[Anime] Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – The Reward for the Fight to the Death (S1E7)


fsn ubw

So, before we talk about this extremely interesting and exciting episode, I have an announcement! Since the winter anime season will be ending in March, the second half of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works will be resuming in early April, which leaves me with about four weeks to cover six episodes. That means that my schedule of an episode a week will leave me lagging behind the adaptation and I really, really want to watch this show as it comes out, so with that in mind, I’ll be doubling up and doing two episodes a week. It’s really busy in the real world but I’m going to try my best not to let the quality suffer and I’d like to be told ASAP if it does. I also want to give a shoutout to Nocorras, NoNameAvailable and HateMainOfAnime for all their helpful comments and feedback. Thanks guys!

So with that PSA out of the way, let’s talk about this hurricane of an episode. It would be an absolute understatement to say that this episode raised the stakes; we finally see Archer take action and put Shirou in his place after the latter’s constant cantankerous arguing. I was really excited to see the two fights break out as well; we’ve seen, in previous episodes, the kind of damage that Archer can put out when he gets serious and it would be interesting to see what kind of tricks Caster has up her sleeves.  Still, having said all that, I’m having some issues with the way the whole Shirou vs. Archer thing is being set up and executed. It feels like the show skipped some vital steps, especially those in Archer’s mind, before moving on to the surprising conclusion. I’ll talk more about it in a bit, but first let’s talk Caster, Assassin and what’s up with the Holy Grail’s rules.

Of the two clashes in this episode, I was so very sure that the Archer versus Caster fight would be the more interesting. We haven’t seen Caster fight yet and to be honest, I was sure that the Saber-Assassin fight would be just another swordfight. In the end, Caster turned out to be a little bit of a let-down; it felt like all she had in her arsenal was generic magic beams. Sure Archer mentioned some ‘skills’ like this spatial transportation and innate time control but neither of those things really mean anything to me. I don’t think they’re supposed to mean anything just yet and both terms are fairly self-explanatory in their own right – we saw Caster swap her body out when Archer attacked and we saw her try to immobilize him in some kind of static field but overall she seems fairly underwhelming. It didn’t really feel like Archer had to really fight too hard to take her down – all it took was a single arrow. Speaking of the single arrow though, the line he says before firing (‘I am the bone of my sword’) doesn’t really make sense and I would chalk it up to translation error if he didn’t say it in English. I’m not saying that the sentence is grammatically wrong or anything, but I am saying it doesn’t make any particular sense. Also, the name he says when firing the arrow (‘Caldbolg’) is reminiscent of Lancer’s Noble Phantasm (‘Gaebolg’, I think). You’ll note that his ‘get serious’ mode arrows tend to be distinct from the generic arrows he used to free Shirou from Caster’s strings. It’s also not very clear to me how exactly Archer broke free of the static field that Caster had set up, unless he’s just that badass. This raises an interesting question – we’re about a quarter of the way through the season and so far, I know the name of exactly one Servant (Sasaki Kojirou, who isn’t even a proper Servant!) and the Noble Phantasm of only one (Lancer). I’m not saying that I need to know everything about all of them, but come on, throw me a bone here (heh).

Speaking of Assassin, I’m definitely like this Sasaki Kojirou chap. Unless I’ve misunderstood something terribly, he is not the real Assassin and is instead just something that Caster has cooked up. That’s pretty crazy, if you think about it. While Caster’s own combat skills aren’t anything to shout about, having an ace like this can certainly more than make up for it. I wonder if Caster’s history or legend or whatever is tied up with fake-Assassin’s? It might be that they are always summoned together or something. If not, I’m curious as to why Caster summoned an Assassin class servant when she could have gotten any other class. Didn’t Rin say that Saber is the strongest of the lot? I don’t mean our Saber, but she isn’t the only Saber right? Actually, that wasn’t specified but unless it’s the same seven people fighting each other again and again, I don’t see how that would work and in any case, if it’s the same seven, there’s no way that no one has recorded the various Servants’ names. I’m sure intel like that would be extremely valuable to any of these magician families. Does this mean that there are eight Servants in the War now? Or has the ‘fake’ Assassin officially filled up the slot of the ‘real’ one? Isn’t Kirei supposed to do something about this kind of tomfoolery? Not that he seems particularly inclined; he just seems to want front row seats to the ensuring bloodbath.

Still, even if Kojiro isn’t as strong as Saber, he seems pretty damn powerful nonetheless. Sure, he’s not borderline broken like Berserker or Caster (I’m going to say that the ability to summon a Servant is pretty damn crazy even though she basically got one-shotted by Archer today), but the fact that he is able to hold both Saber and Archer off is pretty noteworthy. Sure, they didn’t go all out on him but he hasn’t revealed his Noble Phantasm either and from the looks of it, his normal skills are strong enough to break the laws of physics. I don’t know what’s going to happen to him but I can’t help but think it’s a big loss for Team Caster that she and Assassin can’t work properly together because having two, fully cooperating Servants would more than double a Master’s chance of winning.

I don’t think we even have enough information at this point to begin speculating on who Caster’s master is but I’m wondering if it even matters. If her master is basically a lobotomized puppet, then he/she could literally be anyone in the series and we wouldn’t even need to have necessarily seen them before. This is actually something that got me thinking about the exact nature of the relationship between Master and Servant. Sure, it would seem like the Servant can function fully autonomously of the Master, as evidenced by Archer and his presence at the temple without Rin’s knowledge, but then what exactly is the point of the Master? If I remember correctly, the Master keeps the Servant tethered to the real world but surely there has to be more than that? If most Wars are concluded by the winning Master killing all others then wouldn’t it be in each Servant’s best interests to store their Masters away in some little dungeon cell (regardless of the Master’s consent) until the War is done? Why risk total defeat by sacrificing both Servant and Master? Am I being too twisted here? I guess the Master can help in a support role – gathering intelligence, healing the Servant (as Shirou was supposed to do way back when) or just providing backup firepower and so on but it seems like a somewhat secondary purpose for Masters.

Anyway, let’s end today’s discussion with the highlight of the episode. There is a lot to discuss here, and I’m going to try my very best to structure it. What I’m really struggling with is how exactly an argument about morals and ideology turned into a vicious fight and a near murder? Surely Archer doesn’t feel that strongly about the subject? I mean, he dismisses Shirou’s opinion on most things the rest of the time, so why is this one topic so special? I remember that when Archer was walking Shirou home, it was a similar topic that fanned the flames between the two characters, so let’s take a look at what exactly is diving these two. It’s been established for some time that Archer and Shirou don’t like each other; Archer is too pragmatic for Shirou’s hero complex while Archer probably thinks Shirou is just annoying and will probably get Rin killed (I really hope this isn’t one of those stories where Rin has to die so that Shirou suddenly realizes he has to stop fucking around and get serious). Since their dislike for each other has been established, why did Archer (ostensibly of his own violation) come to rescue Shirou? Did he do it because Rin would not want Shirou to die at the hands of Caster? Was it to prevent Caster from gaining Shirou’s Command Seals (do those even matter? Everyone uses them like they’re no big deal)? Regardless, him coming to Shirou’s rescue gave me the idea that despite all their dislike, they were just one of those character couples that keeps arguing but secretly like each other. The second half of the episode definitely shot that theory down, rather brutally. Let me see if I can summarize Shirou’s position – he basically wants to save everyone, despite Archer and Kiritsugu insisting that it can’t be done. I should note that Archer and Kiritsugu’s moral positions are not identical – where Shirou wants to save everyone, Kiritsugu notes that saving people often comes with an opportunity cost whereas Archer is more about forsaking over the many to save the entirety. Archer and Kiritsugu’s positions are different but possibly compatible, the way I see it and perhaps that’s what Caster was alluding to when she noted the similarities between Shirou and Archer. To Shirou sacrificing a puppy to save the world would be unacceptable; to Archer that would be a fucking Christmas Day sale. I’m not saying Shirou’s philosophy isn’t admirable, but it’s far from realistic. On the other hand, Archer’s ideology is just plain cynical – sure, the plan to let Caster take Berserker down makes sense if you look at it totally dispassionately but that doesn’t automatically mean that you should look at it like that. One of the fascinating things here is that it’s too easy to shoot Shirou’s position down (at least for me) but it’s harder to point out where exactly to draw the line in Archer’s thinking. Yet for all of that, I don’t think Archer would ever mind a deal where he can save everyone and sacrifice no one in the process; it’s just that he is convinced that that deal will never be for real whereas Shirou believes that it can happen. In all of this, we haven’t even talked about Rin and her own confused compromise between her friend’s and Servant’s extremes, but we’ll deal with that when it comes.

The above paragraph was all written before some critical information came my way via the comments and I don’t want to pretend that I was smart enough to figure some things out when I clearly wasn’t, so I’m leaving the above paragraph in. First of all, I totally missed the scene after the credits. It’s short scene but an important one. We see that Shirou is angry at Archer’s betrayal but not with Rin; he basically accurate guesses that Rin was not involved in the incident. More puzzlingly, Saber doesn’t seem to think especially poorly of Archer despite him breaking the code of honour and betraying Shirou. Her comment about Archer not being the best fighter was surprising because we saw him hold Lancer off – sure he was disarmed a lot, but considering archers aren’t known for melee combat, I think it’s pretty impressive anyway. The other important piece of information was Shirou’s reason for hating Archer. According to the source material, Shirou could sense that Archer was trying to get Saber and Shirou in the blast that he was aiming at Berserker, despite knowing that it would do nothing to the latter. That’s as good a reason as any for hating someone, I would think. So, while I’m glad that I know this now, I can’t help but wonder how much I’ve missed out because it simply wasn’t presented in the show at all. I guess I’ll only find that out after the anime is done.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “[Anime] Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – The Reward for the Fight to the Death (S1E7)

  1. Well the quality certainly didn’t suffer on this one, it’s a long one with some good points.

    First I’ll cover Caster, the anime left out the True Magic explanation(which should be in the blu rays that release on the 25th of this month). I’m paraphrasing this from another response on another forum that is a bit more detailed so I’ll try not to confuse you. The magic Shirou and Rin preform is basically alchemy/science that operates by rules and is just change of a form of energy, True Magic defies reality. There are only 5 people in the world that can perform actual True Magic and they are leagues above any regular mage.

    The First True magic created something entirely out of nothing. The Second True Magic holds power over parallel realities, the Third True Magic has to do with souls, the Fourth True Magic is hidden, the Fifth True Magic defies the laws of energy and mass conservation and has control over cause and effect, as well as time.

    “It is said amongst Mages that out of True magics known “The first created everything and gave everything a reason to exist, The Second showcased that there’s more than one possibility of everything, The Third made goals possible to achieve, the Fourth hid away in the shadows, while the Fifth took away the meaning from everything as it is the eventual end of everything in existence. If only it had ended at the The Third…”

    This is why Caster is a big deal and when Archer said she mimics True Magic that holds a lot of weight. The anime probably went a bit over board on show casing how bad ass Archer is, even though he is really bad ass. It’s made clear in the VN he’s struggling just to dodge the beams on his own, this is why Shirou gets so pissed when Archer saves him. He sees Archer struggling and thinks Archer will be killed with the extra burden. The anime left out the short monologue of Shirou saying he didn’t want to be a burden on Archer. So tl;dr of this is that Caster is really powerful and on a totally different level, she just vastly underestimated Archer.

    ‘I am the bone of my sword’ isn’t mistranslated. Magic in FSN isn’t Harry Potter style where you utter a spell name and something predetermined casts. ” For a personal-style of Thaumaturgy however, they play the important role of self-hypnosis: to place the mind of the magus in a state in which it can effectively control the Magic Circuits.” So basically the uttering of a phrase aids in controlling the manipulation of energy. I could say Fireball to cast a fireball and you could say some other random phrase and shoot the same spell and both of our phrases accomplish the same goal.

    Rin did say Saber is the ‘strongest’ but Rin isn’t a 100% reliable narrator. She was mostly saying that because a Saber class servant made it to the end of the war 2 or 3 wars in a row. Saber does have really high stats (servants have RPG style stats such as luck, strength, agility, etc) but stats don’t mean everything. Abilities are usually much more important than pure stats and abilities alone can determine a fight.

    Shirou is mad because his morals and ideals are what define him. He was reborn from nothing after that fire and he clung to his Father’s want to be a hero that’s all he had for 10 years after basically dying as a person. That’s why he is so upset with Archer wanting to sacrifice the few for the many, and yeah sacrificing one person to save the world is a dream come true for Archer but Shirou would fight against that.

    This was longer than I expected it to be… but I just wanted to make sure you knew Caster is actually a serious deal.

    Yeah there is missing information so far but some of it is explained later, like this episode Shirou explained that he knew Archer was aiming for him and Archer kind of acknowledged that fact. I’ll note there is what is essentially 4-5 episodes worth of cut content in the blu rays that release on the 25th so it will be interesting to see what is added back in.

    I’d say of the things missing only 1-2 are really major things that have been left out and both are easy for me to explain to you so it shouldn’t be a problem I don’t think. You’ve picked up on a lot of stuff so I really don’t think you’re missing anything about the story.

    The VN gives you information on weapons that you see. This is for Caladbolg http://i.imgur.com/gKDLWP8.jpg

    By the way Saber named Lancer as “Ireland’s Child of Light” in episode 1 you’re free to look up his legend if you wish, just stray away from Fate/Stay Night discussions and the TypeMoon wiki and you’re fine.

    Oh yeah and remember how Saber ‘saw the future’ when fighting assassin and he did his special move? This explains how that happened http://i.imgur.com/ytwxzj8.jpg it’s one of those ‘rpg’ skills again that they can’t explain all that easily in the show.

    Like

    • So, I have some questions and clarifications and I’ll leave it to your discretion to not answer if they’re too spoilery.

      1.) Are you saying that Caster is one of the five people capable of performing ‘True Magic’? Or just that she has a way of mimicking it?
      2.) So, on top of everything else, Shirou is angry at Archer for saving him because he doesn’t want someone to get hurt/die while helping him? Is that a fair way of reading his reaction? That would make sense given his philosophy, actually.
      3.) So I looked up Cu Chulain and the Caldbolg description is very interesting in that context. So, basically, isn’t this a gigantic flag saying that Archer will kill Lancer? (Ok, don’t answer that lol).
      4.) Lastly, regarding Saber’s instinct, I didn’t realize that that was what it was (I just assumed it was some cool reality distorting shit that Assassin’s move caused). I actually like the way it was shown though. It’s a difficult concept to convey visually and it would ruin it to explain it in the middle of the scene.

      Like

  2. Na she’s not one of them she’s just from the Age of Gods when magic was more powerful. She can cast more powerful magic than Rin way faster than Rin can.

    Yep, Shirou was angry at Archer for saving him when he went on that ‘Baka’ tirade. He doesn’t want ANYONE getting hurt or killed to save him.

    Yeah, I think the instinct thing was done well also..

    Like

  3. Why, thanks for the kind words, here!

    That episode definitely was one of the highlights of the season. I especially liked the duel between Assassin and Saber, Tsubame Gaeshi never looked better. Here we have a guy with a fake name who managed to break the rules of physics just by training a lot, you have to respect that.

    On your general remarks, Nocorras covered a lot of points already, I’ll add my two cents nevertheless.

    – about the Servants identities, it’s true that so far, they have been quite stingy with the revealed names (even though Lancer gave himself away quite early). I think the UBW route can be a bit frustrating in that regard, since a couple of them never have their name spelled (while, in the Fate route, for instance, Berserker’s identity would be already revealed, if I remember correctly). The identity game is not helped by the fact that physical appearances mean nothing in this medium. That leaves googeling the names of their Noble Phantasm when they unleash it…
    – On Saber being the strongest… Well, the different classes act like a template, boosting the Heroic Spirits abilities and giving them certain specific skills. Over all, saying that the Saber class provide the strongest boost might be accurate. In the end, of course, the individual identities of the heroes are much more important.
    – Caster’s performance was a bit underwhelming, true. But while watching the episode, I made myself the reflection that the simple fact of being able to fly may be pretty cheap against some Servants. Some have very little in the way of ranged attacks, after all… As for how Archer freed himself, my guess would be that his last attack disrupted Caster’s concentration on the spell, or something.
    – on the possible tactic of hiding a Master from the world and letting the Servant do all the work, there is some possible issues with it. First, distance have an influence on the amount of mana a Master can provide to his Servant. So a Servant might find himself quite weakened if fighting too far from his Master. An exception would be the Archer class, who are quite autonomous in that regard. Another potential problem would be defending said Master if he ends up being found out nonetheless. It could be argued, after all, that the safest place for them to be is right behind their Servants. And finally, as you noticed, the support some Masters are able to provide is nothing to sneeze at. I quite liked the Rin-Archer combination against Berserker, for instance. Sure, it didn’t work, because Berserker, but Immobilization+rain of exploding arrows are a combo that might cause trouble to a lot of opponents.
    – on Archer, I guess his motivations are supposed to remain a mystery so far. But I’d agree with you, saving Shirou, then trying to kill him seem quite contradictory. But I think the opposition between him and Shirou was rather well executed, all in all. Sure, not having all the inner monologues of Shirou might make some things a bit harder to understand, but I’m not going to criticize a show that tries to respect the classic rule of “show, don’t tell”.

    anyway, keep up the good work!

    Like

    • What do you mean by ‘fake name’? (Don’t answer if it’s a spoiler!)

      I agree with you on the show, don’t tell but the thing is that I came away with the impression that Archer was trying to kill Shirou purely because they disagreed ideologically, which seems extreme, though sadly not unheard of.

      Like

      • Not a spoiler.

        Assassin’s supposed identity is that of the mythical Japanese swordsman, Kojirou Sasaki (佐々木 小次郎, Sasaki Kojirō?) whose real name was speculated to be Tsuda (津田, ?).[3] His true name was unknown, and to be more specific, he never had a true name.[4] Kojirou is known as a master swordsman whose existence is doubted even though his name remains recorded in history. He did not actually exist, so it would be impossible to summon the real thing as a Servant. The person summoned in his place is not a Heroic Spirit, but an existence closer to that of wraiths. If there was to be a database for all of humanity, he is the piece of data that best matches the parameters of Sasaki, so his personality would become Kojirou’s personality and his monumental feats would become that of Kojirou rather than his own.[5]

        He was a nameless martial artist with some relation to the Ryuudou Temple, but there is no way to know his true identity.[1] He died lacking a name, never even fortunate enough to be given one, and the ability to read or write. He utilizes a long Japanese katana and discovered the ultimate technique, “Tsubame Gaeshi”, being absolutely all he possesses. The reason he is summoned is simply because he can execute that legendary technique. He spent much of his life simply trying to figure out the best method to cut down a swallow, and although he realized the method was impossible for a human, he had nothing else to do and kept on practicing. While determination is normally the key to success, he simply noticed that it had succeeded.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s