Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 04

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If last week’s ep of UBW was the Yin, this sure was the Yang.

What I said last week pretty much covers my thoughts now, so I’ll just reference it here:

So far F/s n seems to be following the somewhat normal pattern of the series… which is to alternate very talky episodes with action-driven thrill fests.  Those talky eps are a specialty of Gen Urobuchi and his quirky, iconoclastic characters so I think they tend to favor Zero in terms of interest level, but F/s n certainly doesn’t take a back seat when it comes to bombast.

As anyone who’s been a follower of this site for a while knows I have a complicated and conflicted viewpoint about Urobuchi Gen – for every point in his favor I think you can raise one against, but there’s no denying he’s one of the more talented writers in the game. This season, though, offering as it does UBW and a non-Gen season of Psycho-Pass, offers up a pretty good reminder of just how much better Gen is than most when it comes to writing interesting anime characters speaking interesting dialogue.  I really think P-P II suffers generally in comparison with the first season, and UBW pales next to Fate/Zero when it comes to episodes like this one – eps that don’t don’t have the full glory of ufotable and the visceral appeal of the Grail warfare to hide behind.

Simply put, I just don’t find most of this cast to be all that compelling.  You get your obligatory nude scene with the loli, you get your tsundere conversation between Shirou and Rin, and don’t even get me started on the truly insufferable Fuji-nee, who single-handedly torpedoes every scene she appears in.  By comparison the gar-moe Saber is a veritable breath of fresh air when she’s on-screen, even as she’s made to go through her paces for our entertainment.

Stack that up against the conference of the three Kings, or Gilgamesh and Kirei laying bare all the darkness of the human animal and it comes up woefully short.  Gen was able to add a layer to these characters, to elevate them beyond RPG archetypes and make them fully 3D while at the same time using them as mouthpieces for his internal debates about the deeper meaning of existence.  There’s a similar sort of debate at the heart of F/s n but it’s more straightforward, and it works better as part of a more straightforward narrative style.  Frankly, I just don’t think this episode and the others like it work from a dramatic standpoint.  But that’s a reflection of the fact that I indeed don’t find this cast especially compelling – if you do, this probably works just fine.

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  1. V

    Nice to learn Ilya's motivation.

    You should say at the beginning of your review that you are going to speak about F/Z.
    Some people start ith this anime.

  2. w

    Actually, I think that there are scenes to come in UBW (and later in HF) that are better than whetever Gen wrote in Zero (that it was just using what was already there in the first place and where nothing original from Gen's part.) Zero was really just an extra, in Gen words it was a love letter to Fate. The true core of the conflict is in stay night, really, and that it something that will really show once this (and the HF adaptation) reach its climax if it is properly conveyed. There is a reason why Gen loved Fate/stay night to the point he wanted to do Zero, you know?

    My problem now is that I'm also beginning to think that at this point you basically made your mind and just go with your own preconceived idea whatever it happens, even if it not really fits to what is this truly about, something that I find quite sad and I think that it shows badly in your writing. (Funnily enough, the whole Ilya scene was actually totally a 100% original scene by ufotable)

    Also, Zero being a LN against this being a VN means that Zero had a lot less "filler" and that probably played on the former behalf presentation.

  3. C

    Sorry but Enzo is 100% right. Gen Urobuchi tried to make this borderline-pretentious harem shounen more interesting, and he succeed. And he did make it better. Fate Zero had better subplots and characters than FSN. Fate Zero Rider puts all the other characters in the series to shame. Especially the overrated big tits wormgirl that was shit until the very end of the last route.

    Nasu focuses way too much on making waifus. He needs to have every waifu archetype, plaster them with sob stories/magic shit. He doesn't know how to write that well. At least in Fate Zero most of the main cast are adults instead of whiny teenagers. Urobuchi also knows how to make the characters actually interesting. Kiritsugu is often portrayed as cold-blooded bad-ass yet early on he openly cries to his wife admitting he's scared of Kirei. FSN is too focused on trying to make Shirou look like an underdog while giving him a harem and le sword powers.

  4. R

    I think that Gen writes better dialogue. Worse fight scenes. Worse worlds. Better character dynamics. Worse Type-Moon stories (Kerry's past).

    >the whole Ilya scene was actually totally a 100% original scene by ufotable
    What's your point? All the sex scenes in Tsukihime and Fate/Stay Night + Hollow Ataraxia were 100% TypeMoon material.
    Anyone is free to dislike unnecessary fan-service he comes across. This scene would have served the same role if she were taking a stroll around the castle.

    PD: I'm a TM fan.

  5. R

    @ChrysostomusNovember 3, 2014 at 1:05 AM
    There's nothing more pretentious in TypeMoon than Fate/Zero.

  6. C

    Chrysostomus, the only character that gives Zero and edge over stay night is Iskandar. Kiritsugu is just a spin on one of Shirou's problems and the latter feel far moret fleshed at the end. Also, and as much I like Zero, the characters are more whiny there.

  7. V

    Kerry's past was awesome for me. Best part of F/Z

  8. T

    "My problem now is that I'm also beginning to think that at this point you basically made your mind and just go with your own preconceived idea whatever it happens"

    Well its not like the show has done anything to make him change his mind, has it?

  9. w

    There was actually some nice characterization this episode he actually not even mentioned, so I'm not quite eager to think that would change, that is the problem. Is as if it was already decided what it is inside here.

  10. C

    "There's nothing more pretentious in TypeMoon than Fate/Zero."

    Explain how it's more pretentious.

  11. Z

    So much for UFOtable being faithful.

  12. R

    Man, that opening scene my eyes roll. Do we even need Illya's naked loli-ness here? I mean, come on, if they really can't resist the temptation of fanservice, Ufotable could have been a bit more discrete. Bedsides, there isn't even an in-story context for that scene.

    And like I already said, I really don't like the high school hijinks parts (again, this goes back to the original VN). Even disregarding Zero, the highschool "harem" antics just dumbs down the fact that these kids are fighting over an artifact that could very well decide the fate of the world.

  13. w

    Well, it is not that the high-school bits will be important later. That always fade into nothing in all the routes once they reach the middle point.

  14. R

    Which means that the series could simply have left a lot of it out, since these really don't affect the story progression and characterization that much.

  15. w

    Maybe, but being high-schoolers it makes sense to be a high-school, even if it just to create a bit of background.

  16. w

    >to be
    to have

  17. R

    I understand why they need to show high school scenes to establish the setting. My problem really is that there is no real reason why this has to be set in high school in the first place. And the overload of high school hijinks scenes makes that issue even worse, cause there are really no takeaways from a lot them.

  18. L

    This episode was actually shockful of important characterization. It fully established the dynamics between Shirou and Saber, as equal partners that shared mutual trust. This is especially important if you contrast it with Kerry's shitty atitude in F/Z. The Ayako scene made an important point about our protagonist, something that matters a lot since F/SN is pretty much an Emiya Shirou character study. It also introduced or expanded on the secondary cast, the value of which is yet to be seen, since we don't know how involved they'll all be, and showed that Shirou has an actual social life as opposed to Rin. It quickly went over the seven Classes, which matters to people new to the franchise.

    It was a cooldown episode, but it was hardly wasted.

  19. R

    I'm not saying that it is wasted. In fact, I actually liked that scene with Ayako. I am just saying it had a bit too many unnecessary scenes. And again, I reiterate that it's the high school hijinks parts that I am not fond of, particularly those with Fujimura in them, as they lessen the weight of what is actually happening.

  20. Z

    The target audience for VNs are obsessed with high-school settings.

  21. G

    I notice GE seems to have a prejudice or dislike towards anime's that are super popular. The reader's choices for what they most wanted to see were Psycho Pass, Fate/Stay , Mushi-shi, Log Horizon, Sword Art Online, Hitsua No Chiaki, among others. Aside from Mushi-Shi the others get no reviews (SAO, LogHorizon) or if there is a post about them its to get beat up by GE.

  22. I think you have your cause and effect reversed there…

    I get that anytime you don't fawn over whatever is popular, someone is going to decide this is the reason. I could refute it piece by piece, list all the popular shows I've praised, yada yada. But there's really no point because even when I do someone will just recycle it the next time.

  23. S

    Dude, GE is one of the most open-minded anibloggers, and one who always gives a show a second, third AND fourth chance. And this was not bashing at all – honestly, I think he's been rather light, because for all my loving F/Z and looking forward to this series and even enjoying a lot all the exposition as long as it involved the Grail War and such… this episode was BOOORING. No two ways about it. Just Shirou strolling about with all his girls flocking around him. And as Enzo said, Fuji-neesan is truly the epitome of what "being annoying" means. She's reaching Jar Jar Binks levels by now.

  24. C

    I think this episode was actually pretty good from a subtle characterization standpoint. It was full of interesting stuff like Shirou's dream at first, hints of him being more broken that it seems, the difference between Shirou and Kirtsugu as a Master… While I agree that Enzo is being light, it is also true that his preconceptions are affecting the reviews to the point he should talk about the episode itself more.

  25. m

    I agree that he blogs less than half of the "popular shows", but does it need to be pointed out that this is a blog and not a newspaper? He doesn't sell copies, thus needing to blog what others deem blogworthy. It's purely him giving his thoughts on what he likes, and that's what it's supposed to be. You obviously recognize his writing skills or you wouldn't continue to come to this site. Just b/c he doesn't like all of the shows that you do doesn't make him predjudice, it just means he has a different taste than you do. Doesn't make the shows you like bad or less valuable, but it also doesn't mean he's wrong for not liking them. That's absolutely absurd. There are enough sites out there that you can find a review for any show each season if you want, and while I understand wanting to have someone who's writing you enjoy cover all the shows you like, that's not what a blog is. You should be glad he doesn't cover things you love and he hates, bc you'd be pissed at his review being negative. The opinions GE has aren't fact, just like your opinions on shows aren't fact. If you don't like his thoughts on a show don't read the post. Why spend time reading something that annoys you? Who cares if he doesn't like it? He's just one person, if you share his opinions and like his writing keep reading his stuff, if not relax and go to another one of the many many other blogs.

  26. A

    I think you should drop the show, because it's pretty clear that you have a bunch of preconceptions about it and its franchise that get in the way of any enjoyment you could derive from it and because it's pretty clear that you just don't like the characters. I just don't see the point in watching a show where you can only enjoy the fight scenes and production values when there is so much else there that you just hate.

  27. D

    After watching the Deen adaptation, playing the VN and it's routes and now going through this, I still have a hard time understanding why Fuji-nee is even part of the story, and more importantly, why they push her the way they do. It's not just that I don't like her (though I really, really don't), but also that she doesn't really *do* anything. She does fade mostly into the background in all 3 arcs and hopefully that will come sooner rather than later.

  28. G

    She is the comic relief (as well as his guardian) and moral compass.

  29. E

    I agree with you – without interesting characters to latch onto, this series is pretty much an empty shell. It's an empty shell with nice production values, but still.

    I haven't seen F/Z, maybe one day I'll give it a shot if the characters are more compelling.

  30. R

    " Gen was able to add a layer to these characters, to elevate them beyond RPG archetypes and make them fully 3D while at the same time using them as mouthpieces for his internal debates about the deeper meaning of existence. "

    This is presumptuous. I don't care if this is what you really think at the end of the day, but since you haven't actually experienced the most critical scenes of UBW and HF, I'm not sure how you can accurately reach such a conclusion. I'm not saying Gen didn't add anything to the Fate universe, but basically all the ideas of F/Z were already things touched upon in F/S N and in many ways, done better.

    F/S N definitely has more frivolous material inside of it that is intended to be more light hearted and fun. I wouldn't confuse this with a lack of depth. I think the most important scene of the episode is Shirou's conversation with Ayako where she points out he never laughs. Shirou then has a very strange reaction and we are flashed back to his memories of the fire. This is illustrating the full extent of his survivor's guilt. Is that not real character building?

    Also a lot of the information early on in this story is intended to do the world building that Gen never had to do in the first place. The viewer isn't supposed to know anything about the servants or the HGW in general. Gen didn't have to worry too much about it early on in the story since it was already assumed readers had experienced Fate/Stay Night.

  31. T

    Except I had no idea what the Fate series was when I watched Fate/Zero, and what was there was enough for me – so either I'm a whole lot smarter than most people or what was present in Fate/Zero was enough, and thus all this here in the beginning of Fate/stay night is pointless.

    Also, the characters in Fate/Zero were able to attract me four episodes in. Four episodes in, and all I'm getting out of stay night is bullshit and some dope fight scenes.

    Four episodes (six if you count that the first two were double) isn't enough to make a statement on the full extent of the characters, but I do think that, considering great movies are able to create great characters in 1.5-3 hours, the roughly 2-2.5 hours fate/stay night has gotten should be enough to make the characters the least bit interesting.

  32. V

    Fate/Stay Night is supposed to be the first time you heard about the grail war, the explanation are necessary. Fate/Zero explain everything too and spoil twist from Fate/Stay Night because Fate/zero was made after Stay Night.

    GE have you watched Kara no Kyoukai (Ufotable/Natsuverse like Fate) ?

  33. w

    TajRoy, I remember you that at this point of the Zero anime (unlike the LN), we didn't even know nothing about Kiritsugu, the one who was supposed to be the main character. Same with Kotomine.

  34. R


    It doesn't gloss over everything, it does explain somethings, but it definitely has nowhere near the detail about the grail war that F/S N has. I know plenty of people who didn't quite understand everything that was going on in F/Z or the significance of many scenes because there was no context given (The context was F/S N visual novel).

    In any case, I made no comments about the likability of the characters. That's a personal preference thing really. Enzo's comments that I quoted just feel ungrounded and presumptuous at this juncture of the story. It is also somewhat silly considering many of the ideas that Gen played with were setup already by Nasu in Fate/Stay Night.

  35. R

    There's a lot of stuff that you can't possibly understand from F/Z simply because the exposition was both rushed and incomplete.
    It doesn't even explain what Servants actually are.
    It's entirely focused on showing "the strings of events that lead to F/SN" + Saber/Kotomine/Kiritsugu characterization.

  36. m

    I agree that to fans who have knowledge of the HGW, and even those without, there's a lot of unnecessary explaining of stuff, but taken from the perspective of Shirou not knowing any of that it actually makes more sense for him to have it explained to him than to assume he just learned it all off screen. Yeah it's a flaw, but that's what happens sometimes. If left out it would be a story hole to assume he was taught off camera. F/Z first time watchers can learn the ins and outs as things go along, but shirou is a participant and thus needs to learn it all up front. It's what makes V/N (and any other branching storyline games) annoying to replay. You go back over the same bs time and time again until the part where it branches off into a different direction. That's why you save the game before that point, but this is a show and they can't make it assuming you know all the info from F S/N or F/Z.

  37. D

    > the truly insufferable Fuji-nee, who single-handedly torpedoes every scene she appears in

    Hm. I felt the exact opposite. Fuji-nee is one of the best bits mixed in to keep all the melodramatic navel gazing and dramatic reveals from getting overbearing.

    It's Rin's stereotypical tsundere-ness that irritates me. She's a strong and competent character (which is actually illustrated well, here), yet goes all blushy over the most trivial of compliments.

    (possible double post; sorry)

  38. Z

    One good thing about the Deen version is that tsundere-ness of hers was toned down.

  39. s

    ehhhhhh i remember rin being as tsundere as ever….but back in the day when the deen version was airing, tsundere's were just starting to hit their popularity and rin was riding that wave into people's heart's. Tsundere's, i feel were much tolerable and liked back in that period. As of right now, tsundere's are not as hot as they use to be, but then again i was never a lover of tsundere's unless they weren't completely hamming up the tsudere trait. Makise kurisu is a good example of a down-to-earth tsundere. I also approve of exceptionally well-written tsundere's

  40. K

    Everyone calls Rin a Tsundere but she comes off as a very mild case of one. I don't know I was expecting much worse so her Tsundereness doesn't really bother me at all.

  41. M

    Personally, I've been enjoying PP2. It's certainly less action packed, and there's a noticeable decrease in dialogue referencing intelligent non-fiction works, but I also appreciate the reduction in "obligatory male rivalry drama".

    Anyways, back to F/SN-UBW… The comparisons to Fate/Zero need to stop. I see the grievances enough on youtube from people who don't realize Gen Urobuchi isn't influencing the writing. Any iteration of Fate/Stay Night was always locked into the "routes" which have fragmented character development. In anime form, it's always like looking at an incomplete puzzle.

    This anime adaption has no room for any of Urobuchi's ideas to leak in beyond Fate/Zero acting as a pretext.

    The characters are definitely not compelling. It's important to note F/SN was originally an eroge. And what happens when you take the sex out of porn? Flat characters – A lot of them.

    The people who defend F/SN are generally are the type willing to sit and play through ALL F/SN routes within the visual novel (many purely due to the motivation for porn). They immerse themselves in the details of the fiction to the point where one might argue sunk-cost fallacy – BUT THAT'S FINE. They're allowed to enjoy what they enjoy. However, what remains fact is that watch an anime doesn't call for such investment in time or emotion, and thus, the story (the experience) will always be weaker.

    F/SN routes are each designed for the visual novel as a whole, so any anime based on one route will never hold up as a stand-alone. I'm sure the fans enjoy them, but one simply cannot expect F/SN to match Fate/Zero in storytelling.

  42. R

    This is one of the most retarded comments I ever read on this blog.
    No one spends 10hrs reading a visual novel for a 5 minute erotic scene.

  43. L

    If you think the characters are flat, you need… to watch the show, I guess.

  44. N

    "The characters are definitely not compelling. It's important to note F/SN was originally an eroge. And what happens when you take the sex out of porn? Flat characters – A lot of them."
    "This anime adaption has no room for any of Urobuchi's ideas to leak in beyond Fate/Zero acting as a pretext."

    This is the mist stupid thing I have read here. Eroge does not even make 5% of the game and was thrown there purely because, at the time the game was released, it was taken as granted that a VN MUST have eroge. And that's without mentioning that eroge was the downright worst part of it as Nasu downright sucks at writing it (or more exactly he did not care).
    What is more, eroge version is not even released anymore and TypeMoon's newest game is also not an eroge. And yet still, it sells at hotcakes for the simple reason that NOBODY cares about the eroge in the story. Almost nothing since Fate Hollow Ataraxia has eroge and it sells as hotcakes. Yes indeed, eroge is what people care about here, your logic is flawless!

    Now I am a HUGE Urobuchi fan and was one even before he became so famous. But saying that FZ was made great because of him is something only an Anime-only watcher would say. Most of Fate/Zero, especially the central parts, were done by Nasu and were part of the FSN storyline (mainly the Heaven's Feel route which is dark enough that it sometimes makes Fate/Zero looks like a high school comedy).
    In more details, Urobuchi did NOT create Kiritsugu nor his motives nor his character development nor the catch behind it nor what he had lost due to it. Kiritsugu's entire story in FZ was literally a re-recording of what FSN revealed, and was done with intention to add to Shirou's development rather than serve as stand-alone.
    The same goes for Kotomine Kirei: his story and character were fleshed out in Heaven's Feel and FZ merely showed the change happen.
    Urobuchi also did not create the corrupted Holy Grail nor how it corrupts your wish and makes it destructive. This too was all revealed through the three routes of FSN and FZ just re-told it.
    Urobuchi also did not decide to make the Fourth Grail War's participants adults. This too, was done by FSN which even explained that the very reason why there are so many teenagers was because it started too early (10 years after last war instead of 60).
    Urobuchi did not create Sakura's sorry situation nor did he create her whole suffering story. As a matter of fact, he made it lighter. The same goes for Illya.
    In general, there was very little originality in what he made in FZ and even that what he did make, it existed to reference something from the Fate-verse, usually FSN. It was literally a fanfic and Urobuchi is a big fan of FSN.

    But yes, FZ will work better with Anime-only viewers. But not because its quality or whatever, but because Light Novels are much easier to adapt than a multi-route Visual Novel whose writing style resembles more an Proper Novel than a Light novel.

  45. M

    GE, I think the main problem here is that ufotable is working under the assumption that everyone watching this (10 years after the original VN came out – they do have some basis for working like this), and thus does not match your expectations of a good series. I understand that your stand is that every series should stand on its own, and I respect that, but it seems that you would be one of the very few judging the anime as is. The peripheral material have been links to each other all over the place (the good people over at random curiosty spot a few), and the series is meant to be enjoyed that way, by immersing yourself in the fandom. On its own, the series may be better doing the quick lefts that F/Z did with the action and dialogue, leaving the viewer confused as to what is going on to keep the mind guessing and engaged. But while that style of storytelling would work for F/Z, where all the characters actually know what is going on, it would spoil F/SN’s premise since everyone is much less experienced and knowledgeable. In any case, the point I was trying to make was that, yes, the series may seem bland by itself, but that would not be because it is not shining, just that you may be looking at the wrong places, from the wrong perspective. It shines in its subtleties that only fans can pick up by referencing it to the various other typemoon material. Fans would probably take a fuller and more nuanced series, as the past five episodes have been able to deliver, for me at least, than one that draws the viewer in but leaves them empty afterwards. That being said, you do have to been invested in the fandom, so it’s up to you GE. I personally did spend quite some time getting lost in the wiki where every link was something completely new (many still are now). And that was after I watched F/Z, the original DEEN animation and the UBW movie. Take it or leave it :)

  46. e

    I was going to post something about the same point. As someone who has watched the three iterations of F/SN (the DEEN series, the UBW movie, and F/Z), I can readily appreciate a lot of the things in this episode. The bird's eye perspective readily allows me to make all the connections that gives a lot of substance.

    But if you're just watching this as it is coming in, this episode is nothing stellar. I just wonder whether, when (and if) Enzo finishes the whole thing, his judgement of the series will change (as it did for me when I finished the UBW movie, however clunky it was). People who say that he should stop watching should really give him a break. That's why I actually think that, if Enzo doesn't want to attract so much discomfort from avid fans, he should just blog this semi-episodically or as a series review (the page views don't hurt though lol). I would agree that the characters in this series have nothing too revolutionary about them, but the plot in general is quite interesting. And long time readers of this blog would know where Enzo mostly rests his expectations on– even this post manifests that, i.e., the lack of mentioning some new developments, though expected.

  47. M

    Btw, that was a hastily rehashed version of what originally typed in the comment box, but lost when the page refreshed to sign me in. Quite a bit is missing from my above comment that I could not manage to reproduce, so it's a bit sad, but that's life. I guess it's not a problem for most here, but to all new posters, beware!

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