OP2: 「Brave Shine」 by Aimer
「決別の刻」 (Ketsubetsu no Toki)
“Moment of Farewell”
Greetings, Fate fans! As some of you may have noticed, I’m not Takaii (as far as modern science can tell); you’ll have to suffer Passerby hosting coverage of Unlimited Blade Works this season. Considering how the first 12 episodes went, we’re probably going to have a good show no matter what I say, so don’t let it bother you too much. A bit about my relationship with the Fate franchise, though: I’ve read the visual novel(s) and watched the anime adaptations, including the 2010 Unlimited Blade Works movie, and I generally consider myself a big fan. The downside is that I already generally know what’s going to happen, so I’m not open to being wowed by any plot twists. Instead I’ll be spending most of my time ogling at pretty lights. Just like everybody else, really.
So, after a good break, Unlimited Blade Works has resumed at last, and what better way to welcome back the fans than with fanservice? Here, have some Saber in a suggestive pose. A flushed and panting King of Knights is probably also useful for distracting us from the exposition. In this episode, Shirou talks about his trauma, Caster talks about her plans, and Rin talks about Archer’s backstory (in a dream, no less). A bit of exposition is probably necessary to both reinforce the core philosophies running through UBW (got to wax lyrical at least occasionally or else all our symbolism isn’t going to work) and also refresh the audience on what happened all those months ago. Not only was Saber taken last we left off, but apparently Kirei (the phoney priest, if you recall) also didn’t come out well from his own trial. So now Kirei is literally a taint, but the anime rule is: until they cremate the body on screen, you can’t assume they’re dead. Not even Rin believes it—that’s how you know she’s the smart one.
All of this exposition and recap was ostensibly to set up our first big fight of our second half of UBW: the long telegraphed final showdown between Rin and Caster. Except, barring some pyrotechnics, it doesn’t happen, because apparently Archer doesn’t feel like it. In the context of our story, Archer’s turning traitor is a genuinely surprising development, because while Archer has shown himself to be quite the cynic before, and implied to be shady, he hasn’t really been scum, and betraying Rin in the middle of the crucial battle was definitely a scum move. More personally, Rin held great trust in him and until now her confidence has largely been unshakeable. To have that confidence so suddenly undermined and so coldly is bound to be shocking. Why did Archer do it? Was Rin really doomed to fail, as he insinuated?
Whatever the answers may truly be, this shock is also a good opportunity for character development for Rin. She, who before held herself out as being invincible, has been left vulnerable. Rin internalises Archer’s betrayal as her own failure, like she did with the botched summoning in the prologue (which, at the risk of minor spoilers, wasn’t really her fault either), and such doubts makes her question the way she’s lived her life. This is one of the emotional climaxes of UBW, with Shirou and Rin getting a ‘soft’ moment together, with Shirou being able to play the big damn hero for a split second before fizzling opening up the attraction the two have for each other. Not that there was ever any doubt that Shirou would fall for Rin in the Rin route, but hurray, relationship upgrade!
Of equal importance, though, is how the conversation between Rin and Shirou mirrors the one she had with Archer earlier in the episode. Archer, Rin and Shirou make for good contrasts with each other. Shirou adamantly believes that just because one fails doesn’t mean one is wrong (and makes questionable decisions because he believes it the right thing to do), while Archer, his foil, believes that only results matter, and ideals are useless (and betrays Rin to maximise success). Rin straddles the middle, wanting to proudly live by her ideals and therefore takes great pains to never fail. Interestingly, they are all moral objectivists—each with an internal compass they will not compromise—but with varying approaches. Thus is the way of Fate/stay night, where relationships between characters are based not just on chemistry, but also largely on philosophy. We’ll probably be have a lot more philosophising before we’re done—bear with me here.
So Caster’s feeling pretty good with all her shiny new Command Seals (though having them on her gloves instead of bloodily etched into her skin is a lot less impressive), and this could well be our heroes’ darkest hour. They’ll need to stage a counter-assault at some point, but it seems that they don’t have a single card in their hand. That said, the villain at her highest also gives the most satisfaction when she falls. To note, though: next week’s episode is titled ‘Princess of Colchis‘, just in case anyone had doubts left about Caster. It calls back to the age of chthonic myth, and that’s not a literary era traditionally associated with happy endings for anyone.
ED2: 「ring your bell」 by Kalafina