12 Days of Anime #4: Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works

I am very sorry I missed every 12 day post….. I had to take care of a few things here in the real world and was also hit by a few bouts of sadness (for unknown reasons). If I had stuck to my rough chronological ordering, this post would actually be the fifth, but no matter.

For every year, for the past four years, I have written a 12 Day post on Fate. It is just how it ended up working out you know..Fate Zero aired across two years and so did F/SN UBW. If you are curious, here is my first 12 Day entry on UBW. I just wanna quickly clarify for the folk who don’t see the massive of amount of Fate tweets I make, but I am a big fan of Fate. My posts might not read like that since they contain a lot of rants on it, but I do genuinely like the franchise! I make this note just in case you grabbed a pitchfork.

Oh and as a fair warning, much like Fate, this post is a real mess! I hope you can find something good in it though! Right, so, uhh, where to begin…

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Heracles is Kind

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I already wrote a post on episode 15, but I have to make note of this here, because this honestly was one my favourite anime moments this year. Please read that post. It does a better job summarizing why I liked this episode so much than this little blurb.

Heracles is summoned into this world and not only is he turned mad, but chained against his will. He refuses to comply because of his pride. Illya, also refuses to comply for the very same reason. The two don’t want to be tools used by the Einzberns. Heracles escapes. Illya runs away, hoping to get away from the pain and torture. But poor Illya is attacked by wolves. Heracles swoops in and guards her. He doesn’t fight back though because he knows. He knows that any mana he uses causes Illya to suffer. So, he simply protects her using himself as a shield. HE IS AMAZING.

Do you remember F/Z Berserker? That guy did not give a damn about anything (other than maybe Saber) and was more than happy to use up all of his master’s mana. Heracles isn’t like that. Heracles through sheer strength of will overcame that madness and overcame the confinement of the Einzbern’s, but chose to stand by Illya because she needed him and because he is kind. I liked that. I liked that flashback a lot. And just as importantly, I liked how in the present, the strength of that determination was shown. He came back to life one time more than he should have. He came back for one final stand. Heracles, you big bear, you made me tear up. ;___;

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Lancer vs Archer round 2

In my previous posts, I said stuff like F/SN UBW looked nice, but the second part was actually not all that well animated. I think the background and effects work hid it well so noobs like me (and a lot of other people) didn’t notice, but Ufotable had a rough time and had to outsource a lot. Still,the second Lancer vs Archer fight looked really good and was very well animated! It was an exciting fight. I can watch Rho Aias again and again. That Nozumu Abe fellow is pretty cool. He also did Saber’s final Excalibur. (Also some cool stuff part 1.)

Poor Medea

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Medea was kind of evil, but given her sad backstory, it was only to be expected. The poor lady kept getting betrayed. First, by her husband then by her people, then her 1st holy grail master and finally by Archer. She trusted Archer which really goes to show that she never stopped trusting people. At the very least, her trust in Kuzuki was not misplaced and for that, I think we can all be grateful.

One Trick Pony

Shirou taking on Gilgamesh at the end of UBW was pretty cool. I almost wish we could have seen Archer do it instead (though I assume Gilgamesh would have pulled out his trump card right from the get go in that case and wouldn’t have lost). Discounting the glorious Emiya which played, my favorite bit of the entire encounter was Shirou telling Gilgamesh that the two were alike. That Gilgamesh was a one trick pony. What an amazing thing to throw at someone that arrogant.

Archer’s Betrayal

This wasn’t a good moment as much as it was unexpected. Come on Archer, why would you betray poor Rin like that when she has only ever been good to you. Oh right, because you had some stupid Anti-Self agenda.

Plot reasons or not, it was still a real shame to see the two break apart like that. Archer & Rin is probably the best relationship in Fate/Stay Night and I don’t mean that in the shipping sense either. Shirou & Rin has its cute moments (and an amazing epilogue), but ultimately, Shirou is an idiot and Rin is wasted on him. Shirou & Saber is practically non-existent in UBW (and mostly badly done in FSN 2006).

Rin and Archer go really well together. They are both tacticians who have a good head on their shoulders. They don’t rush in, but don’t hesitate to go on the offence when needed. If the two had stuck together, they might have had a chance at winning the grail just on their own (though Illya & Berserker might have been too much of a challenge). At the very least, a greater focus on the two would have added some much needed actual character interaction to this show. Part of why I like the prologue episode so much is because it is just these two doing stuff together. And while, not perfect, Part 1 had a lot more of the two interacting! I’d like to think that was at least part of why people liked it more than Part 2.

Sigh. I want a Fate spinoff that is just Rin and Archer fighting it out with other interesting Masters. No Shirou and ideally no Arthur Saber as well (I’d be sad seeing her as a villain 😦 ).

Sunny Saber

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Saber is no doubt Fate’s most abused character. In Fate/Zero, she ends with a sad ending thinking her master betrayed her. In the Fate route, she gets a good ending, but the journey is terrible (Fate Shirou is one hell of a bad master). In UBW, she barely gets any screen time and when she does, she is normally being screwed over by a command spell (stupid Shirou). In HF…well, I haven’t read HF, but I know that route is the worst towards her.

It is rather sad that the most iconic Fate character (maybe even most iconic Type Moon character) is also the one that gets bullied the most. So, even though it was only 15 minutes or so, it was still nice to see Saber get a nice ending in the Sunny Days BD Extra. She was shown to smile a fair bit and for that alone I am happy! I mean, I still think the “True Route” is most thematically fitting, but poor Saber deserves a break. I too, hope she gets a proper route or series or something. As an aside, I feel Fate/Zero could have ended so much better if it wasn’t constrained by F/SN. (You know, like Kiritsugu and Saber talking it out and coming to terms with one another or Saber and Irie going for a picnic….)

Won't anyone protect this smile.

Won’t anyone protect this smile.

Epilogue

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UBW had a flash forward at the end and I love flash forwards. It was cool seeing slightly older Shirou, who is still an idiot, by the way. I mean, who rejects magic lessons? The cameo by motherfucking WAVER WELVET (Lord El-Melloi ii) was awesome.

SEXY WAVER

SEXY WAVER

And of course, the best bit was adult Rin. I mean, regular Rin is cool and all, but adult Rin is SO GOOD. And the romance! Shirou x Rin was pretty acceptable up until this point, but seeing the two so intimate and close made their entire relationship worthwhile. I would love to see more of them just going around the world helping people as per Shirou’s nefarious agenda.

Unlimited Blade Works

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Between UBW and Fate/Grand Order, 2015 has turned me into a bit of a Fate apologist, err, I mean fan. And like any good apologist, I won’t apologize for liking Unlimited Blade Works (the technique/world/reality marble thing).

I seem to call everything chuuni these days, but UBW is truly chuuni and all the better for it. I mean UBW is a massive field covered in swords with gears churning in the background. How is that not cool? And, perhaps just as importantly, the ugly (but still chuuni cool!) landscape goes very well with our red archer’s personality and history. If anything, I am almost tempted to believe the reality marble was made before the character background. Anyway, it is cool and seeing it pop up the three times it did was definitely one of this year’s memorable anime moments.

I also watched FSN (2006) this year and I have to mention that UBW’s short cameo there was very cool. Sure, it didn’t look anywhere near as nice, but the circumstances under which it came about were so much better and more to my liking (heroic sacrifice and all that).

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Archer (or as I refer to him: the BAE)

THEM ARMS

THEM ARMS

If you read my previous 12 Day post, you will note that after Part 1 ended, I loved Archer. I think this is probably true for most people even if their only other Fate exposure was Fate (2006). Archer is hot, smug, badass, hot and snarky. It helps that he has a sexy voice as well. You might not have liked Archer before part 2, but I doubt anyone would have outright hated him.  Part 2 changed that.

Archer spews a fair bit of philosophical nonsense in Part 1 (and physically back-stabs Shirou!), but spews a whole lot more in Part 2. Archer’s descent into verbal diarrhoea and the anime’s production issues (and less fights in general) dampened a lot of the momentum this show had built up until then. I still stand by my opinion that the heavy, repetitive dialogue was a disservice to the one true BAE. But, I think one thing to take away from all of this isn’t the actual content of what he was saying, but to whom he was saying it to.

The rhetoric he throws at Shirou and Saber is never actually directed at them, but at himself. The poor guy fought for his dream for god knows how long and then after being forced to walk in the total opposite direction for so long, he broke down and told himself he was wrong. He told himself that time and time again, but was never really able to truly come to terms with it. Right up until the present, he was never able to let go of his childhood dreams. “Being a hero is stupid. You can’t save everyone. What a ridiculous idea.” he’d tell himself and then “…but I still want to…” a quiet voice would whisper back is how I imagined he spent many of his days.

That self-hatred probably just built up over the years. Now he just lashes out against anyone that reminds him of his past self.

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And you know, as silly as I felt some of it was, I did feel for him. I felt for him a lot. Poor guy. Poor, poor Archer. He uses a lot of big words to try and convince himself that he is wrong. That he has a right to be upset at Shirou, but the truth of it is that he is just really sad.

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There, that’s it. That’s Archer. That incredibly sad face he makes as he recalls his regrets…and that fake smile right at the end there. This is probably my favourite sad smile of the year.  The fact that he is saying it all to Saber just makes it worse because of the relationship between the two (Emiya & Saber).  And Saber…Saber knows. Saber hasn’t spent much time with Shirou in this route, but she knows how much of a stubborn idiot he is. She knows what it means for him to straight up come out and say “I have regrets. I was wrong”. Something, must have gone very wrong.

Hence this face

Hence this face

For Emiya Shirou, his wish is all he has. It is the only connection he has to his late father. It is the only thing he wants to work towards. That one wish is what supposedly defines him (I still think that’s silly, but let’s ignore that for now). For Archer, that wish was all of that and now it is the only connection he has left to his past life. It is the only thing that is keeping him somewhat human. Sure, it is a dumb wish (both of them admit as much), but it is all he has got. If he gives it up, he will turn completely into a machine that exists solely for his Guardian duties.

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God, I really love this connection between soul dead Archer and soul dead Shirou.

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I really love this connection between soul dead Archer and soul dead Shirou. (Episode 21)

So, he can’t give it up. He wants to. It causes him nothing, but grief, but he can’t truly give it up. That is why he is shown to be so goddamn mad in episode 20. He is not just trying to prevent another “Hero Emiya”. No, he is quite clearly letting out god knows how many years worth of anger.

And, that is why his reconciliation is so important. At the end of that fight, he could cut Shirou down, but he doesn’t. “There was a person like that, wasn’t there.” he tells himself.

I loved how Shirou standing up cleared the skies and removed the rust from the blades. Nice!

I loved how Shirou standing up cleared the skies and removed the rust from the blades. It shows Archer coming to terms with his past wish. And Emiya playing in the background! Nice!

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He realizes he is a stubborn idiot who will never give up, so might as well accept that. Might as well accept that as dumb as that wish was, it was a wish worthy of striving towards. Sure, it is probably too late to change who he has become and what he has to do, but at least, he can come to terms with it all.

UBW is a story about Shirou being stubborn and not changing his mind, but it is also a story about Archer finally finding some peace. He ends it as such, anyway. He didn’t have to save Shirou or Rin at the end. The grail was already defeated, but he popped in and lent them a hand anyway. Because even if he can’t save everyone, he will try. And even if he scoffs at the idea of it all, he still wants to be a hero of justice. And well, I didn’t really sum up why I loved him. In classic Fate fashion, I skirted around it all via words, but I do love him. I can’t help it!

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THIS GUY. SUCH SASS. I LOVE HIM.

THIS GUY. SUCH SASS. I LOVE HIM.

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SOMEONE PLEASE PROTECT THAT SMILE!

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