Fate/Stay night – Unlimited Blade Works – Season 2

Fate/Stay night – Unlimited Blade Works – Season 2

After Saber’s capture by Caster, Shirou is down, but not out of the battle for the Holy Grail. The path that he has chosen and the impact that has had on those around him haunts him, but he remains resolute – he wants to continue to protect others and keep the world from reverting to the horrors that he has seen. Meanwhile, Rin and Archer take the lead on finding a way to break into Caster’s stronghold to free Saber, but this is not as easy as it first seems. With so many Servants and Masters still in the game, and Gilgamesh still up to his old tricks, the competition for the Holy Grail reaches new peaks. But who will be successful?

The second half of ufotable’s adaptation of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Bladeworks is back with a bang, continuing its darker, action-packed rendition of this infamous battle royale.

The production remains of a high quality, with the stunning visuals it flaunted in the first season complemented by the fast-paced animation and brilliant music. I fell instantly in love with the new opening music: Aimer’s ‘Brave Shine’. It fits perfectly with the story and the accompanying visuals (in particular the cuts of Illyasviel and Berserker) are impressive. Even the ending sequence is beautiful – Kalafina’s ‘Ring Your Bell’ is a perfect musical accompaniment.

The biggest development in the second series is Rin and Shirou’s relationship, which I’m pleased to see has a lot more depth and maturity than the original. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t have much love for the original Fate/Stay Night and Unlimited Bladeworks is much more in-keeping with the tone I had imagined – something more along the lines of the prequel Fate/Zero. We also see some great scenes with the Servants to flesh out their characters (which I thought was disappointedly missing from the original), particularly Archer and Lancer.

We also start to see the biggest conflicts that are essentially central to the story of Unlimited Bladeworks, bringing together idealism and cynicism in the two forms of Shirou – present and future. Although it feels like it was a long time coming, it was definitely worth the wait. It’s not your usual weapon-and-magic clash, but interspersed with opposing philosophies as the two ideals clash. Whilst Shirou is determined to overcome the circumstances that will eventually turn him into Archer, his future self only wants to end Shirou’s existence before his decisions lead him to a fate he considers worse than death.

Shirou, as a character, progresses a lot in this series. His original interpretation I found was one of the most annoying anime characters I had ever seen. This was changed drastically in the first series and is completely overwritten in the second. He still holds tight to the naïve childhood goals he began the series with, but here we see that he is understands, and is prepared for, the consequences and his belief that nothing is truly written in stone. His innocent ideals are contrasted, of course, with those of Archer and also Gilgamesh, which supports the complex themes and ethical conundrums that I have grown to love in this series. Well done, Ufotable, you’ve made one of the most intolerable characters in anime palatable to me.

Gilgamesh is another character that has developed since the prequel. He is no longer the untouchable, unbeatable god of old that he was in Fate/Zero. He has been re-touched with something that makes him seem mortal. He’s still incredibly powerful, but there is a potential for him to be defeated. This raises the stakes even more and, after his bloodthirsty battle with Beserker and Ilyasviel’s fate, you’re waiting for the moment when his impenetrable defence is breached.

Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Bladeworks continues to hurtle to an epic conclusion at a breakneck pace. Whilst I can’t wait to see what the final episodes have in store, I will be sad to say goodbye to this visual roller coaster of compelling characters.