Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 03

fsn4_1Atmosphere and sense of scale? Yeah, this show’s got that covered!

Fate/stay night: UBW episode 03 picks the pace right the heck up with a jaw-dropping battle that both spans vast miles AND stays uncomfortably close quarters in a wooded graveyard. This is the best non-movie quality magical fighting I’ve ever seen.

On top of that, F/sn manages to deliver equal parts information-bump and mystery without breaking its stride or ever feeling talky or expositional. As with episodes 00 and 01, you owe it to yourself to watch this in HD with a good set of speakers turned way up. This spectacle looks and sounds awesome!

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Illyasviel von Einzbern is her name and Berserker, her massive orc-looking servant, is her game. And her game is good, shrugging off an onslaught of full-power attacks from both Saber and Archer, and sometimes both at the same time.

It’s a great fight (or fights, if you consider the short chase Berserker gives to Saber as she relocates to the cemetery, where his advantage will be reduced) and it teases us with as many reveals as it actually gives us more information.

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What’s the deal with Archer’s sword-like arrow? What’s the deal with Saber’s sword, for the short moment it’s visible and firing what looks like a death star blast through Berserker?

Who knows? Obviously not Shirou, who’s the only one close enough to clearly see both of these things. Einzbern and Rin probably have an idea — and Einzbern in particular pulls a 180 after seeing Archer in true action. Must be some high-level stuff if the early favorite of the first four masters we’ve seen is going to take notice!

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A huge boon to the fight comes in the form of space. Not only is Archer incorporeal for the beginning of the fight, he spends most of it fighting from miles away. This would feel cheep normally…except none of his attacks are effective. Pretty as hell, but not effective.

Unfortunately, even his super sword/arrow attack comes up short and F/sn really drives home how absurdly powerful Berserker is. He’s not just nigh-unscratchable, nor just good at regeneration: it’s like he can roll back time itself and undo all the damage as if it never happened in the first place.

Crap!

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And then there’s Rin’s fight with Einzbern, which is equally spectacular but totally different than the Servant battle. Where the servants rip into each other with a pounding fury, the Masters prod, taunt and look for each other’s weakness.

The stillness of their battle was masterful and brilliantly kept the tempo fresh, keeping what was basically twenty minutes of action from wearing us out.

And Man, her hair-birds are freaky!

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Lastly, Shirou gets a small spotlight. He’s the fish out of water but he wants to help…but HE HAS NO IDEA HOW? How the heck do you get in on this without getting yourself killed and helping no one in the process? His frustration over being useless — especially considering he just shook Saber’s hand and agreed to give it his all last week — comes through nicely.

Nicer? F/sn doesn’t harp on it. Shirou is around but we get as much if not more of Rin’s point of view and much more fighting than either mage’s POV and that is a good thing. I hear, and can guess from what little I’ve seen of ‘old stinky F/sn that an excessively-whiny Shirou would be bothersome.

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Oh! Kotomine Kirei and a new bad guy/important character were also introduced. We have no idea what their agendas are but it almost sounds like Kirei would be just as happy if the world ended. His little dialogue had a true-believer vibe to it — that Judgment Day is a good thing. Nice!

Or…problematic, since there’s no way our characters are going to agree with that point of view, if they ever hear it.

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Who is this guy?

F/sn is masterful and there isn’t much else to say. You’ll hear it over and over from me, as long they do it, but my biggest joys from it are how close it keeps its secrets to its chest (we know so little) and how much space it gives all the rest.

The world is a big place and Fate respects that, which sells the experience in a unique way. Freaking Huzzah!

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11 thoughts on “Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 03”

  1. Yeah, this episode was basically amazing. There’s a reason lots of people are referring to this anime as Unlimited Budget Works, because that’s certainly what it seems like. Yeah, the show definitely has a mystic, mysterious feel, one that it will continue to retain. Worry not, you will see Goldie (nickname based on blonde hair) again and find out who he is. You might recognize him as the mysterious person talking to Sakura in Episodes 0 and 1. I was very happy about this episode. I’m a big Illya fan, and her fight scenes this episode were actually anime-original, added in by the creator to correct his original work.

    Have ya figured out or have any guesses as to the identities of Saber, Archer, and Berserker yet?

    (Lancer’s is already obvious from “Ireland’s Child of Light”)

  2. Nothing much to add here, except that I also enjoyed it. Perhaps not enough to warrant a perfect score but that’s your call.

    Fate set out to deliver a nearly continuous battle with the kind of production values that could bankrupt half the season’s shows, and it delivered with panache.

    I can more easily immerse myself the world of a show if it has polish and space to breathe and roam, this show has all of that.

    And yes, even though the protagonist is useless here, he doesn’t whine about it any more than necessary!

      1. Only thing impressive about this series is the budget, other than that it’s probably the most overrated garbage I’ve seen in along time.

  3. I almost think they would benefit from having all the episodes be long ones like 00 and 01, that way we could have had this battle paired in airtime with the exposition, and kind of evened it out pacing wise. I’m glad you’re still intrigued! I’d hate to think people might get turned off by all the talking last week, and miss the beauty that comes after it. Maybe they were deliberately weeding out the weak :P

  4. I’m totally with Oigakkosan here. This episode was a feast for the eyes and the battle scenes were well done. Any time I have to repeat a section of an anime, to gush over the art or action is a sign of a job well done.

    I was doing that a lot this episode.

  5. Enjoying the show, and I am usually not a fan of combat-based anime series, because they’re usually a waste of time. (Index is not substantively different from 3×3 Eyes, the show that made me realize the pattern of constant boss arcs was not good for storytelling.) Loving the new series, especially since it’s so much better than the 2010 movie or the (kind of mediocre) original anime.

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