Fate/Stay Night #4: Danger and Domesticity

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_16.00_[2014.11.02_23.24.22]

This week we lull in the aftermath of the great supernatural battle, and Our Heroes have to face more mundane trials, like delivering lunch, accidentally calling people fat, arranging impromptu slumber parties, and… magical skeleton monsters??

[To note—from here on out, I’ve decided I’m going to put all discussion comparing things to the VN or the prequel in the additional notes. Travel onwards relatively spoiler free!]

As this is a lull episode, some professional somewhere clearly made the decision that to maximise viewer attention they had to animate some bare skin. We start off with a fantastically creepy cold open of Ilya expressing her intent to murder, how one normally does, on the way into a bath. Now, this could have been a genuine opportunity for a neat little reveal about the strangeness of Ilya’s body (because—and this is the last spoilery thing I will say—there is something interesting going on there), but all we really got out of it was uncomfortable fan service. Whether you’re uncomfortable because you’re watching a prepubescent girl’s body wander across your screen amid steam or because she’s declaring her eagerness to make Shirou suffer “in Kiritsugu’s place” with a smile, is up to you.

They do their best to make up for it by flinging Shirou’s shirt somewhere far out of frame, but it still felt wrong. I’m all for equal-opportunity fan service, as long as it’s actually equal. A problem I had with Psycho Pass for instance: there’s an equal-ish amount of semi-nude men and women, but the contexts are infinitely different. The women are often exposed while they’re in vulnerable situations, i.e. having been or about to be murdered, while the guys are mostly stripped down when they’re working out or injured from being a badass, thus in a more powerful position. It rubs me the wrong way, and I felt a touch of that this episode. But I’m not here to talk about Psycho Pass, am I? I’m here to talk about Shirou’s self-healing abilities. Wait, what?

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_03.38_[2014.11.02_23.22.39]

I feel it’s true to Shirou that he breezes past that though, because frankly, the kid’s learnt so much crazy stuff over the past 24 hours that I don’t think he’d want to waste time being surprised by anything new. He’s not even too flustered about having Saber around, in fact they fasten their friendship even further. It does get a little awkward when she insists on bodyguarding him all the way to school and ends up getting checked out by Mitzusuri, leader of the archery club and very bad at hiding her gay side if she is in fact attempting to.

She also runs into a man we’ve glimpsed before, a teacher named Kuzuki, who has the immediate personality of an ominous brick wall and, according to Saber, a strange air. He certainly makes a contrast to Taiga, who has for some reason been put in charge of sharp projectiles when she can’t even pack her own lunch. As if there wasn’t enough going on, Shirou now has to integrate Saber into his household, which causes an immediate unspoken clash with Taiga and Sakura. You could have had your suspicions it was curious jealousy that got Sakura staring at Saber, but something more comes into play (though it’s bundled cleverly into the rest of the manic conversation) when she reacts with such shock to hearing her name.

She knows.

While Shirou’s trying to make peace over dinner and Taiga has decided that ‘chaperoning’ is synonymous with ‘cockblocking’ and invited herself and Sakura to stay over, Rin and Archer are having their own rooftop adventures, coming face to bony face with some very spooky creatures. She discovers that the “gas leaks” that have become an epidemic in town of late are a mage at work, sucking people’s energy in a steady path towards the mountain. Archer reckons it’s the work of Caster, which is pretty smart, and also that she’s an angry woman, which I’m surprised didn’t earn him a frown from Rin. Then again, maybe you don’t have time to smack down sexist observations when you’re fighting off skeletons, and being livid that someone would get innocent people involved.

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.29_[2014.11.02_23.26.09]

Another juxtaposition within Rin as she looks ahead with her human feelings in one hand and her duty as a mage in the other—she makes a decision at the end that Shirou is no longer her buddy, and she will kill him. There’s a war going on and junk. Something’s going on at the school. Something’s going on with Caster. Something’s going on with Sakura. Something’s definitely going on if Ilya has such a thirst for vengeance against a man we’ve only seen to be connected with Shirou.

This episode was a lull, but it was a satisfying lull, buzzing with an understated heartbeat of something going on and energised build-up. I think you’d better get your head in the game, Shirou. Cooking to impress your houseguests will soon be the least of your problems.

Extra thoughts:

  • Seriously? Ilya has a full body Command Spell. What other reason could there be to get her naked other than to show off or at least foreshadow that? This isn’t Prisma Ilya, people!
  • Obviously this was decided to be the “get the Einzbern-Emiya kids’ tops off” episode. Buffness on show or otherwise, I actually just think Shirou’s adorable. They’re making real headway with his body language and expressions and general aura of likeability. Saber too—she just looks so content. I’m sure she’s not used to it
  • On that note, Shirou was pulling that story about Saber being an old friend of Kiritsugu’s out of his ass but… little do they know.
  • Shirou’s dream was also very interesting… blades… rather a lot of them. Almost an unlimited amount…
  • Sakura was relevant in this episode!
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17 Comments

Filed under Alex Watches

17 responses to “Fate/Stay Night #4: Danger and Domesticity

  1. It’s unrelated, but hey nudity in Psycho Pass was mentionned and I had to add another difference who annoyed me in how they portrayed nudity in the most recent episode: male character had distinct body shape while female neatly fitted in the box of mainstream attractiveness with cute underwear.

    Since everyday life of Shirou was established and how he got a lot of freeloader, I hope that future episode will slack on that and focus more on everything else.

    • I mean… it kind of served to enhance the “doll-like” persona of Ilya and show that she doesn’t really have much privacy or personal agency, if spooky maids are discussing tactics with her while she bathes, but really it just felt off. At least there’s an obvious draw with Shirou, you know, buff young dude, but Ilya’s so childlike it really just has too many creepy implications to bear. Who are you targeted this at, guys??

      I think we’re definitely going to be picking up the slack soon–so far it’s been doing pretty well in terms of pacing out action, breather, action, breather, so I think it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing some action soon!

  2. sen23

    and thus the harem begins or that’s what “fans” say

  3. Cookie Biscuit

    I’m glad to see you point out the “off” feeling of having Illya naked. I got people getting incredibly defensive and aggressive towards me just because I said the nakedness added nothing incredibly important to the scene other than to pander. They were acting as if I said something incredibly alien. Look, if you don’t think there’s anything even remotely uncomfortable about the scene, fine, but at least admit that the purpose for her being naked was fanservice! Any meaningful subtext could have been shown in a different way in a different setting, or, like you said, the scene could have been utilized to show something about the unique quality about her body. The purpose of the scene was without a doubt to pander. Whether you like it or not, that it was fanservice shouldn’t be something that’s arguable, but yet it was. I tend to avoid internet arguments because I usually see where things can get hairy, but that reaction really caught me off guard.

    About Mitzusuri….huh what? I’ll admit I’m really lost about your comment about her being gay. It’s just I read that she crushes on another character in the future who happens to be a guy, and though she can be bisexual, I’m still not sure how you interpreted the scene that way. Is this actually something that’s said in the VN or is it just your conjecture?

    • Farray

      There are some hints that Ayako likes Shirou actually, which gets more blatant in Fate/hollow ataraxia. Then again, there’s that pic with Ayako and Rin…

      She looks like Shiki though, so the author jokes around that she would eventually fall in love with Mikiya, because Shiki loves Mikiya.

    • Ha, re: Mitzusuri, it was really just a little joke on my part, since she’s always particularly open about how much she appreciates and finds girls beautiful. Then again, Saber, being the Fandom Queen, has that effect on people to the point where it’s a running gag. I am, of course, totally down for accepting this as evidence of Mitzusuri being bi, because I can always use more wonderful bi characters.

  4. I like your comment near the end referring to Shirou’s “general aura of likeability.” What the writers and animators of this show are doing with his character seems like major damage control on their part. The view of Shirou held by most fans is still reflective of the way he was portrayed in the DEEN anime, which focused-in on the worst aspects of the Fate route and painted him as a brain-dead, sexist sword fetishist out of touch with just about everything and everyone around him.

    So far UBW is making huge strides in not only portraying him as being more sympathetic and expressive, but also streamlining his relationships with other major characters; Saber in particular. It makes sense, as this is the route where he arguably gets the most character development and it’s going to be very important that viewers have a hero they can root for.

    On the subject of that opening scene, I don’t think it would have been as bad if they had just provided some more context. Maybe included a whole scene of Illya arriving back home after kicking some ass and giving viewers a better glimpse into her home life. But nope, just straight to the steamy stuff. As far as fanservice of this type goes, this case is pretty tame in the grand scheme of things. However, the fact that there really wasn’t any greater purpose to that scene makes it hard to defend.

    Regardless of all that I’m just happy to see Shirou’s extravagant dinner rendered in glorious Ufotable quality.

    • A “brain-dead, sexist sword fetishist out of touch with just about everything and everyone around him” is pretty much the most succinct description of Fate route and DEEN Shirou I’ve seen yet. Isn’t it amazing how people can bastardise their own characters?? I agree though, they’re doing very well to make him into a hero we’re invested in. Overall, no one feels flat, really–everyone’s very multi-faceted, even if we don’t know them that well.

      Yeah, put more budget into the food and less into out-of-context random Ilya fanservice. I admit it’s definitely not the worst out there (again, stares at Prisma Ilya) but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. Especially if you’re coming straight from Fate/Zero for instance, where you last saw her as an adorable little kid, and suddenly you’re being forced to sexualise her (seeing her as a murderous mage would have been shocking enough!)

  5. sen23

    -Saber too—she just looks so content. I’m sure she’s not used to it-
    That looks so much OoC from her part, seeing how was her ending and her final moments in the 4th war

    • Well, I guess that’s part of it–she’s so used to being treated like a tool, it’s no wonder she’s so surprised and happy that Shirou’s treating her with such respect.

      • sen23

        Is okat if it’s just some moments, but she looks almost happy 24/7 and after the last war she should not be like that. It would make sense if the come out before Fate route but that’s not the case

      • Yeah… I do feel like it would be good to get some solid development and characterisation of Saber, since she’s been pretty here-and-there. Hopefully coming soon, though… :/

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