Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 12 (Season Finale)

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Memo to self: start future episodes of UBW at the 15:00 mark.

Fittingly, the season finale of Unlimited Blade Works is a microcosm of everything the series is as a whole.  Irritating, pandering, visually stunning, gripping, and too long.  I really wonder if this adaptation would have been better served to be a single cour, given all the dross layered through it that could have been filtered out.  The odd thing is that all of the Fate adaptations have been too long, even the basically anime-original Fate/Zero – which suffered considerably over it’s last run of episodes.

In any event, this double-episode mirrored last week’s in that the first fifteen minutes were a complete waste of time.  The difference is that at least here we had a good episode-plus worth of material left over once things actually groaned into action.  And just as with last week, it was when the servants took center-stage that things really turned the corner.  In this instance it was Caster, who – while certainly qualifying as the villain of the piece based on the first cour – is quite a bit more nuanced than Urobuchi’s take on the character.

Taking Fujimura as a hostage, though…  I was literally yelling “Please, for the love of God – kill her!” at the screen, but I suppose to persuade a kid like Shirou is was a sensible ploy.  That was an interesting confrontation, with Shirou remaining true to himself for better or for worse.  He could never agree to serve Caster because of her “methods” – which is a quintessentially Shirou thing to say – but in the end, his purity gets him nowhere as Caster manages to make Saber her puppet.  And after doing so ordering her new servant to kill Rin – though it’s Shirou who takes the blow for her.

The whole Master-Servant thing gets pretty complicated in UBW, arguably too much so in my opinion – and in no figure is this more plainly illustrated than with Caster.  She may nominally be Kozuki-sensei’s servant, but in her own mind at least she’s pulling all the strings – her master’s, her servant Assassin’s (what sweet agony to have have Miki-san as Koujiro’s appearances in this series be as brief as they are), now Saber’s, the other masters.  She declares that she can summon the Grail without following the normal rules – she reveals her Noble Phantasm to be “Rule Breaker”, fittingly – and goes to the church to confront Kirei and talks of the “Lesser Grail” she wants to summon before turning her nasties against the Priest.  Kirei can take care of himself, so he gets no sympathy from me.

One thing I quite liked about Urobuchi’s take on the Grail War is that he managed to get pretty much everyone involved, and in the F/s n variations there tends to be an extreme focus on a few characters and very little on everyone else for long stretches.  This first cour was all preamble, of course, and many of those almost non-existent characters who showed up in the last five minutes of this episode will have their role to play in the second – but their lack of development makes it harder for someone who’s not a rabid follower of the franchise to really care what happens to them later.  That was another difference between F/Z and the other anime incarnations, I suppose –  that Gen was not only free to write for the medium more or less from scratch, but that in doing so he was essentially writing a series that was inherently friendlier to general audiences.

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  1. N

    "even the basically anime-original Fate/Zero"
    – huh? I can't even remember anything AO about FZ o_O

  2. Well, it's written from scratch, let's say – not a part of the original VN.

  3. R

    One thing I quite liked about Urobuchi's take on the Grail War is that he managed to get pretty much everyone involved, and in the F/s n variations there tends to be an extreme focus on a few characters and very little on everyone else for long stretches.

    Expect the rabid fanboys to go ranting that Urobuchi actually didn't do anything other than write a novel and that everything in Fate Zero was already there even before he touched it, yadda yadda. From what I have noticed in the last few weeks, there seem to be a sort of animosity coming from the diehard fans against those who say that Fate Zero is better than UBW.

    I am a big fan of the of the Fate franchise, but I will say that Zero really gave more in terms of fleshing out its characters. UBW, at times, feel very mechanical, simply going through the plot points and giving what fans expect, which is a point for point recreation of the VN. Case in point, the whole "Fujimura as a hostage" deal was simply there because it was a plot point. The series never even bothered building her and her relationship with Shirou beyond just a joke character., which could have at least gave that part of this episode some weight to it.

  4. R

    As a rabid fanboy, I'll just say that if you are going to compare Zero againts FSN, you should consider Fate+UBW+HF as "FSN".

  5. S

    Well, it just happens to be true that the majority of Zero was pre-existing or at least set up ignorance is the only thing that says otherwise, anyway Fate Zero probably is better than UBW but that in no way changes that facts….

  6. R


    I'll just say that if you are going to compare Zero againts FSN, you should consider Fate+UBW+HF as "FSN".

    That just makes the current UBW series a difficult watch, 'cause it robs this series of the power to tell its story on its own. Why do I have to wait for the other routes to be adapted just so that I can see the elements that I should already be seeing here? And I am not even talking about plot elements unique to each route. All I am looking for are those things that would make this story complete on its own, like some decent character exploration.

  7. m

    Complete waste of time? For me, the initial 15 minutes were a total treat 😉

    I really disagree that F/sn should focus on the action alone, _especially_ since the character dynamics between the Fate path that everybody knows indepth by now and the UBW path differ considerably. And for people like me, who are primarily interested in characters and less in heroic spirits bashing each others' faces in, this is what I watch it for. Well, mostly. Of course the eye candy of the action parts isn't unwanted 😉

    So the old saying is true again: One man's junk is another man's treasure.

  8. G

    I'm enjoying this series as well. Kinda tough to come here each week for GE's bashing of the series.

  9. d

    "that Gen was not only free to write for the medium more or less from scratch, but that in doing so he was essentially writing a series that was inherently friendlier to general audiences."

    A big majority of what happens in Fate/Zero is mentionned in Fate Stay Night and Gate/Hollow Ataraxia

  10. w

    Well, the second cour probably will have a lot less of SoL, unless ufotable decides to go anime original with that.

  11. D

    I quite liked that they took some liberties with the adaptation of this episode. They made it both better (imo) and interesting to watch even if you're already familiar with the VN. That was a big problem with the Deen's UBW movie, which had zero value if you didn't read the VN and as such could only be used as a highlight reel of animated scenes from certain key novel moments.

    Looking ahead, I think the second cour will be much better across the board, since this is sort of the point where the route turns to what UBW is really all about. And while I don't mind the occasional bit of fancervice – or Rin herself for that matter – it does feel like if you strip the first cour of all the fluff (and some straight-up pointless episodes), you could boil the whole thing down to 5-6 episodes that just set the stage for the real show to begin. It's hard for me to gauge the quality of this first cour from the standpoint of an anime-only viewer, but as a VN reader, it ultimately left me somewhat disappointed.

  12. Let me be clear – I don't mind slice of life or fanservice whatsoever. In fact, any study of my blogging over the last few years would tell you quite the opposite. I just don't like it here because F/s n is very bad at it. It's wooden, and predictable, and so obviously pandering as to be completely distasteful. The problem isn't the slower sections – it's the way they're written.

  13. R

    Pandering is at the heart of TypeMoon. It's a doujin circle, doing fanservice as a job.

  14. R

    ^I think he is not referring to how TypeMoon works here, but how Ufotable is handling the UBW adaptation so far. The guys at the studio could have opted for a tighter adaptation, leaving a lot of the unnecessary panduring behind (such as condensing the first 15 minutes of this episode into something a third of the length), instead of doing a point for point recreation of the VN

  15. C

    Man, I like Fate too but I'm starting to believe that it's impossible to do a proper adaptation of the VN. It was mostly so freaking boring and played it too safe. We got 16 episodes worth of run time and what was accomplished anyway? It really doesn't feel like anything really happened. Too much time wasted on the high school-esque frivolous hijinks of the VN, this is supposed to be a BATTLE ROYALE MAGIC WAR for God's sakes. The padding was evident especially in this last episode, that one scene of Caster going "assassin your mission is to stand here" and Assassin replying "yeah, sure" for five minutes added absolutely nothing to the story. They could have done something cool with Caster's original content ambush… She could have thrown a hurricane at them or something but instead we got… water skeletons? Wow how frightening.

    Shiro is okay but he isn't interesting enough to drive the narrative by himself, Rin is a cliche tsundere, Saber is a waifu, Fuji-nee is a joke character, Shinji is a pussy ass bitch who exists to annoy you… Wait who are the other masters again? I forgot.

    Zero was interesting, engaging, cleverly written, dark… This… this was hugely disappointing.

  16. m

    I try not to bash the fanservice parts too much, as my opinion on that is biased since I don't care for it at all. That being said, whether or not you like that kind of stuff it is undeniable that the idea of the grail war being a serious situation is consistently being hurt by the scenes where it's just another regular day for HS kids. FZ fleshed out all of their characters, and was able to keep the heavy tone throughout, because they avoided this kind of thing. It gave more time to focus on all of the participants, and gave the war side of the story more tension. Now, I will say that since the three VN fate routes are about Shirou first and foremost, there is less need to focus on the other characters, but it feels like the show is better served focusing on Shirou and how the war effects him in relation to Kirie/his father/the servants/other masters. Unless you're saying that F/Z is about the grail war and then FSN-Shirou loves Saber UBW-Shirou loves Rin HF-Shirou loves whatever that annoying girl is named. I get that it's through his relationships with these girls that he definies himself and his approach to the grail war and his ideals, but ultimately it just feels like it takes away from the how large and epic the grail war is supposed to be. Like the grail war is just the excuse to force him into relationships with these girls, when the story is far better served focusing on the grail war itself.
    If you like that kind of fanservice and all, then that's cool and it's great that you love the show so much, but it's silly to get so defensive about ppl not sharing your opinion who wish it would focus more on the the areas that made FZ great. I'm not experienced enough to judge what constitutes good fanservice vs bad fanservice (TBH I find it all absurd not that my or anyone elses opinion matters) but I think the problem ppl like Roger, GE, Chrysostomus, and I have is that all of the time spent on those scenes takes away from the tone set during the grail war. I get that part of the story is that Shirou doesn't take the wars as seriously as he needs to and is naïve in general, but there are ways to make that point without losing the serious tone of a battle to the death.

  17. p

    I'm sure I'm not the first person to say this, but I feel Ufotable missed a big opportunity by not adapting Heaven's Feel. Fate Zero was a huge hit that revitalized the franchise and brought in many, many new fans to the Fate universe. I t was the most recent Fate production and, as a prequel should, left many storylines open-ended. It is then only natural that the fans, particularly the new ones, would desire a sequel that would act as a continuation and bring closure to the story. While not perfect, Heaven's Feel does accomplish that.

    (Not to mention being more substantial in terms of length, number of characters, and plot twists, that would make it more friendly to adapt across 24 episodes.)

    I know that they are going to adapt it as a movie. But as the longest and most plot heavy route, I don't see how that can be accomplished without focusing solely on Shirou's and Sakura's relationship and leaving everything else out. Which again would fail to tie up the loose ends of F/Z and the Grail story as a whole, in a satisfying manner.

    Also GE is spot on with this ep being a microcosm for the series.

  18. D

    Heaven's Feel has a super convoluted plot line. Especially regarding the grail and the "heroine." It was enjoyable, but UBW is probably the best overall plot F/Sn had to offer.

  19. Z

    Nasu's writing is convoluted.

  20. D

    Yup, it is. Heaven's Feel is where that particular quality is at its worst, though.

  21. R

    This is interesting. Some say HF is great, but some say UBW is the best amongst all routes. I'm not a VN reader and tend to like Zero better…although I have to agree that ufotable's adaptation of Fate/stay night is a lot better than Deen's.

  22. Z

    HF is dark, and involves arguably the most evil bastard in the entire franchise.

  23. Z

    What an absolute piece of shovelware that turned out to be!

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