[Anime] Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – The First Battle (S1E3)


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After the long exposition and explanations of the previous episode, we get an episode of almost uninterrupted action. Things start off awesome and then get progressively more and more incredibly as the participants in the combat starting throwing everything they have at each other. I’m expecting this week’s write-up to be relatively short since there isn’t much to talk about. I will say that it’s extremely difficult for me to put into words just how stunning the animation is. I’m by no means an expert on the subject but I haven’t enjoyed watching a young girl and a body-builder’s wet dream beat the ever-loving shit out of each other in ages. Also, it’s rare for me to notice this but the background music in this anime is legit, especially that one piece that plays when Archer does his thing. I’m going to try to see if I can find it, it’s pretty dope.

I could wax lyrical for a good long while that fight but I think more than anything I’m just glad that this fight didn’t turn out to be something straight out of Pokemon where you have the Masters just sitting by the side, twiddling their thumbs while the Servants savagely try to kill each other. What should we make of our adorable antagonist, Illya? Well, for one thing, she’s no pushover- it’s entirely possible that given the way Berserker was running circles around Saber and Archer that she could have cleared them out without too much additional effort. She got the better of Rin and Shirou is so utterly useless that it’s painful to watch right now. It’s looking right now that she’s going to be favourite though I hate that she just decided to withdraw for no good reason. It’s a trope that I generally dislike – it would have been fine if she had been forced into a strategically weaker position but she totally had the upper hand there so it’s just kind of lame that she would back off and give them time to lick their wounds. You don’t show that kind of mercy in a war, dammit.

Meanwhile, what is up with that Servant of hers? He shrugged off death like it nothing and essentially regenerated fully after sustaining a wound as per the above picture. There has to be some drawback or weak point to a power so hopeless unbalanced, right? Despite their loss, it’s been a fairly impressive showing from both Saber and Archer though. Not particularly effective, but it looked impressive at least; and keep in mind that this is the third Servant Saber has fought in the last couple of hours! For a second we got to see Saber’s real sword, beyond the air barrier and it seems to be made of pure gold. I don’t want to look up golden swords because it might just spoil something I’m supposed to not know yet but nothing comes to mind just yet. Meanwhile, Archer kept his distance and did Archer things but I wonder if that final shot was intended to do more than just finish off Berserker (which it didn’t anyway). Archer wasn’t too keen on Rin feeling all indebted to Shirou in the last episode so maybe he decided that Shirou and Saber could be convenient casualties of war? I mean, it would be a dirty way of fighting but it doesn’t seem like there are rules to this war and in any case, he could just claim it was an accident. Rin might be sad for a bit, but I’m sure she’s practical enough to see the value of his actions.

We should also talk just a little bit about our utterly hopeless and useless protagonist. Shirou’s entire contribution to this fight was running around like a headless chicken and getting lectured by Rin before saving Saber from Archer’s friendly fire. It’s questionable whether even that was particularly useful since he seems to have taken a pretty solid hit in the process. Anyway, I think it’s going to be interesting to see how all of this figures into his (in my opinion) screwed up dream of being a ‘hero of justice’. What kind of shitty hero doesn’t raise a finger to stop the bad guys? I wonder if we’ll see some kind of mega powerup from Shirou, maybe thanks to Rin/Saber/Archer teaching him how to fight, but somehow I just don’t see it happening. It wouldn’t even be believable for someone to go from being this ineffectual to being even a decent fighter. So, how is this show going to be affected by the fact that its main character is essentially just a camera that is showing us the real action? Well, it’s a little early to say, but it could really go either way.

Last but not least, we have the fake priest from the previous episode. Kirei is hanging tight in his church while the Servants slug it out outside but at least he has company. It’s the Mysterious Stranger (who’s also white. Seriously, is no one in Japan questioning the influx of mysterious blond foreigners in the town?) who was talking to Sakura the other day. Now, I knew at the time itself that the encounter was highlighted a little too prominently for him to be a random stranger but the fact that he is talking to Kirei, who I’m fairly sure is an antagonist, means that he’s not good news. The red eyes don’t bode well either since that’s a fairly universal sign of a bad guy, or a stoner, but the blond dude seems too uptight to be a stoner so bad guy it is then. Meanwhile, apart from just his general aura, I suspect Kirei of being a bad guy because a.) how did Illya know where to find Shirou and Rin and b.) what kind of good guy says they don’t care about the effect the War will have on innocent people?

Well, that’s about it for now. There were some minor things I missed out on, but I don’t know their significance just yet. Saber seems to recognize Illya, or at least her name because she seems to be in pain when they are introduced. Either that or she is in pain from her previous wound and I totally misread it. Next, Kirei mentions feeling like he met with an old acquaintance – does he mean Rin or Shirou? Rin’s father was his teacher so Rin is the logical choice, but I assume he meets Rin fairly often and it’s very likely that he knows Shirou’s dad, so I’m gonna go with option B. Illya seems to know Shirou too based on a couple of throwaway references in her conversation with Rin – I hope this isn’t going to be one of those things where everyone knows Shirou because he is the Chosen One that is destined to end the War forever, or something. I mean, it wouldn’t be the worst thing, but I’m hoping for better from the show.

 

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11 thoughts on “[Anime] Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – The First Battle (S1E3)

  1. Good review, again. If possible, I can clarify some points without giving spoilers:

    The position of Shirou before the servants and even a dueling between magicians, is this representation of lack of utility, at least so far, in combat. The situation that was imposed in the episode was to score the desire he have to help others and loyalty that has with the agreement that had just set with Saber still in the episode 02:
    He recognizes his inability to help her, but going over his fear (who would not be afraid after seeing the Berserk?), decided to do everything he could within reach, if only to watch your fight (which shows a maturity of character of not think in doing anything absurd or childish action as some protagonist try in this moments), which results in the possibility of save Saber of arrow’s reach of Archer, which is not without risk, since we see that he is injured by a splinter caused for the explosion, since in the end, we see he spit significant amount of blood. What is a action of utility him for the story (even being unable for the combat).

    If you want, I can try to help you other questions, but again, excellent review with your sincere thoughts the moment he saw the scene, very good.

    Sorry for my english.

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    • Thank you! I understand that he is trying his best, but he seems the weakest by far right now. I’ll keep watching and see what happens 🙂

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  2. First off I want to say I really enjoyed your reviews of the series thus far. You’ve picked up on a lot of things some people have seemed to missed. It’s also a breath of fresh air to see reviews by someone who isn’t spoiled by the bad 2006 adaptation and the prequel (Fate/Zero).

    I know you have reasons for dropping the VN but I think you’d like it if you got past the Fate route. It’s generally regarded as the worst route mostly because it has to do so much world building to set up the next routes. Some things in this adaption may seem out of place without the knowledge from the first route (Fate). If you get past Fate (which is good on its own imo) then Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven’s Feel will really be a treat. There’s a reason why the VN goes so deeply into Shirou’s head and it’s a big disappointing that we really don’t get that much in the anime series. If you ever read Unlimited Blade Works you’ll know why being in Shirou’s head so much is a good thing when everything unfolds.

    The anime is good but honestly the VN is like 10x better just because you get more context for why things unfold like they do.

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    • Let’s say if I watch this anime through to episode 13 (I think it continues in April) and then read the VN (fate route only) and then watch the rest of the adaptation, would that work?

      So far, I still feel like I kind of know what’s going on (unless I’ve already missed something huge) but it would be nice to be as caught up as I’m supposed to be.

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      • It’s not like you had lost something. In really, you have a good sense and is really catching the really important things of each episode. The question in VN is the ability to delve into the personality, motivations between other things of the characters, especially the Shirou, which is amazing even in times of weakness, which is difficult to adapt all this stuff into an anime (still that the BDs should have 90 min of additional scenes, which can do the experience of watch the episodes much better, if well used, of course), although the Ufotable is making a good job. More a time, I thank you by read and answer my comment and more a good review, still that I just commented here, I read all the previous reviews.

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      • That will work if you don’t get frustrated with things that seem out of place. One episode in particular may frustrate you based on what you’ve said in a previous review. I really can’t explain it without going into spoilers. But how/why something happens is explained in the Fate route of the VN. The way the author writes his VN is there are stories contained within the route and then there is an over arcing story you can put together based on things happening in the other routes.

        There are a few things that just really seem out of place without Fate knowledge imo. Also there are things that make Shirou look dumb in the anime but his thoughts explain what is really going on in the visual novel.

        So far you do have a good grasp of what is going on, there’s only one important thing you haven’t pointed out in your review about Saber (unless I missed it?) Watch episode 2 (starting with the prologue as 0) from 7:09-7:31

        I’ll just say Fate/Stay Night as a whole depends a lot on Shirou’s thoughts (especially the 2nd half of UBW).

        Optimally you would want to read Fate before hand. (But if you don’t some things might be frustrating for you, they would be frustrating to me without knowledge). I’ll also say if the ‘sexism’ thing in Fate turned you off it’s just an excuse by Shirou to not have any around him hurt. He’s the ‘hero’ and he’s the one that should be protecting people in his head(plus the whole thing how he saw someone get hurt). The author even admitted it was bad writing to remind the reader that Saber is female.

        The best would be read Fate beforehand, watch UBW anime, then read UBW imo. You’ll see how different scenes seem when you have context from Shirou. A lot of anime only watchers don’t understand Tohsaka’s character and think Shirou is dense around her when in reality he’s not, he understands her and says things to invoke what he wants.

        Like I said though I really have enjoyed your reviews I just don’t want you getting the wrong impression of certain events because the context and foreshadowing are left out because it’s explained in a previous route. You pick up on A LOT of things that other people miss and I’ll be interested to see what else you pick up on.

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      • I just want to clarify after thinking about it. I’m not saying you can’t/won’t enjoy the show without Fate knowledge. I don’t know your preferences/dislikes, I’m just trying to point out that there are some things you could have a problem with and they are explained in the previous route (which is technically supposed to be read first). This anime tries to stand on its own but I’m not sure if it can at the moment because some of the gaps in knowledge are not filled, there are 90 mins worth of cut content coming in late March though.

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      • Ugh, sorry to spam your comments section, but I had some shower thoughts. Your reviews are really good because of the mystery so if you do decide to read Fate and move onto UBW only read the first half of UBW (where the anime leaves off it will be the same). The first half of UBW is set up for what goes down in the 2nd half and imo you need to fully understand Shirou’s thinking going into the second half for it to have the same impact. The second half is one of my favorite stories ever but if Shirou isn’t understood by that point some of what is happening will fly over people’s heads and seem ‘weird’ I guess is what I would call it.

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        • Hey, thanks for your comments. So, I went and re-watched the scene you recommended and if I’m being dead honest, the first time I saw it, I just brushed past it, thinking that it was a convenient way to avoid slowing the story by having to explain everything to Saber. Now though…especially after my suspicions on Kirei, I’m beginning to wonder just how broad her definition of ‘this era’ is…

          On a different note, based on your recommendations, I’m thinking of clearing these 13 episodes (might as well, since I’ve already started) then doing the VN (Fate only) and then the last 13. Honestly, this is out of time considerations as well since I recently began work and don’t have nearly as much time for this blog as I would otherwise like.

          Thanks again for all your thoughts and inputs!

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  3. I think that read/play the VN before of season 2 of UBW (yeah, it begins in april), in really, this improves your perspective on the show and the characters, as it will have a much larger foundation about them. I did it. Initially did not know the franchise, saw season 1 and through many indications in forums and friends decided to read the VN, and is very good and enhances the experience to see the anime, for sure. The question would be more about the time, because we have the release of BDs with more 90 min of scenes in 25/03 (and how I not bought, I’ll wait for fansubs who have undertaken to translate / publish them) and the season 2 in april . It’s a question of what delay and what to anticipate. A personal choice.

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  4. ^Archers piece.

    I do believe Illya is the strongest master and Berserker the strongest servant in the 5th war. But there are limits to Berserkers powers, don’t worry.
    On Saber’s identity, as mentioned before, it won’t come up as an important plot point in this route, and I would recommend reading Fate for it. The first half is generally more tedious than the second, which should be easier to get through, I think.
    Yeah Archer definitely intended to do more than get Berserker here, that’s why he smiles when Shirou and Saber get caught up in the explosion. Regarding his arrow, it wasn’t shown in the anime, but it’s stated in the VN that Berserker who didn’t bother blocking any attack till now blocked and dodged the arrow, since a direct hit would have taken his life, so it’s more powerful than it looked.

    Well I mean, Shinji has blue hair and Sakura has purple hair, I don’t think blonde hair would look too out of place lol
    Nah don’t worry, everyone who knows Shirou has a legitimate reason for doing so.

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