Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 14

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As is so often the case with Fate, this episode was a case of taking the bitter with the sweet.

For an episode that featured the great triumvirate of Fate awfulness – TsundeRin, Loli and Shinji – this episode was remarkably good.  Part of it was that we got the three of them in limited doses, part of it was that Ilyasviel did very little vamping and Shinji very little (though still too much) camping, but mostly it was because the really interesting members of this cast – namely, the Servants (though that term should be applied loosely here) were the real focus of the episode.

It was interesting that ufotable chose to do a backstory episode on Caster here, and I haven’t generally been crazy for the backstory detours in the Fate adaptations.  But this one really worked, because it showed Medea in a considerably more nuanced light than we’ve seen her for most of the series.  Like her disgust when she saw her old master Atram (Fuksuhima Jun – Naruko-kun, how could you?) needlessly killing scores of children in an inefficient alchemy operation she could easily obsolete without the need of an incantation.  Or her irritation at the way everyone dismisses her as a witch and a traitor, a pantomime villain to be mocked and jeered at.

Dare I say it, this was a character turn that could have come from Gen Urobuchi (though it didn’t) and I damn well like Caster better as a proud and resourceful anti-hero than a ranting sociopath.  And of course, any time you add Gilgamesh to the mix you know the spice level is going up several notches.  He’s been a near-invisibility in UBW thus far, but the sheer absurdity of his mismatched “partnership” with Shinji is rife with comic possibilities – though it’s Ilya’s household that’s on the receiving end of his seemingly limitless destructive power here.  To be fair, he did give the maids a chance to flee for their lives.

As that was happening we also had Shirou and Rin paying a visit to the von Einzbern villa – seeking potential allies of desperation with Caster’s ascendancy proceeding unchecked.  Berserker being Medea’s arch-enemy Heracles makes this a natural avenue for the Shirou and Rin to pursue, though the inherent advantages for Ilya’s side are harder to see.  Unfortunately I would assume at least the next episode is going to be heavily focused on her, and a little bit goes too far as far as I’m concerned. Normally what we saw this week is about as much as I can take.

It’s a function of the route that’s being adapted here, I suppose, but it’s striking to see a Fate adaptations that’s well into its second cour without the Grail War really being a war at all.  I mean, it hasn’t even started yet – and while the war itself isn’t really the point with UBW, I think this is yet another area where ufotable has a tougher task here than they did with Fate/Zero.  Not only was Gen free to devote himself to developing an interesting cast largely as he saw fit, but he got to write the really flashy part of the story.  With more eps like this one UBW can certainly remain an engaging and interesting show, but it’s definitely playing the weaker hand in multiple respects.

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11 comments

  1. e

    I kind of like this anime original. In the VN we never see Caster's previous master before she met Kuzuki, and we never see how Shinji and his mismatched servant pay visit to Ilyasviel. Too bad it's too short. And the final execution was censored. Kind of weird for an anime that shows real blood and deaths.

  2. R

    My only problem with the Caster backstory was that the transition into and out of it feels odd. I can't pinpoint exactly why, but the switch from Shirou/Rin to Caster's part then back to them again felt abrupt.

    On the other hand, with Illya's part, I don't know. We're supposed to sympathize with the girl because of the death of her maids (with matching Gilgamesh's remarks that their creators shouldn't have given these humonculi human hearts), but I just can't feel it. Mainly because , Illyas character and relationships are just poorly built up to this point.

    And I am still not fond of that shabby attempt to create comedy/humor through Shinji.

  3. w

    The Illya part is basically ufotable trying to create a follow-up with Zero with original scenes and Illya being a director favorite. Illya in this route is just not really important or fleshed at all. Still, next week episode should have nice scenes with her.

  4. T

    The Maids, I think were a nod back to watchers of Fate Prisma Illya. They are the ones who are going to feel anything about Sella and Leysritt's slaughter, since their characters get so much more fleshed out and humanized in Fate Prisma Illya – really, that small scene where Illya argues with Sella is just a very small slice of those two characters. Sympathy with Illya was not the only objective here, pandering to Fate Prisma Illya fans was.

    Of course, the fact that both of these characters will once again appear on screen next season in Fate Prisma Illya Hertz, blunts that quite abit.

    UBW is not the place where Illya's character is substantially built. Fate and especially HF (though Illya has to play second fiddle to Sakura Matou even there) is the place, and Fate Prisma Illya is where Illya is the primary focus.

    And yes, Shinji is just annoying.

  5. w

    Leysritt and Sella also appear in Fate/hollow ataraxia. I wonder if they will gave them more scenes in the future HF adaptation given their whole role for the war in the Einzbern camp.

  6. R

    The Illya part is basically ufotable trying to create a follow-up with Zero with original scenes and Illya being a director favorite. Illya in this route is just not really important or fleshed at all. Still, next week episode should have nice scenes with her.

    This one is really problematic from a storytelling perspective. I mentioned before that I would love to see UBW (the anime series, not the VN route) connect with Zero, but I also want to see it done properly. The thing is, even if Illya isn't supposed to be that important in this series' plot, the writer still has to build her properly to give such scenes as the death her maids and those "nice scenes" in next week's episode that needed emotional impact. Without that, these just feel like obligatory plot points that the anime series has to go through. It just feels like the writer isn't trying to elevate his material for the medium and is simply content with what the VN has

  7. w

    I think they will try to cram everything next episode when they should have done it gradually in the first cour. In the VN makes sense because there are lots of things built across the routes, but here not that much (even if they announced UBW and HF adaptations at the same time).

  8. w

    The route were you get more of a normal Holy Grail War is the first one, Fate (in other words, Saber's route). Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven's Feel take the whole thing and turn it 180º degrees in their own ways. It makes sense in the VN because you already experienced a normal war.

    Still, Fate/Zero was written to be the Holy Grail War most similar to a standard Holy Grail War. Nasu gave that directive to Gen, and Gen took it really seriously even while respecting the themes and making them tie with the three routes in one way or another.

    Also, ufotable said that they cut 7 minutes from this episode for the TV version. I suppose they will not have the part of Caster's interlude when they talk about her nature as an anti-hero (it was interesting but I can't see it working in animated form) but I would like to have more about her first meeting with Kuzuki, as here they glossed over it a bit.

  9. D

    You've conjured an image in my mind of a sinister Naruko-kun inefficiently riding his bicycle, hooked up to a generator, to power a primitive machine that harvests the energy of children. That's a weird and hilarious mental image.

  10. Future doujin.

  11. D

    Good episode. As a vn reader I really enjoyed all the new/extra stuff that ufotable added to the story and I somewhat hope they would do that a little more often. As much as I enjoy the novel, there are certainly ways it can be improved upon and I'm confident ufotable could do that if they took a few more liberties. Otherwise it's a mild shame to spend all this budget and beautiful animation just to showcase familiar mistakes and shortcomings in a new frame.

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