You know the drill by now, so nothing about my take on this episode is likely to surprise anybody. It’s pretty damn frustrating when a show what can be as good as Unlimited Blade Works can be can also be as banal and pedestrian as it sometimes is. This week wasn’t the absolute nadir, certainly, but it was pretty damn mediocre stuff. Episodes like #7 are like the great golf shot you hit on the 18th hole while shooting 115 – they convince you that it’s really possible, and that next round will definitely be better.
The problem with all that, then, is when you step up to the first tee a week later and pull-hook a drive 40 yards offline into the lake. This episode is more like a 120 yard pop-up in the heavy rough, at least. For me the fate of “Fate” in this incarnation is almost always determined by what course it’s playing. If it focuses on the ethical and moral complexities of the Grail War, it works – if it tries to be a comedy, it sinks. If the camera is mostly on the Servants it soars – if it focuses on the Masters generally and the more annoying cast members specifically, it crashes. I think, as a rule, the percentage of time it spends inside the school walls is inversely related to the quality of the episode (with last week’s being an exception to a slight degree).
So there you have it. I don’t like Rin much – I don’t find her funny, I find her generally unpleasant and pandery, and the degree to which she’s a calculated exercise in marketing is a turn-off. Anytime Fuji-nee is involved is an ordeal. Likewise Shinji, though last week’s episode was by far the more egregious example compared to this. When all three of them are featured an episode is in trouble. That’s compounded by the fact that remarkably little progression occurred in the story. Shirou proved Issei wasn’t a master by stripping him (which didn’t really work as a gag, but at least it moved the plot) but apart from that, there was pretty much nothing of real consequence. Aside from Issei being in the clear and Shinji falling under Kotomine’s sway (and one brief moment outside Sakura’s house), you could start next week’s episode right after #8 ended and I don’t believe you’d think for a moment you’d missed anything,
As long as I’m ranting (and let’s face it, there’s not much to talk about as far as the episode itself goes unless you’re a big fan of hearing Rin say “Caster no Master”) let’s talk about Saber. She’s a funny case, because Saber is the one character that straddles both sides of the divide – she can be part of the good “Fate”, and equally part of the bad. It irks me to see her pimped out with moe antics and reduced to just another Type-Moon waifu candidate, because she can be so much more. Of course making King Arthur into a cute blond girl is a calculated move to begin with, but even stipulating to that, Saber can sometimes be a very sober and dignified presence. She’s not a great character but she can be a very good one, and deserves a lot better than the kind of treatment she gets in episodes like this one.