Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #023 – Duel at Ganryu Island Redux

hisui_icon_4040 Que the Queen and David Bowie because I am Under Pressure.

While I got back from AnimeNext in one piece (albeit a very tired one piece) I still have con reports, The Speakeasy, Case Closed reviews, SWAT reviews, Otakon panels, secret projects, my job, and planning my upcoming vacation to work on in between trying to get some small modicum of sleep. So if I am a tad terse and bit late with this post please forgive me.

The end is in sight. After this episode all the dangling plot threads have been resolved. (Unless we consider the mystery of Sakura an unresolved story. If that is the case you refer you to the upcoming Heaven’s Feel movies.) All that is left is the final test of Shiro’s growth. His resolve might be indomitable, his ideals may be tempered, and his power might be far greater than it has ever been but Gilgamesh is still a demigod who is the Servant equivalent of the Wenger 16999 Swiss Army Knife. Rin and Saber are no slouches but the Reality Marble named Unlimited Blade Works is really going to have to pull its weight in this fight if Shiro’s team has any chance at victory.

Spoilers: The route this story is based on is named Unlimited Blade Works. It might just work.

No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy. Rin, Shiro, and Saber learn this the hard way when Assassin proves to be stubbornly guarding the front gate of Ryuudouji Temple despite the fact he should have faded away long ago. This means that Gilgamesh is free to intercept Rin and Shiro out in the back with the growing pile of corruption and curses that is the imperfect Holy Grail. Freeing Shinji only delays the inevitable. The only way forward is to defeat Gilgamesh. Can this ramshackle band’s last charge defeat the King of Heroes?

So Saber throws up some more death flags. At this point I really feel like unless this is all a big fake out they are pulling the trigger on the True Ending. Saber could always get an eleventh hour reprieve but that is looking far less likely as time goes on. In many way all of this is just me bracing myself for the end. She is going to use that final Excalibur blast and then fade away.

I would still love for them to do an extra ending that has the Good Ending (or just the Good ending as the final ending) but I am not going to hold my breath.

Oh Rin. Your plans are solid overall but there always has to be some major fly in the ointment. It is easy to see Rin as a bad strategist but overall her plans work. They never work as planned but they get results for the most part which makes her worth her weight in gold especially considering she is usually formulating a strategy for the side that has less power and resources. Helmuth von Moltke the Elder would be proud of your ability to improvise and Helmuth von Moltke the Younger would know your pain all to well.

Over the last two years I have watched, listened, and read quite a bit of material on WWI (hence my previous comment). While the Great War was a brutal tragedy it did, and continues to, shape the modern world in countless ways. I think that is why is comes up so much in history series I  have been delving into. One of the more interesting ideas to come out of all of that is the fact that the industrial revolution has allowed modern nations, as Dan Carlin says, take a punch. The population of countries have grown to the point where several million people can die and it is more of an inconvenience than anything else. The death of several million people would be filled the heartbreak, loss, and waste but overall a modern nation can lose that many people in a war or tragedy and still bounce back.  The Soviet Union lost somewhere between 25,000,000 to 30,000,000 people in WWII and still went on to be a super power. With the current world population being over 7 billion people the planet could lose 6 billion of those and humanity would not be in any danger of going extinct (assuming that whatever killed the first 6 billion was not so horrific that the remaining 1 billion are living on borrowed time.)

So in that respect Gilgamesh is not totally wrong. With a detached or demented perspective his logic is correct. He could unleash a Holy Grail fueled apocalypse that would kill billions and still have quite a few people to rule over like some demented Mad Max warlord.

It is just the insane logic of a corrupted social Darwinist. (Not that social Darwinism is a benevolent and kind love-love filled philosophy to begin with.)

Assassin has always been the weakest Servant. He has a very limited range of movement (unless he has a very unconventional method of transportation), his Monohoshi Zao sword is more of an exceptional magical weapon than a true Nobel Phantasm, and his actual Nobel Phantasm is fairly low-level when push comes to shove. The only reason he is anything resembling a threat is because the area that he guards gives him a strategic advantage he would not regularly posses if he were normally participating in the Holy Grail War. For what amounts to a mini boss in the grand scheme of things does leave a notable impression that is far above a disposable mook but below a fully fleshed out threat.

In a way this fight was necessary for several reasons. The first of which is both character involved need some sort of period placed on their story. For Assassin this is his only chance to shine. He never really gets any resolution to his tale in Fate and he has no thematic place in Heaven’s Feel so he dies even before you really meet him in-game. This final confrontation with Saber is the only time he can fully show off his technique and do some introspection at the same time. Saber on the other hand needs a chance to show her prowess in battle. Since Shiro and Rin are the hammer that is going to be used against Gilgamesh, Saber needs something to do other than use Excalibur against the Grail. While destroying the Grail is important is does not have the same oomph as a duel with a samurai wielding a kodachi. Saber has either been a prisoner or in the background for the entire second half of the series so this is also her chance to be awesome again.

Random Note: It has always surprised me is that Miyamoto Musashi has never been a servant in anything in the Fate series. He seems like a total no-brainer as a Saber class servant for Fate/Grand Order. He is famous, he has plenty of lore that could easily be turned into powers and Nobel Phantasms, and a larger than life personality that easily makes him a stand out character.  His connection to a character who is already confirmed to be in the game only solidifies his strong candidacy. It would even make sense in a mechanics level. The easy to get character would be the low-level Kojirou Sasaki but he would have a connection to the much rarer and super powered Miyamoto Musashi. It is a common set up in a free to play mobile game.

Since she does not do that much in this episode I wanted to talk a little about Rin here as she climbs the polluted body of an incomplete Grail-kun. It is easy to wonder why Rin would bother saving Shinji. He has done nothing but terrorize and hurt the people around him for his own selfish reasons. He may be pathetic and horrible but in the end he is more important as proof of Shiro’s ideals than an object of cathartic revenge. One of the major themes of Unlimited Blade Works is the masks people wear. All the characters are wearing some facet of their personality as a disguise for something they don’t want other people to see in themselves. Rin is always projecting the persona she feels is most effective in what every situation she is engaged in. At school she is the friendly but distant perfect student and during the Holy Grail War she is the ice-cold magus. In the end we see that Rin’s heart is far nobler and kinder than she would ever normally let on. By saving Shinji we have proof that her ideals have been just as reforged as Shiro’s as she openly embraces his philosophy which says you should try and save everyone. You might not agree with the decision to save Shinji but you should at least understand thematically why the scene is there.

Apparently neither Lugalbanda nor Ninsun taught Gilgamesh not to play with his food. It seems fairly clear that if Gilgamesh just pulled out Ea this fight would not be much of a contest. A crazy powerful servant may be able to block or deflect such an attack but Shiro does not have that sort of power. He also can’t even partially copy the blade. But Gilgamesh’s pride won’t let him take out the sword to kill Shiro. He desperately wishes to prove that Shiro and Archer’s Projection magic created duplicates are nothing compared to the originals. If he takes out a blade that Shiro can’t copy to defeat him then he is in essence giving in and conceding that Shiro is less of a faker and more of a fakir. He should never have to resort to such tactics with anything less than a god tier Servant let alone some wet around the ears magus.

This does look like Gilgamesh vs. the Colossal Titan for a few seconds.

Another nice little addition to the series comes with the giant arm attack from the Grail. It gives Gilgamesh a far more compelling reason to have drawn Ea and is a stunning visual. It also shows how crazy powerful the sword is for anyone who has no real experience with any other iteration of the story.

I saw that several people noted that in the visual novel they make it explicitly clear that Saber was able to dodge the Tsubame Gaeshi because Excalibur was able to bend Monohoshi Zao enough to create a gap when she could slide through the technique. That is something that works when you have an omniscient narrator to explain what is going on. You can try to explain that all without words but that amount of effort seems more than is necessary. They make it clear visually that Saber was able to find a gap in his technique. Do you really need all the details on a chart?  Did people want as Robert Edward O. Speedwagon styled commentator character to spell that all out? I’m fairly certain no one has been asking for MORE exposition in the series.

Unless maybe Taiga is doing the commentary. (I would love to see fan art of Taiga dressed like Speedwagon.)

I’m really hoping that the last few posts will come out on time. I make no promises but I will do my best. These are the final episodes so I will put in a little extra effort despite everything that is going on. It should be worth it as we are getting to some of the best scenes in the whole series.

Plus we get to learn if the King of Heroes does indeed have enough swords.

– Alain

Previous Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works posts:

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #022 – Under the Sea

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #021
 See the Title of the Post for Episode #1
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #020 – A New Meme is Born

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #019 – I Didn’t See Aigis or Metis Anywhere
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #018
 I Endorse this Ship
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #017 – Boot to the Head

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #016 – Another Spin

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #015 – When You Dream

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #014 – All in Good Time

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #013 – Break Your Heart

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

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