When it comes to anime couples, there is no one higher on my list than the two people we are talking about today. From the moment I started watching Unlimited Blade Works I knew that these two characters were a special match, and in the years follow, through the other stories and beyond, it still remains the best one done. I won’t beat around the bush. Join me after the cut as we take a character dive into the relationship of the two main leads of Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works: Shirou Emiya and Rin Tohsaka
When look at the main Fate visual novel/anime in terms of it’s relationships, they provide three very different ideas on love and being a couple. While each have their ups and downs though, it is clear in my mind, that the relationship between Rin Tohsaka and Shirou Emiya remains the overall strongest. Now that isn’t to say that the other two are bad, just that I personally never got much out of either of them. In the Fate route, Shirou’s relationship with Saber is more of the traditional one-sided anime love, where Shirou is in love with Saber for the ideal she represents, and not so much the woman she is. Sakura in Heaven’s Feel meanwhile always felt like a one-sided love, that Shirou fell in love with her out of a sense of duty. Sure there is fondness and in time even love, but it isn’t something that feels like it happens naturally.
Shirou’s relationship with Rin Tohsaka however, is much more natural. Like with the our look at Kurisu and Okabe from last week, Shirou and Rin are two different personalities. Shirou is the idealistic fool, clinging to some romanticized version of what a ‘hero of justice’ is and vainly, almost foolishly attempts to save everyone and everything he can. Rin meanwhile is the cynical realistic, aware of how the world works and focused only on pushing herself to the limits. She has arrogance, he has ego. Rin has pride, while Shirou has guilt. Yet when these two cross paths like they do in Blade Works, magic happens.
Throughout their partnership in Blade Works, we see the effect both Shirou and Rin start to have on each other. Rin’s no nonsense attitude and realistic personality force Shirou to realize that he cannot save everyone, and that his foolishness and recklessness can end up hurting not only himself, but the people around him. Rin in turn has her cynical and logical “in it to win it” view challenged by Shirou’s idealism and true gentle heart. She cannot believe that someone would go so far to save people, even at the cost of their own happiness. For Rin, who has dedicated her life to the study of mage-craft, the cruel and twisted world that robbed her sister of her future, it is shocking to see someone touched by magic to be so pure. Her admittance that she fell in love with him after watching him try and fail to make the high-jump is a testament to that fact: Shirou is the man who wont’ give up no matter the odds, while Rin will cut her losses if she can’t do it.
This chemistry is helped greatly, by the story of Blade Works itself, which ties Shirou and Rin together at the hip. They are teammates, partners in a war that both of them have no real idea about the dangers they are in. The amount of trial, heartbreak, failure and eventually success they go through helps cement their relationship completely. When it is all over, both of these characters have come through wiser, stronger and more aware of the other side of their worldviews. They are in a sense war-buddies, whose love blossomed through their hardships and trials. This is compounded by the fact that Rin and Shirou’s relationship in the Blade Works anime has next to no sexual element to it. They like each other, they are attracted to each other, and then grow to love each other, but the raw sexual desire is strangely absent from what is shown on screen. Compared to the courtly love he has with Saber, or the raw feelings of lust shared with Sakura, this is pretty bare bones, and it is surprising how well it works despite it.
The relationship of Shirou Emiya and Rin Tohsaka is my favorite in anime for many reasons. It is a no-nonsense true relationship that is forged through the fires of the Holy Grail War, built on mutual respect, admiration, trust and the butting of ideological heads. There is no forced romance, or attempts to push two people together who are not clearly meant to be. They are equals, with neither one or the other coming out on top as is so often the case with many anime relationships (and is with both Saber and Sakura). You can feel the friendship, the bond forged and the understanding of who the other person is. I’ve watched Unlimited Blade Works four times and each time, both subbed and dubbed, I find myself loving the relationship between Shirou and Rin more and more. It is just a really damn good couple, one of the best anime has given us.