Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
by Gabriella Ekens,
Well this was an eventful week!
So Caster and Souichirou are finally out of the game. It's been coming for a while. Their story has dominated this show since around episode six, and it's time for them to move out of the way for the final showdown. Archer, jerkwad that he is, was a double traitor, working against both Rin and Caster for his own interests; specifically, he's interested in murdering Shirou. I won't say Archer's identity until it's stated in-show, but it's gotten pretty obvious by now. Shirou and Rin have finally gotten it, and it's clearly tied into his desire to murder the kid. The reveal will come soon.
This episode was dominated by two battles, and they were both pretty good. The first was the Lancer/Archer rematch, where Lancer got to show off the full extent of his powers. In life, he was the Celtic hero Cu Chulainn, wielder of the Gae Bolg, a cursed lance that always pierces its target's heart. The main traits of his legend that have been carried over into the Nasuverse are loyalty and a tendency to get himself into disadvantageous positions. Like Archer, Lancer picks on people, but morally, he's most similar to Saber – a noble vassal who despises underhanded tactics. He's a bad match with his current master and likes Rin because he sees that she's an honorable person. I like Lancer. He's an underutilized character, but the Unlimited Blade Works route is his time to shine, so I'll savor his presence while I can. He's a good counterpoint to Archer, who is self-serious to the point of being aggravating. Lancer wins the battle by launching his super attack, a charged throw of the Gae Bolg. Archer survives by summoning a shield this time – Ajax's from the Aeneid - but Caster's mana is left exhausted. However, this is exactly what Archer wants: Caster is in a vulnerable position, and now he can deal with her.
The other fight was between Shirou/Souichirou and Rin/Caster. Archer seals the deal by stabbing Caster in the back, but Rin also makes clever use of her powers. I've always been underwhelmed by Rin's gem magic. She has a finite supply of gems, meaning that it's easy to wait her out, and we've never seen them work against a serious opponent. What I'm saying is that it seems like a lame school of magic to dedicate your lineage to, compared to the folks who punch things or build puppets or design evil apartment buildings. At least it's not penis worms? Anyway, there's no believable way that Rin could have won in a straight magical duel against the ancient sorceress. Instead, she lulls her into a false sense of security before punching her a bunch. It's a callback to the first few episodes, when Rin would supercharge her legs to jump from building to building.
I believe that this is also the first time we've gotten to learn more about Souichirou. He's a completely directionless person, a former assassin who completely depersonalized himself in order to serve as a tool for others. (That sounds like a certain Fate/Zero character.) He doesn't perceive any morality outside of what's necessary to accomplish his goals, and never regrets his actions. He's a counterpoint to Archer, who seems to be filled with regret, and was turned into a “tool” as a Counter Guardian. Souichirou finds solace in Caster, subsuming himself into her goal of returning home to Corinth. However, their ultimate motivation seems to have been staying together. Corinth doesn't exist any more, and Caster seems to have stirred Souchirou's humanity. Despite the atrocities they committed, they were another pair of broken people taken advantage of by the world, and that's a tragedy.
So Caster is dead, Saber is back on Shirou's side, and Archer is once again set on killing our protagonist – this time free from Rin's leash. How will Shirou make it out of this? Do you know who Archer is yet?
On that note, I have some brief thoughts on spoilers. There are so many different entry points into the Fate/stay night story that I don't have a solid primary audience to write for. Do I assume you've seen Fate/Zero? How about the visual novel? How much should I assume someone new to the franchise has already internalized through a decade of cultural osmosis? Fate/stay night is a much-discussed story in anime fandom, and some of its big reveals are the community's equivalent of “Luke, I am your father” – common knowledge long separated from their original context. I don't think that I've always made the correct choice as to what I reveal at any point, but Fate/stay night is a property where no approach will ever satisfy every audience, and I'm at peace with that. I'm enjoying the ride, and I hope that you are too.
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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