Yes I did watch it, and no – I’m still undecided on whether I’m going to cover it. But it’s clear that a lot of people are interested in this show, so it only seems logical to touch base even if I don’t have a whole lot to say about this episode. It was a pretty quiet one, mostly setup, explaining a lot of stuff that one doesn’t even have to be a hard-core otaku for the franchise to know. But that doesn’t mean some of it wasn’t interesting.
I suppose what people will mostly be talking about is the re-introduction of Kotomine Kirei, certainly a memorable character as played by the unmistakeable (except sometimes for Hayami Sho) Nakata Jouji. Specifically, “that” scene – the one in the church where we once again see one character run laps around the other as he lectures him. It’s an odd dramatic device and it can’t be a coincidence that we’ve seen it in both Fate/Zero and UBW, even if they have different directors and F/Z isn’t canon. It didn’t hit me with quite the same impact here as it did there, but maybe because it wasn’t quite so fresh.
No doubt, that conversation (mostly a monologue really, as was the F/Z one) was interesting, especially given what we know about Kirei as a man. But all too quickly we lapse into the kind of nonsense the Fate series seems all too prone to whenever Rin is involved, as she breaks out pretty much every female romcom move in the book when Shirou first annoys, then compliments her. That kind of thing would be amusing if it happened once or twice over a cour, as a kind of whiplash mood change – but every Fate series seems to reply on it as a staple, which is really too bad because it undercuts the grandiose sense of scale the series works so hard (often successfully) to build up much of the rest of the time.
The irony, at least for me, is that in Rin and Saber we have two female characters who are actually quite strong and independent and could be standouts of the kind we need more of in anime, but the series uses them in such a way as to make them genuinely insulting much of the time. And now of course we add the loli to the mix, but don’t get me started… The fundamental premise is, as always, an interesting one – a kid in Shirou who despises violence forced to decide whether to fight a battle he didn’t ask for, knowing that the stakes could be catastrophic if he doesn’t, and the uneasy alliance between he and Rin. There is an interesting musing on the nature of idealism buried somewhere in here, as always with Fate, but there just isn’t the trust in the audience or the commitment to take the high road in fleshing it out fully.