[Anime] Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – Unlimited Blade Works (S2E8)


UBW Season 2

The conflict between Archer and Shirou reaches its climax on both an ideological level and physical level as Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works takes its first steps to concluding its protagonist’s character arc. The episode goes from strength to strength as we see Shirou reel not just from Archer hammering away at him but also from the uncomfortable, hard truths that Archer presents. Shirou’s response, a thoroughly believable mixture of acceptance and defiance, is delivered wonderfully with a great soundtrack and some fantastic storytelling. In almost every way, this episode feels like what the series has been building toward for the longest time, with scenes that allow the external conflicts between the characters to mirror the internal conflicts that the characters are struggling with. Ostensibly, the external conflicts should matter more – after all, it doesn’t matter if Shirou makes peace with himself if he gets his head chopped off – but, intuitively speaking, the episode seems to make it very clear that it is his internal struggle that is the more important of the two. We haven’t gotten the entirety of Shirou’s response to Archer’s cynical criticism of his idealism, but we can see the essence of it, what Shirou considers the central flaw in his future self’s philosophy. Meanwhile, things are continuing to happen in the bigger picture as Lancer steps up and demonstrates the sort of larger-than-life heroism that you’d expect from a Servant of his stature. There are some absolutely fascinating ramifications in the information revealed in this week’s episode too – from the parallels between Saber and Shirou as well as how Kiritsugu is the string that ties these various characters’ tales together.

The fight between Shirou and Archer is the cornerstone of not just this episode but also the series as a whole.  If the previous weeks’ episodes were lectures explaining Archer’s motivations and how Shirou’s idealism soured into Archer’s cynicism, this week’s episode is more of a debate between the two. Archer essential rips Shirou’s philosophy apart and it seems for a while that Shirou can’t handle the truth in Archer’s words but by the episode’s end, Shirou reaches an important conclusion and reaffirms his faith in his ideals. These things are easy enough to understand and even relate to on a purely emotional and intuitive level but are much, much harder to define in concrete terms. It is critical to understand just what the crux of Archer’s point is at this juncture, not just because it helps us understand him better but also because it will put Shirou’s answer next week in its proper context. Archer brings up a few points but it seems that the heart of the matter is that he has realized that Shirou’s dream is not something that Shirou has come up with himself, but instead that it is something that has come to him second-hand from Kiritsugu and that Shirou’s entire motivation in pursuing these goals don’t come from himself but instead stems from Kiritsugu’s inability to achieve them. In a nutshell, Archer seems to be suggesting that Shirou doesn’t have a reason for saving anyone beyond the fact that Kiritsugu wanted the same thing. In Archer’s eyes, that cheapens Shirou’s ideals immensely and turns Shirou from a (would-be) hero to a blind follower who doesn’t know why he is doing what he is. These accusations are neither new nor unfounded – Rin has twice before brought this issue up but on both occasions it feels like Shirou has side-stepped the question. There is some truth to Archer’s assertions; it’s one thing if Shirou just respected Kiritsugu’s ideals but in taking his father’s burdens upon his own shoulders, Shirou was essentially championing a cause that wasn’t his. This episode makes it clear that Shirou’s pursuit of his dream was not, as Archer thought, motivated purely by his admiration for Kiritsugu and his desire to fulfil his father’s wishes but in fact by but what he thought was the inherent ‘goodness’ of the act of salvation. Right since the beginning, Shirou has been fully aware of the fact that his ideals can never become reality – contrary to what I believed at the beginning, he is not a delusional idiot. However, in this episode it seems that he has made peace with the fact that his dreams will never become a reality. This is immense; this is precisely what will keep him from becoming Archer. Archer, from what we have seen, took up the role of a Guardian willingly, believing that it would give him the power to make his impossible dreams a reality. He was unwilling to accept that the harsh truth that sometimes your dreams cannot be reconciled with the realities of life, or as he himself puts it here, he was unwilling to accept loss. Shirou, on the other hand, has already accepted that the impossibility of his dreams and thus will, ostensibly at least, never experience the betrayal that Archer did. There was an idea presented in this episode that each of Shirou’s attempts at saving someone resulted in a ‘hell’. At first glance, it seems that those glimpses only serve to prove Archer right, that Shirou’s attempts won’t change anything and it would all circle back to the discussion of their ideals betraying them. However, when Shirou walks into the last ‘hell’, the scene from the fire, he does so knowing fully well that he cannot change the outcome, but does so because he has realized that the pleasure he derives is from the process rather than just the outcome. That scene was an incredibly powerful and compelling way of describing the difference between the two characters – Archer would have seen each scene of failure and felt grief at being unable to achieve anything but Shirou, despite the vision of Archer telling him he is about to enter hell, carries on despite that, because he wants to at least try. It is the same reason why (and it’s likely Shirou himself never realized this), he is willing to fix other people’s stuff without ever being thanked for it, why he goes so far out of his way to help. In previous episodes, I got the sense that Shirou’s urge to help comes from his need to justify his existence after surviving the  fire, but the picture this episode paints is simpler and a little more elegant; he helps because he wants to and he wants to because the man he admired so much wanted to.

We don’t know all the details of Saber’s story but the episode gave her an odd amount of emphasis for a character who was little more than a spectator to the fight. There were moments in which Archer explains just how Shirou is phony, but the focus is on Saber. The last episode did bring up the question of the parallels between Saber and Shirou, and while the theory that those parallels led to her summoning (as opposed to another hero) was proven wrong in this episode, the parallels continued, especially with Shirou pulling a sword out of a stone while declaring his willingness to accept the consequences of what comes after. I am not familiar enough with Arthurian legend to know if there are any special myths attributed to Excalibur’s scabbard but from the little we see here, Shirou didn’t just survive the fire because he was lucky – Kiritsugu, who had the scabbard, implanted it in Shirou in order to help him survive the fire and, though the episode doesn’t state this outright, it is what has been helping Shirou survive the numerous mortal wounds he has received throughout the course of this Holy Grail War. Let’s not ignore what the implication of Kiritsugu having Saber’s scabbard means either – he was Saber’s Master in the previous war or he stole the scabbard, but my gut tells me it’s the former (it’s just cleaner and allows for an interesting comparison between father and son). It’s odd that Saber neither mentions knowing the man that Shirou thought of as a father nor seems to feel one way or another about Shirou being her previous Master’s son. Of course, Shirou having the scabbard embedded in him would explain why Saber was summoned since the scabbard could easily be the catalyst needed. The fascinating common thread here, as you might have noticed, is Kiritsugu himself. The man is an enigma for the most part – everything we know about him is through other character who have known him – but, when you think about it, he is the character who connected Archer, Saber and Shirou. From the little we know, his outlook on things was that he wanted to save as many as he could but accepted that he couldn’t save everyone. In comparison, it’s interesting to see that Shirou’s attitude is similar but with the additional clause that even knowing that not everyone can be saved, there is still some value in trying.

In the other half of the story, Lancer decides that he is sick of being forced to commit unheroic acts and that he is not going to go down without a fight. We should have guessed after watching Berserker almost killed Gilgamesh ‘posthumously’, but if the body hasn’t disintegrated, the Servant isn’t dead. It was a surprise to see Lancer take Kirei out. Of course, it was satisfying as well but given how sure I was that Kirei was going to be the final antagonist of the story, it is a little confusing as well. Kirei is one of those characters that garners absolutely zero sympathy – unlike characters like Archer and Caster whose motivations and points of view can at least be somewhat understood, Kirei’s motivations (and it’s not clear what they even really were) felt crude and corrupt. The reason that Kirei’s death is disorienting is not that his death leaves a void but rather that he had a plan concerning the Grail, one that seems to have been brewing for a while now, but does his death mean that the plan was shut down before even being disclosed? Of course, it’s possible, even likely that Gilgamesh is moving things forward –it would explain his absence, even with his Master (who continues to be repulsive) in grave danger. It’s perfectly fitting that Kirei die at his own Servant’s hand, especially after ordering said Servant to commit suicide but his death leaves a good many unanswered questions; what was up with the whole bunch of Command Seals on his hand? What exactly was his plan in getting Shinji involved in all of this? What is his connection to Gilgamesh? It would seem that if we’re going to get answers at all, they will be coming from Gilgamesh himself. Meanwhile, if seems like we have seen the last of Lancer for real this week but his death this time was many, many times more satisfying than it was last week – he got to exact his revenge while still fulfilling the promise he made to Shirou to keep Rin safe.

A few final notes in closing: the music this episode was absolutely amazing. Combined with our second look at the Unlimited Blade Works reality marble, it got the hype flowing freely. Watching Shirou make his decision and firm up his resolve after the battering it took instilled a respect in his character that I just didn’t have in the first part of this story. He says a line that sounded familiar – ‘Steel is my body’ – and I remember, Archer’s own version being something ‘My body is made of swords’ but I’m not sure if the difference is intentional or not and don’t want to read too much into it till I’m sure. The next episode, ‘Answer’ will obviously feature Shirou’s retort to Archer, but I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about just what Shirou’s answer was and boiling the episode long conversation into its salient components. What I came up with feels extremely insubstantial, to me at least; it’s frustrating to understand a character but not be able to verbalize it. It’s possibly something that might become easier if I were to re-watch the series, just to remind myself of what kind of character Shirou was before and compare him to the character he is now.

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69 thoughts on “[Anime] Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works – Unlimited Blade Works (S2E8)

  1. Actually Shirou said “体は剣で出来ている”, which means just “my body is made of swords”. Don’t know why they decided to translate it as they did.

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    • It was a mistranslation by Crunchyroll. They fixed the line into “I am the bone of my sword” a few hours after their simulcast went up.

      “My body is made of swords” is the original Japanese version of the chant’s first verse, while “I am the bone of my sword” is its English transliteration. As such, they are kind of interchangable in a way that Archer uses the English version and Shirou uses the Japanese one.

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    • So, would it be fair to say that Shirou says the same thing Archer does? Or that there is a difference? There being a slight difference would make a lot of sense given the epiphany that Shirou just had

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      • It’s supposed to be the same, I’m like 90% sure the script in the VN at that point was supposed to have Shirou say I am the bone of my sword in English but since the voice actor doesn’t have great English he says it in Japanese. I’m not sure why they’re translating the Japanese to Engrish though.

        The poem has been fully said twice in the anime:

        I am the bone of my sword
        Steel is my body and fire is my blood
        I have created over a thousand blades
        Unknown to Death, Nor known to Life
        Have withstood pain to create many weapons
        Yet, those hands will never hold anything
        So as I pray, unlimited blade works.

        Then the literal version is:

        His body is made out of swords
        His blood is of iron and his heart of glass
        He survived through countless battles
        Not even once retreating
        Not even once being understood
        He was always alone
        Intoxicated with victory in a hill of swords
        Thus, his life has no meaning
        That body was certainly made out of swords

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      • You are correct in assuming that Shirou’s chant is slightly different compared to Archer’s. In fact, Shirou’s internal world looks much brighter and this reflected in his more optimistic chant. Nocorras posted Archer’s chant; so, I’ll post Shirou’s English version below.

        I am the bone of my sword
        Steel is my body and fire is my blood
        I have created over a thousand blades
        Unaware of loss, nor aware of gain
        Withstood pain to create weapons awaiting one’s arrival
        I have no regrets, this is the only path
        My whole life was Unlimited Blade Works

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  2. Great review as always. And yeah, common Arthurian myth claims that Excalibur’s scabbard had protective magic. I think descriptions range from making him unkillable to just preventing his wounds from bleeding while he wore it, but regardless that translates to healing magic in this universe.

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  3. Great review, helped me understand what shirou’s answer actually was.

    You should watch fate/zero, it fleshes out kirei’s, kiritsugu’s, and gilgamesh’s characters immensely. Lets just say kirei is a much more complex character than you would think from just watching
    ubw.
    Also Kirei plays a very minor role in ubw while he plays a much larger role in the fate and heaven’s feel routes, which explains why he didn’t do much this route.

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    • AFAIK he is actually reading the VN, so I’d say he should wait to finish it before watching Fate/Zero, because the VN fleshes Kirei a little better than Fate/Zero did.

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      • I’m doing Fate right now. I’d give you some idea of how far along I am but I keep dying and forgetting to save ._.

        Basically, I’m at the part where Shirou and Ilya have these adorable/ominous chance meetings around town. Not too sure what I make of it so far tbh – I like the extra detail, but a lot of it seems like fluff. I dont want to judge it too early because I don’t know how good the eventual payoff will be, but right now I just want things to happen instead of the more slice of life aspects.

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      • Fate is often seen to be the worst route because it presents the world and grail rather than focusing on Shirou as much as the other routes.

        You should learn about Saber’s connection to Shirou’s father and why she keeps it from him though.

        If you read Fate before watching UBW the reveal that Kirei is a real son of a bitch would be more surprising and his connection to Gil is also explained.

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  4. They’ve finally made a great episode. Maybe the bad episodes were for saving up all the competence for this climax. These scenes are just Archer and Shirou monologuing at each other in the novel, that’d never fly in a visual medium. The flashbacks and fire and kid and Kiritsugu stuff is the first bit of anime original content that’s truly and actually good in the second part.

    What Shirou actually said was “I am the bone of my sword”, or at least the original line it was engrishized from. For some unfathomable reason, Nasu wrote an engrish version along with the original poem and had Archer use engrish. Subtitlers aren’t very good at their job as usual.

    As for the various questions you bring up, you’re kinda supposed to know all about that from Fate route (except involving Shinji, which Kirei probably just did for shits and giggles). We could probably nerd out here and explain in pointless detail, or you could read the novels or simply look at summaries elsewhere. But they aren’t *really* important to UBW’s core story about ideals so they get glossed over. UBW is the most focused route, virtually everything else is just background noise to Shirou and Archer’s conflict. Other routes also have ideals as a big theme, but they’re a lot more expository and the war doesn’t only serve as background fluff to set up time travel shenanigans.

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    • As for myths; yes, some versions say Excalibur’s scabbard made King Arthur invincible but was stolen by Mordred’s guys before their last battle.

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    • So what I’m getting from your comment is that there are multiple versions of the poem? A Japanese Nasu one, an Engrish Nasu one and the translated versions? The one Archer has been saying is the second and the fully Japanese one Rin mentioned a long time back was the first?

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      • Right, the Japanese and English UBW chants made by Nasu are supposed to be completely interchangable. The differences come from Nasu not being a native English speaker and still wanting to keep some poetry to the English words. There are arguably plot reasons for the English chant, but as a literary mechanism it’s there to be somewhat mysterious to Japanese speakers. Ironically, the Engrish serves the same purpose for us…

        As you put it, there’s kind of a ‘second’ version, but that’s just an unofficial translation of the Japanese version, made by some pretty careless translating, imo.

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      • Two versions and two arias. Magic works through self-hypnosis, the chants are all auto-suggestion which is why (aside from sounding cool) they’re nonsense in foreign languages that’s meaningful to the mage (japanese version) so that someone doesn’t accidentally trigger one of Tohsakas gems or something.
        This means the same spell has different words for different people and the same words might produce different results for two individuals.

        Really it’s just one poem where every second line is read/silent:

        I am the bone of my sword
        His body is made out of swords

        Steel is my body and fire is my blood
        His blood is of iron and his heart of glass

        I have created over a thousand blades
        He survived through countless battles

        Unknown to Death,
        Not even once retreating

        Nor known to Life
        Not even once being understood

        Have withstood pain to create many weapons
        He was always alone, Intoxicated with victory in a hill of swords

        Yet, those hands will never hold anything
        Thus, his life has no meaning

        So as I pray,unlimited blade works.
        That body was certainly made out of swords

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          • Every second line, as previously explained, is from the japanese version of Archer’s chant. It doesn’t use any first person pronouns (and very few or possibly even no personal pronouns at all- it’s hard to tell, my knowledge of japanese couldn’t even be called skeletal), coming off as very detached- almost as if he was talking about a different person. Consequently, most translators have him say it entirely in the third person, to emulate the effect.

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            • Also, the reason why there are two different versions of the UBW chant is that in the visual novel (at least in the japanese version- they didn’t make it through the fan translation. The only place where they remain is the status screen for Noble Phantasms.) virtually all names of Noble Phantasms and spell incantations have supertext above them, adding or explaining their meaning. The basic text is what we hear, usually spelled in katakana, and the supertext is in japanese. Archer’s Reality Marble, Unlimited Blade Works, for example, is alternatively called Mugen no Kensei, Infinite Sword Creation, and the shield he summoned to protect himself from Lancer’s attack, Rho Aias is “The Seven Rings that Cover the Fiery Heavens”. Sometimes, the supertext introduces little subtleties that get lost in the transition to the animated version. For example, Lancer calls out the name Gae Bolg for both versions of his Noble Phantasm, but the alt text for the heart-stabby one is “Piercing Lance of Death Thorns”, while the thrown one is “Thrusting Lance of Death Flight”. Shirou has two different supertext for his “Trace On” spell- one for strenghtening and a different one for projection. In general, those can be interpreted as the meaning behind what’s being said.

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              • Actually Archers chant in Japanese and English both are seen at the very beginning of the VN, overlaid over the picture of Saber on the hill of swords.

                By the way, it’s interesting to note, that the very first scene in the prologue (It was thrust like lightning….Up to Rins POV) is from Archers POV and memory, not Shirous.

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  5. It’s actually the other way around: Archer said “steel is my body” and Shirou’s version is “my body is made of swords”. And yes, the diffenrence is intentional.

    Don’t worry, you will find the answer to literally every question you asked in this review somewhere in F/sn or F/Z. Things that don’t become relevant in a particular route will be explained in another one.

    Apart from that, this review is spot on as always, keep up that good work!

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    • Ah the joy of VN story telling, you can kill off major characters in one route and then fully develop them in another. Kirei, like a lot of the characters, get’s a lot more screen time in both Fate and Heaven’s Feel. UBW focuses very heavily on Archer and Shirou. The other 2 routes more evenly development the other characters.

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  6. Kirei’s death is one of those unfortunate side effects of having multiple routes. Even in the VN when you know more about him, less Kirei is always a sad thing.

    Fun fact about this episode: many believed this part to be unadaptable, I had my concerns but at the same time, given Ufo’s previous track record with this adaptation, I was expecting something along this lines. This team is amazingly talented at taking stuff that should really only work on paper and making it work in anime elegantly and effectively anyway, Assassin’s “three pronged attack” comes to mind, I could go on for a while about this one.

    They make it look easy but there’s just so many changes that add up and make this work, from stuff like Shirou’s jacket, to the visualization of magic circuits, and Archer’s slightly modified UBW from the VN, with a small hill and him standing at the top. Even the placement of the camera works to set the mood inside his Reality Marble, always looking up at him until this scene http://i.imgur.com/VrSSQ4y.jpg (that looks 20x better in motion).

    I’m particularly fond of how they use color and sound to draw parallels between scenes, episodes and characters. This episodes was in many ways the culmination for all those things. The sound and visuals used during the fight were effective because through them they’ve set up a clear and consistent ruleset for how people fight in this universe.

    There’s always a sense of weight to the servants and it’s made clear that unless you are Caster, a strong footing your best friend. It’s always strongest servant the one digging into the ground, and when can’t see it you can hear it. Emiya’s first big step in this episode was that, a big loud *thump* as his foot hits the ground tells us: “Shirou is ready to REALLY fight back”. We also had a big pay off for Archer as the black sword and Shirou as the white one: http://i.imgur.com/ltjK9Z3.jpg, http://i.imgur.com/13CDkky.png.

    The presentation does some serious heavy lifting that allows us to focus on the meat of the narrative with the limited amount of given time in a single episode, so there are many things about it that I could talk about, but that’s enough for now.

    Also, we’ve seen Archer do this move: http://i.imgur.com/AMN40Wi.jpg a couple times now, I wonder if that will also have some sort of pay off or if it’s just them reusing ideas.

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    • Thank you so much for this comment! I hadn’t realized how much of the episode’s depth I had missed till I read this. Could you explain what you mean by the “weight”? Do you mean it in the sense of the characters’ presence or in a literal heaviness sense?

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      • Maybe more so in the latter form but it’s really a little bit of both. I was refering to the fight scenes and also the idea that they are not disconected from the proper text and narrative, flashy but with a purpose and sort of grounded(I’ll get to this in a moment) which allows them to differentiate Servants from normal humans and created this opportunity for Shirou to grow. In other words, it’s the ruleset for how people fight in the universe that I was talking about.

        A lot of anime tend to have really “floaty” fights, the characters might be well animated but they do not seem to affect or be affected by their enviroment.

        A good example for the servant’s side would be when Archer stopped Lancer’s thrown “Gae Bolg”, http://i.imgur.com/l9KWTOw.jpg he get buried by the energy of the spear, and I’m sure you remember that first fight vs Lancer where his sudden burst of speed left a mark on the ground, every action has an effect in the opposite direction, if you move that fast you should leave a mark on the ground that’s equivalent to all the enregy required for getting the body into motion. This should be a self-evident truth but you never see this happen in anime, even live-action fails to do this. Big rocks always fly into the air when characters land, but never when they take off. It’s not just debris flying either, some of the camera shake and even the wind that follows them every time they enter or leave the frame.

        On the other side we have scenes with Rin or Caster, they don’t have that sort of flair to them, instead focusing more on pretty colors, you get a lot less of a viseral reaction for every move they make.

        Good example with Rin would be also on the first episode, when she runs away from Lancer, even after she reinforces herself with magic and takes off super fast there’s not a lot of effect in her enviroment. http://i.imgur.com/k3gKH6N.jpg There’s some good camera work here but the apporach is completly different. To begin with, the camera is actually able to follow her moves, much unlike those of the servants. Same when Rin beats the hell out of Caster, she even has a moment where she leaves a frame just as fast as servants do but the camera doesn’t shake like it does with servants nor is the scene edited the same way, so it feels a lot more “mundane”.

        And that’s what I mean with the “weight” Servants have and the “pay off” this episode. First we get this: http://a.pomf.se/cxaqim.webm, then after a short conversation we got this scene: http://i.imgur.com/0QNmLGC.jpg(I'm sorry I don’t have a video of that part but the change should be clear) The visual language(and sound) built up so far that used to say “this is a Servant fight” is now used for the fight with Shirou on it. Sure they later explain that Shirou is absorbing information from Archer but it wouldn’t work emotionally if they didn’t get us on board with the idea from actually watching the fight. http://imgur.com/7X40QB5,3xnp9kS,K8jPvHo,4HsEGtO,KZOtLFm,uwf4LXf [“weight!”] It’s a bit redundant but so far that style has suited UBW perfectly for the fight scenes, they keep them fast paced and get the idea across without abusing slow-mo.

        Shirou finally tells Archer he’ll catch up with him, to which he responds: http://i.imgur.com/SIE2lth.jpg, and it is how we go from the physical fight to the one over ideals, and that weight is what made that transition a smooth one.

        This is way too long, I’m sorry. I’m not sure if what I said it too obvious or I’m used to paying attention to this sort of thing so hopefully it’s not a waste of time. I just like me some competent show-making and good cinematography, bonus points for good fight scenes, and not often do I get talk about those to anyone who cares.

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  7. OH man this episode! Back when this anime was first announced, the fanbase said that if this scene, the answer, it would make or break this adaption. And they are completely right to say that because this scene IS Unlimited Blade Works. And many were skeptical because of how difficult of a scene it is to adapt. There is no reality marble in the background and the scene itself is filled with very character defining monologues. But, so far, Ufotable has done an amazing job with it. The conflict between Archer and Shirou, more mental than physical. Not giving up your dream when faced with reality, but making your dream fit within reality.

    Honestly, as a VN reader, the only complaints are mostly with the subs. As people have said before, Shirou said “My body is made of blades” in Japanese which signifies him taking on Archer’s reality marble mantra, “I am the bone of my sword”. The other issue is, and given the difficulty in translation completely understandable, is that in the VN when Archer starts to REALLY lay into Shirou philosophy, he switches from second person to first person. “That’s right! I admired his desire to save people because it was beautiful! I was driven by my obsessive need to help someone! I kept running, neither noticing the pain nor how wrong I was!” It was just so powerful of an effect that I’m sad they couldn’t do it in the anime.

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  8. Well you figured out Shirou, well done. Yep, his whole thing is following the ideal and making it a way of life because it’s beautiful, he knows he will never reach the impossible utopia of saving everyone. (don’t know if it was intentional but Avalon is called the Ever Distant Utopia and it starts to activate after Shirou’s reveal)

    Archer ended up treating it as a goal that he had to accomplish (I ended up here because I stubbornly couldn’t accept loss) and it ruined him in the end.

    Glad you got it, some people seemed to miss it and still hate Shirou and think Archer is 100% right, or maybe they just love to hate Shirou due to past adaptations. :/

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    • Haters gonna hate, I guess. I have stayed diligently away from any and all discussion, despite the temptation, so I haven’t been able to gauge other fans’ reception beyond those who comment here but I can imagine some people committing to hating a character and not being willing to change their mind despite new developments.

      As for Archer being right, I don’t think he’s necessarily wrong about everything he says. He has some valid points and this episode is basically about whether Shirou accepts or rejects those points.

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      • Yeah, he’s certainly not wrong about everything, but it’s frustrating as a VN reader to see people bad mouth Shirou when he has a much healthier outlook on the ideal. Hopefully next episode it’s spelled out a bit more, because honestly not that many people got it like you.

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  9. The focus on Saber is a subtle thing and I love ufotable for doing it. A large part of Saber’s characterization comes from the Fate route and Fate/Zero so I don’t want to go down into spoiler territory. I’ll just say that Saber had a reason for wanting to witness that fight beyond just wanting to see what happened to Shirou. The camera focus on Saber is deliberate, they just didn’t want to explain it because it would have messed up the flow of the scene.

    There’s actually a lot of this in UBW. Subtle Saber storytelling if you pay attention to the way she reacts to certain things. A big one was early on when Shirou casually accepts that he’ll trust Saber’s judgement about keeping her identity secret and her reacting to seeing Illya for the first time. It’s very subtle, but coming with more context from the other adaptations I’m thankful they put it in. Part of me wanted a Fate route adaptation (despite how good a route UBW is) because I wanted to see them transition between the Saber from Zero and the Saber from Fate but I’m sure that’s me being selfish and having my character mania.

    Honestly most of the characters in Fate become more interesting the more I learn about them. Nasu’s writing style in the VN is a bit hard to adapt to, but there is some very interesting stuff in there. Especially if you fully explore everything it has to offer. Some of the bad ends (particularly from the Heaven’s Feel route) are so interesting that it’s a shame they won’t be showing up in the upcoming movie. Try to seek them out if you can during your playthrough. You’ll also get a funny Tiger Dojo scene after each one so it’s worth it.

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    • Ack, got my scenes mixed up. The scene about Saber keeping her identity secret was another Saber character moment, but the big one (the one I meant to mention) was the scene before that. Where Saber says something along the lines of “You would place such confidence in a Servant you’ve only just met?” and Shirou responds with “We shook on it didn’t we?”

      Saber’s reaction in that scene was a very powerful bit of storytelling for her character. You won’t understand why without watching the end of Fate/Zero. Go back to it after you do and you’ll see what I mean. I actually think it’s a small moment of genius since it’s signifigance can be so easily missed or summed up in a way that isn’t completely correct if taken at face value. It’s a good scene on it’s own, but it’s a great scene when you’ve got more of the details.

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      • I took that moment to be an indication that Saber understood that Shirou was a man of his word, but of course I don’t have the context of FZ to back me up.

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      • That’s what I mean. At face value (and to a certain extent) that is what it is. But why it meant so much to Saber and why she reacted that way is something that’ll make more sense if you see where her character is at at the end of Fate/Zero.

        I like the line ufotable is walking with her. They seem to understand how important the Archer/Shirou story is to this route so they keep the focus there, but it’s moments like this and in this week’s episode that shows they’re doing their best to keep building on the story they presented in Zero.

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  10. Hello, I was linked to this review from somewhere else, and this the first time I’ve read anything by you or from this website. I come here only as a fan of this series, but I have to say this is a fantastic review and overview of the character of Shirou. You are, in just about every respect, spot on; I love your analysis. I’ve seen a lot of people who ultimately end up confused by Shirou’s character arc, and the message in it, but when it comes down to things, it’s mostly about a man overcoming his self doubts and fears, and marching into the future knowing that no matter what happens, what he’s aiming for isn’t wrong.

    Anyway, thank you!

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  11. I am really impressed by this review, on so many levels. You’ve only started reading the visual novel, and have never seen Fate/Zero, yet manage to make astute, sharp, and keen observations.

    This is especially startling when compared to a review written someone who has claimed to have read the visual novel and seen Fate/Zero get so many of the details wrong, and miss the entire thematic points of what this route (and series as a whole) has to offer. Worse yet, it’s posted on a professional site, which means it’ll reach a huge audience. That writer is entitled to their opinion, but it’s absolutely bemusing to see how they reach those conclusions, and the written piece is going to take away what was actually trying to be said. Absolute shame.

    At the very least, you have a new reader in me. Kudos to you. Looking forward to reading more from you.

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    • * to a review written by
      ** written piece is going to take away from what this series was actually trying to say

      it’s late and i’m tired

      In any case, do you see yourself doing a review of the visual novel once you’ve finished reading it? It’ll be interesting to hear your thoughts when taking your perspective into account.

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      • Yes, I think so, but probably not as a formal review so much as just my thoughts on it. Not entirely sure just yet, though.

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  12. Whatever you do do not watch Fate/Zero after this show concludes if you still haven’t finished Heaven’s Feel. Right in episode 1 you’ll be spoiling major plot reveals from the final story. It’s a prequel and should be treated as such, something you read/watch after you’ve seen the original story.

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  13. Great read as usual. You’re analysis of Shirou’s character and resolution here was great.

    Regarding Kiritsugu, Saber actually has some very good reasons not to share her knowledge with Shirou, but route problems again, since this is something looked at in Fate it doesn’t come up in UBW. The same for Kirei, who is one of the two major antagonists in Fate and a major character in Heavens Feel.

    And yeah, the Scabbard was said to have powers;

    Excalibur’s scabbard was said to have powers of its own. Loss of blood from injuries, for example, would not kill the bearer. In some tellings, wounds received by one wearing the scabbard did not bleed at all. The scabbard is stolen by Morgan le Fay in revenge for the death of her beloved Accolon and thrown into a lake, never to be found again.

    Though it’s more powerful in the Fate interpretation, where it grants pseudo-immortality to Saber in her life (she didn’t age after obtaining it) and heals some injuries that should be completely fatal.

    By the way it’s interesting to note that in the legend of Cu Chulainn, he was mortally wounded by a spear and tied himself to the stone Cloghafarmore to remain fighting against the force that had gathered to slay him. Much like how Heracles was known for surmounting the insurmountable, breaking the unbreakable chains holding Prometheus, etc, and generally fighting on in seemingly impossible situations, Cu Chulainn was also known for not dying easily, hence both as servants are able to continue on until another fatal blow is taken, knowing some details of myths, I’ve found, can increase enjoyment here.

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  14. I really like your reviews, you’ve got a lot of things right which other reviewers haven’t. I think this comes with being humble, patient and of course sharp.

    One of the commenters mentioned that when the anime’s “camera” decided to focus on a sword for Shirou and Archer, the former is associated to the white sword (Yang) and the black sword (Yin). Yin and Yang is a very popular concept in East Asian philosophy. It is a symbol that represents opposing forces being complementary and interconnected to each other. Yin is associated with things like cold, water ,moon and nighttime. Yang is associated with hot, fire, sky, the sun and daytime. Archer says that in the difference between them in terms of strength is like night and day. This also dualist yin yang statement that closely ties in with who they are. Also, Shirou and Archer learning from each other reflects the core concept of the merging Yin and Yang which represents opposing forces that are complementing each other.

    Furthermore, fire is shown to emerge as Shirou pulls the sword of the hill. The fire is a Yang element and represents rebirth. purification. Fire as a symbol is also seen since Ancient Greek civilization to represent such attributes. For example, there’s a pre-socratic philosopher by the name of Heraclitus who asserted that the soul is a mixture of fire and water, with fire being the more noble part and water the ignoble par. The soul’s goal was to get rid of water and become solely of fire: the dry soul is the best and it is worldly pleasures that make the soul “moist”. Interestingly. he was known as the “weeping philosopher” and died of edema, a swelling due to abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin. This may be going a little off topic because I doubt that the author was influenced by a pre-socratic philosopher since they tend to be overlooked. But it’s interesting to see how present the idea of dualism and fire being pure and leading to rebirth can be present across different cultures.

    There is another animated work by the name of Kara no Kyoukai (Garden of Sinners or the more literal and better name for themes: Boundary of Emptiness) by the author of Fate/Stay Night that makes use of Ying Yang and other symbolism in the 5th movie of the series.

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    • I forgot to mention that in the end the camera focuses on the black sword (Yin) that Shirou has. But that’s after the epiphany when Shirou counters Archer throwing his swords. Interestingly the camera focuses on the thrown white sword that landed on Shirou’s left which was the Ying. The Ying Yang dualism is about complementing and remaining interconnected which is what happened with Shirou regarding his connection and evolution with Archer.

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      • There’s a small, ultimately unimportantant, but interesting detail I wanted to share: the colors of the swords are reversed from what they should traditionally be. The yang sword, Kanshou, is black, and the yin sword, Bakuya, is white.

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        • Do you mean for both Shirou and Archer or for just one of them? I’ll admit to not paying a lot of attention to the swords so far.

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          • For both of them. You did not miss anything, it wasn’t discussed in the anime at any point and it’s just a piece of trivia that’s either offhandedly mentionned in the Visual Novel (maybe on the weapons screen? I honestly can’t remember) or only in the supplemental material.

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  15. I have to say that I really enjoyed sitting down last night and reading your reviews. Its always great to see someone new start a good show, especially when they don’t know the background much. Pretty great to not see any spoilers either.

    After UBW wraps up, will you go ahead and watch Fate/Zero or finish all the endings of the VN first?

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    • The plan is to read the VN first while watching the Kara No Knockando movies. I’ll probably do Fate/Zero after that.

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      • Even if you give up on reading the VN again, I would recommend you not watch Fate/Zero just yet. Fate/Zero heavily spoils the major twists of the VN’s final route, Heavens Feel, which ufotable will be adapting into a series of movies after this series airs. So be sure to either watch those movies or finish the VN first.

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      • Fate/zero is originally a light novel and there is a complete fan translation so you can read it instead of watching the anime if that suits you better. The anime is great with beautiful animation and epic music but it does leave out some details.

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  16. Which point in this episode was this line “but in fact by but what he thought was the inherent ‘goodness’ of the act of salvation” points to? All I get as his answer is

    Archer: Even if that life was akin to a machine?
    Shirou: Yeah, even if that life drips with hypocrisy.

    and what is this hypocrisy?

    Archer: You admired his wish because it was so beautiful.,consequently you have no passions on your own.If this is not hypocrisy,then what is?

    So what I can conclude is that Shirou is merely championing the beauty in Kirei’s wish rather than seeing the beauty himself. And he doesn’t care about his ideal being second-hand nor does he care about being passionate about it. The main difference is that he knows that trying to fulfill his ideal would be hell and impractical.

    Moreover,can anyone even explain what this line even means?

    Shirou: I admit at first it was just admiration. But that admiration was built upon a wish.A wish for this hell to be undone. The unfulfilled wish of a man who only wanted to help others, but who lost everything in the end.

    Is it just me or this Shirou is fine with having a second-hand ideal to fight for the rest of his life? All that Archer gave him was the sense of ‘it’s fine even if you’re do not fully succeed’? Either this guy is a broken shonen protagonist or I’m missing something critical here.

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    • I’ll explain what I meant, but I think someone else might need to vouch for whether I’m right in saying it or not.

      What I understood by the hypocrisy is that, according to Archer, Shirou is fighting for an ideal he doesn’t believe in. Shirou’s response seems more along the lines of him seeing the beauty in the struggle more than the outcome, so he’s fine with the ‘hypocrisy’ of fighting for a second hand dream. Like he says, it starts out as admiration – he admires his dad and wants to be just like him. Somewhere along the line though, I guess he came to also want what Kiritsugu wanted, to help others. Sure, he was lead to that dream/ideal by his dad, but I guess the question here is whether that really makes it any less valid?

      I’ll ask a broader question: your final question seems to imply, to me at least, that Shirou is a broken protagonist because he is fine with trying and not succeeding? Don’t you think that all too often fiction falls into the fallacy of determining worth purely on the merits of success?

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      • I’d argue that succeeding or failing doesn’t enter into the equation with Shirou – it’s the fact that he tries. He’s genuinely a good person – Saber says he has a pure heart – and he wants to help people merely because the act of helping is a good thing. He idolizes Kiritsugu because he saw a man who was helping survivors and found joy in it.

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      • Pretty much it. It’s making a beautiful ideal a way life for Shirou that is important. Archer hinged his happiness on fulfilling an impossible ideal. I would say Shirou does believe in the ideal prior to this, he just didn’t know how to be a hero, it’s early in the fate route(and UBW because it’s technically in the common route) where he goes over some of this.

        That’s why even though I’m inexperienced, I’ve done everything I can.
        I don’t know what kind of a person a superhero should be.
        So I can only approach it by helping others within the limits of my abilities.

        I have aimed straight for that goal for the past five years, but when things just go wrong like this, I do have doubts.
        “…Geez, I don’t get it, Father.
        How can I become a superhero?”

        I look up at the sky through the window. It’s not like I can just randomly go do good deeds. I think being a superhero is different from just helping others. I know that, but the question is, how can I become one?

        The difference between the two is the thing I’ve failed to understand for the pat five years.

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  17. What a sharp Observation and analysis, even for the me and some type-moon fans who have been read visual novel and watching fate/zero, thank you for spending time reading, understanding or portrait it truly. i enjoy your review very much. Ah, please don’t watch Fate/Zero after UBW anime, just enjoy reading F/SN VN, Fate/Hollow Ataraxia or Kara no Kyounai waiting for Heaven’s feel movie.

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    • F/Z suffers greatly because of the fact that its a prequel, but that doesn’t mean to write it off completely. Its still a good watch – just not as good as the original Fate stories.

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  18. absolutely fantastic analysis of this episode. a thoroughly enjoyable & insightful read. i look forward to reading more of these!

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  19. Completely unrelated to Fate; but can you maybe think of reviewing Ping Pong the animation sometime down the line? That seems like a show that would work perfectly with your style of reviewing where you go more analytical and indepth in each episode.

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