When we last left our heroes it was not looking that good for them. Saber has been captured. Caster controls a tremendous amount of mana, Ryuudou Temple, and the Fuyuki Church. Caster also has Assassin and Souichirou Kuzuki as strong physical attackers as part of her alliance on top of her own outrageous magical ability. Rin has broken her alliance with Shiro who is injured both physically and emotionally. On top of that Archer seems to be loyal but that fealty is highly conditional. Shiro and Rin have been down for so long it is starting to look like up to them.
And it is only going to get worse.
On the plus side Kirei Kotomine is out of the picture for the time being.
But he has a bad habit of popping up in accordance with Murphy’s law.
So, yeah. Pretty much just the worst of times.
With Caster slowly gaining more power and greater fighting ability Rin has decided it is now or never when it comes down to confronting Caster. The fight might be hopeless but it will only get worse if she waits. When Rin finally takes on the princess of Colchis she finds that Archer has other plans. She only escapes thanks to Shiro’s last-minute intervention and Archer’s mercy. Now with no servants it seems that Rin and Shiro can only sit back and wait to see if either Medea or Illyasviel will control the Holy Grail.
This is a nice little scene to get us back into the story. While its main purpose is for Shiro to give a little recap it works as a symbolic scene as well. We see Shiro go from being utterly defeated as he crawls home wounded to eventually seeing im slowly regain his will to fight as the sun rises and the dawn heralds his new purpose. A nice little flourish that invigorates what could otherwise be a pedestrian reminder of what happened last season.
Over all the new opening does a good job of expressing the more melancholy mood of this half of the series. There are far less scenes of domestic life and far more Servant vs Servant battling. I did find is interesting that Lancer was so prominent in the opening. I do feel he has become a bit more popular as of late. He is hardly in the position to knock Archer out of the top spot for most popular Fate/Stay Night male but he has come a long way. That said I did find it odd that there is much less Rin than I expected. I feel like they wanted to focus on the cool fights in the opening but this is her time to shine.
I guess that is what the ending is for.
Saber was also much less prominent in this opening. She is still there because she is the company cash cow but she is still gets much less screen time than she usually commands.
I used a shot of her for the screen cap for the opening mostly because it is the only time this episode we see her in any sort of dignified manner.
Also because I am me and I try to throw in as much Saber as I can. I can at least be honest about that.
Lets address the S&M elephant in the room who just so happens to be presenting itself with its buttocks in the air: Saber in Caster’s custody. If you needed at reminder this story is based on a pornographic game it would be Saber in a skimpy outfit in the most cheesecake restraint ever created outside of a Queen’s Blade game. Clearly the scene is silly enough that it is the core of many a joke about Caster. I know that the game it what it is but usually Saber is such a strong character so scenes like this sort of rob her of that dignity that gives her the positive reputation she has built up over the years. I would rather people remember dignified Saber as opposed to damsel Saber.
But the actually important part of the scene is not Saber’s taint in the air but Souichirou walking into the church and discovering Caster much like a parent catching their child with a hand in the cookie jar. Caster is quickly trying her best to distract her Master from what is going on in the Church. Overall as much as Caster is flustered Souichirou really just wants a status report more than anything else. It is clear that Caster is used to playing a game of secrets and betrayals and assumes everyone else is doing the same. Souichirou on the other hand really just wants to support his servant. He knows that Caster is keeping things from him but he is beginning to realize that from this point forward things are going to get difficult so the more he knows the better he can support her. The only problem is Souichirou’s only tone is lecturing father so everything he says sounds like an interrogation.
Much like a man sitting by the shore I smell good deal of salt. It seems that they decided to call Archer a Protector as opposed to a Counter Guardian in this translation. Anyone who has been in a fandom long enough will know that fans tend to have particular terms they use especially when it comes to translations and they get MAD when they are not used. I have a feeling that is going to be the case with this as well.
Rin gets another memory dump from Archer. This time she gets much more of what turned the bright-eyed idealist who was betrayed and executed and still remained optimistic about humanity into the cynical misanthrope that she has summoned. It is clear that cleaning up various magical messes over the ages have burnt away the idealism of the Hero of Wrought Iron had when he was alive. Rin is still unsure of who he was but now she knows how he got to where he is today.
With Archer’s memories and their own impending battle with caster it prompts Rin to have a moment of reflection. It is clear while she is wearing her confidence like a golden suit of plate armor she is still worried about their chances. They were not doing that great when they had Saber. Things have shifted way from being in their favor even more. While I don’t think she expects words of comfort it is clear that she wants to get some things off her chest before she makes her last stand.
Interestingly enough Archer is still his normal wry self but he does pepper it with a little more praise than normal. His description of Rin as an exceptional person has a bit of bite in it but it also contains a rather naked admiration of her drive, skills, and passion. This little exchange seems to build a little more of their bond, which is ironic considering what happens later, but it far more important as it relates to another heart to heart later on.
If nothing else at least Rin know the simplest rule: If you don’t see Kotomine’s body get disintegrated by fire or dark energy than assume that he is currently healing up somewhere despite seemingly receiving a fatal wound. I guess having him as your legal guardian for several years will teach you that invaluable lesson. Caster on the other hand should probably teach her Dragon Tooth Warriors the value of double tapping their kills.
And then Rin makes her biggest mistake. She mentions that when they rescue Saber they can have Shiro reform his contract with her. It is clear to Archer that she has not given up on her erstwhile partner and probably has no intention to ever do so. It is very clear from the picture above that while the seeds of betrayal had been planted long ago the moment they fully sprouted was right there.
At first the battle seems like it could go either way. After a little prefight banter it seems like Rin is able to at least throw Caster off her game. She does not land any solid blows but she also never gets to pull out her trump card as well. Before she can take out the ace up her sleeve it seems that Archer decides to change sides. While Rin clearly had her suspicions about Archer’s loyalty it still comes as a shock when he sides with Caster.
On the other hand Archer is clearly not totally abandoned his former partner. It is apparent that he knows that Shiro is lurking in the rafters and chooses to say nothing. While he may want out of his contract with Rin that does not mean his affection for her has vanished.
The most interesting part is the way that Caster reacts to having her identity exposed. It seems less anger about someone figuring out who she is and more the fact that Archer is throwing the worst parts of her past at her to make it clear he knows who she is. Her hand in the death of Absyrtus and Jason’s betrayals are still wounds that are as fresh as when they were inflicted. Her earlier interactions with Souichirou make much more sense thanks to that one reaction shot alone.
Shrio jumps in to save Rin but it mostly buys them a few more second of life as opposed to a pathway to victory. With Caster in control of three servants (albeit one in another location and another resisting her every command) and a fighting master there is little a mage and a half can do to win. Rin is not in top shape, Shiro in injured, and his projection magic is hardly a mastered skill. It was already a battle Rin was probably not going to win. Without Archer or Saber it is impossible.
The only reason they leave is Archer asks Caster to spare them as they are so pathetic that there is no reason to kill them. And so Rin and Shiro leave with their tails tucked in between their legs. They could not have suffered a more total defeat unless at least one of them were killed.
I would have to say that there scene with Rin and Shiro talking back to back is probably one of the most iconic scenes in this path for me. I’m sure more people would say that one of the flashier fights, spectacular deaths, or sexier moments is what they take away but this scene filled with naked emotional moments is probably one of the most intimate parts of the path. If you don’t believe this scene than Shiro and Rin’s partnership (and romance) will ring hollow. Before this moment they were unlikely allies with some sexual tension. This is the moment they will either hang together or fall part. If they don’t have a bond you can feel then everything past this point will seem fake. Thankfully Ufotable was able to do their usual magic when they need to.
Rin puts on a brave front but she eventually breaks down over Archer’s betrayal. As much as she up a wall of heartless strength she still has not become the machine of magic that her father was. While this means she retained more of humanity it also means the human parts of her hurt when they are stabbed. But if anything Rin is indomitable. She may cry and temporarily feel sorry for herself but she does not give up. She may indulge in a bit or sorrow but when she dries her tears she moves forward again.
Rin also has to start suspecting that Archer and Shiro are the same person. It is clear that she knows that the fact there is something up with the existence of two versions of her distinctly unique pendent. Also the words about Shiro’s admiration mirror Archer’s earlier speech (albeit with less talk about how attractive she is.) With distinct hints from Archer’s memories she reacts in a way that she probably suspects what is going on but at this point without more proof it would sound a little crazy to say such a thing.
At this point they don’t really have a plan but they have each other. For the first time they are truly on the same team. That might not be enough to defeat Caster but it is a start.
This whole ending seems to be a reminder that Archer can in fact use a bow. It’s true.
If the opening focused on the Servants than the ending is all about the main triangle of Rin, Archer, and Shiro. The Kalafina vocals are strong and continue to be a welcome bit of peace at the end of every episode. I would have to listen to them both a little more to figure out which one I liked better.
That said I still can’t get over the name of the song being Ring Your Bell. All I can think is Anita Ward’s Ring my Bell. Will we get a disco dancing ending with whole cast for episode 26?
I’m going to admit that while Unlimited Blade Works is my favorite path in the game this part of the story has always been the weakest. I know Caster is supposed to be a nicer person then she appears when push comes to shove but her level of mercy seems a bit more of plot convenience than anything else. She really lets Shiro and Rin get away one too many times. I know she is trying to win over Archer but there is no real reason for her to let them go. It is clear that Shiro and Rin are not going to give up. If say Berseker or Lancer were making problems when they attacked there would be a reason for her to let them go but with the upper hand she really should have just killed them and then sent Archer out for groceries so she did not have to cook for Souichirou that night.
The whole incident does not ruin the path for me but I do feel it takes away from it a bit. If nothing else the end to this little arc will make up for all of that in spades.
Previous Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works posts:
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #012 – The Empire Strikes Back
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #011 – The Silly Faces of Taiga Fujimura
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #010 – The Bushwhackers
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