Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 15

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I suspect this is another one of those Fate eps where mainstream opinion and myself are two ships passing in the night.

I confess I almost bailed on this episode a couple of times, but I’m glad I stuck it out because the last three minutes or so were the feel-good story of the week, a real comedy extravaganza.  I did consider not blogging this episode, to be honest, and my better angels are telling me no good can come of me doing so – and at the very least, to keep my thoughts as brief as possible.

So, to that end, in brief: I didn’t think much of everything up to the point where Gilgamesh started pulling weapons out of his ass Gate of Babylon and whacking on Heracles, but everything after that was great.  I fully admit the flaws of Gilgamesh as a narrative device – he’s the classic hack overpowered Deux ex character – but anyone who can shut Illyasviel the fuck up is aces in my book.

If that makes it sound like I hate the character, apply Occam’s Razor and you’ll get to the truth.  Illya, for me, is everything about the Fate mythology at its most lazy and manipulative.  And there are episodes like this one in every Fate series, ones which are totally unnecessary apart from the need to check certain boxes on the “to do” list for a Fate series.  This franchise can be much better than this and often (even “usually”) is, and that’s why I keep blogging it, but it indulges this nonsense far too often.  And while I’m sure there are good reasons for these episodes from a marketing standpoint, that doesn’t justify them from a creative one.

In different circumstances, I might be rooting for Gil to finally get a dose of humility pounded into him – he is indeed an arrogant SOB and way too powerful to really work as a character.  But for the job at hand, he was the perfect choice – you don’t carry a butter knife into a swordfight.  And at least Berserker’s persistent refusal to die gave us the chance to see genuine surprise (and maybe even alarm once or twice) on Gil’s smug face.  But thankfully, after he’d put his sword to community service.

Oh, and Shirou?  You’re a fucking idiot.  I’m sorry, but having just seen what you saw, your response is to announce your presence with a cubby-bear grown and throw yourself into that pit of fire?  Not exactly a flowering of 14 episodes worth of character development there.

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  1. w

    Shirou is not logical, he is just insane and devoid of any self-worth. He just don't care about he saw more than that someone was killed and maybe he could have done something. That should be obvious at this point and the part with Rin trying to restrain him with all her might perfectly shows it.

    Also, while I respect your opinion I still think that you got your own opinion on some things (like Illyasviel) and it doesn't matter what happens you will twist and distort it to fit your own viewpoint so it is not challenged in any possible way.

  2. K

    Well, he does have a point in Illysviel's case. A 18 year old girl that looks like a 12 year old because… what? She is like the embodiment of all the wrong things in Fate, the things that appeal to the visual novel crowd: the porn and the clichés.

    The episode was kind of meh trying to stir pity out of the viewers, they should have spill Illya's characterization in the last cour, trying to create a link to viewer beyond "Cute creepy child who is an adult, see this? Pity her."

  3. S

    Wait, Ilysviel was 18 O_o? Just… how? Shirou's not 18, and Ilysviel looked smaller than him back in Fate/Zero. I thought she was, like, 12 here. I may have lost count of the years somewhere in there though, and anime's never been good at communicating the ages of its characters really.

  4. w

    But there is a reason for that too. Illya being 18 years old was not due to a cliche (it is not really that important in the VN or directly mentioned), but to make a really moving scene in the VN even more moving. And it totally worked there. The problem is that is not even in this route and Fate/Zero spoiled the whole thing in the first place. The reason because Fate/stay night got popular in the first place wasn't because of the cliches (as the characters are actually made to subvert them) or the porn (as it was a pretty minor part of the thing).

    Still, I think that Enzo is just shallowly looking at the cliche without even trying to look or give an oportunity to what it is inside.

  5. M

    I get that Shirou is insane and has no self-worth. He can't help but try to help people. I think his actions this episode would have been all well and good to me if Rin wasn't right there with him. He has next to no chance of saving Illya and even after Rin manages to restrain him he still yells shit even though Illya is already dead. WTF Shirou! Fine, get yourself killed, but Rin too? I don't want to ever hear him spout his hero bullshit again after he so wrecklessly put Rin, someone he loves, in danger.

  6. G

    Pretty much from what i have seen from his previous episode blog of this series is hating on Ilya without even looking from other perspective. I think what the episode have shown that there is more to her character. She is a tragic girl got abandoned by her parents(She thinks)and had to put of becoming a weapon for a stupid grail war. She is just a disposable tool for the Einzbern to complete operation Heaven's Feel. Sure, people can argue all they want that the backstory should have been shown last cour and that is a valid complaint and i respect that, but had Ufotable did that other content would have been cut since it's a lengthy backstory(Some of it are even anime-original and i thought they did a pretty good jobl). I thought that showing it this episode rather than in the first season or previous episodes of this season is the right timing because it would felt more fresher since it would been quite a while before we see Ilya again since episode 3. But i guess it's a matter of perspective for the viewer what to feel in the end.

  7. R

    Yeah, he can be rather stubborn when it comes to things he doesn't like. I find his positive reviews to be a lot more thoughtful and enjoyable to read.

  8. S

    I perhaps kinda understand from the comments above what you might be referring to. Since I had completely forgotten anything about Ilya's age and background except "daughter of Kiritsugu and that other homunculus-vessel-girl back in F/Z" I basically didn't look at it from your point of view at all and just took it as a story about artificial humans and their exploitation, which on its own is an interesting angle. In fact I was probably heavily influenced by the fact that I'm watching Battlestar Galactica these days, and the daughter of a human and an artificial human… yeah. But fact is, I had no issue with the episode and in fact enjoyed the break from Shirou and Rin's tsundere romcom hijinks. This kinda looked more like it could have been an episode of Fate/Zero to me. The only thing that made me roll my eyes was Berserker protecting Ilya of his own free will because… what exactly? Dunno. Whatever. Anime will be anime at times I guess.

  9. w

    Because Berserker has some regrets about his children.

  10. S

    Oh, that whole "murdering his wife and children in his madness" thingy, right. They should have hinted at that though, even knowing that relatively less famous piece of Herakles' story I still didn't think about it.

  11. R

    I have to preface my comment by saying t5hat while I am aware how this part goes in the VN, but I am only concerned about how the anime series presented it (viewing it from the POV of someone who have only touched the anime).

    I am rather disappointed at how they did Ilya's storyline here. While she might not be that "important" in the plot, she probably has one of the biggest narrative tie ins to Shirou, with them both being connected to kiritsugu, which they could have used to create an interesting contrast between her and Shirou (which could also have added some depth to Shirou's idiot moment in the last part. And her relationship with with Berserker could have been an interesting narrative thread on its own, as well as her internal conflicts about being a humonculus.

    Alas, that hasty move of shafting her entire backstory into a single episode just doesn't cut it with her lack buildup. This just comes off as nothing more than "Oh, the creepy loli died. Who's next?"

    (And no, I won't be taking in the whole "You should just wait for Heavens Feel, she gets more story there" retort).

  12. e

    This is definitely one of the weakest Master-Servant pairings in terms of writing and character development. I couldn't wait for the episode to end, especially when Berserker suddenly became all mushy for Illya, protecting her from the wolves. And Illya did next to nothing while her servant was fighting (and she calls herself a powerful master!). To think that she was quite decent, in an earlier episode, against Rin.

    I actually very much welcome Shirou's hard-headedness. At least he's quite consistent with that.

  13. w

    It's not that she could have done anything against Gilgamesh.

    And the Einzbern are quite mushy at combat, Illya was just the most powerful Master in terms of output (and being able to control Berserker without dying like what happened with Berserker's Master in the previous war).

  14. M

    Yeah why the shit didn't she do anything in that fight? The fight did a great job showing off the strength of both Gil and Berserker, but otherwise I was disappointed. It was basically just Gil killing Berserker over and over again as Illya stood there. How about retreating after Berserker died for the 5th time? Or maybe go after Shinji? He was right there!

  15. G

    Well, have you seen how fast Gate of Babylon pulls out it's weapon from this episode? It's fast enough to skewer something like Berserker close ranged(GoB's speed is one of the main deciding factor of how to beat Gilgamesh in future episodes and Ufotable kind of made it way faster than it should have been). Plus, it almost can appear in any place and he could actually skewer Ilya if she move or even attacked Shinji at any moment. Broserker is the only one who is preventing that and even then he is struggling of from attacking GIL then suddenly defending Ilya. Ilya is also already scared that whom she thought as Invincible is being beaten to a pulp.

  16. M

    I must be the only one of the few who doesn't think that badly about Shirou's idiotic nature to enter a fight when he is clearly powerless. He's done it several times already before this that even Rin herself knows this and that's why she's warned him before they watch the fight. At this point you have to realise Shirou have this OCD just to do something to help even when he can't do anything useful.

    And I agree Gilgamesh is an arrogant SOB that need someone to teach him a lesson. He's ruining this Grail War with his hax abilities. Hopefully one of the remaining Servants will step up to whoop his ass, unlike Berserker.

  17. A

    Ah yes, the infamous "Lawful Stupid" alignment– in honor of his creator, Mr. Stupid. That was probably the second dumbest thing Shirou has done so far in this adaptation, which is honestly not that bad, all things considered. Of course, I don't blame him for losing his temper watching a little girl getting mangled right in front of him, but the timing he picked was just horribly cringe-inducing.

    As for Illya, I'm sorry, I've played the games and even follow the Illya spin-off, but I still thought this episodes dragged a lot. I've never liked these last minute flashbacks, they feel cheap and just stop the story flat on its tracks. I feel worse for her maids, honestly. At least Liz was funny.

  18. S

    Yeah, he was like "is she dead yet? Yep, dead. Now I can finally act selflessly without risking actually being useful but still being able to ensure that as much crap as possible befalls me!".

  19. A

    To be fair, he /was/ being pinned down by Rin at the time, but that still doesn't excuse him for jumping out of the bushes right after she was clearly beyond help.

  20. w

    I would not define Shirou with an alignment, he is just fucked in the head.

  21. M

    I wish I would've had some attachment to Illya so this ep would've had some impact on me. At best I could feel sorry for her but overall be glad that we can move on. Shoving her backstory in the same ep she get's killed is a poor attempt at getting the viewer's affection as it is(not that it doesn't work). I was never a fan of Illya either thought I could tolerate her and just try not to mind her so I suppose I should be glad this was over with in just 1 ep. But still, I'll back up what Roger said in that I'm disappointed that narrative tie ins she has to Shirou due to both of their connection to Kiritsu wasn't explored at all. I was actually looking forward to them having a conversation, even a brief one, about that.

  22. w

    You will have what you want in a future adaptation.

  23. D

    And that's bullshit. To say fans will get what they want from Heaven's Feel renders UBW as nothing more than a cash grab that doesn't deserve the light of day as an animation. It exists to deliver on one self contained twist and that's it. It has no reason to exist in terms of being connected to the universe as it's only Fate that delivers on Saber's character and Heaven's Feel that delivers on everything else.

    This is not the visual novel where it had more leeway to tell Shirou's story and see the overall project as a whole.

  24. R

    Again, why would we have to wait for another adaptation when what MgMaster and I are looking for is something that should fundamentally be here? You want me to sympathize and empathize with the young girl whose trusted maidservants she loved died? Then show me what her relationship with them was like. You want me to feel hapless as the noble giant tries desperately tries to protect his young master despite said master being initially cold towards him? Then show me how their relationship progressed over time.

  25. w

    Roger, this is an adaptation of a Visual Novel with three routes and the characterization and development is distributed among the three. This is just the second one, not everyone gets their share here. It is a flaw of the medium transition, at least we know it will be adapted later.

    And Drake Chandler, UBW delivers on a lot of stuff, it will be seen later once the climax comes.

  26. D

    I have to disagree as someone who has finished the visual novel.

  27. w

    Well, people has different opinions. Different strokes for different folks.

  28. Z

    Not a fan of ilya, neither a hater. I also stand in the middle as far as the impression goes, it isn't anywhere near "the best/most brutal and traumatizing death in FSN", but it's still a decent episode otherwise. It could be much better though, for example:
    – Less technical (and rather unnecessary) details on einzberns.
    – More reason for Heracles to make a bond with ilya (he has regrets about his own children thing).
    – Better timing for Shirou to jump. Hopefully also related to more Shirou-Ilya relations.

    For example : Bersercar almost dead and chained by Enkidu. Ilya got desperate and calling bersercar name, and then desperately asking anyone to help (including shirou, probably by instinct). Shirou can't stand it anymore and showing up, although probably we can't distract the focus from Ilya-Heracles relationship so it get interrupted by Gil/Heracles waking up/both.

  29. T

    My feelings about this series is one big meh. I didn't care much about Fate Zero, but at least all the characters were able to get their stories told in a consistent narrative that fits in an anime format, but this series has done nothing to make me care about anyone. I actually like Gil as he was one of my favorites in Fate Zero so for me he adds a much needed pathos to this dull story.

    Were at half way point and I still don't care this series so hence I'm dropping this series. I at least gave it a chance though :/

  30. D

    In my opinion, what makes Shiro worse than he already is is that the series has been shoving down our throats that he needs to be less stupid, but he never is. It isn't just about how annoying he is, but also how he clashes with the very tone of the story itself. And I feel like Enzo sees this too, "Not exactly a flowering of 14 episodes worth of character development there."

    As for this episode specifically, I can't bring myself to hate it because I already hate the entire show. It's just one more stupid tease for a plot point that'll never get fulfilled. And when it comes to scenes I do like this series hasn't done a single one of them justice. But Ilya's character does bother me in her concept. She could possibly be one of my favorites, but she's a marketing ploy as a loli despite her real age. Her being a loli is uncalled for, and given the worst explanation just like everything else this series tries so hard to cover up.

  31. w

    First, Shirou's point is not even to have character development and that will seen later. And no, it actually fits with the story because it is made that way and actually self-adressed within it and given a reason. And that will be aparent soon (well, it actually is really, it will be just even more obvious).

    Second, Illya being older that she seems is not even important in the original and just there for the sake of exactly what you want.

  32. D

    To your entire first paragraph, I'm aware. That's why I don't like it.

  33. R

    Drake. I think you forget what the original VN was written by and made for: Tokyo Big Sight attendants.
    Everything made by TypeMoon ever did had as a first priority to spawn more appealing character. Telling a story comes second.

    So I fail see a loli character as something uncalled for. Same as fanservice moments with Rin or Saber.

  34. D

    I'm confused on whether you're agreeing with me or trying to oppose me. You in no way justified Fate for how shitty it is, you only insulted it further. If that is the point and you're telling me to quit with further ranting, I'm gladly going to decline.

  35. T

    So Ufotable is going with the Akame ga Kill route of giving a character who had virtually no screen time a sudden tragic back story then offs her in the same episode. Ugh. Not to mention the fight scene between Gil and Beserker was boring as shit. And fuck Shiro. Seriously.

  36. E

    You have to admit that Ilya's flashback had some nice callbacks to Fate/Zero and ethereally creepy scenes at least. All the stuff after Heracle's appearance I would agree are dumb…

  37. Z

    Not that Illya is a great character or anything, but her death scene was better in the Movie.

  38. C

    I thought it was okay. Just okay. Not a big fan of interrupting the big tense moment with flashbacks, nor of trying to make us care about a loli at the last second. In fact the whole thing reflected a lot better on Berserker rather than Ilya. It just lacked too much emotional impact to care about her. People who didn't play the VN will not give a single crap about her, and those who did might care but only if they liked her in HF.

    The fight choreography sucked, that's for sure.

  39. F

    You sound EXTREMELY jaded and biased about this episode (but that's just my unprofessional opinion). I was really conflicted about this episode since I like both Illiya and GIl. It seems like she was born just to suffer every moment of her waking life aside from when Kiritsugu was with her.

  40. R

    Nah. Enzo does not hate Fate at all 😛
    If you want a jaded Enzo, try to find something about SHAFT on the blog. Ihihiihi

  41. I feel like quoting Inigo Montoya here – doesn't seem as if folks know what "jaded" means at all…

  42. B

    Please…drop your UBW reviews.

    It's painfully obvious just how much you despise UBW and just how much more you prefer FZ. Sadly, this isn't FZ.

    If you are incapable of looking at this series through anything but lens of negativity, then please, don't force yourself to watch this anymore. The sole fact you failed to acknowledge Ilya's backstory and just focused on Archer shows how utterly unprofessional and biased you are.


  43. A

    He praises the series a lot though, I can't speak for Enzo but if he didn't like parts of it I don't think he'd waste time blogging it especially when that invites people literally begging him to stop just because it upsets them.

    No one's forcing you to read the posts.

  44. D

    I think variety is good, and why else would I be here if I didn't like hearing his thoughts on these matters.

  45. E

    If anything, Enzo, I'd recommend you to drop blogging this show only because you don't deserve the grief of having Type-Moon hardcores shitting up your comment sections with their zeal and justification.

    Even I can tell when T-M is just justifying shit on the fly for the sake of the fanservice. "But no, it's actually because-" No it's not. It's not and you know it, people. You know it all too well, and Fate-Zero is also very guilty of it. Hell, Heaven's Feel is even worse at it.

    If you can put that aside and look at the franchise with eyes that only see a dark fantasy story, good for you. But don't expect everyone else to do the same.

  46. Well listen, we're at like 40 comments here, which is a good thing in and of itself. I certainly notice that when I praise Fate (which is actually a majority of the time, easily) I barely generate a comment at all. Make of that what you will.

    I've long ago resigned myself to the fact that for most anime fans, there's no middle ground. If you ever criticize a series, that means you hate it. Just goes with the territory.

  47. R

    >Type-Moon hardcores shitting up your comment sections with their zeal and justification.

    Did you even read the comments? There's barely any hate. I see fans discussing and sharing opinions about the episode, the characters and the franchise just like in any other internet space. Very few of them refer Enzo directly or flame for no reason.

  48. E

    I'm not speaking of Enzo hate (and I see a little bit of that, or at least grief, in some posts), but of the "it's good" vs. "it sucks" going around between some of the people posting here.

    I very much like this franchise for the good in it. But I don't deny there are serious flaws in it, and I also don't deny the reason for its existence. But people on the Internet, when talking about a show, they either need to lavish it or vilify it. Why? Is there something wrong in saying "well it's OK and some parts of it are kinda bad but I still like it"?

    At least there are no T-M purists around saying people don't deserve to be watching this unless they've consumed everything else T-M has released.

  49. E

    I think Enzo is too kind on the show personally.

    The writing and especially the direction is abysmal. The plot itself is okay, nothing special and not a remarkable number of holes or inconsistencies, but the way it is written is just unengaging, wooden and halfhearted. It honestly feels like were written by a 15 year old just going through the motions, there is no sense of economy, tension or wit. We get 10 minute long scenes of dialogue- which is okay- that is literally just exposition. A good long dialogue scene should be bursting with pathos, emotion and powerful, varied dialogue. It shouldn't be written like they are ticking a bunch of boxes, which ironically makes the dialogues both longer and yet more lacking in content.

    The direction itself is pretty uninspired. The issues with the pacing, tone and emotion fall almost as much to the lackluster direction as they do the writing. More importantly, a good director would have more effectively translated a visual novel to the screen, and instructed the removal of uneccessary or overlong scenes. The first season in particular was brimming with pointless, overlong scenes like 'Shirou walking', 'Shirou having a 5 minute irrelevant talk with a schoolmate/Taiga' and 'Shirou talks about his hero of justice shit for the nth time'. It is told in such an incredibly boring and linear fashion, a literal translation of the VN, without any atmosphere whatsoever. Where is the im media res storytelling, quick cuts between related scenes to build tension, or overall episodes that revel in the anime medium and doing things only animated shows can do? None of that good stuff, just going through the motions. Someone like Ei Aoki (director of Fate/Zero) would never have stood for shit like this.

    Oh yeah, and the unmemorable, generic and often nonexistent soundtrack that pales in comparison to the one in the original F/SN and Fate/Zero. Music and visuals as a pairing working in sync are extremely important, and both the composer and director fail to understand that. Sure, the lack of music can be used as a powerful tone setter in its own right, but in this case its clearly a matter of incompetence.

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