Fate/ Stay Night – UBW – Final Thoughts

I complained in the last two posts that Shirou doesn’t seem to have a character arc in this route, in that he ends up more or less where he started, and normally you’d expect a main character to change over the course of the story.

But I think there’s a very good reason for this, and I think it’s that he’s not the protagonist.

I said this in passing last route because it was a funny thing to think about, that if you looked at the story from Saber’s point of view, Shirou was actually the femme fatale whose affect she had to resist to succeed. But that’s not a really valid reading, I don’t think, as much as a funny headcanon. As you all pointed out, the whole idea of Fate in a larger sense is in fact to introduce us to Shirou and who he is.

However, this route, I think you can make an extremely persuasive case that Archer is the true protagonist. I don’t think it’s any accident the last scene of the story proper is between Archer and Rin, with Shirou not involved in any way. Hell, Shirou even lampshades it, saying Rin is the one who should be in the final scene, as he has nothing to say. I also mentioned in the Character Roundup that I think the romance is founded on the Rin/Archer relationship more than the Rin/Shirou one. Shirou is our window into the events, lacking a real character arc himself, and ultimately is not so much a full character as he is the representation of the actual hero’s inner turmoil.I mentioned on the second-to-last day that it was interesting to have Archer at his lowest point in a basement. The proverbial descent to the underworld is a huge part of the prototypical Hero’s Journey, and that got me wondering if you could fit Archer’s story into the journey cycle, and if you could at all Shirou’s. So what I’m going to do is go step by step through the points of the circle and talk about if and how they each are represented here.

For the record, if you haven’t read The Hero with a Thousand Faces, you really should. It covers every mythology basically ever, and it’s just really amazing to see how there are some things that are quintessentially human, you know? If you like myth, if you like story, or if you just like people, it’s a really important text. It’s got for-its-time Freudian crap, but that doesn’t really take away from the overall impact. And that’s my plug.

(The other thing people like to do is complain that it doesn’t take enough ~cultural context~ into account, because people are idiots. The whole damn point is that when you strip away context, the bare bones of major stories are really, really similar. I don’t know what this attachment is to having everyone be a special snowflake, as if it’s some kind of insult to have things in common. Your favorite book isn’t ~unique~ just because you like it. Anyway.)

God knows over the years people have fiddled with the cycle, decided certain things are more important, added and removed, etc etc, so there’s not like a definitive journey cycle out there, but here’s a graphical representation that I think pares things down well.

Before we start, one more recommendation: if you haven’t watched the Star Wars Reviews, you should for like a billion reasons. They’re like career porn to me. But he also has a very, very good breakdown of the Hero’s Journey near the beginning of the first review, and he’s smarter than me, so you should check it out!

Anyway, the first quarter of the circle is the setup, and both characters hit each point pretty well.

1. Ordinary World

Shirou is the prototypical hero who is going about his everyday life in mediocrity, wanting more than he has and with great aspirations.Archer’s “ordinary world” is odd, though, in that it’s not our ordinary world. The ordinary for him is extraordinary, but nonetheless he’s called upon and ends up catapulted into something even more out there. However, he’s still unhappy with how his life is and is looking to change it. That’s an important point– almost every Hero starts unhappy with their situation.

2. Call to Adventure

For Shirou, this would be the summoning of Saber and getting thrown headfirst into the Grail War.

For Archer, it’s much more literal– he is “called” by the Grail, summoned, and pulled into the War.

3. Refusal of the Call

Shirou is overwhelmed by everything and doesn’t want to participate in a murder game.

Archer tells Rin to GTFO and that he won’t listen to anything she says or does.

4. Meeting the Mentor

The mentor for both characters, interestingly, is Rin. It does kind of make sense that they’d have the same mentor in that they’re technically the same person. Her advice and approach to life is what they both need to hear because their past is the same one, so she’s the guidance they get through their ordeals.

5. Crossing the Threshold

The Hero concedes to partaking in the adventure. Shirou decides to participate in the War to prevent another tragedy, and Archer gains respect for Rin and agrees to work with her.
The first arc gets the story started, and the second arc is, suitably, the rising action. You get 6. Tests, Allies, Enemies, all of which 7. Approach and build to the climax.

8. Ordeal, Death, and Rebirth

Worth noting is that whoever wrote this wasn’t paying attention. The Rebirth should happen later in the cycle, and just the Death happens here. And, indeed, the Resurrection is a point that comes up later. Not sure what they were thinking, but like I said, this is the best visual representation I found.

The climax– the Ordeal– of UBW is obvious; it’s the battle between Archer and Shirou.

The Death, though is where things start to break down for Shirou, which kind of makes sense with my complaints about his character arc– this is where something big happens to a character, so big that it could even be a metaphorical “death and rebirth,” and that leads into the second half of the cycle, which is the learning from the Big Thing and bringing that knowledge back home.

But Shirou doesn’t really have a death– I’d say he has more a second refusal. To have a Death is to lose something of who you were before and gain something new, but Shirou ends the story very much the same person he begins as. Shirou doesn’t lose anything in this fight. Sure, what he believes is challenged, but he doesn’t really even seem to consider the challenge so much as brace against it and refuse to acknowledge it. It’s like he reaches the top of the arc and just kind of evens out, but it’s called a character arc and not a character linear relationship precisely because the character is expected to lose something and grow from it and end up in a different place, not the same one but better.Now, there’s the obvious caveat here that the intent in Fate as a whole was to have Shirou grow over the three arcs, and I think there’s a degree to which is this a valid counterargument, but I also think the stories should really be able to stand on their own. I think this one can, but Shirou’s non-arc is the biggest strike against it as a standalone story (that I think gets solved by shifting the protago-focus to Archer).

Speaking of Archer. Often, particularly in classical literature, the “death” is accomplished metaphorically via a trip to the underworld. It can also just be the “lowest” point in the story for a character, the one in which they completely despair or come near giving up. Often the mentor character will show up to offer guidance and pull them out of the hole.

Obviously there’s no way to know if this was intentional, but that’s why it was so interesting to me that Archer’s lowest point– where he’s threatening and abandoning Rin, who he cares deeply about– also takes place in a basement, the lowest physical point, and occurs right before an actual “death.” It’s hard to chalk up to coincidence, and I have enough faith in Nasu that I’m willing to say it was on purpose. Nonetheless, this is exactly what the lowest point on the cycle is supposed to look like: despair, regression, the underworld, and death.
Archer’s defeat at the hands of Shirou, the smashing of his worldview and everything he was fighting for, and his being presumed dead at the end come to together to create basically the ideal encapsulation for what this point in the Journey should look like.

9. Reward, Seizing the Sword

When a Hero sets off on a quest, they’re usually out to accomplish something. Almost always, the Hero brings something back. Sometimes, it’s a literal elixir; maybe they’re trying to save someone at home. Sometimes it’s a literal sword, as Saber would know. Very often, though, it’s not a tangible reward, but knowledge and answers that change the way the Hero’s world works.

What does Shirou bring back? I don’t know. Reaffirmation of his goals? That’s not what’s meant here; the reward is specifically something that inspires change and the hero didn’t have before. A relationship with Rin and the support he needs? You could kind of swing that, I guess, but it doesn’t really work. While the Hero very often Gets the Girl, she herself is almost always a bonus prize and not the actual reward (except in instances where her rescue was the goal, and that’s not the case here).

I think the biggest thing Shirou potentially gets from the whole experience is in fact Rin’s support and the chance to not lose himself in pursuit of his ideal, but it’s more something he’s given and not really something he actively brings back himself, as he doesn’t seem to realize he needs it. Archer tells Rin to take care of him, but not Shirou to take care of himself, and I think that matters: the Hero’s boon has to be something they earn and strive for, and that’s just not true of Rin’s support. All Shirou strives for is something he already has, and that’s the complete antithesis of a Journey.

What Archer brings back, as we learn in the final epilogue, is an Answer. A beautiful one, the refinding of himself. The remembrance of why he set out in the first place. And at the end of the day, a thing that saves his world, even though the world is just himself. This is the essence of he hero’s Reward: something they could only have accomplished by going through the Journey, something they bring back with them, and something that changes things forever.

10. Resurrection

In more not-paying-attention notes, 10 and 11 on the wheel should be switched. Not least because it’s not possible to make the journey back before you’ve been reborn. The resurrection is the completion of the third arc and the start of the falling action and resolution. Sometimes the resurrection is the final push the Hero needs to finish off his foes. Sometimes it’s what allows them to go home after the battle is won.

Shirou, not having had a death, obviously can’t be resurrected from anything. I’m pretty sure we don’t even find out about the sheath this route, so you can’t swing that his being injured and recovering all the time is a kind of rebirth, because we never go into the mechanisms behind it. And besides, the final battle between him and Gilgamesh is never really something he’s going to lose– in fact, we’re explicitly told he has everything it takes to win. On top of that, his involvement in the final defeat of the evil is minimal– he’s off to the side, playing support to Rin and Saber, but in the end has no contact with the Grail. You can’t be a Hero if you don’t actually beat the final boss, so to speak.

Once again, though, Archer has the quintessential Resurrection, especially in the literal sense as we think he’s died and he comes back. Not only that, he comes back, defeats the evil, and then the denounment starts. It’s exactly how a Resurrection is supposed to go. You think the Hero is gone, you mourn, and then they badass their way back into the story just in time to save the day.

It’s also worth noting that Archer saves Shirou. A hero saves people; they’re not supposed to be saved themselves, at least not this late in the game. Without Shirou, they may very well have still accomplished the same things. Without Archer, there’s no way.

11. The Road Back

The journey home is one of those things that always happens but isn’t always shown. Sometimes it’s a long thing, where the Hero reunites with friends made along the way and they celebrate (Lord of the Rings, despite not really being a typical Journey, fits this part perfectly). Sometimes, there’s some minor evil to defeat on the way back home as a last nail in the coffin (again, LOtR). A lot of the time though, especially in modern stories, the actual road home is a small part or even skipped all together.

Shirou’s Road Back is the return to normalcy after the War. This is something we skip– it’s been several months when we revist him in the epilogue, though obviously it happened and even went off without a hitch. This isn’t unusual nor really a strike against Shirou, though I did always find the assumption everyone just reverts back with no problems to be a bit fluffy and sparse.
We actually do see Archer’s Road Back though, at least in some ways. His return begins with his conversation with Rin after the battle and his Road Back to the person he once was. He then further elaborates on it in retrospect in the final epilogue in the moments before he actually returns to wherever spirits reside.

12. Return with the Elixir

The Elixir is just the reward gained from the completion of the journey. The arrival back home with the reward changes things forever and, usually, restores peace and prosperity. The Elixir is sometimes what the Hero set out for in the first place, sometimes something they happened to acquire along the way.

As discussed, it’s hard to come up with an Elixir for Shirou. His return with Rin’s relationship does change things for him in a big way and hopefully set him off on a different path than he would have been otherwise, but it’s not something he seems to realize he has or will happen, which is a really important component. He doesn’t set out to change his life, it just happens, and even in the epilogue, she’s calling the shots and his biggest decisions are to agree with her. A Hero doesn’t go with the flow. By definition they seek change. And as much as Rin changes Shirou, it’s too passive on his part.

Archer’s Elixir is the Answer, but how much impact is has on him back home is left open. As I said while going over the scene, I really think it has one, even if only a small one that aggregates over time. I think it will matter. And in the way being summoned and seeing horrors changed him slowly for the worst, I think this will change him slowly for the better. I think it will be the elixir he needs to cure his illness; the remedy he requires to regain himself. I’m a Romantic and I won’t apologize for it, dammit.

Shirou hits all the point in the first part of the arc, and even some in the second. He has all the setup to undergo the Journey. But he deviates from the cycle where it’s the most important– when it is supposed to change him and, more importantly, change his world. At the end of the day he’s too passive, to uninvolved in the story, to be its Hero. His most important role is to fuel Archer’s rebirth, and beyond that to be our window into the story.

I’ve always thought there was something beautiful about the Hero’s Journey, in that the idea that we all, at the end of the day, strive to defeat our dragons and return home to joy is something that touches me. I spent a lot of time during my formative years struggling with the idea of being alone. I had a chronic illness that left me isolated, and on top of that I was a weird kid (and continue to be a weird adult). That there are constants about the human  condition always spoke to me on a really deep level, and it’s always been one of the things I love about stories in general.

I think, to a degree, that’s why this route affected me so much on an emotional level. When you lay it out like this and see how perfect it is, you kind of just have to love it. Well, I do, anyway. It’s also one of the reasons I hate Fault in Our Stars so damn much, and I intend to do a big, personally-driven post about this, but it’s because the idea that being different and isolated is something a bettering thing that puts you above the people around you is so antithetical to my own life experience with a disease that left me at 16 with a huge chasm between myself and everyone else. Not being alone is great! 10/10, would recommend human interaction and also dogs and hamsters.

I’m glad I found this story, is my point.



  1. SpoonyViking says:
    Oh, so much to talk about!

    livestock monsters

    Come on, you can’t just say something like that and not elaborate! What monsters are we? :-P

    cultural context

    Ah, that takes me back to some of the more obnoxious Structuralism vs. Post-Structuralism debates I’ve witnessed. (laughs) Which are silly by their very nature, considering how Post-Structuralism builds on Structuralism, but tell that to the more ardent Post-Structuralists hellbent on throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    That said, I do think context CAN matter. I mean, it’s interesting to note, let’s see, that both the knights of the Round Table and the bogatyri are knight-errants, but we should also try understand what exactly are the similarities (and differences) between them, and why are they similar (or different). From what stories I’ve read about the bogatyri, for instance, they seemed to be quite subversive (particularly Ilya Muromets), practically a power on their own independent of the Russian tsars; compare and contrast to the knights of the Round Table, which defended and enforced a set of hegemonic values and norms.

    death and rebirth of the Hero

    Aren’t you perhaps taking too narrow a view of what the Hero’s rebirth can be, Act? I mean, the mythological Gilgamesh ends up pretty much where he started off at the beginning of his epic, only now he accepts that mortality is the burden of Man. Yes, he lost Enkidu, but that was some”thing” he “gained” in his own quest, not some”thing” he previously “owned”. And folktales have even simpler structures: Askeladd swindles the troll of its gold, Tsarevitch Ivan marries the princess and Till Eulenspiegel knocks down an uppity nobleman or priest a peg, and that’s it; there’s no discernible change in the protagonists except in a material sense. In fact, I’d take almost an opposite reading of yours: I’d say Archer is the trial that Shirou has to face in order to truly become the hero he wants to be (or at least start on that journey), as opposed to just being a boy who dreams about being a hero.

    That said, I wonder if we’re both not taking the wrong approach: maybe we should look at Archer and Shirou after their climactic battle as a single character, instead of two separate ones. Hm, food for thought for later.

    1. illhousen says:
      “for instance, they seemed to be quite subversive (particularly Ilya
      Muromets), practically a power on their own independent of the Russian

      They are basically people’s heroes. They have more in common with Robin Hood than with Knights of the Round Table.

      They are here to protect common people from outside enemies, random bandits and people in charge who abuse their power.

      “Tsarevitch Ivan marries the princess”

      Which one are you talking about? There are, like, a dozen of Ivan Tsarevitchei in folklore and later adaptation.

      At least one of them learns an important lesson: if you find an old man chained in a basement of your lover, you close the door and forget about it.

      (Seriously, that happened. Vasilisa the Beautiful had Koschei the Immortal chained in her basement. Ivan found him, Koschei asked for three buckets of water to drink, which restored his power and allowed him to break the chains, kidnap Vasilisa and fly away.)

      That’s a character growth here.

      1. SpoonyViking says:
        They are basically people’s heroes.

        Yeah, that was the vibe I got off those stories! But they also fit the archetype of the knight-errant. So yeah, I agree with Act that there’s no inherent problem in taking note of structural similarities between stories, but I wouldn’t dismiss cultural context, either.

        Which one are you talking about?

        That’s sort of the point: there are many tsarevitch Ivans (what would be the plural for “tsarevitch”, by the way?), just like there are many Askeladds, Pícaros and Pedros Malasartes. :-)

        But yeah, the one that freed Koschei the Deathless is nearly as stupid as the ones (including heroes from other cultural backgrounds) that are explicitly warned by their supernatural companions not to do something, and then do it anyway. Then again, if they didn’t, their stories wouldn’t be as interesting, so it works out alright in the end. :-D

        1. illhousen says:
          For the cultural context: sure, it’s important. It defines what lessons heroes will learn on their journey, who will be the villains, etc.

          The Hero Journey is not really about it, though. I don’t think that anyone would dispute that stories are different.

          The Hero Journey just notes that in any culture you can find a narrative hitting the same point and organized in the same general structure. Even though the details and the morals are vastly different, the foundation is the same – that of human nature.

          Note also that the Hero Journey doesn’t apply to all stories, everywhere. Many folk tales are much more simple, for example – “do this bad thing, that bad thing will happen to you.”

          But in every culture you can find prominent narratives following the Hero Journey.

          “what would be the plural for “tsarevitch”, by the way?”

          Not sure how the transliteration works with plural form.

          In Russian, it would be царевичи, which transliterates into tsarevitchi.

          “But yeah, the one that freed Koschei the Deathless is nearly as stupid
          as the ones (including heroes from other cultural backgrounds) that are
          explicitly warned by their supernatural companions not to do something,
          and then do it anyway.”

          I am actually more amazed at the situation in general. “Oh, some old dude is chained in a basement of my lover. Business as usual, though I should probably get him some water.”

          I mean, how did they even get to this point? Was Koschei into BDSM or something?

          And while we are on the Russian folklore topic, do you know the story about one bogatyr (don’t remember his name) who decided to not do anything heroic in order to, I shit you not, charge up with ALL THE POWER (which he apparently normally spends on heroic acts), go to the Earth’s navel and lift the Earth by it.

          Why? Because he fucking could, that’s why.

          You may find mentioning of him in other stories, he is the giant head sticking put of the ground where his body is buried. As you may guess, his quest wasn’t exactly a success.

          I like this story. It’s just so batshit.

          1. SpoonyViking says:
            Was it Svyatogor, the giant who passed on some of his strength to Ilya Muromets? And yeah, mythology is gloriously insane!

            But in every culture you can find prominent narratives following the Hero Journey.

            True, but what does that mean? I believe the main criticism towards Campbell’s work is that he didn’t ask that sort of question. Personally, while I think Campbell is the better writer (“The Hero of a Thousand Faces” is actually quite fun to read), I prefer Lévi-Strauss’ approach because he did.

            1. illhousen says:
              It could be. Honestly don’t remember, it’s been years since I’ve read those stories.
            2. actonthat says:
              Before you can ask what it means, though, you have to prove it happens. That’s the problem with that criticism of Campbell– he was the one who illustrated the trend and then *allowed* people to ask what it means. He wasn’t trying to draw conclusions in Hero with 1000 Faces, just demonstrate similarities. Once you have that baseline you can examine what it all means, but that’s another book (or like, another billion books).
              1. SpoonyViking says:
                Quite true! If I were to criticize Campbell for something, instead of just playing Devil’s Advocate, it would be for something it’s not even his fault: that he’s popular, while other authors, like Aarne, Propp or the aforementioned Lévi-Strauss aren’t. Just because THEY didn’t have George Lucas say he based one of the most popular movie series ever on their works, so sucks to be them. :-P
    2. actonthat says:
      You are also a cow-monster! Congrats.

      See, my major issue with that interpretation is that I think coming away with a different view that you started with is the most important part of the cycle, and Shirou just doesn’t do that. As you said, even Gilgamesh now has drawn conclusions about he nature of mortality he didn’t have before. I’m just super resistant to the idea of someone whose ideals don’t change being said to have gone through the ropes, so to speak.

      I said this to Roarke elsewhere in the thread, but in retrospect I think looking at them as a single character in conjunction with separately would have been the way to go. The idea that the story follows the cycle us at its strongest if they’re the same person, with Shirou starting out strong and then leaving to his post-journey self, Archer, to finish things up. Neither has the whole experience (to the reader, anyway), but together they’re complete, which kind of makes sense.

      1. SpoonyViking says:
        I see. You view the rebirth as such an integral part of the journey the Hero can’t just have his ideals tempered by fire, so to speak, he has to undergo a true transformation? Hmmm… I can see what you mean and I would agree with you, but I think it ultimately depends on whether that Hero’s myth upholds or condemns his ideals.

        Wait, I think I got it. You’re saying that, dramatically, a journey that ends up with the Hero at the same place he started, only better, isn’t as strong as one where he actually ends up at a different place. Is that it?

        Also: cool, I’m a monstrous cow! Instead of grass, can I eat the flesh of the living? :-P

        1. actonthat says:
          Yeah, I think, to me (and this is totally, completely subjective) the whole point of the Journey is the transformation sequence. I think a story where someone is forced to reapproach their world is just inherently more interesting and impactful than one where they realize they were right all along, if that makes sense.

          And psh, I won’t stop you. We attack at dawn.

          1. SpoonyViking says:
            Yeah, it makes perfect sense. :-)
  2. Roarke says:
    I’m glad I found this story, is my point.

    Accept no substitutes.

    4. Meeting the Mentor

    The mentor for both characters, interestingly, is Rin. It does kind of make sense that they’d have the same mentor in that they’re technically the same person. Her advice and approach to life is what they both need to hear because their past is the same one, so she’s the guidance they get through their ordeals.

    Fortunately for us all, the mentor doesn’t go the way of Star Wars (and many others) and die on us at the end of the first act. I mean, having the mentor die can be argued to be integral to the Hero’s Journey; in losing their guide, the hero is forced to find the resources within themselves to succeed, and yadda yadda. Rin’s a badass, though, so obviously she isn’t going to get killed by trifling things like traditional narrative structure.

    We actually do see Archer’s Road Back though, at least in some ways. His return begins with his conversation with Rin after the battle and his Road Back to the person he once was. He then further elaborates on it in retrospect in the final epilogue in the moments before he actually returns to wherever spirits reside.

    Poor Rin. She got stuck being both the mentor and the love interest. The mentor wouldn’t have asked the hero to stay at the end of the journey, but the love interest would.

    I also want to believe that heroic spirit Emiya “gets better” as a result of his experiences in UBW. I don’t really believe the narration saying that the original heroic spirit Emiya can’t change. It wouldn’t make sense for Archer to be that messed up if that were true. Archer would be summoned as “Shirou Emiya at the time of his death” rather than “Shirou Emiya + centuries of acting as a Counter Guardian.” I have less hope, however, that he’d ever fully come back to himself, and I believe the Answer segment agrees with me. “Heroic spirit Emiya will forever curse this end” is the line I’m thinking of here.

    It reminds me of a lot of Henry James’s stories about moral victory, in which the protagonist ends the story either in the same place or even worse off, but with the bittersweet knowledge that he lived up to the very limit of his moral fiber.

    1. actonthat says:
      Does the mentor usually die? I’m trying to think of examples and my brain is shorting out on me. What is happening. This is why I haven’t been answering comments. A lot of the time in myth, at least, the “mentor” is literally a god or goddess– Greco-Roman heroes usually had a specific deity who favored them.

      I’m not sure anyone could ever quite regain themselves after being through something like that, but I do think it’s possible it could fundamentally change who he became going forward, if that makes sense. He can’t undo the eternity of suffering, but he can wake up tomorrow more hopeful than he was yesterday, little bits at a time.

      1. Roarke says:
        Well, yeah, the mentors in antiquity weren’t often dying because they tended to be divine. Rather, as long as we had divine guidance, we didn’t need the contemporary mentor, which was almost always an older, wiser person who had lived through a similar experience. It’s really something that happened as time passed, and Master Kenobi popularized it for us to the point where it’s really everywhere now.

        Other than Ben Kenobi, I can’t think of too many examples that stand out. Monte Cristo has one. Dumbledore. Gandalf straddles the fence by dying but then coming back more badass than ever (the Hero’s Journey of Gandalf the Grey?)

        1. actonthat says:
          I thought of Gandalf too, though his coming back was actually straight deus ex machina. I have total source amnesia on this, but I remember reading that Tolkien realized after writing Gandalf’s death that he needed him for things to work, so he just had the Valar send him back and was like “yeah, that was a thing, no worries” as a retcon.

          So the intent there was actually dead mentor.

          1. Roarke says:
            Hah, interesting. Gandalf, you cheat!
            1. illhousen says:
              Good will always triumph. It memorized the cheat codes.

              Gandalf: IDDQD, motherfuckers!

              1. Roarke says:
                Saruman: HAX!
              2. illhousen says:
                Gandalf: That you do not comprehend the deep power of command console speaks more of your character than of my skill.
        2. SpoonyViking says:
          There are a few others, like Eragon‘s Brom (though he’s basically a copy of Obi-Wan Kenobi anyway), Fist of the North Star‘s Toki or Yu Yu Hakusho‘s Genkai (though she does come back). In general, though, I think this is more of a modern trope.
  3. guestest ever says:
    A strange way to look at UBW. Not invalid. Hmm.

    However Archer -really- doesn’t fit into the classical buildup. Sure your points are there when looking at complete script but it all happens in a single scene: the intro. You can’t have an arc in your introduction scene, you have no status quo that can be broken. If there was a longer subplot of Archer going around doing his own thing before he’s finally convinced to submit to Rin’s authority, preferably after he was defeated/deflated/humiliated for ignoring or contradicting her, that’d be a first quarter of the classic cycle. Getting it all done in a single scene doesn’t fit the rhythm of storytelling.

    Archer is the veteran, the disillusioned old cynic that got his idealism knocked out by life. He witnesses Shirou’s youthful determination and naive ideals and it reminds him of his own youth and all the things he abandoned, rekindling the old flame inside him. Then the archetype breaks down because he doesn’t go on to sacrifice himself for young hero’s sake to atone for his “sin” of giving up, even if it appears to be so after Goldie perforates him. I find that to be refreshingly free of the boring patronization of cliched fantasy morality that tries to paint idealism as the ultimate divine truth whose strayal is a capital offense (strayal is a word now). Even if it makes no sense whatsoever instory for Archer to survive. (Independent Action trait had to get retconned later to plug the hole, nowadays it lets servants survive even with damaged spiritual cores, a roided up Battle Continuation [being Lancer is suffering even metatextually ;_;])

    But your theory will work smoothy if Shirou and Archer are the same guy. Shirou gets the perfect setup, Archer gets the perfect payoff. If it’s all the same guy; then he gets dragged into adventure, overcomes various obstacles with cunning (Caster) and skill (Goldie), has a climactic confrontation with his outer demons, learns a lesson from his outer conflict, saves the world, gets the cake (touching farewell scene) and eats it (the happy end).

    Man, Campbell was right. This thing is everywhere. (though it gets distorted a bit to accomodate time shenanigans)

    1. guestest ever says:
      Also now I’m imagining the exact same plot in another story where Shirou and Archer aren’t seperate.

      Ordinary guy sees something he shouldn’t, almost gets killed but is saved by mysterious woman (let’s say the spy who loved me), learns of the backstory where several dangerous people are chasing a thingy (let’s say the microfilm) and must stick with the spy who loved me or die, their relationship progresses as action intensifies, they’re outplayed by an enemy (let’s say the femme fatale), ordinary guy betrays the spy who loved me and joins the femme fatale, the spy who loved me tries a new ploy to defeat the femme fatale but fails, ordinary guy (who’s learned to play the game by now) stabs the femme fatale in the back at an opportune moment, has inner conflict that threatens to kill the spy who loved me so he’ll win alone/go back to his ordinary life, decides that he won’t become a baddie, another overwhelmingly powerful enemy appears (let’s say the heavy) and reveals the microfilm is actually a bad thing, ordinary guy faces the heavy at the climax and defeats him now that he’s matured, the microfilm is destroyed, happy ending where ordinary guy is now also an international man of mystery alongside the spy who loved me.

      That’s a hollywood blockbuster right there. I’d watch it too. CAMPBELLLL!!! [drdoomfistshake]

      And now for something completely the same: The chick flick:

      Grail=the search for love, Archer=the brother/father who does NOT approve of heroine’s infatuation with that useless punk, Saber=hero’s bestie wingman, Caster=the naughty girl who tempts hero to abandon heroine, Goldie=handsome rich asshole putting the moves on heroine, climactic battle=the brother/father convinced that hero isn’t so bad after all.

      Look at that. Look at em plotpoints. You could plug this shit into ANY genre, and it’s still working (in fact I’d bet my horse this particular chick flick is already done by now by people who had no knowledge of FSN).

      This particular apication of Hero’s Journey shows Nasu’s genius and proves UBW is the best route. You can’t do this shit with Fate. Fate is a line of baddies coming in one by one and losing to good guys. HF is a different thing but its plot is also nowhere near as universally adaptable as UBW.

      tldr is that UBW is best, but we all knew that already.

    2. actonthat says:
      I’ve been thinking about this for a few days, and I think you’re right in that viewing them as one person produces the most complete story, especially by this metric. I wish I’d approached the idea both ways in the post, but I think I was still a bit invested in them as separate people from actually playing the game and didn’t think about it. So thanks for pointing that out!

      And yeah, it’s really everything. It’s kind of terrifying sometimes.

  4. Emmannuel Alexandre says:
    By the time I watched this episode of Trigun something clicked directly with UBW. Also Vash’s ideals are pretty much the same as Shirou’s, it’s an interesting question and provides food for thought:


    1. actonthat says:
      I never watched Trigun, though I remember it being on Toonami as a kid. I was more a Dragonball gal.
      1. Emmannuel Alexandre says:
        I’ve just posted this because of what Legato makes Vash do this episode, as well as his speech concerning a foolish ideal, like the one Vash had inherited from Rem are similar things to the ones discussed during Fate UBW. Vash is a pacifist who will sacrifice himself for the sake of making things run smooth. He even holds the “trying to make as many people happy as possible” idealism.
        1. SpoonyViking says:
          It’s interesting to note, though, that Trigun makes a point of showing how Vash’s idealism is very child-like in that he’s basically trying to please his adoptive mother, and also how he’s the only one that can make such a thing work because of his abilities – and even then, it’s hell on his body and psyche.
          Hm, that’s actually more similar to Shirou’s situation than I thought at first.
      2. Wright of Void says:
        Trigun is really great and you should definitely watch it when you get a chance.
        1. actonthat says:
          How does the comic hold up? I don’t watch a lot of TV, I’d never get to it. I still really have to finish Utena. I haven’t even been keeping up with UBW.
          1. SpoonyViking says:
            Sorry to butt in, but the anime and the manga actually follow different plotlines after an initial point. I’ve never read the manga, but from what I could gather, the anime is basically a simplified version of the manga’s plot.
            1. actonthat says:
              Do you prefer one to the other?
              1. SpoonyViking says:
                Well, I enjoyed the anime immensely, but I can’t give you any first-hand accounts of the manga. Sorry. :-)
              2. Wright of Void says:
                I’ve never read the manga, but from what I’ve heard it’s not as good as the anime. The anime is a simpler version, but it’s also way more streamlined and flows better, I think. It’s also shorter (only a single season), so you might be able to power through it!
          2. Farla says:
            Don’t read the comic. I’ve read a bunch of it because if you already like the show, it’s worth it to see a few new bits of the characters and learn a little more about the world, but it’s an incoherent mess in both writing and art. It’s also very, very gruesome.
  5. illhousen says:
    “named all my livestock monsters in Rune Factory 2 after you”

    I demand an explanation of what Rune Factory is, what monsters we are and pics.

    As for the Hero Journey, I wonder how the cycle would look like if we assume that UBW!Shirou becomes Archer.

      1. illhousen says:
        Fun fact: there is a Russian idiom that can roughly be translated as bad haze eternity. It refers to a hitty situation that you has to accept and learn to live with because there is no escape and no end no matter what you do.

        I wonder if Nasu was going for something like that when he was designing Counter Guardians.

        1. Roarke says:
          Noted with interest. It’s an idea that has some prevalence in many cultures. The Greeks liked their eternal punishments. I’m thinking Prometheus and his liver and Sisyphus and his rock. Christians have hell, or purgatory. Those aren’t things people have a hope of accepting and learning to live with, I guess. It’s nuanced.
          1. illhousen says:
            Sure, the idea of an eternal punishment is an old one.

            It is interesting to note that it’s mostly used as a sort of punchline: the eternal punishment ends the story of the character getting it. Sisyphus has his rock, and that’s all there is to him now.

            Russian literature likes to show characters trapped in such situations and how they deal with it.

            Strugatsky brothers were big on it in their more depressing works.

            I don’t think I’ve encountered many examples of it in other media.

            1. Roarke says:
              Yeah. In most cultures, it’s used as a definitive “the end” despite being eternal. Rather, by being eternal, it shuts out further questions of what happens next. It’s obvious what happens next. I find it interesting that at least one culture did question it.

              Milton sort of teased the question in Paradise Lost, when the fallen angels were trying to decide what to do in Hell, and how they might come to cope with it. But he abandoned it in favor of making the book really boring.

              1. illhousen says:
                Those furthering Devil’s master plan: if nobody can read the book past the Fall without falling asleep, all they will remember is how Lucifer is awesome.

                He truly was on Devil’s party without realizing it.

              2. Roarke says:
                Yeah, I am all in favor of that. Three chapters of Lucifer was better than… fuck, what happened after that? An angel tells Adam everything that’s going to happen to mankind, and how deviation from God’s plan is impossible? How was that even a book? I’m pretty sure I wrote an essay in my first year of college that boiled down to “no but seriously, Milton thinks free will is meaningless. Because God.”
              3. illhousen says:
                Theology scares and confuses me because “Because God” seems to be a pretty common answer to a lot of questions, and it often leads to some really batshit morals like that shit Farla pointed out in some ffn profiles about how you should pray to God because then He’ll make it so somebody else will be raped in your place.

                I mean, I do believe that most Christians are decent people who either reached answers to the problem of evil and other such matters that satisfy them or don’t think about it and mentally simplify theology into something that gives them comfort and guidance without leading to that horrible stuff.

                But every time I try to look at the theological ideas, it just gives me new ideas for horror stories.

                I should probably return to the Left Behind readthrough at some point. Wonder if it reached the third book.

              4. Roarke says:
                No idea what Left Behind is.

                you should pray to God because then He’ll make it so somebody else will be raped in your place.

                But what if the rapist has a nun fetish? Where will the poor man turn? Also, this implies that God is fine with rape itself and may even be promoting rape as a scare tactic to gain female converts.

              5. illhousen says:
                Left Behind is an apocalyptic thriller about the Rapture. It is a really
                bad book that suffers from a lot of technical problems (the characters
                are routinely told what’s going to happen next, then what was described
                happens as told, then the characters talk about what just happened) as
                well as really shitty morals and the total absence of logic.

                Like, at one point the Antichrist gives an inspirational speech to the UN that is met with grand applause.

                The speech? He lists every country that is a member of the UN, in every language, in alphabetical order.

                Well, I guess finding a way to make UN meetings more boring is worthy of approval.

                As for the messages the book promotes… Not really going to get into them. Suffice it to say, they are horrible.

                “But what if the rapist has a nun fetish?”

                Go for nuns who didn’t specifically prayed to not be raped, duh.

                All part of God’s plan, you understand.

              6. Roarke says:
                It is a really
                bad book that suffers from a lot of technical problems (the characters
                are routinely told what’s going to happen next, then what was described
                happens as told, then the characters talk about what just happened)

                We’re back to Paradise Lost! That said, a post-apocalypse fiction about post-Rapture has a lot of potential. It’s just that the quality of writers attracted by the theme is… questionable.

                In Wasteland 2, the game that I have recently recommended to Act, and now recommend to you (don’t play the first one; IEngine has nothing on 1985 UI), there is a faction of people called God’s Militia, who believe that WWIII was actually the Rapture, and everyone left alive is a sinner. They’re trying to wipe the Earth clean of humanity so God can start over, or something.

              7. Farla says:
                We’re back to Paradise Lost!

                I hated that but let me tell you, it was way more readable than Left Behind. You have no idea. I had to listen to the audiobooks because when I tried reading them I would start to skim and then suddenly I was on the last page of the book having read half the first sentence.

              8. Roarke says:
                Yeah, I mean I’m well aware there are worse things, but “better than this horrible book” is not at all resounding praise.
              9. SpoonyViking says:
                Consider an alternate reading: free will does not mean freedom to escape the consequences of your actions. Adam owed a higher loyalty to his Creator than any love he had for Eve; he didn’t, and shouldn’t, have to eat the forbidden fruit just to partake in the same punishment she did.
              10. Roarke says:
                No, the right reading of Paradise Lost is “Do what God says or he’ll kick your ass.” Free will that’s so thoroughly coerced isn’t one I appreciate too much.
              11. SpoonyViking says:
                So a person can rob others because it’s wrong for the government to enforce laws?

                That’s only A reading, Roarke. Don’t bring so much of yourself into the text you disregard what’s actually written.

              12. Roarke says:
                I don’t know if you meant “should” instead of “can,” but I’ll answer “can”.

                No. A person can rob others because the systems in place to prevent, capture, judge, and punish robbers are imperfect. God, however, is a perfect system. God makes the motivation, however misguided, to commit evil an ultimately futile thing.

                God punishes all of the evil he allows. Satan seduces Eve because God doesn’t protect her, and he makes sure to punish them both. In this situation, only God’s choice mattered. You can argue that Eve had a chance, but honestly, she didn’t. Satan only tried to seduce Eve in the first place because God forbade him from attacking Paradise directly with his remaining strength. God forbidding evil that doesn’t fit into his plan, but allowing and without fail punishing evil that does, turns the very concept of evil into a farce. It’s just another tool for God.

                It’s certainly my mistake to call it the “right” reading. I have no excuse for making it that strong of an assertion.

              13. SpoonyViking says:
                And Eve couldn’t have just resisted the seduction? Adam couldn’t have chosen NOT to eat the apple after she did? Heck, Lucifer himself couldn’t have chosen not to rebel – and after rebelling, he couldn’t have chosen not to tempt others into evil?

                Or, to put it another way: God gave them all ropes. Why did they choose to hang themselves?

                And no, I meant “can”, in the sense of “being enabled to do something”. We’re talking about free will and its limits, after all.

              14. Roarke says:
                Say, didn’t you just write a post about audience expectations keeping iconic characters doing the same things over and over?
              15. SpoonyViking says:
                Didn’t we shift the discussion to real-life morality two or three posts ago? Because from what I understand, your reading of Paradise Lost is being informed entirely by how you feel about the book’s morals and how they conflict with your own.
              16. Roarke says:
                What are the book’s morals?
              17. illhousen says:
                That is an interesting question.

                You see, Milton was actually anti-monarchist. As such, he based a lot of Lucifer’s speeches on his own words and words of people he agreed with. Down with the tyrant, man has a right to decide for himself, etc.

                However, he was also a Christian.

                As such, he was trying to reconcile his idea that no man shall be given absolute power over fellow humans with the idea that God does have that power and it’s supposed to be a good thing.

                The answer to that is, of course, Because God. God is perfect, unlike humans living in a fallen world, and therefore can be trusted with the absolute power – he has a plan leading to the best possible outcome, after all.

                Whether or not he’s succeed… well…

              18. Roarke says:
                So the book’s morals don’t just conflict with my morals, but the author’s morals. Milton sure had it tough.
              19. illhousen says:
                It does seem that high-level theology requires some serious mental gymnastics.

                You may say that in order to practice it your ‘common sense’ must diverge from the ‘common sense’ of the world.

              20. Farla says:
                As such, he was trying to reconcile his idea that no man shall be given absolute power over fellow humans with the idea that God does have that power and it’s supposed to be a good thing.

                Ah. That explains the thing that frustrated me so much about the “reasoning” – it was all circular and never addressed the base premises. It just pissed me off at the time, knowing it was actually him trying to jump through the same hoops makes me feel bad.

              21. SpoonyViking says:
                …You’re discussing the author, though, not the text. The conclusion (“God is perfect and works on a different level than Man”) is actually a valid one, but you’ve arrived at it by flawed means, and also contradictory ones – your statement that Milton based Lucifer’s speeches on republican rhetoric ignores the fact that the narration (and even Lucifer himself) pokes holes at all of his supposedly noble arguments. Lucifer may present himself as a noble rebel, but the text presents him in a very different light.
              22. illhousen says:
                Eh, if we go by text, the intent here was for readers to agree with Lucifer at first and then become horrified that they could ever agree with him as his true nature is slowly exposed.

                With God, though, as Farla pointed out, it’s a circular logic. Or, to be precise, dogmatic.

                God is, by definition, prefect. Therefore, rebellion against him is by definition evil. That people could think it’s a good idea for even a moment instead of dismissing the poem as nonsense or seeing through Lucifer right away is an evidence of how seductive evil can be and how it is present in all of us.

                There really isn’t any evidence of God’s perfection, though, because in Christian system it isn’t needed: either you accept the basic dogma, or you don’t in which case you aren’t a Christian to begin with.

              23. SpoonyViking says:
                True, and I do understand why people (especially modern people) find it hard to appreciate the poem. But it’s not as if the poem’s arguments and themes are poorly written, or poorly constructed; from the point of view of its internal logic, Paradise Lost makes perfect sense.
              24. SpoonyViking says:
                Lucifer was awesome, indeed! Except for the part where all of his grandiose plans to overturn God’s rule amounted to little more than skulking around Paradise and convincing Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. :-) He might have been turned into a dragon instead of a snake, but he was still forced to eat dirt. Kind of a lame ending for one who claimed it was better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven, don’t you think?
              25. illhousen says:
                By that point everybody falls asleep, so it’s one of those “and in the last ten minutes those evil people who did awesome things you wish you had guts for die”.

                Lucifer being awesome stays with the reader, Lucifer being pretty pathetic and hypocritical fades from memory.

              26. SpoonyViking says:
                That’s all still in the first part, Illhousen. :-) It all happens before Adam and Eve are expelled from Paradise.
              27. illhousen says:
                And yet my point stands.
              28. SpoonyViking says:
                Well, it IS a huge-ass book, but its people’s own fault if they can’t be bothered to read it in its entirety – even if it is a school assignment. :-)
              29. illhousen says:
                Hence Blake’s sentiment: Milton wanted to write about Lucifer who at first appeared reasonable and noble and later was revealed to be pathetic powerless hypocrite.

                But since the only part of the book he’s managed to make interesting is the one where Lucifer is awesome, well, that’s what people remember.

                (Well, OK, Blake was actually talking about how Lucifer being awesome at first overshadows the reveal of his true nature because in those earlier scenes he is just way too convincing, so even though he is demonstrated later to not be all that hot shit, people are still prone to make excuses for him. Still think “people grow bored before Lucifer ceases to be awesome or shortly afterwards” is closer to the truth.)

                You can’t really fault people for producing a flawed work that drives them away or leads to conclusions you didn’t want to express.

              30. SpoonyViking says:
                I think there should be a clearer distinction between the death of the author and disregarding the text. I think it’s perfectly valid if someone should say “I read the whole poem, and I feel that Lucifer’s initial presentation overshadows later developments with the character” (although I’d disagree with that on an academic level simply because I think one should take the character as presented throughout the poem when evaluating the text), or “regardless of Lucifer’s ultimate fate, I find myself attracted more to the philosophy he espouses” (which is entirely subjective, and thus, not something I can discuss – although I’d point out that when Lucifer says “it’s better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven”, he’s actually saying “it’s better FOR ME to rule in Hell”, not “it’s better for the individual to rule themselves”); I do not think it’s valid for someone – whether they’re reading the poem willingly or not – to simply disregard the parts they think are boring (which is what I thought you meant earlier).

                To sum it up: Milton’s work may have its flaws, but even if you’re reading a flawed work, you should give it your full attention. :-)

              31. Farla says:
                I only read a bit of both ends, and I think the bigger issue is that it really doesn’t make a good argument. I wasn’t pro-Lucifer at any point but probably only because I was just worldly enough to have graduated from from “I hate this so I’ll like the character you tell me not to” to just jumping straight to hating the author and not having any opinion on the characters.

                It doesn’t help that an all-powerful god means Lucifer is not only an underdog but only suffering because God set it up in the first place. In that context, you really can’t humiliate Lucifer in a way that truly degrades him, because literally everything is God’s sole choice.

              32. Roarke says:
                It’s Harry Dresden versus Victor von OneWizardIndustrialRevolution (very old, established family) all over again!
            2. SpoonyViking says:
              We don’t have a specific idiom for that, but Brazilian Literature has a lot of that, too. Actually, I’m surprised Russian Literature isn’t more popular here, outside of certain intellectual circles; I see a lot of parallels in how writers from both cultures addressed the issues of their respective societies.
    1. actonthat says:

      As the subtitle proudly declares, it’s A Fantasy Harvest Moon! A glorious farm sim/jRPG hybrid. You are a cow monster.

      More complete, as a few people have pointed out. Archer’s weakest in the first arc, which is where Shirou is the strongest, so you end up with pretty much the perfect cycle.

        1. Roarke says:
          I am curious as well. Are we all cowbeasts, or are some of us different?
            1. Roarke says:
              My true nature revealed.
          1. Farla says:
            *_* I did not know that was an option. Suddenly way more interested in these games!
  6. guesting says:
    Hi, I’ve been following these posts (silently lurking) and in general, big fan – especially the putting into words all the reasons Fate is
    kinda shitty and UBW is the best. Reason for finally delurking is there’s something about Archer’s ending in UBW that I’ve always thought but never seen mentioned by anyone else, and I think it reinforces your conclusion. Basically, I think you’re right to be a Romantic about Archer’s potential for change (and I think there’s an argument to made that UBW is the Romantic route as opposed
    to HF’s being more realist, and Fate just being terrible), but I think the change is more immediate than the gradual one you’re thinking of. There’s a few lines before Archer’s final talk with Rin (from here http://lparchive.org/Fatestay-night/Update%20233/) that I don’t think you mentioned:

    ‘The battle for the Holy Grail has ended, and the curtain is about to fall on his battle as well.
    He does not know how long it was.
    But the accumulated wish that should have bound him forever is gone now.
    The end quickly permeates into him and takes away his body’s form.’

    It’s that reference to ‘not knowing how long his battle was’ and ‘the accumulated wish that should have bound him forever’ that makes me think by finding his Answer, he’s somehow been freed (and not just metaphorically). There’s a few more steps to the argument – this is chronologically after Answer, and in seemingly-omniscient third person narrator (Nasu actually using third person yay) compared to Archer’s narration which I think may not be 100% infallible – but I genuinely think that, however ‘impossible’ it’s meant to be by the laws of the Nasuverse, that this is the end for Heroic
    Spirit Emiya. In a way it ties in with the conclusion that Shirou reaches in this route (and I think you’re a bit too harsh on him), about the pursuit of an unachievable dream still being worthwhile – I think this is Nasu’s way of affirming that idealism, which after reading FSN as a whole I think is possibly the guiding thematic undercurrent. I’ve got a few more arguments but they’re
    based on a bit that Realta Nua added after HF (debatable canonicity/quality) and part of Hollow Ataraxia so I’ll leave it there. Anyway, it’s only one interpretation but I’d be interested to hear some thoughts. Looking forward to HF, personally I don’t think it matches UBW as a whole (dear god the pacing) but Kotomine is
    glorious, the last couple of days are brain-meltingly amazing and at the very least it’s interesting (unlike Fate). Tl;dr I wrote a lot of words about why Archer should get a happy ending, because I just want these fictional characters to have nice things

    1. actonthat says:
      Hmm, I didn’t think of those lines that way, buy its a good point and I’d totally be willing to buy it, if only because I badly want a happy ending for him.

      I wonder if I should play the spinoffs or if they’d end up spoiling the magic for me.

      I can’t wait for HF! Hopefully I’ll have more up days and posting will be back to normal.

      edit: Also, thank you, and welcome out of lurking!

      1. Roarke says:
        I actually can’t think of a character offhand that I’ve wanted to have a happy ending more than Archer. At the same time though, I know he doesn’t get one. Judging by the spinoffs and HA, I’m pretty sure that Nasu is firm on it. Like, there’s ambiguity, but never enough to overturn the canon.

        The bit about Realta Nua that guesting mentions is “End of the Dream,” which I told you about in a previous update. It’s wish-fulfillment for ShirouxSaber fans, wherein Fate!Shirou, who is on the cusp of becoming Archer, reunites with Saber in Avalon instead. It has no bearing on HF, so feel free to watch it. Just look out for spoilers when you’re actually looking for it.

        1. actonthat says:
          Oh yeah, it’s total headcanon. If you want to go full author-intent, Nasu does not seem like a roses-and-sunshine guy. I think he’d take the nihilistic view.
  7. BDsprite says:
    Rune Factory? Oh cool. I just tried getting into that recently, but hit a roadblock when my name was longer than 6 letters. Short name boxes have been the bane of my RPG immersion for as long as I can remember. I had to settle for ‘Brando’ and that’s just kinda weird.

    Anyway, this was a really interesting analysis. It seems that Shirou fails to fit the mold later on, but to me Archer doesn’t really fit the first half of the Hero’s Journey all too well either. It’s sort of like the torch is passed to Archer around halfway through. It would also make sense if you consider that UBW isn’t a complete story but instead only the bookends to a much bigger story that encompasses the entirety of Shirou/Archer’s existence.
    From his rocky beginnings as Shirou in the Grail War; to the bulk of the journey, which takes place after the Grail War; to the end, which takes place after his death, during his experiences as Archer here, in UBW.
    To put it in a less confusing way, maybe Shirou’s arc is stagnant half way through while Archer’s isn’t because the events of the Grail War only encompass a small fraction of his journey: the beginning as Shirou, and the end as Archer. We don’t see the middle (Archer’s past/Shirou’s future) because we can infer all the important details between all the abridged dream segments and Archer’s monologues.

    1. actonthat says:
      For some reason in RF2 the max is 5 letters even though I’m pretty sure it was 10 in RF1. But nonetheless I rec the series wholeheartedly! It’s one of my favorites. RF3 and RF4 are the best in the series, IMO. 3 has the best story/characters and 4 the best gameplay.

      I think guestest ever said it below, but it does kind of make sense that Shirou, being Archer, would have the stronger beginning. If you consider Archer’s entire life as we know it you could argue that Shirou’s beginning is really his.

      I had a lot of fun doing this post, some really interesting things came out of it.

    2. Roarke says:
      We don’t see the middle (Archer’s past/Shirou’s future) because we can
      infer all the important details between all the abridged dream segments
      and Archer’s monologues.

      What’s really amazing, I think, is that those details aren’t really that important. Like, don’t get me wrong, I’m dying to know them. But the story is still complete without them. It’s enough to know that Archer’s life was horrible, and his afterlife even worse, to complete the dynamic between the characters. The most important detail, I believe, is that, when Shirou made the contract, he ended up saving less than a hundred people who were “fated” to die. That’s how much he was paid by the world for his sacrifice. Not even a hundred people. The other important detail is that he was killed by the people he wanted to protect rather than an enemy.

  8. Roarke says:
    Shirou, not having had a death, obviously can’t be resurrected from anything…

    And besides, the final battle between him and Gilgamesh is never really
    something he’s going to lose– in fact, we’re explicitly told he has
    everything it takes to win. On top of that, his involvement in the final
    defeat of the evil is minimal– he’s off to the side, playing support
    to Rin and Saber, but in the end has no contact with the Grail. You
    can’t be a Hero if you don’t actually beat the final boss, so to speak.

    I kind of have to contest this, for a couple of reasons. The first is that, per your own Character Roundup, Gilgamesh is the adversary whose defeat is integral to the resolution of the Archer-Shirou conflict. I don’t believe that the Grail is truly the dragon in this Hero’s Journey, because it doesn’t have as much symbolic significance to Shirou and Archer’s internal struggle. Gilgamesh, on the other hand, is the original hero that scorns them as fakes. He embodies the reality that Archer tried in vain to overturn, and the crux of the conflict between Archer and Shirou is that Shirou wouldn’t give up even when faced with proof that it was futile to try.

    If anything, destroying the Grail is treated as more of an afterthought. This makes sense, since it was already given its due attention in Fate. Saber doesn’t even say anything to anyone after destroying it. Rin is too preoccupied by the fact that Archer saved her to even care. The focus of that last day was really on the Gilgamesh/Shirou fight, followed by the farewell scene. That said, there are issues with the final battle that do diminish the impact, but I don’t think they shift the focus away.

    I believe that part of the reason the battle didn’t work as well as it could have was because Nasu fucked up a bit. It doesn’t make any sense for Shirou to be using projection magic at all during his fight with Gilgamesh. Rin had already told him straight-out that using his reality marble was the way to go. She even had sex with him to drive the point home. Like you said, we’re told that he has all of the resources he needs to win. Nasu made Shirou use projection instead because he needed Shirou to lose the fight at first. Nasu needed Gilgamesh to knock Shirou down (symbolizing death, just as it did when Archer beat him to a pulp) so that Shirou could realize his mistake and stand back up with a proper understanding of how to win.

    The fight needed to go like this: Shirou confronts Gilgamesh, trying to use the reality marble. However, he fails, because he tries to use Archer’s chant. He uses Rho Aius to block Gil’s barrage, but as he ends the chant, the boundary field doesn’t manifest. Gil pulls out Ea to wipe out the shield and plaster Shirou to the floor. Gil starts to talk shit because he’s a good arrogant villain. Shirou realizes that he shouldn’t copy Archer anymore, because Archer’s chant reflects the fact that he’s given up on the ideal and is only going through the motions because he’s forced to. Shirou gets up and starts reciting his own version. Gilgamesh, in true arrogant villain fashion, lets him try without interference, because it was so funny the first time when the spell failed. I mean, the look on that doof’s face! This time, however, it actually works.

    This all happens much faster than the original version. By the time Saber defeats Assassin, Shirou and Gil are locked into the reality marble. She decides she can’t interfere with whatever happens, and runs off to help Rin. I always thought it was kind of cheap that Saber bailed his ass out. That, more than Archer landing the finishing blow, diminishes the achievement. There’s a difference between Archer headshotting Gil, who has already been beat down, and Saber saving Shirou from Gil’s finishing attack.

    I think it’s wrong to say Shirou doesn’t get character development here. Like, there’s a reason Archer’s worldview gets smashed in the first place when he fights Shirou. It’s not because he watched his younger self act like a mindless automaton that ignores reason and logic. Shirou acknowledged his ruin and went for it anyway. That’s what made Archer realize he wasn’t wrong to be a hero; the failure wasn’t as important as the attempt. That’s how he found himself again, and that’s been the entire theme for this route. Even Rin had her character development based on that. I don’t know why you can’t see it in Shirou, but it’s there. It might be a fault in the narration, in showing versus telling, or what have you.

    I pretty much agree with your determination that this was Archer’s route more than Shirou’s, but I don’t see how Shirou was off to the side for it, except for the ending, which only made sense because Rin and Archer are the Master-Servant pair (it mirrors the goodbye in Fate, only it’s much better). Shirou was central to the events even though it was Archer driving the narrative. I agree that Shirou didn’t change as much as Archer, but there’s no doubt that he was tested and forced to examine himself.

    Yeesh. This post was both meandering and TL;DR. A bad combination, for which I apologize.

    1. actonthat says:
      I like your version of the fight better. Thought i do think it’s important that Archer saves Shirou– even though Gil is gone, Shirou would have gone with him had Archer not shown up.

      I think my main issue with Shirou is that he never acknowledges Archer’s counterarguments. I think I said this during the fight itself, but I’d be much more willing to get behind Shirou if his resolution was, “I understand, but I believe I can get through without making those mistakes and it’s worth fighting for anyway.” It’s his going “LALALA NO CAN’T HEAR YOU I’M RIGHT YOU’RE WRONG LALALA” that gets me. It seems kind of a petty detail, looking at it, and may the intent behind it wasn’t what I’m getting out of it, but it’s almost like even though he confronts his demons physically in the fight with Archer he never does mentally, and that part of the fight is almost left to Rin to handle. I needed a scene where he has an internal battle *and then* buckles down and reaffirms his stance. Skipping that feels insincere on his part to me, like he didn’t want to change and so he wouldn’t, period. That’s what makes it feel static, if that makes sense.

      1. Roarke says:
        I believe that Archer landing the finishing blow still fits in just fine. Archer saving Shirou is a nice physical representation of the fact that he’s saved himself. Of course, he already did so right after their fight as well.

        See, I feel like your main issue is stronger, but I would change it to “Shirou never openly acknowledges Archer’s counterarguments.” What Nasu tried and partly failed to do was show that Shirou really did lose faith in himself after hearing Archer’s story.

        Remember when Archer and Shirou began their fight. The first thing they both do is project Kanshou and Bakuya. Shirou’s narration is telling.

        … What a bad job. The twin swords I once thought were perfect are too unprecise [sic] compared to his. An inferior illusion will become a delusion. Probably… my swords will shatter and disappear when they crash against his.

        Nasu used Shirou’s projection as an ongoing metaphor for his faith in himself for pretty much the entire route. All of those flashbacks to Archer’s past wore him down to the point where he could no longer speak, ignoring the physical beatdown he was getting at the same time. Archer destroyed what, eight or nine pairs of swords during the course of that fight. That entire time, Shirou was still clinging to the ideal as he originally had it. It gets to the point where Shirou’s blades are shattering with a single attack.

        The change comes when Shirou accepts the fact that he can’t fulfill his dream. You can call it lip service, or telling instead of showing, but it’s there:

        It is my mind that lost. My mind was weak because I realized that I am wrong and that he is right. That was my only failure.

        This is worded awkwardly, but the point is that Shirou isn’t blaming himself for being wrong, but for being weak. He’s scorning himself for faltering just because he was shown his own failure. Shirou never once says he still thinks the ideal is possible from that point on. I started to have a disconnect around this day’s post, because you kept saying that all Shirou was doing was reiterating how right he was. That’s simply not true. Or at least, it’s too simple to be the truth. You may have gotten the idea that it was that simple because Shirou kept trying to say “it isn’t a mistake” as he fought. That is understandably misguided, I’ll own.

        I could not understand him. But I guess I can use his pain as a lesson… A hero who used a poem about himself as his spell. Even if I don’t understand the meaning behind it… I will accept those words in your place… I start the spell so that I can be proud of myself.

        Archer’s version of the chant, like I said before, is an admission of failure. Shirou accepted the reality of that failure without, as people often do, associating it with being “wrong” or “mistaken.” It’s the same thing he told Rin before when she had that same issue. He told her she could be proud of herself even if she didn’t succeed at her intention, and that’s exactly what he’s done here.

        When he uses the first line of the UBW chant instead of “Trace, on”, his swords become durable again. This is because, rather than using projection magic as understood by Kiritsugu (and other orthodox magi), he’s using the magic he owns. I feel like Nasu was trying to use magic as an expression of self-identity/worth pretty often in his works. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, though.

        With that answer in hand, Shirou goes on to kick Archer’s ass, bang Rin, and curbstomp Gilgamesh. Not even kidding. That’s actually what happens.

        1. actonthat says:
          These are all good points. I think this sums it up for me:

          [See, I feel like your main issue is stronger, but I would change it to “Shirou never openly acknowledges Archer’s counterarguments.”]

          I think Shirou’s development would have been a lot stronger if he despaired. I think that would have been the perfect bottom of the circle for this route– a point where he confronts the idea that everything he’s worked for is meaningless, and maybe even decides to stop fighting. Then, something sparks his interest in his ideal again and he pulls himself back up, earning that belief back, and it culminates in his defeat of Archer.

          Instead there’s never a real risk that what Archer says will get through, and thus there’s no tension in it. There’s definitely a lot of parallels between them and like you pointed out, we see Shirou actively surpass Archer, but to me for that to have meaning he kind of has to lose to him first, if only in his own head. I think the dismissal is too quick to really have a lasting effect on who he is over the course of the story. There’s definitely points along the way where he brushes up against the idea that Archer may be right, but he never seems to really consider what that means, and for me that’s what was missing. He doesn’t fall down and get back up; he keeps walking the whole time and in the end learns how to run. That’s just not as compelling to me.

          I have no idea if any of that makes sense but tldr, I think Shirou should have had a point of breakdown and *then* found reaffirmation for it to be a strong arc.

          1. Roarke says:
            It makes plenty of sense, aye. I mostly agree with you. For me, the bottom of the circle is there, but I think it’s worked into the fight, and badly at that (maybe Nasu can’t juggle a fight scene and pivotal character development? I would understand; that’s really fucking tough).

            I think you’ve got a valid gripe with it. The bottom of the circle is supposed to be when Shirou is losing, but you’re right in that, rather than outright giving up, he just wants to give up, and resists. It’s less effective than it could have been, but it really worked for me. Not even gonna lie, I teared up when Shirou thought The echoing of swords isn’t all I hear. He… he curses himself every time he attacks. and Archer starts screaming “That’s right! I admired his desire to save people because it is beautiful! … I was driven by my obsessive need to help someone. I kept running, neither noticing the pain nor how wrong I was!”

            I feel that, like the Journey, this scene works better if you think of them as one person, tearing himself apart. Shirou doesn’t need to give up, because Archer already has. The burden is on Shirou to show Archer that giving up is wrong.

            edit: There’s a bit just before Shirou’s narration up there that reinforces my point about seeing them as one person from that point on. He thinks:

            My eyes aren’t functioning. They don’t see the enemy, but show his memories. In them, I see myself curling up and desperately trying to live.

            This time, Shirou uses the personal pronoun instead when talking about Archer’s life. When he had the first long flashback, Shirou exclusively referred to Archer as “he”.

            1. guestest ever says:
              Shirou does hit the bottom, right after Rin tells him to scram on the roof. He despairs for being weak and unable to fight for his ideal. As Roarke says above, his main concern is always strength. You could read him not summoning Saber against Rin or Rider as a desire to prove himself to himself, after Berserker battle showed his weakness. Then Caster entangles him, again proving that he’s not good enough, he survives thanks to Saber and Rin (through Archer). When he finally loses Saber and Rin rubs his nose into his powerlessness, he breaks down. Then he reminds himself of his ideal and bounces up, his struggle is mostly decorative, but the dip is there. That’s also close to the point where protagonism starts to slide towards Archer.

              Shirou is youth and dreams and conviction, his struggle is for ability. FSN is shounen as fuck, protagonist can’t be any other way. Archer gets the morality because *he* is ability and age and weary experience.

              The climactic duel isn’t the only bit that contains Shirou-Archer-strength-ideal shenanigans.

  9. Guest1 says:
    Hello, I was linked to this critique of UBW from another site, and to clarify I have very little knowledge of your writing, opinions, or anything else: simply this post.

    That being said, I believe there are extremely erroneous issues with this interpretation of the route, and I would like to point out some key things I disagree with you on.

    First and foremost being Shirou’s arc with his ideal A lot of people seem to misinterpret Shirou’s approach in the route as him not properly developing or changing. In truth though, Shirou does change, just not in the way some people would naturally expect. the story shows him all of the issues with his ideal, all of the turmoils he could face, and all of the wrongs he may come across in life, and rather than abandoning his path for something different, he reaffirms that there’s still worth in it. What people often miss though is that he does develop his ideal a bit from the knowledge he garners.


    Examine the dialog from my enclosed image. Shirou is confronted with the problem that it’s likely impossible to save everyone, but he still sees the beauty in wanting to try. He will try his best to save people, he will try his hardest to live up to his ideal, because helping people isn’t wrong. Unlike his unrelenting Fate route counterpart, or Kiritsugu, or Archer himself though, he learns to take matters in a more reasonable fashion. He’s not going to break down and ruin himself if he fails, because he’s only human, but at the same time he’ll try his best.

    This is his growth, and it relates back to one of the key themes of UBW: “imitation vs original”.


    Another enclosed picture. Throughout UBW, the story presents that Shirou is just an imitation. He imitates Kerry’s ideal, his powers of projection and his reality marble of Unlimited Blade Works is just to create copies, as the story progresses, you see him grow more powerful from watching Archer and downloading his abilities: he’s downright imitating himself. He’s a fake through and through.

    The thing is though, there isn’t anything wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with being an imitation if you find merit in what you’re imitating. That’s part of Shirou’s growth in the route. He may just be imitating Kerry’s ideal, but he believes it’s an ideal worth having, so it’s not a mistake. I mean that’s hammered into you too, “it’s not a mistake” is the phrase that ultimately defeats Archer.

    In the end this culminates in him actually being able to surpass the original. Shirou surpasses Kerry by taking his ideal and making something livable out of it. He surpasses Archer both by beating him, but that making him realize his life wasn’t a mistake.

    I mean the final fight with Gilgamesh absolutely hammers in this theme. Gil is the original: the first hero, the “King of Heroes”, and this imitation hero has to take him on, and he does. Shirou thwarts Gilgamesh of all of his plans, and proves that an imitation can surpass the original.

    Shirou has an extremely strong arc and character in UBW. It’s very unfortunate that a lot of people seem to actually miss it, or dismiss it as him not growing. I honestly believe he grows in this route more than other.

    A few more things I want to point out. “Now, there’s the obvious caveat here that the intent in Fate as a whole was to have Shirou grow over the three arcs”. This quote, it’s not really right.


    Another picture. This is a statement from Kinoko Nasu, author of the VN. Fate does not present a single arc for Shirou. UBW and HF in particular are splitting points with each of them being an equal answer to Shirou’s character. You have to remember, Fate was originally going two be two VNs, “Fate/stay night”, and “Fate/another night”, but things shifted and they got compiled into a single product. “stay night” was originally just going to be Fate and UBW, while “another night” was going to be Heaven’s Feel and a route that eventually got compressed into Heaven’s Feel. You can see the distinct tonal shifts from the first two and the last. The point being though it’s not one elongated arc for the MC. UBW can, and very well does stand on its own.

    “I think the romance is founded on the Rin/Archer relationship more than the Rin/Shirou one”. This is another quote I severely disagree on. Rin and Archer are by far at their most antagonistic in UBW. They are constantly at each other’s throats, with both of them disagreeing about the situation with Shirou. Rin almost always defends Shirou, while Archer is against them. This creates friction between them that goes beyond a basic lover’s quarrel. Rin has to restrain him through a command seal to not try and harm Shirou, and this eventually leads to him betraying her for Caster to get out from under that. Further on, Archer then later kidnaps her to lure Shirou to him, and going even more absurdly than that, he leaves her alone with Shinji.

    Archer is aware that Shinji is a scumbag. He is aware that Shinji was going to /rape/ Rin, to the point of, during his fight with Shirou, he out and out antagonizes Shirou over it. He was fully aware of that situation, and let it happen, and I’m sorry, but I don’t think a healthy relationship can spawn between two people when one of them thinks it’s acceptable for the other to be raped. I don’t know though, that’s just me.

    “He doesn’t set out to change his life, it just happens, and even in the epilogue, she’s calling the shots and his biggest decisions are to agree with her. A Hero doesn’t go with the flow. By definition they seek change. And as much as Rin changes Shirou, it’s too passive on his part.”

    One final one I want to bring up. I believe I’ve already addressed Shirou not seeking out change, but I am bothered that you think he’s passive. Shirou, repeatedly throughout UBW, disagrees and goes against Rin. He continues to fight in the war even when she tells him not to. He does anything he wants to do, and he never really acts truly submissive to anyone. I don’t think him deciding to go with his lover to London is him just passively accepting what she tells him to. He loves her, and she’s going away, so he’ll go with her. There’s no real coercion of forcefulness there. He wants to go.

    Anyway I think I’ve rambled enough. I would suggest once you’re done with Heaven’s Feel to reread the story again with a full and open perspective, because I really do believe you’ve missed the mark in a few places.

    1. actonthat says:
      I know I should be answering all the thoughtful comments, but I just can’t ignore this. It’s by far the most off-the-wall thing the Fate LP has seen. I’m just completely baffled that you admit you’ve read nothing but the final paragraphs of a 100,000-word essay in the same breath you complain it lacks complete analysis. Just… what??
      1. Roarke says:
        He actually has a few understandable issues with your interpretation, and questions some of the same points that I did, limited to this post. I don’t think it’s as out-there as you are imagining. He is legitimately patronizing throughout though.
        1. actonthat says:
          Yeah, I definitely think I was too hard on Shirou in a few places here, and if I ever answer your comment I’ll get into it. But I’m not sure how to thoughtfully respond to someone who doesn’t seem to have any interest in my thoughts in the first place. Like, was there no point at which they thought, “Hm, maybe I should see what she has to say about the whole leave-Shinji-to-assault-Rin” thing? Apparently they just jumped straight into ~obviously you didn’t understand~ and I’m supposed to rehash the whole thing here.
          1. Roarke says:
            Yeah, no, like you said, it’s not the right way to critique an ongoing blog. I’m offended on your behalf, having woken up every Saturday for the last several months hoping to see the next post /flattery. I’m just defending the merit of the objection itself.
            1. actonthat says:
              I’m chomping at the bit to get into HF, but unfortunately am still dying of a Mysterious Illness and the bulk of my energy is going into work (the not-fun kind). I really want to get the post up this weekend, though.

              In retrospect, I actually wish I’d approached the idea of a Journey cycle with them as one character instead of two. I think it’s guestest ever who first brought up that combining them produces the strongest full circle which makes all of the sense, but I think I was invested in the idea of them as separate characters for whatever reason and just didn’t see it made more sense.

              1. Roarke says:
                Right, HF. It will be some time before we get far enough into the route that people who have read the whole thing can properly participate, I feel. There will be some serious contention over it, and I may end up outright antagonistic with some people by the end. I dunno.

                At any rate, I agree that the strongest interpretation has them both as the same person. I feel like that’s kind of the point. The part where I diverge is where you say that Shirou coming through the route with his ideal more or less intact isn’t valid as a character arc. And also that going along with Rin at the end is a passive thing to do. He does express a desire to make her acknowledge his badassery. That’s a good ulterior motive.

              2. actonthat says:
                I’m not sure it’s not valid as an arc– I definitely think you can tell a story where the end is a character reaffirming their beliefs. But I’m not sure it felt fulfilling here, and I really think it’s hard to have it work within a Journey. You’d have to do kind of a deconstructionist thing where the hero goes on a journey but the answer was at home etc etc and that’s not quite what happens here.
              3. illhousen says:
                “I think I was invested in the idea of them as separate characters for whatever reason”


              4. Roarke says:
                They also need to be separate characters for slash fic.
              5. illhousen says:
                Eh, if I were to write a slash fic involving Archer and Shirou, it would be about Kotomine fulfilling his twin fantasy.

                Though I guess your reasoning is more relevant to people who didn’t read HF yet, like Act.

              6. Roarke says:
                Yes. It doesn’t make as much sense for us to be shipping KotominexShirou for about what, four or five more posts? Depends on how many days Act wants to condense into single posts.
  10. illhousen says:
    I found this gem recently, and I think it’s relevant to the idea of Servants in modern world:

    Performed by Neil Gaiman of all people.

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