Fate/Stay Night resumes like it never left us for three months – to recap, Saber’s just been stolen by Caster and turned into the servant of a servant, rendering Shirou servantless. After having mysterious dreams about Archer’s past – a usual side effect of being master to a Heroic Spirit – Rin lends Shirou a hand in going to rescue Saber. Of course the main objective is to get rid of Caster, because everyone is pretty much sick of her shit (myself included).
The eventual showdown at the now ruined church does not go the way Rin or Shirou expected – mainly because halfway through, Archer betrays them both and announces his wish to side with the stronger team and be Caster’s servant-servant as well. However, he does ask for her to let Rin and Shirou go free in exchange for this.
So, to recap: Shirou is servantless, Rin is servantless, Saber’s an OOC damsel-in-distress, Arcer has betrayed Rin (OR HAS HE?), Kirei is nowhere to be found, Caster and her master are breaking rules all over the goddamn place and there’s still other teams in hiding. So what now? (Besides Shirou’s ill-timed confession of his feelings to Rin, anyway.)
I was really looking forward to watching Fate/Stay Night again, and I don’t know. Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I’m just still annoyed at all the bad anime this season, but man did this episode rub me the wrong way. I’ve stated this a few times, but I haven’t finished the UBW route of the novel so everything here I’m experiencing for the first time. However, I did still know a few things – I did know that Saber was going to have to be put out of the picture for a while somehow to allow for Shirou’s increased cooperation with Rin.
What I didn’t expect, or like whatsoever, was that this means Saber – who is otherwise an amazing, strong, proud knight, is reduced to a quivering damsel in distress who can’t do a damn thing. It’s not so much the fact that she was captured and restrained that gets me, its the icky way the narrative goes about presenting it. Why has Caster changed her into this dress? Why is the dress hiked up like that? Why is she posed like that? Why is she weakly panting the whole time? These are all rhetorical questions, by the way – I actually do know the answer, it’s because fanservice, and I’m just so, so disappointed that this scene was presented in such a way. I know it was like this in the VN too – I saw a cap of it, and assumed it was a bad end or something, so I can’t really blame ufotable (who are, to their credit, doing the best they can with this material), but geez. Again, I’d have been fine with a ‘Saber needs rescuing’ plot if they had kept her in character and didn’t make some weird erotic spectacle of it. It just doesn’t make sense to me and its especially annoying when considering how little development Saber actually gets in the UBW route at all.There’s probably going to be ‘sexy’ figures based on Saber in this pose and everything. Gross. (…but seriously, where the hell did that dress come from?)
I was similarly a little annoyed at Shirou saving Rin (you know, the mage who by all accounts is far stronger than he is), but given Archer’s sudden betrayal I can let that slide. She wasn’t exactly in the calmest state of mind at the time. Having her blush around his dumb confession to her was also annoying (mainly in that ‘what the hell do you see in this dumbass, Rin’ kind of way) – mainly because I just wasnt that impressed with the writing in their little moment under the stars towards the end of the episode. I feel like it should have been a lot nicer – and maybe I was just still too annoyed about Saber – but it just kind of fell flat to me. Which is unusual, because there were some moments of the two together in season 1 that I really enjoyed and thought worked really well. I do enjoy the Fate series but the more I watch/read of Fate/Stay Night the more obvious it is that Fate/Zero is leagues ahead of the rest in terms of writing – particularly character writing, and this episode was a huge reminder.
On the plus side, there’s a really cool new opening and ending to go with this new season, the animation is still just as impressive and the fight scenes just as polished. We also finally get to learn the true identity of Caster – she’s the Greek witch of legend, Medea. Let’s hope this is all just a hiccup and the show improves for me in the next episode.