Unlimited Blade Works TV Episode 3 – “The First Battle” Review

Illya's Familiars

Continuing our newest Fate/stay night adaptation, this week the name of the game is, “Better! Faster! Stronger!”

Now we’ve added a slew of original content to the Unlimited Blade Works story, and contrary to how I originally believed I would react to original content I was quite surprised. Every new animation detail, dialogue piece, and section of fight choreography is absolutely perfect and only improves the original story. Little things, lots of little things. From Archer actually shooting magical arrows several times before deciding to use Cadabolg II, to Rin participating in the combat with her gem magecraft, to Illya doing more than just standing on the sidelines chanting “Kill them! Kill them!” like an especially sadistic cheerleader, every new addition only adds to the mood and feeling of the source material.

My personal favorite new addition, and one that was likely noticed by all Fate/Zero fans, is the inclusion of Illyasviel’s familiar magecraft. I thought giving Irisviel a new and unique method of fighting in Fate/Zero was cool, and definitely helped expand the universe. Continuing that by having Illyasviel utilize similar techniques, then, makes the relevance even more prominent. Although perhaps not original canon, now we have a much stronger mental association for Einzbern magecraft. Everyone knows that the Tohsakas use gem magecraft, and the Matou’s creepily unique method of fighting is the most well-covered of the three strongest mage families throughout all the Fate universe source material. Finally giving the Einzberns more defining traits than “yeah, they create flawed homunculi occasionally” is both awesome and a major improvement.

(It totally works within the universe too. If we boil down the Einzbern magic to “creation of artificial life,” then familiar magic makes perfect sense.)

Though a close second for favorite new addition is the subtle change in Saber’s expression and demeanor as soon as she notices that their opponent is Illyasviel. Absolutely perfect. Nice to see the producers continuing the Fate/Zero influences, I had been hoping that last week’s Saber reaction when Shirou named himself as Emiya wasn’t the only little bone we’d get. This all totally makes sense within the canon and helps the Fate universe to evolve into even more of a living, breathing world than it already was. Since Saber participated in the Fourth Holy Grail War, it’s to be expected that she’d show some reactions upon seeing or meeting former acquaintances again, and the improved realism is, again, wonderful.

And let’s not forget the most obvious original content addition, that fight and dialogue exchange between Rin and Illyasviel. I already mentioned Illyasviel’s familiar magecraft, but that’s really only one detail. Now that the anime has successfully established Rin as a novice but extremely talented and intelligent mage, seeing her best techniques get smashed into nothing by Illyasviel who doesn’t even move during their combat is glorious. Rin’s trying so hard, blowing thousands of dollars worth of gems on futile attacks in a desperate attempt to do something, and Illyasviel just plucks out two hairs and morphs them into familiars in about two seconds. The adaptation finally is giving Illyasviel the treatment and characterization that she deserves, and it’s a huge improvement over the “vaguely threatening” vibe she gave off in just about every other publication, and to some extent even in the VN. What she’s supposed to be and how she was portrayed were hardly comparable until now (forgiving the Heaven’s Feel endings).

Building off of that, it’s nice to finally see a reboot of my second-favorite character from the Fate universe, Illyasviel von Einzbern. Taking that a step farther, it’s nice to see reboot of the true Illya, the real Illya, the vengeful psychotic murderer Illya. Not that…thing…we were forced to endure for all of Fate/kahleid liner Prisma☆Illya. Cutesy moeblob Illya was kinda fun for, you know, an episode or two, but it got real old real fast. Kuro was a nice addition, but even Kuro at her most sadistic is nothing close to Illya from the original Fate/stay night visual novel. Of course, considering the point in kahleid liner-verse that Kuro originated from in comparison to Fate/stay night‘s Illya, the changes are understandable; certain spoiler-heavy psychological development would obviously impact her growth differently in the original universe from how she developed in the spinoff.

(Isn’t it awkward how it’s almost impossible to talk anything Type-Moon without including text-walls of spoiler tags?)

I’m always impressed when I see a visual representation that surpasses the feeling of the original VN, and this Saber vs. Berserker fight did just that. In the VN we got text, sound effects and the occasional change in still image, which were all cool but didn’t really make up a proper fight. In the movie is was just, *whack* *whack* *whack* *BOOM* “Shirou!!” Now we actually have a fight, a complex and detailed action sequence, complete with all the beautiful choreography at ufotable’s disposal. The combat feels tense and meaningful, a perfect example of action-fanservice at its finest. Then hitting the climax with a fantastic I Say Cry moment was absolutely fantastic.

I’ve thought this every episode so far, but if ufotable can continue to adapt the Unlimited Blade Works story in this fashion for the entire series then we’re going to have a serious masterwork on our hands. The VN is finally getting an adaptation that enhances the original experience. I can’t wait for next week.

As a final note, I finally switched over to using Crunchyroll, and now I can never go back. Expect much higher quality screenshots from now on.

Best Face Ever

Best. Face. Ever.

Rick out.

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