「暗剣、牙を剥く」 (Anken, Kiba o Muku)
“The Dark Sword Bares Its Fangs”
Unlimited Blade Works, compared to its sister stories Fate and Heaven’s Feel, is often considered the ‘action route‘. The advantage it has in this area is, I feel, in how it juggles its tension rather than the amount of action, which all routes have. Unlimited Blade Works is a constant roller-coaster of highs and lows, alternating swiftly between good times and bad for our heroes. Contrast this with, say, Heaven’s Feel which is relatively longer stretches of low and longer stretches of bad. Incidentally, it works for a movie format, where everything is compressed.
To demonstrate the point, this week of Unlimited Blade Works is quite packed, especially compared to the lull of last week’s episode. The highlight was, of course, the big Servant fight; it’s Lancer’s turn to just be cool. This is Lancer, though, who apparently exists in the Fate universe to be slighted, so even his big moment is upstaged. Sorry, Archer needs to be cooler, though he does struggle more in this adaptation that he did in the movie (which probably just makes him more badass). Rho Aias, by the way, is supposed to be the shield of Aias (more commonly spelt as Ajax), and he had little claim to fame compared to the other heroes of the Illiad other than a big shield and throwing rocks at Hector (and later, getting shown up by Odysseus), so I guess the shield better be damn good. I feel for Lancer; for Archer to pull something like that out of his hat is akin to cheating, and indeed, one will get the feeling throughout UBW that Archer really is a cheater (in more ways than one; watch him break Rin’s heart again). Still, it was a nominal victory for Lancer so… hurray Lancer!
Of course, the fight was not just a matter of spear vs shield; as always Fate makes the fight personal. Lancer is perhaps the only Servant summoned in the Fifth Holy Grail War to fight as an honest-to-goodness Heroic Spirit (Saber has circumstances, Berserker is insane), which puts him at odds with Archer, who scorns the very notion of heroism. What the outcome of the fight says about their individual philosophies I’ll leave up to interpretation, especially since Archer will probably get more opportunities to rant next episode. For that same reason, I’ll leave the brief dissection of Souichirou’s past aside as well, because his ‘fighting without purpose’ thing makes him a nice foil to Shirou, and that will become clearer later on. Also, nobody wants to sit around and discuss vague character motivations. This was the action episode! Let’s reserve our words, bask in the shiny effects, and feel sorry for Caster. Caster, who finally shows for face and looks better for it, gets it worse than Lancer, sucker punched and then multi-stabbed without much dignity. The difference is, in spin-offs like Carnival Phantasm she is always allowed her happy ending, so we don’t have to feel too bad for that tragic character. So… ding dong, the witch is dead! Woo.
Oh hey, it’s Saber! I had kinda forgotten that she was still supposed to be around. Well, she’s not in much of a state right now, so forgive her if she can’t even afford to get changed before the next round. Maybe the action will slow down again next week, as we’ll probably have to suffer Archer monologue about why he wants to kill Shirou and explain the purpose to his scheming and all the usual villainous stuff. It depends on how long they intend to drag out the preliminaries, I suppose.
The alternative is that next week is another high-strung episode, in which we’ll find out exactly why this route is named Unlimited Blade Works. It’s still going to sound a bit dumb even with explanation, but the title drop should make for something appropriately climatic. Either way, our heroes are definitely not out of the fire yet, so stay tuned.