Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 01

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The buildup was long and the payoff short, but it was certainly memorable.

I had originally planned to cover this episode as part of a digest post today, but in the end it didn’t seem right to cover UBW in the same mode as those other series.  Whatever issues I have with the franchise – and they’re considerable – this is a series that in ufotable’s hands is simply in another weight class.  It would be like serving Kobe beef and In-N-Out french fries on the same plate.  Not everyone likes Kobe beef and In-N-Out fries are tasty, but that just isn’t a good fit.

I’m very conflicted about whether to cover this series for a number of reasons.  Most simply because I do indeed have major issues with the material itself, which I’ve communicated at length already.  In addition to the fact that it’s a bit of an empty shell in my view, the entire structure is built around certain philosophical principles that I don’t remotely agree with (and the brief appearance of Kiritsugu only brings that realization back home).

But Kiritsugu is also a reminder of the other reason why I’m hesitant to cover Unlimited Blade Works.  In a vacuum there’s certainly enough that’s worthwhile to justify blog it – interesting but flawed series can be among the most rewarding to write about.  But the truth is, Type-Moon generally and Fate specifically are not fanbases that take well to any criticism of the material whatsoever.  The fans who feel that way may not be the majority but they are the loudest, and they turned coverage of Fate/Zero (a series which I think is on the whole better than this one is likely to be, because Urobuchi’s ability to round out the characters makes a real difference) into a vitriolic sideshow.  And they’ve already made their presence felt with the premiere of UBW last week.

So in deciding whether to cover this series I’m forced to ask – is it really worth dealing with all that again for a series I like, but don’t love?  The answer, sadly, is probably not – covering F/Z was a fucking nightmare by the time it limped across the finish line and given that any future coverage of UBW is very likely to contain both praise and criticism on my part, there seems no way that scenario wouldn’t repeat itself.  This issue isn’t unique to Type-Moon, certainly – there’s an element of it in every insanely popular franchise – but this happens to be one of the few insanely popular franchises in which I have enough interest to consider blogging it.

That’s a shame, because for all its warts, in a vacuum UBW would almost certainly make my blogging cut based on its merits.  The fight scenes are sure to be glorious – they certainly were this week, brief as they were – and there are long stretches in-between the bouts of unvarnished pandering when the series has a kind of quiet dignity that I quite like.  This episode brought the full-scale introduction of Emiya Shirou (Sugiyama Noriaki, who I’ve always thought was badly miscast here) the character everyone loves to hate but (ironically) I don’t really mind.  He forms one of the moral centers of Fate, but I’ve always felt he was a bit of a narrative straw man – a naif set up to make it easy for the franchise to rip his belief system to shreds, which it ultimately needs to do in order to justify its story.  Someone has to be the fall guy the audience hates on in shows like this, I suppose, but I always thought Shirou was the sacrificial lamb in both the internal narrative and external presentation of the Fate mythology.

As for the other major introduction of the week, this route’s Saber (Kawasumi Ayako) I’ve been pretty plain about what I consider her role to be so there’s no need to rehash it.  She’s certainly fun to watch in combat, at least.  The first two eps have been classic introductions, in fact, but the story is about to get bigger as the real meat of it begins to play out.  There’s going to be some good stuff there, as always – whatever meat there is on these bones I’m sure ufotable will serve it up in appetizing fashion.  I’m not closing any doors yet – we’ll see how this version of the story fares in the hands of a studio who can make the best of it.  Maybe they’ll surprise me and come up with something so compelling that I don’t have any choice but to stick with it.

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  1. l

    Almost thought you passed this one up. As a huge Type-Moon fan I certainly hope you continue to blog it. I think any rational fan can agree that there are various flaws with every route of F/SN, UBW included and really you shouldn't pay mind to anyone blind enough to bash you for criticisms that you can clearly see and point out.

  2. R

    Enzo, I think there are certainly some very rude people out there, but there were some actions on your part that were less than courteous towards the fans of the franchise during your blogging of F/Z and even so far in your first F/S N UBW episode review. You might not feel that way, and I'd be hard pressed to convince you otherwise, but I think you should put that into consideration as well.

    Although I am a huge fan of Type-Moon, I definitely think it's nice to get whatever different perspectives there are on their stories. Most of the legions of casual fans on places like MAL offer nothing more than "zomg fights are epic!" Even if you disagree with the content, you critically analyze what is given to you, which makes it all the more interesting to read. I think most actual type-moon fans would agree.

    Anyhow as a side note… Shirou isn't that generally hated by the people who read the VN. Unfortunately DEEN did a fantastic job of destroying his character and certain memes popped out like "people die if they are killed" which only served to ridicule him despite being a translation problem. Ufo is already doing a much better job of establishing his character and the philosophical struggles inside his very being. I suppose in some ways you could say he is the strawman of the story, but that implies that the story is trying to debunk his way of life. The difference between F/S N and F/Z is that F/Z had to end in tragedy. There is no self imposed limitation on the narrative here this time around, so it'll be interesting to see how this pans out for you (assuming you stick around).

  3. K

    ""people die if they are killed"

    Never watched the DEEN anime but that has got to be my favorite meme ever. Well that and "Nice Boat".

  4. K

    Hope you decide to review it Enzo as I always enjoy your insight.

  5. D

    Sincerely hope you stick with the show, Enzo. Your insight is always fantastic and even if I might disagree with some of your opinions, I'd rather read a more critical analysis of a series that I like rather than go through a generic episode recap that drones on and on about how great everything is.

  6. w

    Actually, Shirou is not really hated, he is quite liked and generally considered a decent MC. It is just that DEEN version was really flawed, so until the source material was translated it gave a distorded image of him that kinda remained within the general public. I suppose this version will help to actually clear that.

  7. Well, that can only be a good thing. That's what I mean about the material being in the hands of a studio that will make the most of it.

  8. H

    "But the truth is, Type-Moon generally and Fate specifically are not fanbases that take well to any criticism of the material whatsoever."

    Fans who invest time in something they like take it very personally. So when someone beats on a franchise up for being shallow/pandering/pretentious, they take it as a personal affront. It's like invalidating their values, and therefore they themselves.

    I was disappointed with how F/Z ended up in a whimper as well (where was the promised Saber/Gil battle?). They spent too much time on Rider/Waver camping out, and too little on Berserker IMO. The latter of whom managed to tap into Saber's potential as a character all too briefly.
    Expectations are lower going in to FSN because I've seen the film version already. There are some good adaptive choices made by Ufotabe, but the introductory episodes felt very bloated. I found Shiro's motivation resonate more in this version.

  9. R

    >the introductory episodes felt very bloated.

    Of course they do. In its first few minutes, the movie skips everything up to what will be the 4th episode of the current adaptation. Yep, it was THAT bad.

  10. S

    Being a huge Type Moon fanboy who knows far more about it than the average person it really is annoying when people ignorantly criticize it with their very limited knowledge, ignorant to the legions of thought process that goes into conceiving a world like Type Moons verse where nearly anything is possible and can be explained in a comprehensive logical manner using the logic/concepts from the verse. Type Moons power system and world building considering they are one in the same is the only one I know that could be put above Nen but in truth Type-Moons power system is way more extensive, complex, and intricate than Nen.

    Lancers special move reverses cause and effect making it so rather than his spear thrust being the reason your heart(which the move auto targets regardless of original aim) is pierced it is your heart being pierced that his spear was thrust. But about the mana launched form the spear that Saber was able to block I am still not completely sure.

    Shirou's heroic ideals are the only reason for a certain rouge counter guardians existence who just happens to mock embody Kiritsugu's kill evil will lesser evil lifestyles endgame, lol just another reason Type-Moon will always be in a class of it's own.

  11. T

    After extensive reading of the Fate wiki, it still seems like a random JRPG style magic and battle system, with any and all random powers possible. What you just offered wasn't an explanation for how Lancer's move exists within the power system, or how it flows logically from it. I have no frame of reference with which to place that within the world/power system, or what his ability to do that says about Lancer.

  12. S

    You can't just come in and expect to grasp something so complex, so probably seems like randomness to you because you haven't had time to build on and take in the information needed. Anyways I wasn't trying to say anything major about Gae Bolg and I never said I was, but Fates magic is based on the ability to do the impossible literally and noble phantasm are conceptual moves based on the servants legends and myths just like the servant themselves, wether or not Lancer could do this in life is unknown so what do I need to explain read on the wikia if you want.

  13. f

    LMAO way to prove Enzo's point.

  14. S

    What point he said a lot of things…?

  15. Z

    Fanbois lack critical judgement.

  16. S

    Yes perhaps to some degree everything Type-Moon is kind of just amazing to me as a fanboy by default because it's type-moon but that is not "just because", high scale epicness was required for it to reach that stage of fanboyism. Kara no Kyoukai's Ryougi Shiki as a whole(characterization, development, powers and so on) is a prime example of type-moons greatness or even Tsukihime's Arcuied Brunstund as well as the 3rd magic heavens feel which embodies type moons magic system btw Type-Moon is the codename of the ultimate being of the moon real name Brunestud Crimsonmoon who about 1000 years ago was called down from the moon by Gaia(the earths will) to "purify" earth of the humans he is the originator of vampirism in Type Moon and gaia based conceptual beings on him these are known as the true ancestors they can be thought of as large type fairies(earth spirits) they are in turn responsible for the dead apostles the cliche vampires who require blood for sustenance unlike the true ancestors who simply have a strong urge… Gaia created a giant super canine-like being to destroy the humans who were ruining the planet, the super canine known as PimateMurder required 7 guardians to defeat contracted by the enigmatic all judging supernatural will the Alaye force to be granted with great power these counter guardians are the biases for the class system Lancer, Caster, Baserker, Saber, Rider, Archer and Assassin. I could go on for way too long but anyways forgive me for any slight error of naming and such you may go to the type moon wikia to clarify as you please, It's been a couple years since my last real indulgence in the Type-Moon lore the Hunter x Hunter lore has been keeping me too busy, but surely there can be no argument after this…

  17. R

    I'm also a T-M fan but you need moderation man.
    What you are doing here is like watching a public display of masturbation.

    Enzo and everyone who watched this (and/or Fate/Zero) realize that the world is rich in lore. No need for all this.

  18. M

    The other problem is what you wrote had nothing to do with any of Enzo's criticisms in this post, except for maybe Shiro, but how do you expect him to know that?

  19. S

    Yes true, I'm just throwing out info, but I'm avoiding saying anything that may be revealed in UBW. and his criticism is what it is but I find it hard to believe he would still think as negatively about it if he had the greater type-moon picture, anyways I just tried justifying type-moons greatness through its concepts, I guess because thats the big thing that made me fall in love with it but we will just have to see if/how opinions change as the series continues and more is revealed …

  20. R

    That's very nice and all but you realize the more you talk about specialized knowledge or like how much time you've spent before you can truly appreciate the details, the more people who aren't super fans are going to just turn around and walk away without giving the series a chance.

    Believe it or not, there are such things as casual fans. People who come into the series with little background knowledge. And no, you shouldn't have to know everything about Typr-Moon lore in order to enjoy a standalone work.

    If the main reason you think FSN is great is because you have a lot of knowledge about the lore and background, that's great. But if someone needs to "read the wikia" in order to truly enjoy the shoe, that show has failed.

    If anything, I feel your whole rant has done the opposite of what you were hoping. I'm a TM fan as well, but not a crazy detailed one. If I wanted to defend FSN good points, the last thing anyone needs is a giant info dump.

  21. S

    Cool for you. While this was not intended as a rant most of what I said didn't have to do with FSN itself but type-moon as a whole. Sadly someone actually misinterpreted what I meant when I said concepts made me fall in love, I was already practically in love due to characters, what little I understood about the concepts and the universe but that love just made me want the heightened understanding of everything that just made me fall madly in love with Type-Moon. You don't know much yet enjoyed it right so I don't see what point your making anyhow casual fans are cool and all but this just falls back to the point of stern judgment with very limited info it works the same with people your going to have a unclear view which can greatly alter your opinion personally I see Type-Moon as one of those greatly situations given the extensive background to everything and such I mean you have to appreciate such detailed lore if for nothing else than the amount of work taken to achieve it, the reason why so little people have extensive knowledge on it is because it's so detailed in the sense that it will take you forever to learn/take in everything.

  22. G

    I love this franchise. I'm just glad its getting adapted. One thing thats confusing is that the 1st 2 episodes were listed as 00 and 1,yet some places have them listed as 1 and 2. Why do folks have to make it confusing?

  23. S

    It is the VN Prologue Rin's prelude which i'm pretty sure is the same for all routes. If you think about it as the pre-story story than 00 really is appropriate. It seems they are just trying to really follow the story faithfully this time.

  24. R

    I thought I would have no time for another Fate series, but I really can't resist. Ufotable's adaptation is so much better than Deen's — it's glossier, flashier and wittier. There were tons of details being put in, making the characters feel more alive, in my view. I'm not a fan of Type Moon, and I wasn't planning on watching UBW, but in Ufotable's hands, I think I may not be able to resist. Hope that you'd have time to blog it, Enzo. Thanks!

  25. M

    ^Pretty much why I continuously believe I'll like F/Z more than FSN,even if it's the much superior version of DEEN's adaptation. Dividing the narrative focus as much as possible between all the Holy Grail War's participants is probably the best thing one can do with a battle royale type scenario. It makes it more believable in the sense that every participant matter's and isn't there just to be the next big baddie that our protagonists have to beat. Surely every master & servant has his own motivations here too but I just don't see it coming across as well.

    I also prefer F/Z's more toned-down,slower paced but just as detailed fight scenes over FSN's flashier,over-the-top ones. Of course,that's just a preference and not something I'd call a flaw though 😛

    Lastly,there's this:

    Plus, the highschool elements of FSN can sometimes lessen the weight of the whole Holy Grail war as emphasized by Zero.

    Maybe it's not even entirely because of the highschool elements but moreso because of the lighter tone FSN seems to have at times. F/Z darker & more serious tone does seem to add more weight to the Holy Grail war.

    I keep wondering if this assumption of mine is correct: That the majority of viewers who aren't fans of the Fate franchise or are fans but not hardcore ones(a category which I probably fit in) will like F/Z more than FSN,while it's undoubtedly the other way around for most hardcore fans. That being said,I'm still gonna enjoy this adaptation a lot and I'm very eager to see what it has to offer. I'm also gonna try & keep an open mind and not completely out-rule the idea that I might enjoy it more than F/Z,unlikely as that seem at the moment,especially since I kind of know some of the major events from that UBW movie – haven't played the VN, but proper execution can do wonders.

  26. R

    You are posting spoilers.

  27. S

    Hey Enzo. Like anything you're watching but not blogging this season. If you find an episode especially interesting, and feel your fingers aching to type some kind of post out, just post a quick review of that, in any form you want. I'd sure read it. Thanks

  28. D

    Ultimately it's up to you whether or not you want to deal with potentially rude comments (although the LiA crowd tends to be pretty respectful, I've noticed), and I totally understand your concerns here. But it's always good to have different opinions/analyses of a popular work of fiction (particularly ones that don't necessarily match the mainstream), so if you feel like you have a post's worth to say about the series each week, then I'd encourage you to write about it.

    That said, I may have to skip out on reading them myself, simply because I'm coming into "Fate/stay night" pretty much blind (I watched F/Z but I know almost nothing about the DEEN anime or the VN) and your posts are written in a way that assume the audience has seen this before in some incarnation. Which is fine – I suspect I'm in a pretty small minority here – but it starts to color my perception of future character arcs and plot points in a way that I'd prefer not to have happen.

    If you do continue to post about it, I'll come back and read them when the show is finished, though!

  29. R

    As much as I'd like you to keep covering, after a quick stroll through the comments section of just the first two episodes, I have to say I would totally understand if you don't because you don't want to deal with the crazier fans.

  30. m

    If you decide not to blog this show I think it would be a pretty smart decision on your part. I think everyone like me, who liked F/Z but didn't mind your issues with it or at least you voicing your opinion in general, probably got pretty tired of the direction the back and forth brought the F/Z blogs by the end of the show. Unfortunately you can't voice your opinions about something some people love without getting ppl like Smith Dunmer up there saying "you just don't understand it like I do" or some other silly comment trashing you for not agreeing with them. They completely ruined the fun of reading the F/Z blog (though prob much was ruined by Kiritsugu's presence in the show), and, if you aren't the type to be able to ignore annoying ppl like that, then it just spirals out of control into a back and forth which is super annoying to watch. So if people can't be rationale about accepting your opinions when they differ from their own, then fuck em, don't give them anything to read.

  31. Borderline, given that F/SN has already aired and these are pretty non-specific. But I'll play it safe. Here's the OP with potential spoilers deleted:

    Fate/Zero (a series which I think is on the whole better than this one is likely to be, because Urobuchi's ability to round out the characters makes a real difference)

    I would agree with your assessment here. I have watched the original Deen series and read about the visual novel.And, contrasting those with Fate Zero, the latter really has a more compelling cast that FSN. The Servants in F/Z, for instance, are a lot more intriguing than the ones in Stay Night, which for most part end up being only plot devices… Biggest case in point would be how F/Z developed Waver and Rider's (Iskander) interactions, which was rather fun to watch, versus that of … Plus, the highschool elements of FSN can sometimes lessen the weight of the whole Holy Grail war as emphasized by Zero.

  32. R

    No problem with me about that one. I included it with the assumption that most of us already know how FSN's story goes, but I guess I was wrong.

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