Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works

Spoiler warning: This article covers our first impressions and the plot of the F/S N Season 2 (episode 13) premier. For our spoiler-free full-length review of Season 1, click here.

Fate/Stay Night is back from its winter hiatus and looking as gorgeous as ever, but the same problems vexing the first portion of the series are still lingering as we head into the spring season. Everything people love about Unlimited is present and as vibrant as before, but the crawling pace and episodically-limited settings seem to be here for the long haul.

The attention to detail is so great that it's frustrating to see so many frames drenched in dark hues.

The attention to detail is so great that it’s frustrating to see so many frames drenched in dark hues.

Fate has come a long way considering it got its start as a sex sim (we promise, it’s true — and no, we don’t know where you can download it). Still, Fate isn’t above a little fanservice. There’s a very unimpressive shot of Rin’s fully-covered butt from what’s probably the point of view of Archer. More notably, the captured Saber has been dressed in girly finery by Caster and is face-down ass-up in a ludicrous number of scenes this episode. Caster is sure to explicitly point out that though Saber’s heroic mind can resist Caster, her human body can’t. Saber’s blushing squirms wouldn’t be so uncomfortable if her dress weren’t hiked up from behind, implying someone has been doing some pretty unspeakable things to her.

In addition to having a noble phantasm, you should always remember your mace and whistle.

In addition to having a noble phantasm, you should always remember your mace and whistle.

Sadly, the exposition crawl has yet to get out of the way. The Season 02 pilot is not an extended episode, yet it wastes so much time reminding us what’s going on. Over 10% of the episode features Caster recapping events for her master, Souichirou Kuzuki. The 10% immediately following this shows Rin having a dream sequence that recycles graphics from previous episodes.

Although the fact that she's asleep in one of the few daylight scenes is pretty congruous with all the action being at night.

Although the fact that she’s asleep in one of the few daylight scenes is pretty congruous with all the action being at night.

Following the dream sequence, Archer and Rin have a little discussion about regrets. Archer poignantly describes Rin as a brilliant person beyond regrets. He reminds her that as someone who has already lived and died, he can also have no such sentiments. The duo then head off to confront Caster and Souichirou at which point Rin remarks that she believes Caster has failed to finish off church moderator and resident badass, Kirei Kotomine.

Queen Beryl what are you doing here?

Queen Beryl what are you doing here?

Typical of the Unlimited series, the action that actually takes place is roughly 7% of the episode. That’s right, Caster’s recap was longer than her actual fight. It seems like Unlimited just can’t bring itself to pull the trigger on actually removing any characters and it’s beginning to look impossible to wrap this up in a satisfying way in just two seasons.

Archer fails to attack Souichirou, instead standing idly by as Rin engages Caster. Once Souichirou makes for Rin, Archer interferes to throw Rin aside and protects Souichirou from Rin’s counterattack.

Archer does not have an issue with pulling this series over and turning it around if you kids won't behave.

Archer does not have an issue with pulling this series over and turning it around if you kids won’t behave.

Explaining that Caster is simply stronger and Archer needs to look out for number one, he pledges his service to Caster. She rips out Rin’s command spells, leaving the already powerful Souichirou in possession of four servants. With Rider already dead, this would seemingly seal a victory for the A Team.

This is the point everyone expected Archer to just chop Caster's head off but nothing happened.

This is the point everyone expected Archer to just chop Caster’s head off but nothing happened.

The injured Emiya has followed Rin to the showdown and makes his presence known as he leaps in to defend Rin against Souichirou’s attempt to finish her off. Everyone is continually amazed that Emiya is not completely fucking useless even though we’re now thirteen episodes deep. His fighting style and weaponry still mimic those used by Archer, but are clearly nothing Souichirou will think twice about shoving down Emiya’s throat.

You'll always be a worthless jackass in our hearts, Emiya.

You’ll always be a worthless jackass in our hearts, Emiya.

In a final gesture of heroism, Archer asks Caster to let the now ex-masters go about their lives. As Rin and Emiya leave to regroup and find a way to take on such powerful enemies, Archer’s betrayal becomes too much to bear in the light of Emiya’s empathy and Rin has one of her more human moments. While she might have always been a bit of a tsundere, Rin remains much easier to relate to in Unlimited than the previous adaptation we don’t like to think about.

“But…Saber said your waifu was shit…”

As Emiya does his best (quite terrible) job of consoling Rin, a little love confession happens that makes everyone watching feel light and warm and happy. Not because we care about Rin and Emiya hooking up, but because it means they’re erasing the absurd plotline of the original where Emiya ends up with Saber, which was the second stupidest thing next to Emiya himself in the old series. Probably more importantly, Emiya reveals that he possesses a second mana crystal like the necklace Rin’s greatest mana reserves were stored in.

Hooray for Emiya and...not Saber!

Hooray for Emiya and…not Saber!

The strangest thing about the episode seems to be that people are taking Archer’s betrayal very seriously. By our detective work, it’s pretty unbelievable for several reasons:

During Emiya’s confession of love he uses the exact same words to describe Rin that Archer used, specifically calling her brilliant. This coupled with Archer’s quick butt-stare are a nod that Archer probably harbors a great deal of affection for Rin as well — or at least, respect, if that’s all he can offer as a servant.

Caster is probably also the elf-eared woman in the end credits.

Caster is probably also the elf-eared woman in the end credits. Incidentally, that’s the only place we see Gilgamesh anymore.

Archer has also displayed an ability to sense his surroundings, so he would have known Emiya was following them the entire time. In the showdown, Archer looks directly at Emiya, spots him, and doesn’t rat him out. Emiya is a kindred spirit in many ways (right down to his fighting style) and Archer knows Emiya would do anything to protect Rin. Not only is Emiya very Archer-like, but Archer seems conspicuously Emiya-like.

After Archer has demanded the safe exit of Rin and Emiya from Caster, he shows empathy toward Rin by acknowledging that his actions have broken her heart. He then tips his hand by telling her that if she hates him, it is misplaced.

Yet many people seem to believe Archer’s betrayal is genuine — that he’s sold himself out for a grail which historically has never actually existed. However, there seems to be ample evidence for the vigilant to conjecture that this would not be the case. Archer knows Caster’s true identity — Princess Medea — therefore getting close to the most powerful mage in history, her ridiculously strong master, and having access to Saber all seem to make sense if he wants to play a secret agent.

Anyone else care to wager a guess before the series takes off?

Recommendation: Has potential!

Series Info:

Title: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works
Original Source: Game/Visual Novel
Source Writer: N/A
Source Publisher: Type-Moon
Director: Kenichi Takeshita
Producer: Animplex, Notes, Type-Moon, and Ufotable
Writer: Takuya Sato
Music: Kenji Kawai
Studio: Studio Deen
Run Start: 10/2014
Review Date: 03/2015
Episodes Reviewed: 00-13

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