“–My whole life was ‘unlimited blade works'”

Hoo man. “Unlimited Blade Works” was intense, and that’s considering my prior knowledge of the massive twist toward the end. I got the impression that ol’ Nasu was toying around with the absolute worst-case scenario he could think of — so much so that the protagonists’ methods of victory started to feel like deus ex machinae in light of their horrible circumstances. But I didn’t really mind. I was too busy gaping in awe as Rin pulled out some kung fu moves.

Yes, really.

This arc makes a great deal out of human capability. In many cases, we see humans challenge servants and, miraculously, not end up as molten piles of meat. Kuzuki beats Saber into submission; Rin survives a brief magic duel with Caster, then closes the distance and punches the hell out of her; Shirou defeats both a weakened Archer and a not-so-weakened Gilgamesh. It often comes down to situational advantages, but Shirou, at least, gets most of his tricks from within himself. As the theme develops, it reminds me of Gurren Lagann’s idea of creating a favorable future in the face of ridiculous odds, and its assurance that we can do such a thing not in spite of our humanity, but because of it. Do the impossible, see the invisible, and so on.

Isn’t that the only thing we can do? Perhaps the ability to invent meaning is a defense mechanism, a safeguard against insanity. I prefer to see it as our greatest strength, once we get it under control. Being able to decide for ourselves the meaning of life, the universe, and everything isn’t something we should take lightly.

This more or less answers my question from before. Namely:

If Excalibur is more well-known than Ea at the time of this particular Holy Grail War — and it no doubt is, as Ea doesn’t even have a “true” name — why does Ea overwhelm it so reliably? Perhaps the rule applies to servants but not noble phantasms individually, which function as extensions of the servants…

Popularity doesn’t seem to play as large a role as I thought, leaving more room for the effect of the myth’s age and influence. We also find out that noble phantasms are essentially extensions of their wielders. The game actually makes Shirou’s advantage over Gilgamesh make sense here; Gilgamesh’s strength lies in his ability to exploit any given servant’s weakness, but Shirou isn’t a servant, and his one ability is similar enough to Gilgamesh’s standard attack to counter it well enough.

Well, that sucks. Basically, these guardians promote happiness and peace by doing away with people who are unhappy. Efficient, I guess, but it doesn’t actually change anything — you’re not doing much good unless you have a way of making unhappy people happier, as there will always be unhappy people — and that seems to be Archer’s qualm with the whole thing.

There is some merit in pursuing an unattainable goal. You’ll get somewhere if you keep moving forward, and why not set your sights as high as possible? It’s certainly better than doing nothing at all, and you may accomplish more through idealism than you would if you settled for less. But this is turning into Fate/motivational speech, so let’s move on.

So it’s not that Assassin has no connection to history; he just has less than the servants summoned properly. We could probably say that all stories begin with reality, though. How could a writer write without human experience?

Again, giving form to the formless is just what we do. My major qualm with postmodernism is that branch thereof which pushes the meaninglessness of the universe and advocates embracing chaos. To do so is to deny our most uniquely human quality; the universe has meaning as long as we live in it, I say. And it’s true that our individual, everyday meaning-production doesn’t call into being pocket dimensions full of swords, but that doesn’t mean our constructs are impotent. Look at religion, or capitalism, or fandom.

“Everything is here, and nothing is here” — that describes well how the mind works, and Shirou learns to use it to his advantage. Once Gilgamesh fell within the jurisdiction of Shirou’s conception, he had already lost.

Some may take this sort of thing as wishful thinking, but this is ultimately the kind of story I most enjoy, one in which people succeed or fail or otherwise move in one direction or another out of their own power. “Unlimited Blade Works” gets that across in a more direct way than “Fate,” and so it presents an interesting thematic parallel thereof.

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6 Comments

  1. UBW was my favourite of F/sn‘s three paths, and it’s the one that I do want to replay some time. But then I do like swords, and the idea that ‘going to study in London’ can constitute a happy ending amuses me.

    The invention of meaning is an interesting one. It’s an idea I’m not well-equipped to talk about but, for what it’s worth, as a good Berkeleyan idealist I’m unimpressed by formlessness and chaos, as they sound difficult to experience. To be is to be perceived, and to be perceived is to mean, which leaves the world dripping meaning. This is (forgive the neophyte medievalist) an old idea — though I guess the introduction of God might bring chaos and formlessness back in. Berkeley might know.

    Anyhows, I apologise if that’s not especially related to your post and a bit everything/nothing.

    Reply
    • Pontifus

       /  15 August 2009

      I like swords, too. Also bows, and as Archer shoots swords from a bow, I don’t have much to complain about.

      “To be perceived is to mean” — yeah, I go on about that whenever I get a chance. I think total lack of meaning is not only unimpressive, but impossible. If Shirou, whose only imagination to speak of seems to revolve around swords (lol phalloi) can do it, anyone can. I’d really like someone better-versed in epistemology and hermeneutics to swoop in here and elaborate.

      That Book of Nature stuff is crazy. I knew Barthes drew from all sorts of linguists, but I didn’t realize he had been beaten to the punch so handily.

      Actually, come to think of it, it reminds me of the atheist’s nightmare.

      Reply
  2. Nazarielle

     /  18 August 2009

    Well, that was rather quick, I see you really liked UBW :D Lack of Rin screenshots is very disappointing, though! :p

    Reply
  3. “How could a writer write without human experience?”

    Shall we take this a step further? How could human experience itself exist without writing – that is, without subjective review and interpretation?

    Reply
    • Pontifus

       /  11 October 2009

      It depends on how broadly we define writing, I suppose. And I don’t really mind, as I define “entertainment” very broadly already.

      Would the writing, the act thereof, constitute the experience, then? Is writing simply the constitution of experience? It seems common to think of writing as imitation (of yet more imitation, maybe, depending on who you ask), or historiography, even, but does an experience not exist, for all intents and purposes, without review and interpretation? I suppose the difference in my mind is the time referent, of which the depth of interpretation is a factor. An experience is a momentary thing, immediate and visceral in nature; we can reflect on that viscera, and maybe at that point what we’re doing can be called writing. But this is assuming that we aren’t writing ourselves at all times, which could be a possibility.

      Reply
  4. I enjoyed reading this analysis of yours.

    Reply

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