The Fate franchise has previously both bored and terrified me. What little I experienced of it – Fate/Zero and varying descriptions from close friends who happened to be fans – felt too heavy both in subject matter and consumption with little emotional substance to make me care about its major players.
For this I do not slight Kinoko Nasu nor the series itself, but the way I interact with a story. I’m willing to forgive all types of plot inconsistencies provided that the characters resonate with me in some way. Fate/Zero did not keep my attention, as the only endearing characters were Waver Velvet and Rider. All other characters were simply mouthpieces for in-universe minutiae or lofty philosophical ideals. It was with trepidation and distrust that I approached Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works begins with Rin Tohsaka, and simply Rin Tohsaka. The narrative will indubitably shift to Shirou Emiya; however, for this prologue Fate offers us Rin, revealing her personality and circumstances in a surprisingly careful manner.
I remember little of Tokiomi Tohsaka from Fate/Zero aside from his steely demeanor and eventual demise. Therefore, the above image had little emotional impact on me until this one was shown a few minutes later. In her flashback dream, Rin sees her father off at the gates of a larger, imposing estate than the house she inhabits in her present. Her current abode still boasts an impressive amount of space, but is obviously untended since Rin is the only one who lives there.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works lovingly portrays every detail of Rin’s house as she goes about her morning toilette, with each room allowing a different look into Rin’s life. Her bedroom is completed by a four-poster bed, elaborately decorated curtains, a Persian rug, and French furniture. It’s large and fairly organized aside from the piles of books, an askew lampshade, and her chair as she topples it by launching her alarm clock. She walks through her living room, still with French furniture and another Persian rug. The curtains and paneling are less ornate, but the room boasts wall-mounted candelabras and an imposing fireplace decorated with swords. Her bathroom has a modern faucet, but patterned wallpaper and what appears to be a marble sink along with a plant. She straightens her tie in a dusty mirror.
This presentation of Rin’s habitat shows that, aside from the basement where she presumably hones her mage powers, she puts little effort into living inside the house. While the basement is strewn with papers, tomes, scrolls, a victrola, and various other oddities, the rest of her house is a museum. It protects her, and reflects the monetary situation of her now-absent parents, but doesn’t reveal her personality at all. Rather, it suits to show us the aloof and majestic persona she adopts while in public. Fate/Stay Night follows up this introduction to Rin through her home by presenting Rin at school as a girl who forces herself to stay just distant enough from others in order to doggedly fulfill the role that was passed down to her through birthright.
It is fitting that when Rin summons her Servant, as she was trained to do, it’s neither neat nor pristine, and ruins her living room. Archer is not the servant-class that she desired – she wished for Saber – but her new found companion suits her well. Both characters speak in half-truths, with Rin assuming the mantle of the house of Tohsaka, while Archer is noticeably closed-lipped regarding his identity. Later episodes will surely move away from the intricacies of Rin Tohsaka’s house and into the details of the Holy Grail War. However, for a week, Fate/Stay Night gave me Rin Tohsaka at home.