Realizing that Shirou is Saber’s master and that he is the one who stopped Saber from attacking Archer, Rin stops Archer as well. She figures out that Shirou has no idea what is going on and explains to him that he has been chosen as a Master, the function of Command Seals, and some background on the Holy Grail War. She also explains that Servants are heroes from the past, but when Shirou has difficulty believing or understanding her, she directs him to the overseer of the current War. Saber also has a shocking surprise for both Rin and her Master: she has been summoned to and fought a Holy Grail War in the present era before. (Those of you interested in hearing that story should watch Fate/zero).
Saber, Shirou and Rin head to the church to visit the overseer, a priest named Kotomine Kirei. He is also Rin’s legal guardian and a former pupil of her father’s. Kirei tells Shirou that being chosen as a Master is an honor, and that he cannot escape from the role except by dying, as the Holy Grail War is a battle to the death. Shirou is resistant to this idea, but Kirei insists that he must fight and must kill to be chosen as the Grail’s true owner.
Shirou considers using up all of his Command Seals and forfeiting the War. He expresses shock that this is the fifth Holy Grail War, and that such a slaughter has occurred four times before. He is even more shocked to discover that the fire which made him an orphan was the result of the Fourth Holy Grail War, in which an ‘undeserving’ (according to Kirei) Master was the first to reach the Grail. Shirou resolves to participate in the War, not out of a desire to possess the Grail, but out of a desire to stop an indiscriminate killer or evil person from winning the War.
Saber is happy to see that Shirou wishes to continue to be her Master, and vows with a handshake to protect him. Rin says that they are enemies now, but Shirou continues to refuse to fight her. Archer suggests that they kill Shirou, but Rin insists that she owes Shirou a debt (for stopping Saber with a Command Seal) and refuses to let Archer attack him until that debt is repaid.
The mysterious pale-haired girl from the previous episode appears, accompanied by a massive Servant whom Rin easily recognizes as Berserker – and, unlike Rin and Shirou, she has no qualms about attacking everybody present.
As I had feared, this episode is rather exposition-heavy. It features both Rin’s lecture to Shirou on the nature of Servants and Command Seals as well as Kirei’s explanation on why Shirou must be willing to kill and why he should continue to be a Master despite that. There were no action scenes at all in this episode, and I have a feeling that many fans will find it rather slow. I don’t mind the exposition myself – the Fate/ universe is one of my favorite fictional worlds of all time, and I think it was necessary information for viewers not familiar with the series to have – but those just here for the fight scenes probably won’t love this episode.
Despite having a lot of info-dumping, this episode also seemed in parts like a 24-minute commercial for the prequel series, Fate/zero. Saber brings up that she has been summoned here before and Kirei drops hints to Shirou about the events of the Fourth Holy Grail War, which Fate/zero covers. I agree with Moeronpan’s initial assessment that you should probably watch Fate/zero first – while you can understand what’s going on in Unlimited Blade Works without it, in my opinion having the prior knowledge enriches the viewing experience as you can understand a lot of the irony and hidden meanings behind Kirei’s dialogue, and Saber’s actions make a lot more sense.
Despite being a bit slower, this episode still had many strong points. We got the first real look into Saber’s character with her vow to protect Shirou. (We also got Saber looking adorable in a yellow raincoat). The animation is still top notch and there has been no noticeable decline in quality despite this episode coming directly after the two double-length ones. The soundtrack in this episode was also particularly excellent – I liked the creepy music that played during the encounter with Kirei in the church. I also think the discussion of the philosophy of the War – what constitutes a “worthy” or “unworthy” Master, and whether it is necessary to kill to win the Grail – was well executed. A lot of these questions will come up again later, so I’m glad they were introduced now.
This episode also ended on a really great cliffhanger – the appearance of Berserker, signaling Shirou and Saber’s first true fight together as Master and Servant. Next episode promises to be epically action-heavy – Berserker’s sheer power always makes for great fight scenes.
Overall, a bit infodumpy but beautiful and nicely character-focused episode earns this many Dios: