Who is Archer-ko, you might ask? If you don’t spend long periods of time looking into Type-Moon minutia that is not a name that would be familiar to you. But she is a semi-popular fanon character that as far as I can tell originally comes from the Sword Dancers doujinshi series. She is a version of Illya from the future who becomes a counter-guardian in an alternate timeline instead of Shiro. Therefore in that timeline she is Archer in the place of EMIYA. This alternate future Illya is then summoned to the present with all the standard powers we know for Archer but in the form of a cute girl.
That is either an explanation that makes perfect sense to you or something that requires charts and footnotes to even get something close to as partial understanding of.
Sufficed to say she is a fan made character whose atheistic appeal and odd back story hooked her a small fan following, But now that she has essentially appeared in an official work she has crossed that thin but important line from popular fan creation to official part of the universe. It sort of reminds me of the whole Fionna and Cake deal from Adventure Time. It is really only a matter of time before she start appearing in things like Carnival Phantasm or Fate/Extra.
Actually the random thought that just popped into my head was: “Wait! EMIYA has all the powers he does because his origin is Swords not because he became a counter-guardian. Therefore Archer-ko should have a completely different set of powers as a counter-guardian more probably aligned to the Third Magic.” Then I remember the MST3K mantra and the fact that the character was mostly made because someone thought dressing Illya up as Archer was hot.
Rin and Luviagelita prove that you can never win a fight win beam spam. Saber unleashes hell. Illya and Miyu run for their lives and get cornered which unlocks Illya’s hidden powers. Illya infused with the power of the Archer card unleashes holy hell.
But let us be serious. There is a reason I gave that summary the short shrift. The main bulk of this episode is really an extended Archer-Ko fan service battle scene. Not your standard sexual fan service. Just sword and arrow porn.
Seriously girls. Always double tap your enemy. Even Gipsy Danger knew to do that in Pacific Rim. You girls just saw the results of not making sure your enemy was dead with the Caster card. Why did you think that Saber would be any different? But Rin and Luviagelita’s bickering lets Saber power up a massive Excalibur blast.
I will say that if nothing else this episode uses the river near where they are fighting to give some impressive displays of how much power is exactly being thrown around. The water displacement gives a good sense of the magnitude of the blasts that simple craters alone do not convey. Also the shots of the bridge having cascading waterfalls coming off of it after so much water has been thrown up in the air is visually striking.
But after the blast, the already somewhat rattled Illya starts to go into extreme shock when she cannot find a trace of Rin, Luvia, or even Ruby and Sapphire. It is soon apparent that Illya just gives up all hope. If their mentors could not defeat Saber with all their training and power then what can two little girls do without any magical protection?
With nothing that is an extreme threat left to fight Saber slowly but methodically hunts down her two remaining targets. She throws around some powerful but unfocused attacks to flush her pray out of hiding. While Miyu does not really have a plan she takes charge of the situation enough to get the both of them out of danger but it is soon obvious that she is more stalling for time than having a real game plan.
Soon enough the hunter is able to destroy enough cover to force the two unarmed girls into the open. And that is when something in Illya snaps finally releasing that which was sealed inside her. Her desperate need for power awakens her ability to meld with class cards and gain their full power.
And so Illya becomes Archer-ko, the human arsenal, complete with an Unlimited Blade Works fueled cache of attacks.
And it is quite a familiar bunch of weapons indeed. With the full installation in effect Archer produces more than just Archer’s Bow without any arrows. The first weapons that really get used are the classic swords Archer always uses, Kanshou and Bakuya. The twin swords are Archer’s signature weapon (even more than his bow) and their inclusion here is no exception. She does get them in overedge mode and then throw out with the Crane Wing Three Realm technique like she was going trough tissues during flu season. But in her defense that is how a master of Reinforcement and Projection fights at their best.
Actually it should be said the first Archer signature item she uses is Rho Aias: The Seven Rings that Cover the Fiery Heavens. Rho Aias is the Greek hero Ajax’s shield who is mostly know for his role in the Iliad. Illya uses Rho Aias to block a ranged shot from Saber and then follows it up by firing some insignificant swords at her as arrows. But the ranged attack was mostly just a way to get her into melee distance.
But when Saber has been softened up Illya actually uses the bow that gives her class its name and fires off Caladbolg II. For some reason Archer has the sequel to Fergus mac Róich’s (now with Joe Pesci and an evil South African diplomat) that he uses as an explosive arrow. While it does not land a killing blow it does smash Saber’s cool shades which means it is go time.
If nothing else this fight gives a little credence to the idea that Counter Guardians are supposed to be scary. As awesome as Archer is in the games he does come off as a bit fragile. He is majorly wounded in every arc of Fate/Stay Night and dies in two of the three arcs near the middle of the story. He is not exactly Renji from Bleach but a little more could have been done to prove he is a formidable fighter (although he does get a great Han Solo style surprise rescue in Unlimited Blade words.) Seeing Illya wipe the floor with Saber fulfilled the promise made in the original story.
But once Saber takes off the kid gloves it comes down to an Excalibur battle. As Saber builds up energy for one final blast from the Hammer of the Vile King we see that Illya projects her own version of a pure Excalibur. And in true shonen fighting fashion they partake in a who has the more powerful energy blast battle. Illya proves Shiro’s point once again, “But there is no rule that says an imitation cannot defeat the original. If you say you are the original, I will surpass every one of your weapons and destroy your existence.”
And so the Saber card is defeated. And we (I mean me) are all a little heartbroken. It is the sadness of Heaven’s Feel all over again.
This is also the original Fate/Stay Night OST remix episode. We get three songs that I easily recognize with their own Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya remixes. The obvious ones to most people (as in people who read posts like this and not regular human beings) are Sword of Promised Victory and Emiya. Sword of Promised Victory is the iconic Excalibur theme while Emiya is the signal for anything involving Unlimited Blade Works. Those are some of the more iconic and often remixed songs in the series. The song at the very after the credits was instantly recognizable to me but might not stand out as much if you did not play the visual novel. Ever-present Feeling is a song they would play when there was a soft emotional moment especially when characters are revealing a bit of themselves. When Miyu is taking Illya home on her back the music gives the scene an extra bit of emotional resonance.
Speaking of that after the credits we get one final scene. It seems that Illya has gone unconscious after her transformation and while uninjured she seems incredibly worn out. But before Rin can start to take Illya home Miyu is insistent on carrying her new friend home albeit with a bit of a heavy heart. It is a sweet way of showing how Miyu has started to open her self to her partner.
After two fights in a row the story need a bit of a break so there seems to mostly be double entendres and maid costumes in the next episode. The durian sorbet of fanservice is never far behind the filet mignon of plot in this series.