This time around, Shirou and Saber bond by whacking each other with swords, Rin admits the total awkwardness of having her Servant openly attack her supposed ally, Caster makes a visit to the local high school, and Shinji proves quite finitely to be a smarmy little crap. Servants and golems and soul-sucking, oh my!
Once again, Rin’s harsh juxtaposition between schoolgirl and mage shines like one of her explosive, magical gems—in her greatest display of tsundere power yet, she tracks Shirou to his classroom, temporarily traps everyone in the doorway with sheer awe, and manages to aggressively ask him to lunch without actually asking anything. You can’t even tut at Shirou for being oblivious to her intent seeing as he’s merely being polite in suggesting they go their separate ways, and Rin is masking said intent with the anger of a hive of ribbon-clad killer bees.
They do end up on the roof together though, and the huffy, blushing teenaged girl simmers down to somewhere between Mage Mode and Person Mode, speaking tactically while looking rather subdued and upset. Shirou, golden soul that he is, doesn’t blame her for Archer acting out—in fact, his anger from the aftermath seems to have (superficially at least) healed up with his wounds, and he’s even a touch inspired by the red-clad war pragmatist. To the point of emulating his technique during Shirou’s sparring with Saber, which both gives him an edge he didn’t have before and irritates Saber considerably.
But hey, they’re bonding! Saber’s disdain that he isn’t trying to copy her technique is gracefully and a touch childishly covered up, and their conversation is very much peer-to-peer. Slowly but surely, and while she remains convincingly behind her elegant, knightly mask, we’re starting to get more of a sense of Saber The Person, maybe even Saber The Kid. I have to note that she always seems younger in any incarnation of Fate/Stay Night as opposed to Fate/Zero where she appears more mature both in stature and dress, all a very deliberate attempt to cater to the target audience no doubt. If they can keep humanising her without reducing her to a teenaged girl, I’ll be happy.
They manage with Rin—though she’s more of a damsel in distress than Shirou in this episode (genuinely shocking) she still retains her agency and importance and sense of solid character, even if said characterisation flip-flops in all directions and even involves, at one point, decidedly un-strategic giggling with regards to our friend Shinji.
Maybe it’s just a giggling episode though, because Shinji does his own fair share of greasy cackling before and after it becomes apparent that our blue-haired buddy is up to some shady business. That bounded field sucking the energy from the school populace? That was him. More specifically, his Servant, Rider, the long-haired knife-wielder from the forest who’s dressed like she’s ready to go clubbing.
Party rocking is clearly not on the agenda today, though—leeching the life force from the student body is. Rin states that Shinji comes from the dried-up Matou family and thus has no actual magical ability, so it can be easily inferred that he’s taking a leaf from Caster’s book and sucking mana out of other people to fuel his Servant. However, watching the kid, what you can infer is mostly that he’s having a lot of fun showing off. Who exactly is he trying to prove himself to? Rin, who laughed in the face of his suggested alliance? The other Masters who might have doubted his family? Himself?
His glee (seriously, he almost does a full-on dance routine watching the field go up) is unfortunately cut short by a mysterious intruder, but before any kind of reveal, first we have to deal with classrooms full of near-lifeless students and teachers. We saw them gazing in awe at Rin and Shirou in the comical scene before, so it’s jarring to see the school enveloped in chaos as, once again, two worlds that were not meant to collide very much do. An interesting contrast quickly develops between Rin and Shirou, an inversion of their usual dynamic, in fact: Rin can only stare in horror, but Shirou slips on a cold, calm mask and sets off checking people and giving orders with total, nigh-emotionless pragmatism.
They’re both children of tragedy, as discussed before, but the difference between what they’ve actually been exposed to becomes evident here: Rin can endure all the freaky magical stuff because that’s what she’s grown up with, but what’s familiar to Shirou is widespread death and disaster. He’s able to slip into this survival mode because such morbidity is something he recognises, and his first instinct is to make sure everyone’s breathing, without batting an eyelid at the pained state of the people themselves, which Rin is completely frozen by. Rin seems a little worried by this behaviour, and certainly so when he admits coolly that he’s “used to seeing dead bodies” (as you would be) but there’s little time to dwell on it, because as well as the bounded field eating everyone, skeleton golems have also appeared in the halls.
Again, unusually on-the-ball and level-headed, Shirou strengthens a broom in no time flat and summons Saber to assist in the business of kicking some bony ass. Visually, it’s not only interesting seeing the melding of CGI skellies with the rest of the animated world, but having an action sequence all in red as opposed to the indigo-lit nighttime battles we’ve seen before. It gives the whole thing a claustrophobic and nightmarish air, and makes Shirou’s blank expression all the more uncanny. It’s also interesting seeing Rin so out of her element with a backdrop that’s meant to be her colour. This is your world, Rin, but are you really suited for it? (The same could be asked of the night-blue for Shirou, really. Isn’t colour theory fun?)
With the battle over, Shinji has… lost quite a bit of his confidence. It would be satisfying to see the guy squirming and panicking if the sight of his pseudo-crucified Servant wasn’t so shocking. Alas, poor Rider, we barely knew ye. And she proved to be quite the badass too, if she could suck the life from an entire school at once and do such fancy tricks with that dagger. You’d have to be someone really up there to beat her, and really brutal to mess her up so in defeat. Caster has eyes and hands everywhere, it seems, and it does not bode well. The plot is thickening like they’ve added cornflour to it.
- Ah, it begins, the Caster Creeping. Saber needs a day off, really.
- So much giggling. Rin, Shinji and Caster. So much. You guys are all just really amused this week.
- Another ominous cold open dream… in which Shirou is made of swords. I have to say that was rendered successfully more horrifying than I ever imagined it reading the VN. Jeez.
- Sakura was relevant in this episode and he ran to her side and hero carried her someone hold me