「无二打 デッド・エンド」 (Wú Èr Dă -Deddo Endo-)
“No Second Strike -Dead End-“
No mortal can say for sure how the world will end, but it seems we’ve all decided that, regardless of the cause, the apocalypse will mess up the weather. What’s up with the end times and all the rain? It seems that when our city ruins aren’t being swallowed by sand, they are being drowned by unceasing precipitation. The rain’s not even always acidic, it just rains because… mood? I don’t how the convention came about, whether it was the idea that rain is depressing and thus ruined cities always come with it, or whether ruined cities are innately depressing and the images of damp ruins gave rain a bad reputation.
But because this convention does exist, though, it was easy to tell straight away that the the fourth stratum was being set in a dystopian hellscape. This is in stark contrast to the third stratum’s surreal nonsense where we couldn’t really be sure anything meant anything, and probably a signal that the ship is steaming straight ahead now. No distractions from funky visuals, form ranks, quick march. Fate/EXTRA Last Encore has been fairly formulaic so far (new stratum => find the boss => kill it => don’t feel good about it) and in any story like this there needs to be a turning point and since we’re halfway through SE.RA.PH now is as good a time as any. Hence, Julius, who is certainly a Bigger Bad than any we’ve had so far, being a hate-zombie himself. In the original game he doesn’t come into play until quite a while later, and the fourth round of the Holy Grail War was more a comedy break. Well, no time for that. We don’t have enough episodes anyway. More serious business! And in the Nasuverse, the prelude to any serious business is always: monologues! Nasu does love his monologues, even when writing anime, evidently. He likes to develop the plot of his stories and the philosophy of his stories side by side, and when one shifts so does the other. So when there’s a turning point in the plot you can be sure there will be a character suddenly possessed by the urge to a huge, cascading tirade about how they think the world should be yada yada. In real life, nobody ever talks like that, but nobody speaks in iambic pentameter either yet we let Shakespeare get away with it. Not that I’m saying Nasu is the Bard, though, and I wager that if Last Encore was done by anyone but SHAFT he wouldn’t be able to get away with wordy scenes like Saber’s. Nasu isn’t really writing an anime, he’s writing theatre (why else would he have created Red Saber?) and I think SHAFT understands that there needs to be some theatrics in the direction to sustain that.
And after all the talking, we get payoff: basically, this is an answers arc, where after seven episodes of thick mystery about what the blazes is going on with this show we finally achieve understanding. Hakuno’s true nature is now clear. It’s this moment of revelation that is the height of any mystery, and we should savour it. But personally, after all the explanations and all the monologues I’m actually most excited about the entry of a character who only gets one line: the ‘original’ Kishinami Hakuno. In the videogame, the player got to pick whether to have their protagonist be male or female, and in Last Encore it seems there is indeed a male and female version of Kishinami Hakuno. Which is awesome; I confess that when I played the game I chose the female avatar to go with Red Saber just for the novelty, so seeing her in the show is a strangely personal and gratifying form of fanservice. One problem though: she’s being voiced by Ishikawa Yui. The two shows I’m blogging this season are crossing over. Just when I thought Last Encore was getting less confusing, it gets more confusing.