So I was wrong. I thought I could get this post out in time. Then life hit me square in the jaw. My apologies to my small, but dedicated, audience. Hopefully despite all the work on my plate I will be able to at least finish the epilogue episode in a proper fashion. We shall see. Only time will tell.
This is probably the most slavish I have seen the series be to the visual novel. Before this point I feel like Takahiro Miura went out of his way to stay true to the spirit of the visual novel while doing a good deal of work to bring out a bit of this own style where animation would let him express himself and add to the original narrative. You see that from all of the Ufotable staff to varying degrees. This was the first time I repeatedly saw very deliberate attempts to recreate iconic shots from the visual novel with as much fidelity as possible. It is not that Ufotable never tried that. The moment when Saber and Shiro first meet is almost always reproduced as closely as possible in any version to the Fate story (even when it is for comedic effect.) It is clear that they really wanted to capture the feel of the ending as closely as possible. At several points I felt like I was reading the visual novel again. It is not to say that nothing is modified or interpreted for anime. The final battle inside Unlimited Blade Works has a motion and dynamism that is only conveyed by the text in the original. It is just the first time the anime felt like it wanted to be as reverent as possible.
There are arguments about how good an idea this is with a decent amount of validity on both sides. Overall it seems they went with the most conservative option. I can’t really blame them for that. Considering how much flack I have seen the anime get for what it has changed or interpreted playing the ending fairly close to original did little to decrease those comments but it also did not aggravate them. Considering how much of a lasting impact the end of series has as opposed to the middle this decision will probably set a lot of the legacy of the series like it or not.
I’m personally curious to see how this all plays out when people look back on the series. Will it be remembered for what it added, what it removed, and/or what it changed and what sort of legacy will that be?
Can a duplicate equal or even surpass the original? Has Shiro been watching Idea Channel? The faker has to put his copies to the test as Gilgamesh enters his Reality Marble made of swords. In the meantime Saber and Rin battle against Angra Mainyu. Against such overwhelming darkness not everyone will make it out alive. With dwindling resources can any of the Rin and Shiro alliance make it out of this final battle alive?
Hubris is really Gilgamesh’s greatest weakness. If he had taken Shiro as a serious threat from the beginning he would have won the fight without breaking a sweat. Ea would have murdered Shiro and he would have still had time for High Tea. But since he plays with Shiro for so long he loses that chance. Shiro on the other hand is really helped by the fact that Saber’s temporary entrance at first does not seem to do much other than block some swords. But its main benefit is that it gets Gilgamesh in melee range. Since Gilgamesh actually gets off his little perch to confront Saber he finally comes in close enough for Shiro to actually be effective.
You think for someone who used to be in the Archery club and becomes has the potential to become an Archer classes servant Shiro would have a few tricks up his sleeve to be a little more effective at range. Such is Nasu’s obsession with bladed weapons.
Also it seems one character has already died. Shiro’s new jacket for the anime died in the wake of Ea’s blast.
It will be missed.
It is worth noting that Shiro’s chant and resulting Unlimited Blade Works is different from Archers. Everything in Archer’s version is weighted down by his choices in life. The gears of Fate are clearly in the sky showing a mechanical deterministic nature to his existence. Shiro on the other hand has the clear skies of free will. While his chant reflects that many things are still high probable to the point of being fated they are not completely fixed in Shiro’s mind. Shiro is still willing to fight to change the future for the better no matter how slim the chances are for that to happen.
That is important because this fight is mostly a proof of concept for Shiro’s ideals. Shiro’s battle with Archer was an internal conflict over his ideals and their worth. Archer is merely the embodiment of himself. Archer is Shiro just infused with a cynical and world-weary attitude. He had to justify his flawed but noble philosophy to himself but as a theoretical. Gilgamesh on the other hand is the rubber meeting the road moment with his ideals. When faced with someone who embodies the near exact opposite philosophy can he still go forward? Gilgamesh only thinks about himself, the believes in the sacrifice of the many for the good of the chosen few, he always embraces the darkness when it suits his needs, professes the idea that might makes right, and believes in a general cynical selfish practicality. Gilgamesh’s armory of “truths” is clashing against Shiro’s ability to create ideals from concepts. It is one thing for Shiro to make a lot of noise about pursing a future where everyone is safe without sacrifice but is another to pursue that dream of light in the face of a darkness like the corrupted King of Heroes.
(There are some current day political tangents one could make here but that is a little more current events then I would like to drag into a post on Fate/Stay Night.)
“You’re all clear, kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home!” That is all I could think when Archer appears out of nowhere and lays down some critical suppressive fire so Rin can escape from the corrupting influence of the Grail’s putrescence. It does have all the surprise and thrilling reward of when Han Solo comes back to save Luke from Darth Vader. Archer is distinctly is the same mold of the secretly heroic anti-hero as well.
NOOOOOO! I knew in my heart that the True ending was coming but I held out a faint hope that things might go differently. I was hoping Saber could stay around to show that she had learned from Fate/Zero and her time in Unlimited Blade Works but apparently that was not to be.
I feel like the fandom loves the pathos filled endings more than the happy ones. If nothing else Tsukihime taught me that in spades.
Then again there is a greater thematic significance to the loss of Saber. There is a reason this is called the True ending as opposed the Normal ending.
Saber’s sacrifice here shows the price of Shiro’s ideals. If they had just let Shinji die then Rin would have had enough mana left that Saber could destroy the grail and still maintain her form. But since they saved Shinji they gambled with Saber’s existence where as it could have been a sure bet she would have been OK. Saber is clearly worth more than Shinji (unless you have an EXTREMELY low opinion of Saber or an INSANELY high opinion of Shinji) so most people would let Shinji die without a second thought. You could even argue that Saber waiting to see if Rin could escape from the Grail’s corruption was a poor choice. Rin seemed to think that sacrificing her was a valid option. She used a Command Spell to prove that point. But for better or worse Shiro’s philosophy plays out through all of our heroes. It also means that one of the very real prices of Shiro’s ideals is sometimes the wicked are rewarded and the just are unfairly punished. Such is the price of trying to save everyone.
But Saber still leaves with a smile. Because she is amazing.
Before I get into the fight itself it is worth bringing up the fact that Shiro throws up Rho Aias when he is doing his Unlimited Blade Works chant. Like a magical girl show or super robot anime that explains why the enemy does not kill their opponent when transforming it does help wave a way a common question the audience might otherwise have with a trope.
Side Note: Was I the only person who though, “I guess Gilgamesh’s character class is Noble instead of Fighter, Ranger, or Paladin. That explains why Shiro can fight toe to toe with him. He just has fewer attacks per round despite his level.”
The fight itself is awesome. I think it pretty much speaks for itself. The one thing I will add is this is first time you really get Emiya it its full glory. Up until now it has been teased or just brought out for a small amount of time. Ufotable clearly knew that everyone was waiting for it to really unfold. After a good deal of built up expectation they finally unleash the song in full.
In a way it can almost be seen as Shiro’s progress from Minor Magus to Wrought Iron Hero as mirrored by the presence of the song. The longer it can play the closer Shiro is to his ideal. When he has made the first real and solid step towards that goal the song can play in earnest.
There is something immensely satisfying about seeing Archer head shot Gilgamesh. I know Gilgamesh has his fans. One of them writes for this blog. But Old Goldie has been a right prick this whole arc (see Illya) so seeing him take a sword right between the eyes really feels like just deserts.
Also I have to say Enkidu always feels like Gilgamesh’s real trump card more than his sword. It is the reason he is able to beat anyone with divine blood like Lancer and Berserker and is even instrumental when he kills Iskandar. Therefore him try to use it to cheese a final mutual kill by dragging Shiro with him into the void is totally in character but also sort of sad. It also reinforces the cathartic feeling when Archer steps in as a Big Damn Hero.
I have to wonder what the original Enkidu thinks about his namesake being such a sleazy weapon. There is a 4-koma comic for someone to write if I ever saw one.
This scene is always without a doubt the emotional climax of Unlimited Blade Works. The final goodbye between Rin and Archer lets Rin shine in a way that truly makes her the heroine of the story (and I’m sure annoys some people who wanted her to be the star throughout.) There is a distinct melancholy in their exchange. Despite all that he has learned from this trip through the 5th Holy Grail War the way the Throne of Heroes works it should dictate that those lessons will not transfer over to any other version of Archer. So while he has found peace in this instance the Archer saved as a Counter Guardian will not retain those memories since it exists out of time.
Then again if you consider the Fate/Extra games as cannon (and the anime seems to be reinforcing that idea) then it is clear that Archer has in fact retained his memories of Rin being his Master and been effected by it. He offhandedly mentions his time in the 5th Holy Grail War and seems changed by the events there. You can take that to heart if you want to believe that Archer’s future (past? present? ect?) has become a bit brighter as opposed to still be trapped in a unending hell of regret.
With one episode left I am curious to see what is left. Hopefully they will give Saber some sort of resolution. Will it be a Continuation of the Dream or something a little more hopeful like the Realta Nua Last Episode chapter? I’m guessing we will see Luvia. While she does not have a huge role in the ending she is far more of a known quantity after Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya so she would not just be some random blonde rival introduced for Rin in the last episode. Other than that it will be good to wrap this all up and give you all my final thoughts.
See you then.
Previous Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works posts:
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #023 – Duel at Ganryu Island Redux
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