「その縁は始まりに」 (Sono en wa hajimari ni)
“A Destiny Forged in the Beginning”
For those who still haven’t figured Shirou‘s relationship with Archer, I’ll give it one more episode. All the clues are as clearly laid out as they’re ever going to be, and I’m sure that they’ll blurt it out directly in the near future.
The story of Archer is that he is a Counter Guardian, which are like humanity’s immune system. It’s a position he assumed after death, having made a sort of Faustian bargain in life for the power to save more people. Being a Counter Guardian is an unpleasant job, for they don’t prevent disasters so much as clean them up, usually by killing enough people for things to calm down.
So Archer has his regrets and Saber’s has hers and that’s pretty much a sub-theme right there. Saber’s regrets were dealt with in the Fate route already though, so we aren’t going to see more of that. This is why I usually recommend people experience Fate/stay night in route order, or else they’d miss out on the little juxtapositions like we have here. It’s no big loss though, because the philosophising is, of course, secondary to the Saber finally getting to fight again (while keeping the ponytail. Good job, Caster). With Saber so frequently getting beaten on in both Fate/stay night and Fate/Zero, one may wonder why she and her class has the reputation of being the strongest Servant. Well, this is why. Saber, perhaps more so than other Servants, is essentially battery powered, and her new contract with Rin is like hooking up to a nuclear reactor compared to the useless flat that was Shirou. Of course, no matter how badass she gets to be now, Archer is contractually obliged to upstage everybody in this route, so he’s got something better.
(For a fuller Saber vs Archer fight, Prisma Illya has one of those as well. Hurrah for spin-offs.)
I’ve always considered Reality Marbles one of the cleverer devices that original author Kinoku Nasu made up. As a magical reflection of the soul, they are made entirely of symbolism. You can’t get much more over than that. Archer’s desolate hill of swords, the Unlimited Blade Works (there, title drop), handily summarises his lifelong struggle, where he fights and fights and ends up with nothing. Wasn’t that simple? Archer’s story is essentially a deconstruction of the triumphant hero, something that Shirou is going to have to come to terms with if he insists on continuing with his whole, ‘I will be a hero of justice’ schtick. But that’s something for next week, of course.
It feels we have come full circle now, with Shirou pairing up with Saber once more (and Lancer tagging along, because he’s cool). Poor Rin, once the undisputed leader of our protagonists, and now suddenly whisked away to be a damsel in distress. Actually when did the nabbing actually happen? What was Saber doing while Shirou was unconscious? Was she just standing there the whole time? Confound it Saber, I’ve just finished trumping up how awesome you’re supposed to be now. You have to stop being disappointing.
I guess Rin is just attached to Archer, no matter how badly she treats her. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, here’s Shinji!
Full-length images: 10.