What They Say:
Rin takes Shirou and Saber to the church in New Fuyuki. She introduces Shirou to Kotomine Kirei. Will Shirou accept to participate in the Holy Grail War despite all the danger?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
We’ve gotten to meet our main characters, see what their everyday lives are like, and enjoy a bit of the incredible action choreography this team has put together, all of it painted with the most precise, well-tuned brush. Now we need to get into the nitty-gritty of the plot, and that means spending an episode on what many may refer to as “info-dumping” or other equally unfavorable labels. Any that would turn away at such material in this context, though, would be missing out on a tale of epic proportions that is to unfold. A good amount of exposition is in fact very necessary with the elaborate attention to detail Nasu has woven into his universe, and the last thing an anime with so much potential to stand equally on its own or as one piece of a larger puzzle needs is for the viewer to be required to consume material of different continuities or mediums to understand what should be understood at this point. After all, that certainly wouldn’t be any more entertaining than absorbing it through the same stream as the rest of this storytelling. One could certainly argue that a stronger narrative would work this information into the events that unfold, but I wasn’t exaggerating the detail before; this is really only the surface, and it’s the kind of information that the protagonist needs to be finding out as well, making it the optimal time for the viewer to be in his head just as was originally intended. And considering the alternatives, I would hope most would prefer an organic discussion about the basics of the war over the silly tropes that would have characters spout out this much exposition while fighting or otherwise unlikely to suddenly shift focus to explaining the plot and its inner workings.
Fortunately, we have a strong cast to deliver the messages. We begin by watching Shirou and Rin interact more than we had seen from their mutually exclusive points of view, and it doesn’t take long to see Rin start to progress on her path of being a tsundere among the most popular. Her introduction to Archer likely left little doubt of her character, but it really takes some time with her actual romantic interest to get a better idea of just who she is on that level. Saber doesn’t receive a great deal of character work just yet, but understated touches like her choice to stay outside of the church and her brief discussions regarding the roles of Masters and Servants speak volumes to the depth that they also foreshadow. But perhaps the star of the episode is a man this series has only included in the form of an unwanted message on Rin’s voicemail. It’s everyone’s favorite priest of ill repute, Kirei, and it’s through him that we receive the bulk of today’s lesson, both appropriate given his role and a good opportunity to establish his character and outlooks, at least as he presents them at this point. The Kirei of Fate/stay night has always been something of a different beast from the Kirei of Fate/Zero, never without a healthy touch of camp, albeit currently reserved enough to not unleash the kind of panache he may prove capable of, and owing approximately 50% to the hairstyle he’s adopted in the past decade.
Finally, the name of the game for this series is execution, especially given the history of adaptations lacking in that critical aspect. By this point we’re likely all used to the beauty that envelops this depiction of this world, but it’s an important factor nonetheless. What really makes this episode work, though, is the creativity in direction and editing mustered within the confines of what needs to be conveyed. Changing angles when appropriate always makes things more interesting than holding one for too long (or not long enough in some cases), and brief cuts to memories or the waiting Saber outside keep the episode from feeling stale while subtly building tension. And perhaps the most important lesson Kirei learned from Fate/Zero’s own exposition-laden premiere was that, when teaching a neophyte about the Holy Grail Wars, walking around him in a circle is almost essential. If nothing else, all of this serves as a constant reminder that ufotable is doing entirely more than necessary to ensure this story is presented as the engaging, appealing work that it should be.
An episode all about explaining things can be a tough sell to some, but the necessity of doing so should become more than clear throughout it, and especially as the story moves forward. Characters are further developed and some introduced, in particular a certain priest as unsettling as he is fun. Through their personalities and through continued use of enticing visuals and editing that keeps the episode alive and well, a viewer from any background will learn all that he or she needs to know to be on at least the same page as Shirou to fully enjoy the intense conflict that this episode’s cliffhanger is leading right into.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Custom-Built PC, 27” 1080p HDTV.