Back to MrAM's Blog

MrAM's Blog

Oct 9, 2015 3:29 PM
Anime Relations: Fate/Zero, Fate/Zero 2nd Season, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works Prologue, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works 2nd Season
Despite its origins as an erotic game, Fate/stay night (and the franchise that it helped give birth to) is a surprisingly thoughtful contemplation on the nature of heroism and altruism, especially in the modern context. The property is plagued by so much disturbing pandering of all kinds and a seemingly endless lists of trivial spin-offs and sequels that it’s easy to lose sight of the depth the original narrative has at its core. I was introduced to the Fate franchise via Ufotable’s excellent anime adaptation of Urobuchi’s Fate/Zero (a personal favorite). I watched the much-maligned 2006 adaptation of the Fate route of F/sn soon after, finding it to be much better than its infamous reputation suggested but far inferior to F/Z. It really wasn’t until Ufotable’s recently completed Fate/Stay night: Unlimited Blade Works anime adaptation that I felt that I had come to have an appreciable understanding of the essential themes at the heart of its story. It helped me better appreciate and understand F/Z’s narrative retroactively, by providing closure to the prequel’s inconclusive threads, both literally and thematically. As it turned out, neither anime could be completely understood without the other. As such, the following analysis will draw heavily upon both F/Z and F/sn: UBW. Since I am an anime-only viewer, my thoughts will be limited to the Ufotable adaptations. Needless to say, unmarked spoilers will abound, so proceed only if you have completed the two aforementioned shows.

Heroism is very much at the center of the Fate epic. The war for the Holy Grail is fought in a series of intense battles waged by Masters and Heroic Spirits, mythological warriors summoned from the ancient past (mostly). Kiritsugu, the depressing protagonist of F/Z, desires to be the hero who will bring peace to the world. His servant, Saber (a.k.a King Arthur) strives to be a hero by fulfilling her role as the perfect king and saving her country from destruction. Shirou Emiya, the protagonist of F/sn, wishes to follow in Kiritsugu’s footsteps and achieve his dream of being a “hero of justice.” Archer is a bitter Heroic Spirit who believes that ideas such as “heroism” and “justice” are worthless and meaningless, a cynicism born from his own experience. The above four characters best embody the concepts of Fate’s narrative, and it is fitting that it’s through them that story’s themes are most thoroughly explored, via a fundamental similarity that they all share: belief in ideals.

This is a dense topic, so we’re going to break it down, piece by piece. It begins with the partnership between Emiya Kiritsugu and Saber in the Fourth Holy Grail, Master and Servant, respectively. They were an unlikely duo, each of them loaded with numerous personal issues. Kiritsugu was a man who had experienced a traumatizing childhood that had psychologically wrecked him, pushing him to strive to destroy the evil that ruined his life forever by becoming a ruthless killer. His ultimate desire was to eradicate all bloodshed and sorrow (basically world peace), and he believed that the Grail would allow him to do just that. As for Saber, she was a king who was in the end betrayed by everything she believed in, and lived long enough to witness the devastating collapse of her empire and brutal deaths of her subjects. She desired the Grail in order to change the tragic conclusion to her kingdom’s story.

The relationship between Kiritsugu and Saber was a remarkably dysfunctional one. The former never treated the latter with any degree of respect, seeing her as nothing more than one more tool in his arsenal. He held her at arm’s length, never seeking her council and never showing her anything beyond his frosty exterior. It is telling that Saber rarely accompanied her Master anywhere; instead she remained with Irisviel for the majority of the war, largely ignored by Kiritsugu. What really drove an insurmountable wedge between the two, however, were their utterly differing approaches to battle. Saber, in accordance with her nature as a chivalrous knight, believed in honor even when fighting an enemy to the death. Kiritsugu, however, stamped all over that, mercilessly killing his foes left and right using the most underhanded tactics imaginable. Kiritsugu’s constant humiliation of Saber and everything she believed in eventually caused her to essentially hate him. Kiritsugu never tried to reconcile their differences, and their relationship ended in a state worse than its beginning, with no love lost between the two.

The greatest irony of the two’s partnership may be that they were, at their core, very similar people, with very similar philosophies. Such an assertion may seem ridiculous at first, but a deeper examination of the two reveals the many ways that they were nearly identical. The narrative relentlessly draws very specific parallels between the two. That they each represent an extreme does nothing to change the fact that they both exist on the same spectrum. How so? It’s very simple, really: they both built their lives around ideals.

Kiritsugu and Saber both shared the ideal of saving and helping everyone, of the establishment of justice in the world. They were the epitome of selflessness, always putting others before themselves. The only difference between them is how they chose to go about achieving that goal. Saber made herself the personification of good, while Kiritsugu transformed himself into the personification of evil. They dogmatically stuck to their tightly-held beliefs, wallowing in their self-righteousness even as they made themselves martyrs for their causes. Both of them, independently of each other, decided that they would dedicate their lives to others and never themselves. To Saber, that meant being a true king, one who was always in the service of the people. For Kiritsugu, it meant never repeating the same mistake he made as a child, the one that resulted in the death of his entire village.

The path that the two walked was a difficult one, sprinkled with thorns. It’s telling that Saber and Kiritsugu never seemed to actually derive pleasure from what they did. There seemed to always be a sense of obligation to their selfless deeds; it was more a matter of them having to do it than wanting to do it. It didn’t bring them happiness; satisfaction, perhaps, that they were successfully adhering to their self-imposed restrictions, but not happiness. That was exactly the point: the road trodden upon was one rarely chosen voluntarily by most people, as it provided no joy. Saber and Kiritsugu sacrificed their happiness for the sake of their ideals, and the result was something that seemed to disturb the people who met them.

“That’s not a way for a person to live,” Iskander (Rider) told Saber in the 11th episode of Fate/Zero. Not long after, in episode 19, Natalia says the same thing to Kiritsugu, almost word for word: “That’s not how a human should live.” This echoed piece of dialogue draws an effective parallel between the Master and his Servant. Natalia further elaborates on the terrifying ability of Kiritsugu to accomplish any task, no matter how demanding on the emotional and mental level. It was something that seemed almost beyond human, and indeed, that was the level that Kiritsugu and Saber eventually reached. They embodied their ideals so well that they eventually became them, the perfect saviors that they had always wished to be. Unfortunately, it came at the cost of their humanity.

The narrative makes clear that Saber and Kiritsugu seemed to be almost deficient at truly understanding others. It would be an exaggeration to say that they lacked empathy; however, they were so intensely focused on remaining loyal to their own beliefs that they often forgot to remember it. Kiritsugu deliberately closed himself off from most people in his life, his dead eyes only serving to accentuate his detachment. Rider harshly criticized Saber for neglecting to understand her people, always succeeding in being a savior but never truly in being a leader. She forced herself into the role of honorable saint, becoming the ultimate beacon of good at the price of forging a meaningful connection with those she led. She towered above them, breathtaking in her majesty and an ideal role model, an image which obscured her fundamental humanity and alienated herself from her subjects. Kiritsugu, too, became a foreign figure, a man who was able to pull the trigger even as he smiled in the face of his only daughter.

An overdose of altruism; that seemed to be the problem with both Kiritsugu and Saber. As such, they are each given their respective foils. For Saber, it was Rider, a fellow king whose personal philosophy contrasted sharply with hers. Rider believed that the country served the king, not the other way around. To him, it was a must for the king to be selfish, taking whatever he pleased from whomever he pleased. According to Rider, the proper ruler is the one who indulges in all the pleasures at his disposal, so as to establish himself as a magnificent figure before his subjects, thus imbuing them with the desire to one day be in his place. Ultimately, Rider’s approach to kingship made him intimately human before his followers. He did not attempt to be a pure soul, did not attempt to foist the heavy burden of sainthood, and so it was easy for his men to swear allegiance to him. Even in his elevated position, he was more relatable to all who knew him than Saber ever was, all due to his selfish nature. It was something that his followers could recognize, could empathize with, and could truly desire.

For Kiritsugu, it was Kotomine Kirei who acted as a foil. His character arc is very obviously meant as a reversal of Kiritsugu’s; whereas the latter’s story is that of a man who denied himself his desires and his happiness, Kirei’s story is that of a man who learned to embrace his desires and hold them above all else. Basically, a classic case of selflessness versus selfishness. Kirei began the series as a truly empty man, unaware of his own self and devoid of any true goals or ambitions. He lived according to his orders and had no thoughts beyond them. Happiness was a foreign concept to him, and he never did anything that gave him personal joy. That changed gradually through repeated conversations with Gilgamesh (the character who indulged himself the most), who slowly taught him the meaning of entertainment and of understanding what he truly longed for. Eventually Kirei came to embrace the dark impulses within himself, and the religious man who had once seen pleasure as synonymous with sin made it his life’s mission to do whatever he wished, regardless of the depravity of his deeds. His personal satisfaction became his number one priority, a distinctly divergent one from Kiritsugu’s.

Kirei is interesting from a thematic viewpoint because he represents the opposite extreme to Kiritsugu. Both men commit evil, vile, and treacherous acts throughout Fate/Zero. In terms of immorality, it would be a pointless exercise to rank one above the other; they both stained their hands with voluminous amounts of blood. The crucial difference between them is how they viewed their own twisted actions. Kiritsugu believed that his work was genuinely disgusting, but saw the evil as necessary for the achievement of the greater good. He had no illusions about the monster that he had become, but held on to the (naïve) hope that it would pay off in the end. Kirei, too, recognized his deeds as sickeningly cruel, but actually derived pleasure from them. Though he had once condemned Gilgamesh as the sort of demented person who would enjoy the suffering of others, he himself eventually realized that he was the same; his fascination with Kariya’s tragedy is the perfect example of this. In the end, both men executed unspeakably terribly acts, but one did it to supposedly help others despite hating it himself, while the other actually enjoyed it.

The reason that Kirei was so obsessed with Kiritsugu was that he believed them to be kindred souls, both empty and alone. He refused to believe that Mayu and Irisviel fought him of their own will to protect Kiritsugu, as that would mean that they actually genuinely cared for him. Kirei didn’t just think that Kiritsugu was like him; he needed him to be like him. Kirei had to believe that there was someone out there that could relate to him, someone whom he could understand and who could understand himself. Irisviel, shortly before her death, defiantly told Kirei that Kiritsugu was not the empty man that he believed, as there existed one decisive difference between them: Kiritsugu had convictions, firm beliefs, goals, something that Kirei lacked. Besides that, he possessed the capacity to truly love others, which is why his pursuit of his ideal has caused him so much pain. In comparison to him, Kirei was a pitifully hollow shell, “lost,” as he himself put it. Learning of Kiritsugu’s mission, ironically enough, actually gave Kirei a tangible goal he could aim for, a reason to fight. It still revolved around Kiritsugu; Kirei resolved to crush his dreams, to show him the childishness of his ideals. Of course, all of this goes to show that at that point Kirei was still very much an empty man, his life still built around others, with not a single goal or desire emanating from within. Kiritsugu may have lived for others, but he is the one who willingly chose to go down that path. It was a lifestyle that he chose for himself, an ambition that truly belonged to himself. Kirei could not claim the same.

It’s important to note the very important assumption that underlies the arguments of the Fate narrative; namely, that human beings are inherently selfish. This is used as a base upon which to build the themes and concepts of the series. Saber and Kiritsugu are used as examples of people lacking humanity through their extensive selflessness, while men such as Rider and Gilgamesh are held as appropriate manifestations of true human nature. Thus, to strive to be altruistic, no matter the personal suffering it induces, is portrayed as unnatural. Rider all but confirms that this is the perspective of the narrative when he tells Saber during the Banquet of Kings, “Who on Earth admires the martyr’s thorny path?” Whether or not the viewer will buy and invest in the show’s arguments and conclusion depends a great deal on their acceptance of this fundamental presumption.

In the end, both Saber and Kiritsugu are rejected by the narrative. The latter is challenged by the Grail in episode 24, where it systematically deconstructs his philosophy and shows him the horrific logical conclusion of his methodology. Saber is confronted by her deranged former best friend, a living example of all the shortcomings and flaws of her rule. Even when Kiritsugu tried to rid the world of the Grail’s evil, it merely resulted in greater tragedy, as all of the inhabitants of the Fuyuki city were killed as an uncontrollable fire consumed it, save for one, an exact reenactment of the destruction of Kiritsugu’s own village so long ago. For all his efforts to avert such mass death, history repeated itself anyways, and once again Kiritsugu was partially responsible for it. As for Saber, she buried her hopes and dreams forcefully by her own hand, without any explanation by her Master. The result was a level of grief and sorrow that far surpassed anything she had suffered up to that point, exacerbated by her newfound knowledge of her best friend’s betrayal.

The beautiful tragedy of Saber and Kiritsugu’s relationship was that even at the very end, neither could truly understand the other. The two, for all of their irreconcilable differences, were at their cores almost identical. Their failure to recognize this basic similarity only serves to underline the brokenness of their relationship. As Saber sadly reflected as her dream was destroyed right before her eyes, how could she hope to have possibly understood a man who had given her nothing but orders? Kiritsugu’s insistence on treating Saber as a tool and not as a human being sabotaged their partnership from the get-go, but it was also Saber’s certainty in Kiritsugu’s evil nature that buried any hope of understanding between the two. Both were fools blinded by their own idealism and self-righteousness, and the divide between them was in many ways a reflection of their mutual lack of empathy. Both came to embody their ideal, at the cost of connecting with others. They were human beings who tried to become superhuman, ultimately losing everything and gaining nothing.

That was what Gilgamesh meant, when he told Kirei at one point that he was fascinated by those “who have renounced their humanity for the superhuman wishes they harbor despite being born human” as he never grows tired from “watching their grief and despair.” This is a thought that is repeated throughout Fate/Zero, clearly foreshadowing the inevitable tragic fate awaiting the two characters who fit the profile of those who interested Gilgamesh: Saber and Kiritsugu. They denied themselves their own happiness, persisting in their path regardless of the anguish it caused them. Rider, after watching the dazzling display of Saber’s Excalibur attack, told Gilgamesh that it symbolized her idealism, and the fact that for it she “gave up a happy childhood, never knew love, and was eventually cursed to live by her ideals.” Kiritsugu never allowed himself even a moment to comprehend his own misery, only truly letting his emotions show at the rare moments where his never-ending torment became too much to bear. The aftermath of his killing of Natalia, a person whom he considered to be his own mother, is an example of this sort of moment. He justified her murder to himself directly after, even as his face contorted and his composure collapsed. In an exceedingly uncommon moment of regret, Kiritsugu cursed himself, almost seeming to be on the verge of rejecting the life that he had sentenced himself too. Then, as always, he resolved himself and stood up, literally and metaphorically, ready to move forward to his goal once again. Kiritsugu’s ability to not only recover mere seconds after experiencing such a heart wrenching loss, but also to remain an ardent believer in the beliefs that had compelled himself to cause the calamity in the first place, is disturbing in more than a few ways. It’s a distinctly non-human reflex, and only pushes Kiritsugu further out of the folds of humankind. The entire scene very consciously echoes and confirms what Natalia had told Kiritsugu minutes before her demise: that his habit of focusing only on what he should do, and not on what he wants to do, made him “just a machine.”

That’s what Kiritsugu and Saber made themselves, for the sake of their ideals. Saber strove to be an archetypal knight in shining armor, too pure for the world, while Kiritsugu did the same on the other end of the spectrum: a killer too ruthless to be relatable to on any level. It’s not that Kiritsugu and Saber didn’t possess the capacity to feel; they did, acutely. That’s exactly why they felt their sorrow so keenly in the end. It’s just that the two insisted on suppressing them, in order to remain steadfast on their doomed course. Their capacity to do this was unnatural and far beyond the norm, which is why both came across to most people out of reach, above comprehension. The message here is subtle but poignant: in trying to be heroes, Saber and Kuritsugu had needed to reject their humanity. They could not achieve their heroism while still retaining their happiness. As they discovered to their deep despair, the two were mutually exclusive. There is a reason that human beings idealize superheroes; it is because it is impossible for they themselves to become them.

Despite their most earnest efforts, Saber and Kiritsugu were both denied the modicum of satisfaction they may have felt had they been successful in their quests. Kuritsugu lost his daughter, his wife, and failed to prevent death once again. Saber lost the Grail, and with it her wish, as well as her best friend. The two finished the War as undeniable losers, broken shells of their already damaged selves. It would be natural to see their woeful endings as punishment for attempting to attain the unattainable, if not for the fact that the narrative hardly seems to regard the likes of Kirei and Gilgamesh as being in the right either. Yes, in a viciously ironic turn, it is the most despicable combatants of the war who enjoy victory in the end. However, it is made clear that they are repulsive, twisted individuals. That all of their cruel and self-centered scheming paid off in abundance and brought them happiness does not suggest to the audience the rightness of their actions; rather, it only serves to emphasize the sheer unfairness of the War’s conclusion. Kirei is an especially interesting case; he followed Gilgamesh’s advice and finally found his true desire and passion, a discovery that can only be described as revolting. The fact that he derived pleasure from carnage casts a negative light on the idea that living for oneself is paramount. More to the point, Kirei, upon his realization of his wish, literally became empty inside. The grail revived him without restarting his heart, a literal symbolism for the man’s lifeless inner self. In seeking luxury and gratification, Kirei had truly become a hollow shell, just in a manner different from how he was at the beginning of the series, when he lacked any tangible goals. True, he now had wants that were his own as well as a newfound sense of purpose, but he still remained an empty man, simply from a different angle. His newly impassioned and lively exterior only disguised the dead person within. Gilgamesh says as much: “You appear to be dead.” As such, Kirei ends up functioning as a compelling counterargument to the views advanced by Rider and Gilgamesh, ironically enough.

More so, rays of hope are offered to the show’s fallen protagonists. Kiritsugu’s story ends on a beautifully poetic note, as he finally finds happiness in saving the life of one person. He had always believed he would be contented if only all of humanity could be saved; in the end, that contentment came from a single life, a total reversal indeed. Saber isn’t given a similar privilege, as she only sinks into further regret and self-loathing, alone on that fateful hill surrounded by her dead followers. However, the narrative finally softens its judgment of her, through the very person who finally pushed Saber over the edge into the mental abyss: Sir Lancelot. In the show’s final minutes, Lancelot reveals, in his thoughts, that he and all the men he knew believed Saber to be the greatest of kings. This revelation is juxtaposed with Saber cursing her failure as king, simultaneously underscoring the tragedy of the situation and Saber’s ultimately incorrect assessment of her worth. Yes, as Lancelot points out, she made mistakes and indeed failed to understand the men who served her so loyally. However, that did nothing to dilute the intense respect they showed her. Saber’s Excalibur functions as an apt symbol for this: it left everyone who saw it in awe, and as Irisviel and Rider said, it represented the hopes of the soldiers who fought for their dreams, encouraging them to remain loyal and to fight to the very end. Saber was like her sword, both noble and sad, but ultimately blinding in her extraordinary brilliance. Like her sword, she left all who saw her in dumbstruck appreciation, a perfect figure desirable in her transcendent beauty. Saber was considered the greatest of all kings by her soldiers for the very same reason that she was such a flawed leader: her ceaseless idealism, her never-ending self-sacrifice. She was an impeccable example of chivalry in its purest form, an example that her knights strove to be like. Her nobility of character is what implanted in the hearts of her followers the desire to one day stand in her place. Just as Rider had gained the devotion of his men by humanizing himself, Saber acquired the fealty of her knights by making herself superhuman, disproving the former’s assertion back during the Banquet of Kings that his way was the only correct method through which to ensure allegiance.

And so ended Fate/Zero, most of its characters dead, its thematic threads unresolved. The second half of the story, namely Fate/Stay Night, is crucial to understanding the first half, and vice versa. It centers on the very same ideas, and provides a definitive answer to the questions raised in F/Z. Now, unlike its prequel, F/SN is not a linear narrative. This is due to its original nature as a game with three different routes, each with several conclusions. F/Z was written in a manner that allows it to function as an effective prequel for all three routes, though it works better for some than others. Since this analysis focuses on Ufotable’s adaptation of the series, I will only be looking at Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (2014), as it was very clearly made as a direct continuation of Ufotable’s Fate/Zero anime adaptation. Indeed, the two fit together harmoniously to create a single thematically coherent narrative.

The protagonist of Fate/stay night is the oft-maligned Emiya Shirou, a shame considering his compelling characterization. The story of the show takes place 10 years after F/Z. At this point Kiritsugu has passed away, having spent five years of his life raising the adopted Shirou. The fifth Holy Grail begins, with Rin as a participant and Archer as her Servant. Shirou eventually gets dragged into it too, and (not coincidentally) summons Saber as his Servant. Various events ensued thereafter that challenged Shirou’s central beliefs, and that is where the meat of the show lies.

A thorough analysis of a character as complex as Emiya Shirou is beyond the scope of this essay. However, a brief overview of his personality is necessary, essential actually, for the purposes of this post. Shirou has a whole host of issues, virtually all of them tracing their origins to the trauma he suffered during the fire he almost died in. He shows clear symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, frequently remembering the scarring events of that night. Survivor’s guilt is one such symptom; Shirou at times seems to feel almost ashamed that he survived that night while others didn’t. This isn’t helped by the fact that he intentionally ignored dying people’s cries for help at the time and that he refused to save anyone else at the cost of ensuring his own survival (which no doubt played a role in the savior complex that he later developed). At one point in the show, Shirou tells Rin that that he feels that he “doesn’t deserve anymore wishes,” right after a brief flashback of the fire that devastated his city. This is a classic example of the subconscious blame and shame that Shirou feels for emerging from that night alive.

The flames that ravaged Fuyuki City 10 years ago ravaged Shirou’s soul as well. For all means and purposes, Shirou died that night. The boy who “survived” and lived on was but a hollow shell, comparable to an empty container…and like an empty container, he was filled up with the first thing to come his way. In this case, that was Kiritsugu’s smile. It was so radiant, so overjoyed, so beautiful, that Shirou could not help but be jealous of it, desiring it for himself. He came to believe that the path to true happiness lay in selfless sacrifice for others, at all costs. If Kiritsugu was blessed with that happiness because he saved his life, then Shirou would bring himself the same joy via becoming the ultimate savior, a “hero of justice.” That became Shirou’s grand ambition, and he committed himself fully to it. That was both his greatest and worst trait: his stubborn insistence on achieving a goal no matter how impossible the odds, almost to the point of insanity. It’s that very same quality that led Rin to first develop feelings for Shirou (an ironic point, considering her opposition to his beliefs), when she once witnessed him attempt incessantly to jump over a high bar, over and over, despite failure each and every single time. The encounter encapsulates and symbolizes the nature of Shirou’s struggle with his ideals throughout the series well.

Of course, despite possessing a clear-cut goal, Shirou remained very much an empty individual with serious psychological issues. His ideal was not one that belonged to him; it was something he inherited from Kiritsugu, a dream that was not his own. Shirou truly lived like a machine; not because he’d resolved to like Kiritsugu and Saber, but simply because he didn’t know any other way to function. Putting others before himself was the one rule he always abided by, despite not building a firm foundation for that rule by integrating it into himself, making it his own, making it more than an imitation of someone else. In some ways, he had not internalized his own beliefs. Shirou’s reaction to Illya’s death in episode 16 is an apt example of just how twisted his mind was; somehow he had assigned the blame for her passing to himself. His inability to prevent her end seemed to break his already broken self more. Shirou’s tumultuous journey throughout F/sn would prove to be just what Shirou needed to confront his many underlying problems and resolve them, emerging from the fifth Holy Grail War all the better for it.

Saber, as we see her at the start of F/sn, does not seem to have changed in any significant manner since the conclusion of F/Z. As the end of the latter series showed, all that she had taken away from the fourth Holy Grail war was that she was a worthless king, and that it was of preeminent importance that she acquire the Holy Grail and rectify all the ways in which she had erred during her initial rule of Britain. Interestingly, she seems to have, on some level, mostly let go of her loathing of Kiritsugu, a development that makes sense in the context of her thoughts as she destroyed the Grail; that she was at fault for failing to understand the people around her. She seems to have laid the blame for most of her troubles at her own feet. She does appear to be interested as to Kuritsugu’s fate after the conclusion of the war, asking Shirou questions about the man whom he saw as his father. Her sad, wistful look upon hearing that Shirou considered Kuritsugu to be a “true magic user” says all that needs to be said. One can only imagine the multitude of thoughts that ran through her mind then. It becomes clear to Saber then, in any case, that the Kuritsugu that Shirou grew up with was not the cold-blooded murderer that she knew.

Kuritsugu did indeed change after the war, if Shirou’s memories of him are anything to go by. He describes him as “carefree” and as “nothing like an adult.” Apparently, Kuritsugu taught him that if something was going to be enjoyed, it was to be enjoyed to the fullest. Shirou compares him to a child, always playing around. The images such descriptions call to mind do not seem to be faithful to the ruthless man who dominated so much of F/Z, which is precisely the point. Kuritsugu clearly gave up on his ideals and let go of his lofty ambitions, content to actually enjoy himself in a peaceful setting for the short remainder of his life. As the last scene of F/Z demonstrated, Kuritsugu describes his desire of wanting to be a hero in the past tense, something that is no longer relevant to the present. Unlike Saber, who still sticks staunchly to her ideals, Kuritsugu laid them to rest for good, his former romantic beliefs living on in his adopted son, Shirou.

Shirou and Saber, unlike Kuritsugu and Saber, are a match made in heaven. In contrast to her relationship with his father figure, Saber’s partnership with Shirou is warm and cooperative. The two take an immediate liking to each other, and Shirou makes sure to keep Saber close most of the time, so protective is he of her. Saber herself acts as Shirou’s guardian and Servant with more passion, care, and love than she ever did for Kiritsugu. Obviously, their similar mindsets play a large role in their compatibility; Shirou and Saber share virtually identical ideals and beliefs. Shirou’s honest, selfless, pure, and honorable nature made him the perfect partner for Saber, who never found any of his convictions offensive. Of course, the deep similarity of their philosophies meant that Shirou’s later struggles with his ideals were highly relevant to Saber as well. Both of their lifestyles are put to trial throughout the show, effectively providing answers to the many questions raised in F/Z through them.

Rin and Archer are the unambiguous foils to Shirou and Saber. Rin, as she tells Shirou in episode 11, is at her core a hedonist. She only does things when she is certain that they will bring her pleasure, or “fun.” The only reason she performs her duty to the Tohsaka family, for example, is because she enjoys it herself, not due to any perceived obligation. She is the total opposite to Shirou’s “must help others at the cost of myself” attitude. Similarly, Archer is unconditionally opposed to both Shirou and Saber’s ideals, seeing them as ultimately meaningless and pointless, with no practical application in the real world. His cynicism and contemptuous attitude makes him look down on Saber’s honorable code of chivalry, a perspective that almost brings the two to blows at the beginning of episode 9. Thus, the pair of Rin and Archer effectively acts as a counter to the pair of Shirou and Saber, offering criticism of both altruism and idealism, the two integral pillars upon which their philosophy is built.

Archer’s hostility to Shirou becomes clear very quickly. He treats him with intense dislike and blunt mockery, assering over and over the worthlessness of his ideals. Shirou is equally offended by Archer, whose cold pragmatism clashes with everything he holds dear. Their reactions to Caster’s offer of alliance in episode 7 best encapsulates their utterly divergent creeds. Both turned her down, but for entirely different reasons. Shirou opposes Caster from a moral standpoint, viewing her as a depraved individual unworthy of any decent partnership. To Shirou, helping her would be tantamount to sin. Archer, in stark contrast to this, makes it clear that he only refuses Caster’s offer because of its impracticality from a logical viewpoint. He deduces that her power would not be enough to bring down Berserker, and as such she holds no strategic value. The implication is that if Archer had deemed Caster useful, he would not have hesitated to join her, regardless of her morally repugnant acts. This fundamental disparity in values drew an ironclad barrier between Archer and Shirou, so that they could never see eye-to-eye. Archer’s brazen attempted murder of the orange-haired teen in the same episode did nothing to improve their relationship, and their uneasy alliance only became more difficult to maintain; it didn’t help that Saber herself disliked Archer very much as well.

Archer’s assertion that Shirou’s selflessness was nothing but hypocrisy clearly troubled him, and he could not easily remove the Heroic Spirit’s words from his mind. Part of the reason that his words bothered him so much was that they were uncomfortably close to the disturbing words Kuritsugu had once told Shirou: “saving one person means being unable to save another.” Archer had claimed that to save a greater number of lives, the sacrifice of the city’s populace was necessary. This was actually clever foreshadowing of the thematic significance of the connection between Kuritsugu and Archer, which will be elaborated on later. In any case, Archer’s verbal attacks had truly challenged Shirou on the ideological level, a mere tease of the full-blown clash that was to come.

The real philosophical meat of Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, and the portion that most directly relates to its prequel, is to be found in its second half, after the defeat of Caster and her Master. It is when Archer reveals his identity that everything snaps into focus, and the essential themes of the series come to the forefront. Archer, to get to the point is, none other than Shirou Emiya himself, only from the future. That in and of itself adds a great deal of meaning to his character and in his opposition to his younger self’s beliefs. Archer serves as a living example of the consequences of adhering to an excessively virtuous ideal. As such, he represents a challenge to Shirou that cannot be easily refuted.

As Archer explains, he sacrificed his afterlife for the sake of his ideal, becoming a Counter-Guardian so that he could continue saving people forever. However, as he discovered to his shock, he could only achieve that heroic ideal by killing people left and right, all so that a greater number could live. He ended the lives of so many people that he became an apathetic, callous figure, slaughtering whoever he was ordered to. His success at becoming the hero of justice that he’d always wanted to be came at the cost of his humanity and his morality. He died, betrayed by his ideals, in misery and sorrow. In his last moments he felt nothing but regret and hatred over the path that he had chosen to walk. If all of the above sounds very similar to what Kiritsugu and Saber experienced in F/Z, it is because it is.

It is not a coincidence that it is both Saber and Shirou who confront Archer about their ideals; it was a showdown important enough to Saber that she chose not to accompany Lancer in saving her Master, a shockingly undutiful display for a knight as chivalrous as her. Saber had to witness for herself who would emerge the victor of the philosophical conflict between Shirou and Archer, because of the critical implications it would hold for her. She needed closure for her inner struggles, confirmation of her life’s choices, reaffirmation of her most deeply-held beliefs. Shirou represented the ideals that she had made herself a willing slave to, while Archer served as the manifestation of the doomed life it led to, a deplorable fate that Saber was all too familiar with, having already experienced it to devastating effect. if it was Shirou who won, it meant that she had ben right to live as she had, regardless of the tragedy that it eventually brought to her and her subjects. In such a case, she had nothing to regret. If Archer emerged triumphant, however, than it meant that she had indeed wasted her life on an empty dream and lived by worthless principles. The essential similarity between her and Archer is demonstrated through a very subtle visual parallel: as the latter’s Reality marble and various flashbacks showed, he died alone on a hill of blades, a metaphoric demonstration of his anguished life and death. Saber, too, as shown numerous times, met her end, alone, atop a hill of blades, surrounded by corpses. This haunting image is actually played in one of F/Z’s openings as well, hammering the message home.

Even more important is Archer’s connection to Shirou’s father figure. He shares many characteristics with Kiritsugu; ruthlessness, apathy, pragmatism, belief in the sacrifice of the few for the many, and so on. Archer’s existence shows that, in a tragically ironic twist, Shirou would come to the same realization that Kiritsugu did, and more significantly, become the same man. Shirou’s naïve idealism would one day result in an identical copy of the cold-blooded Kiritsugu. The very man who had passed on his dream of being a ‘hero of justice’ is the one whose likeness proved the falseness of such an ambition. Viewed through these lens, Archer becomes more than just an embodiment of Shirou’s ideals; he becomes a representation of Kiritsugu himself. Shirou’s battle with Archer than takes on a multifaceted character. It is a fight between Shirou and himself, between Shirou and his ideals, and between Shirou and his father. After all, even if Shirou hadn’t realized it, Kiritsugu was a perfect example of the futility and faultiness of his ideal. He had once walked that path, once devoted himself to achieving that elusive heroism, once dedicated himself to saving everyone…and ultimately, he had failed. There was a reason he quit his quest: he realized the impossibility of it, the hypocrisy and phoniness inherent to it. Shirou had inherited an ideal from a man who no longer believed in its validity. How could he hope to uphold it if its progenitor renounced it? Shirou could not truly move forward without overcoming the broken legacy of his father.

It is fitting that Shirou and Archer carry out their final battle within Archer’s Reality Marble; their battleground is the forlorn place that served as Archer’s final destination, the wretched reward for all his struggles. In the court trail that is Shirou’s fight with his ideal, it functions as compelling evidence for the rightness of Archer’s views and the falseness of his. It is symbolic of what they are both fighting for; Archer, its acceptance, Shirou, its rejection. Over the course of the fight, Archer slowly but surely breaks Shirou’s will, as the teen realizes the truth of the Servant’s words. He systematically deconstructs Shirou’s beliefs, crushing both his and Saber’s resistance to his words. After all, the reality of his claims were reflected in his very existence. How could either, Saber especially (after all the suffering she experienced embodying her ideal), deny him?

The full extent of Archer’s bitterness becomes painfully clear in his showdown with Shirou. He spends much of it shouting in frustrated anger, openly mocking Shirou and his ideals. He attacks him with a vengeance, his ferocity leaving no question as to his murderous intentions. He slams Shirou for his hypocrisy, his detrimental selflessness, his naivety in thinking that he could save everyone while still saving himself, his passionless existence, and his nature as a fraud struggling to uphold an ideal that isn’t his own. Archer speaks from the heart, and is so enraged because he recognizes Shirou’s defiance all too well; it was a defiance that he once possessed to, an iron will that allowed him to continue on his thorny path towards his pitiful end. He hates his foolish younger self beyond words, and does all he can to stop destroy him physically and mentally. And Shirou does fall, accepting in his heart that Archer is right.

It is then that the “Hell” motif of the series comes to the forefront. Shirou sees all the of the scenes of senseless carnage that Archer brought about, and sees the moment that his older self condemned himself to that cursed fate. “I saw Hell,” Shirou says, over and over, describing all of those sights. And then he finally witnesses the ultimate Hell, the one that gave birth to him: the fire that consumed Fuyuki City 10 years ago. Seeing Kiritsugu save him again reminded Shirou why he wanted to become a “hero of justice” so badly (this will be discussed in a moment), and so Shirou resolves himself to continue chasing his dream. His persistence in striving for his ideal is compared several times to enduring hell itself, fitting since the desire to achieve that ideal originated in the hell that Kiritsugu rescued Shirou from. There's an elegant symmetry to the fact that just as Shirou originally acquired his ideal from the fiery hell that he was saved from, he affirmed the truth of that ideal in a mansion burning an crumbling from a raging fire (yes, technically he did that within Archer's Reality Marble, but ultimately the two were still within the mansion).

Shirou’s current self warns his younger self not to walk into that “Hell,” but he does so anyways. Right afterwards, Archer warns the current Shirou not to walk into the fire, but again, he does so anyways. Not only is this a demonstration of Shirou’s refusal to abandon his ideal, it is also symbolic of the fact that Shirou’s happiness, both young and old, is to be found within the depths of that Hell. Shirou knows what will happen to him if he continues on that path, knows the trials and tribulations that await him, but he still decides to continue on his path anyways. His acceptance of the inevitable misery ahead due to his ideal does not equal the rejection of that ideal. He proceeds to pull a sword out of the ground atop a hill, reaffirming his desire to be a “hero of justice” both verbally and symbolically as he pulls out the sword. The blade represents his ideal and the hardship inherent to it; it catches fire as he grasps the handle, a symbol of both the Hell that originated his ideal in the first place as well as the rebirth of his resolve to fulfill his ambition of becoming a hero. Sjirou has no illusions as to what that entails. Archer questions him right before he grasps the sword, asking if he is really willing to sentence himself to such a brutal, thankless life. Echoing what Natalia once told Kiritsugu, he asks if Shirou is willing, “even if that life is like a machine.” Yes, Shirou says. He is.

Numerous visual parallels between Shirou and Saber abound in this particular portion of the show. Note the brief shot of Shirou hunched over on the ground, both of his hands rested on the handle of his blade, which is stuck in the ground. It echoes the iconic image of Saber in the final moments of her life, abandoned on that hill with her army around her (which is shown briefly in episode 18). Like her, at that moment Shirou is at his lowest point, beat down and broken. Another visual parallel, this one with the exact opposite meaning, takes place after Shirou's affirmation of the validity of his beliefs, when he pulls the sword (his ideal) out of the ground. This is an allusion to a nearly identical scene a mere episode ago, where a flashback shows Saber pulling Excalibur out of the stone and raising it into the air, a scene lifted straight out of King Arthur’s famous legend. This is a highly significant parallel, as it draws a similarity between the moment that Saber sealed her fate as a king (and by extension her slavery to her ideals) and the moment that Shirou reaffirms his adherence to his ideals no matter the cost. The purpose of all of this is to confirm the intimate connection between Saber and Shirou in regards to their essential beliefs, including their painful journeys due to them, and finally the fundamental validity of their lifestyles. Saber’s parallels with Shirou contrast with her parallels to Archer, as they each center on differing aspects of the life that her romantic ambitions resulted in.

There is much subtle symbolism to be found in the very blades that Archer and Shirou carry. Careful examination of them shows that they are clearly designed on the basis of the yin and yang, a preeminent idea in Chinese philosophy. Shirou and Archer each carry two blades. One blade is mostly white with a small triangular black portion, while the other is mostly black with a small triangular white portion. Shirou and Archer have one copy of each version. Both hold the mostly white sword in their right hands and the mostly black sword in their left. The visual image that results when they fight, as they are on opposite sides, is that of the Yin and Yang; Archer’s right hand (white blade) faces Shirou’s left hand (black blade), while his left hand (black blade) faces Shirou’s right hand (white blade). The clear Yin and Yang circle embedded above the handle of each blade confirms the purposefulness of the aesthetic. Shirou’s black and white sweater that he wears frequently throughout the show foreshadows this connection nicely.

It’s never made completely clear who the Yin and the Yang is in their relationship, with the implication that they alternate positions. What matters more is simply the fact that they are polar opposites to each other; note that whenever there is a close-up of their clashing swords, each one’s blade is the opposite color of the other’s, whether black or white. However, their contrary forces actually complement each other. This is the precise meaning behind Yin and Yang, and it is an appropriate description of Archer and Shirou’s conflict. In the end, their clashing wills produce something greater, a more complete and wholesome product born out of the two inimical forces. That product, of course, is the renewed Shirou that rises to the top after being brought down rock-bottom. Archer’s heavy dose of reality combined with Shirou’s stubborn will of steel and idealism give rise to a new, improved philosophy, one that gives Shirou the strength to continue on the road he has started upon.

It all comes together in the end, where Saber's scabbard, the item that connected her, Shirou, Archer, and Kiritsugu (not coincidentally the individuals all embroiled in this conflict of ideals), heals Shirou, and combined with his newfound resolve, gives him the strength to stand up to fight another day. It's a symbolic representation of triumph of Shirou and Saber's ideals, against the cynical rejection of them (Archer). This is especially true when Saber’s scabbard is viewed as a manifestation of Kuritsugu’s legacy. It was what he used to save the life that would finally bring him happiness, and it was what would one day call Saber to stand by Shirou’s side. Now it was a means through which Shirou could maintain his ground and overcome his failed ideal, the one that reflected his father’s failure as well. In the end, the act of saving a life, the one thing that Kuritsugu dedicated his life too, is what allows the jaded repudiation of that to be crushed. In this major showdown that brought together, literally and symbolically, all four characters who devoted their lives to a impossible goal, idealism emerges victorious.

Ufotable made effective and quite brilliant use of visuals to convey all of the above. The scene that demonstrates it best is the one preceding Shirou’s dramatic pronouncement of the rightness of his dream. There is a very brief flashback of him looking up to the serene blue sky when he's speaking about the beauty of his ideal, establishing a symbolic link between that sky and his dream. Right after that the scene cuts to a shot of the sky within Archer's reality marble, juxtaposing it with the sky that Shirou had just gazed at, highlighting their contrast in the process. When Archer's resolve breaks down, Shirou's 'dream' begins to take over, represented by the blue sky that we had seen him look at as a child just moments earlier. The framing of the ensuing confrontation is very deliberate, always keeping the blue sky behind Shirou and the orange-ish sky of UBW behind Archer. When Shirou finally wins the battle of wills, his own version takes over all of UBW, symbolizing the victory of his philosophy. Note the blades used here as well; both Archer’s and Shirou’s are mostly white, signifying their newfound agreement as well as the fact that Archer no longer opposes his younger self.

So, what was “the Answer” that Shirou discovered, the refutation to Archer’s claims? What was it he found that strengthened his resolve to continue seeking the fulfillment of his dream, even with his newfound knowledge of the sort of end that it would lead to? Shirou tells Archer that his dream “isn’t wrong,” but what does he really mean by that? Firstly, it’s Shirou’s claim of the “beauty” in his impossible ideal. No matter how hypocritical it, no matter how onerous or grueling, it is an ideal worth striving for. Wishing for others to be happy, hoping for humanity’s salvation, those are wonderful things. A person who embodies such an ideal, who makes it their goal to achieve such an admirable goal, is a person worth looking up to. The beauty of Saber’s Excalibur in F/Z foreshadows this conclusion; even though, or perhaps because, it was a manifestation of Saber’s burden, it was also a display of dazzling beauty, a sight that inspired awe in the hearts of all who saw it. That was the same effect that Kiritsugu’s facial expression had upon Shirou when he found him. In that face, he saw so much happiness that he became jealous, desiring that same unbridled joy. At that moment, Kuritsugu was a reflection of the beauty of his ideal, of the beauty of living that way.

It goes further than that, though. The real essence of Shirou’s “Answer” lies in the shift of perspective that he experienced. This slight but critical change totally changed his outlook on his lifestyle while still maintaining its essence. The problem with Archer’s assessment of the worth of his life, and in fact with Saber’s, Kiritsugu’s, and Rider’s as well, was that it focused solely on the end results. Archer evaluated his success on the most narrow of criteria: the final outcome of his struggle. Note that back in F/Z, Rider and Gilgamesh always focused on the ultimate fate awaiting those who treaded the thorny path that Saber and Kuritsugu had chosen. Gilagmesh, after witnessing the spectacle of Saber’s Excalibur attack, reflected on what her tearful final moments must have felt like. The story itself fixates on their sorrowful ends by devoting a great deal of time and space to them. The assumption implicit in the narrative is that it is only the end that matters. F/sn turns that assumption on its head by moving the focus to the journey rather than the destination. It’s a subtle shift, but it significantly alters one’s perception of the sort of life that the heroic ideal demanded.

Shirou’s problem throughout the series was that he always associated success, and so happiness, with the ends and never the means. He believed that he would be happy if he saw that others were, and so devoted himself to satisfying everyone before himself. Shirou believed that the accomplishment of his ideal was what would bring him joy and nothing else. This limited definition of what constituted “achievement” is what resulted in the resentful and jaded Archer that Shirou saw before him. All his life, Archer believed that saving everyone was what would bring contentment in the end; when he found that all awaited him was pain, betrayal, and heartbreak, he became bitter and angry, believing that he had failed, and so that his life had been wasted. What Shirou realized during his fight with Archer was that it was enough to strive for his impossible ideal, because the way of living that it resulted it was beautiful. Who can claim that helping others find their way can be an ugly thing? Instead of foolishly insisting that joy could only come if everyone is saved, Shirou could simply be happy working toward that goal, even if he never reaches it. The very act of altruism will in itself be the source of Shirou’s happiness, even if that act did not necessarily lead to tangible, positive results, because the goodness and decency behind the act is what mattered, is what possessed the “beauty” that Shirou spoke of. This profound understanding is the preeminent conclusion that both Shirou and the narrative arrive that, shattering the cynical and self-serving arguments advanced by Rider, Gilgamesh, and Archer before, and the long-awaited validation of Saber and Kuritsugu’s beliefs.

This change in Shirou, and the way that it firmly differentiates him from Archer, can be seen in each’s respective “Unlimited Blade Works” chant. Archer’s full chant, as seen in episode 10, is as follows:

“I am the bone of my sword. Steel is my body and fire is my blood. I have created over a thousand blades. Unknown to Death, Nor known to Life. Have withstood pain to create many weapons. Yet, those hands will never hold anything. So I pray, Unlimited Blade Works.”

Shirou’s chant, as seen in episode 24 when he summons Unlimited Blade Works himself for the first time, is identical save for some minor but crucial differences:

“I am the bone of my sword. Steel is my body and fire is my blood. I have created over a thousand blades. Unaware of loss, Nor aware of gain. Withstood pain to create many weapons, waiting for one’s arrival. I have no regrets. This is the only path. My whole life was Unlimited Blade Works.”

Note that whereas Archer’s chant amounts to a regret-filled lament, Shirou’s is a confident affirmation of his life choices. Archer focuses on his loss, on his failure, on the meaningless of his life; fitting as the world contained in his Reality Marble is symbolic of his sorrow. Shirou’s, meanwhile, confirms his resistance to anything that might shake his resolve. He asserts that he does not mind the losses that his lifestyle causes him, or the fact that it gains him nothing. Quite directly, he proclaims his lack of regret, a stark opposition to the major theme of Archer’s chant. Shirou seems to almost take pride in his thankless way of living. The fundamental divergences in the meanings of the summons are potent indications of the differences in the experiences of the two, as well as the full extent of Shirou’s stronger, renewed self following his final confrontation with Archer

Saber herself, thanks to Shirou, finally gains closure to her own internal struggles. Her resolution is framed in a manner similar to Archer and Shirou’s conflict; as her older self looking back at her younger self, and vice versa. The scene where her more experienced and jaded self turns to look at her idealistic and naïve self, with the current Saber at the center, very deliberately echoes the battle unfolding before her; the dark sky and ground littered with blades that the former stands on brings to mind Archer’s reality marble, while the green grass and clear blue sky on the latter’s side foreshadows the symbols that will be used to represent the “beauty” of Shirou’s ideal. Saber realizes that she wasn’t wrong to have had her dream, and that she wasn’t wrong to have regretted it in the end. However, she comes to the same conclusion that Shirou does; that as along as she was able to “achieve many of [her] ideals in the process,” it was alright. She could face her tragic fate without any regrets, because she lived the way that she desired, despite its personal cost to her. She explicitly credits Shirou with helping her come to this understanding in episode 22. Her words to Shirou concerning the end of “one dream” and it belonging to a “little girl” whom she would “not recognize” are less clear. My understanding of that scene is that Saber has given up on her dream of fixing her mistakes, of preventing herself from ever becoming King. Her willingness to destroy the Grail as well as the brief shot of her younger self standing over the stone-embedded Excalibur lends credence to this interpretation. More so, her reference to herself as a “little girl” to describe her former self echoes Rider and Gilgamesh’s use of the label to mock her back in F/Z. It seems Saber had come to realize the folly of wishing to erase her kingship, of cursing her reign as leader of Britain. However, Saber no longer regrets her past and end precisely because she is now confident that she was right to live the way she did, that the misfortune it eventually caused her was irrelevant. In that case, she still defies and denies the selfish views propagated by the King of Heroes and the King of Conquerors, all the way to the very end.

Now is as good a time as any to discuss the significance of Shirou’s abilities and how they tie into his status as a “fake.” One aspect of Shirou’s ideal that Archer makes a big deal of throughout the show is the fact that they are “second-hand.” They don’t belong to him and weren’t initially his, which is of course absolutely correct. Shirou inherited his ideals and his desire to become a “hero of justice” from Kuritsugu. To Archer, this makes Shirou as a fraud, as he has dedicated his life to fulfilling someone else’s dream. More so, if his ideal is his reason for fighting and struggling, than all he will save in the end is the ideal and nothing more, a truly meaningless existence because it will help neither himself or others. All in all, Shirou is a “faker.”

Of course, so is Archer. Gilgamesh calls him as much episode 18 (the reason will be discussed later). Archer’s ability is copying other people’s weapons and using them as his own; that’s precisely why he has an “unlimited blades work.” Archer, somewhat hypocritically, sees Shirou as inauthentic despite being a copycat himself. Of course, since Archer is just a future version of our protagonist, Shirou possesses the same ability; he ‘reads’ the construction of different weapons and creates replicas of them. The deeper, more relevant thematic meaning behind all this is in how it relates to ideals. We're repeatedly told that Shirou's ideals (and so the ideals that Archer once believed in) are borrowed. They did not originally come from Shirou; he copied them from someone else, and lives by them. Archer's ability is ultimately one that just copies from others, a reflection of how he (and Shirou) copied their core beliefs from other people. The powers function as an apt symbolism for the acquired ideals of their bearers. It goes deeper that that, however.

Shirou’s capabilities can be broken down to two components: strengthening and projecting. Initially, all he could do was reinforce weapons and tools, something that he made use of in school and in the early stages of the war (ex. using a desk as a shield while fighting Rin). However, he is eventually able to advance to the next stage, where he can actually generate weapons of his own, provided he has a model upon which to base his reproduction (as when he fought Kozuki in episode 10). The details of Shirou’s powers actually serve as a clever metaphor for his ideological struggle; after all, throughout the series Shirou is forced to reaffirm the validity of his ideals to himself in the fact of Archer’s relentless assault against them. In short, he has to ‘strengthen’ them. Then, he eventually has to make the fulfillment of his ideals a reality, so that he isn’t merely saving an idea, as Archer claims at one point. In that case, he is ‘projecting’ them into the real world, cementing their concrete existence. Shirou practically confirms that this is the meaning behind his projection when he bluntly tells Gilgamesh in episode 24 that all his power can do is “give form to what is in [his] mind.” Basically, make his thoughts, his ideals, a reality.

Archer’s “death” at Gilgamesh’s hands is ironic and appropriate. Like his final fate, he dies impaled by blades, the symbols of the suffering that had been his constant companions thanks to his idealism. With that in mind, it is exceedingly pertinent that he be impaled by said blades performing the one act that they signified and were brought about by: saving a life. Archer, after all his rallying against self-sacrifice and claims of false pretentions, dies true to that
Posted by MrAM | Oct 9, 2015 3:29 PM | Add a comment