I have returned from Italy and managed to catch up on all the F/SN I had missed! From here, I’ll be taking every odd-numbered episode and Junko every even-numbered episode.
After opening with a flashback of that famous scene where a young Shirou tells a battle-worn Kiritsugu that he will become the hero that Kiritsugu never could, Shirou is preparing to return to school. Unlike in the previous episode, he wants to go without Saber, because Shirou is a gigantic idiot. Saber isn’t happy about this as there are other Masters about, but she ends up convinced to stay at home and conserve her mana. Because what are the chances of Shirou being attacked the one time she isn’t there? (Spoiler: Shirou is attacked at school when Saber isn’t there.)
At school, Shirou learns that the captain of the archery team, Mitsuzuri Ayako, has gone missing…and that she was last seen talking to everyone’s favourite sleazebag Shinji Matou. Shirou decides to look for answers, but Rin, who has had it up to here with his head of solid granite and his lack of understanding of the fact that they are technically enemies, decides to attack him. She had decided that her debt to him had been sufficiently repaid and that it was time for her to start treating him like a fellow magus in the war whether he wanted to or not – although their fight/chase scene is interrupted when a girl suddenly screams outside.
It turns out the screaming girl was the victim of the next servant to make its appearance – Rider (who may have killed Rin had Shirou not noticed in time). Shirou entrusts the care of the girl to Rin and goes to take on Rider by himself, because, again, Shirou is a gigantic idiot. Predictably he is almost killed and ends up being rescued by Rin (determined to not be in his debt). Rider flees, and Rin decides that the best strategy for the time being is to announce a truce with Shirou and team up with him only until Rider is dealt with, before any more students are attacked.
I’ve been enjoying the show a lot so far, by the way. To tell the truth, I haven’t yet finished the Unlimited Blade Works route of the visual novel and although I had planned to do that before this show actually aired, I decided that I trusted ufotable to do a better job at telling the story and wanted to experience the rest of it (mostly) blind. So far they really have, and have especially done an admirable job of creating a good balance between exposition/plot advancing and the flawless action scenes which continues here.
This episode is the proper introduction of the fearsome Rider, and she looks pretty amazing in action – I really like her movements. She’s an interesting character (so it’s almost shame she’s blatantly overshadowed by the far better Rider in /Zero) but she only really got a brief chance to shine in the original Fate route. I’m looking forward to seeing if she gets to do a little more this time. (Granted, certain servants getting little to no attention and screen time is a problem with FSN in general, I feel, especially in comparison to F/Z.)
I also like the juxtaposition of Shirou talking about how he wants to be a hero as a child and then dismally failing at that in the face of reality. (Granted, I was almost impressed that he was able to hold his own against Rider for even a short while anyway.) Again, Shirou is a gigantic idiot and overestimates himself a hilarious amount, but every now and then there’s something infectious about his steadfast adherence to his wish of being a hero. (And really, it just wouldn’t be Fate/Stay Night without Shirou-induced facepalms every week.) To his credit, he isn’t completely hopeless and lame, but nor is he cliche and overpowered, and manages to barely (barely!) meet a decent balance that there isn’t enough of in anime. …So long as he has the awesome female characters to help him out, anyway.
To be honest I did find Rin’s whiplash from ‘Shirou I am going to kill you or at least rip your arm off along with the command seals’ to ‘holy shit Shirou are you ok oh god your arm is bleeding’ a little abrupt, although it wasn’t too out of character considering she has well established the fact that she doesn’t want to be in his debt. And speaking of Rin – I’m just really glad that ufotable seem to be making the main characters both her and Shirou rather than just Shirou (although granted, a lot of Shirou’s point of view is lost without his constant narration from the game anyway) – at least that’s the impression I’m getting – as they make a good contrast with each other. Also, Rin rocks.