I’m going to start with a tangentially related intro for this post. I think that is acceptable as this episode is mostly one long fight with the corrupted King of Knights so I can ramble a bit.
I admit it. It is partially my fault. If it were not for my constant Saber talk we would probably not have Sakura Saber to add to the pile of Saber variations (That includes Saber, casual Saber, Saber Alter, casual Saber Alter, Realta Nua Extra Ending Saber, Saber Lion, Lily Saber, Fate/Zero Saber, Bathing Suit Saber, Swimsuit Saber, Bathing Suit Saber Alter, Volks Saber Alter, Saber Maid, Red Saber, Saber Bride, Emperor Saber, Santa Saber, casual Red Saber, this shamelessness, Heroine Sanctuary Red Saber, Saber of the Red, Mordred, Master Artoria, Archetype Saber, Joan of Arc, Heroine Sanctuary Joan of Arc, Saber Dress Code, Yakuta Saber, and Mysterious Heroine X among others.) And they seem to be attempting to make each of the distinct enough that they can be marketed on their own as well as in groups. They keep making them because I keep getting interested in them. My bad.
And then Mysterious Heroine X has to hunt them all down.
In a way it is almost quaint for them to go back to plain vanilla Saber Alter with no bells and whistles. It is not Prisma Illya Princess of Darkness Saber, Big Bang Punch Saber, Idol Saber, or Saber von Lohengramm. Just the classic Saber variation. It has been awhile. Enjoy it while it lasts.
After the defeat of the unpopular Caster we see our dastardly villains reveling in their ill-gotten victory snatched from the kindly if silent witch. But her heroic ally will not let her death go unavenged. The just and beautiful Saber Alter nobly strides onto the battlefield letting her skill, power, and grace overcome the dastardly scheming of the four infernal sorceresses. At the end of the episode it seems that the fiends have broken through our hero’s barrier but she still might have a skill or two that can turn this fight around.
Some people MIGHT have alternate interpretations on this episode. But this is my blog so I can write-up the episode summaries however I want.
But in all seriousness the episode begins with a recap of the last episode where in the aftermath of the battle with Caster we see Rin and Luvia discussing the fact that the closed space around them is not collapsing making them realize a bit too late that a second servant is in the area. And then the Saber card beats them down.
I do have to wonder if this Saber and Caster team up is supposed to be a reference to Saber being captured by Caster and temporally working for her in Unlimited Blade Works. The broken Saber in the thrall of Caster is supposed to be Lilly Saber but Lily Saber is not anywhere nearly as intimidating as Saber Alter. Also it might not be a nod to that game path at all. It might have just been a point of lively plotting to have those two in the same area more than anything else.
It is quickly apparent to Ilya and Miyu that this new card is just as dangerous as the last one if not more so. Also Miyu cannot power up using the Lancer card again after just using it to defeat Caster. The Archer card just seems to manifest a bow without arrows and the Caster card is too unpredictable to use. So they both devise a plan for Miyu to distract the Saber Card while Ilya saves the injured Rin and Luvia so they can escape and fight again another day.
But Saber proves to be more than capable of fending off such a feint. Her sword makers her deadly at short-range, she has a long ranged attack, and a mana bubble that acts as a shield to fend off opposing long ranged magical attacks. It seems while Saber Alter normally has a much weaker magic resistance than the Saber Classic™ version this one has a mana shield to keep her safe. Normally these two girls could just snipe away at Saber but that is no longer an option.
The bungled rescue attempt leads to Ilya getting a major but not life threatening gash from a long-range blast that barely missed from connecting. This leads Illya to go into a state of shock. In many ways despite everything that has happened this is the first time she has realized she very well may die doing this. When she was almost nuked by Caster the threat was almost abstract. This danger has a real face and a clear and manifest hurt. A reaction like this is probably why Miyu wanted Ilya not to fight in the first place.
After Miyu steps in a defends a helpless Ilya they decide to regroup and try to find a new plan. They are given a little time to strategize when Rin has recovered enough to fight again and provides a bit of a distraction for the 2 magical girls. Soon enough she is able to wake Luvia. Neither of the can take out Saber but then can eat up her time.
Rin soon notices that while this Saber is strong and has the defenses of a tank but it is not intelligent. It is more like an automated turret than a thinking warrior. It mostly reacts to targets than anything else. And so when Saber focused on new targets it gives Ilya and Miyu a chance for a Hail Mary play that the two magical sticks consider a distasteful option. Ilya and Miyu throw back their wands to their former owners letting their mentors temporarily become magical girls again.
And here is where we see why these two goofballs were picked in the first place (besides Luvia’s massive mammaries and Rin’s fantastic legs.) They can actually work together quite well if they try. Rin rushes in and uses Ruby’s ability to act as a sword to engage Saber in melee combat. Rin is not nearly good enough to defeat Saber in hand to hand. The main purpose of this engagement is three-fold. The first is to get Saber focusing on Rin and not Luvia. The second is to kick up a lot of dust to obscure anything going around in the background.
And the third reason is to let Rin get close enough to take down Saber’s protective barrier with a point-blank shot. Illya remembers that all too well as Rin used that tactic on her the first time they met. After Saber’s Mana shield is down the dust starts to clear as the audience and Saber notices that Luvia has been setting up a powerful array of magical circles of laser death like Caster did the episode before. Now that Saber is much more vulnerable to ranged attacks they plan to broadside the swordswoman with a curtain of mana blasts.
The episode ends there. But clearly while Saber had lost her first line of defense she is still far from defeated. Her sword if not called Excalibur: The Half-hearted Pinky Swear Mostly Made Just to Get Someone off Your Back of Victory. It it is going to make more than some pretty lights to defeat her. Also Illya is the protagonist. If her mentors win this battle then where is her place in the show?