/stay-night, she begins to feel isolated when she believes that Shirou is beyond her reach. This shows that due to these experiences, Sakura is a troubled person.
Born as Sakura Tohsaka, she is the biological sister of Rin Tohsaka and daughter of Tokiomi Tohsaka and Aoi Zenjou. Like most magi, her father chose only one daughter to carry on his family's tradition as he believed raising an additional child would introduce competition. Zouken Matou, an ancient ally of the Tohsaka House, offered to adopt Sakura with the intention of training her as the successor of the Matou's magecraft as his own heir, Shinji, was incapable of sorcery.
As a result of her natural abilities, Zouken sought to use Sakura as one of his future vessels, empowered by the Angra Mainyu. Having to endure the cruel training under Zouken and Byakuya, Sakura became an empty and emotionless shell and resigned to her fate. When Kariya Matou, Sakura's adopted uncle and her mother's childhood friend, learned of Zouken's intentions, Kariya attempted to win the Fourth Holy Grail War in hopes of freeing her. Unfortunately, Kariya died in his attempt and Sakura was unable to understand Kariya's motivation for trying to save her. His death demoralizes her and she convinces herself that she should not attempt to fight against Zouken.
After gathering the tainted fragments of the shattered grail from that war, Zouken hybridized the collected black ichor with several of his crest worm familiars. He implanted these parasitic worms into Sakura's body, which drain her Mana but feed on her carnal impulses. Some time later, Sakura met her new brother Shinji (who was studying abroad at the time of the Fourth Holy Grail War) when he returned to the Matou house. Though he later came to love and accept his new sister, he bullied her. This ended the day Shinji found out that Sakura had become the heir to the Matou family instead of him and he became harsh with her, just like everyone else in the Matou house. Because Sakura was apologetic and expressed pity toward him, Shinji took that as Sakura submitting herself to him since she displayed no emotion. Some time after the death of Byakuya, Shinji began raping her of his own volition as instructed by Zouken.
Although castigated and humiliated on a daily basis, Sakura maintained her bearings with great stoicism. For the eleven years after her adoption, Sakura grew to resent Zouken for his cruelty, Tokiomi for sending her away, and finally Rin, for never coming to save her. However, she still kept the ribbon Rin gave her. Sakura drew her strength to endure such hardships from Shirou, whom she admired for his dedication. The inspiration she found came from watching him never give up in an attempt to jump a bar during a track-and-field practice session. A year before the events of Fate/stay night, after Shirou was injured in an accident, Sakura gathered enough courage to approach and help him; she has visited him ever since, day and night, to assist with daily activities.
|“||I don't have anyone to call my mom or sister... Grandfather said I should think that they never existed.||„|
|~ Fate/Zero, Episode 1|
After confronting Zouken, Kariya makes a deal with Zouken to win the Holy Grail in exchange for Sakura's freedom to return to the Tohsaka family. Kariya was the only member of the Matou family to love Sakura, who became resigned and emotionally withdrawn from the torture she endures from training under Zouken and Kariya's older brother, Byakuya.
Unfortunately, Kariya is defeated during the Fourth Grail War and failed to obtain the Grail. With the last of his strength, Kariya returned to the Matou mansion to take Sakura back to Aoi and Rin, but he died in the process. Sakura, who was standing in front of Kariya, interpreted Kariya's actions as a warning to those who defy Zouken and she was left with the Matou family.
At some point after the war, Zouken managed to collect fragments of the destroyed Grail and implanted them into Sakura's body, transforming her into an incomplete lesser Grail.
Sakura only plays a minor supporting role and she only appears as Shirou's friend. She visits Shirou every day and is a rival with Rin for his affection.
In the anime adaption, her role is expanded slightly beyond her appearances in the Fate scenario. After the defeat of Berserker, Sakura is captured by Caster to use as a sacrifice in order to summon the Holy Grail and is held at Mount Enzo, Caster's stronghold. Shirou, Rin, and Saber attempt to rescue Sakura and to stop the Holy Grail from being summoned, during which Shirou and Saber are forced to fight against Souichirou Kuzuki and Assassin respectively. Rin confronts Caster, who manipulates Sakura to fight against Rin. During the fight, Sakura is revealed to be Rin's sister and that she actually comes from the Tohsaka family. In order to save her sister, Rin allows Sakura to stab her so Rin will be able to sever Sakura's magic circuit and prevent Caster's plans from being completed. Following Caster's defeat, Sakura recovers at Shirou's house and ultimately survives the Fifth Holy Grail War.
Unlimited Blade Works
In Unlimited Blade Works, she also plays only a supportive role.
|“||No Senpai. I'll probably end up hurting you...I'm going to hurt you, Senpai, but...I want to stay like this.||„|
|~ Heaven's Feel|
Zouken, disgusted at the ineptitude of Shinji as a Master, begins a genocide against the other Servants with help from True Assassin and Sakura morphed into a premature form of Angra Mainyu, referred to as "the shadow". Berserker, Lancer, Saber, and Archer are all absorbed or terminated by this unholy trinity, and Sakura regurgitates Dark Saber and Dark Berserker as assistants. At night, she goes on a rampage throughout Fuyuki City, ingesting large numbers of innocents for Mana. Gilgamesh eventually confronts and impales Sakura's body with several Noble Phantasms from within his Gate of Babylon, but she regenerates at an impossibly fast rate and consumes him as well. She is forced to quickly convert him to mana in haste because she was afraid he might tear her up from the inside if she does not digest him.
Meanwhile, Shirou, who wasn't attracted to Sakura and only saw her as a friend and Shinji's sister, realizes that something is wrong and that Sakura is suffering. Shirou decides to protect her, but he is unsure of his feelings for her. Because of it, Shirou is devastated when he founds out that Sakura is one of the participants in the Grail War. He starts doubting about his ideals because he still wants to save everyone, but realizes that if he does so, Sakura might die. Finally, after a talk with Illya and later Archer, Shirou abandons his ideals in order to protect Sakura. With this new ideal in mind, he finds Sakura crying at the park, and believing that she cannot be saved. Shirou consoles her by telling her that he will always protect her and he will fight for her. However Sakura continues having her strange dreams. Recognizing the devastation she has wrought, Sakura seeks out her grandfather to force him into ending her life in order to protect Shirou.
However, along the way Shinji attempts to blackmail her into sex, threatening to tell Shirou of his history of raping her. Horrified at this prospect, Sakura murders Shinji and gives up to her internal malice. She then realizes that she is the shadow that appeared in her dreams and becomes Dark Sakura and abducts Ilya, hoping to use her as the core for a new Holy Grail. After Shirou and Kotomine rescue Ilya, Dark Sakura stops the supervisor's artificial black heart, giving him only a few hours to live. She also executes the True Assassin and purges her body of Zouken's worms. She is confronted by Rin in the chamber of the Greater Holy Grail beneath Mount Enzō, her power equally matched by The Jeweled Sword of Zelretch. Rendering Sakura's shadows useless, Rin makes her way to Sakura, but is unable to give the finishing blow due to her love of her sister. Rin embraces Sakura even after Sakura has stabbed her in panic. Realizing Rin's love, Sakura again starts resisting her evil long enough for Shirou to dispel Angra Mainyu's grip on her soul with Rule Breaker.
If Shirou does trace Excalibur and destroys the Grail, but his life extinguishes soon after, results in Sakura's Normal Ending. Sakura, refusing to accept Shirou's death, continues to live in the Emiya house, forever waiting for Shirou until she later dies of old age.
If Ilya intervenes, closes the gate, and performs the Heaven's Feel on Shirou to keep him alive and close the Grail for once and for all, it results in Sakura's True Ending. After her dark self is destroyed, Sakura's body is left containing vast amounts of mana. She ends up living with Shirou and Rider, with the servant's existence sustained by Sakura's mana pool.
Fate/stay night Manga
|“||Nii-san...Senpai...Will we ever be able to go back to those happy times?||„|
|~ UBW manga, Chapter 24|
In Fate/hollow ataraxia, Sakura lives a peaceful life in Fuyuki City, which Rin has left in Sakura's care while she is at the Mage's Association, and Rider comments that Sakura is now the popular new captain of the school archery club. Sakura's dark side still exists, but appears only for comic relief.
Shinji reveals to Shirou that Sakura assumed control of the Matou household, and both he and Zouken are terrified of her. In Eclipse, the bonus episode of Ataraxia, Rider and Sakura seem to work together to seduce Shirou and engage in a threesome with him. Actually this is all Rider's doing, trying to get Shirou to pursue Sakura more aggressively. Yet in the middle, Shirou realizes the truth and reverses her spell on her, in the end revealing to viewers that Rider herself has deep feelings for Shirou. Sakura appearing in this episode is only a conjecture by Rider's spell, a representation of Rider's true intentions of her actions.
|“||What made Nii-san like that is this society and me...It is because I am a star crossed beautiful girl.||„|
|~ Carnival Phantasm, Episode 6|
In Episode 8, she is seen together with Shinji as they help Zouken enter the Ahnenerbe bathroom. In Episode 12, she is one of Shirou's dates. Somehow, Sakura already knew Shirou's plan to date all the girls, as she follows him around all his other dates, and subtly brings his plan crashing and burning down by appearing when Rin and Illya are questioning him about his whereabouts. She finally appears at the Ahnenerbe party with Rider, smiling while Shinji is eaten by one of Nrvnqsr Chaos' beasts as she reverts to being Dark Sakura.
Sakura has inherited tremendous sorcerous potential from her Tohsaka pedigree, although she has little knowledge of established incantations and her Mana supply is limited by Zouken's worms. As a child, her father Tokiomi Tohsaka recognized that while Sakura lacked all five elements, she extraordinarily possessed the rare potential as a mage with only Imaginary Numbers. While Sakura is capable of mastering the Matou family's style of magecraft, Kariya Matou notes that Sakura is actually best suited to the magecraft of her birth family, the Tohsaka.
On a whim, Zouken can morph Sakura into a premature form of Angra Mainyu, referred to as "the shadow". In this state, Sakura's actions are below her threshold of awareness and are primarily directed by Zouken. However, once Sakura rejects Zouken's control and regains her central consciousness, she becomes Dark Sakura, a rancorous and psychotic distortion of her normal self. In this form, her reasoning and emotions are severely impaired and she is indiscriminately destructive to everything around her.
Dark Sakura has an unlimited supply of Mana, but the amount she can expel at any derivative is limited by her number of magic circuits. Her touch is highly corrosive, dissolving organic matter and converting the base elements into pure Mana. When an astral being, such as a Servant, comes into contract with Dark Sakura's shadows, that Servant's mentality is corrupted by her evil influence, while their offensive power is considerably augmented. She is also capable of forming tentacle appendages from her body, as well as birthing shadow monstrosities that follow her general intent but otherwise operate independently. Finally, Dark Sakura can spontaneously regenerate, allowing her to recover from mortal wounds within minutes of receiving them.