With everything else on break, or finishing this week, the Fate Stay Night finale really was the highlight of my week in anime. As usual, I’ll review the final episode first, and then go into my thoughts about the season as a whole.
Fate Stay Night Episode 12
The episode starts off a bit slow. After spending the night, Rin takes Shirou out around town as a way to cheer him up. I guess having that conversation was depressing for her. Shirou is always so focused on chasing his ideal, Rin wanted to take him out and have him enjoy life. It was fun seeing Rin tease Shirou, and Saber being Saber, but this whole outing was the calm before the storm.
Fujimura, while visiting Kiritsugu’s grave gets kidnapped by Caster. Had Archer finished her off earlier, none of this would have happened. By leaving her to roam freely, she’s been able to gather more mana and is approaching unstoppable levels.
She’s taken an interest in Shirou. Offering him a chance to join her, Shirou refuses to accept her invitation. He refuses to work with Caster after she’s caused so much pain and suffering to the civilians. From his demeanor, you could tell Shirou knew exactly what he was going to do. Caster kept trying to sway him, but Shirou being stubborn, was already dead set on his decision.
He readily hands over his command seals as if it were nothing. To him, the choice is obvious. In his mind, losing the command seals will cause him pain, but everyone else will be safe. Unfortunately, this naivety is what everyone had been harping at him about this entire season. Shirou tunnels on the idea of saving someone, and fails to see the bigger picture. By sacrificing his command seals, Fujimura will be safe, but at what cost? Losing his command seals he’s no longer a master and can’t stop evil, like Caster, from obtaining the grail. In the end, he’ll keep getting beaten down, but nothing really changes in the end.
Rather than bowing out of the fight early, the worst case scenario happens. Caster not only strips Shirou of his rights as a master, but she takes possession of Saber as well. Because of Shirou’s lack of foresight, Caster not only gains more power, but Saber is basically reduced to a slave. Once again, Shirou throws his body to take another beating in order to protect Rin.
It was crushing to see Saber in such a state. She finally had a master who treated her as an equal. Rather than being a slave, Shirou let Saber live a normal life in the present world. Everything is going well, but now she’s enslaved to Caster. The despair, and hopelessness in her eyes as she cries for them to flee was memorable.
After retreating, Archer finally starts communicating again. For the past few episodes, he had been hard on Shirou, and acting strangely. He seems to have some recollection of his past life, but continues to withhold that information from Rin. She has an idea though, based on the dreams she saw back in episode 10.
Archer’s original plan was to let Caster roam free and let her deal with the troublesome servants, like Berserker. After this turn of events, they have to make her the next target. Archer could deal with her at any time, but now that she has possession of Saber, stopping her will be difficult. He accomplished one of his goals, telling Shirou “I told you so”. He’s been telling him all along, that his ideal is doomed to fail, and in the end, it’ll cause more harm than good. Shirou being as stubborn as he is always chose to brush him off, but now he’s created this huge mess that Archer now has to take care of.
After Caster’s acquisition, the war really is about to begin. Up until now, we’ve had a few encounters, but the battles usually dissipated without either side taking too much damage. All the masters and servants basically made their presence known, but were still finishing up with preparations. Illya’s spotted Kuzuki at the temple, Shinji has his new servant, Rin and Archer prepare to take on Caster, while Caster herself has acquired a second servant under her wing.
Caster sets out to make the church her knew hideout. With Assassin being bound to the gate, she had to stay there to cover her physical weaknesses. Now that she has Saber, she’s free to move out, and draw attention away from it. She seems to have a great deal of respect for Kuzuki. Assassin is instructed to protect him, and is disciplined when speaking ill of him. With Caster leaving, the Kuzuki should be safe within the temple since the targets are on Caster.
She evicts Kirei from his own Church. Confident that the war is over, before it has really begun, she begins to make preparations for summoning the grail. Through this little encounter, we learn that Kirei was actually Lancer’s master all along. This opens up many more questions that have to be resolved. Why is the overseer participating in the war, and where did the extra servant of his come from? While Caster seems to have the edge, the war is definitely a lot more complex than it originally seemed.
At this point, Shirou’s hit rock bottom. He’s lost everything. Saber, Sakura, Fujimura are no longer living in his house, and his peaceful days are gone. He’s even lost Rin as a companion, since he is useless to them in his current state. She still cares about him, but can’t take him along now that he’s defenseless. Up until now, everything has been like a game. Teaming up, investigating mysteries, but this is how a real holy grail war should be. It’s not a place for children to play around, you have to go into it with the mindset to win and you can’t let your emotions control your decisions. He’s in no condition to fight, and everyone has left him, leaving him with nothing.
I have to say, I got the chills when LiSA’s rendition of This Illusion began playing. It’s not as calming as the older versions, but her vocals definitely got me hyped for the next season. The first split (like Fate/Zero) served as a set up for the main part of the war. We got introduced to the world, and met all of the characters, but now it’s time to get serious.
Fate Stay Night Anime Review
I’ll admit, I’m not the type of person who can do crazy indepth reviews, so I’ll just ramble a bit on various thoughts I had while watching the series. There was so much I want to discuss, but I’ll save those for other discussion threads.
Tone of the Series
Fate/Stay Night, in the early stages, is a huge contrast to the feel of Fate/Zero. At first, I was a bit turned off with how the characters can be so calm despite taking part in a war. After thinking it over, it makes a lot more sense to me now. Fate/Zero, nearly all the masters were adults who had prepared their whole lives for this moment. They all had clear cut plans, and tactically tried to outmaneuver each other to the grail.
In contrast Fate/Stay Night’s masters are pretty much all teenagers. The grail’s sudden awakening left them with a lot less time to prepare. These aren’t battle hardened assassins, they’re kids who had to grow up with little parental guidance. Since we follow Rin and Shirou’s quest for the grail, their perspective (at least at the start) is a lot more relaxed than the previous war.
Early on in the season, we got a glimpse into the mind of Shirou. He was dead set on becoming an ally of justice, ensuring justice prevailed, even if it forced him to suffer. Throughout the season, we have Archer, shooting down his ideals and telling him he’s bound to fail. Even Rin and Caster jumped in on the wagon, telling him how delusional it is to constantly throw yourself under the bus, for the sake of others. With nothing to strive towards, Shirou always put himself last.
In the end, his ideals have forsaken him. While I can’t fault him for wanting to save Taiga, him not wanting to have anyone get hurt results in potentially more harm done. Losing Saber not only makes Caster more likely to win the war (and cause mass destruction), but it also hinders him from stopping evil from obtaining the grail.
I don’t think his ideal is necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a matter of striking balance. You can still go out and protect people, but not to the extreme point where you’re causing more harm than good. At the moment, Shirou will go out of his way and suffer if it means someone else doesn’t have to. The problem with that though, is that the people close to him will be distraught, seeing him hurt. On top of that, he can’t protect any other people if he’s injured as well.
Fate Stay Night probably isn’t the most beginner friendly series there is. I know when I first go into the anime (Fate/Zero), the hour long special with technical explanations was certainly intimidating. I feel as if the series as a whole, is better enjoyed if you’re exposed to the material beforehand. Or, if you’re like me who isn’t a fan of reading visual novels, reading on the mythology and fan analysis/reviews really made the series more enjoyable for me. There are so many smaller details that are hard to notice without them being pointed out, or giving the series a deeper analysis.
The entire season felt a bit slower paced, as mentioned earlier. I definitely found the conversations to be interesting, but 12 episodes have passed, and the war hasn’t progressed that much. Only one servant has fallen, and all masters still remain. I’m not complaining though, I appreciate the time they took to set up. By getting over all of the introductions and plot elements, they can proceed with the war. The second half promises to be explosive and I’ll be able to look back on the first season, and appreciate all of the small details that they laid out in advanced.
Overall, the series lived up to my expectations. Ufotable did an amazing job with visuals, and audio as usual. They also fleshed out the story a bit more when appropriate, adding to the viewing experience. If I had to pick a favorite moment from the season, it’d have to be the very end. They built up the downfall of Shirou’s ideals for ages, and everything finally came falling down. Everything has been set in motion from that one event, and I can hardly contain my excitement for the second half.
Well, that concludes my write up. I apologize that it’s a bit all over the place (holiday season & delayed episode leaving little time for planning). I appreciate you all for reading along, following my posts, and joining in on the discussions.
You can watch Fate Stay Night (2014) Episode 12 on Crunchyroll (available the following week for free users)