Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 22 Review
What a tsundere looks like after her “first time”.
This time I review:
F/SN UBW 22: Rin, Saber and Shirou sit around tired in Shirou’s living-room when shiny-boy decides it’s time for dinner! Of course, that’s the right thing to do! Also, Shirou experiences a bunch of shit he doesn’t understand at all (which is fine because nobody seems to expect him to understand that stuff in the first place). And I guess, the world is about to end.
F/SN: UBW teaching us the valuable lesson that you shouldn’t think with your head but just go along with what your gut tells you.
It’s kinda hard to see what all the fuss has been about now that the dust has settled and everybody’s intentions, goals and secrets are laid bare. An evil dude does some evil shit and good dude will try to kick his ass. If anything, it’s susprising to notice at this point just how dark and nihilistic Fate/Stay Night’s story truly is. Nothing seems beyond reproach, everything’s stained in some way. It’s a story of a bunch of people hoping for a happy ending and none of them actually finding it (or at least the one they set out to find). There are the monsters on one hand who have already given up on the world and just want to see it burn. Characters like Kirei, Gilgamesh or Shinji are evil in the truest sense of the word and nothing they ever do in this series is honorable or compassionate. Then you got all the goody-two-shoes who have kinda given up on following their ideas but haven’t yet become wretched monsters. Caster, her Master, Illyasviel, Berserker and Rin are all these worldly people who simply accept that they live in a shitty world but they try to make the best of it, fulfill some personal goals even if they consider themselves unable to save the world. At best you get someone like Saber who still tries to be honorable and so on but secretly she’s also harboring doubts about her path. If you just look at the series this way, you get a very nihilistic picture where nobody can truly be good and either has to lower his virtuous goals or just become a monster.
And with all that said, it’s actually interesting to see how Shirou fits into this world. If you look at Fate/Stay Night being a story about all these characters that are stuck in evil or morally grey territory, then someone like Shirou would become the main-character of course, because he’s a hero in the truest sense of the word. No matter what the world throws at him he keeps pursuing his heroic ambitions. And it’s this which explains why Shirou needed to win against Archer in this story. What makes Shirou exceptional in this series’ story is his unflinching heroism whereas Archer is just another cynical nihilist who has given up on the world just like Gilgamesh, Kirei or Shinji and doesn’t even bother to be a good person anymore. The point of this battle wasn’t that Shirou would eventually become Archer but that Archer wasn’t Shirou anymore. Archer wasn’t trying to save the world anymore. His solution was to just destroy it because in his opinion it wasn’t worth saving. And therefore killing himself in order to keep himself from having to dirty himself in a worthless world seemed like a logical course of action to him. Oblivion seems preferable to trying to save people since there’s no point to saving them.
And brilliant stratagems like this one are the reason why Shirou is about to win the Grail-War!
Of course, Shirou is still a rather obnoxious character and this is where this idea completely falls flat. Shirou’s heroism is bound to a very dogmatic attitude. There’s no character-arc to explore here because by pure definition of Shirou having this heroic cause he’s the only character in this series who has hit oil in terms of being good. A character-arc would’ve meant that Shirou would’ve had to find a heroic cause over time but since he practically had a cause to fixate on from the very beginning, there isn’t a whole lot you can do with this character. Even when you get to moments like when he faces pure fatalism in the form of Archer, he simply can’t change his opinion or even try to empathize with Archer’s position. All Shirou has is his dogmatism and his cause. That this won’t work on an audience that doesn’t buy into such absolutism isn’t very surprising, of course.
Furthermore Shirou kinda seems like a lunatic in a couple scenes by how much he can block out any views that challenge his cause. In a nihilistic world that has no place for idealism, Shirou drops in and with a very macho-like flourish browbeats this world into submission. Because let’s face it: Shirou’s absolute heroism seems out-of-place in this series. Tonally Shirou’s attitude and the story’s don’t fit together at all. Even someone as pure as Saber is plagued by doubts and Lancer’s heroics don’t lead to a happy end either, but so what makes Shirou SO special that he simply never has this moment of doubt where he has to face the fact that the universe isn’t on his side. It often seems like Shirou’s heroics are fuelled by willpower alone while not having any realistic right to succeed if the other characters’ mentalities and pasts are anything to go by.
Of course, the solution for that is an abundance of sentimentalism. The stark reality of the world simply becomes irrelevant as all what counts is to just do what feels right. This is again such a Rambo-like mode of thinking that all that counts is to serve the cause. Everybody who helps Shirou on his little heroism-crusade is a good guy – the rest isn’t.
It’s almost laughable how the series then completely discards Archer’s nihilistic attitude and chooses to simply remember him as the sentimental fool who he was at the end. Everything that happened before? Him wanting to kill Shirou? Him actually attacking Shirou that one time? All forgiven or better said, forgotten. It’s like Rin and Shirou are just cherrypicking the details in this episode when they talk of Archer so fondly. At one point Rin says something to the effect of “Deep down he was a good guy.”. Except he wasn’t. First of all, a big reason why they even got into this situation was Archer betraying Rin and Shirou – multiple times!
The romance-portions between Rin and Shirou only work if you accept that Rin has bought into Shirou’s whole heroism-scheme as well. And it’s a scheme at this point because Archer has been there as the living proof of the whole thing not working out in the end as expected. Shirou’s like a doomsday-prophet except since most people think the world is doomed he’s peddling a version of “doomsday” where all of a sudden it’s heroism that gets rewarded and everybody (except the bad guys) gets a happy ending because of that. That moment where you get to see when Rin fell in love with Shirou is a great indicator of how much this romance isn’t about balance at all. Rin just admires Shirou from a distance and he doesn’t even remember the moment nor realizes what that scene he had been seeing had been about. It’s like Shirou doesn’t even need to understand Rin in order to court her. While she slavishly admires him from a distance and has to do her whole tsundere-spiel in front of him, he just gives these superficial compliments while never even trying to give a shit about who Rin is deepdown.
And Saber is naturally buying into Shirou’s whole scheme, too and again Shirou isn’t expected to understand her point-of-view. Not only is Shirou dogmatic in his beliefs but the series also never challenges his attitude, more than that, it actually enables this attitude with baffling exchanges like this one. Saber says “I need to thank you, Shirou.” and Shirou replies quizzically “For what…?” but Saber just smiles and says “You don’t need to know.”. Why is the series never forcing Shirou to listen?! Of course, one reason is the circular spiral-dialogue where the dialogue desperately tries to sound epic but instead it feels like you’re listening to the most excitable bunch of kids-on-coke ever. “And this is why I have the sword of Zurflstein!” and someone replies “You have the sword of Zurflstein?”: The tone may not be that of kids on coke but the simple fact that a lot of the script of this series is about wasting time with stupid dialogues tells you a lot about why we get scenes like the one between Saber and Shirou in this episode.
All that’s left is the “last big battle”. Since the world’s at stake you can at least check that off your list of boring series-finales. The series has been throwing around a lot of typical fantasy-mumbo-jumbo in order to set the stage for this battle but visually and stylishly this episode does little to raise my interest. There has been a lot of talk of how the world’s at stake here and Gilgamesh is sufficiently evil as a villain but nothing of that seems particularly interesting. The stakes are too big to really be compelling and the characters are kinda one-dimensional at this point. There are good guys and one bad guy – the rest is very basic storytelling-math, I would say.
Posted on June 7, 2015, in Anime, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Reviews and tagged Anime, Fate/Stay Night, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, review. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.