Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Anime Review: Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works Part Two (2015)

God that is the longest title ever and this is my last review of the spring 2015 anime season! We're right around the halfway mark for the summer 2015 anime season so I know a lot of people have been doing mid-season review posts and I'm going to post mine next week, just wanted to finish what I started first.


Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works Part Two (2015)


The fifth holy grail war continues, Shirou and Rin continue their "alliance of convenience" to keep fighting for a prize that neither of them have any idea what to do with.

This was a huge disappointment for me. I didn't even plan to watch the first half of this show since I had heard for years just how bad the writing in the original visual novel was but after a lot of praise I tried it and I really did enjoy it. So I went into this second half expecting more of the same and was sorely disappointed. Apparently there still were a few things that were rewritten or new to the anime, like the "epilogue" episode but it felt as if the writers weren't even trying when it came to the worst scenes of the season. As fans of the franchise know, and fans who watched the first half may have guessed, Archer and Shirou just really don't get along and this clash comes to a head in a three episode argument between the two of them. I cannot explain what their argument was over and make it sound as boring as it was, whenever I try it sounds as if this could be a genuine, interesting debate over morals, perseverance, and outlook (especially since Archer did have some interesting points in his personality in the first half) but I assure you that it falls completely flat on its face and I nearly dropped the show over it.

Sadly this three-episode slogfest was not the only low the season had to offer, there was quite a bit of sexual violence threatened against Rin, which I didn't remember in the first half at all and the resolution concerning Caster's master also rang completely hollow for me. I suppose if I had been in high school these conflicts might have been more interesting to me, when I could have thought "I'm not familiar with these ideas and emotions but maybe this really is how adults feel" but I am entirely too jaded now to take yet another "I am an empty assassin but this character who I didn't even have a full relationship with gave me purpose" character as seriously as the plot demanded. 

I also felt like being familiar with Fate/Zero hurt me in this half while being familiar with it was a nice benefit in the first half of the show. In the first half of this show it was clearly playing with some of the same ideas, like Kiritsugu's heroism, and seeing how that one war broke so many character's lives at such a young age helped give the story some real tragedy. Here however, Kieri's "motivations" for being involved in the 5th Grail War feel hollow by comparison (which I do think the writers could have changed without changing the whole story), Illya's story should feel especially tragic since we the viewers know more than she does but her backstory came at entirely the wrong time, and even Saber herself suffered since very little of her backstory was revealed in this arc. Rin is the main heroine of Unlimited Blade Works and, since you can't focus on other girls too much of course (admittedly the story is juggling nearly a 20 person cast), there's no real resolution to Saber's story and it felt like a very wishy-washy end for her.

I never thought I would say this but, Shirou and Rin's relationship (and Lancer) were honestly the best parts of this half and they were genuinely good bits. It felt like the story was much more comfortable with the undramatic, little emotions and day to day parts of people's lives than it was with the big, mythology spanning story which is the entire draw of Fate/ as a whole. So I'm in a bind, do I recommend UBW to people with all of these many caveats or do I not at all? I feel as if anyone whose seen Fate/Zero will want to continue and this is the natural show to watch next but this show just simply isn't as good.

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