(Warning: Spoilers for Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works)
Also Note: This is a rant in a true sense of the word. It’s kind of all over the place. I hope you can bear with it. The main points are these two: how much I admire Shirou and how he’s similar to my life, and how the Archer vs. Shirou battle affected Saber/Arthuria.
In Fate / Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, Archer is the future version of Emiya Shirou. He decides he needs to kill Shirou in order to erase himself from his lonely and bitter existence. Archer and Shirou begin their battle in episode 19, and it lasts through the middle of episode 21. During the fight, Archer reveals his tragic story. In life, he was a hero of justice, or tried to be, but in his eyes, all that his work amounted to was “killing the few to save the many.” He could never save “everyone.” Time and time again, he had to kill people to save other people.
In the end, Emiya the Hero died by hanging, executed for reasons not made clear in the anime. It was probably because the people decided he was too dangerous, or they were a people whose leader he had killed. In episode 20, as he’s losing the battle physically, Shirou almost loses on a “spiritual” level. He begins to accept that Archer is correct. That his idealist dream will lead him to a miserable life and a miserable, early death. However, at the end of the episode, Shirou finds his strength again. He’s healed by the magical scabbard of Excalibur that Kiritsugu planted in him. Shirou takes heart.
“I don’t mind losing to someone else, but I won’t lose to myself,” he says. This draws attention to the fact that fighting Archer is one step of many necessary in becoming a hero; before he can save anyone, Shirou must convince himself of his own strength. Fighting Archer is thus, both literally and figuratively, fighting himself. “You may be correct, but nothing more,” he also says. “I don’t need that. I’ll become a hero of justice. Just as you reject me, I’ll use every ounce of my strength to defeat the me that is you.”
Archer and Shirou continue to fight in the end of episode 20 and early episode 21. While they do so, Archer keeps going on and on about how Shirou is wrong and foolish. So Shirou answers, “Even if mine was an imitation, the wish for others to be happy must be beautiful. I won’t lose it. Even if it’s foolish, I won’t turn back. This dream… even if I’m a fraud… this dream definitely is not wrong! It’s not!”
Shirou decided that no matter what, he would pursue his dream. This decision and the whole Archer vs. Shirou conflict speaks to me more than anything else in the entire Fate Franchise. To me, it’s like “the point” and the climax of the story. It’s where the hero becomes empowered and decides not to back down. I deeply admire Shirou’s ferocity. It’s inspiring to watch his story unfold.
I still admire and agree with Shirou and his thinking, when I’m in my right mind and a stable mood. However, I am like Shirou in the middle of episode 20, losing heart when faced with an obstacle, mostly comprised of my own being. I admitted she was right, the Archer in my life: the part of my self who told me that my ideals were foolish, didn’t stand up to logic, and were leading toward a painful existence. An existence of endless fighting with no real “saving” for anyone. I didn’t want that future. I didn’t want to follow my dream if it wouldn’t have impact and would lead me to a miserable life.
So I stopped fighting my inner Archer, and gave up. But I’m not dead. One day, maybe one day soon, I’ll battle with her again. Hopefully, this time, my “spirit” won’t break. That’s one way to look at my life right now. Another way is to say that I’m still stuck in that fight against myself, the fight against Archer in the marble of unlimited blade works. I don’t know how long the fight will last, and I’ve been losing for a long time. Still, I have hope. I don’t think my dreams and ideals, at their core, were wrong. They just didn’t and don’t seem “worth it.” I won’t win this fight until I can accept that they’re worth it.
As you can see, due to personal reasons, I love the Archer vs. Shirou battle scenes in Fate/Stay Night: UBW. Now I want to make one other quick and somewhat unrelated point, not about my life but about one of the anime characters: Saber or Arthuria. Seeing the fight between Archer and Shirou made Saber think of her own dilemma. She was ridiculed by the tyrant kings in Fate/Zero for being too idealistic of a King, and that made her seek after the Grail so she could wish she never became King.
However, after listening to Shirou going through the same thing and coming out victorious, Saber/Arthuria changed her mind. She thinks to herself in episode 21 that if she lived her life accomplishing as many of her ideals as she could, then there was nothing to be ashamed of even if she and her army met an unfortunate end. That is why Saber is at peace for the rest of Fate/Stay Night, and has no qualms about destroying the Holy Grail when ordered by Rin. Cutting the Grail apart with Excalibur was symbolic of Arthuria accepting her past and embracing all the good she did while King of Britain.
Too many people think Saber is “a sad little girl who needs to wake up from her dream” as Rider said in Fate/Zero. As much as I like Rider, he was dead wrong about that. He is a silly little boy lost in his own dreams by that definition. Saber led her people well and rightly. She died an honorable death. And though she struggled with regret and wishing to undo things for a short time, Saber eventually regained her pride in her accomplishments, as well she should. Long live King Arthuria!
That wraps it up for this anime rant! Sorry it’s kind of all over the place, but if I’ve made a few good points in this jumbled ramble, or said some things that made you think, then I’ve done my job. Thank you so much for reading. Ja ne!