Fate/Stay Night OVA: The Real Holy Grail was the Friends we Made Along the Way

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We interrupt our scheduled broadcast of Kiritsugu’s gritty and grim tragic backstory to bring you fluffy and fun surprisingly un-tragic story continuation from the world of Fate/Stay Night. It being a visual novel originally, it has multiple endings, and because they’re presumably residing in a studio building constructed of money at this point, ufotable decided to gift us with a short OVA that depicts the “Good End” of Unlimited Blade Works.

Naturally, I had to come running back. Much like this:

The mini-episode opens as the Grail beastie is falling apart, and Saber, who spent the last of her power destroying it, is preparing with melancholy visage to disintegrate into gold dust and float away. Rin, however, is having none of this, and leaves Shinji’s battered body to sprint across the marsh to get to her. What happens when she gets there is unclear, as time shifts and we find ourselves looking down on a slumbering Shirou, who wakes up unable to believe that he really, just, you know… summoned an infinite number of swords, killed Gilgamesh, and saved the world.

Dealing with the fact that it wasn’t just a dream, he wanders out into the house to find that Saber isn’t in her room, in fact it’s all packed up and bears the clinical emptiness of a tomb. Shirou is forced to remember/assume that she was lost in the battle, and a tangible sadness descends on him.

He begins to go about his day, completing the motions, and I have to wonder if he’s just so used to grief at this point that the only way he can stomach it is to act as though nothing is wrong. He’s the pragmatic type, so he probably thinks there’s no use in staying still and moping. Is this an indication of how he acted after his father died? Or the opposite, because he discovered that that childhood despair got him nowhere, and certainly didn’t bring Kiritsugu back? This would be a really interesting insight, but as this anime didn’t even properly acknowledge that Kiritsugu died when he did, asking for this would be a bit much. I can dream, though.

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Shirou thinks he’s still dreaming when he walks into the dojo and finds Saber sitting there. Whoa! Didn’t you like… die? Apparently not. She’s really there, and they are really happy to see each other, and it’s just about the sweetest thing I’ve laid eyes on in this show so far.

And then, with a shot of her mini-skirted ass as her character introduction (thanks, animators), who should stroll in but Rin, to reveal she’s been taking care of Shirou and lord over both of them. Which actually… spoils the moment somewhat, but Rin being there is part of this happy ending. The three of them, the golden trio, the team that banded together in chaos, lost souls fighting for a lost cause who found solace in each other.

Which would really be a beautiful thing, if the setup of it was better. This is only a short bonus feature with no impact on the canon of the body of the show, so it’s effectively a glace cherry on top: sweet, pretty, but effectively useless and for some people, hard to digest. What kind of new life does having Saber around open up? Is Rin still going to go to England? Is Shirou still going to follow her, but eventually become a version of Archer anyway? Or will having Saber there change that? Is she going to start attending their school? Is she going to age, or be permanently stunted in her Servant form? My God, are they going to have to make like the Cullen family and move every few years to avoid suspicion? Is Saber going to have to start assuming the role of Rin and Shirou’s adopted daughter at some point??

I know what you are. Say it. King Arthur, trapped in a moe anime girl body.

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Anyway. We get no answers to these questions, merely an action-less snippet of the three of them by the river (beautiful scenery though, as always), where Rin and Shirou are discussing important things and Saber is gazing into the distance. Rin haphazardly explains that she formed a new contract with Saber and she’s now her familiar.

She did this because “Saber is the strongest familiar out there” so she “couldn’t just let her go”, apparently, in lieu of actually seeming to care about her as a person. She also does not explain what was different in this new timeline that allowed her to do it when she couldn’t or didn’t in the canon one, and says she’ll need Shirou’s help supplying her with mana, and when he asks how, as you would… Rin blushes and turns away with her arms folded saying “there are other ways”. Like what? It is never stated.

Like… it’s sex, because that’s the original recipe for mana transfer that the game developers came up with as a go-to to get the clothes off the love interest at any given time. But as of this incarnation, it’s also not. So what is it? I’m just as interested as Shirou, but Rin is not going to explain it to either of us because she is a giant child who cannot communicate.

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She also says, multiple times, that Saber “belongs” to her, and counts Shirou in on this as well as he’s helping keep her around through mysterious means. Shirou just looks awkward at this declaration, and Rin is smiling, and I think it’s meant to be funny and cute. But again, Rin has not moved an inch in character development terms since the start of the series, and having come back to Fate/Stay Night after a break I’ve been hit upside the head with how insufferable this—and hell, I’ll just say it, Rin herself—is.

Rin could have been a phenomenally interesting character. But everything that makes her interesting has had cute love interest wallpaper plastered over it, and all of her flaws (including this weird possessiveness) have been fixed as permanent traits and portrayed as cutesy quirks rather than things that need to be dealt with. And now everything has fallen into place and she, Shirou and Saber are set up in a perfect little pseudo-polyamorous sitcom where they’re going to run off into an obscure and confusing sunset together.

And we’re told all this, mind you, not shown it. How hard would it have been to do another little skip to see them living together? Show me Saber and Shirou training. Show me how the three of them collaborate, even if it’s just them making breakfast and plans for the day. Show me Rin “making excuses to Fuji-nee and Sakura” because how would you even begin to explain this whole situation to anyone? So much has been swept under the rug and left unanswered to make this happy little glace cherry ending, which, again, actually adds nothing to the series except the minor fan service of seeing Saber happy and alive, instead of emotionally fulfilled and dying at peace with herself.

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We’re also not told, or shown, or given any help in working out, what Saber means when she says “he told me I was wrong, and I want your answer on that someday” or words to that effect. Who? Who and what are you talking about? My guess is it’s Archer, or maybe Kiritsugu, but since we never even found out that they had any connection within this series’ narrative, it’s just another confusing piece of the cluster that gets brushed over as Rin pushes Shirou and Saber forward into apparently flawless happiness.

But at least we got to see a positive continuation of Shirou and Saber’s friendship, which developed a hell of a lot more organically and believably than his supposed romantic relationship. His expressions and characterisation were done fantastically, and it was a genuine shame to see all that raw emotion fade back to the awkward half-dazed boy-robot he is when he’s interacting with Rin. Free him, honestly.

So, all in all, what we have here is a more condensed version of all the issues the epilogue had, but with 100% more Saber because everyone has an insatiable need for Saber, apparently. That said, while I liked her original resolution, I also enjoyed seeing her walk towards a future where she’s actually going to be able to live life as a human being, with people she cares about. It’s a shame that we don’t get any indication what that life is going to be like, apart from the implication of mana transfer threesomes (???) and Rin micro-managing Shirou’s training into the ultimate… mage’s assistant? I’m not actually sure. Also like the other epilogue, it raised many more questions than it answered, and left me a touch dissatisfied.

Oh well. At least we know that the multiverse is real, and somewhere out there we can truly believe that there’s an alternate unfolding of events where our favourite character is alive and happy.

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