[Anime] Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – A Visitor Approaches Lightly (S1E11)


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Even eleven episodes in, it is surprisingly difficult to choose which aspect of this series is more enjoyable – the smooth, beautifully animated action sequences or the thought-provoking ideologically-driven debates the characters have with each other. The dilemma is a welcome one; one of the many things that keep this series from feeling like a generic fantasy is the careful attention it pays to its characters. Even fairly minor characters like Kuzuki and Caster, who we met last week, have understandable, if not sympathetic, outlooks on life and it’s the mark of careful characterization that these attitudes reflect and colour their motivations. The confrontation with Team Caster has left Shirou stretched a little thin and his allies take the time to plan their next moves. While that should technically mean a lot of strategizing and thinking, in reality, it translates to everyone taking it easy for some time. The downtime is important not just for the characters, who can just talk to each other and simply exist, but also for the viewers who can take the opportunity to really learn more about the characters and their personal thoughts and troubles. Shirou and Rin have come a long way from the first episode. While they do still argue frequently, it feels more as though they’ve reached an understanding with each other, of sorts. Shirou clearly respects Rin’s abilities and her experience but he never lets that respect get in the way of him telling her what he thinks she needs to hear and likewise, Rin too seems to have realized that while Shirou isn’t a magical prodigy, his dedication and courage are qualities to be valued and cherished. This isn’t just limited to their ‘professional’, working relationship; in this episode alone, Rin shows concern for Shirou when he drops the plates and does so without making a big deal out of it and refreshingly enough, it seems like Shirou understands and appreciates the gesture. Similarly, her irritation at his dedication to his father’s ideals doesn’t seem to really stem from the difference between her personal philosophy and his but rather from her belief that Shirou’s current path will leave him ultimately miserable. It’s hard to tell at this point just how well she really gets Shirou – thus far, she doesn’t seem to know of the fire he was rescued from or the extent of his survivor’s guilt but at the same time, she knows enough to ask the right sort of questions. A few of her comments seem unclear though – when she asks him if he enjoys magic, she says she might be misunderstanding something though it wasn’t too clear what it was. Likewise, she seems to comparing Shirou to someone but even that isn’t expanded upon though it is likely Archer, just based off of Caster’s comment and the total lack of other male characters it could be. Outside of her dynamic with Shirou though, Rin is still an interesting and entertaining character. She is audacious enough to back both Fujimura and Shirou into their respective characters; admittedly Shirou isn’t the most assertive when it comes to such matters but Rin made hilariously short work of Fujimura’s protests as well. It seems that some elements of her character’s central inner conflict haven’t fully been resolved – there was certain envy and admiration with which she spoke of the naturalness of Kiritsugu’s Bounded Field as though she too wished her own father had been warmer and kinder. That in itself clashes with her desire to be a proper mage and as revealed in this episode, her desire to be a mage is as much a result of the expectations of her as they are of her own enjoyment for the practice. The question that all of this brings up though is whether or not someone who is so, in their own words, hedonistic is really as practical and ruthless as Archer thinks? He did insist that Rin, as a proper mage, would be willing to get her hands dirty if it came to it, but what does that say about her character then? Does it mean that she accepts the violence that mage-craft brings with it (for whatever reason) just because the rest of it is fun? Or does it also imply that she enjoys the violence (unlikely given her horror at seeing a room full of unconscious students)? The last two episode discussions have brought up the possibility of a connection between Archer and Shirou and while this episodes offer substantial further evidence, it brings us no closer to actually pinpointing what that connection is. One possibility, though extremely unlikely, is that Archer is Kiritsugu himself. We don’t know a great deal about Kiritsugu’s life prior to rescuing Shirou from the fire but even if he was a participant in the previous Grail War, it seems unlikely that he performed any acts of heroism amazing enough to go down in history – Rin, the local mage, hasn’t even heard of him! Archer knowing precisely how Shirou’s magic (which can only be passed via bloodline, remember) is a big clue as is the fact that his flashbacks feature a fairly medieval setting. Unfortunately, none of the characters we know fulfil both criteria and so the theory-crafting train is forced to fruitless halt. However, Archer’s philosophy so directly opposing Shirou’s is surely no coincidence – the former simply knows too much of the way Shirou thinks and what drives him for it to be mere happenstance. Archer seems to be saying here that one drowning man cannot rescue another, that Shirou’s determination to save the world will result in Shirou dedicating his life for another man’s ideal. Yet, is that such a bad thing? Shirou isn’t taking a stranger’s burden upon his own shoulders; the ideal he is ‘clinging’ on to is his father’s, his personal hero’s. Surely, men throughout history and even today have died and continue to die for ideals that they didn’t come up with and surely Archer knows this as well. Yet, what he seems to be suggesting is fascinatingly in line with Rin’s own advice – Shirou has decided to champion Kiritsugu’s ideal but in the process has not taken the time to understand whether he truly enjoys it independently of the salvation he provides others. Archer’s outlook is decidedly bleak, of course; pragmatic as he is, he doesn’t believe in fighting for ideals but for real, tangible things (it’s interesting that that seems to preclude the Grail itself) and thinks Shirou’s entire self-appointed purpose of saving others is an exercise in futility. There is certainly a line to be drawn between Shirou’s boundless altruism and Archer’s narrow-minded focus and it shouldn’t really matter whether the meeting point between the two extremes is a realistic or feasible one. After all, ideals exist only to be striven towards; when they are reached, they become reality.

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5 thoughts on “[Anime] Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – A Visitor Approaches Lightly (S1E11)

  1. >Similarly, her irritation at his dedication to his father’s ideals doesn’t seem to really stem from the difference between her personal philosophy and his but rather from her belief that Shirou’s current path will leave him ultimately miserable.

    Yep she cares about him and knows his way of thinking will lead to a self destructive life.

    >A few of her comments seem unclear though – when she asks him if he enjoys magic, she says she might be misunderstanding something though it wasn’t too clear what it was.

    Rin believes you should learn magic because you enjoy it and it should be used for yourself. Shirou doesn’t enjoy magic and is only doing to help others. He thinks he’s doing it for himself since it helps him accomplish his goal of helping others but I guess Rin doesn’t see it that way.

    >Archer knowing precisely how Shirou’s magic (which can only be passed via bloodline, remember)

    Slight misconception here, the only part of the magic that can passed down via bloodline is the Magic Crest which contains magical knowledge and other stuff. Shirou has no crest.

    >Shirou has decided to champion Kiritsugu’s ideal but in the process has not taken the time to understand whether he truly enjoys it independently of the salvation he provides others.

    Yep, this is pretty important honestly. Glad you picked up on that.

    Nice review I’m really impressed with with the last part. I can’t wait for 4/4 and the new episodes. Will your reviews be a week delayed or will you just change the day you release them to later in the week?

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    • I think they might be delayed by a day or two – CrunchyRoll isn’t available in my part of the world so I’ll have to wait for subs to come out.

      Could you clarify the magic crest bit? Does that mean that two unrelated people could have identical magic despite not sharong a crest?

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      • If I may…

        A Magic Crest is created when a mage takes some of their own Magic Circuits (the pathways through which magical energy flow through a mage), and transplants it in someone else (this is almost always one’s direct blood descendant – much like an organ transplant, an incompatible receiver would cause a rejection of the Crest. A blood descendant is far, far more likely to be compatible than any other random mage). From there, each successive receiver of the Crest adds a few of their circuits to the Crest when they pass it to their heir.

        Stored within the Crest are, to put it simply, records and shortcuts to performing the spells the previous bearers of the Crest learned and attached to the Circuits they passed down. With this, the heir has access to pretty much the entirety of the family line’s magical discoveries on-hand. From there, the heir is expected to continue the family’s work, and should the end goal still be out of reach, add their discoveries to the Crest and pass it to their heir to continue onward.

        It’s possible for mages of different lineages to know some of the same spells – things like Strengthening, Hypnosis, and Projection are fairly common knowledge among magi, for example. It tends to be the more advanced things that are limited to specific families.

        Shirou has Magic Circuits, but he has not inherited a Crest, so the few spells he has learned, he picked up from what little tutelage Kiritsugu gave him.

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      • A magic crest is a collection of magic circuits transplanted into a magus from the magus’ ancestors, which contains the spells and magical knowledge those ancestors recorded. As magic circuits are part of a magus’ soul, one essentially is transplanting parts of your ancestors’ souls into your own body. Consequently, without a strong spiritual tie (which, in practice, means a close blood relation) the chance of rejecting a magic crest is high. It’s like a magical organ transplant.

        This is why, for example, Tohsaka magi are all skilled in jewel-based magecraft. In the past, that knowledge was stored in the Tohsaka crest, which was then, in each following generation, passed down to the heir of the Tohsaka family (in this generation, that’s Rin). As it’s basically like an organ, the magic crest can generally only be passed down to one member of a family. As you probably noticed, Rin’s magic crest is on her arm and glows green when she uses it. I should also note, that as spells are literally inscribed within the crest, they’re much easier and faster to use than would normally be the case, which is why Rin tends to use it in combat, allowing her to cast more quickly and concentrate on other things at the same time as she’s firing off spells from her crest.

        However, theoretically, any other magus could learn the spells in Rin’s crest, although, as they’re the product of centuries of the family’s work, it would be difficult to do so within a lifetime (and they would be harder to use without the crest), even for a genius. In that sense, another magus could have similar spells to Rin. The only real limits on what spells a magus can cast are determined by the magus’ elements (water, wind, fire, earth or ether). Most magi have only 1 or 2, but Rin was born with all 5, so she can cast basically anything, except for spells requiring a rare elemental alignment. Magi with rare elements struggle with regular magecraft (as they cannot cast most normal spells, making it hard to learn from others), but can sometimes teach themselves unique spells which would be impossible for anyone not sharing that rare element.

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  2. Think of a Magic Crest as an magical electronic database containing the accumulated thaumaturgical achievements/spells that a Magi learns throughout their lifetime that is passed on from generation to generation to enrich a Magi’s lineage.

    Here’s the Wiki entry about it, it’ll be able to explain the details better (it’s mostly technical stuff, so there’s no major spoilers):

    Magic Crests (魔術刻印, Majutsu Kokuin) are the most important treasure of a lineage of magi.

    Engraved on the body in a variety of shapes, most typically in a magic circle, a Magic Crest is a series of Magic Circuits that were given a more stable form in order to act as an archive of thaumaturgical capability. At some point of the magus’ life, he will forge some of his own Magic Circuits into the Crest, store many, if not all, spells that he learned in life and then pass it down to his successor. As the process repeats itself with each new generation, the older a lineage is, the greater the number of Circuits forming the Crest, and the greater the amount of knowledge stored inside it. It is the duty of any heir of a family of magi to successfully expand and pass down the Crest to the next generation.

    As the complexity of the Crest increases with each new generation, the spells stored inside them become more stable and easier to activate. As long as the Crest is completely integrated with the magus’ body, he will be able to cast any spell recorded in the crest, even if he himself never had the chance to learn it properly. All he has to do is to activate the Crest just like he would do to a normal Circuit (by running prana inside of it), find the spell stored inside and activate it with its relevant incantation and thaumaturgical process. Furthermore, it is possible to use it to support the magus’ regular spellcasting and, whenever the magus gets heavily injured, the Crest is capable of keeping him alive for as long as there is still prana inside his body. Location of the Crest varies: Rin Tohsaka has hers on her left arm, while Kiritsugu Emiya had his on his back.

    Although the Crest is a set of Magic Circuits independent from those natural to a magus’ body, and cannot be detected when no prana is being passed through them, transplantation of a Magic Crest is still very much like that of an internal organ and thus can only be done to a compatible host. Normally that would mean someone who shares blood relation with the magus, but that is not an unbreakable standard. Even between close relatives, the chances of rejection are high. Therefore, in order to increase the chances of success, the transplant is done slowly throughout the heir’s childhood, so that their bodies can get accustomed to the presence of the Crest as they mature. Furthermore, the use of medicines made of special herbs and crushed bone is normal during the whole process, although bloodlines with a long history of 500 years or more have achieved a genetic uniformity that allowed them to overcome the need for that altogether.

    Despite all the troubles, the Magic Crest is still a highly valued article for any magus. But since usually only one person can inherit it, troubles can arise when there is more than one candidate. It’s not unheard of for bloody feuds to erupt within a clan of magi because of a dispute between two or more children fighting over the family’s Crest. It was because of that and other reasons that the current trend of only one heir per family (and the consequential policy of forsaking or excluding all other children) came to be.

    In a sense, Runes and magic jewels can be considered simplified forms of Magic Crests. The Mages Association also has technology for extracting just the magic crest from the body and storing it.

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