Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 15

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Shirou and Rin really have the worst timing…

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What I thought would be a thrilling battle between an unstoppable force and an unmovable object turned out to be something a bit more…one-sided: the slow, methodical slaughter of Berserker by Blonde Guy, broken down into twelve trials, just like Berserker’s true identity, the demigod Heracles, had to overcome. Heracles may never give up, but Blonde guy will never run out of weapons to throw at him.

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Ilya doesn’t fret, however, for it has been ingrained in her for years that she is the ultimate master, the product of a thousand years of research and countless sacrifices, while Berserker is the undisputed strongest servant. But Ilya didn’t always have Berserker. In fact, when she first met him, she ran away in disgust.

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Out in the woods, a pack of wolves caught her scent, but just when it looks like they’ll tear her to pieces, Berserker comes out of nowhere to save her, but not because it’s in his contract or because it’s part of his programming as a servant. He chose to protect her of his own free will. And among the people in Ilya’s life, he’s the only one to do that.

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Back to the present battle, Ilya cannot fathom losing to Blonde Guy, but when the battle moves into the confines of the castle, the symbolic walls begin to close in on the allegedly most-powerful master-servant duo. Berserker is being worn down, but isn’t able to lay a single scratch on Blonde Guy.

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Shirou and Rin can only watch in horror from the shadows as the duo they had hoped to team up with has their asses handed to them, to put it indelicately. Berserker never gives up, but Blonde Guy eventually immobilizes him with the Chains of Heaven and impales him with a giant spear.

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With her servant and weapon slain, Ilya is a sitting duck, and it’s all Rin can do to keep Shirou from yelling out and running to her aid as Blonde Guy pulls a simple sword from his treasury, slashes out Ilya’s eyes, then runs her through the heart.

After the baroque spectacle of felling Berserker, Ilya’s death is chilling in its austerity, and having learned all the trials she herself went through, and the realization she was living for herself and Berserker and not her family, caused my heart to sink into my feet. It’s a quiet yet utterly crushing moment.

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Berserker is able to break the Chains of Heaven (“surpassing his own myth to the end”, as Blonde Guy poetically puts it) and make one more futile lunge at him, but while Blonde Guy’s face betrays momentary surprise, his weapons are quick enough to finish Berserker well before he can touch him.

From there, Shirou and Rin should just wait for Blonde Guy to depart before leaving themselves and regrouping…but Shioru just can’t keep his damn mouth shut, earning him a sword in his geneal vicinity for his trouble, which destroys a part of the balcony he’s standing on.

While Blonde Guy could clearly kill the lovebirds in the blink of an eye, obviously they’re not going to die next week. So what happens next? Do they form an alliance with him against Caster? Their options are fast dwindling.

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Author: braverade

Hannah Brave is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

17 thoughts on “Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 15”

  1. Heh, wasn’t sure if I expected a 9/10 or a 10/10. (9/10 is supremely fair for those unaware of the story of Illyasviel’s parents)

    As a massive Illyasviel and Berserker fan (due to their roles in all the routes), this basically grinded my heart into the dust. Amazing choreography. Berserker defended his charge to the end, refused to move if it meant hurting her, etc.

    Since you started Fate on this I am curious if you had any questions I could maybe answer .

    (The sad truth of being based off of only one VN route; Illya will have a larger role in the Heaven’s Feel movies to come)

    1. To be precise, this was a very high 9 for me, but as these past 15 episodes are my only exposure to Fate, the fact of the matter is there weren’t a lot of opportunities to get emotionally invested with her character until this episode.

      That said, it was still an immensely effective and affecting episode, especially in crushing all hope (barring miracles) Ilya might’ve played a key role as temporary ally in Rin and Shirou’s comebacks.

      For me, Ilya’s death by Blonde Guy is an early contender for most emotionally powerful moment of the Spring. It cut deep.

      Also, Shirou and Rin really had nothing to do with this Ilya mini-arc beyond their desire to meet with her, so especially in this episode they felt a little shoehorned in.

      1. Indeed. Heracles defying death itself to protect her was also a sweet moment.

        Would agree @ Shirou and Rin as well, though Shirou’s muffled screams were pretty darn effective.

        (Look forward to Fate/Zero retroactively making this sadder for you <> )

  2. This episode was hard to watch, almost to the point of, “I don’t want to play anymore” levels. It’s not just the final scenes with Ilya, but also the earlier parts where she’s being bitten by wolves.

    The whole thing is also a giant anticlimax. The more you’re aware of this franchise and the greater Eizenbern arc, the more it’s clear that this story doesn’t resolve that plotline. The repeated and awkward insistences by the homunculi that Ilya failing is a perfectly acceptable conclusion for her family feels like the writers going, “No, no, it’s really a satisfactory resolution!” I’m not convinced.

    On the plus side, Berserker breaking those chains was a nice deviation from the source material. As far as I know, those chains have NEVER been broken at any point in the canon ever. It reminds me of how a retold story has to increase things just a bit. In a way, that’s how heroic spirits are born.

    Lastly, is it just me, or have Shirou and Rin had a reduced presence since the start of this cour? Earlier on, when I expressed concerns about too much focus on those two, the defense was that this was not an ensemble piece like Fate / Zero. Now, it kind of is.

    1. Actually JRM, the fight was basically 1:1 from the VN, where he broke the chains as well. Herc broke Enkidu despite being literally the weakest to it by merit of Divinity: A+ because of his sheer willpower and desire to protect Illya.

      1. I also felt that his very specific and human love of and devotion to Ilya made him ‘more’ than a god (or demigod), and thus someone who could break those chains.

        He was just a little too late ;_;

    2. I don’t think it’s just you; Shirou and Rin have gotten less screen time, but I get why: Caster and Ilya needed fleshing out, and I imagine we’ll get Blonde Guy’s story too, soon enough. Shirou and Rin are in a good place right now, relationship-wise, but they’re also kind of in a holding pattern until they are able to actually fight again.

      I’m looking forward to seeing if and how they get back into the war, but I’m also hopeful there will be more time to explore their now out-in-the-open feelings for each other. In either case, I’m sure the show hasn’t forgotten about them!

      1. Don’t count on that. Blonde Guy gets fleshed out in Fate/Extra CCC where he’s a playable Servant and the “main Servant” for the protagonist to choose from. That’s where the fat of his backstory is (the other is bits in Fate/Zero novel, not anime, and Fate/Strange Fake where he’s a predominant Servant too).

      2. So, here’s my curmudgeon question: Would this series have been better off using this broader focus from the start? Or was it a good idea to retain the mystery and slice-of-life elements?

        I like Shirou, Rin and their classmates, but I wonder how much the slice-of-life material from the first half will hold up in the greater context of the show.

    3. Berserker, iirc, saw Illya as the way to redeem himself from killing his family in the fits of rage Hera gave him. They were each other’s new family.

  3. On Shirou speaking up, well its an difficult thing. Lots of people rag on Shirou for stuff like this but frankly, it would be out of character for him not to do something. He’s in this war to stop people from dying, and because his ptsd from the fire drives him to save people. The literal last thing on earth he could just sit back and watch would be someone being maimed and slaughtered in front of him. Also, s long as ufotable sticks to the material, shirou’s actions here should be addressed next episode. The show always goes out of its ways to point out the negative aspects of shirou’s selflessness, which is something i feel sets him apart from many similar protagonists.

    One other thing: In the visual novel you are given the choice to stay quiet, or to speak up. If you stay quiet, then blond guy will still shoot a sword at shirou and knock him down, revealing that he was aware of their presence the whole time. And staying silent has another bad effect that that leads to a dead end shortly after that.

  4. This episode was close to a 10 for me. The Fate franchise has never been one to steer away from ruthless brutality and does it in a detached unsentimental way that can make it all the more shocking. I want to say more but to do so would give away spoilers and since our intrepid reviewer is watching this without knowledge of previous Fate contexts, I’ll respect that and keep my trap shut. On the question of Rin and Shirou being present, a side point perhaps is that having them there serves to give Illya and Heracles/Berserker’s end some meaning. For them to die alone – (if Illya is dead btw) reduces that battle to an anonymous slaughter perhaps.

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