It is time to bid farewell to Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works. In many ways it almost feels like this is the animators saying goodbye as well as the audience. With Fate/Zero the pieces on the board have to be in a very specific state for the game to resume in Fate/Stay Night therefore you don’t have that much room to maneuver in. Here other than Fate/hollow ataraxia, which has a very deliberately fuzzy timeline, you really only have to hit a few key points to wrap things up. Everything past that is in the interpenetration of the last few pages of the visual novel. If episode 24 was almost religiously devoted to reproducing the climax of Unlimited Blade Works then the epilogue seems the most devoted to Ufotable wanting to leave their mark on how they want to be remembered as storytellers telling a narrative that is not of their inception but one they have made their own.
The Holy Grail War is over and the survivors are left to put their lives together with what they have left. Shiro and Rin move to England to study magic but in the back of both of their minds is the legacy of Archer and Saber. Has anything really changed or is time merely become a destined loop?
I just wanted to point out this screen cap if for nothing else the nice array of various bladed weapons from all over the world. It seems like in the fight between Shiro and Archer and the Shiro and Gilgamesh showdown we either saw generic long swords or just Kanshou and Bakuya with a few notable exceptions. In the end this was mostly because animating long fight scenes with each sword having a unique profile is a grand idea in theory but much harder to pull off when your trying to look good on a weekly production schedule. I would like to imagine that the swords flying back and forth in those battles look a little more like the display we see here.
It is interesting to see Rin without her trademark twin tails or zettai ryouiki. Rin and Shiro are a bit taller and more mature looking but nothing marks the passage of time more than Rin appearance and more mature form of dress. It shows that Rin has entered her college years and more importantly is firmly on the path towards being a full adult. She may still engage in some amount of childish frivolity like her rivalry with Luvia but overall the 5th Holy Grail War is where she become a proper woman. The Rin we see studying at the Clock Tower is the logical maturation of the woman who we see forged in the flames of war.
Luviagelita Edelfelt you made it into a real Type-Moon anime as opposed to Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA. I’m proud of you. You might just be remembered as the girl who can’t say Shiro’s name correctly and butts in on Rin’s relationships but that is better than nothing. You’re still doing better than Bazett.
This is probably the only time we will ever see the Type-Moon Wrestling league given a tip of the hat since it was brought up as an April Fool’s gag back in 2008. It seems of all of the April Fools gags that had a serious potential of getting a spin-off this is the one who goes the most ignored. Considering how many people I know who are into professional wrestling (be in American, Amateur, Japanese, or Video Game) it seems like a side project that could really take off. They could at least sell some Dynamite Rin and Great Luvia figures to make my roommate happy.
By the way if Ufotable does not want to do the Good Ending as an extra for Unlimited Blade Works then they should at least do the Fem’s Casa mystery side story. That would be great for me AND the blog.
Just so you know Glastonbury Abbey is actually the place where King Arthur’s tomb was supposed to be. At one point the legend says that a black marble tomb was in that spot but it was burned in a fire at the abbey and in its place the far more humble memorial to King Arthur and Queen Guinevere was erected. It is almost certainly just a bit of propaganda for the abbey but it still is a tourist destination today. It is also a good place to say goodbye to Saber.
I was a little surprised they went as down to earth with Shiro getting closure with Saber. I excepted some sort of spectral conversation or jump to the Thorne of Heroes or Avalon. Instead it is a far more solemn and realistic portrayal of someone trying to come to terms with the death of a loved one. On one hand it mostly just leaves Saber as a wandering spirit still not full resolved since Fate/Zero. She is closer to her final rest but still yet to find peace. She is much like Archer in that respect. It makes me wonder if they are every going to do Fate/hollow ataraxia or do they just wish to leave the servants with their more haunting and melancholy endings. There is a distinct power to either choice.
The jump back to high school might seem unimportant but it serves three very important purposes.
The first is a simple reassurance that certain characters are OK. The last time we saw people like Taiga, Ayako, and Issei they were not doing so well. Taiga had been kidnapped and used as bait, Ayako was drained of life and might have been raped, and Issei was near death. This establishes that all of them are moving on. People like Kaede, Kane, Yukika are going forward untouched and unaware of what happened. Others like Otoko or Reikan were lightly touched and are similarly distant from the repercussions. But even those who were directly effected have healed their wounds and are moving on like nothing ever happened. Taiga, Ayako, and Issei are all back to their normal routines. They stepped into the shadows for a time but it was more a strange week to mention in memoirs than anything else.
The second is to show those who were lost. While the Servants have disappeared like the ghosts they were Souichirou is gone forever. So are all the other victims of the Holy Grail War. Souichirou might not have been innocent like many others who died he is still gone and left a small hole where he should have once been. That said like everything else the world covers over that hole quickly enough to reestablish equilibrium.
The most important task of this flashback is to show that Rin and Shiro have undergone the full Hero’s Journey. They unlike even Shinji have been transformed by their journey. When they arrive back home they more than anyone else can not go back to their old lives. Shiro looks at Souichirou‘s few remaining possessions and knows the truth about what they mean. The problem is he cannot share that knowledge with anyone who has not been down that same path. Shiro cannot return to the normal world. Much like Frodo Baggins he eventually realized that he can no longer stay in the shire and had to sail to the Undying Lands. Shiro’s choice to join Rin at the Clock Tower is the only one he could make. Rin and Shiro had to leave.
I can’t say much about this scene other than this shot always sticks out in the visual novel. It really plays up the elegant nature of Rin in a way that shows off her sex appeal but also her charisma in a far greater sense than just surface beauty. This is a woman of mature charms of the mind and spirit as well.
Overall it is nice to see how intimate Rin and Shiro have become. We never see them have sex or even kiss but that is not important. The mere fact that their body language, personal space, and conversations display the depth of their relationship in a way that dozen sloppy kisses could never convey. These are two people in the depth of a real relationship. They share their plans for the future, their hopes and fears, and their bodies in the way that only an older couple can.
I found it was slightly surprising that the largest piece of closure to the events of Fate/Zero comes with the conversation between Shiro and Waver Velvet.
They do very little to immediately tip you off that Lord El-Melloi II is in fact a grown up Waver Velvet. Hardcore fans will know that right away and it can be determined via inference but I do see it flying past most people. It was an interesting choice. I am little surprised they did not give him a little more blatant visual connection if not a more concrete hint in the dialog.
This is a conversation that can only be had to two men who have survived the Holy Grail War and in the process lost their innocence as well as someone who meant a great deal to them as a partner and a person. Like two soldiers who survived the same war they can share a connection in a way that anyone else can have sympathy for but not empathy. It is clear that Waver Velvet has hardened into a very different man. The question is how much of that will be true for Shiro as well. Archer shows that is a distinct possibility.
The choice for Rin to stay as a member and the Clock Tower and Shiro to merely graduate as a servant speaks volumes about them.
Rin has always been a woman to work the system. She sees how the world works, and clearly does not always approve of that machinery of society, but she still finds a way to twist its rules in her favor while never breaking them blatantly. She wears a mask not because she is afraid of exposing herself but because she wants to protect who she really is from those who would change her against her will. Her masks are a camouflage that allow her to move around at the highest levels while still being true to herself. If anything she has only gotten better at this. Now she is even better at keeping the real Rin safe but is now able to share that real version of herself with those she cares for.
Shiro on the other hand always has to be himself. He can’t hide behind that social mask. Therefore he will always blunder forward tripping over other people’s feet as much as his own. Some people will admire him for this and rally behind him. Some will seem him as a threat to be knocked down for the supposed good of all. But most people will use his power when they can and then distance themselves from him otherwise.
In a way that is what makes them such a good pair. They complement each other well. Rin being the subtle plotter and Shiro being the blunt instrument. More importantly they are the two interlocking pieces that allow the other to be themselves when they need it the most and when others might not be able to accept that.
The epilogue of the epilogue is certainly not the most cheerful part of the series but I think it has seeds of hope. The fact that Archer turns into a mature Shiro (and not a bitter Heroic spirit) can be seen as the cycle continuing but I like to see it as Shiro influencing Archer. He still has the possibly of avoiding Archer’s fate like Nasu claimed he did. Your mileage may vary. I suppose it all comes down to how much you want to believe. If nothing else I believe in Rin.
I have seen a lot of people turn against this series as it went on. I think that is a shame because it really stayed true to the source material while making that interpretation feel fresh and critical. I would have been a little more intrigued by a radical departure but it would have also felt a bit like a bait and switch. The Deen versions of Fate/Stay Night have always just been blandly acceptable but never admirable. This was the first time I was proud of what I saw. I really look forward to their work on Heaven’s Feel. It will be tricky but if anyone can pull it off it will be Ufotable.
Also if you really hate Saber it is the path for you.
Previous Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works posts:
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works #024 – Gilgamesh Gets Disarmed
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