Fight, fight, fight!
— I mean, finally, right? Watching this anime is like being a kid all over again. You eat all your vegetables (sit through all those boring conversations) first so you can save all the good stuff (the fight scenes) for the end. The problem, of course, is that if you take too long — or, God forbid, mom gave you too many vegetables — the good stuff will have already gone cold by the time you get around to them. And oh lord, don’t even get me started on dessert.
— These Servants can’t help pausing every now and then just to taunt each other. Then finally, you get to the good stuff, but it turns out your mom hid vegetables in it too! Dammit, mom!
— It’s funny to see Saber comment on her opponent’s slight build. First, I’m surprised she can even tell since he’s wearing such baggy clothing. Secondly, it’s not like she’s a fighting machine herself. She looks like she weighs around 100 pounds.
— Elsewhere, Archer is also having a nice, little chat with Caster. There are so… many… explanations…
— Apparently, Caster summoned Assassin, which is against the rules or something. And as a result of him not having a true Master, he’s not the true Assassin. It figures. Why would you waste the assassin archetype on such a generic-looking samurai?
— Then Archer tells us stuff that we already know, like how Caster is harvesting souls from people in the city. C’mon, now you’re just repeating yourself.
— Yep, this meatloaf is really a veggie loaf. We’ve been played, son. Long story short, Archer thinks Caster has made a puppet out of her own Master. Yawn. I don’t necessarily have a problem with two or more people having a conversation. Hell, one of my favorite movies of all time is 12 Angry Men, and that is basically twelve men sitting in a room, having conversations with each other. But that’s the thing. Conversations can add much-needed characterization. Conversations can be dramatic. Conversations can be suspenseful. Conversations can be insightful. Conversations can be psychologically complex. Conversations can reveal a wealth of subtext normally hidden from our very eyes. I’m barely getting any of that in Fate/stay night. Hell, half of the time, these characters are still trying to explain the rules of the game!
— Finally, after many delays, the fight between Archer and Caster begins in earnest. But even then, they still talk. And don’t pretend like these two characters are exchanging invaluable information. You impress me! And you disappoint me! I’ll try not to disappoint you then! For Christ’s sakes, just shut up and fight.
— Caster can control time! Now, you might think this is a crucial piece of information to relay to the audience, and it is! But this also happens to be a visual medium, and there are so many ways to convey the distortion of time to the audience through just the visuals alone. C’mon, you can’t honestly tell me that this would be hard to do. Nevertheless, the adaptation consistently takes the path of least resistance, which is to flat out tell you that Caster can control time. Yes, we can all acknowledge that certain information can only be conveyed through conversations, but I don’t think they’ve even tried to let the visuals do the bulk of the work.
— Baka! No, you’re a baka! Baka, baka, baka!
— The action is, like before, decent.
— Archer: “I am the bone of my sword.” Hm…
— Elsewhere, Assassin senses that he doesn’t have much time left, so he uses his special technique. It looks like he can somehow strike at his enemies from three simultaneous angles. Considering how these Servants can immobilized space and control time, however, nothing is really all that surprising. But imagine if he had taken the time to explain to us what he had just done.
— Back to Archer and Caster, the latter looks like she’s in bad shape. But because Archer chose not to finish her off, she seems to quickly recover from her injuries. Why did the former not kill his opponent? ‘Cause it would’ve been unnecessary; he’s only here to protect Shirou. Caster can’t help but remark, “You two are quite alike, then.” Hm, hey do kinda look alike. It’d be lame though if the big twist is that Archer is just Shirou from another dimension or whatever.
— And here’s the part where the villain randomly tries to recruit the good guys to her side. Naturally, our wholesome shounen would never work for a mass murderer like Caster. But in the end, Archer lets her go, because it’s not his mission to kill her. Archer and Shirou proceed to have a quick discussion about this very matter.
— Basically, Shirou feels like he can’t ignore his principles even if something as grand and mighty as the Holy Grail is at stake. Caster is the source of all the recent problems in town, so he can’t just let her run free. And like our hero, Archer is also a pacifist, but he’s a cynical one. The way he sees it, letting Caster get stronger will be beneficial to them in the long run. Caster can use her newfound powers to defeat Berserker, for instance. This, of course, comes at the cost of innocent lives, but why should Archer care? Other than, y’know… morals and that sort of thing…
— According to Shirou’s father, you can’t save everyone. In other words, if Shirou wants to get his hands on the Holy Grail and make his wish come true, he’s going to have to compromise some of his principles. Archer simply embodies that logic. It’s just funny, though: it’s like Archer is what Shirou would’ve been if his heart had turned to stone.
— Y’see, I don’t mind conversations like the one we just saw. it at least added invaluable characterization to both of these major characters. And hell, I wasn’t even trying to say that last week’s unending gauntlet of conversations was completely worthless. I was merely poking fun at the fact that it was literally an unending gauntlet of conversations. Where one conversation ended, another one started up… for the entire episode.
— Back to the lovable Saber, she has predictably survived Assassin’s special technique. These abilities only sound overpowered on paper. In practice, Saber still looks rather pristine… like a freshly-unwrapped figma.
— Oops, I spoke too soon:
But imagine if [Assassin] had taken the time to explain to us what he had just done.
‘Cause he’s doing it now!
— Saber: “That was a dimensional-refraction phenomenon.” Minds completely blown, you guys. Minds completely blown.
— We cut back to Archer, who says that Caster should’ve just killed every single person in the city. At this point, he’s just trying to get a rise out of Shirou, which is exactly what happens. Archer reveals that he isn’t entirely heartless. He’s just looking at the big picture: Caster could do much more damage with the Holy Grail than without. Archer is more than willing to break a few eggs to make an omelette.
— Hearing Archer’s cynical outlook, Shirou can’t help but think back to his father’s disappointing words. So like a rebellious kid, he wants to go after Caster by himself. Unfortunately, Archer cuts him down with a blade, then we see visions of Archer surrounded by swords. How mysterious.
— These characters keep referring to Caster as a vixen. I haven’t really seen anything vixen-like about her.
— Even though he’s heavily injured, Shirou still manages to stumble out of the front gates and into Saber’s arms. According to Archer, fighting for others but not yourself is hypocritical. I don’t really see why he thinks Shirou isn’t fighting for himself. Altruism is partly self-serving, after all. He also says peace doesn’t exist, so it’s not something Shirou can attain. That sounds more like a pragmatic statement that one of absolute certainty.
— In the end, Assassin also backs off from his duel with Saber, because he values fighting her. It looks like he doesn’t exist for anything other than to find a worthy opponent to battle. Likewise, Archer said in last week’s episode that he doesn’t have an unfulfilled wish; Rin also doesn’t have a wish for the Holy Grail. You can’t help but wonder if the Servants are somewhat reflective of their Masters. If this pattern holds, then Caster isn’t after the Holy Grail at all. What would that say about her Master?
— Archer tries to attack a defenseless Saber, but Assassin saves her and Shirou… all because he wants another duel with his worthy opponent. What a bro.
— A very short duel breaks out between Archer and Assassin, but this one isn’t too hot. A lot of the action is obscured by bright lights, flying debris, and just random wisps of air being blown about. Saber even uses this distraction to escape with Shirou.
— After the ED, Shirou finds himself completely covered in bandages again. So far, the only thing he’s good for is getting hurt and turning into an anime mummy. This is why he finally asks Saber to train him in the ways of combat.
— He proceeds to have a conversation with Saber about Archer. The latter doesn’t seem to think that Archer is all that bad. Why? Because his technique was “as pure as a clear stream.” As such, “[h]is heart must be equally as pure.” Well, that’s a convincing argument. Let’s just end this post on that brilliant note.
— Wait, wait, one more thing: “Given enough time and effort, you should be able to reach his level.” Oh lord… that’s the twist, isn’t it?