Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #004 – A Good Neighborhood Tiger

hisui_icon_4040 Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

But seriously there was a lot of Taiga in this episode. I mean I love the lady. She is a lovely comic relief character with an earnest heart. I have a feeling that she might have won over a few hearts at Ufotable through Eizenberg consultation room extras just like she was a character beloved by the staff of Type-Moon during the creation of Fate/Stay Night. This is also the only path where she actually participates in the main plot. All that said she always has been a minor character. There was a reason that when Studio Deen threw the United Blade Works parts of Caster’s story into their version of Fate they had Sakura be the one who was kidnapped instead of Taiga. It was one of the few times one of the changes did not do that much to alter the themes of the story. You could argue that putting Sakura in that role added themes and elements that were never meant to be there but I think it is more an interesting choice that can be debated as more than just a poor decision like many of the other changes they made.

I don’t mind more Tiger but like the added prominence of Ayako Mitsuduri and the Three Amiags it makes me wonder if they are trying to build up these characters a bit more for Fate/Hollow Ataraxia. I know part of the reason I keep mentioning it is because I’m seriously hoping that Ufotable will animate the sequel game as they are probably one of the few studios who could easily find a way to tell that story in a way that hits all the highlights, captures the themes correctly, and only cuts the enjoyable but unnecessary filler parts of that story. I really feel like the only way characters like BazettCaren, and Avenger will gain any serious prominence is if they get a role in a proper anime. I feel like one of the reasons Tsukihime has always been a lower tier is that its anime has always been lower profile as well. Without a decently accepted anime you will never be able to break through that glass ceiling.

Now that Shiro is officially part of the Holy Grail War and informed of what the stakes are Rin tells him that her debt has been paid. They are now enemies when they next meet. Despite this Shiro mostly spends his time returning to his normal schedule. This results in Saber following him to school and creating a bit of a hubbub that comes with beautiful blond foreigner following him around. In fact it ends with Sakura and Taiga spending the night to prevent any hanky panky at the Emiya residence.

At the same time Rin is actually making progress and she discovers that the mysterious gas leaks are actually the result of Caster who has settled in at the Ryuudou Temple. Rin has chosen her next target no matter how formidable they might be.

I thought we got this out of our system with Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya. I realize this is a bit of fleshing of out of Illya’s motivations, confirmation that she knows that Shiro is Kiritsugu’s son, and that she plans to get revenge on her old man through his heir. But in reality we know that major reason to have this scene is to show of a bathing Illya. They could have had this scene taking place over Illya having tea or eating dinner but that is not what they chose.

It does make you wonder if they are ever going to dig out that Illya path down the road. It would not sell if it were made. I think it is more a matter of Nasu not being the quickest writer and having enough on his plate as it is than a lack of demand.

We also get to see a bit of Sella and Leysritt. They have always been minor players who would have apparently gotten more screen time if there was an Illya path (including some sexy times) but if nothing else Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya has probably pushed them to bit more prominence. Leysritt’s more notable features surely don’t hurt.

But this also means unless there are some serious changes to what happens in this arc these two women are not going to have a happy life where they retire to the countryside to raise Illya and bicker about who is pulling their weight in the maintenance of the mansion.

Rin has a bit of flab on her mind in this scene. Actually I had forgotten those odd little turns of phrase she uses like their being too much flab on her mind from the visual novel. They usually never have her use her Rin-isms in other adaptations.

Of course Shiro walks right into that one. There may be a reason Rin likes messing with you Shiro. The fact that she likes you might just be an added bonus on top of trying to teach you not to stick your foot in your mouth.

But beyond Shiro being Shiro this is a prime example of the real Rin being in conflict with the mask she wears which is also in conflict with the person she sees herself as. Rin presents herself as a prim and proper lady of the mildest Maria-sama ga Miteru variety, she thinks that she is a Oniisama e.. battle-ax, but in reality she is a kind but fierce Teresa of the Faint Smile. She tries to make it out that she will kill Shiro but in the end she is a defender of the innocent and a noble soul. As much as she wants to be as ruthless as her father she is a truly righteous person at heart.

It seems that when Rin cannot be the queen of exposition then it falls on the once and future King of England to give Shiro and the audience some needed information. Saber goes into from greater details of how the Grail War works and how the classes break down. We have Archer (Ranger), Assassin (Rouge), Berserker (Barbarian), Caster (Wizard), Lancer (Fighter), Saber (Paladin), and Rider (Cavalier) as the roles that the Servants can be summoned under. All of this also works to obfuscate the true name of the hero who was summoned in each category. Being able to identify a hero is a major part of the Holy Grail War. If you know you fighting Achilles you would not want to waste time targeting any other part of his body other than his heel whereas if you know you are fighting Thor you can plan your strategy around the limitations of Mjölnir. Knowledge is power.

As Shiro is such a low-level hedge wizard Saber opts not to reveal her identity to Shiro in fear that a more powerful magical opponent would easily be able to uncover which Servant he had summoned putting them at a major disadvantage. While Saber respects Shiro she also realizes his weaknesses.

Also this naming convention added a bit of mystery to Saber’s identity when people read the original visual novel. It is easy to forget now that Saber’s identity is about a big a spoiler as Spike Dies but you have to remember that a lot of people assumed that Saber was actually Joan of Arc until her big reveal. In many ways Joan of Arc’s prominence in Fate/Zero, Fate/Apocrypha, and Fate/Grand Order all comes from this initial impression.

It is time for Fate/School Life. Sadly we do not get to see Shiro, Shinji, and Issei play Sepak takraw against the Three Amigas. I guess that is what omake is for. (Although the real question is if Saber would play.)

Shiro does go to school with Saber as his bodyguard to deliver food for the always ravenous Taiga. Saber of course draws a lot of attention to herself. Sakura and her main shipping ally Taiga quickly notice a challenger to their romantic comedy antics with Shiro being followed by a pretty blond foreigner. The girls of Tsukihime know this danger all too well. Maybe Akiha Tohno sent them a letter giving them a heads up to what a danger they can be.

Ayako Mitsuduri on the other hand is more just curious what is going on with the lost sheep from the archery club. She wants back the star member of the archery club as well as her chief rival. Plus the idea of someone to help her keep Shinji in check is very welcome.

It was nice to see Sakura and Shiro actually do some archery. You can talk a big game about how good a shot Shiro is but if we never seem him pick up a bow it rings a bit hollow.

While he is mostly just a curiosity in the Fate path Souichirou Kuzuki is now a central player so he has to make his debut. While new viewers might wonder why this scene between a teacher and Saber has a palpable sense of tension the old hands are curious to see how much these two fighter learn about each other from their meeting. I think it is fairly clear they were not going to fight. The question is who gets the upper hand in the war of information. It appears that Team Emiya loses this battle.

At first Saber sees Souichirou as a potential Master. His movements are too perfect and his control too precise to be a normal person. While he might not be a Servant it is not out of the question for him to be a Master. But when Saber senses no magic and no smell of blood she just downgrades the teacher in her mind to someone who is just very dedicated to the martial arts. Then again that is just a testament to Souichirou’s skill as a former assassin that his technique prevents him from appearing like a killer to even those with heightened senses. At the same time while Souichirou might not know that Saber is a Servant he is clearly now keenly aware of her existence and her potential threat level. If Caster was not watching them before she is surely doing that now.

Ayako Mitsuduri’s conversation with Shiro really highlights the boy’s dysfunctional view of life. As someone who has been fairly close to him she has noticed that for all his cheer and helpfulness there is a distinct and pervasive sadness that emanates from Shiro. Unlike most people she has noticed that he might politely smile and laugh he distinctly carries some weight that prevents all of that from being truly genuine most of the time. It is not that she thinks he is a sociopath but that Shiro is clearly someone burdened by a trauma he cannot easily overcome. We know that it is his survivor’s guilt from being one of the few curious of the Great Fuyuki City Fire but it is interesting to see someone who knows him pick up on this as well. It makes it clear that the warning signs were always there it was just that most people ignored them because it was convenient.

Saber has been doing her best “This is a pen” version of a person who does not know Japanese. So when Saber is following Shiro, Taiga, and Sakura home they are both a little puzzled. But that is nothing compared to the explosion that occurs when the women find out that Saber will be living with him. They can feel the torpedos being shot at their ship.

I do find it interesting that Kiritsugu is still a weak spot for Taiga. Merely invoking his name shuts down most of her initial protests. She is still clearly carrying a torch for her old English teacher. That does not stop her from interfering later on but it does make her act more indirectly.

Sakura on the other hand does not have some crush on the departed. The object of her affection is right in front of her. But Sakura is not one for confrontation so her protests are easily vetoed. But as the night wears on it is clear that Taiga is creating a powerful force to keep Shiro’s chastity from being despoiled and Sakura is right on board.

With Sakura and Taiga staying at the house you have to wonder how many people are checking out assuming this is going into harem territory. I know the teenage protagonists were turning off some Fate/Zero fans as it was but the addition of new ladies in the house might have been the final straw.

It does bring up an interesting problem. The longer Shiro has other people at the house the more likely it is that someone is going to target them as well. While some Masters might avoid attacking a house with people who are not magical most Masters are not that kind. Civilians like this are just another step in cleanup after they have killed the magical members of the household. So it will be a battle of keeping  Taiga in the dark while getting her to leave so she is not a potential target.

At the same time Sakura’s determination cannot be ignored as well. Also the fact that she has a much more clear idea of what is going on does not hurt.

Shiro has his work cut out for him.

While all of this is going on Rin has work to get done. The most obvious handiwork of a Master of the Holy Grail War is the rash of unexplained gas leaks around the town. To most people they seem random but to Rin they are clearly suspicious because not only are they extremely convenient they all take place on the cities major ley lines. If someone wanted to drain the life out of the citizens of Fuyuki City this would be a very efficient way of doing it. A little investigation shows that she is correct in her suspicions.

When she arrives at a building where there is a “gas leak” she finds skeletal familiars and life draining purple mist. While the undead creatures might look formidable they are easily taken out by Rin without Archer even having to lift a finger. The part of this scene that distresses her the most is the cruel use of civilians as mana batteries. As much as she pretends that she is going after the perpetrator of these attacks for tactical reason Archer mentions that Shiro is a far easier target to take on.

In Rin’s defense while she is clearly making this choice based on her feelings for Shiro and her sense of justice it might not be the poor tactics. Stopping a powerful Master from gathering up more mana is not the worst thing in the world. Shiro is not really out their gathering recourses or solidifying his grip on the city. This Master is doing that. The later she attacks the more this person will have to throw at them. The later she attacks the more of a disadvantage she will be at. Plus a living Shiro as bait is more useful that a dead Shiro doing nothing.

I am not exactly sure why this episode was called “Finding the Will to Fight.” I felt like Shiro found the will to fight in the last episode. It could refer to Rin’s determination to go after Caster but I don’t think she did not have that before this episode. Everyone else is clearly in it to win it. Heck, the title better refers to Sakura finding the will to fight to make sure Saber does not take away Shiro than anything else.

I will say Ufotable has done a good job of balancing out the talking with the fighting. The show is clearly more about people talking than killing each other but the do a good job of having one full action scene each episode. This could have been all Saber’s trip to school but the part with Rin makes it more than just a character study episode. That trend will surely continue next episode as some major players seem to be showing up and brining their desire to shed blood with them.

– Alain

Previous Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works posts:

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #003 – Spoilers: Archer Uses a Bow
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #002 – Emiya Visits the Rip-Off Church
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #001 – People Almost Forgot Shiro is the Hero
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #000 – Archer the Combat Butler

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3 thoughts on “Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #004 – A Good Neighborhood Tiger

  1. highfirex says:

    F/HA has the makings of an anime from the past. Its got lots of comedy and can service with a helping of plot now and again. I’m sure ufotable can afford it, but only after heavens feel is finished.

  2. takashid says:

    uh… pretty sure this episode is called “finding the will to fight” because of how it pertains to Rin, and her last scene with Archer. Up till now Rin has been making excuses to avoid fighting Shirou. But in the end she declares that she will kill him, that she really will see him as an enemy from now on. So its Rin [Finding the Will to Fight] Shirou. Which seems especially obvious since next episode will be their clash at school.

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