Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 01

fsn2_0

The second most difficult story to tell, is the story we’ve already heard, that we already known*. What’s there to add, really? Embellishment? Extraneous details? That sounds so dull.

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works ‘first’ episode does just that. It’s starts the same day as episode zero. It features the same characters and the same events. Only our point of view has changed from Rin to Emiya Shirou.

My God, it’s wondrous!

fsn2_1

As before, we begin with a quiet day where Rin is early to school and Emiya is repairing broken classroom heaters. We see he’s doing this partially with magic, which was not stated before, but may not have been important enough for Rin to tell to the audience.

Unlike Rin, Emiya is more interactive with his class mates. He spends a lot of time doing work for (and listening to) the class president, Sakura prepares some of his meals, and Fujimura-sensei is both his landlord and a constant mooch at meal time.

fsn2_8b

Still, like Rin, Emiya appears a little detached. He’s recently been chased out of the archery dojo by school ass-hat Matou Shinji and he doesn’t even know who these girls are.

To be fair, I don’t know who they are or what their significance to the plot the have yet either…

fsn2_14

From Emiya’s perspective, we learn that Fujimura-sensei is quite a bit more competent than we may have suspected from her always on the edge of late demeanor. We also see, though do not know for sure, that Sakura is being abused, presumably by Shinji.

Ultimately, Emiya’s point of view is a great companion to Rin’s. Where she gave us magical world context and a taste of the non-magical people in the world, he gives us low-stakes magic use and a greater understanding of the non-magic human network. Same world, same people, opposite sides of the coin.

fsn2_5

The only completely new content is Emiya’s past, which shows his adoption by a mage named Kiritsugu. It also shows Emiya surviving a fiery tragedy 10 years in the past and establishes his motives and frustrations with heroism.

These scenes are superb. They carry a great sense of heat mixed with the stillness of giving up. Magically fueled or not, there is a grand magic to presenting so much chaos, yet capturing the isolation of being alone in the chaos, powerless.

fsn2_13

Emiya looks back on the disaster with frustration and sadness. Not everyone was saved — not everyone could be saved — and that conflicts him. As a hero, he doesn’t want to be limited by choice. Who lives or dies shouldn’t be a blessing to those he cares for more than others. It should be a blessing for everyone.

fsn2_12

As with Rin’s story, Emiya’s introduces several side mysteries that go unexplained — unexplored even within this admittedly long format episode. A murder is on the lose. Possible gas leaks are making people sick. Sakura’s injuries and, very briefly show, her mysterious acquaintance.

Each one of these mysteries is handled with care and, for the most part, given very little consideration in dialog. As always, Fate/Stay is playing its cards close to its chest.

fsn2_10

As it must, Emiya’s story catches up to the initial tragedy told in Rin’s: Emiya witnesses Lancer and Archer fighting at the school and is killed in the hallway. Even Lancer is annoyed that it must go down this way. If only has master wasn’t such a cruel and cowardly one.

Later, following a resurrection that we really only understand because of episode zero, Emiya returns home, Only to fight Lancer again. Fortunately, this time Emiya is ready. Sort of.

fsn2_9b

Magically increasing the durability of a poster to fight a spear at close range makes for a exciting little fight. From the beginning, we know it’s a losing battle and, given the peeks here and there at Emiya’s pentagram, we also assumed that he would be revealed to be Saber’s summoner.

Even so! That was a satisfying fight and it’s immediate escalation into a servant vs servant fight put a satisfying cap on our retread. Well timed because the episode comes to a tight close face to face with Rin, who actually knows and is willing to give Emiya some answers.

fsn2_6

My favorite details this week came from Emiya’s television, which displayed a mixture of japanese programs. Some news. Some dancing mascots harrassing anchors. None of it was relvant to the story. They were just there, for your eye to catch and ponder instead of just staring at talking characters.

That’s some effective world building. Effectively lived-in world building.

fsn2_11
The locket remains a bit of a mystery, since it isn’t quite in the same place in the two episodes…

Episode One is a little more chatty, though actually has less exposition and more character interaction, which nicely rounds out the experience.

Additionally, episode 1’s magical battles are slightly less spectacular, as Emiya is less magical and can’t participate in the same way in the same way as Rin. However, his personal fight against Lancer with a reinforced magical poster was delightfully unique (even to Lancer) that it more than made up for its reduced after-effects budget.

fsn2_4

Really, what is the difference between a 9 and a 10? Certainly, Fate/Stay is superior in every regard to every anime we’ve rated 9 so far this season, but when you’re faced with a second week where you consider giving it a 10, you can’t help but second guess yourself. Really? Is Fate/Stay really as good as every single episode of FLCL, one of the only perfect-score-every-episode anime I can think of?

Yes. At least, so far. And yet, Fate/Stay accomplishes it’s perfect ten so brilliantly in the opposite direction of the FLCLs and Kill La Kills. Where they are masterfully orchestrated spectacles of brilliant action, style and re-watchable overload, Fate/Stay is serene, patiently dolling out story and character development and subtle with their mystery.

Goodness, if there ever was a season for a show to say definitively that it was the best, it’s now. It’s fall 2014’s killer season. Well done Fate/Stay. Well done!

10_ogk

*The most difficult story to tell is a prequel.

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 01”

  1. [lite-Spoilers]

    Glad to hear you’re loving it oigakkosan. :)

    Rest assured that all the mysteries you speak of will be resolved in due time, especially the pendant. :)

    The track girl trio is mostly there to be comedic and remind the viewer that there are high school girls with names. They have little to no relevance and probably won’t appear that much from here on out, cause stuff’s gonna get real.

    Next week we’ll get proper exposition on the Holy Grail War through the totally ignorant Shirou being schooled, and we’ll also see the return of that mysterious adorable girl from this episode. (mah waifu) We’ll also meet the deep-voiced guy Rin talks to on the phone.

    Kiritsugu is the main character of Fate/zero, the prequel to Stay Night that got an anime in 2011 and 2012. Whenever ya finish this, I’d totes recommend watching it, cause it’ll shed light on lots of things. (Like why Rin and Sakura are so clearly uncomfortable around each other, and what happened to Rin’s parents, and etc.)

  2. As someone who hasn’t watched Fate/Stay yet, would knowledge of the previous show hinder the enjoyment of this?

      1. Good to know! That was one of the reasons why I didn’t watch this yet, but since it’s not a problem I should start watching.

      2. I’m probably the most critical member of the review staff and, while I am still can’t fully wrap my head around this being an ‘upper 9’ or a 10, I wouldn’t rate anything above a 7 if it required outside knowledge to appreciate.

        This is how I (accidentally) annoyed people with my low review score for Seven Deadly Sins, which is apparently very popular in Japan and has manga or lite novels people are really into. On its own, SDS is both kiddy and too pervy, generic, and plain dull — and on its own is how we review things.

        By all means though — ask us why we felt certain ways and for more details if you want to know. When we’re lurking, we’re glad to answer ;)

    1. Do you mean Fate/Zero of 2006 F/SN? Fate/Zero not so much, although it does spoil things, because it’s a well done show that can be standalone. But watching the DEEN version might.

      DEEN’s version was an alright show, but one of the biggest reasons it’s looked down on today was how unlikeable they made the protagonist Shirou. They were already adapting the story route where Shirou’s character is the weakest, but they somehow made him a hundred times worse in the anime. It was enough to swear off a large number of people from the franchise completely.

      I myself was a little nervous about this episode because I didn’t like the DEEN!Shirou either, but I shouldn’t have worried. Ufotable made him a ton more sympathetic and layered, even showing shades of genuine heroism. I think I might even like him now, and I’m most certainly okay following the story with this version of the character.

      The general plot of the first two episodes so far and the DEEN anime is the same for now, but the execution is like night and day. So although I kind of wish I could go into this series with a blank slate, I did have a lot of fun comparing the two takes and marveling at how much ufotable improved it.

  3. Really like your insights! I like that you place a lot of attention to consider the reasons behind the narrative and visual decisions of the show. Your posts made me consider more deeply about what makes the show effective in terms of world-building, mood-setting, etc.
    I especially like that you go in knowing absolutely nothing! Most other bloggers have watched Fate/Zero, watched the first FSN, and/or played the VN. It’s really interesting to have a total newbie perspective.

    I wish I could have a complete new experience, but unfortunately I already watched Fate/Zero recently, and the original F/SN years ago after a friend kept pestering me to. She had a huge crush on Archer (haha). I wonder what her reaction would be seeing him now? On top of that, I spoiled a decent chunk of UBW long time ago via the wikia because I didn’t think the other routes would ever be made. Oh well..I just know some of the biggest twists though, and ufotable managed to make even the parts I already know (the beginning) super exciting. I think I’ll still have an amazing time.

  4. I watched the first 10 minutes or so and didn’t notice anything especially appealing about the show – seemed very generic, if fairly well animated.

    Given your glowing review, I’ll give it another try, though I am leery that it’s intricacies may only appeal to those steeped in Fate lore…

    1. I have no awareness of the franchise outside of eps 00 and 01. My reasons for regarding it very highly are how differently it approaches story telling (and that it’s above average animation)

      To be fair, if twitter is to believed, what I greatly like about it (that it doesn’t beat me over the head with exposition and takes its time to unfold) turns off some viewers.

      Regardless, our reviews are not to tell you what to think or that you must like something (or not!). They are just what we think and why we think it. I may argue my point but always, always remember that our reviews are nothing more than that ;)

      1. No prob – I enjoy the reviews on this site, and usually find them informative even when I disagree. I also like that rabujoi doesn’t always go with the herd in regard to its treatment of various series.

        Given that I didn’t finish the first episode, I am still interested to try it again to see what I missed besides the attractive visuals.

  5. MEH never really understood why fate is so popular.

    I’ve never bothered watching zero but did watch the frist series which was utterly generic and this seems to pretty much the same just with better production values.

    I’ll watch it for now but it’s not high on my priority list.

    1. OMG PLS DONT BASE THE FATE SERIES OFF THE FIRST SERIES the first anime made by deen was soo bad that it almost got the tsukihime anime treatment of “not existing at all”. the first series screwed up the plots, had horrible pacing and world building, so much exposition, horrible eyebrows, and was basically a shame to the whole fate verse. this series and fate zero were soo much better.

Comments are closed.