[Anime] Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – The Princess of Colchis (S2E2)


UBW Season 2

After flexing her magical muscles last week, Caster finally gets her fifteen minutes (almost literally) in the spotlight as we explore her history and backstory. The episode doesn’t focus on her historical origins, which is fine since Medea is a famous enough figure that there is no real shortage of information out there, but instead reveals her actions at the very start of the Holy Grail War. This leads to some fairly intriguing revelations – Kuzuki not being Caster’s first Master and Kirei’s shady backroom dealings, being chief among them – but it doesn’t seem like either will impact the story too much at this stage. The first half of the episode, filled with exposition as it is, feels a little sluggish but the rest of the episode more than makes up for it. Shinji and his new Servant crash a party intended for Shirou and Rin, ensuring a four Master meet-up in the very near future. The meeting hasn’t gotten off to the best start however, though we do finally learn Illya’s Servant’s name.

Caster is a character that greatly benefits from the added depth that this episode provides her with. It gives her a complexity that the other Servants have lacked – apart from Archer, and perhaps Saber if we’re being generous, the other Servants so far, have not really been fleshed out. Caster has not felt evil in the same way that traditional villains do – while her willingness to use human life to sustain herself is seen as abhorrent within the series, it feels like it is counterbalanced by her concern from her Master and somewhat justified by her decidedly different moral compass. This aptly titled episode, ‘The Princess of Colchis’, takes care to establish her motivations and frame of mind and does a fairly good job of humanizing her character further. The revelation that Caster had a Master prior to Kuzuki is shocking not just because it implies how much has been going on behind the scenes, but also because it questions some of our assumptions regarding the fundamental rules of this War. While rules have a more fluid meaning than usual when Caster’s Noble Phantasm is in play, it is still surprising that Kuzuki could ‘replace’ Caster’s prior Master. Weren’t there only supposed to be seven Masters? Would that make Kuzuki the eighth? These questions are secondary for now, however, since this episode forces us to ask better ones.

The short sequence introducing and eliminating Caster’s first Master serves two major purposes – first, it tells us that Caster doesn’t have as great a disregard for human life as we had been led to believe (though, this is tricky to reconcile this with her actions at the temple) and second, it tells us that Caster is every bit as peerless as we have been told. If there was ever such a thing as a natural magician, it would seem Medea is one. Both points seem designed to improve our opinion of Caster; it is easy to sympathize with someone who is hated for being better. Furthermore, not only was she cursed with a difficult, immature Master, we are also told that she was reviled in her past, betrayed and abandoned and only wants to return to her homeland. That is all well and good, but given her historical counterpart’s actions, it begs the question: how sympathetic can someone who kills her own kids to get back at her husband really be?

At the beginning of the series, the Holy Grail War was portrayed as this divine phenomenon, an event that would culminate in this immeasurably powerful holy artefact bestowing upon worthy individuals their greatest desire. Over the course of the last season however, that perception has been gradually broken down and this episode represents the latest step in that deconstruction process. The Holy Grail War went from being this natural ‘miracle’ with unbreakable, immutable rules to something as pedestrian as tournament organized by a some people. Kirei’s actions have been central to this change; his actions have clearly not been performed with the War’s integrity in mind but instead have served to further his own, unknown interests. This episode is an excellent example; the summoning of a Servant, something that is otherwise seen as an extraordinary event, was reduced to a mere marketplace transaction. It’s still not entirely clear what this transaction involved. At first, it seemed that Caster’s Master was suggesting a Servant swap – he gets Lancer, and she gets Caster. However, we later see him try to kill Caster so either that deal didn’t go through or the idea was that he would kill Caster and re-summon a new Servant (I believe both Archer and Saber were still available at that point). Lancer’s appearance after Caster’s Master’s death would suggest that Lancer was in fact a part of the transaction since the Master’s death was not a part of the plan. Was Lancer the one responsible for Caster’s wounded state in the forest, then? Regardless, it seems abundantly clear at this point that Kirei is up to no good; his dealings with these Masters and Servants reek of corruption and self-serving greed but from the little we’ve seen of him, he doesn’t seem like the kind of villain to be motivated by money or power. We also haven’t seen or heard from Lancer’s Master though this episode did drop some clues – she is affiliated with the Mage’s Association and it seems that Caster’s first Master knew her.

Back in the present, the situation in the Einzbern hideout is tense as Illya makes her first substantial appearance in over twelve episodes. It seems that there is more to Illya than meets the eye – she isn’t just a precocious child prodigy, she appears to be a mixture between a human and a homunculus, which are traditionally human shaped shells that lack souls. It is a little late in the series to be introducing this new race but depending on how much detail we go into, it could just be a bit more world-building without really distracting from the main storyline. It would certainly explain the odd appearance of Team Illya. In any case, it would seem that the last twelve or so episodes since Illya’s previous appearance have robbed her of all her menace – watching her pout and sulk makes her seem like much less of a threat than she did before. It also seems to be the series’ way of signalling that she is no longer an antagonist, or at least, is no longer as antagonistic as she was during her first appearance, which in turn is as good a way as any for paving a path to an alliance between Shirou, Rin and her. It’s unclear what Shirou and Rin can offer her at this point but given that Illya seems to know and remember Kiritsugu and Shirou, it would seem that they have some catching up to do. Shiniji’s Servant has other ideas though – it would seem that they arrive at the hideout at the same time purely by coincidence. The confrontation scene had a rather strange atmosphere to it; we begin the whole sequence light-heartedly enough with Rin flying off and flaming Illya who in turn is getting her princess complex on. Shinji’s reappearance and continued cowardice only helps with the comedy until his Servant appears. The Servant’s appearance is serious business and all of a sudden, limbs are falling off and Homunculi are getting beheaded. Shinji’s comical reactions and pitiful appearance might be an attempt by the show to get the audience to accept him as a possible member of this four Master alliance but I dearly hope not. Shinji’s sins were far enough in the past that I don’t think most members of the audience care anymore, but I still don’t think he deserves a shot at redemption. That said, he did flinch when his Servant beheaded the maid and if nothing else, it’s a sign that although Shinji talks about killing everyone and winning the War, he’s just a kid who’s talking a bigger game than he can play.

His nameless Servant, on the other hand, is playing for keeps. The revelation that Berserker is Hercules was disappointing in how offhanded it was but came just in time for the audience to appreciate just how gutsy Shinji’s Servant has to be to face him unflinchingly. Hercules’ twelve feats are some of the most famous mythological stories ever told – he is not a Servant you just casually challenge. Unless, of course, you’re someone just as powerful, though at this point, I’m drawing a blank as to who that could even be. Interestingly, this particular Servant knows a lot about the Grail and even calls Illya the Grail’s vessel. Is that the reason that Caster couldn’t find the Grail despite searching so desperately for it? Did Illya just outwit everyone by sneaking into Kirei’s church and somehow merging with the Grail when no one noticed it? I wouldn’t put it past Kirei to have let that happen just to see how the other Masters would react and given the blonde Servant’s close association with Kirei, of course he would know all about it. It’s a little ambiguous at this point, but the blonde Servant does seem to know Hercules personally given the way he refers to a battle of legend in the episode’s final shot. How cool would it be if Medea, Hercules and some other Greek dude all duked it out? We know that it’s not impossible for Heroic Spirits from the same era to be summoned together – it’s probably happened with Archer and Saber, in fact. It might stretch credibility a little for all three of those heroes to be interrelated but at the same time it could be a neat way of resolving Caster’s own character issues. On a final note (there was nowhere else to mention it), the blonde Servant has a really kickass musical theme. It’s not relevant to the rest of this discussion, but I had to mention it.

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33 thoughts on “[Anime] Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – The Princess of Colchis (S2E2)

  1. I hate when you say something that I want to add to but doing so would be a subtle spoiler :<
    I'll have to wait till later to bring it up.

    A lot of this stuff was anime original. Pretty much ~80% of the episode was, only the Rin/Shirou scenes were in the VN (although the maid stuff is kind of implied for people who read the 'sequel' to FSN)

    Next episode looks to be really good though, can't wait.

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      • If I remember correctly in the VN they hardly say anything about caster’s former master except that she killed him and subsequently ran off. The anime expands on this, adding in scenes not in the VN so I guess you could call it “anime-original’? Also the whole scene of leys and sella fighting shinji’s servant was not in the VN at all too. Right after the scene where shirou and rin get a shock from the traps, the VN skips to them reaching the castle where the battle between berserker and goldilocks.

        As a VN reader, it’s really nice to see things expanded on in the anime, even if they’re original and may or may not be canon (though I think they probably are).

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      • Oh yes. This is the first time ever we’re introduced to Caster’s first master (until then, all we knew was general informations (jealous of Caster, killed by her after using all his command spells). NOw, we can add a face to the guy, and have a little context about what happened.

        At first, I actually liked the fact that they took the time to mention Berserker’s identity, since it is never stated in the UBW route (while in Fate, Illya pretty much announces it to Shirou and Rin right off the bat in a “ahah, you have no chance against this guy” kind of way); But then, they also added some awesome extra contents on that front, so yeah, perhaps they could have done something a little more grandiose.

        No matter what, this season really started with a bang.

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      • “Is this the first time they’ve added non-VN stuff?”

        Nope there were some scenes added before as well such as the Rin and Illya fight in episode 3, or Kirei vs Caster in episode 12 (Which was implied to have happened, but we never see), and there were little lines added in that foreshadow some of the events of the Fourth Grail War, or mentioning stuff thats only mentioned in the Fate route (Such as Berserker’s identity, which is flat out told to us in the first encounter in Fate.)

        “Also, was Lancer the one who injured her?”

        I dont think we know, i’m just going to make the assumption that he did.

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      • We do get Casters background at this point in the VN, but it’s much shorter and basically run down of events from her death to her summoning and betrayal of her original master without many details up until she meets Kuzuki.
        I wonder if this is spoiler territory or not since we may get more of her but the thing to keep in mind while reading up on Caster is that in Medea’s myth she was cursed by the gods and in this setting both curses and gods are very very real.

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      • The VN goes over her myth as it is in the Nasuverse and not necessarily any of the versions of the myths in the real world.

        Personally I liked how the anime humanized her more: http://imgur.com/a/Nz9iQ

        The whole thing with her master was retconned anyway, it was described a bit different in the VN.

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    • True, it was more in brief and her master was only briefly touched upon, but the revelation of her backstory being different to the original legend made her more sympathetic than here. Personally I thought it came on a little strong trying to garner sympathy with the master being a one dimensional abusive ass. I’d have optimally preferred a combination of the two, and maybe bringing in some parts of her backstory from Hollow Ataraxia. As you yourself said “how sympathetic can someone who kills her own kids to get back at her husband really be?” Which is seen to have completely different context in this version of Medea’s past, though unfortunately that was not shown here, which makes it harder to sympathize.

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      • It’s not actually different though. It’s completely literal – how it would have been read by anyone who believed that the Greek gods actually existed and interfered in mortal affairs. The only ambiguity is whether she killed her own children in outrage, which to be fair isn’t something we know about Caster either.

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  2. Not really, the anime only stuff about Caster is how her original master died. In the VN it just said her master treated Caster very bad and she later killed him using the Rule Breaker when she can’t take it anymore

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  3. The extra scenes are an bonus to franchise veterans. Leysritt and Sella, the two maids of Illya, are touched in the Fate and Heavens Feel route of the visual novel, the sequel Fate/Hollow Ataraxia, and the spinoff series Fate/Kalied. People who have seen these characters already are the ones to feel the most impact from that massacre at the end of this episode.

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      • Leysritt (the one with the heavy halberd) is more physical oriented to protect Illya, and Sella has magical capability, but no combat abilities.

        They are no match for a being as powerful as a servant however.

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      • The maids are actually quite powerful. Leysritt has super strength way beyond what’s possible for a human (it’s B-rank, which generally means something like 40x as strong as an average human) while Sella was created with incredibly strong magical power. Basically, Sella was Illya’s magic teacher, while Leysritt was her bodyguard (and has another function which won’t come up in this route, since she’s now dead).

        Either of them would effortlessly obliterate a normal human, but against Shinji’s new servant, well, you saw how it went.

        Liked by 1 person

      • No, that’s incorrect actually. Sella (blue one who gets her head chopped off) is physically unimpressive and is Illya’s magic teacher (not nearly as powerful as Illya though), but Leysritt (black one with halberd) is superhuman. According to the writer, using the stats for comparison, her strength level would be B-. For comparison, Archer’s is D, Sabers is B+ and Berserkers is A++, IIRC.

        Which makes it kind of funny Shinji managed to stop her halberd from going through his face.

        Liked by 2 people

      • @popthepuff is more correct than me. I’ve got to make sure I double-check facts first before posting haha.

        This additional content is actually pretty good because I know a few people who estimated that there would be not enough content to fill this second half. Then again the movie adaptation was under 3 hours to fit an entire route. Extra scenes are filling the gaps pretty well so far.

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  4. The people who saw the prescreening at Sakura-con of this episode reported that the episode was shorter compared to the one they saw.
    UFOtable also confirmed on twitter that 7 minutes were cut to fit the broadcasting schedule. That means that the episode will be 7 minutes longer in the bluray!

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  5. Here is a relevant piece of the VN for Caster’s backstory. I really liked the new bits the anime included. Although apparently the cut out bits are Rin explaining Caster’s backstory, Caster tearing up the Church and more Caster + Master scenes. It’s also important to note that if you have already played the Fate Route the golden servant, Berserker, and Saber’s identities are already known.

    There some lines missing from that where it’s basically Caster going “Well I’ve already hit rock bottom, I might as well show those people the horrors they speak of.”

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  6. Actually, Nasuverse characters legends and backstorys are fairly different, the part explaining the differences here was cut and replaced with the master parts. As you can see from Harpe’s post, her past here is markedly different to the one in traditional legend.

    Though, Archer has already pointed out she hasn’t killed anyone yet, which would be much more efficient. As I mentioned earlier, Illya is tends to switch moods pretty easily with no overly apparent triggers sometimes.

    I agree, though, that the sudden change of tone is pretty jarring. As for his servant, there was actually some interesting comments he made in relation to his legend, which you might see when you look back later.

    I understand there were some subbing errors, though, regarding his lines, so here;
    >”Even though you are human only in shape, you function as real human beings.”

    It should be, “Despite being human in form, you are indeed extensions of nature.”
    And
    >”I shall forgive your disrespect, assuming it is out of fear.”

    “In recognition of the awe you have expressed, I shall forgive your disrespectful acts.”

    As for the offhand reveal of Berserkers identity, I’d say it’s another unfortunate consequence of not adapting the first route, where the reveal is much more dramatic.

    I’m rather tempted to answer a few of those last questions but can’t because spoilers DX
    As for the blonde servant, whoo boy, you have no idea, to say the least.

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  7. yep. what other people have sadid about Medea. Her true legend in the nasu-verse is heavily tragic and paints her as someone that has been played around by the gods and the argonaughts for their own whims.

    As to the Blonde servants, well he is one of the few historical character with a legend that could easily surpass the feat of Hercules. The next ep is going to be good.

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  8. > It is a little late in the series to be introducing this new race but depending on how much detail we go into, it could just be a bit more world-building without really distracting from the main storyline.

    Keep in mind that we still have some movies to go after the show so it’s not that late into it since techically we are less that half-way through the entire Ufotable F/SN adaptations.

    Same with the servants, some may be minor In UBW and take the spotlight later just like Caster was just a minor character in Fate but much more important here.

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  9. I didn’t know where to post this so i’ll just put it here, but I wanted to know if you could review the anime Akame ga Kill?

    I also greatly enjoyed your Gurren Lagann reviews and what Fate/Stay Night episodes you have reviewed so far!

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  10. A little late to the discussion but I read your last 4 ish reviews of UBW and as a VN-reader, I am loving it. For an Anime-only you analyze the episodes very well. Possibly even too well!

    But in regards to this episode, there is something you may have missed because it’s very subtle. I’m not sure if you mentioned it in this review. Go back to the talk between Kirei and Caster’s original master regarding the contract disposing of Caster. You’ll find something interesting.

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    • Are you referring to the number of Servant spots left at the time? I actually missed it, but another commenter pointed it out

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