Man this editorial has been a long time coming. I’ve had it planned ever since I saw Ufotable’s Unlimited Blade Works adaption although I’d say the first inspiration was from Studio Deen’s fusion adaption of Fate plus the other routes. I had some issues getting the gifs set up and finally solved that issue yesterday. Now you may be thinking how can Saber be the most overrated character? Shouldn’t that be Gilgamesh? Well, I admit that a case can be made for Gilgamesh being overhyped as well. Particularly since the creator of the series said Gilgamesh is powerful enough to end the whole Grail War in a night if he felt so inclined, yet he gets served up every time the tournament starts. So I can see why that feeling would be there but he’s not going around losing to just anyone and that’s the big difference here. Let’s take a deep analysis of how Saber performs here and see if I can convince you that she is the most overrated character in Fate.
Now some quick rules of engagement here. For starters when I say overrated I’m talking about in universe not out of it. I think it might be similar both ways but I don’t keep up with the Fate fandom the same way I keep up with most others. The Reddit would be too dangerous with spoilers and such at this point. Additionally I am really focusing on the Unlimited Blade Works route as that is often considered to be the most iconic path of the series and is considered first when talking about Fate. Additionally, I haven’t seen Heaven’s Feel yet anyway. Now I will present my case.
Disclaimer: It goes without saying but this editorial will contain spoilers for Fate Stay Night, I will also be referencing Fate/Zero, and Fate Go to a small extent. If you have not watched these things or read the novel/web games, you’ll want to side step this editorial and check those out first. Thank you for stopping by though!
Of course, to show why she is overrated I must first establish how the show and characters hype her up from the start. You can’t pick apart a character if you don’t know how strong they were supposed to be at the start right? So Saber is the incarnation of King Arthur, a legend so great that I don’t need to explain here. To be more exact, a “Saber” is a class of servant summoned in the Holy Grail War. It is considered the most powerful class by a decent margin. No matter what series you watch, the characters are always talking about how they would want a Saber since that can end the war real quick. I’m just more used to calling Artoria, “Saber” since she is the most iconic servant in that class. So Saber is summoned in the strongest class and she is already supposed to be one of the more impressive legends.
Now Fate has a ton of legends like Hercules, Medusa, Da Vinci, so I’m not saying King Arthur is the best but at the very least she is always treated as a top tier servant. Your legend plays a strong part in how powerful you are and the skills at your disposal. Saber has her famous Excalibur equipped and she even has her shield which regenerates her injuries and can even bring you back from the brink of death. Her Noble Phantasm is a powerful shockwave/energy blast which can rip the sky asunder. Her sword is also invisible by default which makes blocking it a lot more difficult.
So now we’ve gotten Saber’s skills into the mix here. Her legend is also solidified but now let’s talk about the hype that the characters give her. Rin throws a whole fit when she isn’t able to summon Saber because she knows that the balance of power has just shifted. Kiritsugu, the man with 100 plans took extra care to summon her because he knew this was the greatest path to winning the Grail War and the group he was with made sure to make this happen. Keep in mind that he desperately wants to win to achieve his ambitions and is generally considered to be one of the best strategists in the series and he admits that she is the strongest. It is established early on that Saber is quite crucial to at least having a great advantage in this whole tournament.
Yet….that hype dies down almost immediately. Now Fate is a series that is huge in part because of how it treats most of its legends with such respect. People have fun seeing their culture’s champions actually getting to fight against the others and looking good. Aside from legends who are based on evil people like Jack The Ripper, each character usually gets to show off their ideals and fight rather well. So you’re never expecting a full stomp or anything like that but based on the hype of King Arthur and her strongest class, we are expecting that she should best all of these guys, especially if it’s a pure one on one fight right?
Well, her first fight upon being summoned is to fight Lancer and it’s fair to say right off the bat that she was on the losing side here. His ability to reverse cause and effect may not have destroyed her due to her passive ability to negate magical effects but he did land a hit and was still at full power and could have launched his Noble Phantasm again. Could she have blocked this with hers? It didn’t seem as if she would have the time but even if their blows canceled out, her lack of mana reserves would have come back to haunt her. She definitely loses this fight and this is when she is a freshly summoned servant against a guy who just finished battling with another powerful servant. So at full power she could not beat a weakened servant? That’s not great and this happens almost immediately in the series so I was surprised she did not do better.
Next we are introduced to Hercules and this really did not help Saber’s case. He is introduced as someone with enough mana to destroy the rest of the servants even if they teamed up. Now that’s way too much hype and I don’t think anyone believed that for a second but it is still clear that he could beat Saber one on one and this is basically stated. In fact he does this with relative ease when you consider the fact that he won even when she was teaming up with Archer. So now that’s two fights where she did not look very good and we’re still in the opening segments of the war.
Saber does defeat Rider rather easily when they fight one on one so I’ll give her that. Rider may not be the most powerful fighter out here but a win is a win so that’s still something to feel good about. Her next tough match was when she had to go up against Caster and her master Kuzuki. Now even I don’t buy this moment so I’ll cut her a bit of slack here but she actually gets crushed by a human. Kuzuki is able to block Saber’s attack and then goes into a combo that completely takes her out.
Sure, he is amped up but that should not be nearly enough to compensate for the power of a servant. There’s just absolutely no way he should be able to beat Saber here and certainly not to do so with this much ease. That was just a bit much but I have to include it because this was Saber’s lowest moment. The fight should have gone the way the Kuzuki vs Archer battle went to be honest. Kuzuki was weakened at that point but it should have been that one sided.
I don’t have any qualms with Caster holding her own against Saber because magic is tough to fight against. I suspect Saber would win in a prolonged battle as well. Maybe she should have won easier but I can let that slide since the fight was interrupted and Shirou/hostages were getting in the way the whole time. With no distractions she could have won this and losses with hostages in the mix don’t count.
Assassin’s fight against Saber is definitely a critical one for my case here. He is the servant of another servant and isn’t even a real mythical hero. He is made up from a story and has some of the worst stats for a servant in the fate verse. He is skilled yes, but not so much so that he should be defeating Saber, the most powerful class of servant right? Well, he wins this fight with relative ease. Part of the issue is that Saber holds back for far too long but that’s a risk you take when underestimating the enemy so it doesn’t take away from his victory in the slightest.
He just won with pure swordplay and perhaps the most impressive part here is that he had no super special abilities. Yes his ability to swing his sword apparently breaks the laws of reality and causes some kind of portal effect but it’s still him just swinging his swords really hard. He got underestimated and Saber paid the price. So that’s another loss to a servant right there which was not a good look for her.
We then get to the final battle where she goes up against Archer…and is getting absolutely dominated. So now is when I should address the common counter point which is that Saber only looks so weak because Shirou doesn’t have a lot of magical circuits so he is always limiting the flow of mana to Saber. A servant cannot fight for very long without a master after all and so you need a good one. There are two reasons this doesn’t hold up though. The first is that her opening battle against Lancer where she could not claim victory happened while she was at full power and was just summoned so mama would not be a concern yet.
Then we’ve got the big nail in the coffin. It turns out that Archer didn’t have a master for a little while and yet he was able to fight well. He broke his pacts with Rin and Caster yet he was still able to overpower Saber initially and he was able to fight on par with Shirou. That’s lowballing him though, he was clearly winning and he still had enough mana to use his reality marble noble phantasm. So the lack of mana excuse from Saber doesn’t work so well since Archer had to fight without being given any mana and was still doing good. Saber only ends up taking the edge when she makes a new pact and gets her energy refilled to 100%. Before that moment both combatants had not been at full power but Archer had been in that state for a longer period of time so you felt like that should have been an easy win for Saber.
There’s also her fight against Gilgamesh where she was being overwhelmed in the first show but that one we don’t need to worry about since he would beat just about anyone. It only hurts from a hype perspective since Saber was introduced as the strongest class and yet she was quickly overtaken by Hercules and Gilgamesh who were both said to be more powerful as soon as they appeared. Saber’s hype just ended up vanishing as a result. Let’s just recap her track record here.
She lost to Kuzuki, Archer, Gilgamesh, Assassin, and Hercules. She was losing to Lancer and the only one she flat out defeated was Rider who always seems like the weakest servant by far in Fate Stay Night. (A far cry from the hero in Fate/Zero who seemed to be one of the most powerful servants) This track record is not good for the servant who was hyped to be the most powerful one initially and this is why I choose her as the most overrated character in universe. She just did not end up clinching out the win when it counted and that’s a bad look for her. I expected so much more out of Saber from a power perspective and I don’t think that’s unreasonable given her stature. At least in Stay Night she did not live up to the hype.
I won’t really jump into the spin-offs much for this editorial but she tends to fare a bit better there. In Grand Order she seemed to have a good setup going but it’s hard to say how much was her strength and how much was Archer helping her out. In Fate/Zero she tends to do better as she fought well against Berserker and held her own with Lancer. Would she have lost the fight with Lancer? Perhaps but it’s hard to say since their fights kept getting interrupted but either way the showing was on point.
So that wraps up my case for why Saber is the most overrated character in Fate. I’d say the fights just speak for themselves and mainly this happens because the series hyped her up so much. If it did not and treated the Saber class as just any other then there wouldn’t be a problem. It would actually go for the underdog kind of feel then and I dare say that this would have worked out very smoothly. After all in the series it is safe to say that Saber is still equal to the others at best or slightly weaker at worst but either way there isn’t much of a gap there. So it doesn’t make sense why they give her so much hype. I do like Saber as a character but whenever someone mentions her as being one of the most powerful servants then it’s time to look at the fights and see if you agree.