The name of this episode is Mirage. A simple single word title can often open itself up to much interpretation. There is no obvious illusion in the episode. Shiro is not tricked into going to the Ryuudou Temple by a mirage. I think the titular mirage is the illusion of control that Shiro has.
Despite how much he thinks he is in control of his life it seems that more and more he is just being moved like a pawn at this point in the story. Rin is distinctly in control of their alliance. While that arrangement is clearly in Shiro’s best interest it is theoretically an equal partnership but the thing is Rin is in the drive’s seat. We see Shinji play Shiro like a fiddle as he knows all the right strings to pluck on his former friend. And in the end Caster draws Shiro into her little trap all too easily. Shiro might think that he is a knight on the chess board of the Holy Grail War but it is clear that he is merely a valuable pawn. He won’t gain any measurable power or control unless he can survive long enough to get a promotion.
Rin and Shiro have formed an alliance to find the third Master at the school and prevent them from activating the Bounded Field that threatens their classmates. While they can’t totally break the field they do weaken in enough to get its creator to come out and confront Shiro. But the vile Shinji is the least of Shiro’s worries as the master at the Ryuudou Temple has other plans for him.
The scene is nicely framed here with Shiro and Archer on opposite sides of the shot. The mirror shows Archer as Shiro reflection with the one way sign nicely hints at his philosophy without spelling things out too loudly. If you have read the visual novel it is a scene that clearly brings a little knowing smile to your face. But if you’re a new reader it acts as a subtle little hint of things to come. I’m glad that Takahiro Miura is really thinking about the scene composition for this adaptation. It would be far too easy to have this be a generic scene with Archer and Shiro verbally sparring on the street but the fact that the background is talking without saying a word shows some good storytelling chops.
Also we get some strong hints in the dialog besides the fact that Archer is clearly gunning for Shiro but is currently being held back by his Command Seal geas and that Shiro is aware of that. First of all it is clear that Saber is a little bit different from the other Servants. She is playing by a slightly modified set of rules than the other Servants. The second is that Archer’s wish is outside of making a wish on the Grail. As much as he says that Servants have no wishes we have clearly seen that other Servants might not have picked to be summoned from the Throne of Heroes but when they do they have desires to be granted. It is more a sign that while Archer’s desire is not a wish from the Grail it is something to do with the conflict.
Also I think it is clear that he remembers what a foul and tainted a thing the Grail has become.
You know I love you Taiga but Ayako Mitsuduri does not look as fine as you make her out to be. Then again it might be a case of what she was told as a teacher and the truth of the matter being two different things.
This whole scene does bring up an old question and controversy. What happened to Ayako Mitsuduri? We never really see her after this point in the visual novel. There does seems to be some implication that horrible things happened to her to the point where there was a common theory that Shinji did not just suck some mana out of Ayako but also raped her. I mean Shinji is a proven to be a bag of excrement time and time again in the visual novel. Him raping a girl who was defiant to him in the past when she is under his control hardly seems out of character. But Nasu went on the record to say that Ayako was out of it mostly because Rider drank her blood. Since we never see Ayako it is hard to tell what exactly happened.
The thing is her condition in this scene does bring up that controversy again. Ayako looks much more violated than a simple draining of mana. I like her character so I don’t wish that horrible things happened to her but it is hard to interpret this scene any other way.
It is clear to Shiro that Shinji has moved up from slightly dickish former friend to right terrible magic wielding monster. This leads to him asking Sakura to stay over. Which also means that Tiger will be sticking around. Shiro does not realize it but this will lead to some problems down the line.
So begins Saber’s attempt to level up Shiro as quickly as possible Captain Li Shang style. While she is a little miffed that Shiro made a deal with Rin on his own she agrees that it is a good alliance. Saber clearly realizes that Shiro and Rin have soft spots for each other so it is better that they work together so Saber can train him up to being a real warrior (or at least a competent one.) It is also clear that she realizes that if the war goes on long enough they will eventually be forced to fight Rin or be killed by her. There are only alliances of convenience in the war.
If nothing else people should like this development as it means we get to see Saber beat up on Shiro with a stick.
If it were not obvious by now that Shinji is a nasty piece of work then this scene should cement that feeling. He is clearly playing with Shiro because he knows that Shiro can’t attack him in the day at school and he has no real evidence of his wrongdoing. He is mainly just doing this because he knows that Shiro is friends with Ayako and has clearly begun to suspect him. The problem is his inferiority complex won’t let him just sit back and revel in the knowledge that is hurting Shiro. He wants Shiro to know it. Shinji wants to savor it.
Rin now realizes that the third Master at the school is either not a mage or someone, like Shiro, that is extremely low level. So when Shiro shows the ability to detect the anchoring seals for the Bounded Field they decide to shift gears. Rin figures if they can neutralize enough of the seals they won’t be necessarily be able to stop Blood Fort Andromeda but they will be able to force whoever is putting it up to come out of the shadows.
My roommate quickly noticed this little Easter egg: If you look on the shelf you will spot the cover for the Studio Deen Unlimited Blade Works movie.
Speak of the devil and he doth appear. Now that a Shiro and Rin are an actually powerful team Shinji comes out of the shadows to try and persuade Shiro to come to his side. The thing is for all the petty nonsense that Shinji pulls it is also clear that he knows how to manipulate people when he does not let his ego get in the way. He knows just how much to push Shiro to anger him but not enough for him to just walk away or seriously attack him. He tries to use Sakura as a bargaining chip but knows that if he pushes Shiro too far it can blow up in his face. He quickly gets Shiro not to say anything about their talk to Sakura not because he wants his sister to be safe but because he does not want Sakura spilling the beans about the truth of the Matou family.
Also his little twitch when he says that Sakura has no magical ability nor would they ever waste time teaching her is a nice touch.
I think most people will get some laughs out Saber and Shiro’s little scene in the shed as he shows her his strengthening magic. It quickly becomes apparently to Saber that Shiro is easily distracted by her charms. I can’t say I don’t understand where he is coming form.
Also if you look closely you will notice that in the second picture in the post while Saber and Shiro are having this conversation it seems that Caster is already setting up her web to catch the young magus.
So when Saber and Shiro go to bed Caster attacks with her puppetry wire. But it seems while she getting into his head the same is going on with Shiro. For a few second we get some scenes from Caster’s memories of Jason, the Golden Fleece, and probably the murder of her brother Absyrtus.
Caster always gets a bit of the short shrift in Fate/Stay Night so hopefully Takahiro Miura will do a little more to get some insight into her with this version of the story. I’m not asking for a three episode info dump but a little more focus on her won’t kill anyone. Plus considering how central she is to the plot it might hurt not to do that.
Overall this also just reminds me that Greek heroes could have been a little nicer to women in general.
Caster has caught Shiro and plays with him a little bit before trying to rip off his command seals. They do a nice bit of playing up the sexual nature of Caster. She is a mature and dangerous woman. She is also clearly a woman who knows what she likes. Apparently it is tied up men and cute blond women to be at her beck and call. Those are admirable dreams.
I was discussing that in Carnival Phantasm as well as other material Caster’s obsession with getting Saber as a servant has become somewhat of a running joke. He smartly remarked that it is strange then that Caster does not have a bigger fan following. You think a yuri paring with Saber would win her more fans.
Speaking of Saber while she is trying to save her Master she makes it to the Shrine but is seems that Assassin is blocking her path. Ah, Assassin. He is probably the only Servant who gets a worse end of the stick than Lancer.
But before very bad things can happen to Shiro it seems that Archer has come to the rescue. But really knowing what we know about Archer that is probably not the best thing for young Shiro. If he can “accidentally” take out Caster and Shiro at the same time he clearly won’t shed any tears about that.
This was a bit of a set up episode. So far other than some practice matches and a little bit of scuffle at the end we did not get any real fighting in this episode. The next episode will definitely be an episode of explosive conflict so I hope that will hold over all the people who hate talky chapters.
The only reason this screen cap is at the end is to remind us that Saber is a smart cookie. She knows to never wake a sleeping tiger.
Also it is a reminder that Saber does not wear pants when she goes to bed.
Previous Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works posts:
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #005 – The Silly Faces of Rin Tohsaka
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #004 – A Good Neighborhood Tiger
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