[Anime] Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – A Mythical Showdown (S2E3)


UBW Season 2

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Well, one of them is in for a rude awakening. The confrontation between the dreaded Berserker Heracles and Shinji’s enigmatic blonde Servant is the focus of this week’s aptly named episode ‘A Mythical Showdown’ though the episode also spends a good amount of time exploring Illya’s twisted and tragic past as well as her reasons for getting involved in this increasingly bloody conflict. Illya and Berserker have been largely absent since their first appearance in the previous season but anyone hoping that their recent return to the center stage is a sign that they will be returning to the story permanently, is going to have those hopes violently and tragically dashed. The episode does an impressive job of getting the audience invested in Illya’s story and reworking Berserker’s image from a terrifying, relentless monster to that of an equally terrifying but nobler, more protective figure. It also provides the audience with some additional background on the history of the Holy Grail and the Einzbern family, though with Illya’s death and defeat, it is unclear just how useful that information will be going forward.

Since the first season, Berserker and Illya have been built up as the team to beat. We would hear Servants like Caster and Archer remark on just how powerful Berserker is and even consider uniting to defeat him. It makes his defeat in this episode surprising but makes the manner of his defeat downright shocking. Throughout the fight with Shinji’s nameless Servant, Berserker doesn’t even manage to land a single blow, and not for a lack of trying. The fight scenes, interspersed with backstory exposition as they are, repeatedly show Berserker’s fury as he and Illya try their very best to get past the blonde Servant’s seemingly limitless armoury but to no avail. Still, at first it would seem that at worst, the fight would reach a stalemate – after all, a bottomless armoury, despite being composed of Noble Phantasms (seriously, who is this guy?), can’t do a whole lot against someone who’s immortal. However, Berserker’s ‘immortality’, which would seem to be his Noble Phantasm, comes with a caveat; he gets twelves lives, presumably one for each of his labours. The blonde Servant somehow knows this and, to use a gaming term, is able to effectively kite Berserker without taking any damage himself. In fairness, the blonde Servant had to bring out his A-grade weaponry to get the job done, and still has a moment of genuine fear when Berserker makes a final stand while Berserker himself was a little hamstrung by Illya’s presence at his side. The fight scenes are absolutely brutal as Berserker is finally, stabbed repeatedly, subdued by divine chains and then summarily executed. It’s strange that Illya didn’t go after Shinji – clearly, she wasn’t going to be able to even scratch the enemy Servant but she could have forced him on the defensive by going after Shinji, who’s pretty much defenseless on his own. After watching Illya boss Rin around in their first fight, it seems a little unfortunate that Illya herself goes out so passively.

If there is one department in which Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works seems to lack in, it’s that the Servants themselves don’t really feel like characters so much as objects. With the exception of Archer, who is easily the best developed character among the Servants, the other Servants seem to lack agency and are essentially extensions of their Masters’ wills. This second season has taken some promising steps in correcting that; we got a glimpse of Caster’s past and her motivations in the previous episode, and this week we learn a little more about Heracles as a character instead of as a Servant, if that makes sense. It’s always difficult to really develop a character who doesn’t talk and only appears for such a limited time but the episode does a fairly good job of helping the audience understand Heracles a little better. Specifically, it focuses on the relationship between Illya and Berserker which extends beyond the usual Master-Servant bond to something warmer and almost familial. This isn’t stated explicitly but it would seem that Illya freed Berserker from his feral, mindless state at the point of his summoning by essentially mentally breaking through his anger. It seems like it weakened Illya considerably but also won her Berserker’s respect. As was the case with Kuzuki and Caster, this very human connection between these two barely human (or really, outright non-human) characters makes them much more sympathetic, even though they are strictly speaking our protagonists’ enemies. More importantly, it ensures that the audience has an emotional investment in the characters and feels some sense of loss upon their deaths. Of the two deaths, Illya’s was clearly the more gut-wrenching but there is also something incredibly saddening about watching this great warrior chained and put down like a rabid animal. Berserker’s final attempt at avenging Illya seals the audience’s respect for the character, despite his rather ineffectual showing, and is even acknowledged by his opponent.

It’s difficult to say what makes Illya’s death so tragic. Is it her age? Is it that she has suffered for this war since she was an infant but died without seeing it through to the end? Or is the violence with which she died? Clearly, it’s a little bit of all of that, and more. It’s frankly surprising, given her traumatic childhood and life in general, that Illya didn’t die totally unhinged. Her backstory is full of information about the War and finally gives us enough information to form a working picture of the last Holy Grail War. Illya’s mother, or at least her spectre, said that she ‘became the Grail’ which is not too unbelievable given that last episode, Illya was implied to have a Holy Grail within her as well. We are then told, again by the spectre which may or may not be reliable, that Kiritsugu murdered Illya’s mother. This, and him subsequently abandoning Illya, clashes violently with the Kiritsugu that Shirou knew and reveres. There is an explanation that can reconcile this, at least partially. Kirei’s enmity with Kiritsugu involves the latter ‘rejecting’ the Holy Grail. If this rejection involved his wife’s death, then perhaps it’s possible that Kiritsugu destroyed the Grail not realizing it was his wife. The grief of the act basically broke him and he decided to start life anew with Shirou. If true, this doesn’t excuse him abandoning Illya but does prove a point – even the most saintly heroes have blemishes on their records and more importantly, you can’t save everyone. With Illya’s death, Shirou might be spared knowing that he had an adoptive sister but it might be healthier for him to know that Kiritsugu wasn’t perfect.

Coming back to Illya, however, it’s unclear whether the visions she had of her mother were real or figments of her imagination or a little of both. Either way, it doesn’t matter since Illya believes them to be true and as a result holds a grudge against Kiritsugu and by extension, Shirou. A part of me thinks that it’s tragic that the true never got a chance to talk things out, especially with Shirou being so very close at hand, but at the same time, it’s likely that a meeting between Illya and Shirou wouldn’t have ended well for the latter. Illya’s death scene was particularly upsetting because of how the Servant blinded her before killing her. Watching a tiny little girl pitifully search for her protector while her killer watched on impassively, made for a surprisingly heavy scene, especially coming from an episode that not fifteen minutes prior had Shinji prancing around celebrating a victory that he had no part in. I wonder if the Servant blinding her had some symbolic meaning because if not, that was just a sadistic thing to do – you can’t tell me that a Servant capable of taking out Berserker couldn’t kill a little girl without blinding her first. The Servant, who I’m going to assume is from the Archer class based on this episode, walking up to Illya and actually stabbing her instead of shooting a sword (is this a Fate/Stay Night thing? Does everyone just shoot swords instead of arrows?) at her felt like an almost tender move, like he acknowledged her resistance enough to actually give the death a personal touch. That would clash with the blinding but it did seem throughout it that the Servant took no pleasure in Illya’s death, though he clearly greatly enjoyed defeating Heracles.

We end the episode with the status quo now in total shambles. With Illya and Berserker defeated, it seems that it is up to the blonde Servant to defeat Team Caster and it’s pretty clear that he wouldn’t want or need Shirou and Rin’s help in doing so. Speaking of which, Shirou was able to hold himself back admirably for most of the episode, but just when you thought he was done jumping into fights he knew he couldn’t win, it looks like he got himself noticed by calling the demigod a bastard, something I’m pretty sure Rin advised him against. The blonde Servant’s victory here is going put Shinji, of all people, in pole position to win this War and it seems unlikely that he would be willing to forgive Rin and Shirou for insulting him and showing him up respectively. I know that we haven’t really talked about the blonde Servant’s status as a demigod and what his infinite armoury could mean but an armoury of infinite swords does bring to mind a certain phrase: ‘Unlimited Blade Works’. The blonde Servant could very well be the antagonist that this story deserves. The next few episodes should make it abundantly clear which side, if any, he is on.

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35 thoughts on “[Anime] Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – A Mythical Showdown (S2E3)

  1. Yeah… the stuff with the spectre might be a bit confusing if you haven’t seen F/Zero it was added because they needed something else to convey stuff about Illya since the Fate route isn’t done. The old guy was manipulating her, he was standing there when Illya is freaking out (this is anime original btw).

    The wait between episodes is too much, there are a few scenes I’m dying to see animated.

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    • So, are we supposed to assume that she was misled into thinking Kiritsugu killed her mother and left her behind? Or did you mean the old guy was the one making her see the blood and shade of her mother?

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      • Yes and no. I’ll try not to give too much away, but it’s a bit difficult to explain without.
        For the old guy, it’s easier, he’s basically the head of the Einzberns and he raised Illya repeatedly telling her how Kiritsugu was an evil man who betrayed their family and killed her mother and abandoned her, and how she should kill him and his new heir.
        For the shade of her mother, this is more connected to the Holy Grail-remember how blonde guy refers to her as the vessel, and as a mix between homunculus and human-Kiritsugu is clearly human so the mother must be the homunculus. The rest of it I can’t really explain without spoilers, though.

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      • Though actually, whether she’s actually seeing her mother or if it was all in her head, thanks to the old Einzbern repeatedly telling her those things himself (and quite possibly using some meabs to manipulate her head) is up to interpretation.

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      • It’s spoilers to go into some of the stuff. The man is making her see those things because at the current time it’s happening it’s not possible for the other thing to happen. I have to be this vague for reasons.

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    • I think it only confuses the people who have previously watched Fate/Zero, that spectre is not what you think it is. Illya wasn’t manipulated by that, but by the Einzbern family, at this point in the VN it had been stated that Illya was manipulated buy them. That spectre was an illusion from the Einzbern old man, who was conveniently there when the spectre disappeared.

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  2. Hmm… The Fate route gives Illya some time to shine as the main antagonist for most of the route. As for the actual fight, in the VN Shirou was able to realize that, without knowing of the Chains of Heaven, if Berserker was able to touch Goldie, the fight would’ve ended. To use a gamer term, Gilgamesh lamed Berserker out by spamming arrows in his direction while Berserker has only a sword that would one-shot him..

    Those backstory scenes hold so much more weight when if you’ve read the Fate route or watched Fate/Zero, which I highly recommend doing so after this season. I’ve even seen one reviewer get so exited about drawing parallels with two other Type-Moon works Kara no Kyoukai and Fate/Kalied, which Type-Moon is known to do. I also recommend watching Kara no Kyoukai. It’s very symbolic and instrospective and is one of Nasu’s finest works. The movies also have the same quality animation as this show as a big plus.

    As for the Kiritsugu and Illya’s mother connection… it’s complicated and you need to watch Fate/Zero to fully understand. But to hopefully dispel your confusions in as spoiler-free as possible, the History and machinations of the Grail War is only revealed in Heaven’s Feel route and the while the events of the previous Grail War is explained in Heaven’s Feel route, it is adapted into Fate/Zero. Illya is a vessel for the Holy Grail and when Caster referred to the Greater and Lesser Grail in episode 12, Illya is the Lesser Grail.

    On the subject of the Servant’s personalities, it’s kinda funny that you say that because in an Interview, Nasu likes to think of UBW as the Servant’s route as this is the route that focuses on them the most. Fate route is mainly world building, character introductions, and Saber’s story, where you learn her identity, her flaws, and her dreams. Since her entire character is already previously developed by Fate route and to another extent Fate/Zero, her personality isn’t as pronounced in UBW. But, no question, Archer is the most developed Servant and one of the most developed characters in Fate/Stay Night period. With those two exceptions and maybe Lancer, the servant’s characters are tied with their masters which makes sense as the Servants are supposed to be pawns of the Masters.

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    • There’s a spoiler in your comment, I think. I guess we already know that the blonde guy is Gilgamesh from the fate route?

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      • We do but technically that’s still a spoiler here >_>

        Though he does have on extra line in this scene in the VN, commenting that the chains are those that bound the “Bull of Heaven”, and since the author does, for some reason, some times expect you to get mythological references (for instance, Heracles breaking the chains here could be due to the legend breaking of the adamantine chains holding Prometheus), and Googling Bull of Heaven will quickly take you to Gilgamesh’s Myth, I guess you could argue it’s been revealed at this point.

        Another line they left out, I believe, (though one they don’t really have anyway to deliver, short of having a random narrator show up, I suppose) is that Illya reminded Heracles of his children from who he was forced to kill by Hera’s madness curse thing

        I would say that the knowledge about the Grail War will be relevant for Heaven’s Feel, and there were some additional links to Zero thrown in here as well.

        Hm, I’d thought you’d notice it, but regarding Illya’s age, note what she calls Shirou when the specter tells her Kiritsugu abandoned her for another family member.

        As for being blinded, she does possess “Mystic Eyes”, which can cast spells which just a glance and magical energy, so there’s some justification there, but in the VN Shirou does note that he looks amused in a sadistic manner so there’s that.

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        • Yeah…there’s no way I was going to go through all that effort to figure out it was Gilgamesh, but to be honest I don’t know a lot about Gilgamesh so I don’t feel all that spoiled, no big deal.

          And hmm, she’s call him her little brother. Is she really older than Shirou or does she mean that in the sense that he joined the ‘family’ after her? I’m guessing it’s the former, I totally missed it.

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      • Oh, and Illya going after Shinji was slightly hindered by the servant himself, who may well have run her through with a sword if she moved too far from Berserkers protection.

        And yes, shooting swords is an FSN thing lol.

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      • Ah dammit I’m sorry, but yes Gilgamesh’s identity comes from the Fate route. He is referred to as the King of Heroes and why he’s around is explained in the Fate Route.

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    • Well for most part insofar as it matters to FSN, all you really need to know about him is that he is one of (or probably even the single) oldest heroic legend.

      As for the Illya thing, yeah. This wasn’t explicitly spelled out here, though the implication is there-her body was heavily modified (why does it have to be opened up everyday, 70% magic circuits, etc) to be an extremely powerful magus so some of her bodies normal functions, like growth, are impaired.

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      • “Ah no worries, I hope they explain it in the adaptation too.”

        They’ll explain it before the end. It’s relevant to a scene that will be happening later.

        I did want to make a comment in regards to this line before I leave: “If there is one department in which Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works seems to lack in, it’s that the Servants themselves don’t really feel like characters so much as objects. ”

        This is true to an extent, but I think it’s a product of design to give Saber (in particular) less backstory in UBW. It’s probably also a consious decision on ufotable’s part as well.

        Due to the very nature of Fate’s story telling in the VN you can’t get the full scope of each of it’s characters in one route. You need the whole story to get the whole picture, even though each route becomes it’s own unique story there are some character moments and insights that are made apparent in each one (mostly about our main characters, but it is what it is).

        Saber, in particular, is a very complex character, but her presence in UBW is diminished due to the route being primarily about Shirou, Archer, Rin, and even Caster (who doesn’t even make an appearance in some of the VN routes).

        Fate/Zero already went over a lot of her character points and I think ufotable relegated her to more of a background role instead of fleshing her out in favor of the theme of the route and the additional scenes that were added to make the adaptation able to stand alone a bit more or connect better to Fate/Zero.

        It’s a shame too. Fate gives us the greatest insight about Saber. There’s also some details about her that were never fully revealed in Fate/Zero and likely won’t be addressed in this adaptation of UBW that will leave some big plot holes about her character and a few things from the series. I want to talk about them, but I’ll resist since you said you’re playing through the VN so you’ll get there eventually and I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Suffice to say, that the nature of her status as a hero is possibly unique among all of the other heroic spirits. There’s also a chance ufotable might address these plot holes with some additional footage. We’ll see.

        I highly recommend taking a look at Fate/Zero’s bluray edition when you get around to watching the series. Aniplex makes it ludicrously expensive, but there are subs out there with the extended cut. UBW is getting the same treatment as well and if it’s anything like Zero’s added scenes it might be worth another look at the episodes with additional footage or perhaps even the entire series depending on what’s been added. Something to keep in mind.

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  3. Well, even knowing this would happen, I couldn’t help but root for Berserker, here. His “random 13th life time, a*****!” (or was it actually his 14th?) was great, if ineffectual. At the very least, not many people can claim to have forced Goldie to make this face.

    I admit, I probably laughed more than I should at Blondie casually shooting a sword at Shirou without batting an eye. I think at this point, it was a way to let out a bit of tension, because god knows there was’t much to laugh at in this episode (except Shinji. They are really going through the lol!Shinji route, so far. Still better than the alternative). And I don’t even like Illya that much!

    I also quite liked Illya’s backstory, even if some of it really hits home when you’ve seen Fate!Zero (which, once you’re done here, you should totally do. Though I guess the prequel would spoil some things for the upcoming Heaven’s Feel movie… still, it’s in a year). They made a couple of changes, and I felt like it was actually an improvement over the VN.

    Unrelated, but I believe I might have noticed a plot-hole in the previous episode, during the conversation with adultevil!Edward Elric and Kirei. Our favorite fake priest mentions five slots being taken in the Holy Grail War, but it seems strange. Presumably, he meant the Archer and Saber slots still being open, but that would still left Assassin (which was summoned by Caster unaccounted for). Possibilities :
    – the scene takes place in the very short time-frame between Rin’s and Shirou’s summoning. Not entirely impossible, but unlikely, what with Caster being implied to have planned her moves from Ryudo’s temple for quite some time. Also, Kirei said to Rin just before her own summoning that only two slots remained (of course, Kirei is a lying liar who lies, but I don’t think he did this time)
    – Caster actually summoned Assassin behind her first Master’s back (and somehow, Kirei knows). Also unlikely, since she was operating on very low mana supplies at this time. Also, she summoned Assassin as a pawn for establishing a winning strategy in the Grail War, but at this time with her first Mster, victory seems far from her preoccupations (she seems fully ready to commit suicide just to get rid off the unpleasant guy).
    – Kirei is a lying liar who lies. Somewhat plausible. The only motivation I can see from him is if he wants to ensure Rin has a spot on the rooster, and make sure a slot remains open for her. It might seem far-fetched from him, but well, the man has his reasons.

    Anyway, onward to next week! I’m pretty sure I heard Lancer’s voice in the preview.

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    • Wait, am I forgetting something? Why would it be his 14th life? (I’m assuming his 13th life was his ‘original’ life, excluding his 12 labors) Do you mean,him reaching from beyond the grave?

      Oh and good point about the number of Servants. Is it possible that it was just a slip up on their part? From what I understand that entire section is anime only?

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    • I dont think Kirei wanting to ensure a spot for Rin on the roster is far fetched. I mean after all he is her guardian, and he also has a good history with the Tohsakas. Besides, the 3 families are supposed to be guaranteed a spot in the grail war, so if nothing else he was accounting for that.

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      • No, I guess it is a plausible explanation. Kirei, as a bringer of joy to all people around him, would definitely want his dear pupil to participate to such a fun event.

        As for this 14th life stuff, by my count, it went like this :
        – notsomysteriousservantanymore stabs Berserker, then proclaims it was his 11th life (along with a good dose of “you have no chance to survive make your time”).
        – he then stabs him again because that’s what one does when one has infinite sword supply, which makes twelve times, and go on to complain about how boring it was (man, if you wanted a challenge, why not grab one of your weapons and try a bit of swordmanship with the Juggernaut, see how it goes?)
        – but wait! Herakles is not quite dead after all, tries a sneak attack, get chained and impaled again for his trouble. 13th life.
        – and then, he gets one more chance with a life seeminlgy coming out of nowhere because screw the rules, I’m Herakles. Which is admittedly a very valid reason.

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      • How does it work anyways? Does he get 12 revives ontop of one life he already has? If thats the case then maybe his last ditch attack was the result of his “13th labor”

        “Another episode of his female affairs that stands out was his stay at the palace of Thespius king of Thespiae, who wished him to kill the Lion of Cithaeron. As a reward, the king offered him the chance to make love to his daughters, all fifty of them, in one night. Heracles complied and they all became pregnant and all bore sons. This is sometimes referred to as his Thirteenth Labour. Many of the kings of ancient Greece traced their lines to one or another of these, notably the kings of Sparta and Macedon.”

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      • He in fact gets 12 chances to revive, not 12 lives, so it’s 13 lives, and he only lost his last one after goldie ran him through the chest with the giant spear thing.
        And in any case, he also has an A in a “skill” called battle continuation-servants only truly die when their body disappears, but are normally too weak in that phase to even move, but those with the skill can still keep going for some time after “dying”.

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  4. All I can say regarding the blonde child-killing antagonist…

    “Kill fire with fire!!!”

    When the time comes that he meets his match, it’ll be one glorious.battle. Can’t wait for ufotable’s take on it.

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  5. Hey, this is a good review. I like this review. It’s hard to find genuine first timers commenting on FSN stuff. Hopefully you’ll keep liking FSN.

    I’m going to be an angry nerd and explain why this episode was bad. UBW, as a whole, was written to be read after Fate route of the visual novel. As such, the narrative -expects- you to know a whole lot of things from start, such as existence, identity and powers of Blondie. What’s more relevant to this episode is that UBW’s plot expects you to know (and care for) Ilya from her many scenes in Fate route, which is why her death is supposed to be emotional and sad despite her close to zero appearances so far. Except the anime has earned none of that, completely ignoring Ilya after her introduction until it’s time to kill her off for drama. Then they add in the sad backstory to build up some sympathy for Ilya at the last possible second, which is blatantly manipulative. A first timer has no reason to care about Ilya’s death (beyond a generic child killing for cheap and easy emotional manipulation; see: previous episode and Caster’s summoner, it’s as if they have -no imagination whatsoever- so they keep throwing dead kids on the screen to create some sadness). And flashbacks are too obvious as a quick sympathy garnering tool before she dies so don’t work well.

    It could’ve maybe perhaps possibly worked if this anime was a sequel to Fate Zero and audience had some investment in Ilya’s status from that. Except ufotable/Typemoon insisted over and over that this was a standalone thing. Which is clearly hogwash, as “Irisviel” appearing in this episode proves.

    If that sad backstory stuff was done like on episodes 4, where it would’ve mattered, the audience would be coming to this episode with worry that Ilya (who’d then be a character instead of a plot artifact) might be in danger. Instead, we come to this point with the excitement and anticipation for epic battle of legends!!! Which is what ufotable’s been hyping up since beginning and the only thing they gave to Berserker. Except we don’t get it. Berserker is slaughtered easily and not in a very gripping manner, because impaling flashbacks right into the belly kills all momentum and the action part of the episode becomes a mess (Shinji’s lolrandom silliness and Shirou’s nicely thought but unfortunately animated rinhandling aren’t helping either). Sure, animation of individual action bits are top notch, but the whole is weak.

    I’m not saying VN was perfect and you should read it to “get” it (Fate route is really mediocre and there’s some seriously stupid stuff going on), but the anime is doing a rather bad job at being an adaptation. They both keep to the exact word of novel where they shouldn’t (Rider) and add new stuff that’s either bad (Caster’s summoner) or waste of time (school hijinks).

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    • “beyond a generic child killing for cheap and easy emotional manipulation; see: previous episode and Caster’s summoner, it’s as if they have -no imagination whatsoever- so they keep throwing dead kids on the screen to create some sadness”

      I dont think the main point was the fact that it was a “child killing”, hell we already know at this point that Illyasviel is atleast Shirou’s age since she was a young child when the 4th grail war started. The thing that gets us connected to Illya is Fate/Zero and her backstory as shown here (Although I agree that I dislike how its place conveniently right before her death). And with Caster’s case, the main point that was saddening about it wasnt the children, it was her past as Medea and her unfortunate luck to keep being put together with horrible human beings.

      ” Except ufotable/Typemoon insisted over and over that this was a standalone thing. Which is clearly hogwash, as “Irisviel” appearing in this episode proves.”

      They never insisted that, ever. They said that you should probably read the Fate route before this, hence why they put it up for mobile for free shortly before UBW started so that people could read it. But never have they insisted that this is standalone and that it has nothing to do with Fate/Zero, they’ve constantly contradicted that with references back to Fate/Zero added in for effect.

      “Shinji’s lolrandom silliness and Shirou’s nicely thought but unfortunately animated rinhandling aren’t helping either”

      What are you on about here? Shinji’s personality isnt any different, and its not like its unlike him to get ahead of himself. The scene with Shirou being restrained by Rin is a pretty powerful bit if you ask me, and because your mind is in the gutter doesnt mean anything against the episode itself.

      “hey both keep to the exact word of novel where they shouldn’t (Rider) and add new stuff that’s either bad (Caster’s summoner) or waste of time (school hijinks).”

      I’m not sure what you expected them to do with Rider, they dont want to pull a DEEN and merge routes where they shouldnt be merged. I dont want a Saber vs Rider fight in this just because they want more screentime for Rider, she died when she did because her master sucks and gets worked up too easily. And they’ve already announced Heavens Feel so we’re not going to be missing any Rider in those movies.

      Casters background wasnt really that bad at all, it gives us some insight into her past and makes us care for her character because up to this point our POV had made her out to be the villain. I think they overdid it with her master a little bit and made him out to be a bit too douchey and unlikable, but its a lot better than the alternative where we know next to nothing about her master.

      What school hijinks are you talking about? I dont remember any scenes being new in that department, and most of the time they were in school they were either:

      A) Building the relationship between characters

      B) Having the protagonists find who are the masters currently at the school.

      I’m really not understanding half your complaints.

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      • Just wanted to add that I thought that one bit where Rin begs Shirou to not give their position away was great. I can’t explain what about it I really liked but I did.

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    • I think yours is by far the most critical comment I’ve seen about this series so far and I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. I’m clearly not the best person to debate the specifics of the VN vs anime but I can give you my own take as a total new comer.

      Let’s talk about Illya’s death. I see where you’re coming from and I agree to an extent that cramming in her backstory moments before her death is manipulative. However, when I saw the episode I didn’t think so, mainly because I didn’t know (or I suspected but didn’t know for sure) that she was going to die. I should also point out that there is a slight difference between the kids killed in the last episode since those are nameless and generic.

      I do agree that for a mythical showdown this was disappointingly one-sided. If I had known, as most VN readers would, that Berserker only needed to get within sword swinging range to end it, there would have been much more tension. Still, as it stands, you don’t think about things like that until after the fact – when the episode was going on, I felt the tension well enough.

      In any case, I guess I should ask: in your opinion, have there been scenes that the anime did better?

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      • I have a harsher view because I know the story, I focus solely on execution since there’s no suspense or surprises to me. That’s also why cheap manipulation attempts piss me off this much, they’re very blatant when you’re not gripped by events themselves.

        Ilya’s death is supposed to be an emotional event, yet she’s nothing but a prop in this anime until flashbacks suddenly pour in at eleventh hour. The only difference between Ilya and nameless kids in vats before this episode is that we know her name. Then before you can metabolize Ilya’s tragic life and start really caring about her, boom, she’s dead, be sad right now! You do the enemy with tragic backstory thing shortly after they’re introduced, or during a lull in protagonists’ actions, not here. The anime has earned zero sympathy for Ilya beforehand, yet is trying to make a quick buck (of emotion) off of the audience by cramming a load of sad flashbacks in there.

        They did similar with Caster, except she has an actual role in the story unlike Ilya, so audience has a reason to be interested in her life and background. Also their attempts at building sympathy for the devil didn’t happen two minutes before she died. While execution of that wasn’t well done, it was done at the right place. If you have gained sympathy for Caster from last episode, it’s been cooking in you for a while and later on you’ll be sad if she’s defeated or kinda happy if she wins. It’s not a get-emotional-quick scheme.
        *
        As for what I like that anime did, biggest would be Rin vs Ilya. It’s a lot better than novel where they all just stand around and watch their pokemons go. Second best thing they did was Taiga’s “date” at the cemetary. That’s the best thing *anyone* ever done with Taiga. Next best thing was letting Saber kill Berserker once. Saber can’t even scratch him in novels, which would be bad for her image and too much fake Berserker hyping considering how he goes (of course they screwed up right afterwards by not changing Ilya’s lines, but good bit is good). Another thing I liked would be the heavy emphasis on Berserker losing for protecting Ilya. Sure, novel emphasizes that too but completely inside Shirou’s head, which wouldn’t work at all on screen, they did a fine bit of medium adaptation right there.
        The jillions of gifs people make on the internet are also cool and good.

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        • I feel one thing that keeps a death from being blatant emotional manipulation is the time spent developing a character, which seems to be what you’re saying too. Do you feel that there was enough room in the first season for Illya to be better developed? I ask because since you know the story better, you might also have a better sense for what could have been done away with.

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      • I’m pretty critical of this adaptation too. Episodes 0 and 1 were the best and on par with the VN imo.

        Episode 2 was ok. It did miss a big moment with Shirou by focusing on a damn statue’s face rather than Shirou’s.

        3 had some changes that were kind of weird (or they just didn’t clarify something)

        Four was ok, it showed Shirou’s PTSD in a good way (although the VN did that all the time with the fire flashing anyway).

        Five was ok for the most part, missed something with Shirou vs Rider but it’s w/e.

        Six was ok nothing much going on here.

        Seven was a little on the shaky side. Left out a 1 liner by Shirou that leaves things up to interpretation. The monologue was “The truth is I don’t want to be a burden on Archer” After he said “I can handle this myself”

        Eight wasn’t that good compared to the VN material they cut out some magic explanation for Shirou which explained things nicely.

        Episode 9 they changed 2 things and took away from Shirou’s character. They also completely butchered a really good monologue he had at the end of the episode.

        Episode 10 changed 2 things here both of which make Rin look better than she did in the VN. Also made his sword projection look Shounen esque.

        Episode 11 it was ok Archer and Rin’s speeches were pretty good.

        Episode 12 left out the “I don’t deserve this” line during the date (not a big issue here but it’s something that was easy to put in). Tiaga kidnapping looks weird because of the way the strings look like they’re loosened when Saber and Caster fight. Also they white washed Saber by leaving out the “Shirou give up on Tiaga” line.

        Episode 13 the dream was nice not as detailed as the VN but decent none the less. Archer switching sides is different in the VN and done much better in the VN.

        Episode 14 I didn’t think the Caster master stuff was as important as Caster’s myth. Myths in the Nasuverse are different than the myths as they’re told in the real world. Caster in the Nasuverse doesn’t have Jason’s kids (just an example)

        Episode 15 eh it was ok but the added scenes weren’t to my liking. There is a spoilerish comment I can make but something is kind of confusing to people in that episode.

        A major thing to me is that a majority of the Rin and Shirou moments have been altered to take away from Shirou (or things are left out that would have made Rin look worse). They took away all of his snark about Rin when he intentionally upsets her to break the perfect girl facade (he does this because he knows she’s lying to herself and he likes the ‘real’ Rin) In the anime it comes across as Shirou the idiot said something stupid again so now Rin’s mad.

        The biggest thing though was a lack of characterization for Shirou and not revealing his thoughts at key moments.

        Some of the fights were better than I imagined in my head and I’m looking forward to some of the upcoming ones.

        Off the top of my head I can’t think of one scene (outside of fights) that I would say was better in the anime. A lot are on par or very slightly diminished.

        Now I’m not saying the anime is bad, I give it 6.5~/10 right now, but there was a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the portrayal of Shirou. UBW is my favorite route in the VN by far and it sucks to see it not live up to the hype. And it’s pretty hard to be overly optimistic that it will improve greatly because some of the scenes coming up are going to be very hard to adapt with a show don’t tell approach, one scene in particular is down right impossible imo and the meaning will be diminished if it’s not internalized.

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  6. The novel makes us care about Ilya at Fate route. Ufo could definitely replace some of the many talky scenes in previous episodes with a few of Ilya’s scenes from Fate, but then they’d be spending screentime on a character who’s literally an extra. It’s just hard to do anything meaningful with a character as unimportant as UBWIlya (or UBWRider for that matter). They appear only because they’re known to be already there and it’d be silly if they weren’t seen at all, but are removed swiftly and unceremoniously so other characters can take the spotlight. If you try to use them for something in a one route adaptation, you’ll fail; because they’re just cardboard anime cutouts without other routes. If you were to delete them so they won’t appear at all, you piss off the original fans and create small holes that’ll need to be filled by contrivances. So, damned either way.

    What could’ve been done for a good adaptation is to enhance the novel’s plot. Previous Fate anime tried and failed (with a badly made new Caster subplot involving Sakura), but they had the right idea. Since Ufo is planning to make last route as seperate movie(s?), they should’ve grabbed Fate stuff to fill up their total screentime instead of this (not very good) original anime content, cutting smaller characterization bits like school stuff if more time was needed. Between the two of them, Fate+UBW give a bit of focus on all servants and masters. In fact, beside other things, UBW was said to be chosen because the highest number of servants get their most shine in it. Use UBW as normal, insert FateRider arc to episodes 9-10 instead of fridging her offscreen, insert FateIlya bits (or these flashbacks) here and there starting from episode 4 to build up sympathy for her until this episode, then continue with UBW from here, finish on a modified finale merging both route endings. It would -work-. Then HF would still be a completely different thing.

    It would also require a lot of extra work and possibly money, which is obviously why they didn’t do it. That’s all right by itself, it’s not very reasonable to expect that sort of dramatic sweeping changes. But we should at least expect competence in the stuff they do decide to make. And this episode wasn’t very close to competence.

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  7. The thing to keep in mind as a visual novel reader is that we are all more open to having our suspension of disbelief shattered. We already know the twists and turns. The story is not new to us, and so because of this we are more open to critical analysis and review. Because of this, however, we do not get lost within the moment like so many of the newcomers to the franchise. We already knew Illya was going to die, so instead of being engrossed in the tragedy that was happening before our very eyes, we were unattached from it and instead focused on the manner in which they set about killing her off.

    Suspension of Disbelief is easily shattered when one already knows what to expect. So instead the visual novel readers get more engrossed with the journey from Point A to Point B. It’s impossible for us to re-experience the emotions we had when the series was a fresh new experience. So many of the visual novel readers go around invalidating ufotable’s adaptation because they feel that they didn’t properly convey a certain scene correctly.

    The truth of the matter is that when it comes to acting and filming an adaptation of a novel, something is always going to give somewhere along the way. People who read The Notebook griped about the movie. People who read Harry Potter griped about the movies. People who read Game of Thrones do occasionally gripe about the tv series. So on and so forth since the dawn of film.

    Fate Stay/Night is written in the first person perspective, but anime is viewed from a third person perspective. You cannot blame the adapters for omitting a significant portion of inner monologues when it is the very nature of the film medium to not put a great deal of focus on inner thought, but rather convey it through action on screen. If you do want to know the inner thoughts of the characters then a book is always going to have the upper hand in that regard, but to sit and damn a high-quality adaptation that most anime studios can only dream of attaining is just plain entitlement.

    The show was given twenty-five episodes to adapt one-third of a hundred hour visual novel. Things are going to get condensed and optimized as best as seen fit for those circumstances. If they were given a fifty-two episode runtime, I would have been ecstatic, but we probably would have had a lot of dead episodes where not nearly as much worth mentioning happens. And thus, the series would lose it’s viewership over time. People seek to be entertained, and so a balance must be met on an episode-by-episode basis so as to keep from wasting too much time.

    Shiro iterates and reiterates his circumstances over and over again throughout an extremely dense novel of jam-packed material so as to remind readers as necessary that his character is a little messed up. But if you put every single monologue or even every other one of Shiro’s inner monlogues into this adaptation, people would get sick of him a lot faster. Then we’d get users yelling about how they overdid how obnoxious he was about his beliefs/ideals and how the show keeps hitting us over the head with his condition.

    I am pretty positive that this will fall on deaf ears for the most part, but I did feel it was important to say this much at least as a counter-argument of sorts. I understand that there is some degree of ignorance when it comes to not knowing what the process is for creating and/or adapting a show. Complaints crop up on a regular basis for arbitrary reasons.

    Do you honestly believe that there was actually a better place to include Illya’s backstory? There wasn’t. If you had used it earlier it would have taken away from something else that was of more importance at the time. If we had cut away to her backstory during some of Shiro’s perceived down time, the audience would question why they were showing this now when Shiro and Rin aren’t involved in anything that connects to her. That’s a bad cut no matter which way you slice it. As gimmicky as it may seem to place her flashback before her death scene, there really wasn’t any other place to put it. Even the visual novel throws in a flashback interlude while she is dying. So I don’t really know what the big deal is there since the source material pretty much did the exact same thing for the very same reason.

    I digress. I’m throwing this at the breeze to see where it sticks.

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    • Well said, I feel like a lot of the Visual Novel fans tend to forget that you cant adapt everything 100% and still keep a good anime. Heres a quote from Nasu himself regarding this:

      People who read the source material for anything will always have this sort of harsh analysis of the show if it misses any points. We saw this with Fate/Zero where even the most minor thing will piss off people, for example the last fight between those two masters had a change of scenery where instead of it looking like a prop room, it looked more like the movie version of the bat cave. Even if its an very inconsequential thing, like a change of order that doesnt really matter, people will get mad because its not 100% like the original. It doesnt matter if DEEN is adapting Fate/Stay Night or if its Ufotable with the help of Nasu himself, people will look down on the adaptation even if its getting the best treatment possible.

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