Fate/stay night – Unlimited Blade Works Ep. 7: Oh look, some action!

Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 0702

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?

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— 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.

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— 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.

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— 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.

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— 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.

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— 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.

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— 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?


26 Replies to “Fate/stay night – Unlimited Blade Works Ep. 7: Oh look, some action!”

  1. Fate/ Zero was much better, conversations and actions both. It’s so much smarter than this, I’m not a Gen Urobuchi fan , the guy do dumb stuffs sometimes just like Tomino ( this guy does dumb stuffs most of the time though ).
    But Fate/ Zero was the epitome of modern anime, this thing is just bad , mainly because of the source material.

    1. The dialogue was a lot better in Fate/Zero. I think it’s because the servants were more of a main focus in that. They actually stole the show. Kiritsugu’s character was also way more interesting than Shirou’s, as was his dynamic with Saber. Actually lots of servant-master and servant-servant relationships were good in that.
      And Rider!
      I’m just gushing by this point.

      1. I actually found the Saber/Kiritsugu dynamic to be pretty weak thanks to Saber being the naive, chivalrous idiot that she is. Her getting wrecked for being a child over the course of 25 episodes didn’t make for compelling viewing. Don’t really remember much else about F/Z, so I guess she really must have pissed me off

        1. Spoilers for Fate/Zero probably:
          Taking into account the time period in which Saber lived you can sort of understand
          the purpose chivalry was serving. It gave you security of some sort, rules by which
          war can be governed, and a way to display your humanity even while you’re forced into a war-torn
          The parallel progression of Saber’s interaction with other servants really complements her dynamic with Kiritsugu. She finds common ground with Lancer right away but has to prove herself to Archer and Rider. And when you keep in mind that to her justifying herself means justifying the fate to which she led her people – this really makes her a tragic figure. All the more tragic after the inevitable breaking point with Kiritsugu and later his betrayal of her,
          considering all the progress she did make with the other servants. Also keep in mind that the breaking point is reached gradually and thus with some nuance: with the worsening health of Irisviel – which was sort of the liaison between them – and Saber witnessing more and more of Kiritsugu’s methods.
          About you not liking her: she gets disparaged so much she’s practically an underdog, so it’s hard not to root for her; though that’s not really an argument. Well actually, I also see this as her being a misogynistic subversion of King Arthur which does feel in bad taste. (It is moe and moe is evil.)

        2. Moe is the bane of my existence, but it really wasn’t my main issue with Saber. My problem with Saber: the anime initially presents her overly simplistic worldview as a legitimate philosophy for Kiritsugu’s to bounce off of. That’s like passing off a 12 year old participating in a drinking competition as a legitimate challenger. There’s nothing compelling about it because it isn’t enlightening, of course the kid is going to puke her guts out and pass out within 5 minutes. It’s not tragic either partly because Saber is a bland, 1-dimensional character, but mostly because of the initial framing of her philosophy (both are linked). If you had told me from the get go that Saber was doomed, or just shown any amount of self-awareness from her part that her philosophy was flawed but she’d carry on anyway despite that, then OK. I guess there’s something noble and thus compelling about watching someone who knows their efforts will be for naught and that they’re going to get wrecked in the process struggling about. But that’s not what I saw. I just saw a stupid, dull character with an equally stupid, dull viewpoint in a therefore stupid, dull dynamic.

        3. One dimensional characters can definitely be tragic. Their inability to adapt and become more complex characters is their tragic aspect. The end is spelled out for them but they’ll never change enough to avert it. I also think the story supports this theory by presenting Lancelot at the end. It’s basically the culmination and the root of Saber’s entire struggle and her greatest failure. The past comes back to haunt her and she’s back where she began.
          For clarification: I see Saber’s tragedy in three parts. First, the fall of her kingdom to Lancelot and Guinevere’s betrayal and her death by Mordred (all the more interesting since Arturia’s a girl in this history so there was never really any betrayal: just the appearance of one which nevertheless was a catalyst for disaster). Second arguably is the Norman conquest of her homeland and many years later the diminishing of the British Empire. Servants do get caught up in history when they are summoned. Finally, there’s this story of course.
          About her being like a kid in a drinking contest: I definitely agree. She lived and breathed a different philosophy in her time which is unquestionably outdated. But this is also one of the strengths of this series. The power granted to her is proportionate to her legend – to the impact she had on the world. In Saber’s time her actions were much more apt and her philosophy a greater influence than it would be today. The grail certainly recognizes that, meaning she is not at a disadvantage power-wise. So to sum up: the wrong ideals could win the Holy Grail war by the strength of those same ideals in the time in which they were conceived.
          And I really like how Kiritsugu deals with Saber. He lets her be a chivalrous knight and protect Irisviel – basically pandering to Saber; all the while hiding Avalon from her knowing that they are ultimately terribly incompatible and destined to clash.

      1. Kiritsugu does get two flashback episodes to himself and has an arc he goes through. He also isn’t the main character in Fate/Zero per se. Shirou on the other hand is the protagonist of a visual novel and therefore in the forefront all the time, yet manages to remain utterly boring (for reasons stated nicely by E minor in the post on episode 5). He’s also an anime high schooler so you can’t give him much life experience. Anyhow, I was advocating for Kiritsugu’s dynamic with Saber mostly and for the servants in Zero.

  2. I’m so disappointed in this show. I was hoping for some cool action, yet they spent 60% of the time talking in the most boring way possible. The show right now is just an above average shounen, but fanboys act like it is the Citizen Kane of anime.

    1. but fanboys act like it is the Citizen Kane of anime.

      At this point, I can expect at least one person to flame me every week for these posts.

  3. “Hell, half of the time, these characters are still trying to explain the rules of the game!”
    Which is the first and primary reason I hate UBW, because it literally spends as much time as the first route of the VN dedicated to explaining ALL of the rules of the entire world, JUST to break every single fucking one of them. Why? Why did you bother explaining your oh-so-intricate magical chess war only to gave the characters fucking toss the table and shove the pieces up their noses? You think you’re clever for having wasted my time on horseshit not even you care about anymore?

    “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…”
    Indeed, not to mention that it has been established Caster can BREAK THE RULES OF THE GAME. Haha! Even from a “True Neutral”/pragmatic standpoint this is the fucking dumbest choice possible. Yeah let’s just let the mass murdering hacker get strong enough to defeat the enemy we can’t currently defeat. Surely that will work in our favor when the villain capable of manipulating time, summoning her own servant and siphoning human souls like their coke on glass gains the power to possibly just win the game single-handedly through means none of us are capable of.
    _Like shouting at the top of you lungs in some snowy peaks, this is just a blatantly moronic moment to write in that will lead to an avalanche that was so easily avoidable. There was any number of ways to write “and then Caster got away” and yet the author chose to try and use this as a way to define Archer’s character. “Oh he’s so unaffected and cold and pragmatic, unlike Shirou the idealist.” Problem is that, pragmatic or ideologue, NO ONE would allow such an incredibly dangerous potential threat to live past their second breath. In an attempt to give these two characters’ mentalities a stage to contrast one another the author essentially defined one of them as a fucking idiot, which ruins the whole point and dampens the following moment of clashing ideals because we’re still stuck on “Did you seriously let Game-Breaking Magic Stalin just get away? Seriously?”

    I’m actually surprised you weren’t more taken aback by the brain-decaying stupidity of this, but I guess you weren’t all that invested in it, which I can’t blame you. As I said before I won’t get too excited about this sort of thing anymore as it’s best to let you soak this shit in on your own. I will say, however, that the reason my post here is so much larger than my reaction to the idiotic choice of letting Kamui escape (a similarly brain-dead choice on the part of that writer) is because THIS moment came about in the visual novel after roughly several times as long as your time watching this anime. It’s a much more grievous offense to get smacked with abject stupid after hours upon hours of reading (through the first route and then having the exact same lore and rules hurled at you again in the next route).
    Just felt like I should explain that as I think I might be coming off as an insufferable anti-fanboy otherwise. heh

    “Oh lord… that’s the twist, isn’t it?”
    No the twist is that this would only have been a workable twist if the character designs had been less obvious and the narrative hadn’t been so eager to tease it so hard. But what’s s u b t l e t y?

    1. Problem is that, pragmatic or ideologue, NO ONE would allow such an incredibly dangerous potential threat to live past their second breath.

      Well, I think the idea here is that they’re supposed to emulate the rock-paper-scissor thing that you see all the time in similar games. With enough time, Caster will have the ability to pierce through Berserker’s defenses, but at the end of the day, she’s still a mage. As such, she’s still weak to assassins. She can still go down in one well-timed or thought-out attack. So Archer is confident that even if she survives, he’ll be clever enough to kill her. On the other hand, it would just take him too much effort to defeat Berserker.

      1. Perhaps that is what they were going for, however it still doesn’t make sense from a realistic standpoint. It follows the ancient logic that, if you have an enemy at your feet, kill them, or else they will rise above your shoulders and stomp you out. Just because they’re weak to you now doesn’t mean they’ll still be weak once they have gotten stronger. It’s silly.

        Not to mention that, again, even if he were idiotically following the logic that this was some kind of rock-paper-scissors games (funny you say that since that’s pretty much the gameplay of Fate/EXTRA), she’s worked-around/broken the rules in a big way by somehow managing to become a Master and summoning her own servant. That being the case, you already know that she’s likely capable of shifting from a rock to a paper and maybe even to a scissors, given enough power, so why would you let her live? You can’t make choices that severe based on supposed rules of a game when one of the participants is practically hacking the game.

        1. There’s nothing ancient about anime, though. Anime operates within its own logic, and it’s full of overconfident people who think they can never lose. So naturally, Archer is confident he can always kill Cster later.

  4. Well, I haven’t seen any Fate before this, and I’m watching one Fate/Zero episode after each Fate/Stay Night UBW episode. And I can’t say I really hate any of it. The old English is what I enjoyed in the Inheritance Cycle, and the concept/story/animation are good. Except for the “horror”, that is.
    Then again, I’m trying to marathon my way through One Piece, so a lot of stuff seems fine to me.

  5. I’m pretty sure Saber and Archer could’ve destroyed Berseker together in the first arc, at least if Saber had her mana and they didn’t split up. If memory serves me right Archer single handedly killed Berseker 7 times, and Saber finished him off in the first arc. It’s funny how Archer decided to not kill Caster, but there might have been another reason for that.

    This was a fun visual novel but the anime feels slower. I think it’s because when you read the visual novel you click really fast, and can skim over the boring narration bits on your first read. Also, I actually enjoyed reading about the rules of the game and the power levels in the visual novel. In hindsight, I think the love we shower on this series is because it was one of the first non-romantic visual novels we’ve played, where everything was action of the physical but non-sexual kind. (It was also one of the first good / epic ones with good special effects.), In other words, Fate/Stay Night triggered fanboy love.

    As for the twist, I didn’t realize it until I encountered it, though I was starting to have suspicions that something was up. Call me slow, but I think the visual novel concealed the twist adequately.

  6. I agree with some of the stuff you post, but I can’t say I do with F/SN. Though I have former experience with the franchise, watching Fate/Zero and going through parts of some LPs from the novel, I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan…And yet, it hasn’t struck me as being boring or uninspired at all. I guess things like that are largely opinion-based; one person’s boring school stuff is another’s amusing breather scene or what have you.

    Well, actually the first (second?) episode was. Rin’s episode was nice, but I didn’t need it again from Shirou even if the separate perspectives thing was interesting. It has been anime’d up a bit, I must say, the teacher and Sakura don’t need to be around so much and I’d rather Rin blushed slightly less, but at core it strikes me as solid.

    I guess part of it might be from the way this anime was very much made as a sequel to Fate/Zero, and thus some of what sweetens the exposition scenes is seeing the contrasts between the likes of Shirou, Rin and Ilya and their Fourth War counterparts. Or maybe I’m more hooked on the franchise than I thought?

    Who knows.

    1. As I’ve said before, it’s not just that the conversations exist. It’s that the conversations are laid one after the other. You can go an entire episode with nothing but conversations. But hey, we don’t have to agree. If you like the show, cool.

  7. I just stumbled upon this post after searching “psycho pass 2 is stupid” on google. I liked that and then I see this post about UBW and I was wondering: You reaaally don’t know the “twist” (after studio deen’s fate/stay night and UBW movie adaptations and all the unstoppable spoilers on internet from all these past years)? Or are you assuming a character role to write this review from a more objective view?

    TL/DR: You really don’t know? Just asking… because if you don’t is better as it lets you enjoy more the ride.

    I believe that UBW is just a teaser for the heaven’s feel movie. So ufotable wants to make it pretty and “for the fans”. Stay night was already done (At that time was ok for me, but I fear to do a rewatch) and UBW was awful… So a remake can give them what they need to explain things to newer/young watchers and then go all out with the movie.

    I’m sorry for my bad English. I like your blog. Regards.

    1. studio deen’s fate/stay night

      I barely watched it.

      UBW movie adaptations

      Definitely didn’t watch those.

      unstoppable spoilers on internet from all these past years

      I don’t read anime forums. I barely read anime blogs, and they don’t talk about Fate/stay night, so….

      1. Thanks for your reply… and good for you!!! ;)

        PD: The spoilers are not necessarily from forums (I hate the spoilers, so I try to don’t watch even the movie trailers before watching the actual movie, It is hard with blockbusters). Some image jokes spoiled UBW to me, so beware of them!!

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