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The Spring 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works Season 2

How would you rate episode 1 of
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.2

Nick Creamer

Rating: 2.5

Fate returns, with an episode that felt like a very strange reintroduction to the universe. There were a couple of long conversations between servants and masters, with both Rin-Archer and Souchirou-Caster testing the strength of their relationship, and then a showdown between Rin and Caster over the fate of Saber. After a whole bunch of CG pyrotechnics, Archer ends up betraying Rin for the winning side, letting Rin and Shiroe limp off to lick their wounds. And then it's confession time, as Shiroe finally admits his feelings for Rin in an unexpected moment of honesty beneath the stars.

This episode really felt like it should have gone at the end of the first season. All the conflicts built to here - Archer betraying Rin, Shiroe stepping in to save her, his ultimate confession - felt like proper conclusions to the threads built up in the show's first half, and sticking them all in the first episode three months removed made their resolutions feel oddly unsatisfying. The show is now actually set up for a newly formatted second half, with Rin and Shiroe now completely servantless and firmly allied, but this felt like we were catching up by watching a last-season finale episode that all of us just never got around to watching.

And as dramatic finales go, this one honestly wasn't that satisfying on a visceral level, either. This episode leaned heavily into Fate's often treacly dialogue, featuring a lot of conversations that ran on for a long time covering a great deal of familiar ground in fairly overwrought prose. Perhaps the final Rin-Shiroe scene would have felt more reasonable if it were more immediately following the scaling of their relationship from the first half, but here it felt like an awkwardly written mix of Fate's most ornate/inhuman prose and Rin's most archetype-ready tsundereisms. Which is frustrating, because Rin and Shiroe's more grounded scenes normally tend to be some of the show's best. Add that to the episode's choice to frame Saber's imprisonment in the most creepily and voyeuristically sexual way possible and the fairly unimpressive and effects-reliant fight scenes, and I can't say this was a particularly great debut. The show's aesthetics remain strong (the night sky for that last scene was particularly gorgeous), and I'm sure the show will get back on track now that we're properly in the second half, but this was not one of its stronger episodes.

This series is available streaming at Crunchyroll.com and Viewster.

Theron Martin

Rating: 3.5

Review: The Fate/ universe is back in play again, picking up right where the first season left off. That the first episode of the second season (episode 13 overall) can be composed almost entirely of characters standing around talking and yet still feel like it accomplishes a lot is quite the feat.

When last we saw Shirou, he had been left injured and without his Command Seals, the result of Saber having been taken away from him by Caster's rule breaker. Rin had also left him behind, saying that he had no place in the Grail War anymore. Fortunately for her, Shirou is a pretty stubborn fella. His deeply-ingrained ideals mean that he is not about to give up on Saber so easily. Rin, meanwhile, has a heart-to-heart (of sorts) with Archer, but she grossly misjudges him on one point: that he does not agree at all with helping Shirou regain control of Saber. Whether this and his continuing derogatory attitude towards Shirou is because he thinks it isn't a wise strategic move, whether he's specifically trying to stop Shirou from going down a certain idealistic path, or whether he's just jealous of the attention that Rin is paying to Shirou (or whether it's some combination of all three) is not clear at this point. Whichever is the case, he sees it as a big enough issue that, despite saying that Rin shines, he is quick to abandon her as a Master in favor of Caster (whom he identifies as the legendary Greek witch Medea) when he and Rin try to take her out. Of course, this could also be just a ploy on Archer's part, as he is also quick to insist that she and Shirou (who tries to come to Rin's rescue) be allowed to leave alive as a condition for Archer joining them willingly, but that remains to be seen. Just as important is that Saber's will hasn't been crushed yet and that Shirou finally admits that he has long been attracted to Rin, feelings that she cannot entirely brush aside herself. Meanwhile, the priest Kirei is nowhere to be found.

So the episode, as befitting a season beginner, has a couple of dramatic turn of events and lots of loose ends. Seeing the feelings between Shirou and Rin come to the surface and get openly admitted at just past the halfway point is refreshing, and considering that both characters are at their most emotionally vulnerable points right now, the timing couldn't be better. The insight into Archer's mind – that he has become cynical and embittered because of repeatedly being summoned over time to clean up humanity's messes – is also interesting and definitely speaks to why he clashes so strongly against Shirou's idealism. With only about a minute and a half of true action in the episode (but it's a pretty sharp couple of minutes), the episode does get quite talky, but anyone still watching the series at this point should already be used to that. There's no sign of a drop-off in the artistic merits, but the new opener and closer do not impress much – and as a Kalafina fan, I am particularly disappointed with the latter.

Essentially, nothing happening in this episode either detracts from or bolsters what happened in the first season. Events are still progressing in (mostly) logical fashion, and how this continues should be fun to watch.

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