I am sorry this post is coming a week late (episode 20 should have already aired). To be honest, most of it was already done a few days back. I thought I wanted to publish a different post first, but changed my mind. Anyway, this time around, we learn that Emiya Shirou is a stubborn mule without a modicum of common sense and he can’t see the world anyway other than his own. Oh wait, we already knew that.
That aside, you really gotta feel for Archer. The guy hasn’t had fun. He did his best to help people, but was betrayed and hanged. Yet, even then he held faith in people, only to find himself having to kill them. He killed and killed and nothing good ever came out of his desire to do good. You can see his past in everything he does.
Archer is cynical and jaded. He comes across as someone who trusts no one and in turn, expects to not be trusted either. And yet, there are times where you can tell, that he hasn’t totally lost faith in humanity. He doesn’t really want to help anyone, but inadvertently ends up helping out Shirou, Rin and Saber. He is jaded enough to be clinical about the cruel way other masters (like Caster) operate, but not cruel enough to do the same.
Fate/Stay Night doesn’t do characterization all that well, but Archer is one of its better developed characters. You can see 90% of his back story already embodied in his character and it is a real shame the show had to resort to verbal diarrhea to hammer in the remaining 10%. There were so many better ways of doing it.
The conversation between Archer and Saber was not only mostly unnecessary, but unnecessarily long and redundant. It felt like the writer(s) went “okay, this is Archer’s backstory, now what are the flaws and plotholes? Oh, that is one, okay we will have Saber ask a question and get an answer. Oh, here is another one. Okay, let’s have Saber ask another question then. Oh, another one, okay, another question…” This is not a good way to do back story and a bad way to do dialogue in general.
It is even worse here, because the back story is not complicated at all. Like honestly, “good person turned bad because humanity sucks” is neither novel nor new. If you had to make it nothing but verbal sludge, you could have done so without the needless talk of ideals and other redundant information. More importantly, it is still unnecessary.
If the back story needed to be fleshed out some more, they could have done something else entirely like illustrating it through Rin’s dreams. Rin’s dreams could have shown more of the future, so that we as the audience, could have understood Archer’s past and not just rely on her vague “so, that is how he died” descriptions. Heck, they could have used those dreams to reasonable emotional impact as well. Rin could have discussed the dreams with him or what not. They could have just shown a flashback or two and including a bit of fighting to make it worth our time. I am sure good story writers could come up with even better ways to show the reasonably simple back story.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not normally someone that insists on “Show, don’t tell”, and am generally quite okay with long bits of dialogue or narration. It is just that the talking in this episode felt too long, too redundant and unnecessary. To be fair though, a good part of my displeasure is because I had been hyping myself way too much these past few weeks. Every episode, it feels like the next one will be the one with the cool, super grand fight and every recent episode has failed in that respect. Actually, I think Unlimited Blade Works in general has failed in that respect.
I am a big fan of the Berserker vs Archer/Saber fight. The Archer vs Caster, Saber vs Assassin and Archer vs Lancer fights were also good, though admittedly they were kind of short. Every other fight in this show just feels like a really short exchange of blades and the fights lack impact. None of the fights have outdone the Saber Alter vs Illya fight in Prism Illya’s 1st season. Given how the recent few episodes haven’t really lived up to all the hype I had for them, I really shouldn’t be hyped for episode 20, but then the fuckers went and titled the next episode “Unlimited Blade Works”. How am I supposed to hold back my anticipation for that?!
- After rewatching the Prism Illya fight, I realized Illya used Rho Aias against Saber. That is pretty cool.
- Shinji is a creepy asshole. We already knew that. The show didn’t have to show him accosting Rin like that. That said…
- There was nothing in UBW that was as satisfying as that Lancer punch. Nothing.
- I didn’t actually expect Kotomine to be Lancer’s master, though from what light reading I have done, that statement isn’t 100% true. Kotomine should have just taken Goldie as his servant if he wanted to screw around this much.
- FUCKING KOTOMINE. WHY WOULD YOU KILL SOMEONE AS TOTALLY RAD AS LANCER. FUCK YOU. I bet Kotomine was all “hmm, the Lancer in the previous Grail War was forced to commit suicide. That sounds delicious. I will make mine do the same. MUAHAHAHAHA.” I didn’t really care for this Lancer when UBW first started, but he became one of my favourite characters. What a bro. He deserved better. If I was ever a Master in a Holy Grail War, I’d want to summon Cú Chulainn. I would treat him like the friend he deserved to be treated as.
- When you think about it, Lancer was godly strong.
- But god, Kotomine has such a sexy voice. Actually the voice acting in UBW in general is really good. Rin is amazing as well.
- I liked what little we saw of Saber’s story. This isn’t the Fate route and F/Z watchers like me are already familiar with Saber, but it was cool to see and we got to see a bit of someone that Saber regretted killing (I know who it is and it kinda matches with Arthurian legend, but I guess I shouldn’t spoil~).
- Fans of the Visual Novel were elated because the episode ended with the visual novel’s most iconic piece. The anime finally played the song everyone had been begging for (there was actually a very small sliver of it played way back in the 1st episode I think.)
- I like the contrast between the two Emiya’s. Kiritsugu started of killing the few to save the many, but Shirou started trying to save everyone and ended up where Kiritsugu started.
- Similarly, I like the contrast between Archer and Saber. Both died failing to save someone or something and while Saber is still desperately trying to rectify her failure, Archer has given up, for he knows his quest is meaningless.
- Someone should really tell Shirou & Archer that you don’t really need to save everyone to make a difference. Archer didn’t die having contributed nothing. Even just helping people fix their heaters was a good thing to do.
- I also liked how Archer never explicitly called himself Emiya Shirou. In his eyes, Shirou died when his blind faith in heroes did. That is to say, Archer as he is, a man full of regret, no longer considers himself to be Emiya Shirou, just the end result of Shirou’s ambition.
- There was a fair bit of nice cinematography this episode. I am a sucker for shallow depth of field shots and there were a lot of them.
- Shirou’s denial of Archer’s request/order (to kill himself) was in perfect time to Lancer’s denial of Kotomine’s order to kill Rin. That was nicely done and was a good illustration of both characters.
- I think Archer wanted Shirou to kill himself because there was a very, very small bit of hope still left in Archer. A small nagging voice might have occasionally tried to tell him his ideal wasn’t all that bad. By having young, stubborn Emiya kill young, stubborn Emiya, that voice would have been silenced for good. Alternatively, Archer was just really tired of killing people himself.
- I didn’t really hate the episode as much as this post might imply. I mostly just wanted to respond to verbal diarrhea with verbal diarrhea. This episode is actually more enjoyable on the second watch, when the must watch high has worn off.