This week gave us some interesting moments, great action, creepy Halloween-like golem design, and kept the exposition not-too-talky. It also shows us why High Schoolers and their total lack of judgement and common sense make terrible death sport contestants.
The Summing Up: Emiya spars with Saber and is quickly improving. Unfortunately, he’s improving using techniques he’s learned from Archer, which does not exactly fly with Saber.
Then Emiya and Rin work out some issues over lunch at school, which is interrupted by Shinji re-starting his life-draining runes. Emiya summons Saber to grind all the small fry and he and Rin charge off to face Shinji. Meanwhile, Shinji is defeated by an unseen master, Rider is killed, and the field collapses before anyone in the school can be totally killed.
The Good: Shirou’s sparring practice with Saber was not only fun to watch, but interesting as a plot development. I greatly appreciated that he went back to practicing (with a very Archer double-sword technique) after Saber left.
Rin’s mom/tsundere/frustrated girlfriend presentation may be painful for some, but it actually came off as believable to me. She’s clearly torn over liking Emiya, slowly gaining respect for his quickly improving skills, and deeply annoyed that Archer nearly ended him on Archer’s terms and not her own. Its a complicated emotional scenario, even from an adult perspective. So kudos for keeping it remotely together as a teenager.
Killing Rider was also a good move. Sure, she was the blandest, least coherent of the stooges, but all the pretty combat in the world was going to wear out its welcome in an episode if the death-game didn’t truly get under way.
Bonus points awarded for how completely brutal her neck snap was — and that we only see the extent after the fight — since the fight itself was off-camera.
The Not-So-Good: It was obvious that Shinji was pure, chaotic evil from the very beginning. From his ‘I’m so crazy I can’t contain my emotions’ Face, which I find especially annoying as an anime convention, to the fact that he beats his sister and antagonizes everyone around him. He’s clearly a worthless d-bag and the fact that Rin and Emiya both wrote him off as harmless makes no sense at all.
Not unless we had a scene where they’d both beat him to a pulp easily, to be lulled into a false sense of security.
Furthermore, even if Shinji doesn’t have a familiar anymore, letting him run off scot-free makes no sense either. He’s a strategic liability, in addition to still being an attempted mass-murderer. In this context, Rin or Emiya would be within their emotional range to have killed him.
The Verdict: it was a decent episode with a good balance of action and plot development. Letting Shinji go feels like padding and not revealing Caster’s master feels like padding but that’s a season long issue more than a fault of the individual episode.
I’m guessing Sakura is the other mage at school and Caster’s master. That would explain Shinji freaked the heck out when he was confronted in the chemistry lab. It would also explain why Caster’s played a little less-directly-vicious than she could have been with Emiya but maybe not.
Just Remember: I have not seen any of this franchise before, so no spoilers in the comments below, please!