Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
Episode 22

by Gabriella Ekens,

One question has hung over Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works since the beginning - will they or won't they? I don't mean Shirou and Rin falling in love. That's a given. But would ufotable continue the tradition of leaving out the VN-original sex? In hindsight, of course they will. (I wonder what will happen in the Heaven's Feel movie. That arc's content is, uh, less avoidable.) The real question is what ridiculous visual metaphor they'll use as a placeholder for the deed. I'm sad to report that this one – green sperm-like jellyfish – ranks below both DEEN's CG dragon and the Unlimited Blade Works film's spirit dolphins.

So this episode was mostly skirting around the fact that this is where Rin and Shirou have sex in the original visual novel. Subsequent adaptations have done their best to scrub this out; the Realta Nua re-release even changes it to a chaste “magic crest implantation,” so that's what this anime sticks with. Still, we all know what's really going on. Rin's reactions to the procedure can't be read as anything besides butterflies before her first time. It's soft fanservice.

Rin's character really changed between cours. She started off assertive and confident about her romantic relationship with Shirou, but now she's wilting and embarrassed. It's like someone gave her a stern talking-to about properly conforming to the tsundere stereotype between seasons. There's no build-up to Rin being squeamish about her memories. (That's what they exchange in this version instead of bodily fluids). Rin is attached to her father, but she hasn't been hesitant to talk about him in the past. Also, she's apparently been crushing on Shirou for years.

This episode also tries to tack some growth onto Saber, but it doesn't land. She hasn't had anything to do for the past ten episodes, and Shirou doesn't even know her identity! She even says “I know I haven't shown it, but you've shown me the way.” I'll take your word for it, I guess. It's ineffective character work, but that's nothing I don't expect out of FSN:UBW at this point.

Overall, it's about five minutes of content stretched out to twenty. At least it had some funny moments! I wish that someone had thrown a pillow at Archer. This is a C in quality, but in my heart it gets an A for Awkward.

Grade: C

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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