Let’s talk about Shinji.
Now, I don’t particularly like Shinji, because nobody does. But I don’t hate him either, because 1. Hate is too strong of an emotion for my withered soul to feel 2. he’s a bit too unlikeable. At least Gilgamesh has power and charisma and the the voice of the ever brilliant Tomokazu Seki behind him. Shinji has nothing, and Kamiya Hiroshi‘s brilliance is channelled into making him sound as whiny as possible. Shinji is just a pathetic sack of meat, and he’s designed to pretty much be as unlikeable as humanly possible. So Shinji feels more like a victim of the plot, while Gilgamesh is comparatively more culpable for his actions. Not that I particularly hate Gilgamesh either (ref: 1.) but he feels like much more of a real villain than Shinji, relatively speaking.
Shinji, as the embodiment of human failing, serves an important purpose. With the Grail overflowing with human, and being used as a justification for Gilgamesh’s Final Solution to the human problem, we need a character to represent all our foibles. So, here’s Shinji, as a the worst possible sample of our race. The stronger point is that Rin and Shirou strive to save him anyway. Yes, Shinji has done despicable things. Yes, he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. But such is the culmination of Shirou’s ideal: he should save him anyway. As Gandalf would say, many that live deserve death, and some that die deserve life. Shirou’s idea of heroism is that one should strive to save them all, perhaps in pursuit of that small hope of redemption. Shinji must be saved. To do otherwise would be to abandon all that character developed we set up with Shirou vs Archer. Although, it’s a bit convenient that he could be so easily plucked out of that writhing heap of creepy flesh.
My little rant aside, the rest of the episode was not actually too eventful. Gilgamesh has gotten onto his villain soapbox again, so he’s not going to do much except monologue and slap Shirou around. He does get to show off Ea, though, which is still extremely hax for no good reason. That scene entire scene was not in the original visual novel, though I can see why they did it and I approve. It’s for the sake of setting up some future developments that UBW would not appreciate as much otherwise.
If you wanted actual fighting, no just Shirou turning into a Gundam, narrating his attacks, and exchanging sword volleys, you’ll have to look to Assassin vs Saber, which was sadly short, but still good. Assassin doesn’t get as much love compared to some of the other Servants of UBW, and getting to be cool one last time before the finale is about as much as he can expect. It’s also an appropriate time to get his backstory, such as it is. With Gilgamesh continuously deriding Shirou for being a fake, here’s Assassin who’s more fake than he is. But being a fake doesn’t stop Assassin from finding a purpose and, more importantly, being badass. Of course, his actual purpose is to let Saber defeat someone this Holy Grail war. Japanese swords are inferior. Yeah, I said it.
Normally I like to be a bit reflective going towards the finale, but perhaps because we’ve been at it for two cours (not including the movie), or because I’m familiar for the source, I only really wish to see all this end. Really, what else is there to cover at this point? We’re at a fairly routine juncture right now. The hero needs to stop the villain. That’s it. Rin needs to get herself un-stranded. Shirou needs to get back up with Heroic Resolve. Saber needs to arrive at some point. This has been the first act of the final battle, and of course Shirou is going to take a beating. Standard, standard. Next week shall be act 2: Mugen no Kensei!