Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 06

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It’s a good think Archer is a better shot than he is a liar.

As ever Fate/stay night follows up an action-packed episode with a mostly talky one, but this was the best of its type since UBW began this run.  There were a couple of conversations here that rose to the level of genuinely interesting, and the reliance on trope-driven comedy was relatively restrained.  If all of the even-numbers episodes are at this level, Unlimited Blade Works is going to be in pretty good shape.

The first of those interesting conversations is between Archer and Shirou, as the former is accompanying the latter home under orders from Rin.  This would be interesting solely for reasons that I won’t discuss out of deference to new viewers, but even if one knew nothing of either character’s background beyond what UBW has shown us I still think this scene works – which for me is the standard every anime adaptation should be held to (though many Type-Moon enthusiasts disagree with me).

Archer’s perspective on the Grail War is a bit of a revelation for Shirou – someone who’s in this game for something other than personal gain?  It doesn’t compute because Shirou simply doesn’t have the information he needs to understand why this is possible, but he clearly files this news away for future reference.  Archer’s presence itself is interesting in its possible permutations as regards all three principals involved (Rin being the third).

This episode is also about slotting more of the second-tier characters into place, and in fact most of the important ones (and all of the Servants) have now made their entrance.  After a day of sigil-hunting at school by Shirou and Rin, the Master who placed them reveals himself unbidden – and it’s Shinji of course, who’s paired up with Rider.  I’m not a fan of Shinji’s cartoon sneering or of Kamiya Hiroshi’s mannered performance but this an important piece of the puzzle.  The last two Servants reveal themselves as well – Caster (Tanaka Atsuo) in a late-night attempt to strip Shirou of his command seals, and Assassin (the always spot-on Shinichirou Miki) – the legendary Japanese swordsman Sasaki Koujiro –  who appears to be in-league with her.  Of their relationship and their Masters little more can be discussed here without spoilers.  Saber senses trouble and arrived to help, though Assassin foils her intentions – it’s only the timely arrival of Archer with an entirely unconvincing “I just happened to be passing by” that saves the night.

I suppose what more or less ties all this together is what ties this story together generally, which is Shirou’s slow journey from what he was to what he will become.  It’s a hard education he’s receiving but every crash course – be it an attempt on his life or a training session in the dojo with Saber – fills in a piece of the puzzle he’s putting together, a picture of a world far more dangerous and sinister than he knew existed.  What’s also being slowly revealed is that Shirou is neither a fool or a slouch in the Mage department – he’s more like a rough stone that’s being slowly polished, albeit in mostly rather painful ways.

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  1. S

    The most annoying thing on Shirou's side is how tactically careless he's being. One would expect him to keep his only truly effectual asset – Saber – always at sensing distance from him, and in general study a strategy that fits better his skills (or lack thereof); if not for victory, at least for survival. Instead, he insists in attending school unguarded, strolling around alone, and so on. He didn't even tell Saber about Shinji. This doesn't even have to do with his heroic ideals, it's plain dumbness. I hope he kind of wakes up later on.

  2. M

    The reason is that she can't dematerialize like other Servants can. There's no good way for him to explain why a blond British girl is stalking him in a Japanese high school and calling him master, and would draw unwanted attention, which is the last thing a master would want. If things really gets rough he can always summon her with a command spell. Also considering Rin was by his bedside helping him heal from the events of episode 3 while he was unconscious, it's understandable that he fully trusts her.

  3. D

    To add to wht Moekou said, they also expand a bit more on Shirou's line of thinking in the main F/SN arc, where he mentions multiple times that Saber is a girl and she shouldn't be fighting. It's not that he thinks she's incapable, but rather Shirou is a warped idealist. This, obviously, doesn't sit well with Saber and causes a lot of friction between them.

    The way I see it, it comes down to three points, Shirou being Shirou and all:
    1.) Him not really registering that Saber is a potent warrior that could defend him. He doesn't doubt her ability, it's just not something he *gets*.
    2.) A general child-like belief that the world is a pretty safe and wonderful place. "What could go happen to me at school?"
    3.) His complete disregard for his own life and safety. This is touched upon quite often in all 3 arcs and is one of Shirous bigger character foundations. He doesn't have a deathwish, he just doesn't seem to concern himself with personal safety. That also contributed to the first 2 points.

    Overall, this is summarized by what Archer told him in this episode. Being a mage is not just about mana capacity and spells. And Shirou lacks all the qualities that come with this line of work, instead basing his decisions on some sort of black and white moral compass.

  4. A

    Hm… I think the only fatal approach Shirou's ever taken so far in UBW is going back to school. Even if he had a command spell to summon Saber if worse comes to worst, that's still an absurd gamble to make for absolutely nothing to gain besides peace of mind, and maybe appeal to Rin's humanity.

    Other than that, so far he's really done nothing but hold his ground, make reasonable choices and follow Rin's and Saber's advice, so I don't see why we shouldn't cut the guy some slack.

  5. Observed: I get many times the comments on this series when I'm highly critical of it…

  6. E

    Rather, it's hard to say anything without spoiling the new viewers.

    At least I think I can point out that most of these conversations are only meaningful / enjoyable to people who have known all about FSN; so it can be helped that many anime watchers complained about these talky episodes.

    Shirou and Archer's conversation, for example, dropped a lot of hint about Saber's idenity and past life, which is only understandable by people who have read Fate route.
    Also, how did Archer know about Saber?
    What dd he mean when he said that has achieved his goal?
    None of them are throwaway banters / random conversation.

  7. B

    Hot damn, how many heroic spirits are going to have to drop by Shirou's house and make an attempt on his life before the kid considers checking into a hotel?

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