Sorry for the slight delay – Junko’s got some business to attend to so I’ll take both of these.
We open the episode with a very telling conversation between Shirou and Archer – with Archer letting Shirou and the audience know that Heroic Spirits are not summoned of their own will, and are regularly regarded as tools. Which makes Saber’s case all the more puzzling, apparently – she did want to return to the physical world and has a strong desire to obtain the grail for herself.As for Saber herself, she is very mad at Shirou for being a gigantic doofus in the last episode and nearly dying a whole load of times, but decides to help train his strength so that he may be able to defend himself better. Although Shirou learned some magic from Kiritsugu, it’s not particularly strong – he can still only strengthen objects to use as weapons or shields.
Shirou still worries about all the dangers popping up all over Fuyuki as of late and decides that for Sakura’s safety and due to the fact that this is based on a visual novel – she should continue to stay at his house. Although Mitsuzuru was found safe and sound (although with memory loss), Shinji is being an obvious little shit about the whole thing but neither Shirou nor Rin have any proof of him being a master…until they manage to dismantle the Boundary Field he set up about the school and he confesses pompously to Shirou, anyway.
However, Shinji and his insufferability are put on hold for the time being when the ever-intelligent Shirou sleeps out in the shed away from the house and Saber’s protection and is promptly teleported to another location by the sixth Servant to appear – Caster. Saber – of course – comes to rescue him, but is intercepted by the seventh – Assassin… who was apparently supposed to stop people from rescuing Shirou, yet failed to keep out Archer.
…Was it just me, or was this episode a little chaotic? It seemed like there was a lot going on, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There were multiple running plot points that are still waiting for their moments to pay off – and boy am I glad we didn’t spend too much time pretending it wasn’t immediately obvious that Shinji was guilty as hell. His circumstances as a master are intentionally vague – he lets Shirou know that they’re similar in that they both have ‘no mana’, and even offers to team up with him. Somehow, a confrontation is avoided in this episode, but it’s pretty damn obvious that Shinji has a lot of slime up his sleeve. The main purpose of their conversation, besides his confession to being a master, however, is the information he drops about magical families – he is able to be a magus as the oldest Matou son, while Sakura theoretically shouldn’t know anything about magic whatsoever.
Now, if I complain about every single time Shirou does something completely stupid, it’s going to take up half of every review, but come on. I’m actually more puzzled that Saber allowed him to sleep outside the house in the shed to begin with. I might need to replay this part of the game but I do seem to remember a part where Saber did think Shirou was sleeping in his room, although he then left the house to sleep in his workshop in the shed. But here Saber knew that he was there, which just makes her seem like she’s slacking a bit in protecting him. (I know they tried to explain it away by having Saber leave as she thought she was distracting his magic training but why did she go to bed) Given that when she comes to rescue him there’s a shot of her where she seems to be flying, lets just say there’s a few things that confused me about Saber in this episode.
To be honest, neither Caster nor Assassin particularly interested me as characters in what I’ve played of the game, although it’s true that I don’t really know much about them. FSN’s Assassin is also potentially the least popular Heroic Spirit of most of the Fate series, to the extent that I kept forgetting who the seventh servant in FSN was, so now I kinda feel bad for the guy. (I’m sure he’s got fanart and stuff somewhere.) At least he’s kind enough to tell Saber up front his true identity – the swordsman Sasaki Kojirou. Meanwhile, Caster’s personality is at first calm and composed, yet she completely loses her cool when Archer shows up, which was a little odd. I feel like her personality suddenly becoming fearful and almost childish should have been a bigger ‘surprise’, but there’s not exactly much shown of her to begin with. Let’s see if ufotable can make me more interested in either of these servants, because I’m still not really caring for either of them as characters.
Two fights are now occurring simultaneously – Caster vs Archer, who reluctantly protects Shirou, and Saber vs Assassin, who guards the gate. Caster proves to be rather formidable due to the huge amount of mana that she is able to draw from, but that’s not the only surprising thing about her. Despite being a Servant, she managed to also become the Master of Assassin. Such unorthodox Servants-with-Servants rule-breaking would undoubtedly be frowned upon – if anyone could find out where Caster’s Master is, anyway.
When Caster and Archer eventually reach an impasse, Caster admires both he and Shirou and offers an allegiance with them, which is refused by both…for different reasons. While Shirou’s heroic moral fibre does not want to align with anyone who would use innocent bystanders as a mana source, Archer wants to let her keep doing this so that she gets strong enough to take on Berserker and save them the trouble. Shirou is disgusted, and their clash of creeds results in Archer getting so sick of Shirou’s ‘heroics’ that he (literally) stabs him in the back.
Luckily for Saber, Assassin is a gentleman and allows her to leave with Shirou while he holds the bloodthirsty Archer off.
So this was a much better structured episode than the previous one, and also a much better episode after all. If you’re here for the action scenes then it delivers in spades – the East-meets-West swordfight between Saber and Assassin is particularly impressive, not to mention visually fascinating for taking place on a steep stone staircase. (It’s also just so nice to see Saber doing stuff again, since she took a bit of a back seat for the past few episodes.) Caster, too, has some impressively rendered magical attacks, and just in case you forgot, for whatever reason, exactly how cool Archer looks in action…well, here’s a great big reminder.
As a big fan of Saber and Lancer’s relationship in Fate/Zero, I couldn’t help grinning at the many parallels that popped up in her fight with Assassin. The constant complimenting of each other, the recognition of each other as ‘worthy opponents’, the desire to exchange blows again properly, Assassin helping Saber out without any direct order…it’s kind of a shame that for all his charm and (according to Saber) purity, there….still isn’t all that much to Assassin for me to get a grip on, as opposed to F/Z’s Lancer. I don’t dislike him, but he’s just kind of pleasantly bland. To be honest, though, I’m liking him a little more than Caster, who is still the typical mysterious witch. Her personality is again confusing – she’s back to being calm and confident for the most part. Is it a facade? It looks like the next episode will be going back to Shinji and Rider again, so I’ll have to wait some more to figure her out a bit.
The especially interesting part of this episode is the drastically contrasting belief systems of Shirou and Archer – something which is sure to be a theme for the whole show. Things are..definitely going to be a lot more strained in this Emiya-Tohsaka allegiance, but Archer’s exact motivation for trying to kill Shirou against Rin’s orders isn’t known as of yet. (Especially given his fierce defending of him from Caster…) If you can give Shirou credit for anything though, it’s that the kid sure can take a lot of pain. And there’s plenty more to come!