Emiya Shirou. A contradiction. A faker. A fraud. An idealist. Previously, we talked about why we believe that Emiya Kiritsugu is the most fascinating character in anime. After watching the incredible ufotable adaptation of the Unlimited Blade Works route of the Fate/stay night visual novel, I have to say, we may have been wrong. Shirou is an even deeper, flawed individual who is much more layered than his adoptive father. Yet the real route in which this truly shines is in Unlimited Blade Works, and that’s why it was adapted into a series rather than Heaven’s Feel. While Heaven’s Feel may be the true continuation of Fate/Zero, and it is receiving a movie series, Unlimited Blade Works delves into Shirou’s psych even more through his future self. Shirou is an even more interesting character than Kiritsugu because his outlook on life is even more twisted, to the point where he sold his afterlife to continue to save others. Yet it still wasn’t enough.

He’s alive…he’s alive…he’s alive. Thank you. Thank you. I’m so glad I found you. By rescuing just one person, I was saved.

The boy who was Emiya Shirou died the night the 4th Holy Grail War ended. Fuyuki City was engulfed in flames after the contents of the Grail spilled into the city, destroying everything in its path. It was Emiya Kiritsugu’s smile that defined him from that moment forward. It began as mere admiration, which ultimately became a borrowed ideal. Because so many people lost their lives that day, Shirou had a kind of survivor’s guilt, whether he admits it or not. The way he lives his life from that moment forward is actually quite twisted. He neglects himself to a ridiculous degree, deriving happiness only from the happiness of others. He has nothing of his own. Even his idealism of becoming a Hero of Justice, like Kiritsugu, is borrowed. In fact, it’s a contradiction, as even Kiritsugu admitted.

It’s not that simple. Because what you’re describing is trying to save everyone Shirou.

Kid-me wasn’t convinced by Kiritsugu’s answer. I mean, Kiritsugu saved my life, right? I knew that he was a magic-user who could do anything. And so I asked Kiritsugu if he could have saved everyone then. But Kiritsugu — he —

Shirou, saving one person means being able to save another. You see, a person can only save those who belong to the side they’re on. It should be obvious, but that is the very definition of a hero of justice.

Later in life, Shirou took his borrowed ideal to a ridiculous degree. He sold his afterlife to be able to continue to help others and save as many people as possible. Ultimately this led to him merely “picking up after humanity’s messes”, slaughtering indiscriminately in order to save the many. It was a pathetic existence that led to misery. He was without pride or honor. Like his borrowed ideals, his blades were merely imitations. Unlike Kiritsugu, who ultimately realized how flawed the pursuit of being a “hero of justice” was, Emiya Shirou never did. He took this ideal to the ultimate extreme, which in the end led a version of himself to want to end his younger self’s existence in order to simply disappear.

Heroic Spirit EMIYA and Emiya Shirou are one and the same, and Shirou is even able to improve his magecraft by simply clashing swords with Archer. Their ultimate confrontation is both beautiful yet incredibly sad. Shirou realizes that Archer has forgotten although his ideals may be flawed, he saw something beautiful in it. This is why Emiya Shirou pursues his ideal of becoming a Hero of Justice. This is why his battle with himself, his ideals, and what he believes in makes him even more interesting than Kiritsugu. His single-mindedness and stubbornness knows no bounds. This is even one of the things Rin finds wonderful about Shirou, even though she believes his way of living is incredibly warped. This is what makes him so layered. This is why Unlimited Blade Works is the best route in Fate/stay night. This is why Shirou surpasses even Kiritsugu as a character. This is what makes Emiya Shirou a true hero of justice.

About The Author

Founder/Editor-in-Chief

Morgan Lewis is a Video Game Journalist and Founder and Editor-in-Chief of VG Culture HQ. He has been writing about games for over four years and has written over 900 articles during that timespan. He first fell in love with gaming when he received A Link to the Past for Christmas when he was six. He also loves anime and anything that has to do with gaming culture.

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  • ceachei

    I-I can’t believe someone actually understood Shirou’s character just by watching the anime… Color me surprised.

    So many just didn’t even try, or maybe it was too much for them? After all, the average anime fan nowadays only wants endless action with no real substance in the series. People call me pretentious when I say this, but Shirou is really a character that makes you think. His set of morals is so different to ours than yeah, it’s difficult to get where he’s coming from, but when you understand him it feels like a great pay off, and at the same time a bit of sadness for knowing how f*cked up he actually is.

    • Eniggmaa4132

      Same here, I’m in shock tbh.

    • Necronomikon

      i didn’t necessarily hate shirou but it took me reading the visual novel to really understand the depths of his character.