After much mulling over the underlying eau-de-suspense perfuming the last episode or so, I think it’s safe to say this is one where things really kick off. The game is changing all around—Caster’s Master is finally revealed with devastating consequences, another sneaky contract is going on under everyone’s feet, Rin’s having very strange dreams and… Shirou is… suddenly and awesomely breaking the laws of physics??!
Our cold open is fun with ominous flashbacks and a neat little title drop—what exactly is the Unlimited Blade Works, this endless graveyard-like field of swords that Archer is wandering through under a tumultuous sky plagued by even more tumultuous memories? Rin, apparently, learns through this foreboding sequence how he became a Heroic Spirit, but declines to tell the audience, or anyone else who asks exactly why she’s so reluctant to have her own Servant around in battle. Archer can’t believe she’s so adamant about keeping her alliance with Shirou, but it’s quite likely Rin feels drawn to his open-faced righteousness, however dumb it can be, when she’s having trust issues within her own team.
Shirou’s crisis of the day is less dramatic, since apparently he’s been up late at night thinking about Archer’s beautiful double swords. Surely there’s an innuendo in there somewhere, but there are more pressing matters at hand—Issei, who manages (to his delight) to keep his shirt on this episode, reveals offhandedly that Kuzuki “there’s some sort of weird aura about him” Souichiro is not only living at the Temple but brought a strange woman he’s reportedly marrying to it two weeks before. It sounds like he’s an ample candidate for Caster’s Master, but something doesn’t quite add up. Only one way to be sure, Rin declares: zap him as he’s walking home. If he’s a Master, they’ll be ready to fight, if not, well, they figure they can deal with a detention.
And then it begins: beautifully designed and rendered scenery, artistic and atmospheric falling snow, and an orchestral, increasingly epic soundtrack. Oh yes. This harkened back to the first episodes, with the impeccable ability to build atmosphere. You can feel the hype gathering in your chest just listening to it, even if the images it’s overlaying are still and lying in wait.
Which is interesting, because looking at Shirou (and his strengthened fighting stick), Rin (whose thighs must be ridiculously chilly right now) and Saber, all you sort of see for a second is three teenagers on an adventurous stakeout. They could be the Secret Seven, for crying out loud—it just feels so brazenly unprofessional, magic or not, and you have to remember that they’re just kids fighting in something far bigger than them.
Which makes what happens shortly all the more horrifying—Souichiro walks by and is apparently impervious to Rin’s attack despite his artistically destroyed umbrella, and Caster materialises in a cloud of butterflies (aww) to confirm that they’re a team. That’s not enough for Shirou, though, who strides right out and asks his teacher if he’s being controlled by Caster, since no decent dude would simply stand by and let her hurt people. Caster’s probably like “Isn’t this the kid that got punted across my yard the other day?” but Souichiro’s stone-faced reply is that it’s the first he’s heard of such things. Shirou is a glowing smiley emoticon for about two seconds before Souichiro adds that he actually couldn’t care less.
Ideals at play again—what’s the morality of risking innocent people as collateral damage, when you don’t even know them? Would it be any different if you did? There’s not much time to think about it though, because shazam, things kick off, and Saber and Rin fly out to deal some damage. It somewhat backfires, though, seeing as mage or not, Souichiro is a stone cold badass who blocks Saber’s sword barehanded and basically flips her on her head and basketball shoots her across the road.
I have complained about that part before, I know, but I feel like it was less of an issue here as an action on its own. Possibly because we don’t have Shirou’s “but how did the marvellous Saber get defeated??” interior monologue, possibly because when watched solo it doesn’t necessarily feel like part of a larger tradition of Saber being used as the dog to pet/kick on The Sliding Scale of Villainy. Her battle brilliance was also short-lived, and apart from snippets of fighting we kind of haven’t actually seen her in full power and majesty. Here’s hoping it happens soon, because I have a feeling it’s going to get torn down again in future. Team Caster beats everyone up and soars away, but not before…
“You can’t just create something out of nothing!”
“Well, not with that attitude.”
Shirou, in a beaten up, bloodied pinch, traces the hell on and does something we’ve only seen one other character do: summons two swords out of thin air. Archer’s swords in fact, the ones he was admiring earlier. I would say ‘pop, there they are’ but the animation does a great job of making it look not so simple, and again, making things look weighted. The pulsing magic drags through the air, the world lurches, and you can feel yourself straining just watching Shirou summon the blades. For his first time breaking the rules of the universe, the lad did exceptionally well.
Rin, though, is naturally perplexed and quite peeved that he didn’t mention he could do this before (as am I, actually, since I kind of feel like this is something rather important). Shirou shrugs it off—he tried ‘projection’ magic first, but could only make the empty shells of objects, and Kiritsugu told him it was pretty useless as a skill so he focussed on strengthening instead. Fair enough, I suppose, but I really, really feel like this is going to be much more important than either of you realised.
And while the golden trio are carrying each other home, far below and unbeknownst to them, Shinji is back and worryingly delighted with life in general, due to his new gold-haired friend who he’s teamed up with and been given Kirei’s blessing to do whatever they want. Now that does not bode well, even without the spine-chilling, sickly green atmosphere of the cellar they’re in.
It’s kicking off.
- So, Souichiro used to be a killer, huh? a) here’s hoping this is going to be explained sometime, b) does anyone in this city’s citizenship dept. do background checks? Because there have been at least three different ex-assassins living in the suburbs.
- What a lovely bug dungeon… Fate/Zero fans will remember it all too well. In fact, those quietly panned-over wall chains look eerily familiar… nothing good ever becomes of House Matou.
- Sakura was not relevant in this episode. But I have to wonder, have Kirei and our blonde friend been keeping an eye on her family with the intent to manipulate it all this time? I wonder if they’re satisfied with snagging Shinji to their cause, if not her. And I wonder if she’s fully aware of this new alliance and its possible ramifications…
- Have you guessed who Archer is yet?