This is the final episode of Season 1. Unlimited Blade Works will be taking a hiatus from broadcast (and from this blog) until April 2015. For a reflection on this and the other great (and not-so-great) series we’ve blogged this year, check out the Moeronpan Anime Awards post directly below this one.
As is to be expected from a season finale, SPOILERS contained within.
After spending the night at Shirou’s house, Rin surprises him by inviting him on a date. Shirou is nervous and embarassed, but he (and Saber) eventually agree. The three end up having a lovely day eating crepes, trying on glasses, and playing baseball. Shirou and Rin get to spend time together not thinking about the War, and grow closer as a result. Even Saber lightens up and has fun, getting really into a batting competition with Rin.
The date ends with a delicious (and beautifully animated) picnic lunch prepared by Rin. There is lots of cute dialogue and flirtation between her and Shirou, while Saber merely enjoys her lunch. Elsewhere, in a surprisingly touching scene, Fujimura-sensei tells stories of Shirou to Emiya Kiritsugu’s grave….a scene that quickly turns dark as Caster is revealed to be spying on her.
On the way home from the date, a mysterious flood crashes their bus. They are attacked by golems composed of water, which Saber and Rin ineffectively try to fight. Caster reveals that she has kidnapped Fujimura-sensei to serve as a hostage. She offers to trade Taiga’s safety for Shirou becoming her puppet, as she is fascinated by his newly opened magic circuits. He refuses, of course, but Caster has another trick up her sleeve: she claims to Shirou that between the two of them, they will have enough mana to summon the Grail immediately without needing to kill the other Servants.
Shirou continues to refuse, calling Caster a witch, which sends her into a violent rage. She demands Shirou’s command seals in exchange for Taiga, which Shirou agrees to, despite Rin and Saber’s objections. Saber intervenes, and Caster stabs her with her Noble Phantasm Rule Breaker, which allows her to steal Shirou’s Command Seals and become the Master of Saber.
Caster uses a Command Seal to force Saber to kill Rin, but Shirou jumps in the way and takes the hit. Saber attempts to resist the Command Seal, allowing Shirou, Rin and Taiga time to escape with the assistance of Archer. Archer reveals to Rin that while he still does not know his identity, he has memories of Saber, indicating that he once knew her. Rin tells Archer that Fujimura-sensei is under a sleeping spell, which they must kill Caster to break. Archer encourages her to sever all connection with Shirou as he is no longer a Master.
As a badly injured Shirou forces himself out of bed, Rin and Archer spy on the temple. Commanding Assassin to continue guarding the gate, Caster establishes a new base: the Kotomine Church. She declares to Kirei that the war is as good as won and attempts to force Kirei out of his neutral territory. Kirei manages to survive her golems by revealing that he too has broken the rules: he has a Servant, specifically Lancer.
Though injured and without a Servant, Shirou declares his intent to continue to fight alongside Archer and Rin. However, she tells him he is useless and powerless and leaves him, telling him “stay out of this or you’re dead”. With Saber at Caster’s side, Kirei and Lancer on the run, Shirou badly injured, and Shinji’s new Servant clearly plotting something, who knows what new twists await. The rules have been broken – who will claim the Grail?
Man, was this a fantastic episode! I was a bit worried about it being double-length, because the first two double-length episodes occasionally got bogged down in scenes of daily life. And while this episode did have its slower parts (particulary Caster’s seemingly endless monologue to Shirou about why he should join her) it was overall well-paced and managed to include a lot of major plot points without feeling too rushed. I was worried from the beginning that too much would be cut out, as all of Fate/stay night’s routes are rather lengthy, but ufotable continues to do an amazing job of keeping material that might otherwise wind up on the cutting room floor. Specifically, the date scene between Shirou and Rin (and Saber). It was a lovely way to start the episode, seeing them interact as friends (or more?) and especially seeing Saber experience more of the modern world. Those sort of scenes with Servants were one of my favorite parts of Fate/zero, and I’m glad to see them here in UBW.
The date scene also made a nice contrast to the relentlessly dark tone of the rest of the episode – Shirou losing his contract, Kirei being forced from the church, Rin seemingly abandoning Shirou, Saber forced to work with Caster. Pretty much nothing went right for our protagonists once the date had ended, and primary antagonist (so far) Caster gets everything she wanted save the Grail itself. While UBW’s first season doesn’t end on an action-packed cliffhanger as Zero’s did, it’s still a very ominous and effective place to end, and leaves the viewer wondering what will happen next for our beloved characters.
Another thing I absolutely loved about this episode was that it had a clear theme; while it focused on different sets of characters at different times, the scenes did not feel disjointed because they were connected by the common theme of “the rules have been broken”. Literally by Caster, who used Rule Breaker to sever Saber’s contract, but also by Kirei (who was revealed to possess a Servant despite his supposedly neutral status) by Shinji (who received a strange eighth servant following Rider’s defeat) and by Rin (who ended her non-aggression pact with Shirou and threatened his life). This episode tied together thematically so well, and I was really impressed with ufotable’s decisions in crafting this well done finale.
Of course, given that this is the last review of this show I’ll be doing for several months, I have to talk about the lovely animation in this episode. The date scenes were so bright and cute, full of flowers, colorful shop windows, and Fate/stay night’s traditional delectable looking food. Following that, nearly the entire rest of the episode took place at night, providing a good contrast. Caster’s skeletal golems and water creatures as well as her Noble Phantasm also looked quite slick in action. Though I’m not a huge fan of either character, Caster and Rider have some of the most well-animated movements and attacks of the entire cast.
While the “what is their current status” montage at the end (played instead of the usual end credits) was a nice reminder to viewers and set the ominous tone of “the villains are doing well, the heroes not so much” it also served to highlight what I did feel was one of this season’s flaws. Several characters have gotten minimal to no focus due to Caster hijacking the “primary opponent” role for most of this season. While Lancer taking a backseat after his exciting debut in the first couple of episodes makes some sense on a storytelling level (to hide the true identity of his Master – Kirei), we’ve seen practically nothing of Ilya, Berserker, Shinji or his new Servant for quite a while. This is especially concerning for Shinji and ‘Blondie’, who have had a lot of buildup as being a major, sinister threat but no payoff as of yet. Given that ‘Blondie’s identity is….not really much of a secret anymore, given his major role in so many Fate/ properties, I’m surprised that they’re handling him this way. Hopefully, he gets to see more action pretty soon in the second season.
Overall, however, this was a great episode and a fantastic finale to a fantastic first season. I’m really going to miss reviewing Unlimited Blade Works during the long hiatus until Season 2’s premiere in April.
This excellently crafted episode deserves no less than the full count of Dios from me!