Fate/Stay Night #1: Carry On, My Wayward Son

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_37.10_[2014.10.12_23.53.29]

This week, that mysterious redhead gets an identity, a tragic backstory, some friends, heroic ideals, and a spear through the chest. Fun stuff, right?

Episode One literally runs parallel to the prologue—we see the same three days and sequence of events, but focussing this time on the character Emiya Shirou rather than red-clad Rin. It becomes apparent fairly quickly that these two have more in common than sharing a high school year group and a story world—we meet them as they wake up from a memory woven into a dream, shadowy and with heavy implications of sadness, then follow them as they embark on their daily routine through a double life of ordinary existence and magic practice.

This post makes a very interesting point about how Rin’s house acts as character-building for her; prim, proper and almost impersonal as a museum, giving the audience a sense that where she truly lets her personality out is the cluttered cellar where she does her magecraft. It’s the same with Shirou: like her, he’s been left in a huge house all on his own (though he has a close friend, that ever mysterious and adorable Sakura, and the eccentric landlady’s daughter, Taiga, to keep him company and eat all his food) which, though well-kept, has a sense of being an empty shell. Shirou retreats into the mismatching shed to hone the one bit of magecraft he knows, looking into and strengthening the mechanical components of objects. Sometimes useful for being the school’s repairman, sometimes good for defending yourself when superpowered men in blue come after you with long sharp sticks (and is visualised in a way that’s really cool).

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_27.50_[2014.10.12_23.52.39]

Both Rin and Shirou are chasing after the dream that their respective late fathers left behind, which, in Shirou’s case, involves becoming a Hero of Justice and saving people, just like his adoptive dad Kiritsugu saved him from the mysterious and deadly city fire that hasn’t exactly been explained beyond being an orphan-maker. His motivation is told somewhat more than shown, but that’s due as much to Shirou’s dramatic internal monologue as it is to him actually having some semblance of family friend around to tell it to us (no wonder these kids have grown up so quickly. They need an adult leagues more functional than Taiga).

The influential Kiritsugu himself is no longer around, though we do get some succinct little flashbacks to when he first takes Shirou home. Whether or not you’ve come here from Fate/Zero, you immediately understand that this is somewhat of a broken man, gaunt and faceless until later in the scene, characterised only by his droopy, then hopefully smiling, mouth, and depressed stubble to rival Bucky Barnes. Much like Rin’s father, all we have to go off is their rose-lit memories and current idolisation of these men, and some shots of characteristic facial hair (the chin-shots are kind of cute, really, as they put us in the child’s perspective: i.e. literally looking up to this guy, because they’re itty bitty at the time).

It’s an immediate parallel between the two of them, though the sides of the mage world they come from are very different. Definitely something we can expect to collide later on, now that the two prologues have intersected. We’d have to wonder what Kiritsugu and Mister Goatee would think of this rendezvous so far, given that they were out to murder each other in the previous War. Buuuut we don’t know that yet, do we?

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_46.19_[2014.10.12_23.56.30]

It’s always interesting seeing Shirou… well, it’s always interesting seeing Shirou. In the prologue he was faceless, in the visual novels he barely appears since it’s all shown from his perspective. Animated, you get a better sense of his character through expression and body language, which applies to other characters as well. Shirou’s friend Issei is rigid and composed as a statue, in comparison to his somewhat complicated frenemy Shinji, who moves fluidly enough to remind you of some sort of oily liquid. Through Shirou’s eyes we get a closer look at characters we glimpsed in Rin’s prologue, including an unfamiliar and rather ominous young lady who informs him he’s going to die if he doesn’t summon someone soon.

This is clear as mud to Shirou, and I’m pretty sure it’s even murkier after he crashes, wounded and pursued (but holding his own! With a magically enhanced poster!! Go for it, lad!) into his shed and, with a perfectly justified rant that he won’t die twice in one night, least of all when he’s got so much he still owes the world for being saved that first time as a kid, activates the magic circle there. Pop, suddenly there’s a cold and professional armoured blonde standing above him, throwing around terminology like Master and Servant and Command Seals and, probably most importantly and to the most of Shirou’s shock, expertly flipping the attacking Lancer across the lawn.

Saber, it seems, has had enough of Irish spear-wielders, and has no time for their cursed weaponry even if it does reverse cause and effect (which I really hope will be explained more, because while it looked awesome it would be good to nut out some of the actual lore attached).

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_41.01_[2014.10.12_23.58.35]

However, with the ominous and velvety voice of Kirei calling to us in the preview, I’m fairly sure we can expect a bit of exposition in the next instalment, which will be nice for those that are engaged in the story but at this point becoming quite befuddled. Tune in next week for more heroism!

Additional notes:

  • “Hey, I rescued you from that fire but aside from that you don’t know me. Want to be my son? Also I’m a wizard. Let’s get your things.” Parent of the year, Kiritsugu. How did you get past the hospital staff?
  • Then again, I wonder if there’d be any peace of mind in knowing that sending that kid off with the shady stubbly ex-assassin was miles better than what would have happened to him had he actually ended up in the church-run orphanage… buuuut we don’t know that yet, do we?
  • Seriously what the hell was that Kiritsugu flashback
  • If anyone needs me I’ll be sobbing on the floor
  • Ugh
  • But hey, Sakura was relevant! And that “bruise” on the back of her hand, while also providing an excuse to reveal that her oily brother can be abusive, looks rather similar to the one that Shirou gets the next day before it turns into the Command Seal. How in-ter-est-ing.
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10 Comments

Filed under Alex Watches

10 responses to “Fate/Stay Night #1: Carry On, My Wayward Son

  1. Cookie Biscuit

    I’ve really only read this post and the last episode from you, but I really like your insights. That link about Rin’s house was really interesting, thank you for that.

    All the attention to detail in this show, from the characters’ facial expressions to their body language, to the backgrounds they are in, make this world so believable and real. It’s the details that make large scale theatrical anime productions like Ghibli movies and Mamoru Hosoda’s films such a pleasure to experience. It’s obvious now that I think of it, but it’s not until this show and this post that I’ve thought of why those films have such magnetically immersive worlds compared to my experiences with most tv series.

    So yes, I said I didn’t like Shirou and that hopefully this show would change my mind. Yup, I have warmed up a lot more to him, maybe even like him now. I think people who are saying this episode was exactly like the DEEN anime and Shirou is exactly the same must be blind. Yes, the events are same but the execution is completely different. I’m not talking just prettier art/animation.

    The DEEN anime separates the flashback to the fire and Shirou’s monologues about wanting to be a hero of justice so it doesn’t click that his ideals were shaped in part because of the tragedy. Shirou just ends up looking like a naive idiot and makes it infuriating that the story keeps accommodating this guy’s hero complex. Ufotable on the other hand makes a conscious decision to bring up and challenge Shirou’s ideals from the get go. It’s only after ufotable establishes his hero complex as a potential character flaw that they launch into the flashback. When Shirou monologues about wanting to save everyone even after Kiritsugu said it’s not possible, we understand that his views don’t come from simple naivety but as a result of the tragedy. It’s much harder to hate the guy when we make this connection.

    The prettier art/animation does play a big part too, though. I think the DEEN Shirou with his blank expressions just made his idiocy worse. Ufotable animates Shirou to be much more appealing and expressive, and even heroic. DEEN Shirou looked like a bumbling fool trying to fight Lancer, With ufotable, it’s clear that Lancer is a supernatural being beyond normal human capabilities and it’s actually impressive that Shirou manages to fend him off as much as he did, using just his wits and resourcefulness. His VA, Sugiyama Noriaki, also does a much better performance to make Shirou more likeable. Part of it might be that he’s just older and more experienced, but I feel they were just aiming for a different direction in regards to the acting. He embodied the very image of a carefree teenager in the DEEN anime, with a chipper and lighter delivery. There is a lot more weight to his performance in this episode, and I was convinced that, yes, he’s a guy who went through a lot of pain to have become to person he is now.

    I’m looking forward to how his character grows. Especially since I don’t have to deal with “you’re a girl” nonsense. >.>

    • Like with Rin, the establishing character episode did a good job to show us both Shioru’s good points and his flaws, which also does well for building him up as a character and not the self-insert VN protagonist I originally accused him of being.

      It was a little heavy-handed, but it’s important that we understand Shirou and his motivations and the mess of his hero complex, and now that it’s been spelled out to us with the flashbacks in the backdrop, we have enough of a sense of them to want to watch how they clash or connect with the Grail War. And we root for the kid, as well, which is somewhat of a triumph given how dull he can be made to be in adaptations of the original @.@ I’m really happy with it so far.

      Ha, I think, as far as “but you’re a girl!!1” silliness, the series producers have grown since then. Here’s hoping, anyway!

  2. The flashbacks were so well done. I didn’t expect them to affect me nearly as much as they did.

    So far this show is doing a great job of sticking to the source material while inserting little bits of new content, such as Shirou’s run-in with Rin’s classmates after school. If there’s one thing I’d love to see them expand on it would be the back stories of different servants. Some of my favorite scenes from Zero were the glimpses they gave us into the pasts of Lancer, Rider, etc. They made those characters seems way more human, and less like Pokemon being ordered around by the “real” heroes and villains. Lancer in particular is going to play a pretty big role later on, so here’s hoping he gets a reasonable amount of character development!

    Regardless, thanks for another great episode analysis/review. I love hearing your thoughts on this stuff. Sorry if it’s weird that I post these comments through twitter; I’ve never really had a reason to create a WordPress account.

    • The flashbacks were beautifully subtle, and kind of… just the right size and amount. Any more may have felt a little overkill, especially when we had places to be storywise… that being said, I would gladly watch hours worth of Emiya family shenanigans. In any case, we know we’re going to see Kiritsugu again for that all important death scene, so whoo, here’s looking forward to that…!

      Yeah, I’d like more of that too. Even if it’s part of the mystery of who’s who, it would be good to learn more about them as we go along. In the meantime, we’re getting a good sense of Rin and Shirou, but it would be awesome to branch out and make it even more of an ensemble piece.

      Oh wow, I didn’t even know you could post through twitter. Technology is amazing. Thank you!

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