Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #009 – The Issei Strip Mahjong Game

hisui_icon_4040 In retrospect episode five was not the episode wherein Rin Tohsaka makes funny faces. It turns out that in general Unlimited Blade Works is the show where Rin Tohsaka makes funny faces. The last episode made me suspect that but this one confirmed that. I have a feeling that from now on I could easily make every post collection of nothing but Tohsaka reactions shots and no one would think it that was odd. In the show’s defense she is mega cute when they have her grandstand. It would be a waste not to take advantage of that fact.

While they have survived Blood Fort Andromeda it seems that Shiro and Rin are no closer to discovering who the hidden Master at their school is. While Rin would love it to be Issei fate is not that kind to her. With a mysterious blond foreigner and an increasingly hostile Archer complicating their investigation it will not be easy for them to ferret out the hidden snake at the school.

Rin, Shiro, and Saber decide to beat feet as it would be very awkward for them to have to explain why two students are perfectly fine along with a blond woman in armor among all the chaos. I think we just have to assume that the Church and Mage’s Association use enough magic and influence so no one notices them missing. I am sure some Society of the Blind Eye memory manipulation makes everything work smoothly as well. After the debacle that was Caster’s rampage in the 4th Holy Grail war this sort of clean up must seem like child’s play.

During their flight they are none to pleased to run into the missing Archer. It is a tense meeting as not only is Rin upset that Archer is only now turning up but he starts bickering with Saber almost immediately. His overall increasing rebellious streak only adds fuel to the fire. It really shows the growing divide between Rin and her Servant. He was never Rin’s loyal lap dog to be sure but now he seems all but in open revolt.

I must had forgotten this little exchange between Archer and Saber but it makes perfect sense in retrospect. Archer and Shiro’s philosophical debates were the crux of the original but Archer’s ideals are just as diametrically opposed to Saber’s as they are to Shrio’s. Saber’s obsession with chivalry and simple morality would chaff him just as much.

This little fight does show how Archer would make a great Internet troll. While he does not have Kotomine’s ability to turn people into tools with his glib tongue he does have a remarkable gift of getting under people’s skin. Archer even gets the normally placid Saber into quite a frenzy with just a few causal statements.

By the way Rin, do you remember that Archer has superhuman senses.? You can’t hide your little conversation with Shiro from your servant by walking five feet away and whispering. At that distance you might as well be whispering your conversation into Archer’s ear. You have to be in a sound proof bunker where Archer can’t read your lips if you want to secretly plot with Shiro without a ten minute walk.

After that tension a conversation about the new sleeping arrangements between Saber and Shiro breaks the tension. The little shot of her putting her foot down being mirrored by the tea-cup was wonderfully expressive. You can feel Shiro being crushed by the logic of Saber’s statements. Eventually he concedes to her request by putting her in the room next door so she can pop in whenever she needs to. While he is safer it leads to Shrio only getting a restless night of sleep with the alluring Saber being so close. Saber on the other hand falls asleep like it was not even a thing.

Poor Shiro. I understand your pain.

Ah, Shinji. He shows that he is a poor loser, a poor winner, and a petulant monster all in one conversation. It is amazing how many other people he finds to blame so he can avoid talking responsibility for his defeat. It takes a master of avoidance to implicate Rider, Shiro, Rin, Caster, Zouken, and the Church all at the same time. As much as it loathes me to defend Shinji, I would not want to have failed Zouken either. That is scary enough that you might want to find any excuse possible. The problem is you get the feeling Shinji does this all the time, evil worm sorcerers or not.

But Kotomine sees this as an opportunity. In front of him is a weapon that is easily aimed. His anger and limited scope of vision makes him a not only powerful tool but also one what is easily manipulated. A calmer man might notice how he is being moved along a track towards self-destruction but Shinji’s fury makes him unable to detect the poison being dripped in his ear.

While he might be getting what seems like a powerful second chance to win the war it is actually more of a Trojan Horse.

In the game they really show that Issei and Rin do NOT get along. In the anime it is fairly clear that Issei thinks Rin is the devil but Rin’s rivalry with the student council president is far less apparent. As with anything Rin’s feelings are always more subtle but they are clear none the less in the visual novel.

Therefore it makes sense that she would be thrilled for Issei to be the hidden Master at school. If she could fight anyone at school without a shred of guilt it would be the one person she continually butts heads with. In her defense it is not a bad guess at the secret Master at the school. Issei does live at the same temple that Caster has made her base and seems unaffected by the events that have gone on there. While it is clear most of the inhabitants are merely ensorcelled by Caster’s magic it is hardly a foolish assumption to think that Issei might be the exception to that rule.

If it also coincides with her own little petty wars than all the better.

The scene also sums up the relationship between Rin and Shiro quite well. Rin trusts Shiro more than most people would think someone with her attitude would. As much flack as she gives him she knows that he is a good guy that has more all the ball then it first appears. On the other hand she is not so blinded by love that she cannot see that Shrio can be so forthright that he strays into moron territory. Her sarcasm might be a little excessive but it is not unwarranted.

You almost get the feeling that Shiro had to make up a new plan when Rin told him he can just walk up to Issei and ask him if he is a Master.

I’m actually curious how many fujoshi stopped shipping Issei and Shiro because of this scene. It is easy to predict how many BL doujinshi were created by this scene. That is not the challenge. The problem is this stripping scene makes the pairing TOO easy. Lots of high level fujoshi want to ship the difficult pairings. When you make it too obvious like this then they go out of their way to pick a harder pairing.

Kotomine X Issei. Now there is a challenge!

Also the look on Rin’s face when Shiro tells her how he cleared Issei’s name it is priceless.

You know they really love to humiliate Issei when it comes right down to it.

When Shiro is extremely surprised to find Rin lurking around Matou residence when he decides to go and check on Sakura before heading home. At first it is just them spying on the golden stalker. It seems that Goldy has an interest in their purple haired kohai.

After a little conversation they both head home but not after Rin opens up a little. If Shiro was a little more clever he would pick up on the relationship between Rin and Sakura but that is not meant to be. It is clear to anyone else that Rin is harboring a great deal of guilt about the situation with her sister. As much as she pretends not to care it is clear that she cannot help but feel horrible that she was the daughter that was chosen and Sakura was sent to live with the less than pure Matou family. Her guilt would be even greater if she knew exactly how horrible things are with the Matou family. But she might have an inkling of the abuse that is occurring but her guilt makes her shy away from those truths despite the fact that they burn away inside.

I also got the feeling that question about adopted children effected Shiro as well. As an orphan he too had to deal with a change in family so the question certainly stirs within him a certain empathy.

There was a lot of tiger butt in this scene. I don’t have a major objection to that but it is just odd that they decided to have Taiga fan service. That is not the SOP.

What starts off a fun scene of Taiga sharing goofy stories about Shiro’s childhood quickly turns into a rather uncomfortable conversation. It is clear that the contrast between Shiro and his father works well both to give a little insight into how Shiro became who he is today but it also works to examine his conflict with Archer. The more you learn about Kiritsugu the more you see how much of his worldview is in line with Archer’s. The differences between Shiro and his adopted father mirror the differences between Shiro and his rival.

I think the funniest part of the scene is apparent to anyone who has seen Fate/Zero. Knowing what happened in the prequel you realize that Saber has to be wondering who the hell is this Kiritsugu they are talking about is. It can’t be the guy she knew because he was not the helpful and kindly man they describe. Morally flexible: sure. Good Samaritan: Hell no. She has to wonder if he was so changed by the end of the Holy Grail War that he become a better person or did he just get better at tricking people into thinking he had something resembling a human soul.

After Shiro dodges Saber’s seemingly innocuous question he is sent into a spiral of self-examination. Why can’t he answer Saber’s simple question about heroes? Is he living up to the ideal his father could never reach? Is he falling unto dark path paved with good intentions as hinted at by Kotomine? Is he foolishly fighting an impossible battle as Archer says? Shrio might not know the answers to those questions be he has decided to march forward anyway. The thing is a week ago he would have never even questioned his ideals like this. He might still be stubbornly committed to his way of life but his iron clad faith has developed some major cracks even if he does not admit that they are there.

While this might seem like an episode where not much happens it is important to note how much the little changes planted here will spout into major events later on. Shinji coming under the sway of Kotomine, Rin and Shiro becoming closer, and Shiro starting to question his faith are all critical steps that need to be sown at this moment. If they just popped up later on they would seem like random swerves in the plot for drama. Since they are being to be carefully cultivated here their blossoming will be all the more spectacular at the end.

– Alain

Previous Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works posts:

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #008 – There’s a Shortage of Perfect Breasts in this World
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #007 – Curse Your Sudden but Inevitable Betrayal!

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #006 – Shiro the Puppet

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


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