Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
by Gabriella Ekens,
After two straight weeks of action/backstory spectacular, it's time for another episode where people mostly stand around and talk. Fortunately, it's better than the last one – they drop a lot of tantalizing hints surrounding what might go down soon. Lancer's still kicking, which indicates that his master Kirei isn't as dead as Caster thinks.
Last episode ended with Gilgamesh executing Ilyasviel, and this one opens with him ripping her still-beating heart out of her chest. People were wondering whether they'd censor that and, well, they didn't. She's very dead, but her heart still pulsates with sinister-looking magic. Shinji proceeds to prance over her corpse, which infuriates Shirou.
Did Gilgamesh reveal his identity at any point? If you didn't know already (and you probably did), that's the Tall Blond Servant that Kirei rented out to Shinji. Shirou and Rin figured out his identity at some point during the fight, but I don't understand the trigger. It's awkward because they proceed to casually discuss his myth and accurately connect it to his ability to shoot spears out of portals. The Sumerian King Gilgamesh – the main character of the Epic of Gilgamesh, dated to 2500 BC and considered the first great work of literature – isn't really a household name. Very little is known about the historical Gilgamesh, and there's nothing to suggest that he was a pale jerk who stole children's organs and ran around in a tiny jacket. I checked, and this exchange is mostly unchanged from the VN, so it seems like a clunky way to work the servant's identity into the story when there isn't a natural spot for the reveal to take place. It's less obtrusive while playing the Unlimited Blade Works route, because the audience is already supposed to know who Gilgamesh is, due to it being a key reveal during the first route, Fate. So it's just an excuse to start referring to him by name in the second route, but in this anime, it is the reveal, and it's severely lacking in impact. Gilgamesh is an important endgame character, and they could have restructured the timing a little bit to make it more dramatically interesting. Maybe when he re-encounters Saber?
Addendum: It has been brought to my attention that they figure it out because Shinji says Gilgamesh's name at one point. Otherwise my criticisms still stand.
Otherwise, this episode benefits from an exterior view of Shirou. Anchored to his perspective, the visual novel had few opportunities to examine how other characters perceive its protagonist. This is crucial for this episode – Shirou thinks that his strange reaction to Ilya's death is normal, while the audience (and Rin) views it as strange and unhinged. (It doesn't help that he has a serious case of the crazy eyes throughout this conversation.) He'd only met this girl once before, when she tried to brutally murder him. Sure, she has a sympathetic backstory as his long-lost sister, but he doesn't know that. On one level, Shirou's commitment to saving people is noble, but on the other, it comes at the expense of his sanity and personal safety. This hardline idealism seems nice in theory. but is actually quite scary and dangerous when encountered firsthand. This is all illustrated through Rin's reaction to Shirou and a lack of conflation between his POV and the authorial one.
When our heroes seem out of options for rescuing Saber, Lancer – who hasn't done anything significant for the past fifteen episodes – shows up to offer his aid. Sure, it's at his master's suggestion, but he already seems more personally attached to our heroes. Particularly, he has the hots for Rin, which Shirou gets all defensive about. Chill out, Shirou, are you two even officially an item yet? At least Lancer seems to think so, which casts his flirting in an inappropriate light. Ah well. I'll cut the blue guy some slack, because it's funny and I like him. (This scene also resulted in an editing gaffe where it totally looks like Lancer is hitting on Shirou. Watch your eyelines, ufotable.)
They also add a conversation between Archer and Souichirou. It's supposed to add more to Souchirou's character, but mostly it makes him sound like a walking conglomeration of Kinoko Nasu's “convoluted inanity” style of dialogue. Basically, he's an empty shell of a human being who latched onto Caster because she is decisive about her desires. He's so out of touch with his sense of self that he has no concept of morality besides his own attachment to Caster and her wishes. Caster just wants to return home. Souichirou and Archer make a fun pair. They should do standup.
We end this episode in the middle of Shirou and Rin's second attack on the Church, where Rin says something strange about her pendant. Apparently only one exists, but there are two within the story-world: one retrieved by Shirou and another given to her by Archer. She cuts off this line of thought, and they begin their assault. Strange.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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