View RSS Feed


Shirou Venting

Rate this Entry
I don't think there's anywhere else to post something like this, not unless I dig up my dead youtube channel from its grave. As with most visual novel protagonists that change a lot between routes, I don't think it's anything new to say some people prefer a route's version over the other. But recently I came across a person's interpretation of the visual novel as an overarching character arc for Shirou.

Here's their exact wording.

[Wasn't the whole thing like..
Fate: "I will be a hero!"
UBW: Questioning Emiya's idealism and showing the consequences of them if he goes down that path
HF: "I can't save everyone, so I want to do the best for those I care about" ]

I spoke to them a bit back and forth, and their main point is that the Fate route is there to establish the wish to be a hero, the UBW route is to showcase how futile that wish is, and the HF route is to evolve Shirou past that ideal as he puts his loved one(s) first.

This happens a lot to the UBW route from what I've seen. It gets attached at the hip to the HF route as "set up for the really good Shirou development". And I can't help but be confused and frustrated.

Unlimited Blade Works isn't about explaining to the reader that Shirou is a dumbass and you should want him to change. It's about the exact opposite. There's no big shift in perspective in UBW for Shirou, he simply grows as he comes to terms with his ideals. However, there is a person of the Emiya family that does have a shift in perspective. Archer's character arc in UBW is more akin to heroic character arcs we're used to seeing. Scarred hero with a troubled past learns to reignite his passion for his dream and believe in it again.

UBW isn't there to establish Shirou's ideals are garbage. It's a double fakeout. The predictable course of events is for a foolishly optimistic heroic wannabe to realize his dream is futile, give up on it, then grow past it somehow. But then you realize Shirou's past flips things on their head. The dream doesn't originate from within himself in the first place. He's not delusionally blinded by some sort of ego. In fact the more he understands the consequences of his actions the more determined he becomes.

This is because the main factor determining Emiya Shirou's success or failure in his path in UBW is not the reality around him, it's not the people he fights or the people he has to kill. The deciding factor in his success and failure is his own mental health. His own motivation. The fuel that keeps him going. That's why he says he is fine with losing to anyone except to himself. As long as Shirou never ever gives in, then his dreams and his path remain justified. If he gives into regret like Archer did, then yes. His dream was a failure.

If he had given up on his dream then yes UBW would be a route about how sucky his ideals are and how he sucks and should change. However, the exact opposite happens. His faith becomes stronger, he becomes stronger, and Archer is the one who has the flame within him reignited as opposed to being able to extinguish his younger version's drive.

The only way I can see someone ignoring all of that and just seeing UBW as a route to deconstruct Shirou's ideals, is if the emotions in his confrontation with Archer were completely ignored by the person.
UBW deconstructs Shirou's ideals only to build them back up by the end.

It's about how the hard decisions defining who you are can't be answered by others, and you yourself cannot be defined by others. Sometimes the most difficult decision in your life will require you to place full faith in only yourself. And that's okay. As long as you're willing to shoulder the burden that comes with that. That burden is that you can never give up, otherwise you should've never put that much faith in your path in the first place.

That's what Shirou could not accept about Archer. And that's what Archer embraces in the end. Because of how herculean the task Shirou wishes to accomplish is, his determination has to be of unimaginable levels. That might not be the most realistic portrayal of the human psyche but god damn it if it's not a theme humanity has always held in high regard. I don't think a character arc is better written just because it's more grounded and sad. The myths and legends that Fate has used to create countless Servants originate from humanity's own dreams. The point of those tales was never the question of did they take place for certain or are they simply stories. It's what a person interprets from the story, the lesson they take away from it.

Sue me for thinking it, but the idea of abandoning everything for your loved ones is nothing new and has been executed a thousand times in portrayals of the hero's journey. And of course, so has the concept of a protagonist with unbreakable determination. However the way it's executed and portrayed in UBW is very special in my eyes. The fact that there's still people who only see that route as "the route that exposes Shirou's a dumbass" goes to show that it tried to pull the rug under your feet with its decision to have the protagonist change everything but his goals. Even if it didn't land for a lot of people, it's always inspired me.

If it never resonated with me, I might not have made it this far in my life as dumb as that sounds. And I sure as hell wouldn't have had to vent about it like this. It's fine to prefer a Shirou without his ideology, but I think it's a whole other level to discredit UBW's entire point just because optimism is easier to dismiss as foolishness.