Review-Roundup: Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 10, CROSS ANGE 11

[C12] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 10.mp4 - 00006But naturally it’s okay for Shirou to put himself in danger!

This time, I review:

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 10: Shirou and Rin find out who Caster’s Master is and he sadly can do a little bit more than the kind of marionette they had expected. Also, Archer is still being a dick about his beef with Shirou… and I can’t imagine why Shirou is continuously fascinated with Archer regardless… It’s like… they want us to wait for a later point in time to find out about this!

Cross Ange 11: Racism is the fault of demons and the world where demons come from also have some mechas who are controlled by girls. Naturally when the leader of that invading force meets Ange, they immediately launch a cheesy song-off. They both sort-of end up singing the same song, so it’s not a very imaginative song-off but hey… they have an excuse. Apparently they’ve been doing this shit for millenia.

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 10 Review

[C12] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 10.mp4 - 00007Kuzuki thinks that he doesn’t need to care about strangers because they don’t care about him. Except those strangers aren’t trying to kill him, so I don’t really think that Kuzuki’s analogy actually works.

The way this series treats its exposition is infuriating. It’s never a fundamental problem but rather changes from scene to scene. At one point, it feels like the series should dial it back a notch with all the mumbo-jumbo but then you get scenes where it feels like the series should deliver more. One thing this series is obviously underselling is the relationship between Archer, Rin and Shirou. Mind you, it’s a setup for a later revelation, of course, but rather than not talking about this eventual revelation, the series is constantly hinting at this future development rather than using it to flesh out the present. Whenever the series talks about Archer, it gets lost in this fog of mystery and very on-the-nose guesses. The series never hits the nail on the head with Archer, though, because it can do that only once and that’s the shit that will fuel the finale of this series. But there needs to be more. This story should be able to hit the nail on the head a couple times and not just once.

A topic this series can actually handle is Caster this episode. This second confrontation with Caster is way more exciting than the first one. What this episode does much better than the first time it had dealt with Caster is to not get bogged down by the dialogue. It also really helped that since the first couple 40-minute-episodes, this was one that actually felt somewhat self-contained and so there’s a fast pacing to this episode which includes phases of preparation, action and aftermath, all in one episode.

It starts with Shirou seeing Issei with Kuzuki by chance and overhearing that the latter was also staying at the temple. This leads basically to the uncovering of a lead as to who the Master of Caster might be. Tohsaka also joins them at some point and so it really becomes this scene of the two stumbling over an important clue. The friend of Shirou, Issei, plays an important role here and once again a side-character is basically used as a plot-device. These characters that add something to the story or the plot (or both) but are not really part of the Grail-War have no dynamic presence. They are there to be talked to. The series doesn’t really know what to do with them (except for Sakura but even that only if the series deigns to focus on her), it just uses them as these lifeless things. After all, as soon as the series gets to the serious Grail-War-stuff, the series just forgets them; they’re an afterthought for the series and nothing more. Instead of weaving them into the narrative of the Grail-War and show a perspective of someone who’s just looking in from the outside the series basically just puts them there because it’s useful for the plot or the story. And while it’s nice to have callbacks like when Issei remembers the time Shirou stripped him naked (which was… weird) it doesn’t really detract from how perfunctory his role feels.

But here’s where the episode gets better and that’s when Rin and Shirou immediately form a plan for taking out Kuzuki. This series’ pacing needs to be far brisker since its actual themes and character-arcs are paced so badly. There needs to be constant action in order to distract the viewer from how little this series wants to reveal about its characters and story until the finale begins. Having this episode where it’s basically like “Oh, now that we know this, we should do this and so let’s do this!” is exactly the kind of episode this series needs at this point. It’s just an episode to get on with it – and not much more.

The eventual confrontation was somewhat exciting, even though Shirou’s “Oh, didn’t I mention that I could do this…?”-explanation for why he could create Archer’s two blades wasn’t very smart writing. And the dialogue between Kuzuki and Shirou wasn’t that interesting, either. Kuzuki’s just another guy who has this pragmatic, somewhat evil perspective that “heroic” Shirou doesn’t agree with. Boo-fucking-hoo. We get it, Shirou is an idealist and he’s in the wrong line of attitude-work for this shitty world. It’s obvious at this point that his point of view is somewhat inadequate for that setting so why doesn’t he change his ideals? And it’s the same for how Rin actually has somewhat changed. In the end, the answer Shirou and Rin can come up with is just pure stubbornness. But there should be more to this, there IS more to this. What this series is doing, though, is stalling until the finale begins where the series can throw around the truth of the matter. And that way of approaching the narrative isn’t well-paced.

Episode-Rating: 7.0/10

Cross Ange 11 Review

[HorribleSubs] Cross Ange - 11 [480p].mkv - 00003Only in an anime could a teenager say that with a straight face.

Cross Ange isn’t a series that flourishes when things go according to plan, when things seem conventional, when things seem reasonable – it’s a series that needs to be somewhat crazy. And yet this episode opens with an explanation, some sort of message as if to assure viewers that nobody’s evil for evil’s sake when they’re saying racist shit. No, the ones who we believed to be evil are just victims of the truly evil ones and those are demons, to be precise. That’s right, frigging demons. This series just throws away all of its absurd elements by revealing a rather boring explanation for its world.

Normally, the existence of a somewhat reasonable explanation would be great. After all, making things seem somewhat reasonable is a great way to make the audience relate to the fictional world that is being created. But Cross Ange is trashy, excessive and hamfisted, all its efforts until now had the charm of a bad series trying very hard to be good. Fanservice-jokes so blatant that they are just plain weird, violent deaths, characters that while trying to evoke a hard-ass-attitude simply come off as douchebags, complicated topics presented in the most straightforward, simplistic way imaginable and then there are of course the basic tendencies of being a world-type-shounen-anime. It’s the last part that is the most problematic. While the series was trying very hard to be special, it ended up being special in an ironic way but with more seriousness and a more trope-laden story, the series will regain a measure of structure and purpose that actually will derail its craziness and direct it back to aim for more mediocre results.

I’ve mentioned in the last review how this series with its world-type-ambitions was more about the protagonist unraveling the mystery of her world while also saving it and with this week’s episode it’s clear that this is indeed a world-type-anime. More than that, there’s a strong chance this series will use an apocalyptic event to basically “cure” mankind’s problem with the Normas. What this series strives for is change. The setting of Ange’s world is so absurdly evil because the audience needs to be convinced that drastic measures need to be taken in order to change it. And that brings us back to the very 90s-beloved apocalypse as a solution for a rotten world.

Ange’s personal journey is further undermined by her confrontation with the black-haired girl from the other world. When they both ended up seeing visions of their past incarnations, it became clear that Ange itself doesn’t matter. It’s the destiny of Ange that matters. Her personal baggage is just a distraction for her cosmic task to deal with the whole world. Naturally her personal stuff will be used to create some drama and make this task less straightforward. In the end, this series loses its charm by going for such an obvious direction. There’s nothing ridiculous about Ange being this incarnation of a fated savior/destroyer who gets to choose what the fate of the universe will be (or something like that). For an anime, that’s basically by-the-numbers-storytelling at this point.

More than that, it’s little things that keep this week’s episode from actually being okay despite its rather mediocre ambitions. One moment is when Ange’s little sister finds her brother who gets poisoned by a demon and she ends up screaming for help, more specifically she screams Ange’s name. That change of heart is completely unearned. The story’s racist themes might as well not exist as suddenly Ange just becomes the person who’s solely responsible for beating up the demons. And it’s really a copout to say that racism was only so bad because demons held sway over the public opinion. That is neither very imaginative nor very interesting in an ironic way. The other moment that perfectly encapsulates this series’ rather mediocre ambitions is when the series finally reveals the connection between Jill, Salia and the Vilkiss-mecha. And it’s a typical, sappy little flashback with a rather predictable little character-arc for Salia attached to it. It’s just dull compared to what insane shit this show had pulled before.

I’ve actually kinda liked last week’s episode for how it managed to marry its crazy, overboard style with its more serious story-beats. What this week reveals, though, puts all this stuff in a new light and that new light is neither interesting nor very exciting. The series hasn’t lost any of its bluntness but now it feels more… normal. It lacks the crazy instinct of the previous episodes to go all the way with its simplistic story-beats and because of that it has gotten better but such a bad series becoming better just means it has become mediocre.

Episode-Rating: 5.0/10

 

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on December 15, 2014, in Anime, Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryū no Rondo, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I get the feeling that the director of UBW phoned the adaptation in because he knew he was going to get paid regardless; why bother actually making something good when you’ve got a rabid fanbase who will take affront to the slightest criticism towards the adaptation?

    Agree with you on characters being used as plot devices. On one hand, it’s kind of contrived for a story to relate every one of its characters to its central conflict. On the other, visual novels really, really need to break the habit of having things happen based on convenience and coincidence.

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    • “I get the feeling that the director of UBW phoned the adaptation in because he knew he was going to get paid regardless;”

      Well, there are some nice, little attempts at creative choices here and there… Stuff like episode 0 or the attempt to link Fate/Stay Night more strongly to Fate/Zero in terms of story and tone.

      But then again, it’s Fate/Stay Night. I can’t imagine that the producers would even allow the director to make risky creative choices in this case. And those great fight-scenes will also have taken up a lot of time (animation, story-board, art, lighting and so on). A LOT is going on in these scenes and the script-writers were probably rushed in order to start animating those scenes. Or maybe it’s one of those cases where they created the visual side of each scene and then some poor writer had to imagine what the dialogue in that scene should be. Who knows… Fact is this fight-scenes look great and everything surrounding those is hardly riveting entertainment.

      “On one hand, it’s kind of contrived for a story to relate every one of its characters to its central conflict.”

      Actually that’s fine if you want to go for an epic story with a large cast. You could do some great worldbuilding by using multiple perspectives and the plot-developments can get really twisted. Just look at the Game Of Thrones TV-series (or the Song Of Ice And Fire book-series, of course).

      And this should be the model for this battle-royale-type series. It’s all about the notion of persevering in a somewhat realistic world that is revealed to be filled with supernatural threats embodied by people. The most basic theme of Fate/Stay Night is just the question of “How can these characters survive the situation they’re in?”. And on top of that you have all the character-stuff like Shirou’s heroism-shtick and story-stuff like the intricacies of the Grail-War.

      But the disappointing thing is the impassive plotting outside the battle-scenes. It really feels like most scenes only come alive once Shirou enters the stage. Other than that, people just stand around and talk about stuff that doesn’t lead to action. It’s always about Shirou acting or reacting, that’s the only fuel this series apparently wants to use. Just take Illyasviel who appeared earlier in the series with her Servant Berserker and then simply disappeared. And you could ask yourself: Sooo… what is she doing right now? But the series just does NOT care about having this perspective where all the characters matter in the same way. Shirou matters, Rin to some lesser degree and everything else depends on plot-convenience for when they are important.

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  2. Nach der letzten Folge von Cross Ange muss ich zusammenfassend sagen, habe ich keinen Plan was noch kommen mag.
    Mechas die auf Drachenreiten
    Irgendwelche tausend Jahre alte Knacker
    Ein Dovakhiin taucht auf
    Sylvia (sofern sie noch lebt, ich hoffe nicht) kann wieder gehen
    Nekrophilie
    Ange hat Gruppensex mit ihren Kameradinnen
    Egal was es ist, soll es halt so sein.

    Und by the way, ich glaube das waren keine Dämonen sondern so Menschen/Drachen Hybriden oder Drachen in Menschengestalt, oder etwas dergleichen. Vielleicht sind es aber doch Dämonen, aufjedenfall sind sie die bösen, oder auch nicht.

    Und ich weiß nicht ob du das PS1 Spiel Xenogears kennst, aber die eine Fotomontage von Anges früheren bzw. anderen leben, erinnert mich an Xenogears.

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  3. “In the end, the answer Shirou and Rin can come up with is just pure stubbornness. But there should be more to this, there IS more to this.”

    Oh boy, if only you knew… As a person who read the VN, stubborness is one of the sole things that keep things going, especially for Shirou, a fact that made me really disappointed with his character arc. Rin herself is much more prone for change, but she has her Tsundere personality to serve as an impedement; fortunately her rationality has not entirely melted even after her romance with Shirou fogging her judgment(I find their relationship to be pretty unlikable, by the way.)

    When I first played the VN I was like, “That’s interesting, this girl and this guy are going to tag along for this Holy Grail war huh? They have good chemistry, good conversations between each other and considering the way she reacts maybe she likes him?(…) Wow nice battle between red guy and blue guy, I wonder who the other servants are?(…) WTF, why are you saving this guy? Oh yeah, you’re Tsun so you’re actually a softie inside… (…) Hmm, so this is the servant Rin wanted huh?(…)”

    And the, we jump to Shirou’s perspective and things get… really uninteresting. I was happy to have Rin as a MC during the Prologue, because we are presented to who she is, an interesting character with a good backstory and a nice potential to participate actively in the war, since she is wonderful Magus. Shirou, on the other hand, takes waaay to long to get development. By the time he started mentioning his ideals I also started to get disgusted, because they’re balantly flawed to the point that even blind people can see. During the first route, there’s his White Knight syndrome and his neverending mumblings about how Saber is a girl, and thus she should forget her issues and objectives for the sake of being his waifu. It’s just infuriating. After that route, we get to play UBW, whereas his sexism is taken away this time, we still have to deal with his sheer stubborness which hinders his character development to a minimum, in a insatisfactory manner. Even worse are the fans who praise this sort of attitude in which a person sees the flaws of something and still keeps doing the same stuff. It’s actually even worse if, for example, said person committed mistakes because they don’t know the consequences.

    If only this series had another character as a protagonist (I am a Rin supporter, btw). or Shirou had a better personality. I don’t even ask for development, but just a character possessing traits which would make he/she more interesting to watch.

    Fate/Stay Night stays for me as a series who could do MUCH, MUCH more, but is unfortunately imprisoned by a poor choice of MC. It saddens me so much, I’m very passionate about the stuff I read, and I’m seriously thinking about abandoning F/SN forever because it’s flaws drive me infuriated every time I check the VN or the anime.

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    • “Shirou, on the other hand, takes waaay to long to get development. By the time he started mentioning his ideals I also started to get disgusted, because they’re balantly flawed to the point that even blind people can see.”

      Exactly! Although it’s less a problem of characterization but more one of writing. I’ve said this before but it feels like F/SN can hit the nail on the head with its story only once. And the series saves that one moment for the finale. Until then it feels like the series is grazing the nail at best. It gets even worse when characters start to act indecisive, befuddled or naive – just so that the series can avoid creating a dramatic confrontation. This series has that as well: Archer literally backstabbed Shirou! And nothing came out of it drama-wise! Something drastic like that did NOT lead to a confrontation. I happened – and that was it! The characters were like “Yeah, I guess that happened but… uhm, let’s move on, right? Water under the bridge, spilled milk and all that jazz, right?”.

      And here’s the other thing as you’ve also pointed out: Shirou’s ideals are bullshit. The series knows that and makes that the theme of its storyline. But the series isn’t committed to kicking Shirou’s ass for being so naive and idealistic. As much as each arc is committed to finding the bad in Shirou’s ideals (to varying degrees in each arc, of course), it’s also interested in showing how good Shirou is.

      “Fate/Stay Night stays for me as a series who could do MUCH, MUCH more, but is unfortunately imprisoned by a poor choice of MC. ”

      Fate/Zero was much closer to what you should do with that material, I feel like (although that series wasn’t perfect either). I mean, there are some fundamental mindboggling creative decisions in this series like… Why SO many Servants? You would need a zany plot-structure like Baccano or Durarara to give all those Master-Servant-pairings enough attention considering that they all plot to win this Grail-War. And the setting in this series is SO complicated that it drowns the audience in inane details. There’s a part where the high magic-resistance of the Saber-Class gets talked about and that exposition is just dull.

      “fortunately her rationality has not entirely melted even after her romance with Shirou fogging her judgment(I find their relationship to be pretty unlikable, by the way.)”

      Yeah, their romance isn’t very compelling. It’s the sort of poorly constructed thing you can easily shatter by just asking “Why?”. I still don’t really understand why they have developed romantic feelings for each other. It feels like the series wants to convince the audience that it’s based on admiration but that admiration lacks personal investment. It’s all just this general admiration of “Hey, you can do shit!”, although Rin certainly comes closer to having a reason as Shirou is a mage without all the baggage of a typical mage such as her. He can be naive and heroic because he had never come into contact with the world of mages. But then again… Rin has become a mere side-character after that prologue and so any subtle character-stuff that is there doesn’t find itself in the spotlight very often. And Shirou… well, he has a really flawed characterisation to say the least.

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