Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works Episode #15 Anime Review

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works Episode #15 Anime Review Of the various versions of Illya you may have seen, this one has the deepest development and the harshest fate.

What They Say:
Shirou and Rin finally reach the castle where Illyasviel and Berserker are. However, there are other unexpected guests visiting Illyasviel.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While Shirou and Rin are casually making their way to Illya, the last Master who may be able to help them in their nearly defenseless state, the castle is quickly attacked by yet another party, one whose role in the current Grail War is unclear due to the Servants seemingly all being accounted for already. Her maid homunculi didn’t stand much of a chance, but before they met their ends we got to see a little of each of their humanity – even though they weren’t human.

With Illya viscerally affected by these sudden losses and ready to unleash the full breadth of her fury upon the intruder, Berserker comes alongside her and gives the battle some semblance of evenness. In the midst of this breathtaking battle, Illya gets her own flashbacks, these ones of course much more in-depth and showing the unique case of one who is neither fully human nor fully homunculus. For those who haven’t seen Fate/Zero, this confirms a major revelation connecting Illya and Shirou that has only been hinted at before now, covering a bit of the gap between Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night that hasn’t been touched on before. The image of Illya’s mother is still presented in a fairly abstract manner, but considering her total lack of existence in the previous adaptations (as I believe she wasn’t in the source material in any kind of concrete capacity), it’s a nice touch to see, and something that helps to make them flow together more naturally without expecting that new viewers know anything of the past.

Although it may come as a shock to happen as suddenly and brutally as it does, the outcome of the battle can be guessed by the placement of this flashback that gives so much insight into Illya’s character, her connections with the other characters and the Grail War itself, and Berserker as a seemingly mindless but loyal and caring Servant. We’ve been in full Unlimited Blade Works territory for a while, but I have to bring up the comparison of how these events are handled with the corresponding depictions in the movie adaptation of this route. Due to the unfathomable thought that adapting the entire story in a single, standard-length film, the story is rushed to the point that it cannot possibly stand alone as a coherent narrative, and while the important developments still have to play out, the pacing is so unnatural that it loses any impact it should have and just feels awkward. This is a prime example of that, with the abrupt nature of these events causing it to feel like some kind of bizarre, dark comedy. Seeing a full episode dedicated to who Illya and Berserker are, the battle wherein they put forth their greatest efforts, and an ending that’s shocking but fitting is something that I couldn’t be happier about, and every bit of the emotional resonance that it should carry with it works beautifully.

In Summary:
The mission that Shirou and Rin set out for themselves is thoroughly interrupted, as a new threat not only overtakes the focus but also completely eliminates the hopes they had invested in. In this process we see just how dangerous a foe this man still largely shrouded in mystery is, as well as how Illya has gone from the sweet girl she once was to what seemed like a pure villain in her first appearance in this Grail War. It makes her a much more sympathetic character and gives the final moments of the episode impact in a way that the previous adaptation was so tactless about.

Grade: A-

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

Review Equipment:
Custom-Built PC, 27” 1080p HDTV.