Rin dreams of Archer in a field of blades. She recites the Unlimited Blade Works chant in what will probably be the first of many times we hear it. Upon awakening, she once again hears from Archer how useless Shirou is and that partnering with him is a bad idea. He even suggests partnering with Caster, which Rin rejects outright. Archer tells Rin that being with Shirou has made her ‘not herself’ but reaffirms his decision to protect and watch over her.
Issei reveals to Shirou that Kuzuki-sensei (the scary looking teacher who is always glaring) is his surrogate older brother and lives at Ryudou Temple. He also mentions that a mysterious woman is living with them and is Kuzuki’s fiancee. Hmm, wonder who that could be?
Realizing that Kuzuki is likely the Master of Caster, Rin and Shirou plan to attack that night. Shirou monologues about how he wishes he could fight like Archer and wield ‘beautiful’ swords like his, making fans wonder if this isn’t secretly the Archer route after all.
Rin, Shirou and Saber plan to ambush Kuzuki on his way home from school. During the ambush, Caster appears at Kuzuki’s side and threatens Rin. Shirou abandons Rin’s ambush plan and faces Caster directly. hirou is convinced that Kuzuki is being controlled/brainwashed by Caster, and that he is a decent person who would not stand for killing civilians to drain their mana. Kuzuki responds by saying that he does not care about the deaths of strangers, he is not a mage, and is Caster’s complicit partner rather than her puppet. He has no interest in the Grail or Grail War, but will let Caster do what she wants, even if it involves murder. It’s the first bit of personality we’ve seen out of Kuzuki, and it’s quite the chilling speech.
Rin and Saber attack Caster, who fights back easily with her powerful magic. Saber targets the powerless Kuzuki – who easily stops her invisible sword with his physical combat skills. Kuzuki, strengthened by Caster’s spells, successfully holds his own against Saber, and even gains the avantage by literally flinging her through a wall. He then easily takes out Rin, but Shirou manages to survive by Tracing Archer’s swords. Caster realizes the danger and flees with her Master.
In the Matou family’s creepy dungeon, Shinji monologues gleefully at the mysterious blonde man, who seems to be his new Servant. The Servant tells Shinji that his strategy is terrible and reveals himself to be the one with the real power in this relationship.
The pacing of this episode felt rather strange (I seem to be getting all the weirdly paced episodes, huh.) The first half was rather slow, then there was the really well-done encounter between Rin/Shirou/Saber and Kuzuki/Caster, then another chunk of randomly timed exposition about Shirou’s protection magics, and then finally the scene with Shinji and his new, mysterious Servant.
However, odd pacing aside, let’s talk about the highlight of this episode: the confrontation with Team Caster. It’s been a while since I played the VN, and I forgot just how creepy Kuzuki-sensei can be. One thing I love about the Fate/ series is that it’s not just an action series, but we get to learn about the beliefs and goals and codes of those involved. Kuzuki’s speech about his apathy towards death is the only time he really gets to shine, and it results in a really well-done scene. He then goes toe to toe with Saber of all Servants not because he desires the Grail, but simply because he sees a fight that needs winning. I don’t find Caster the most interesting of characters most of the time, but her and Kuzuki’s relationship is an interesting foil to Shirou/Saber and Rin/Archer – they’re in perfect accord (as opposed to the other two pairs, who argue and have trouble agreeing) because they see murder and death as simply a necessity. This is a War after all, and Kuzuki is one of the participants who behaves most like a soldier.
One thing I’m still not sure about is how this anime is handling the Eighth Servant, the blonde man who was seen creeping aroud with Kirei but is now teamed up, at least temporarily, with the formerly Servantless Shinji. Anyone familiar with Fate in any way, including the DEEN anime or Fate/zero, knows exactly who he is – and by the UBW route in the VN, his identity wasn’t a secret either, having been revealed in Fate. They’re treating his identity as the biggest secret/reveal of the show, as opposed to Archer’s true name, why he feels the way he does towards Shirou, or, y’know, who actually wins the Grail War. While I do love seeing Blondie in action – he’s so deliciously evil – giving him increased scenes so early on (I had guessed they wouldn’t deal with him until the 2nd ‘season’ of UBW) means less time for Rin, Saber and especially Archer. (I guess it’s also that I find his interactions with Shinji so much less interesting than with Kirei, who was his primary scene partner in Zero).
Still, I do think that overall ufotable is still doing a great job setting up for UBW’s big reveals. As someone who’s played the VN I can pick up some scenes of foreshadowing, including some that are less obvious (hmm that oddly shaped knife Caster was brandishing at Saber before she retreated totally isn’t going to be relevant at all….) And it’s still a visual treat, with Rin’s dream and Caster’s magic, not to mention the creepy vibe of the Matou house, being particularly well-renderd parts of this episode.
Oh, and Shirou actually did a thing, but I won’t get too much into it for fear of spoilers. Still, that plus Kuzuki’s cool speech plus a nice fight scene puts this above average for me again.
Out of 5 Dios: