Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 04


Fate/stay night: UBW episode 04 is a fantastic little sequence of exposition, interwoven through a pleasant day in the life of Emiya Shirou and bookended by the harsher realities of Rin and Einzbern.

Like All F/sn, this week was beautifully rendered and calmly paced. However, the story was told with such a casual speed, and told through so many cheerful people (often walking slowly or listening to each other with a warm and obvious intent), that watching it felt like taking an evening stroll in the Fall.

FSN4_3…always question scenes where a character disappears from your view conspicuously close to the end of her sentence…

This week’s arc is all about timing and the threat of failure due to a mage tipping his or her hand.

For Emiya, he must hide Saber’s identity (and truthfully, his tortured memories of hell fire) from his friends for their own safety and he must even allow Saber to hide her true identity from him, or risk being defeated by the more experienced mages who may be able to read his mind. It’s a clever way to keep us guessing and in the dark, but it also shows Emiya’s trust in other people, and his trust in other people to trust him.


For Rin, the risk is that she’s already revealed too much in the last fight to anyone who could have seen it and that, by saving Saber for last, she risks too much by leaving taking on too strong opponents too quickly. Worse, she risks having to face and kill Emiya because he’s likely not going to stay away for her.

She risks tipping her hand, even to herself, that she actually likes him, which will no doubt be her undoing.


Einzbern risks the least and the most, depending on how things unfold. Her adherence to a predator’s nature — to torment her prey until it can scream no more — will most likely come back to bite her.

Yes! Berserker is unimaginably powerful but it’s arrogant to think he can not be defeated. Especially after revealing what his Nobel Phantasm is to her opponents. Giving them time to consider the best solution to defeating him (which Rin and Archer are most likely doing) is an obvious mistake. For her sake, she better hope his power is as unbreakable as she treats is.

FSN4_5the teacher is threatening because this angle makes him look larger than our hero and not seeing his face means we can’t read his emotions…

As for the actual events of episode 4? Emiya recovers from his wounds (he appears to have self-healing magic) and goes to school on an off day. Saber follows him and is a distraction for many girls who like him or worry about how rarely he truly smiles.

Saber explores the school and encounters a teacher who seems like dangerous news but that avenue remains unexplored, or just a red herring.


Rin investigates the ‘gas leaks’ more directly and, with Archer’s help, identifies the culprit as the Caster Class servant. They seem powerful and, given the spell seems to be a love-crushing spell, presumably female. Archer is concerned by their chances of success of defeating this opponent.

This scene includes a short but dramatic fight against skeleton dogs in an office building hallway. Skeletons are hard to render by any standard and F/sn does not disappoint: not even Bahamut’s recent zombie/sea monster battle looked this good!


Then the women in Emiya’s life decide to move in with him — and who can blame them? Saber’s sudden appearance, lack of spoken words and the fact that she is living with him would make any friends nervous, if not a little jealous.

Fujimura-Sensei practically lives there anyway and, given how obvious Sakura’s affections for Emiya are, it’s no surprise Fujimura-Sensei helps rope her in too.


For all these happenings, ep 4 explains a lot about Servant Classes, vaguely how and why the grail summons them, and the intrinsic tactical advantages gained by knowing exactly which servant you are fighting. This is exposition to be sure, and delivered by Saber-monologging, but it’s all lovingly rendered in ghostly CGI — which is implied to be inside of Saber’s tea cup.

The implication is that she is imagining these roles and we (and Emiya) are getting to see. It’s rather clever and very effective at making the info dump engaging and grounded within the scene.

If etherial imagery can be grounded?

FSN4_4…Sakura is alone. Small and literally spot lighted in the darkness…

What’s left to say? F/sn’s slowness — its deliberate nature — is artful in a way that transcends what is already visually beautiful to become something totally beautiful.

In short, F/sn is masterfully constructed Art, in all senses and disciplinary applications of that word.


16 thoughts on “Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 04”

  1. Fujimura-Sensei relationship is marginally more explained in the terrible Fate/Stay not blade works edition. (her father is the manager of Sirou’s father’s estate) However, I don’t think that detail is important to getting why she’s around. Also, extra exposition made FS not blade works kinda terrible!

    1. Indeed. Her father, Raiga Fujimura, is a yakuza guy. Of course, that sort of thing is a tad ridiculous for this adaptation, which takes itself seriously and is in many ways meant to be an improvement over its decade-old source material, with the creator going to lengths to mend what he feels were his juvenile errors, all without disturbing continuity. For instance, the original work had Shirou be somewhat sexist, annoyingly so, with his comments and survivor’s guilt and hero complex seemingly specifically vocalized in regards to women only. (It’s also why his reputation on the Internet is less then stellar). Nasu is improving on that now.

      But yeah, like I said, I love hearing the commentary of someone unfamiliar with the franchise, and your comments in particular are quite insightful and deep. It does amuse me that you refer to Illya by her last name though. Illyasviel von Einzbern, usually shortened to Illya. Teutonic-sounding name is the intent. Noble Phantasms are indeed quite intimidating, and that of Berserker, God Hand, might very well be among the most broken in the story. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying everything. Indeed, the ride has only just started.

      Out of curiosity, do you have any guesses as to the identities of the Servants? Lancer’s is already obvious from the “Ireland’s Child of Light” line. Saber and Archer are both very hard to guess, though there have been some hints for Archer. Berserker is difficult to guess, but perhaps his overwhelming power might give hints as to just what sort of hero he is. Caster is evidently a female sorcerer who bears a grudge related to love, though that’s only Archer’s informed guess and might be wrong. Perhaps it rings a bell? Rider and Assassin have yet to make an appearance.

      tl;dr glad you’re enjoying it and I’m going to continue following your coverage eagerly :)

      1. Einzbern sounds Dutch or Swiss to my ear (aka ‘not quite german’) and, as I worked for a Dutch Toko for a summer, that’s just where my brain went ;)

        Guessing where the Servants actually come from never really crept into my mind. I’ve seen ‘Joan of Arc’ all over the internet, but that doesn’t mean anything to me for how Saber should act? (Fear of fire?) From your comment, I’d assume Morgana for the caster but again, that doesn’t really color my expectations either?

        I’m happy not knowing and even if I see it spoiled, it doesn’t mean anything to me yet, which is cool!

      2. I’d say don’t bother or risk guessing at this point. People have been pretty cool to not spoil things in the comments.

        Besides, from what I can tell, aside from Lancer only one other servant has done something that could fully reveal their identity, but you’d have to know exactly where to look to spot it (and even then, you’d have to have some Spock in Star Trek VI level of deduction to connect the dots).

    2. I bet Fujimura’s back story will get explored in UBW. They’ve been adding in some references to the past.

      This series is also adding a lot of material that wasn’t present in the visual novel, but it’s all “on the side.” Basically, any time we’re not right next to Shirou, it’s probably new. That fight between Rin and Ilya? Completely new. The big exception is Episode 0, which was narrated by Rin in the VN.

      Part of the fun of your reviews is seeing how someone completely new to this series receives this work. You have to do Fate before UBW in the game. I’m guessing most people in Japan are watching this knowing what happened in FZ.

      I’m also curious to see how much Nasu you can take. There’s this series, Deen-Fate (which, depending on what UBW reveals, you might be safe to burn through mid-season), the UBW movie, the Heaven’s Feel movie, Fate Zero, The Einzbern Consultation Room, Prism Ilya, and the greatest series of all: Carnival Phantasm.

      1. Not to mention written works like Apocrypha or games like Extra.

        And then of course there’s the Kara no Kyoukai films for another good animation in the Nasuverse.

        (There is no Tsukihime anime <>)

      2. I’m taking UBW first and then I’ll back track. Maybe I’ll put up a ‘what next’ call at the end of the series, and you guys can tell me what you’d like me to review first (next)?

        I’ve only seen the first episode of the Fate/Stay night not blade works. I’m gonna keep it that way until later though ;) I like being in the dark!

  2. It’s only when you irrationally love something that you can go out of your way to call its boring conventional framing “artful”, its utter lack of significant story progress “calm pacing”, and conveniently ignore all of the trite and embarrassing dialogue so you can call it a “masterpiece”. But I guess we’ve all had such moments.

    1. Could it be that he genuinely likes it and that he genuinely believes his own comments? Your critiques could also be framed as irrational. Trite and embarrassing is ultimately an opinion, as is whether something is boring. Anyone is free to have their own opinion, but that also means respect for the opinions of others.

      1. Like is subjective, and there’s no reason to argue over it. Effective is less so. FSNUBW is objectively unusual, in that it gives a lot of time to its scenes to unfold, and leaves much to the viewer to parse out, in meaning. This makes it hard for viewers who are used to being spoon-fed obvious meaning to follow (re:twitter) but, by all academic standards, makes it wonderfully thoughtful.

        “Nuanced” as I like to say around the Rabujoi office!

    2. I assume that you know that _I do not know anything about the franchise outside of what I’ve seen in UBW_? I also assume that you aren’t trolling?

      So, I must assume that the very short conversation between Rin and Shirou at the beginning of the episode offended you deeply? That, by being dumb high schoolers, the mild Tsundere’s offense of being called ’emotionally flabby’ undid all that was, by my assessment as a professional artist for 12 years and a student of film, animation, illustration, and graphic design for 8 years, fantastically put together story telling?

      I would agree with you, based on the not-blade-works Fate episode I’ve seen. I would not agree with you because of episode zero of blade works. We’ve seen that Rin has a reason for being a bit gruff with Shirou, even if it isn’t spelled out. It works, and even as a low point in the episode, it does not bring it below a 10 in remarkably quality.

      This was, with no exception I can think of, the best episode dedicated to exposition I’ve ever seen. Anime or otherwise.

      If you can provide critical analysis to the contrary, you are welcome!

  3. >For instance, the original work had Shirou be somewhat sexist, annoyingly so, with his comments and survivor’s guilt and hero complex seemingly specifically vocalized in regards to women only

    Factually untrue. Shirou is overprotective of a single female character in one route, because she almost died right before his eyes (and he fell in love with her at first sight). Given that she’s about a thousand times the fighter he is, his fumbling for excuses as to why she shouldn’t put herself at risk while he trow himself at death without a second thought comes out as “cuz you’re a giiiiiirl!”

    It’s dumb. They know it, he knows it, but he can’t help himself.

    He pretty much gets over it by the midpoint of the route, too, but apparently everyone forgets that.

    Basically, Shirou is only sexist to people who don’t pay attention to what they read or those who gets into the VN with a confirmation bias. And you should pay attention, because Shirou’s character (growth) is half the plot in all the routes. That’s the main failing point of the movie, it simply didn’t have the time to explore Shirou’s mindset appropriately and took many shortcuts to deliver action scenes. Good to see the series won’t have this problem.

    We’ll have to see if Ufotable has enough vodoo to avoid it in the Heaven’s Feel’s movie.

    1. I’ve only watched 1 episode of the not-blade works series and only only 4 (5) episodes of Bladeworks’ Fate. So I can not comment on your comment.

      1. My rant may have overshadowed my moriginal point. Which was that beneath his facade of bland, inoffensive “nice guy” protagonist, Shirou Emiya is a particularly complex character. That complexity is what truly drives Fate/stay night, the Holy Grail War being a simple backdrop for his inner conflicts and his character growth through the meetings and decisions he will make in the following weeks. In the novel, we are given

        So really, what could be taken as boring filler is actually an integral part of the plot, as we discover who exactly is “Emiya Shirou”. Liking FS/N might really come down to liking its protagonist and that takes time and attention. Attention that wasn’t given in the not-blade works series and time simply missing in the movie.

        That said, dry philosophical discourse makes for poor entertainment. People talking at each other forever without actually doing anything is little better, so it’s good to know that Ufotable worked on the atmosphere sufficiently to draw in newcomers. I don’t have the artistic chops to give an informed opinion, and I’m already biased.

        That’s not to say that the show will be boring. UBW is widely agreed to be where Emiya is at its most badass and really shows its stuff, so you can expect more flashy action from the entire cast.

    2. Fair enough. I’m actually not super well versed in UBW route, so I assumed that any sexist comments by Shirou towards Saber were common route. My bad. And it is true he grew out of it, even his reputation didn’t. @ Fate route

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