Fate/stay night – Unlimited Blade Works Ep. 5: Every girl wants to kill Shirou

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Surprise, surprise… Ayako has gone missing. And people were really trying to tell me that that conversation she had with Shirou wasn’t suspiciously out of place. C’mon, I’ve seen enough of these stories to know how they work. I knew something would happen to her after she had such a banal chat with the main character. Anyway, Ayako was last seen arguing with Shinji, but of course, who doesn’t argue with Shinji? He’s one-dimensionally portrayed as the asshole of the story, after all. Still, he isn’t the only primary suspect. The story wouldn’t introduce the incredibly shady-looking Kuzuki-sensei if he wasn’t somehow involved as well. And that’s the thing that always gets me about how these characters are portrayed. If you’re trying to fit in — if you’re serious about pretending to be a high school teacher — wouldn’t you do a better job not to look so goddamn suspicious? You would, wouldn’t you? But in our fiction, there are always obvious tells just in case some people in the audience don’t catch on. As such, Kuzuki is obviously hiding something, but the characters within the universe itself are completely unaware. The end result feels unnatural. The audience is instead left wondering, “How did they not see this coming?”

Rin is a terrible actress. At first, she is completely shocked to see Shirou at school without Saber by his side. In other words, our wholesome hero is completely defenseless. Well, he’s got a few tricks up his sleeves, but he’s not a seasoned fighter by any means. He hasn’t been trained to kill. So when Rin sees Shirou again later that day, she charges at him. She fires spells at him that could seriously hurt… it’s just too bad that it is obvious from the get-go what the girl is trying to do. First, Shirou isn’t taking this seriously enough. Like Rin says, why the hell is he just wandering around an empty school without Saber by his side? Is he stupid or is he stupid? Second, if she can’t scare him off, she can at least force him to hand over his Command Seals, and thus forfeit the game. Either way, she will accomplish the same thing: protecting Shirou in the most tsundere way possible. ‘Cause again, he’s not a seasoned fighter. There’s no way an accomplished mage who has been raised to participate in this Holy Grail War would have any trouble with Shirou. It is so easy for Rider to get the upper-hand on the guy, so Rin has to be playin’. Yeah, she lands a few “hits,” but they’re nothing more than surface wounds. When Shirou actually suffered a serious injury in his attempt to shield Rin, she shows her true colors.

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That pose can’t be good for your back.

And that’s just the thing. There are attempts at misdirection here and there, but there are so many obvious tells in the story that you can’t possibly misinterpret these characters’ actions and motives. So long as you’re not a character within the universe, that is. Shirou, our wannabe hero of justice, is none the wiser. He doesn’t have much of a reaction either way, to be honest. He’s not clued in enough to see what Rin was trying to do, then when she suggests a truce between them, he doesn’t wonder about her hot-and-cold personality. Dude just goes with the flow. He’s kind of flat and uninteresting, which is sadly just par for the course when it comes to wholesome anime protagonists. I still wish the story had been centered around Rin instead, but that ship has sailed. Still, she’s more interesting than Shirou. Hell, Archer’s more interesting as well. But he’s not in this week’s episode, and he was barely in last week’s episode. Instead, we follow the boring hero of justice around so we can watch him talk to his classmates at school. Watch as he visits various locales and asks people about Ayato! Exciting! Thankfully, the action came fast and early this week, so the story’s pacing wasn’t too bogged down by Shirou’s attempts to play detective.

Unfortunately, the encounter with the new Servant ended abruptly when Rin showed up to save Shirou from getting his eyes gouged out. I guess the former retreated because she doesn’t know if it’ll quickly be a 3 vs. 1. Then after Shirou gets all bandaged up, he and Rin sit around and talk until the episode is over. Their conversation is nothing too compelling either. The gist is that Shirou’s father prioritized being a father over a mage, but when it’s done in such a dry conversation between Rin and Shirou, I’m not moved. I’m just bored. So anyway, the episode’s ending is a letdown. As always, the fight scenes are the show’s saving grace. They’re not amazing by themselves, but they’re amazing by anime’s standards. But outside them, the anime hasn’t done a very good job convincing me to care about Shirou’s fate whatsoever. In fact, he’s kind of a chump. In a visual novel, I imagine that since you control his actions, you can perhaps connect with the guy because you identify his actions as yours. In an anime adaptation, however, this crucial bit is missing. So it should’ve been bolstered with something else — something to make Shirou seem more appealing. At the moment, he’s just a dullard. Rin tries over and over to get him to wise up, but he opens up to her as if they’re best buddies or something. Oh well.

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18 thoughts on “Fate/stay night – Unlimited Blade Works Ep. 5: Every girl wants to kill Shirou

  1. Dein

    As much as everyone is raving about the ufotable adaptation, they are falling into the same pit deen did years ago – they’re not properly establishing Shirou as a character. As you say, for a VN that’s fine, since he’s just an empty shell with some basic features for the player to fill. But if you’re gonna make him play anime protagonist, he needs a lot more than those basic features to seem more than a cardboard cutout.

    Reply
    1. Gustavo Tani

      >>Empty Shell
      That explains shirou in a way….but you are completely wrong about him being generic.

      Emiya Shirou is perhaps one of the most complex characters that follow the “Hero” Archetype, he has a real reason to be a good guy, Struggles with his ideals, and how to deal with them when reality is a thing.
      At the start of the story he doesnt seem much, but as it progresses it becomes clear that things dont function to him as they would for other people

      Reply
      1. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

        You’re mostly right, but sadly the looooong~ time it takes for his character to have a real…well, character, is pretty ridiculous in UBW.
        I couldn’t help but hate him well up to the point where I dropped it (which wasn’t really because of him but other things).

        When it kicks, HOT DAMN! But yeah, it takes forever, and as someone who is a passive observer of the story via adaptation I can’t fault E Minor for his dislike of Ginger Guy.

        I found his character to be better from the outset in Fate’s route, though. I forget why but I know that I found him better there.
        At least in comparison to the first half of UBW.

        Reply
  2. kaoknight

    the funny thing is that the vn branches only gives you the illusion of choice, if you try to do something different you’ll get one of the many BAD ENDS. for example, if you say screw it and forfeit the war in the beginning you’ll be killed off anyway.

    the only way to get the “true” ends are by choosing the abitrary choices by trail and error.

    Reply
    1. ndqanhvn

      Well, that is also my problem of visual novel: the illusion of choice. You think you are making a choice, but the only thing you decide is to follow a selected few paths that have been laid down to you.

      Reply
      1. kaoknight

        yup, so you have to stick with shirou’s annoying and bland “hero of justice” character to get anywhere/progress without getting a game over.

        Reply
      2. ythm

        As much as people like to say visual novels are a medium for telling stories, when a player gets a bad end he is compelled to continue the game from a reset point in order to get a good end. It’s a goal-oriented medium, where you have to game a system to get to it. That’s not everyone’s favorite flavor, but there you have it.

        Reply
      3. Gustavo Tani

        I dont see how that is diferent from a pletora of games that do the same thing, even with stuff like CRPGs like fallout, you still have a certain path you must take to reach the ending.

        Visual novels are a medium to tell a story, its pretty much like reading a book, the choices you make is like what part you want to read first.

        F/SN is one of the most linear ones, you need to complete all 3 routes in one order, since a route only unlocks after you beat the previous one, this is made to maintain mystery elements of the story to be explored in detail in a diferent turn of events

        Reply
  3. higgsbosoff

    The bit about the teacher being obviously shady and kind of suspicious made me think of Bleach’s Sousuke Aizen. Who was for half an arc the token good guy on the enemy side, and for another half dead and buried (with corpse, autopsy and everything), and then STILL turned out to actually be alive and well, and the real bad guy behind it all. But then again, that was Tite Kubo. What I mean is, the best way to make a plot twist like this work is to ignore yourself you’re going to do it until three days before you actually write the chapter. Because I’m pretty sure that’s how Kubo works anyway.

    Reply
  4. Muphrid

    You say you found the conversation at the end a bit dry. What did you think of the concept Rin was trying to get across: that a mage uses his/her children merely to perpetuate a legacy of power? Doesn’t that say something about Rin’s upbringing?

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Doesn’t that say something about Rin’s upbringing?

      How does that change the fact that the conversation was dry and boring to watch?

      Reply
  5. IonCaron (@IonCaron)

    T MINUS ONE EPISODE
    It’s gonna happen. I can feel it.
    Stupid is coming…
    –Get it? Like the foreboding “Winter is coming” but switched with stupid because ahh you’ll find out.

    Anyway mate, I can guarantee that this convo would have been more interesting in written form as I don’t remember it being boring in UBW but it really is droll here. Or maybe I’m just confusing that from what I gleaned in the Fate route of the VN…

    As for the obvious character trope designs, I can’t really fault FS/N for it. It’s a thing that’s inherent in a LOT of Japanese visual stories, even J-Dramas like “Mr.Brain” and such (really damn good series you should check out, by the way). I mean yeah it sucks when the story doesn’t have subtlety in its character designs but what can you?
    “TAKE TIME TO LEARN HOW TO PROPERLY FORESHADOW WITHOUT GIVING SHIT AWAY”
    Well yeah, there’s that too.

    Reply
  6. akeem

    But….but I honestly didn’t see something happening to Ayako. I guess I just haven’t seen enough of these stories. the fight in this anime are puzzling for me, they’re gorgeous but some of them just don’t get me excited, I don’t feel any tension or anything.

    I smile every time Kiritsugu gets a mention, he was great.

    Reply

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