I have to admire Ufotable and Type-Moon’s commitment to adapting Unlimited Blade Works. It seems that on top of the first two-hour long episodes they are ending the first half of this arc with another hour-long episode. I’m sure that if the budget were smaller we would not be getting this level of commitment but I thank whoever is footing the bill. This will probably be the definitive adaptation of Unlimited Blade Works.
When someone asks, “How do I get into Type-Moon?” this is probably the first thing I would point them at once it has wrapped up. This episode more than any other has shown me that this is not only a smart transfer of the visual novel to a fully animated medium but there is some strong decisions made here that actually make certain aspects surpass the original. I would never say that this makes the original visual novel obsolete but it has proven itself capable of standing side by side with its progenitor.
That is no small praise from me.
As Rin and Shiro narrow down the number of suspects that could be the hidden Master at their school they stumble on a prime suspect. It seems that the teacher, Souichirou Kuzuki, is living at the temple with his new mysterious fiancée. In order to test their theory (as they can’t just get him to strip like Issei) they decide to ambush Kuzuki and try to hit him with a mostly harmless curse and see how the reacts. They soon learn that their World History teacher is far more dangerous than they would have ever guessed (unless they listened to Saber, which they did not.) When Rin and even Saber fall what can Shiro do with a simple reenforced shinai?
Gilgamesh also shows up. I assume just for Kate.
OK. Spoiler time: Archer is a hero from the future. So why does everything in his flashback make it seem like he was executed in medieval times? Is this supposed to be a factor of his muddled memories or is it just how Rin’s mind interprets the information being relayed to her? Is it that Rin’s mind just fills in the parts she can’t understand of the future with things that she can understand? Or does Archer just come from sort of retro-future or post-apocalyptic world?
In the visual novel Rin’s flash back is extremely scant on details. It is more about broad strokes of the story and the emotions involved. The minimalist visuals during the story reflect that. The only place we get details are Fate/Extra and that version is not necessarily cannon with the original game. I am curious if they will explain this more or is this pretty much all we will ever get.
I know it is a nit pick but by taking this screen capture I did notice that they did copy paste all the books. It is hardly UNACCEPTABLE but considering how much detail they usually put into any scene I was a little surprised to see such a standard time-saving technique used so prominently. I mostly think it is the Kamiyama effect* that makes me notice the time saving measure more than usual.
The growing divide between Master and Servant is really apparent in this scene. While Archer has never been a Servant to obey his orders unquestioningly you can see that Rin’s trust in him is sort of at an all time low. Archer is not in open revolt and Rin is not utterly distrustful but the divide between their philosophies is increasingly becoming incompatible. As Rin’s natural nature gravitates towards Shiro’s kinder if naive nobility then she strays away from the standard magus’ philosophy of gray morality in which the ends justify the means. And that means she strays father way from Archer as well.
You can tell this fully when she does not bring Archer along when they ambush Kuzuki. Rin can already tell that Archer and Caster are beginning too have far too much in common.
* The Kamiyama effect being when you notice a small change in someone that is in contrast with your standard perception of them but at the same time you ignore a larger change in someone who you expect that change from. So when a person who has a normally Buddha like calmness gets mad you notice it much more than when someone who is normally angry gets furious. I really wish I could link to that chapter in Cromartie High School where they explain it. It is rather amusing.
Poor Issei. Much like Rodney Dangerfield he never gets any respect.
It seems that Issei has all the answers it just happens that Rin and Shiro did not know the right questions to ask. (Also in the visual novel if your are not circuitous about finding out about Caster and Kuzuki then Caster’s brainwashing about her presence at the temple triggers a bad ending where Issei’s Manchurian Candidate programming goes off. But in return you get an amusing Tiger Dojo that sets up a wonderful joke later on. ) While Rin and Shiro don’t have a smoking gun that Kuzuki is the mysterious Master they do have enough evidence that it would be lunacy for them not to investigate him as a prime suspect.
It is amusing to see Issei freak out that Rin and Shiro might have teamed up against him. The idea that his man crush Shiro has fallen into the clutches of the red demon is his worst nightmares made manifest.
I mostly only bring up this scene to mention Shiro’s obvious sword envy when it comes to Archer. His shame over merely having a boy’s training sword as opposed to the magnificently manly Kanshou and Bakuya says volumes about the divide between the two.
I had to use a screenshot that focused on the background here. This was the part of the episode that truly convinced me that Ufotable was making this version of the story their own without giving any disrespect to the original. If you read the original scene here you will see the dialog and events are not that much different from what happens on-screen. The major difference is Ufotable gives this confrontation a real sense of place. In the visual novel they merely mention that they ambush Kuzuki at a choke point intersection he has to pass by to get to the temple. They even use a generic Fuyuki City street background for the scene. It gives you the sense that this could be any street in the city. It does not have a feeling of being a particular place like the Matou residence or the Fuyuki Church.
But since they are fleshing out the location to be the abandoned filling station on the hill it really gives the fight a more memorable quality. It goes from “the scene where they ambush Kuzuki” to “the fight at the old gas station.” They don’t need a big Hollywood block buster explosion (which would be odd because those old gas pumps would have been cleaned out long ago) to make the location memorable. When Shiro and Rin are hiding it is behind the old wall of the office as opposed to some random wall. When Saber flies through door it is through the door of that same gas station kiosk. When Shiro is dodging around it is now him using the gas pumps as cover. They were able to add details that enriched the scene without changing anything that made the original great.
The fight itself takes a little while to start. At first Shiro is firmly convinced that Kuzuki is either under Caster’s control or unaware of her dirty tactics to win the Holy Grail War. He soon learns that while Kuzuki is hardly aware of everything that Caster is doing he has absolutely no moral objection to it. Despite being Caster’s Master, and not being ensorcelled, he views himself as her subordinate in the Holy Grail War. Whatever tactics his commander views as appropriate for victory are approved by him. She does not need to run every detail of her overall battle plans to him.
Kuzuki is an interesting bit of contrast to Archer and Shiro. Shiro is clearly your shining paragon of virtue who tries to save everyone. Archer of the other hand clearly has a code of ethics but it is one that is willing to break and bend away from conventional ethics with a “the good of the many over the good of the few” mindset. Kuzuki on the other hand seems devoid of morals. He is not necessarily evil in a greedy or an angry sense. He is more like a psychopath. His lack of moral compass views actions more as efficient and inefficient as opposed to right and wrong. It is less than that he is evil and more that he cares little for good and evil.
The fact that Kuzuki is also Homurahara Academy ethics teacher is an irony that is not lost of the fandom in the least.
The fight does not go as expected. The general logic would be that attacking Caster in general is not particularly productive as Archer showed she can be rather easy to knock down but extremely hard to permanently kill. It is much easier to just take out her far less fantastical master. Or so you would assume until you learn that he is a Dim Mak spamming assassination machine enhanced with magic so his psychical statistics are Servant level. While he does not kill Saber he is able to hold his own and even knock her down with some serious wounds. So if the former King of England goes down like a paper tiger then Rin is not going to do well at all. After that it is just Shiro up against Caster and Kuzuki by himself.
They do a nice job of showing off Kuzuki’s mysterious Snake style without a shonen style exposition on how it works. I am sure we will get one later on but for now they just let the visuals show the unusual angles he can attack from with blinding skill and accuracy.
Also I have to say Saber’s insanely high instincts skill could be her most valuable skill. It essentially gives her a Rogue’s Uncanny Dodge. It allows her to dodge even when the rules say she would not normally be allowed dodge and even when she gets hit she takes less damage than she normally would. That is what saves her from being utterly murderlated like Rider was in one shot.
At last Shiro’s envy of Archer finally pays off as he is able to summon copies of Kanshou and Bakuya himself which lets him fight off Kuzuki. It is clear that he is not skilled enough or powerful enough to kill Kuzuki but what he does is buy Saber enough time to get away from Caster, and more importantly Rule Breaker, so she can double team Kuzuki. Shiro being far more dangerous only helps matters. Kuzuki decides that it would be best to go back to the temple as they are far safer there. Only a pair of fools (aka Shiro and Rin) would attack them in their home as they have far more power there.
I think we all know what that means.
I do enjoy Rin being flabbergasted that Shiro had such a powerful trump card up his sleeve like Projection. It is then very quickly clear to her that like a Magic newbie with an original Mox Lotus haphazardly thrown in his deck Shiro has no idea how powerful or dangerous his ability is. Such is the way of the shonen hero.
We end with Gilgamesh going all Ra’s al Ghul on Shinji. (As a side note I would like to say I find it interesting that identifying Ra’s al Ghul has gone from like a $1,000 Jeopardy question to like a $400 one.)
It is amusing that Shinji sees Gilgamesh as his big opportunity to get back at everyone who beat him while showing how great he truly is. Gilgamesh is merely just biding him time until he can spring his real plans into action. Until then Shinji is just the annoying Greyhound bus trip he has to take to get to his ultimate goal. No one likes taking that annoying and somewhat soul crushing ride but you put up with it because it is your only current option. (Plus if you can blow it up at the end all the better.)
I will say that this starts one of my biggest criticisms of Unlimited Blade Works: Caster and Kuzuki have a habit of letting Shiro and Rin go when if they pressed the battle just a little harder they probably could have wiped them both out. You can make some excuses. Caster clearly wants Saber under her control as she is currently not powerful enough to take out Berserker but the opposite is not the case at all. But for how ruthless Caster is portrayed she does seem fairly merciful later on when she has no real reason to be. But we shall see.
If nothing else that is me just being critical out of love. There is still some great action coming up and I can’t wait to see it. Whats more now I am wondering what else Ufotable will spice up as the series goes on.
Previous Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works posts:
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #009 – The Issei Strip Mahjong Game
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