Fate/stay night – Unlimited Blade Works Ep. 2: The rules of the game

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“It really gets better?!”

People claim the story’s going to get better now. Uh-huh…

— Those noses, though…

— The simple-minded Shirou is too much of a straight-forward, wholesome shounen. He’s not giving himself enough credit. Sure, Lancer just kicked his ass, but the guy managed to stay alive. That’s gotta count for something, right? But hey, it’s not like it matters in the long run. Everyone’s going to come to admire the hero anyway.

— Rin’s not clueless, and after watching the long prologue, we’re not clueless either. But sadly, Shirou’s clueless, so we have to sit here and watch Rin explain everything to the hero. The Holy Grail War, Master, Servant, Command Seals, so on and so forth. Meh, it’s all been talked about before, so I don’t see why this conversation isn’t just skipped to save us some valuable time. I say you have to pick one or the other. Either keep this conversation, or keep the majority of the prologue. It’s so unnecessary and boring to have both.

— And it continues. The characters discuss how Shirou is not a full-fledged Master, so he has no mana to help replenish Saber or whatever. I would’ve figured that something like this is self-evident, though. Nobody actually thought Shirou was a mage, did they? Moreover, this entire scene is like listening to someone read the instruction manual to a video game. Riveting. I’m sure there’s a more elegant way to deliver this information, but I suspect this was exactly how the information was delivered in the visual novel. As such, the adaptation has to stay true to its roots or risk fan backlash.

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— Rin laments the fact that she couldn’t summon Saber. Hey, what if Archer was listening in, man? That’s not nice. As she does this, she has her butt gyrating in the air. I wonder if that was in the visual novel? Or is this something we can actually add to the adaptation?

— Shirou, however, naively asks, “Hey, are you saying I’m not worthy of her?” I like how he’s already implicitly accepted his situation. Oh, I’ve just been plunged into an all-out war with a bunch of people who can cast spells? WAIT, WHAT ARE YOU SAYING? I’M TOTALLY WORTHY. Seriously though, I think I’d worry more about the fact that I have no fucking clue what I’ve just gotten myself into.

— Best part? Rin wants to take Shirou to go see someone who knows all about the Holy Grail War. Yo, that talk we just had? That was just the introductory course. Get ready for some upper division education, boy!

— Luckily, Shirou realizes that it’s late. Yes, it’s very late! Spare me from having to watch two lectures back-to-back.

— Saber assures Shirou that Servants can magically “adapt to whatever era they find themselves in.” That’s convenient. In other words, she’s going to become a mysterious transfer student at his school, huh? Yo, I’ll let it slide if Archer becomes one too. Fair’s fair. What say you, Fate/stay Night?

— Ah RIP… we’re going to go see that old man anyway.

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— So Rin takes Shirou to go see some fake priest in a shady-looking church. Along the way, she explains how this guy became her guardian ever since her father died.

— Character models aside, the animation looks nice. Well, even the characters are well-animated. I just don’t like the character designs.

— So we meet Kirei Kotomine, and uh… I wouldn’t trust him. It’s just the way he looks and the way he sounds. Hell, Saber wouldn’t even come with Shirou because she apparently has bad history with the guy. But nuh-uh, you’re not going to fool me into watching Fate/Zero, anime!

— Rin: “You’ll need to start from square one with him.” Oh lawwwwwd.

— Billions upon billions of people on this planet, and out of all of them, only seven people at a time will get the privilege to fight over an object that can very well decide the fate of the entire world: “A Holy Grail capable of this can surely grant its holder limitless power.” That’s rather peculiar, isn’t it? Not only that, the Grail is located in this very Japanese town.

— Only one person may hold the Grail at the end of all of this. And who decided this? The Grail itself. Okay then.

— Naturally, our wholesome hero wouldn’t hurt a fly, much less kill the other Masters. Luckily for him, Rin gives him a way out: “We don’t have to kill each other, Emiya-kun.” Again, I didn’t watch all of the original adaptation, and even if I did, I doubt I would’ve remembered much. I wonder if he killed anyone then. I wonder if he’ll kill anyone now.

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— Kirei insists, however, that the whole thing will be a fight to the death, but Rin angrily disagrees. Like really angrily. I wonder if she maybe wants to preserve his innocence or something. After all, someone went ahead and spoiled it for me that she already likes the guy. Still, her solution is just a half-way compromise. He doesn’t have to kill the other Masters, but he still has to eliminate their respective Servants. Does that mean they die or do they just go back to wherever they came from?

— Kirei reasons, however, that it’s hard enough to defeat a Servant. You may as well just get rid of the Master since this’ll kill two birds with one stone. But never give a wholesome shounen a challenge. He’s almost certain to take the hard way out every single time if it means he can spare a life. I mean, I suppose that’s what makes him a hero, doesn’t it? But it does get tiring watching the same archetype over and over in these stories. But again, this is the second route, so I’ll just have to wait and see what this Shirou does.

— Oh God, Kirei’s started walking. Let’s see if he walks in a circle.

— So a Master would still be a part of the game even if they lost their Servant. All that matters is that the Master still has their Command Seal. Shirou asks what would happen if he just used up his Command Seal right there and then. Kirei doesn’t really give him a good answer. He just says that this would be cowardly. Well, okay, if I don’t want to die, who the hell cares if you think I’m cowardly?

— He’s made a turn!

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— Still, if Shirou wants to give up that badly, he can. Kirei will even protect him until the whole ordeal is over.

— He’s made another turn! It’s going to be a circle, folks! All he’s got to do is make one more turn! Turn left, Dale!

— BAM, THE LAST TURN! We’ve come… full circle.

— Kirei: “Driven by their desires, [previous] Masters have engaged in indiscriminate slaughter.” I guess the Grail doesn’t really care who holds it so long as that person is good at killing… It doesn’t seem so damn holy anymore.

— Of course, Shirou’s not going to quit. Why? Because he shouldn’t want an asshole to get their hands on the Grail. I can buy that. It’s just another version of that “With great power comes great responsibility” idea. It is revealed that the disastrous fire from Shirou’s past was the aftermath of the previous Holy Grail War. See, now you’re just playing on the hero’s trauma, so he has to join.

— Oddly enough, even though this is the fifth Holy Grail War, only one guy has ever managed to hold it. I guess the other contests just failed for one reason or another. Even then, he held it only briefly and did nothing with it. According to Kirei and Rin, this was because the other Masters weren’t all dead. Apparently, getting the Grail doesn’t mean anything unless the other Masters are dead. Okay then. So uh, I have to ask… if only one person has ever gotten his hands on the Grail, and even then, he couldn’t do anything with it, how does anyone know for sure that the Grail will grant you limitless power?

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— Kirei keeps badmouthing this previous guy as though he’s talking about someone that Shirou should know. I’m guessing this previous guy has to be Shirou’s dad, since the damn war only occurred ten years ago. Still, seeing as how Rin’s a Master too, and this is the route that focuses on her… I don’t know what to really believe. ‘Cause honestly, I don’t believe for a second that Rin’s going to die.

— Shirou finally leaves the church, presumably after confirming his desire to stay in the Holy Grail War. Kirei says something about great evil, blah blah blah. He shakes hands with Saber, and that’s that. Still, I like how the revelations about the fire from ten years ago is what ultimately convinced Shirou to participate. You’d think the idea of an evil person getting his or her hands on the Grail would be enough to sway him. Like what if Hitler was going for the Grail, y’know? But Shirou only really becomes adamant in his resolve, because he doesn’t want athe great fire to occur again. Well, I’m not saying that a fire ain’t a tragedy, but worse things can happen.

— Hell, we don’t even need to consider worse things. Let’s say some asshole’s wish is to simply — oh, I don’t know — destroy a single orphanage. That’s arguably not as bad as a fire that consumes an entire town, but I’d still think that something like this alone should be enough to get Shirou’s participation, no? My point is, why is the fire from the years ago the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and not the very real possibility that any unsavory bastard can get his hands on the Grail? Any hero of justice worth his or her salt would’ve said, “Stop right there. You had me at ‘unsavory bastard.'”

— Needless to say, Rin suggests that they go their separate ways because they are now officially rivals. Oh, it’s just the tsundere act.

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— Archer shows up to state the obvious, i.e. yo, let’s just kill this kid right here and right now. But of course, Rin does nothing, so he teases her about her true feelings for Shirou. Aw, it comes complete with her blushing and everything. Good ol’ tsunderekkos.

— Shirou continues to insist that he doesn’t want to fight Rin. After all, he likes people like her. Cue more blushing and stammering. Yep. But all of a sudden, that silver-haired loli from last week’s episode reappears. She even asks if our heroes are done chatting. Girl, c’mon… you already know the answer to that question! We’re never done chatting! But fair’s fair, so I’ll admit that it looks like we might finally get some more action in next week’s episode. Pairing a little girl up with a Berserker-type fighter is so passé, though.

— Anyway, the episode’s finally over, and surprise, surprise… it’s another episode full of uninteresting conversations about the rules of the game. Hell, we got two different conversations in two different rooms, basically. When people said that the story would get better, I guess they didn’t mean that it’d get better right away.

— And of course, some of my favorite books are full of exposition, but this is not an apt comparison. When I’m reading a Dostoyevsky novel, I’m not just reading exposition. I’m reading exposition done his way. He has an undeniably unique way with words that makes his novels interesting no matter what. But at the end of the day, we’re talking about two completely different mediums. Just because you can get away with one thing in one medium doesn’t mean you should be able to get away with the same thing in another medium. There’s a reason why Dostoyevsky novels have rarely been adapted to the silver screen and adapted well. You can’t just lift the words directly from the source material, slap some animation on it, and call it a day.


35 Replies to “Fate/stay night – Unlimited Blade Works Ep. 2: The rules of the game”

  1. Did you not watch Fate/zero? It’s better than Fate/stay night in my opinion. Although it does have many of the same problems. Basically the fights are really good, but there’s a lot of talking in between. If you can’t stomach the talking enough to make it to the fights from Fate/zero, I don’t think you’ll like Fate/stay night either.

    Character wise F/z and F/sn are pretty different though. In Fate/zero all of the masters were adults and pros etc. Due to plot elements you’d probably don’t care about, Fate/stay night’s war starts too early so many of the designated masters are teens. This means there’s much less assassinating and more tsundereko alliance making.

    1. Watching the previous installment is not a pre requisite for someone to criticize THIS show.

      THIS show is a new show and SHOULD STAND ALONE ON ITS OWN MERIT. stop with the “did you watch this (insert different show here) did you read the (insert manga, visual novel here)” It just lets us non-fanboys know that you have no idea what you’re talking about, and anything you say that comes after: “Did you see show x, read novel y” is something I can just ignore.

      Please learn how to criticise shows, and/or reviewrs correctly. thanks.

  2. I always consider Stephen King adaptations (the good ones I mean) to be the pinnacle of taking looooong source material and converting it to a visual format. Granted, they’re movies – I don’t think I’ve liked any of the miniseries I’ve seen – but still.

  3. “You can’t just lift the words directly from the source material, slap some animation on it, and call it a day”

    ” As such, the adaptation has to stay true to its roots or risk fan backlash.”

    That’s the thing I just can’t wrap my head around surely you cant just want the same thing you read adapted the same way, like not even an interesting twist or having the story told differently?

    This Is mostly new to me too and I’m really only here because Fate Zero was good. My gosh is this slow though, like 40 mins for a prologue then two episodes of talking about what was established in the prologue? Why? Is there a fan here who is happy with this? Fate Zero wasn’t this slow and never had such a lame hero like shirou surrounded by what? A tsundere and a loli smh. This feels like such a step down. Your being pretty patient with this though I hope it pays off some what.

  4. The holy grail war in Fate Zero is better, because the majority of the masters are professional mages or assasins. In Fate Stay Night the main characters are teens and for that reason a lot of stupid things happen. The problem of most adaptations of Fate stories is that to understand the story, the rules and the world of “Fate” you need a lot of exposure.

  5. “but I suspect this was exactly how the information was delivered in the visual novel. As such, the adaptation has to stay true to its roots or risk fan backlash.”
    DING DING DING! You got it, mate. The kicker? Well, without spoiling anything, it’d be good to keep these rules in mind. They’ll help you really give this show a good critique later on.

    “– BAM, THE LAST TURN! We’ve come… full circle.”
    Cracked me up to no end. Man, they just couldn’t help themselves, huh?

    “You can’t just lift the words directly from the source material, slap some animation on it, and call it a day.”
    Exactly. I’ve never read Dostoyevsky, but either way your point is undeniable. Maybe things are different in the text for the Japanese VNs, as I hear Nasu, the author, toys with the language in such a way that sometimes theming and dual meanings are hidden in the narration. In being so faithful to the source material they’ve abandoned whatever literary flair Nasu holds on paper (so to speak). I wouldn’t know. I barely know Hiragana and have only ever read the (well done) English translations of the Fate works, which are not as enthralling to read as people say the Japanese versions are.

    I have no idea what went through their heads, but I guess since it seemed to work for them with Fate/Zero they thought, “Let’s to it again!”
    Thing is, no one remembers the circle-talk scene. They only remember the action oriented moments, and if that’s the case then why not just cut down on the needless exposition?
    Even fans of this series acknowledge it’s inclination towards verbose and repetitive exposition. Why not cut it down and get right to the memorable bits?

    1. Rule #1 of any visual medium: Show don’t tell.
      Rule #1 of any visual medium: Show don’t tell.
      Rule #1 of any visual medium: Show don’t tell.
      Rule #1 of any visual medium: Show don’t tell.

      No matter what adaptaion issues this show is having, this is a visual medium. having the first two episodes combine for 88 minutes of talking/nothign happening, nothing being shown (fixing heaters and introducing cliche’d characters doesn’t account for the rest of the episode which was just…boring) and 2 minutes of action.

      THEN have a 3rd episode of 100% talking is bad. Period. Try watching law and order, or any American TV show worth its salt and you see stuff hapening, if shows started doing what this show did, They’d be cancalled after ths first episode. They wouldn’t even get to the pilot.

      There are certain basoc rules that shows in certian mediums need to follow, when they dont even get the basics right, then you can consider it bad(at least for these three episodes), since it’s based on fact not emotional opinon. If I had a freind and recommended this to him and he told me it was boring and sucked. I couldn’t disagree with him because he’s right. even IF the show “will get better soon” it’s not. . .better NOW, also that friend would probably slap me upside the head if I told him to read/watch something else first. . .and still wouldn’t watch it.

      1. The rule of three is always good, but I follow the rule of two.
        See, when most publishers look over manuscript candidates for publication, if you can’t wrap their attention within two chapters (one chapter if they are prominent, three chapters if they are forgiving) then you’re not getting publicized. Same deal here. If you make the audience feel bored at all within the first two episodes of a series, you’ve failed.

        “It gets better” is akin to the notion of “There’s just a few glitches” or “Not all of the writing is flat”.
        I’ve never understood that. Thing’s don’t need to be exciting from the onset, they simply need to be interesting.

        Compare the source materials, even. If instead of rehashing the Fate/Stay Night story this studio chose to put the Fate/EXTRA narrative to the screen we’d have a much different reaction. Nasu clearly got better at introducing a story and world to the audience in a way that doesn’t feel like wading through verbal mud. The interest in there, from the get-go, and escalates accordingly.
        _Fate/Stay Night is enjoyable but it’s undeniable how things just goooosssoooslllooowwwlllyyy in the beginning (not to mention how the story will, at certain points, come to a screeching halt for more talking). Considering this, in order to give both the source material’s fans and newcomers a riveting adaption, the studio SHOULD have taken creative license in how they conveyed the story.

        Anyway, I agree with you, JoJo, and I’m disappointed that the studio didn’t either choose a better paced story or better yet take proper advantage of the visual medium.

        …I’d kill for a Fate/EXTRA CCC anime with a budget.

    2. “I have no idea what went through their heads, but I guess since it seemed to work for them with Fate/Zero they thought, ‘Let’s to it again!'”

      I parsed it as more of a humorous call-back than anything.

      1. Well it certainly was, whether it was intentional or not. haha
        I wonder if it was intentional, though. Usually the comedic moments and references in Type Moon works, let alone most anime, are boisterous and obvious. This seemed subtle in comparison.

        Who knows? Maybe it’s kind of an inside joke within the studio. hah

  6. Well, that was rather talky.

    The characters discuss how Shirou is not a full-fledged Master, so he has no mana to help replenish Saber or whatever.

    I have a baaaaaad feeling about this *smirks*

    Tsunde-Rin being tsundere is still not getting to me. And dat buttshake is just, i don’t know.

  7. Fate/Zero stopped expositions & talks after first chapter. By second chapter mages were already making their checklist & planning to eliminate anyone that shows some opening. Even if more expositions comes later on, they are done in appropriate scenario. I have watched the UBW movie & know what to expect (& I will shut my mouth about spoiler as long as I can unless the F/SN blog here becomes Mahouka, AGK tier hate blogging). But this 100% copy & paste from visual novel & anyone who think this level of faithfulness is a good thing is beginning to piss me off.

    And if anyone is starting to hate all these expositions, expect worse. Before Toaru & Mahouka showed up, Nasuverse & Fate series in particular were notorious for the amount of rules they had & twice as much as exceptions to all these rules. Just check at Nasuverse threads, you will find stupidly high number of threads where discussions amount to what one’s noble phantasm really does, which Shiki has what eye power & how sorcery is different from magic (don’t be surprised, this is one of the basis for every Nasuverse story). So if anyone thought Mahouka’s techno babble were a waste of time & hated it, prepare to hate it as well.

  8. one of the worst things about this series is that it babbles on about its own lore. zero only took one exposition ep for the show to start but this one needlessly had 2 that already felt like filler and even after those they went to church for even more exposition, this should be called fate stay exposition…

    I already watched the ’06 adaptation and didnt like it, at the time I thought that it was the studio’s fault but now I know that it’s just the material since even ufotable cant make it good.

    1. “fate stay exposition”
      It’s our “Fate” to “Stay” for the “Night” of exposition!
      …Sorry, that was awful.

      ” I thought that it was the studio’s fault but now I know that it’s just the material since even ufotable cant make it good.”
      I have to disagree, mate. Ufotable COULD make it good IF the studio chose to take creative license with how it conveyed the mind-numbing amount of exposition. Yeah the source material is partly to blame, but the director and team working on the adaptation are really at fault here.
      _I mean, what if Kubrick had stayed so painstakingly truthful to the source material when he was making The Shining? The point of an adaptation is that you can alter things (to an extent, so long as it doesn’t damage the soul of the work) to better fit the new medium it’s being introduced to. Staying this truthful to the work only mishandles the visual medium and actually even turns some of the core fans away from boredom, let alone how negatively it impacts newcomers.

      Unless ufotable is under contract to not alter a single thing, even in story boarding, then there’s just no excuse for what amounts to about a consecutive hour of straight yapping.

      However, you pretty much nailed the Achilles Heel of Nasu’s writing (at least, in his earlier works): “one of the worst things about this series is that it babbles on about its own lore.”
      _Fate/EXTRA wasn’t as bad (from what I remember), and Fate/EXTRA CCC seemed to be the best of the lot, but almost every title in the Fate series and extended “Nasuverse” is crippled at least slightly by prolonged periods of exposition.
      …And yet I’d still recommend reading Fate/Stay Night’s “Fate Route”. haha

      1. Then how about fate stay night: unlimited exposition works?

        I think the funny part is that they cut out alot of stuff so far like shirou’s inner monologues and explaining how his projections work but even after being watered down it has a bad case of infodumping.

        I agree that going the semi-anime original route with some changes while keeping the main plot for the sake of it having a better anime transition would be the better choice by far than what they’re doing now. But since they explained the general rules of the war it should be improving now(I hope).

        I also played extra, ccc and some of fsn and tsukihime’s vn, and I find that the convetsations/explainations were better placed and seemed more natural but once it gets animated feels like it went into lecture mode

  9. Too bad E Minor dropped Fate/Zero after the first ep, a lot more intriguing servants, more adult masters, Urobuchi… I see more & more now just how FS/N is weak compared to the F/Z. ufotable can’t “save” it. But we all know it will sell a lot anyway.

    1. yeah, what I liked about zero was that it wasnt about clueless, innocent, underdog shounen hero #5768, instead it was about a pragmatic grown man who alreadly knew what he had to do, maybe it’s just because I hate generic highschooler characters but zero did waste time explaining things to kiritsugu.

    2. “I see more & more now just how FS/N is weak compared to the F/Z.”
      I didn’t really care for F/Z but even I have to agree about it’s superiority.
      It’s just fact that Nasu got much better as he kept writing, but since ufotable already did F/Z and since the original story has such nostalgia appeal, well…

    1. I didnt know that but im guessing because it’s a canon prequel to the story in the same verse.

      i didnt read the light novels or play the VN but going by all the adaptions so far i’d say that zero had a better writer though.

      1. Fate Stay Night had a better writer, the problem of Fate STay Night is that the visual novel format of the story make it harder to adapt it.

  10. This episode is necessary, like it or not. The holy grail exposition is hard to convey in another way, and cut information this crucial for later events is a bad thing. The “Show, don’ tell” thing is valid and desirable, but unfortunately this type of information (The Holy Grail exposition) is very difficult to convey visually (if it is not impossible in this case). If directors, animators, knew how to do this reliable in adaptations from wordy novels would be something very valuable and often done.

    Things like this is why I prefer original anime rather than adaptations. Anime Producers do not realize that adaptations do not always work well. Or they realize, but do it anyway, thinking about the money.

  11. I thought they did what they could, with material full of exposition to begin with in a series that is aimed both at existing and new fans of the property, including those coming in from Fate/Zero but not only them.

    1. I agree but it is still kind of boring. Anyways, I do believe that this adaptation is 1000x better than the visual novel (take what from that what you will)

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