「Unlimited Blade Works」
Big episode this week—so big that they had to cut the OP just to fit all of it. Perhaps it’s a given, since the Emiya vs Emiya fight is arguably the most important one of the entire story. Notice how Archer already debuted his Reality Marble in episode 18, yet it is 20 that is titled ‘Unlimited Blade Works’. Well, he does cast it in this episode as well (while being allegedly low on mana; whatever you say, Fate/ stay night), and really, what better backdrop can there be to the defining conflict of Unlimited Blade Works? Shirou’s fighting his superpowered future archetype, his own insecurities, and the image of the bleak future that awaits him. It better be epic, and epic it was, much more so than I remember the visual novel being. The original source was a tense clash of wills, to be sure, but anime is a visual medium, and ufotable sure does bring the visuals. Imagery! Imagery! Imagery! I just couldn’t help myself with the screencaps this episode. Together with the new insert song (LAST STARDUST by Aimer, going by the credits), it certainly was a incredible audiovisual experience (or, at least, really shiny). Even though we only had half a minute of the Emiya theme before it faded out (stop getting me worked up for nothing), the last third of the episode was executed well enough for me to forgive that hiccup in the tension. This is how you bring value to an adaptation, by reinterpreting it in your medium. It’s quite different to the original, yes, but the soul is plain to see.
UBW has a prequel, and it’s not Fate/Zero
Speaking of adaptation issues, here’s another one that crops its ugly head: the existence of the Fate route prior. For those of you who started on the Fate franchise with this adaptation of Unlimited Blade Works, then firstly, welcome, and secondly, you probably have no idea what this thing was all of a sudden. The issue of Excalibur’s scabbard being grafted to Shirou was dealt with in more detail in the Fate route (it being about Saber and all), and without that knowledge this detail may seem to have come out of left field. Is it a deus ex machina? Certainly. But it’s not just an in-universe explanation for Shirou’s plot armour (which, you will note, he has donned before, after the fight against Berserker). If King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is the archetypal chivalric myth, then when Kiritsugu implanted the scabbard in Shirou when he lay dying one can say he also implanted the heroic ideal in him. The symbolism and parallels with Arthurian myth are a bit more overt in the Fate route, obviously, but it’s not exactly subtle here either. Saber is insistent on watching Shirou and Archer’s fight because it mirrors her own situation; she thinks her run as the king of Britain ended poorly, and wishes the sword did not choose her. Well, here Shirou knows how it’s going to end, refuses to be deterred. That’s what having principles is about. You stick with them, even if it hurts.
They love Lancer so much, they killed him twice
Back with the damsel in distress, it seems all the villains are lining up to cop a feel, which is quite unseemly, so she needs rescuing fast. Neither her Servant, her ex-Servant, nor her love interest seem very keen on doing it, though so I guess it’s up to poor old Lancer. Wait, wasn’t Lancer supposed to be dead? Yes, but apparently he can still keep chugging without a heart by sheer badassery. For those who are still amused by old memes, people don’t die when they are killed (not that Shirou is one to talk; just a flesh wound, right?). To be fair, in Cú Chulainn’s myth, in his last moments he tied himself to a standing stone so that he may die facing his enemies, and so feared was he that his foes dared not approach him until ravens started roosting on his corpse. Even then he manages to lop some sap’s hand off (it’s weird). So, one last hurrah, sticking it to the man in his post-final moments. Dead now? Nope. Can’t go before mortifying Shinji (*applause*). Kirei, though, has most-definitely-probably-in-all-likelihood pushed off. I may have mentioned before that the anime rule is to never assume anyone was dead until they cremate the body on-screen, and here it is (aside: the fire rune is not the same as the one Touka uses in Kara no Kyoukai, but meh, details). Lancer doesn’t exactly get the girl, but he does go out with style (or with pyromania; still not sure why he has to torch the place). You’ll have the play the PSP game Fate/Extra if you want to see him paired with Tohsaka, but of course that’s not exactly the same Lancer or the same Tohsaka so itscomplicateddon’task.
Don’t like your future? Beat him up ~ looking ahead
Even after Shirou’s defiant comeback, it’s still sort of a genuine question whether or not he’ll win. After all, consider what he said:
‘Just because you’re correct doesn’t mean you’re right.’
That may be meme-worthy all over again, but the context gives it sense. It’s not about rationality. It’s not about results. Even if Shirou is completely beaten, even if he ultimately fails, what’s important is that his moral core never wavers. That’s what heroism is about—beyond utilitarianism, against all odds. That said, if Archer is supposed to symbolise Shirou’s doubts and regrets, and Shirou cannot allow himself lose to them, then… well, we’ll see how it unfolds. Fittingly, the title of the coming episode is simply ‘answer‘. To which question? Same time next week, folks.
Full-length images: 06.