Whereas I had a clear and distinct opinion on each of the previous stratum, stratum six is a bit harder to discern whether I like it over the original game’s Week 6. My predictions weren’t necessarily untrue but the situation that Last Encore’s Rin and Rani have themselves in is quite the strange turn of events. I’m still having a tough time wrapping my head around it as to how it made me feel so let’s go over what happened before we speak any more of it.
Another flashback to start the episode off were we learn that Rani and Rin both reached the sixth stratum ages ago but were unable to find the proper means to ascend and entered a stalemate. They agreed to cooperate to help and bring a capable master up to the sixth stratum and settle their score, and make their way to the top floor. Back in the present, Rin explains her reasons in entering the Mooncell War in an extremely familiar backdrop of the Tsukimihara Academy straight from Extra. Rin was a rebel who is opposed to the current ruling power in the form of the Harwey family. Two members of the family were sent to secure the Harwey’s position in the world, Leo and Julius, and Rin was sent to stop them from reaching the grail. Rani’s goals were more introspective, she simply wishes to obtain the grail per her creator’s wishes and find what it means to be human. Hakuno is asked of what his goals are and then we return to the actual present time, where Hakuno explains that he and Nero were separated from Rin and Rani.
Hakuno and Nero take some time to explain their own abilities, such as Hakuno’s state as a Deadface allows him access to numerous code-casts and shards of experience in how to use them properly. Nero explains her Noble Phantasm but that just boils down saying that she’ll more or less win if she ever pulls it out. The duo step out into the stratum where their conversation is cut short when a Cu-Installed Rin attacks them and she is soon joined by a Lu Bu-Installed Rani. Things start getting when Rani crushes Rin in her hands, and even weirder when more Rins start showing up. The duo outrun the miniature army fighting each other and chasing after them until they run into a “Rin” who explains she’s Rin from the First Stratum. She states that she will guide the duo to the dome where they will be safe and says she won’t be able to elucidate the current situation herself. Rin assists the duo to a building in the distance and disappears. A recording plays and it begins to finally explain what the hell is going on and confirms that Rin and Rani were against each other in the sixth stratum. Somehow their duel came to a stalemate where both their servants were killed and a proper victor was not able to be discerned. This occurred the same time the Moon Cell was closed off and the war came to a halt. Instead of being eliminated, the system decided to focus on preserving the two masters but there came a time when resources began to dwindle. In exchange for their borrowed time, Rin and Rani were used as supplements to continue powering the stratum. From their image sprung the countless copies of each other fighting endlessly without meaning. For nearly a century Rin and Rani’s programs fought each other until they realized it was for nothing and came to an agreement, they would try to send their copies to assist a master to ascend to the sixth stratum to render the final decision to determine the victor and end the charade once and for all. Hakuno enters the room at the end of the hallway and is tasked with the choice to determine who will survive.
Hakuno goes Deadface and it isn’t exactly shown what he does exactly but Rin awakens without trouble but she finds Hakuno beside Rani who begins to fade away. Rani assures Hakuno that she has no qualms with Hakuno’s attempt to save both of them and she is glad to be able to at least say goodbye to him after she was unable to do so in the second stratum. Rani fades away but not without giving Hakuno her blessing to continue to ascend higher. With the “battle” now over, the sixth floor has the ladder finally descend to lead the duo and the real Rin to support him to confront Leo on the final stratum.
Right off the bat, Stratum Six reveals itself to be “roughly” following the set up Extra utilized involving both the non-servant heroines of the game. For the unaware, Rin and Rani face each other in the game’s third week after your own match against Alice and you are given the chance to interrupt their elimination duel and save one of them, allowing one of them to survive without a servant. Whoever you save is taken out of the war and eventually becomes your supporter while you end up fighting the one you didn’t save as your elimination battle opponent in Week Six. This directly affects who your opponent is for Week Four as choosing Rin, the master of Cu Lancer will have you face Gatou and Aruceid while choosing Rani, the master of Lu Bu will have you face Ronnie and Vlad. That fourth week obviously didn’t matter in Last Encore’s case but they decided to move this choice way later in the story to prevent possible discrepancies, even if it means making Stratum Four completely undeserving of anything other than a mention.
I am unsure how to feel about this. From a story perspective, I never found the choice between Rin and Rani to be all that important since their stories are never truly concluded with Extra’s rather ambiguous but hopeful ending so you could say that they end in roughly the same way. If anything, the only weight the choices ever had on me was whether or not I wanted Archer to fight Lancer again so the choice was hardly ever because I favored one character over the other. If we do go by character than Rin has the bias since we know more of her character, but even that is based on bias since Extra verse’s Rin is not even the actual Rin Tohsaka from FSN’s plotline but some distant cousin. Rani is straight out of Tsukihime’s universe where the Atlas Institute is involved with her creation and her journey is more introspective about human nature. In the end, neither character really resonated with me to begin with and they still don’t but that doesn’t make the weird fate they suffered for centuries any less crazy. It still didn’t impact me all that hard but I don’t even have a point of comparison for Extra either, both mediums had me mostly accept the other’s death as soon as you chose the other person to save so I was ready to fight them by the time they became enemies and my mind was already prepared for it. There is no surprise revelation or regret, it was a fair duel among “friends” while Last Encore at least tried to save both girls, somehow.
On a less important note, I loved the backdrop of Tsukimihara Academy at the start. While the setting itself was nothing special without its music and atmosphere, the visuals bring back nice memories of the time I had with the game. If I truly needed to settle which rendition I liked more, I guess I favored the game’s because it had my favorite battle track + fight compared to the shoddy fight animation quality in this episode was where even the running animations seemed to mediocre.
This episode concludes the regular broadcast schedule for Last Encore so we’ll take a break with some of the other Spring shows before we return to give final judgment on the finale and see what the hell this all amounted to. See you then.