In the aftermath of his surprising, delightful and slightly worrying competence in the battle with Rider/Caster/the spooky skellies, Shirou has reverted quite comfortably back to being a dopey teenaged protagonist. There are even elements of this episode I wouldn’t hesitate to call slapstick—don’t put ‘Shirou is dragged around and/or slammed against something by Rin’ on your drinking game chart, because you’ll be quite dizzy after this instalment. Also get your worried faces into gear because something is, once again, definitely going on under all this silliness.
Aside from the high school setting, you kind of forget how young everyone is—they’re all so self-sufficient and magical, after all—until Archer shows up and is so tall he doesn’t fit properly in the frame. Not to say that he has the illusion of being any more mature than Rin or Shirou, as when he materialises after being no help when their lives were in danger, the first thing he does is spit sass. He even almost picks a fight with Saber since it’s reportedly a lot of fun to poke at her chivalrous ideals and the fact that she’d be honour-bound not to strike him down when he couldn’t do anything to fight back. At least he didn’t stab her in the back and chase her down the stairs, an event that’s still understandably creating tension between him and Shirou.
But at Rin’s behest, everyone agrees to get along, and assigns rooting out Caster’s Master as their next goal. She comes to the conclusion that it could very well be Shirou’s friend Issei as he lives in the Ryudo Temple where Caster’s hanging out, which shocks Shirou somewhat because he’s always been the pinnacle of politeness and honour student merit. Then again, you just can’t know these school captain types, can you? One minute they’re a virtuous overachiever, the next they’re snapping under the pressure and getting involved in black magic. Or, as Archer pointed out, he could be under Caster’s control and be her Master only in a technical sense. Whatever that means to Archer, to Shirou it means Issei’s one more person to protect, but first, someone he has to spontaneously derobe.
[Terminator voice] Give me your clothes. Possibly the most ridiculous scene we’ve endured in the show so far—Issei ends up on the floor shirtless and Shirou lets out a sigh of relief that he’s free of Command Seals and thus not the Master they’re looking for. Rin, when told about it, seems to think this is all well and good, and is kind of impressed with his… tenacity. I haven’t complained about them leaving anything out from the VN yet, but really, all we needed was that extra line about how he could have just checked his hand and avoided the whole debacle. Maybe Rin wasn’t in the mood because she was feeling sombre and foreshadowy at the time, but I remember it being the icing on the cake.
Then again, by that point the episode was sliding towards something more serious and quiet—Shirou’s blushed about having Saber sleep next to him as his bodyguard, he’s presumably wrestled the shirt off his best friend, and he’s freaked out about Rin’s boobs touching him as she arm-locks him against a wall, Taiga exists… then, two things of questionable connection happen. First, we have the sickly luxury to see Shinji sprinting desperately to the Church to have his very own ass-in-the-air-crisis and lament that he was the first to be knocked out of the War. His terror quickly turns to bitter rage as he shifts the blame effortlessly from himself to his enemies and the crappy Servant he was assigned. It is, of course, never your fault when you’re Shinji.
Kirei finds this whole display rather endearing. Even before he leans down and puts a juxtaposingly paternal, supportive hand on Shinji’s shoulder and tells him there just may be another Servant available for contracting, the entire room and everything your speakers reach are filled with a sense of foreboding. Nakata Joji could read the phone book and make it sound ominous and slightly alluring. The impending sense of dread even undermines the fact that his establishing shot is of the back of his newly-sprouted mullet. If you didn’t find them creepy before, you will now purely by association.
It’s also a little odd seeing Kirei and his adult, defined art style after spending so much time with the smooth-featured, big-eyed kids, but in a way it adds to the scene. Shinji’s all blue, wavy chaos and wild facial expressions, Kirei is a sturdy, well-defined rock overlooking the clamour with an eerie, dark calm and a quiet smile. Two poles that were not meant to meet have, and I can only fear the consequences.
Could this have something to do with the strange blonde man we see for the third time (chick-chick, that’s the sound of Chekov’s Gun lock and loading) loitering outside the Matou house? Shirou, who went to visit Sakura and see if she’s okay after having her life force drained the day before, is surprised to see the stranger, and even more surprised to see Rin, and subsequently be drag-slammed for the third time that episode. He must be getting sick of it by this point.
In any case, what he’s more interested in is why she’s keeping an eye on Sakura if she claims they’re just acquaintances. And what exactly it means when she asks, just hypothetically, how a child would feel if they were adopted out to a different family without any say in the matter. Now what in the world could that mean?
The cherry on the foreboding cake is a discussion about Shirou’s childhood (which Saber is very curious about), which leads to Taiga gushing over his stubbornness and heroic nature, seeing things in black and white as opposed to his laid-back father who thought good and bad were more subjective. When Saber asks why Shirou seeks to be a Hero of Justice, he can’t actually answer her, and has to slink away under the weight of a question it’s clear he’s never actually been asked.
Saying “to be like my dad, who I admired” feels like kind of a lame answer, but it goes deeper than that: is what he wants really so hard to pin down? Is it really so bad like Archer implied? Is it really impossible? It’s causing our comedy protagonist some genuine grief and it was an interesting low point to leave us on—something bigger is going on outside, but there’s also an internal struggle building up inside Shirou that’s far worse than what cute girls can cause.
- “Is that any way for someone from a family of warriors to behave?” Issei… are you calling the Emiyas a warrior family? Because you’re not wrong, but I have no idea how you reached that conclusion when even Shirou doesn’t know Kiritsugu’s past. Unless he simply figured as much from Shirou bragging about how heroic his dad was, and never got corrected.
- Gilgamesh is recognised as foreign because of his yellow hair and not because he looks in any way Middle Eastern, due to being a figure of Mesopotamian legend? Alright, character designers, alright.
- Rin has joined the Cute Coat Club
- Sakura was relevant in this episode by proxy!