Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 06

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Fate/stay night: UBW episode 6 follows last week’s trend of Emiya making poor decisions, introduces another servant and, in the least surprising surprise of all, reveals Shinji is the third Mage at school.

Through all of it, episode 6 had a distinct slice-of-life vibe, which was a good thing. Archer’s flamboyant red costume aside, the casual way people have to talk to Emiya and the matter-of-fact way he responds to all information, went a long way to make the exposition and infodumping feel grounded.

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After seven episodes, my biggest disappointment with F/sn is its choice to make Emiya the protagonist, instead of Rin. Rin certainly presents other storytelling challenges, being a hot tempered know-it-all, but I get the sense that whatever she is up to when Emiya can’t see her, is probably a more interesting story to see.

Perhaps I’m most frustrated because Emiya’s surprise does not often match my surprise? Likewise, Emiya’s total lack of introspection, narration, planning or strategy of any kind makes me wonder what Rin is up to and leads my eye to probe the backgrounds for what he must be missing.

If this is intentional, it’s annoying but a clever trick. Think of it this way: because we occasionally see Rin planning and up to interesting things, and because we see her Servant Archer around more than her, we must assume, as viewers, that Archer is an intentional distraction and that Rin is up to something very interesting, without the writers and animators having to spend effort on showing us.

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Why do I describe this episode as feeling like a slice-of-life?

The episode starts with Archer and Emiya talking on the street as they walk home from school. Sure, Emiya’s arm is covered in blood and they are talking about magic, but there’s nothing magical about the conversation or setting. Emiya even has his school bag, casually in hand. If they weren’t talking about servants, it could just be two dudes beefing about school on the way home.

Emiya’s following day at school plays out the same way. Ignoring the magical implications of his confrontation with Shinji and the Sigil removal with Rin, we really just watched a guy walk around a school building with a girl and accuse another guy of beating up another student. Heck, he accuses Shinji of something every other day and that ‘Emiya Casual Swagger’ makes it feel like any other day.

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This is where the lack of Rin’s point of view makes Emiya seem more stupid than he probably is. From his perspective, Rin just pops in and out of his life and appears to skulk around the school, largely unnoticed.

However, for all we know, Rin goes to class in the same casual way. Perhaps more understated than Emiya does, as I doubt she’s accusing suspicious classmates in public. We just don’t know.

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If we saw Rin in class, laughing it off with her friends and seeing her day-to-day, Emiya wouldn’t seem so clueless. It’s an interesting choice to not show that, and I’m curious to know what advantages the story will carve out by making its protagonist look stupid — with structure no less.

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In one scene, Saber tries to make Emiya understand that as soon as they deal with the third master at the school that his alliance with Rin will end. Then Saber agrees to train Emiya in swordfighting and we see how much everyone is putting into his survival and how ineffective all of it is.

Emiya is crushed by her blows almost immediately and only resents her for it afterwards. Likewise, while Emiya claims otherwise, it’s clear that the temporary nature of his alliance went in one ear and out the other.

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However, this scene is quickly followed by a delightfully opposite one where Emiya is working on his magic and Saber comes to watch him.

The mirroring of the scenes is obvious but thought provoking. Where Saber’s scene is warm and bright, his is cold and dark. Where hers has them stand far apart, his has them crouched close together. Where hers is quick, wordless, and fierce, his is instructive and patient.

I don’t know the writer’s intention — if Emiya’s world is more personal and small and Saber’s is more violent and to the point — but it was interesting to see that comparison.

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Overall, this week was thoughtful and well-constructed. We learned that Archer has no desire for the Grail, that Shinji is not only a monster but a mage, that Caster has an alliance with Assassin and that the Servant I thought was Assassin was most likely Thief. We learned a lot and none of it felt like an instructor yelling facts at us.

Coupled with my salivating need to see what happens next week, even if it’s only jaw-snapping action, that smacks of something great. Thoughts? Counterpoints? Hit me up in the comments below!

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16 thoughts on “Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 06”

    1. Emiya’s school antics didn’t screen cap very well and the fight that ended the episode (between Archer and Caster and elsewhere between assassin and saber) was brief and totally uncap’able ;)

  1. As always, an insightful and intelligent review. Thank you so much for doing this oigakkosan, and the rest of Rabujoi. It means a lot to me, and is always cheers me up. :)

    As is obvious, Shirou, being naive and selfless to the extreme, is being set up for character development. His conversation with the cynical Archer this week is the first of many. ;)

    Incidentally, there is no Thief Servant class. The seven classes are Archer, Saber, Rider, Caster, Lancer, Berserker, and Assassin. By process of elimination, last week’s purple-haired beauty is Rider. They’re defined solely by having mounts, meaning they’re an esoteric lot.

    This episode also seeded some more hints to Caster’s identity in the flashbacks during the capture sequence. I wonder if you caught them? Kojibro, as I call him, just plain introduced himself. xD

    Next week is gonna be some epic fights for sure. :D

  2. The hard part about watching UBW is that the source material has some flaws that F/Z addressed. It’s difficult to not think about how they improved things later on. Namely, by episode 2 we have seen all of the Servants and Masters. By episode 6, we have a full grasp on all of their personalities. That series was savaged for the first episode being heavy on exposition (I didn’t have an issue with it, personally), but I’d rather that than this slow trickle of material.

    It also doesn’t help that between FS/N, UBW the Movie, F/Z, and now UBW the series, I’ve seen these explanations several times over. It’s like watching Star Trek and having someone explain what Klingons are. The difference being, obviously, that there are a lot of people new to this series.

    I also agree that Rin would make for a more engaging protagonist. Both Rin and Shirou are operating on simplistic moral codes. Shirou wants to be some kind of a hero. Rin wants to be a mage. If this were a game, they’d both be “Lawful.” Rin’s ideology, though, leads to a more dynamic character.

    This is in heavy contrast to F/Z, where everyone is legitimately trying their best and enacting plans to give themselves the best advantage possible. Luckily, without delving into spoilers, I can say that UBW knows this. Rin has already had to back down from her vision of the Grail War as a perfect free-for-all.

    All that said, I have to also tell myself that this is a series that will run for 25 episodes. UBW takes a while to really branch off from FS/N. Things should improve from here.

    1. You say not knowing all masters and servants in F/sn is a flaw, but that is not true. Is just a different kind of story. F/z is focused on Kiritsugu and Kirei, but ultimately it is about all masters, and we get to see them all doing their thing. F/sn meanwhile, is about Shirou (and Rin, to a lesser extend) and it is his pov we follow. Not knowing everyone is part of the point. They each have the motivations and actions, but they are hidden and we only discover them with time, in the same pacing Shirou does.

      Also, you shouldn’t consider the previous anime and movie. They are unconnected to the production of the current series. UBW is supposed to stand on its own right, so they are not “repeating” anything as nothing have been said before.

      1. I get what you’re saying, but, for me, UBW’s story has some issues that make it un-engaging at times. The story so far has been mostly Shirou bumping into Masters and Servants, then hearing some exposition, with a fight or two thrown in. It’s a bit redundant and a bit too slow.

        I know this is probably the last episode to have this specific problem, but it has been a tough sit at times. I also was pretty explicit about trying to judge this on its own. Unfortunately, there are limits to anyone’s ability to judge a work in a vacuum. I really brought up F/Z to demonstrate how that structure made for a better opening set of episodes and it’s an easy and obvious point for comparison.

      2. @Heath – I would pull out your detail that this series has a different goal. Not just that it’s Shirou’s point of view, but that the whole show attempts to capture Shirou’s mindset and perspective. In that way, the other masters don’t matter. Nor do the events in and of themselves either.

        UBW makes us see the world as Shirou sees the world. That’s a very unusual goal and one I find very interesting. It is also why some viewers find the slower pace confusing, because Shirou’s view of the world doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with telling a story that could otherwise just be about action.

      3. @JRM – consider it this way:

        F/Z is better solution for an ensemble action story. It establishes all the players, their goals, and abilities quickly and gets to resolving their goals and actions from there on out. The interactions and to the point nature is effective at show casing the action and engaging the viewer with the details of the action.

        UBW is a better solution for a psychological drama/character piece, where getting to know the character, how that character sees the world and how that world works from their perspective (which may be flawed or unreliable as a narrator) takes time and subtlety to establish. In this configuration, the action is important to hook the general audience, and to establish what’s at stake for the characters but the action itself — the details of it — is not ultimately important.

    2. The analogy for Star Trek makes sense to me. As a long time Trek viewer, I found Enterprise unnecessary because I already knew where everything was going — how everything would turn out? That’s how I felt about Star Wars Ep one – three, too.

      The saving grace in UBW, for me as a viewer, is that I don’t know this franchise. I’ve only seen the first episode of F/sn’s earlier, hyper exposition series. So it’s new and fresh for me.

      That said, unlike, say, the new Star Trek movies, I argue that UBW has merits as a show on it’s own. It’s extremely well built and has no plot holes that I’ve noticed. Compare that to Into Darkness, which is also fantastic looking and well delivered by great actors… but has significant plot holes, cliché hand-waving to resolve conflicts, and other structural failings as a movie.

      From that perspective, I truly understand why ‘seeing it again’ or ‘seeing it almost the same but different’ can annoy long standing fans. However, I stand by UBW being legitimately well crafted on it’s own, and deserving of its regular 10s.

      1. I feel like I knew a bit more about F/Z’s protagonist than Shirou at this point. Again, that’s not to say “F/Z is better than UBW.” There are ways that UBW is better than F/Z.

        On its own, in a bubble, absent from all other shows, I feel the past few episodes have been a bit too slow. It’s really that Shinji scene where I was started to check out. Their conflict doesn’t engage me. By contrast, the scene with Archer and Shirou is one of my favorite moments of the season thus far. I love their conflicting ideologies. I like seeing the two of them interact even more than Shirou and Rin.

        If I had to guess the score of the series, using the scale I use, I’m still leaning heavily towards a 4 of 4. My criticisms aren’t to argue against a 10, but to just add to the discussion.

        I’m curious what Braverade has had to say about all of this. She mentioned it could be “a bit dry and sterile at times.”

      2. If I had to guess? She would score it slightly lower. Much like I’d rate Shingeki no Bahamut lower.

        Our criteria are generally different. Where I’m a structure focused reviewer, Hannah is an emotional impact reviewer. We aren’t totally opposed, obviously. I Still ‘like’ things and, as you can see in Hannah’s Cross Ange counter point, Hannah can effectively analyze structural meaning. We just weight our reviews in the opposite direction.

        F/sn gets high marks from me for its technical precision and intensely thought out presentation (to the point of shaping our understanding of a character’s point of view without words/through pacing). That goal, or rather idea that such a goal is uniquely valuable, doesn’t probably doesn’t matter as much to Hannah. As you say, the slower nature downplays the intense action, which is more likely to be the point of the show on her spectrum. Conjecture on my part of course ;) Hannah? Arguments over coffee tomorrow?

        Honestly, the only show in the top 5 that all four of us agree on is Zane’s Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso. Even then, I’d knock it a hair under F/sn because it’s a hair less interesting, in academic structural terms. (ignoring F/sn’s talkie temple episode) Even then, we’re more or less all on board for Piano drama as the number 1 or 2 show of the season.

      3. @ JRM. I apologize in advance if I come across as too critical.

        That’s abit unfair assertion to make IMO, because you the benefit of two Cours of development of Kiritsugu. Also, keep in mind Kiritsugu is a full grown man with far more backstory behind him.

        Could you honestly say that more development and revelation has unfolded for Kiritsugu in seven episodes of Fate/Zero than in Seven episodes of UBW for Shirou? At episode seven, we know that Kiritsugu is the Magus Killer, the ultimate Utilitarian par excellence. We don’t realize yet where his utilitarianism comes from, we still don’t realize the underlying childhood realization of the desire to become a hero. We finally see those ideals break at the end of the day, at the very last episode where the solution he chases proves to be a horrific non-solution instead, where he loses hope of saving the world.

        At episode seven, the order by which the character is constructed is reversed. We know that Shirou’s backstory is straight forward. He lost everything in the great fire at the end of the Holy Grail War, we know that Kiritsugu saved him and in doing so imprinted himself into young Shirou. We know that Shirou wants to become a hero, in part in honor of his deceased adoptive father, we know that he adopted a different solution from Kiritsugu in pursuit of heroism- self-sacrifice duty based morality, not utilitarianism.

        What more do we want to know from a boy? How much more backstory can we really squeeze out of someone who is much younger than Kiritsugu, who hasn’t had any formative experiences that has him sharpen his morality, his ideal of heroism, and so on? The Holy Grail War is the process by which this ideal is being challenged, again and again through the life and death nature of the war. Most notably by Rin so far, but by who else down the line?

        You can’t expect the anime to develop that level of depth for Shirou in seven episodes that far, IMO that’s a very unfair demand of the anime. Also, it’s abit difficult to conceive how much more Shirou could actually be developed right now, What can we throw under the bus? Not the Illya Fight, not the Rider fight, not the Caster Fight. Expositions? Yes, it is quite boring for the F/Z audience, we know alot of the exposition already from F/Z, and we have a good idea that Kotomine is BSing in his exposition scene. But I think UFOtable fears that non-F/Z audiences new to the series would be lost without exposition, so they decided to spread it out bit by bit, constructing it slowly – Kotomine explaining the warped basics of the scenario, Rin explaining what a Magus is , Saber explaining Servant Mechanics, Archer critiquing the idea of “Servant Motives” and questioning the loyalty of servants (Granted, this is jarring somewhat, think of Broskander or even F/Z Caster, but on the other hand, we get Gilgamesh and Saber). There’s a huge world that UFOtable is trying to ease the new audience into, whether or not it works requires an audience who have not seen F/Z or any FSN work to actually comment.

        I do acknowledge UBW can come of as slow though – Nasu is not Urobuchi, and infact, UFOTable is actually condensing Nasu’s narrative and squeezing it as far down as possible.

        Ultimately, if you’ve watched Fate Zero, it’s an exercise in total futility to separate UBW from F/Z. Partly, this is UFOTable’s fault, there are so many clear blatant call backs and appeals to Fate/Zero built for the Fate/Zero audience , that the Fate/Zero audience can spot. Of course, the anime only audience don’t know that.

      4. You’re not too critical and there is no need to apologize.

        However, I don’t think you’re quite grasping the nature of my criticism.

        To begin with, I work as a script consultant. I am well experienced in figuring out how to judge material on its own. Yes, outside influences are a factor. But people seem eager to dismiss my criticisms by suggesting that my lack of enjoyment is due primarily to my having seen other material. My career is based upon being able to form opinions of material while emulating the mindset of various potential audience members. When I look at UBW – on its own – I see some scenes that lack compelling conflict. They drag.

        Just as you said, it can be slow.

        That is all I am saying. I am not saying this show is bad. If I didn’t like the show, I wouldn’t be posting on a review site about it. It’s probably going to be my favorite or second favorite show by the end of the season. It is okay to criticize things you like. With a bad comedy, you just say it wasn’t funny and move on. With a good comedy, you investigate the structure of the jokes and focus on why the few duds didn’t work. It earns a higher level of scrutiny.

        I also want to clarify that it’s not just the exposition that can drag. I didn’t find the Rin/Shirou fight all that interesting. Her motivation to go that far felt weak. The Rider encounter felt a little flat.

        What I want is strong conflict. While I didn’t like the Rin/Shirou fight, I loved the debate over whether Shirou’s father was a true mage. That was exposition married to compelling conflict. Both had a point. I loved the Archer/Shirou encounter for reasons we don’t need to say for the sake of spoilers (by the way, let’s maybe be careful with the F/Z plot details like Goldy’s name).

        Finally, I want to address the “What more do you want for a boy?” bit of logic Just because something is intentional or justified within a narrative does not mean it makes for compelling fiction. Oigakkosan himself mentioned a bit of disappointment in Shirou’s role as the protagonist.

  3. Personally, I think fate stay night’s greatest strengths are in its intention to follow the visual novel’s storyline as closely as possible, and in its impressive battle sequences. Sure, it might be interesting to see the story from Rin’s point of view, but if they tried that I’m sure everything would fall apart, in part because just about every other anime that has tried to modify a content original storyline has failed. Also, Shirou has a complex thought process he’s always going through, as can be seen through the internal visual novel dialogue, but in the end he just isn’t the brightest. So far, the only difference I’ve seen from the visual novel and this Fate Stay Night TV series is some extra action scenes they have been thrown in. Oigakkosan, if you haven’t played the visual novel game, I highly suggest you at least watch some run throughs of someone else playing it on youtube. Fate Stay Night is one of the few visual novels that has been translated to English. I’m always reading your reviews, and look forward to your next one.

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