Review-Roundup: Nagato Yuki-Chan no Shoushitsu 06, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 18

_C12__The_Disappearance_of_Nagato_Yuki-chan_-_06.mp4 - 00003Haruhi demonstrating that even in competition with studying she wants to be the center of attention. In summary: Haruhi’s an obnoxious character.

Nagato Yuki-Chan no Shoushitsu 06: A new school-year has started! And so it’s time for some wacky antics that don’t go anywhere!

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 18: *gasp* Finally! The penny has dropped! And of course everybody’s like “Yeah, actually, I already knew since way back when…”. And Rin as the female lead had to turn into a damsel-in-distress at some point, of course… It’s all pretty obvious, if you ask me. But what would be F/SN:UBW without a bunch of jerks talking A LOT about such obvious things…?

Nagato Yuki-Chan no Shoushitsu 06 Review:

_C12__The_Disappearance_of_Nagato_Yuki-chan_-_06.mp4 - 00004Guess Nagato will never amount to more than that in this series.

What is the point of Nagato’s struggle to win Kyon’s heart? Why should anyone give a shit about this romantic struggle? So far, the series has little to offer in terms of drama. Nagato’s shyness is a self-imposed obstruction that could work if Nagato wouldn’t remain such a superficial character in that regard. She’s shy – but why? This series relies too heavily on its nature as a spin-off series. And this is especially weird because the point of this series is that Nagato is much different from how she usually behaves in the original series. Essentially Nagato is a new character despite looking like the one in the original series and she’s the main-character of this series. But right now she’s an entirely tiresome character in how her romantic troubles are simply dull and monotone.

There’s the hint of a romantic plot in this episode as Nagato realizes that she actually has rivals in her romantic pursuit who are actually getting close to Kyon. A romance-series would turn this idea into a whole arc as Nagato has come to terms that her pining for Kyon has become a much more complicated affair. You would get a romantic theme for the drama playing out due to Nagato’s fear of what her rivals might do and those scenes then could be peppered with comedy-stuff. Of course, that’s assuming this series’ priority is romance.

I say that, of course, because that assumption seems to be wrong. This episode quickly abandons any pretense of giving a shit about romantic tension and the whole episode just becomes a fest of trivial comedy-bits driven by the roles of the characters within the story. There’s no urgency or tension in this episode. The passage of time is noted in the episode but it isn’t played as something that affects the plot too much. This series’ hook, the romance between Kyon and Nagato, isn’t much of a hook at all actually. Rather the series has a tendency to revert back to the familiar formula of the original series (but without the supernatural elements). At times, this show is really just nothing more than the mundane version of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi.

Take this one bit about Nagato’s miraculous and weird intelligence. The bit starts with Kyon and Asakura talking in the classroom. Here the premise is established that Kyon’s grades aren’t that great and he needs help with his studying. So Kyon asks Asakura for help – who rebuffs him. The rebuffing is the first comedic beat in the way how Asakura makes fun of Kyon for needing help. After that Kyon announces that his best option is to seek help elsewhere. Offhandedly he suggests Nagato but Asakura twists his hand in that moment, gets portrayed as menacing and she commands Kyon to not ask Nagato for help. He replies with something like “Yes, majesty.” (which is important because it becomes a running gag between them in this little arc). Nagato sees them, misinterprets the situation but comes up with a ridiculous excuse for why Kyon and Asakura aren’t in the romantic situation she imagines (this is another comedic beat). At this point the scene ends with Kyon accepting Asakura’s offer to teach him. Then the next scene happens in the club-room where Asakura has changed into a different outfit to play her roles as a teacher (and the camera treats the whole thing as fanservice). Nagato offers to study together with Kyon but Asakura replies that she should just continue playing her game (effectively the scene is just repeating the same premise from the beginning which is the question why Nagato shouldn’t be involved in this).

That’s when Haruhi and Koizumi enter the scene and change the direction of the scene (as you would expect from a character such as Haruhi). Haruhi is mocking Kyon openly and the whole studying-thing turns into a competition between Haruhi’s school and Kyon’s school. Kyon accepts defeat but easily convinces Asakura that she should consider herself to be the representative of Kyon’s school (which is another comedic beat). But Asakura can’t solve the maths-question and so she turns to Nagato. She looks at the question for a few moments and solves it without a problem. Then Nagato gets asked how she solved it and this turns into the pay-off of the original premise. Her way of explaining what she has done involves speaking in an alien language and using weird phrases to describe the solutions.

This little mini-comedy-arc is a perfect example how wrongheaded this series’ comedy is. First of all, there’s a ton of stuff crammed into this bit. You have one simple premise with a tiny arc but then you’ve got sub-arcs with their own bits and random comedic beats unrelated to the original premise. You could’ve written that joke as Kyon asks Asakura for help, she mocks him, he asks Nagato instead for help, Asakura warns him but Kyon doesn’t listen and as it turns out Nagato is really weird. What this series has done with this bit instead makes it feel a little bit bloated. And the pay-off (Nagato being weird) isn’t that great to begin with. It seems almost random how this bit develops and keeps going on. This bit is definitely slice-of-life-stuff in how directionless it is. There isn’t any tangible drama here with the lack of stakes or character-development.

And the pay-off of revealing what Nagato’s deal is… Essentially it’s more or less a referential joke. Nagato speaking in an “alien-language” and being super-smart references her characterization in the original series. That’s all there is to it. Ultimately this is a bit as random as it is banal.

What’s worse, though, is how you increasingly notice Kyon becoming the main-character again. The series started out by focusing on Nagato but if you look at this episode alone, I would say Kyon is the main-character of this show. And that’s a really weird decision. With how uninteresting the new Nagato is she needs all the screentime she can get. I mean, Kyon also needs some more depth but he kinda does his job as “object of desire” for the romantic tension. But this lame “will they, won’t they”-plot between Nagato and Kyon is simply boring right now. Not even a love-triangle with Haruhi can save the boring romantic dynamic between Nagato and Kyon. Nagato needs to change as a character to make the romance in this series more interesting and she needs to do that FAST!

Episode-Rating: 6.0/10

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 18 Review:

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 18 [480p].mkv - 00004Which is why you spent your lunchbreaks at school mooning about Archer’s swords. Yep, makes total sense… I mean, that had been a tad masturbatory if you think about it but other than that… Yeah, it makes total sense!

One thing that hinders this second half from ever becoming fun is its strange rhythm. Recently this series has gotten used to a pacing with a two-headed climax. The episode starts with the cliffhanger which then results in the first climax where something meaningful happens. Then the aftermath sets in and things seem to come to a standstill as suddenly the second climax sets in which immediately gets turned into a sort-of cliffhanger. What makes this pacing strange is that you can’t accuse it of being slow but at the same time you can’t accuse it of being fast because there’s never a moment for the series to establish progression.

You always get these shorts spurts of action and after that you get quiet moments the obviously lead to the next spurt of action. The tension is SO omnipresent at this point that it becomes invisible. There’s a certain kind of focus in how this series limits its perspective at this point. This series has become SO plot-driven at this point that even downtimes are just there to set up the next plot-point. And this series has held onto this sort of focus for so long that its dramatic tension has become monotone.

When the series (finally) reveals who Archer is and that he has kidnapped Rin then it really just seems like par of the course at this point. This series has stretched out this conflict between Archer and Shirou for SO long that the finale evokes nothing more than a sigh accompanied by a “About time…”. It seems almost sarcastic when Shirou ponders that he actually had kinda known right from the beginning who Archer really is. The amount of time wasted on showing us just how clueless Shirou has been until now! But NOW he has the gall of proclaiming that he had sort-of always known the answer already! Great, the entire mystery of Archer’s identity which has been protected mostly by everybody’s cluelessness and it gets resolved by everybody involved going “Yeah, actually we kinda already knew what was going on…”. Rin, Saber, Shirou… in this episode they all know what Archer’s deal is all of a sudden. And you know what the worst is?! That they STILL fucking dance around just openly saying it! For fuck’s sake, just how circular can your writing be if the characters can’t even be straightforward in such a moment!

In general, this series’ dialogue is simply subpar. There’s this moment where Shirou and Saber leave the church and unexpectedly meet Lancer. Saber immediately readies herself to attack. This is when this happens:

Shirou: It’s not like that, Saber. He helped us.
Saber: Huh? Are you saying that Lancer assisted you, Shirou?

That short exchange is SO typical for this series’ writing! This series always uses these circular back-and-forth-sequences where someone says something, then someone responds to that and instead of moving forward in the dialogue it goes back to an earlier point. And as the previous dialogue continues you can see that in action:

Saber: Why, Lancer? Do you have some ulterior motive in helping Shirou and Rin?
Lancer: Of course I have an ulterior motive. Like I’d help them if I didn’t expect something out of it.
Saber: I understand. Meaning you’ve gotten what you’ve wanted. Then begone. I won’t fight you now, either.

Shirou just had asked Saber to not fight Lancer but she wants to know more. Reasonable, right? Except this little tidbit is nothing more than a glorified detour to Saber just doing what Shirou asked of her. After all, considering the outcome it clearly didn’t matter whether Lancer’s behavior had been selfless or self-serving. So Saber’s question was completely inane. It was nothing more than flourish for Shirou’s will to not attack Lancer. And it’s little stuff like that how you gradually lose the audience’s interest. Even if you don’t pay attention to the minutiae of the dialogues you do realize at some point, though, when such dialogues aren’t actually that substantial. When the writing constantly remains superficial and only talks about the present or dances around meaningful stuff without tackling it, then you’re bound to becoming bored.

I mean, what did this episode even offer? All the speeches from Archer… it’s all stuff we’ve already heard a couple times before during the course of this show. Archer is a complete fatalist and therefore his confrontation with Shirou has been inevitable from the start. But the journey that brought us there never even bothered to mess with this fatalistic sensibility. And without that the audience naturally has already learned where the wind is blowing. Nothing this episode has done seems that interesting or shocking. This isn’t the kind of series where a finale works that has built its foundation on a “Well, let’s get this over with…”-mentality. It’s rather obvious that Archer with his fatalistic mindset is wrong here and that Shirou with his youthful idealism is right. Archer belongs to a series where morality is painted grey but he’s stuck in a series whose hero paints morality as black and white. And it’s clear on whose side the series is…

Episode-Rating: 5.0/10

About M0rg0th

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

Posted on May 9, 2015, in Anime, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. “Archer belongs to a series where morality is painted grey but he’s stuck in a series whose hero paints morality as black and white. And it’s clear on whose side the series is…”

    Here’s the thing. If this series is clearly on Shirou’s side, who is the protagonist, plus it doesn’t seem prone to subverting tropes, one should already foresee the final outcome after all this circle-walking. Which in turn makes things boring, there’s no need to hold this piece of information regarding Archer’s identity, even though there are still a few people out there who couldn’t gather the hints blatantly scattered all over this series episodes.
    If this series is clearly on Shirou’s side, exploring Archer’s character this deeply to have the good guy somehow triumph in the end is kind of weird.
    Also, I must say the studio left out A LOT of information that can be somehow relevant, and had the characters act ilogically when fighting. Why should Archer wait for Rin to conclude her new contract with Saber? I think he would like to dispose of Shirou first and then let her stay with Saber (the Servant Rin desired at first), and then he would be gone for good. And the second point is the one where Saber waits while Archer casts his Reality Marble, although in this case is more justified because she actually didn’t want to fight him,knowing what his real deal is by that time.
    This must be the MOST RUSHED episode by far, when bringing into account the Visual Novel. And this is one episode which need 45 minutes to convey important plot-points properly. I guess I’ll never get used to this series director’s decisions, really. What a shame.

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    • “it doesn’t seem prone to subverting tropes, one should already foresee the final outcome after all this circle-walking. Which in turn makes things boring, there’s no need to hold this piece of information regarding Archer’s identity,”

      I’ve said this in my review of Yurikuma Arashi: If there are vital pieces of information you have to keep hidden to keep the drama going, then you’re just writing a plot-convenient story. Stuff like that leads to completely artificial storytelling where everything feels constructed instead of being developed organically within the setting.

      “If this series is clearly on Shirou’s side, exploring Archer’s character this deeply to have the good guy somehow triumph in the end is kind of weird.”

      Yeah, I know now what you meant with the ending. Right now all it comes down to is Archer saying “I’ve seen some shit, believe me. Becoming a hero has been a shitty idea!” and Shirou’s kicking his ass because he’s like “Nah… you’re wrong!”.

      “Why should Archer wait for Rin to conclude her new contract with Saber?”

      Well, in the scene Rin starts chanting, Archer stops beating the shit out of Shirou, then Shirou attacks Archer and this is when Rin finishes the contract. It’s probably supposed to be one of those scenes where Shirou is about to lose, Rin comes up with a solution but needs time and so Shirou gets a second wind and attacks Archer to keep him from interfering. But you’re right. The direction adds a few weird moments where Archer really is just staring at the situation unfolding in front of him.

      “This must be the MOST RUSHED episode by far, when bringing into account the Visual Novel. And this is one episode which need 45 minutes to convey important plot-points properly.”

      Yeah, it really could’ve needed those 45 minutes… which makes me wonder. I mean, you can practically say this about a lot of episodes in this adaptation. Whenever the series had 45-minutes-episodes the pacing had been fine. Maybe the original plan had been for this series to consistently get 45-minutes-episodes but then they got the message that this series would only get a couple 45-minutes-episodes. And so they took all those scripts for the 45-minutes-episodes and simply cut stuff out to make them work as 20-minutes-episodes. The result is those episodes being rushed because a lot of the connections between the plot-points have been cut out. And the series doesn’t really have any downtime either at this point. There are no moments in this episode that relieve the tension built up by Archer kidnapping Rin.

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  2. “Archer saying “I’ve seen some shit, believe me. Becoming a hero has been a shitty idea!” and Shirou’s kicking his ass because he’s like “Nah… you’re wrong!”.”

    Which is why I sometimes can’t help but cringe at the way Shirou has been written. Even if you know where he is coming from, this kind of attitude is so out of reality that I just… *sigh*
    Well, let’s just wait for the oncoming episodes.

    Like

    • Shirou’s basically in denial during those conversations. After all, Shirou’s position is to not even empathize with Archer’s position while insisting that he’s right.

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