Happy Chinese New Year!

February 27, 2015

And in its honor, a primer to understanding China’s international relations:

Let’s say I’m China, and I have this delicious cake. It’s fluffy and moist, covered in all the flair with like chocolate flakes and candied rose petals and stuff. Written on top in pretty floral icing are the words “China’s Territorial Integrity.”

Along comes Britain who says “give me some of that cake.”

I ask why, and he says that it’s for free trade. I am reticent, and he wants to compromise. I ask what I get out of this compromise, and he says that I get to keep the part of the cake that I already own.

I do not think this is a good deal. He pulls a gun on me and cuts himself a slice anyway.

We will call this the Treaty of Nanjing.

Emboldened by Britain’s example, others – France, Russia, Portugal, Japan, the US, etc – do the same thing. Tientsin, Whampoa, Peking, Shimonoseki, Boxer Protocol, Twenty-One Demands, etc, etc, etc.

At one point, the US decides that, as one of the “compromises”, everyone gets to share equally in the cake. Everyone, that is, except me, who actually owned the cake in the first place.

We will call this the Open Door Policy.

Finally, when I’m left holding a tiny slice of what was originally left of my cake, I decide I’m done.

I buy a gun, I take some tactical classes, and the others are weakened due to fighting amongst themselves.

I start reclaiming my cake. It’s not a perfect process, and the icing got smudged or had bites taken out of it, but by and large it’s starting to look like the way it did before.

And then, the thieves that stole my cake in the first place have the gall to set themselves up as the arbitrators of whether this is correct and proper.

They’re standing there, wringing their hands that formerly held pieces of my cake that they took, making anime eyes at me and whining about my “saber-rattling” and my “territorial ambitions” that threaten to “destabilize the region”, asking why won’t I find a “peaceful way to reach compromise.”

And I’m just standing here, going “you have got to be kidding me.”

I’ve seen what your idea of compromise looks like.

There’s two definitions to that word, one is to actually meet in the middle, and the other is to concede, and it’s real obvious which one is meant whenever they say China needs to “compromise”.

(Original credit for the cake analogy goes to LawDog, whose original version I also agree very strongly with)

Fighting Evil By Moonlight – Let’s Watch Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 3

October 17, 2014

Act 3 – Sailor Mars

Stop drop and roll Jadeite cuz you just got BURNED (hey, foreshadowing!)

Open to Jadeite getting chewed out because he’s failed twice in a row so far to obtain the Legendary Silver Crystal, and the other Dark Generals are seeing this as an opportunity to perform. Nephrite and Zoicite both offer their services. Here, we learn something interesting – Beryl has not told them what the crystal is or what it does. She replies that it’s an immensely powerful energy source…but the fact she says “not to worry about it” makes me think there’s something else to it.

Actually, given that they world for the “Dark Kingdom” and summon daemons as a normal thing, I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up sacrificing all four of them to give the thing its initial charge.

Anyway, Jadeite gets another chance, and we cut to a girl on fire.

No, not that one. Or that other one.

Something ominous is coming, she says.

Cut to school, where there’s a rumor about a devil bus, route 66, that if you take it at 6PM, you’re never seen again. Usagi sleeps through the gossip, and through Luna reminding her that she and Ami have a meeting…until Luna mentions it’s at the arcade at which point she’s all up on that like a marine on a stimpack. We see Ami standing next to a Sailor V poster, which makes me wonder about their Sailor Guardian powers – what exactly is it that makes them all end up in the sailor suits? Is it just that Sailor V is a popular game series, so their powers manifest as the sailor suit that V wears? And in the AU where it’s, like feudal Japan, they’d all be running around in differently colored samurai armor? Or would they always wear the sailor suits? Anyways, while Usagi’s busy gaming, Ami asks Luna what their next move is, to which the kitty replies, “protect our Princess and the Legendary Silver Crystal”. Ami’s perplexed expression indicates she doesn’t know what that is either, although she also doesn’t ask.

They leave the arcade, and Ami’s still going to cram school, which I’m going to assume is better now that the teacher from hell is gone. She mentions to Usagi that a really pretty girl is on the bus at that time, which catches her attention. As Ami gets on, Usagi notices that the route i the same one as the “devil bus”, so she hops on and-

Now there’s a girl worth fighting for

Usagi’s is hella smitten.

“Time to break out the L-word, Usagi.” “Lesbian?” “The other L-word.” “Lesbians?”

Meanwhile, the girl gets a vision, and Usagi is still smitten.

She could be a part…time…MODEL!

Anyway, Hot Chick gets off, and Usagi follows her. They end up in a Shinto shrine, trying to find her. Meanwhile, cut to Hot Chick, who turns out to be a shrine maiden. She feels a great disturbance in the Force, so she operates up, exorcism spell in hand…and smacks Usagi in the face with it.

Yu Mo Gui Gwai Fai Di Zao!

Hot Chick explains that she felt a demonic energy earlier, and mistook Usagi for the source, which is why one of the Four Rules is “always be aware of your target and what’s behind it before you shoot.” We also learn that she has two ravens named Phobos and Deimos which are pretty badass names for a pair of pets/animal familiars. Cut to people praying at the shrine. Mii-chan, one of their daughters, has gone missing. They suspect it’s the Devil Bus before running off. Here we find that Hot Chick’s name is Rei Hino. Mii-chan is a little girl that always plays at the shrine while waiting for the bus. There’s a local folklore that says there’s five hills around the area, but there’s like a sixth secret hill, and the Devil Bus vanishes there at 6PM. Locals call it being “spirited away” (no, not that one).

The next day, Usagi and Ami get matching watches. Usagi wants to visit Rei again, and Luna agrees, noting that she’s beautiful, has spiritual powers, and is a shrine maiden, so she may be the Princess.

Hold on.

So, Luna doesn’t know who the princess is either? Her, Beryl, and Tuxedo Mask are all running around blind? This is actually pretty intriguing, and I kind of want to see where they go with this.

Anyway, Ami’s gotta go to cram school, so Usagi’s on a bus by herself. Luna informs her that the watch is also a communicator (seriously where does she get these fancy toys?) and is about to say more when suddenly a wild bishounen appears! We finally find out his name, Mamoru Chiba, a high school sophomore at a private school.

Awkward silence ensues.

Cut to the shrine, and Mii-chan’s mom wants Rei to find her with magic, but Rei’s all like, “uh, my powers don’t quite do that.” She suggests calling the police, but some other bitchy lady is like “her daughter’s missing! y u no help!”

Middle schoolers – better than the police for missing children.

So, this is interesting because it indicates that some humans have had magic powers ever since before Luna showed up and turned Usagi into Sailor Moon. Anyway, the adults then accuse her of having Mii-chan spirited away, but Usagi comes to the rescue. She offers to help Rei find the missing girl. Rei thanks her for the offer, but would rather go it alone. Later, she lights a fire and tries to locate Mii-chan with her powers. Instead, she sees someone else, and Usagi in trouble.

The night is dark and full of terrors…but the fire burns them all away.

So she runs out, trying to find Usagi. A bus stops by, and she gets on, only to see Jadeite as the driver.

From Dark General to bus driver. Yeah, Hell was hit pretty hard by the economic recession.

Right when recognition hits her, though, Jadeite casts sleep, which is super effective. Fortunately for Rei, he manages to drive right past Usagi, who recognizes Rei from the window. The bus speeds past her, and is about to crash into a wall, but suddenly a portal opens up. So Usagi chases after the bus, and uses the pen to transform…into a flight attendant? She jumps up and catches on the the back, but drops Luna in the process. Good thing Tuxedo Mask is there to catch her. He’s too late to follow Usagi, but is starting to confirm that yes, Usagi can do that transformation thing.

I’m sure he’s just trying to get to Platform 9 and 3/4

Cut to Ami at the cram school, getting a call on her watch. It’s Luna, telling her Usagi’s in trouble. Oh Luna, is there anything you can’t do? Also cut to the…Hell dimension, I guess? Jadeite’s got a whole bunch of unconscious people, all hostages to lure out the Sailor Guardians. Meanwhile, Usagi’s stumbling around, demoralized because no one’s there to help her, until she gets a call. Ami and Luna are actually smart and know how to do things, and they suggest Usagi transform so they can pinpoint the magical energy. This works, both girls are transformed, and now it’s time to go on the counterattack. Just in time, too, because Jadeite is being a total creeper right now.

I’ve seen enough hentai to know where this is going

Fortunately for Rei, Usagi is there to cockblock him (I guess…do demons have cocks in this setting?). Mercury opens with a mist, and calls out to Usagi to save the kids while under cover of fog, but Jadeite reveals he has freezing powers. The mist condenses, depriving both Sailor Guardians of cover. Ah well, what did you expect, Sailor Mercury? This is Mars’s highlight episode, so none of you are allowed to be useful. Anyway, Jadeite blasts both of them with ice. By this point, Rei wakes up though, and grapples with him, which given that Jadeite is some kind of super daemon lord thing, only amuses the guy.

I think you should just…let it go~

Too bad for him, Rei’s powers chooses that point to manifest themselves into sweet burnination. Luna tosses her a pen sceptre thing, and she becomes Sailor Mars. There’s this heavy rock guitars motif going on during her transformation sequence that I like, in contrast to the strings and choir chanting for Moon and Mercury’s transformations.

Need a light?

Jadeite tries blasting her with ice, dating this show because everyone who grew up in the post-Pokemon era knows that fire is super effective against ice. Mars no-sells the attack, then goes all Sozin’s Comet on his ass, forcing him to run away.

Cut to the police, and all the children being recovered.


I rather liked this episode. Ami’s episode was a tad generic, and even if you didn’t know anything about this series, you would have been able to predict that it was gonna be “down-to-earth everygirl befriends nerdy girl, and nerdy girl is going to save the day, affirming both girls’ friendships”. This one actually is a little less stock; Rei has a bit more self-confidence going on, but there’s some subtle vulnerabilities there too. You can see that she is kind of lonely by herself, and you get hints that it’s because of her powers that 1. alienates other people to her and 2. makes her unsure of where she fits in society. Her status as a shrine maiden gives her a sort of authority, but with that comes responsibilities that, being a teenager, she isn’t really ready for. When people accuse her of shady things, you can see that she’s hurt by it, but she’s too proud and dignified to show it. Push comes to shove, though, she gets right down to it. Seriously, her vs. Jadeite could basically be paraphrased, like-

Jadeite: hahaha silly human your meat-hands cannot harm me


Anyway, that’s the long version of the characterization front. The short version is…maybe this reminds me just a little bit of another story about a girl with magic powers who feels repressed by them and needed the power of love and friendship to feel accepted and at peace with her powers, eventually saving the day.

As far as world-building goes, this episode is alright. We confirm that everyone is stumbling in the dark. Which could work, because that way we’re discovering things at the same pace as the characters, and avoids situations where characters suddenly randomly explain things that should be basic knowledge to them for the benefit of the audience. Also, it raises interesting questions about people who have had magic powers just on their own. Are they all Sailor Guardians? Are there more of them across the world? Are they just candidates but need Luna’s magic touch to make them full-blown Sailors? Is this just kind of going to get skipped over?

Usagi’s relative uselessness is getting annoying, though. Hoping that gets better once the team’s introductory episodes are up.

Until next ep.

Fighting Evil By Moonlight – Let’s Watch Sailor Moon Crystal, Ep 2

October 11, 2014

Act 2 – Sailor Mercury


Open to a shot of mild mannered middle school student Ami Mizuno, having a Good Will Hunting moment. Everyone else is in awe at her intelligence. Apparently she has an IQ of 300. Unfortunately, being smart means she has no friends. Also, only 300? That’s wayyyy less than Alakazam’s IQ of 5000. Get it together, Ami.

Yeah, Ami. Get it together.

Cut to Queen Beryl’s lair, where someone’s getting chewed out. It’s Jadeite – one of the Four Dark Kings, or something to that effect. He leaves and calls up a Youma – ok, so like a demon – to gather more soul power.

Cut to Usagi’s house, Luna warns Usagi that there’s going to be more Youma attacks. Usagi is demoralized, because the fight from the previous episode was scary, before realizing something the show forgot and asking exactly is a Youma. Luna confirms that they are, indeed, like demons – things that are not supposed to exist. Alright, so we’re doing the gradual revealing of the worldbuilding thing. I can get behind this.

Beware the mutant, the alien, the Youma.

Anyways, Luna says to look for allies, and not surprisingly Usagi thinks of boys. Unperturbed, Luna reveals that she’s been browsing Facebook – I mean, uh, scouting out potential allies. She’s got a lead and…the cat knows how to use a computer wut.

i can haz sailor guardian?

Cut to the class rankings, where we see that Ami’s apparently the highest ranked student in all of Japan. Also, the joys of kanji – her last name is “Water Wild”. Nerdface from the previous episode pops in to tell us that Ami goes to Crystal Academy, which is the top cram school in the nation.

So, cultural tidbit – in Asia, your grades are everything – you take an exam that determines what middle school you can go to, and another to determine what high school, and the most important one after that, to determine what college you go to. You wanna talk about high-stakes testing in the US, it’s got nothing on the bookworm brawl that is Asia’s college entrance exams. Thus, lots of people pay to go to cram school, where they do nothing but review for the exam. Like TestMasters…when TestMasters grows up and eats its wheaties.

And now I must thank my dear mum and dad, for moving to the US and thus sparing me from the horrors of the East Asian education system.

I’ve seen some shit, man. You don’t even know.

Anyway, Ami watches people talk about her from afar…you know, Ami, it wouldn’t kill you to socialize every once in a while. Cut to Usagi, walking home from school with her latest report card…jeez Usagi, how do you get a 52 in Japanese? That’s your native language! Suddenly, though, she happens upon Ami, playing with the kitty, which gives her an in to start making friends.

Cats, the best wing-people

Anyway, Ami hands Luna back and receives a vision in the meantime. Usagi, meanwhile, asks Ami out on an arcade date.

Not sempai…but close enough

They play the Sailor V game. Usagi dies early…but Ami is beating the shit out of that game. Heh, awesome by analysis! For her victory, she wins a sparkly pen…but Usagi wants one too so she shakes the machine until it drops one as well. The rest of the day goes pretty good. We learn that Ami wants to be a doctor, so presumably her high-expectations Asian father is satisfied.


Cut to Ami at the prep school. The teacher hands her a CD and tells her that she needs to work through it if she wants to study hard and become a doctor. Teacher’s a youma, isn’t she? Yep, totally a Youma.

The next day, school’s let out, and Usagi wants to get some ice cream with friends, but one of her friends ignores her, just walking past while muttering numbers. We learn that she goes to Crystal Academy also. Usagi approaches Ami as well, but Ami says she can’t because she has to study.

Do you wanna get some ice cream? It doesn’t have to be an ice cream…

Go away Usagi

Okay bye…

Ami leaves the CD behind, though, so Usagi pockets it thinking it might make her smarter. As she walks home, she notices the Crystal Academy teacher handing out flyers. It fails to hold her attention, though, and soon she tosses over her shoulder…which hits Bishounen McDreamy in the face, in one of her not-proudest moments. He snarks at her (isn’t it usually the girl who’s supposed to be tsundere?) and then asks the million-dollar-question: did your cat just talk?

Luna freaks out, which now intrigues me – so it seems like she doesn’t know anything about Tuxedo Mask or his civilian identity. I was previously under the impression that she at least knew a little bit. Anyway, they go home, Usagi tries to investigate the CD but finds it’s just a normal prep disc. Frustrated, she hits some random keys…and suddenly subliminal messaging plays.

Achievement Unlocked: Yvan Eht Nioj

Usagi operators up to the cram school…it’s okay girl, it’s Japan, the guards don’t have guns there. Luna tells her she needs to find a way to get in somehow, so Usagi pulls out the pen and transforms…into a doctor. Wait, is that part of her powerset also? Is that a power the pen has? Or are they part of her Sailor Moon powers? Whatever, I’m just going to roll with it.

Cut to inside the school, where teacher is in full on Tiger mode. Solve the problems, Ami. WHY AREN’T YOU SOLVING THEM FASTER, AMI. Ami, for her part, does what she can, but then her eyes fall on the pen from the arcade, which remind her of friendship. Teacher notices and throws the pen away, but suddenly Sailor Moon and Luna dynamic entry into the room!

Pictured: Luna dive-tackling a mofo. Not pictured: Luna body-checking her so hard that she gets knocked over. The cat so far has demonstrated far superior combat skills to everyone else in this show.

Usagi continues with the doctor act, saying she’s been investigating what’s going on, and reveals that she knows what’s up and won’t allow the youma-teacher to twist a student’s pure ambition any more, to which teacher responds by transforming into her demonic form. Although I have to say here, this is the first time I’ve ever heard “ambition” described as a “pure” and good emotion in a fictional work. Usually it’s reserved for the bad guys, because it’s their ambition that made them walk the path of evil in the first place, like Commodus from Gladiator or the entirety of Slytherin House bar Slughorn. Being that “ambition is evil” is a trope I actually really dislike, so by averting that…good for you, show!

Anyways, Usagi fails a morale check, but her buns make some kind of sonic waves attack as well. Unfortunately it’s not very effective, and youma-teacher fights back by shooting paper at her. So, Usagi…if you can be defeated by wads of paper…maybe it’s time for some karate classes? Youma-teacher moves in for the kill, but the power of friendship manifests and brings out Ami’s inner guardian potential. A few words from Luna, and Sailor Mercury makes her debut.

Mmmmmwater! (Alternate caption: “if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it”)

Alright, so Luna’s dialogue confirms that she’s really searching for people who might have the sailor power in them. So..is it like everyone has the potential to be a Sailor Guardian, and they just need supervision and an impetus for the powers to manifest? Or is it like there’s only a couple of slots, and whoever manifests it first, that takes out everyone else’s chances? And most importantly – what exactly happens if we suddenly decide that Mercury is no longer a planet?

Anyway, Mercury wastes no time throwing herself into battle, calling up a mist that shrouds everything. This isn’t a bad idea, and actually fits very well – she’s the brains of the group, so it makes thematic sense that her special attack is a support move that makes the enemy less effective. Youma-teacher can’t see anything…but Usagi’s panicked screaming gives her away. But, Tux saves her in time, and she Moon Tiara Boomerangs the youma-teacher into oblivion.

Looks like school’s out for the summer.

Cut to Jadeite looking displeased before walking away, and then to Ami and Usagi, friends for life.


Good introduction to the second of the Sailor Guardians. I like the gradual revealing of worldbuilding aspects. We now know that Sailor Guardians are identified by having the vision of a White-House-looking building, and also that Tuxedo Mask apparently doesn’t really know anything about them either. Seems like he’s searching just like Luna and Beryl are.

Until next ep.

Fighting evil by moonlight – Let’s Watch Sailor Moon Crystal, Ep1!

July 11, 2014

So, I realized that I actually quite like reviewing stuff (see the Fate/Zero posts), and being that Sailor Moon, the show that I’d always try to watch as a little kid but could never get home in time for just got a reboot, this is as good a show as any to start doing it again. I’ll be approaching this from the perspective of someone who knows the general idea of the original material, but am very fuzzy on the details beyond “five young teenage girls WITH ATTITUDE (and the main girl’s boyfriend, and her little sister or something?) fight the forces of evil!” So, let’s see how this holds up.

Let’s get this show on the road

We open with a shot of the solar system.

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.

Cut to a sparkly queen woman floating into the arms of a sparkly bishounen man, about to liplock…but it was all just a dream, as Usagi Tsukino, 14-year-old schoolgirl, wakes up and is late for school.

7:00AM, waking up in the morning/Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs/Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal

In her hurry, she steps on a cat (a very resilient cat, if it can take the full weight of a person), removes the strange bandaid on its head to uncover a moon-shaped bald patch (nope, nothing strange about that at all), and then runs away when it tries to scratch the hell out of her face. Usagi finally makes it to school, but is like super late and has to stand outside.

Meanwhile, a wild ANTAGONIST appears! He calls up some kind of shadow demon woman and tells her to find a “Legendary Silver Crystal”.

Summon Minion

Cut back to school. Usagi is daydreaming about the princess from her dream. Test results are out and…holy crap, Usagi, how the hell did you get a 30!? BETCH ARE YOU EVEN ASIAN. Although, to be fair, it’s an English exam, and who cares about that, right? English is like hella useless anyway, it’s just lit crit that is rendered utterly redundant by tvtropes – oh, wait, they’re in Japan, this is the *language* class which is actually useful. Ah well, it’s okay Usagi, who needs English when you can just speak American instead?

Asian Grading Scale: A=Acceptable, B=Bad, C=Crap, D=Death, F=Fake your death and start a new life elsewhere

During the same time, we’re introduced to her muggle friends, a girl named Naru and this super nerdguy named Umino. Being that I know enough of the show to know that they’re not going to be Sailor Scouts later, we can safely write them off as unimportant, I think.

School lets out, and Usagi is talking to her friends. There’s been a rash of break-ins, apparently, but some vigilante named Sailor V caught them…wait, there’s already a Sailor V? This is somewhat new to me. I thought Moon was the first one, and then she finds all the other ones? Anyways, one of her friends then notes that she can totally relate to robbers – who wouldn’t want to steal jewelry? It’s so pretty!

…wimmenz, amirite? </trollface>

We learn that Naru’s mom owns a jewelry store, and they’re having a discount sale, so the girls go. Naru notes that this is actually the first time they’ve done this kind of thing, and now that she mentions it, her mom does bear a slight resemblance to the shadow woman that appeared earlier…and now she’s internally monologuing about feeding off the shoppers’ exuberant energy.

Hey, vuja de

Usagi left, because her test scores are unlikely …she has now bumped into Bishounen McDreamy (yes, I know it’s Tuxedo Mask/Darien/whatever his Japanese name is, but that’s just what I’m going to call him, as he appears with bishie sparkles and everything)

So…how long until they’re going on spaghetti dates while adorable stray animals serenade them in Italian?

Anyway, turns out this guy’s looking for the silver crystal too. Cut to Usagi walking around wishing she was Sailor V, then she wouldn’t have to put up with any of this. She ends up at the arcade, wherein she hits on this random other hawt guy who works as a part timer. Motoki is his name, but being that he too is a muggle, I think we can write him off as unimportant.

Welcome to the Friendzone. Please take off your shoes.

Usagi goes home, sees the cat again, and notices the moon mark on its head. More importantly, her mom notices her test score. Oh jeez, run for your life, Usagi! Tiger Mom up in this bitch!

Usagi gets kicked out of the house, while her younger brother gets back home – wait, she has a younger brother? I thought pink-hair chibi girl (forgot her name) was her only sibling? Anyway, cut to Tuxedo Mask, sneaking around, operating operationally. And then to Naru’s mom, who is absorbing life energy from everyone who bought jewelry using the jewels themselves as a conduit. Naru walks in on her…which she shouldn’t have done, because now Monster-Mom is going to silence her forever.

Cut to eye-catch…ok the pitch black on the skin is somewhat creepy. Seriously you start looking from the bottom up and it’s like…okay, she’s just got leggings on, whatevs, leggings are hot, and then you look up and HER FACE IS BLANK.


Cut to Usagi who has a dream of the princess again, only to be woken up by a scratch. It’s the cat, and HOLY FUCK the cat can talk. Its name is Luna, and it tells Usagi that there’s trouble in the city, but she can help! …but Usagi ignores her, thinking it’s just a dream. Fortunately, Luna knows how to get a girl’s attention…with shinies! Unfortunately, she didn’t count on Usagi being so focused on the shiny that she still is ignoring Luna. But soon enough, Usagi starts paying attention, and Luna teaches her to say the words. Cut transformation sequence!

In brightest day…in darkest night…no evil shall escape my sight…let those who worship evil’s might…beware my power, Green Lantern’s Light!

So she’s transformed…and apparently her hair buns are also evil-detecting radar!? This is new to me. Cut to Tuxedo Mask, about to dynamic entry into the jewelry store…but Usagi beats him to it. Naru’s Mom (who reveals that she’s not the real mom, just a replacement who’s tied up the real one in a basement somewhere) is all like, “who the heck are you?” Cue the time honored tradition of new superheroes realizing that they forgot to pick out a name…so Usagi decides on Sailor Moon. Demon Mom is unimpressed though, and calls up a bunch of mind controlled minions, for which Usagi is entirely unprepared, running around like a chicken with its head cut off while Luna facepalms.


Anyway, Usagi falls down and begins crying…but fortunately for her, she has Black Canary’s sonic scream which knocks out all the minions, leaving just Mother Monster (no, not that one). Luna teaches her another attack…and oh hey her tiara turns into a chakram that obliterates Monsters Of The Episode in one hit.

Normally I’d start referring to you as Xena, Warrior Princess at that point…but Rachel from Animorphs already laid claim to that title.

With the Monster defeated, Tuxedo Mask now formally introduces himself, before leaping into the night.

I must now flee…sexily.

Meanwhile, Sailor Moon is now being watched through an EVIL crystal ball. The next day, Naru only remembers passing out but seeing a Sailor Guardian come to save her. We end on Luna noticing a blue-haired girl walking around campus, one of a…mercurial disposition, as it were.


OK, so, not bad for an introductory episode. It follows a pretty standard origin story format. We meet our main character, our main love interest, a couple of unimportant muggles, and the bad guys are somewhat vague right now, but I’m sure they’ll start making more frequent appearances once Usagi gets her team together (dibs on Jupiter, btw).

On a technical front, animation is nice and crisp, and the CGI looks pretty good. Hidden villains are always good from where I stand, as long as the mains are making a decent effort to locate them.

Until next ep.

Frozen is in Westeros theory, revisited

January 6, 2014

So that previous post of mine resulted in a plotbunny that wouldn’t stop hopping around in my head. Which is a testament to how good Frozen was; rare is the media that can inspire me to write stuff. Although I think the sheer amount of ASoIaF and song lyric quoting I’ve done counts as cheating…but only a little.



December 30, 2013

In the alternate universe where the climax happened a different way…

Wherein the belief that she had inadvertently killed her sister did not cause Elsa to collapse in a BSOD moment, but instead caused her powers to spiral out of control in grief…

The rampaging ice powers froze most of Arendelle’s inhabitants, with the exception of a few who fled to the kingdoms to the south.

In her resulting grief and loneliness, Elsa tried reanimating her frozen subjects, much like she did with Olaf. But due to the corrupted nature of her magic, something would always be just a little “off” about them, and each iteration just exacerbated the problem a little bit. Still, she kept trying, each setback only prompting her to try harder. In her personal quarters, there stands the frozen statue of Princess Anna. One day, Queen Elsa said, she will perfect the process, and then they will have their old life back, even if it takes ten thousand years. Standing by their side is Olaf, because some people are worth never seeing summer for.

Meanwhile, the refugees of old Arendelle describe to the kingdoms they fled to of a land of desolate and everlasting ice, where the snows fell a hundred feet deep during the long night, when children were born and lived in darkness, and the White Walkers moved through the woods…


Also, among the survivors:

Hans made it out and hopped on a boat back to the Southern Isles, or as it will become known in the future, the Iron Islands. Due to his firsthand experience, he begins delving into magical research. This is why the Faith of the Drowned God worships Cthulhu, and why their rituals and magic still works to an extent.

Wesselton also made it back alive. Also affected by witnessing the sheer savagery that sorcery can unleash, he pours the kingdom’s funds into creating the Citadel, ostensibly as a public works project and an investment into higher education, but really to research means by which human technology may quash and banish magic from the earth forever.

Kristof and Sven, in the meanwhile, also made it back. He wandered aimlessly for a while, before rescuing a young woman who happened to resemble Anna from bandits or wolves or whatever. Said young woman happened to be the only daughter and child of a fading Noble House, whose so-called allies were basically waiting for the patriarch to die so they can divide up its holdings. In gratitude to the young man, they marry their daughter to him, and forever take the majestic caribou against a field of gold (like the young man’s hair) as their sigil. Upon finally coming into inheritance, Kristof Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End, never forgot the homeland of his first love, and swore to revitalize it one day. Thus he created an order of men, good men, to keep watch at the borders, ranging beyond it even, to look for signs that old Arendelle would revitalize once more. And when it became clear that such an event would not happen in his lifetime, he ordered a young Brandon Stark, gifted in the craft of construction, to erect a great Wall such that the order of watchmen would always have a home base from which to carry out their eternal mission, their long watch which began as soon as the night fell upon old Arendelle.

Let’s Watch Fate Zero, Ep 25

May 18, 2013

Grand Finale: Fate/Zero

Aha! A title drop!

Excalibur cuts down as Saber looks in horror, and she has an epiphany – the sense of betrayal she’s feeling now, that’s why her men betrayed her. Just like Kiritsugu never bothered to get to know her, simply proclaiming a righteous goal and ordering her to act in pursuit of that goal, so did she do the same, never truly leading others the way Iskander did. In her last moments in the real world, she ponders whether this is her punishment.

That resignation…it’s just so sad.

Excalibur’s light is visible from like super far…and when the smoke clears, there’s a hole in the sky, just like the Kiritsugu saw inside the Grail. The blast manages to, among other things, knock Gil on his ass, and he gets up just in time for a massive torrent of blood to fall from the hole and engulf everything, blowing things up and eating up the city like it was Zerg creep.

Not impressed. Just surprised, is all.

Meanwhile, Ilya wakes up in Einzbern mansion, having the bad dream that she was a cup with seven lumps inside her that Iri saw in her vision.

Cut to Kiritsugu, who sees all this and is horrified. So…I guess destroying the Grail actually released Angra Mainyu who was inside?

Ya done goofed, Kiri.

Aside: since the rest of this episode didn’t clear it up at all, another explanation is in order. The Grail War was initially a ritual thought up by the three mage families of Einzbern, Matou, and Tohsaka to reach Akasha/the Root, which is the source of all magic. Only Tohsaka is still trying to do this; Matou is just after eternal life, and we don’t really know what Einzbern is after. In the previous Grail War, the Einzberns attempted the game the system by summoning Angra Mainyu, the Zoroastorian spirit of all the evils in the world, as an eighth class “Avenger” in place of Berzerker. Since a Servant’s power is a function of both age and notability (the more well-known the legend, the stronger it is, but to counter it, the older the legend, the stronger it is – thus more obscure Servants aren’t necessarily at a disadvantage), they figured that Zoroastorianism being super ancient and Angra Mainyu being literally the first scapegoat would make Avenger super-powerful. However, they didn’t realize that the original Angra Mainyu was just the victim of troll logic – his tribe figured that if they arbitrarily designated someone as the vessel for all their sins, then they would be guaranteed for salvation. Since if that someone has 100% of all evil, then that means everyone else cannot possibly have any evil, in dazzling display of a logically correct premise driven by an absurd premise. Thus, they picked a random guy, tied him up, beat him and mistreated him and tortured him and cursed him and all, until he died cursing the society that created him. But, because scapegoating became a thing afterwards, and because his “sacrifice” did lead to a certain measure of “salvation” for his tribe, he became eligible to become a Heroic Spirit and thus summonable by the Grail. Anyway, Avenger turned out to be a super weak Servant that died way early – scapegoats pretty much only get to be scapegoats if they are victimized already – but the sheer amount of hate he had for the world that summoned him again ended up corrupting the Grail as it absorbed his energies. Thus why it responds to Kiritsugu’s wish with a marvelous display of troll logic. And why childmurderer Gilles de Rais could be summoned for the current Grail War despite not being actually heroic. And why it’s leaking Zerg creep and blowing stuff up.

Cut to Kiritsugu, who’s digging around for survivors. He finds a dead little boy and cries in despair that not only did he not save the world, but he failed so utterly hard in doing so.

Cut to Kariya, who walks towards Sakura in Matou manor. He returns her to the Tohsaka residence, where Rin is happy to be reunited with her sister. Wait, Aoi is there too and not all deadified? And now the kids thank are him…and call him dad. Well that’s not weird at all. Oh, he was just hallucinating. He’s actually falling down into the pit of worms, to be quickly consumed, while a way-too-calm Sakura looks on, noting that this is what happens to those who defy Zouken Matou. After perusing some forums, the conclusion you are supposed to take is that she is literally so broken from all the wormrape and mana drains that she doesn’t know what to think – she’s so mentally broken that she barely recognizes the man who entered the Grail War with barely a hope of winning so she can be free, and instead the only idea that comes to her mind is that this must be another “lesson”, meant to teach her that resistance is futile. Only work brings freedom.

You have ten more years of this to look forward to, Sakura. Good luck.

Cut to Kirei who wonders where he is – wait, how is he not dead? He’s being dug out of the rubble by a naked Gil. It soon becomes apparent that we are missing some vital information that the show left out – again. Gil says they were all consumed by the black mud of the Grail, but then it spat him out, and he’s taking it to mean that the gods wish for him to return to rule the world. Gil then laughs at how they all thought the Grail would grant their wish, but it turns out everyone involved in the 4th Grail War were played.

Repairing vital missing information, part II: So, remember in the previous episode, how Kiritsugu was communicating with Angra Mainyu who’s taken the form of Irisviel? Same thing happened to Gil. Angra Mainyu confronted him and raged at him and stuff, but thanks to Gil’s MASSIVE ego and pride, he manages to out-troll Angra Mainyu enough to make it retreat back.

Scapegoat? Please. The world, and everything in it is mine. All its goods, and and all its evil. What need have we for a scapegoat? If there is evil in the world, then I will bear it on my shoulders alone, because I’m Gilgamesh, King of Heroes, bitch! Now scoot!

Kirei remembers getting shot in the head. He asks why he’s still alive. Gil doesn’t know either. All he knows is that when the Grail spat him out, it also gave him a new body to go with it, and since his and Kirei’s souls are bound by the Master-Servant contract, it probably is also why Kirei is alive again. Maybe. Possibly.

Shit dude, I’m just the King of Heroes. Read how the world works? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Kirei looks around and realizes that the destruction around him is what he wanted, taking a full on leap into the realm of crazy as he realizes his holier-than-thou father gave birth and raised a son who only derives joy from the pain of others. But he’s happy now, because he’s finally found the answer to his life of questions – what does he want? Schadenfreude! Although now he’s looking for how to replicate the same feeling, and resolves to see Angra Mainyu born into this world.

Kirei would survive into Fate/Stay Night, overseeing the Grail War there and being an integral part of the endgame.

Yes my teeth and ambition are bared, be prepared!

Meanwhile, across from Kirei, Kiritsugu wanders in a daze. Kirei sees this and immediately prepares to throw down some more, but Kiri turns away to dig for survivors.

People live when they are saved.

Cut to new narration, by someone looking up through hazy vision at Kiri. Is it a young Emiya Shirou? I think it’s Shirou! It is Shirou! Shirou internally monologues that he didn’t know what was happening, just that when he first looked up, he saw a man who seemed happier about finding someone alive than Shirou himself was about being saved. Kiritsugu, meanwhile, is relieved, being thankful that he saved at least one person.

“He who saves one life, saves the whole world.”

Cut to TV, which airs a report about a fire that consumed much of downtown Fuyuki. It is being watched by the MacKenzies and Waver. Martha MacKenzie walks over and wonders if “Mr. Alexei” made it to England, and Waver responds that he did, and called without regard for the time zones and woke him up and everything, the big dunderhead.

Then they rode back…but not the six hundred.

With the Grail War over, Waver decides that he should leave and return to his life of magery. But he’s got some things he needs to do first. So he talks to Glen and Martha Mackenzie, telling them that he’s thinking of doing some travelling, but he should find a job first to fund this expedition, so if they don’t mind, he’d like to stay with them a little longer. Martha is happy that her grandson is growing up and talking like “Mr. Alexei” (ugh, my feels), while Glen just winks approvingly. As Waver goes up to clean his room, he notices that Rider left a mess and expresses regret that Rider couldn’t have taken Waver with him. Ah well. He’s just not there yet, so he’ll have to work harder. Yes, that’s the way, Waver. Don’t worship your heroes. Become them.

On a side note, a popular theory is that due to the bond that this version of Iskander shared with Waver Velvet, the long dark-haired guy you saw back when Ionian Hetairoi was summoned the first time was not one of the diodochii, but actually an adult Waver, taking his place as one of Iskander’s retainers. I personally believe it’s meant to be one of the diodochii, but it is a rather heartwarming conclusion to Team Rider’s development arc.

In the meantime, Waver’s eyes falls on a package that Rider ordered, but never opened. Turns out it’s the original edition of the “Admirable Grand Strategist” game, which comes with a bonus t-shirt.

Everything can wait. I’ll play it for you, my friend.


On a side note, they put hella lot of detail into this series look at this shot of everything Iskander left on his desk. Not only can you make out just barely that it’s a conquerant (lol) wine of grande-cru-classe-tier that he’s drinking, but behind the wine bottles is a DVD (or I guess it’s VHS, being the 90s and all) set of “Land Armies of the World”, and you can make out that he has a bunch of Shakespeare volumes, as well as some books about the Air Force and what appears to be a book on Che Guevara (at least, I can see a “Che G-” in there).

That’s dedication right there.

Cut to a funeral service, with Kirei reading Job 19:25, “For I know that my redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day on the earth:And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God…” So… it’s a service for everyone who died in the Grail Wars?

This, audience, is the cost of your amusement. Go feel bad.

Rin is there, so maybe it’s just for Tokiomi, but I’m gonna say it’s for everyone who died in the Grail Wars since the Church is the referee after all. As Rin leaves, Kirei approaches her and strikes up conversation. He tells her that that as the new head of House Tohsaka, she handled the situation stoically and with poise, and that Tokiomi would be proud, and she will clearly inherit House Tohsaka well. He then asks why Rin didn’t bring her mom. Oh, so Aoi isn’t dead? She’s wheeled out…and we discover that Kariya choked her so hard he gave her Alzheimer’s. Aoi doesn’t realize her husband is dead, and that the funeral is actually for him, and seems to be seeing things because she’s also not aware that Sakura isn’t with them any more.

Well…now I see why Rin is so Tsundere.

Kirei leaves, but not before giving the Azoth dagger to Rin first, the dagger that Tokiomi gave him as a sign of his trust. Holding the last thing that belonged to her father finally cracks Rin’s hard exterior, and she breaks down in tears.

Man, this is like that scene in the Land Before Time when Littlefoot sees his shadow on a cliff wall and thinks it’s his mom who died in the earthquake…

You know, this scene would be heartwarming if it wasn’t obvious from Kirei’s shit-eating grin that he’s doing this just to troll her emotions.

Kirei. Such a dick.

Arturia finds herself back where she was, upon a hill of of broken swords at Camlann. She cries because she’s failed, and she had to put down another knight again, and this time she knows what those who turned against her felt, just what made them do it.

Isn’t it sad, Saber?

Flashback to Lancelot telling her that he was driven to madness, not because of anything she did, but because he couldn’t forgive himself. Because she was so righteous and above it all, she never passed judgement on him or Guinevere. If she’d punished him, then his heart would have been at peace, and he wouldn’t have fallen into madness in his quest for atonement, leading back to Iskander’s condemnation of Arturia as a woman who only knew how to be a paragon but didn’t know how to inspire others.

Saber, realizing this, has a breakdown, feeling that she is truly unworthy of being king. She promises to the corpses and empty armors strewn about her that one day, she will get the Grail and use it to fix her mistakes. Saddeningly, this is juxtaposed with Lancelot’s last words, that still, Lancelot has to acknowledge she as the greatest of kings. By result, if not by personality. Everyone she followed believed this. Which puts another element of sadness in this – it truly wasn’t her fault, and she was being too hard on herself, and both the people who tried to save her from that, Lancelot and Iskander, ultimately failed in that regard.

You were the best of us, Arturia. One such as you, none of us could match.

Cut to Kiritsugu, narrating the epilogue. He tried to contact the Einzberns, but they wouldn’t let him in, and put up a magic barrier around their mansion that prevented him from getting close to him. That whole mess with the grail blew out his magic circuits, so he couldn’t have done anything to get around it, and he never saw Ilya again.

But he moved on. After Ilya, no one was ever taken from him again.

He built a new life for himself. He adopted Shirou. And he took in “Taiga” Fujimura, a young woman who reminded him of Shirley and would go on to become a teacher at the school Shirou would eventually go to.

Five years later, Kiritsugu and Shirou have a talk on the nature of heroism on their porch steps. Kiritsugu tells him that five years ago, he was a hero. At least, he tried to be. But he gave it up, because it was way too taxing. A person can make the kill/let die X number of people to save Y number of people where X < Y decisions for only so long. When someone becomes an adult, it gets hard.

Sorry kiddo, but I’m too old for this [stuff. he said stuff.]

Shirou replies that well, since Kiritsugu couldn’t be a hero, he’ll do it. If it’s too hard for an adult like Kiritsugu to do, then just leave it to a kid like Shirou to chase his dream.

Oh, Shirou, you poor child of summer.

The light shines on Saber at the hill of swords, as if to tell her that things will eventually be okay.

It’s gonna be alright, this is love and this is life.

Cut to Kiritsugu feeling relieved, as Shirou’s words remind him that yes, even though it was hard, he did want to be a hero once, and that was a good feeling.


Emiya Kiritsugu would die after this conversation, after deciding this was his most treasured memory.

Five years after that, the Fifth Holy Grail War would start, forty years ahead of schedule because this one did not end with a wish being granted.

Rin Tohsaka would be chosen as a Master to compete. She would intend to summon a Saber-class Servant, but get an Archer instead. She would get into a fight with the Lancer, which would eventually spill over into the Emiya residence. And there, a teenage Shirou would find himself drawn into the Grail War, and using the magic circle drawn to heal Irisviel about ten-or-so episodes earlier, summon a Saber-class Servant, a blond woman clad in an armored dress, wielding a European broadsword made invisible by the wind magic surrounding it, whose first words to him would be the very same words she spoke to his adoptive father ten years ago:

“Art thou my Master?”

Final Thoughts:

This series…man, this series.

Any and all issues with philosophy were discussed in previous entries.

Kiritsugu was, indeed, a man who lived for his ideals and were driven by them to despair.

Everything about this series mirrored that.

In the beginning, we were introduced to a cast of characters, who for the most part had an ideal, some positive goal that we’d approve of. Well, maybe not Team Caster, but for the most part this was the case. In the beginning, everything was awesome, especially that giant five-servant-melee near the docks. The first Servant casualty was Assassin, which no one cared about because no one wants to see sneak killing of Masters when they can see Lancelot drive an F-15 to dogfight Gilgamesh in an ancient Indian UFO, and then it was Caster, who again no one cared about because he was fuckbeans crazy.

And then the likeable combatants start dying off, and manly tears ensue, until those tears finally drown the world, and I think that metaphor just ran away from me faster than Ionian Hetairoi got curbstomped by Ea (too soon?).

All the battles, no matter how badass, resulted in some kind of sadness, some kind of tragedy. And in the end, pretty much no one other than the bad guys got what they wanted. Saber didn’t save her kingdom. Kiritsugu wasn’t able to save the world because the Grail got corrupted. Lancer didn’t get to redeem himself for being forced to betray his lord. Kayneth and Sola died like dogs. Tokiomi was backstabbed (literally) and never reached The Root. Berserker’s rage was spent, and in the end his final words went unheeded and only contributed to Saber’s despair. Kariya…was fate’s chew toy. Rider ultimately lost, though he gets the consolation prize of at least enjoying the ride, and also failed to save Saber from her ideals. And Assassin went out like a little bitch after getting out-tactic’ed by Alexander the Great. The only people who really got what they want were Team Caster (yay childmurder duo!), Kirei who got to finally indulge in his dark side, and Gil who managed to turn Kirei to the dark side. Short of that, Waver gets the consolation prize of maturing.

Like Gil said, turns out they were all played for fools.

But just as Kiritsugu found solace in saving just one person, we the audience do so as well with the knowledge that ten years after the events of Fate/Zero, Fate/Stay Night will happen, and will fix all the problems caused by the Grail Wars once and for all, and it will be none other that Kiritsugu’s successor, Emiya Shirou, who will lead this transformation. And later, after that, Waver Velvet will eventually become Lord El-Melloi II after helping the heirs of Kayneth’s family deal with the loss of their leader, and dismantle the Grail War system altogether.

This series was full of tragedy, but eventually it all gets better.

And it’s all because Kiritsugu’s last act was to save this guy:

Let’s Watch Fate/Zero, Episode 24

March 13, 2013

The Final Command Spell

We open with Kiritsugu arriving in a blank white room, and Kirei is there to greet him with his knives. And just like that, they’re off, Kirei charging forth and using his magic to make his knives bigger, all while ominous Latin chanting happens and cutting to Berzerker’s Mad Enhancement allowing him to bash Saber into a wall.

A shot from Kiritsugu’s anti-magic Contender shatters Kirei’s knives, but it doesn’t stop Kirei, and Kiritsugu has to use his Time Alter magic to dodge Kirei’s kick and disengage.

This is not the result you are looking for.

What follows is something I like and will continue to show up again this episode – both Kiri and Kirei try something, they note what works and doesn’t work, take stock of what they have left up in their sleeves, and try that. In other words, the Luminosity Bella OODA loop. In this case, Kiritsugu notes that since the Origin bullets work by being in contact with the enemy mage’s mana, which is why Kayneth got totally fucked up when he tried to block it with Volumen Hydrangeum, Kirei’s use of Command Spells instead of his own mana to power his magic basically means he’s insulated from the effects. So Kiritsugu has to put a bullet through his body to destroy his magic circuits. Meanwhile, Kirei knows that Kiritsugu is using time magic to go double speed, so he’s now adjusting his own defensive timing to be twice as fast.

Yay smart people fighting smart!

I know kung fu (bajiquan, to be specific)

Kirei now charges in, covering an entire room in a single bound, and BAJI PUNCH.

Okay, Kiritsugu, don’t just stand there like a retard…




Meanwhile, Lancelot falcon kicks Saber in the head, but since I don’t have a picture for that you’ll just have to take my word for it. But since Servants are super tough things made out of mana and hopes and dreams, he ends up bouncing back, and Saber gets up, picks up her sword, and continues to ask the obvious – “were you driven mad because of me?”

Meanwhile, Irisviel’s body is burnt up as the Grail materializes from her. Cut to Saber continuing to get pushed back, and while bajiquan punch seems to be super effective on mage…but suddenly Kiritsugu gets back up and shoots bursts of SMG at Kirei, who can block bullets with his arms?

Aside: so, wiki says that Kirei’s priest vest is actually lined with kevlar, which is why he can block bullets. Would have been nice if that was clearer in the anime though.

Kiritsugu alters time again to give him double acceleration, drawing his Contender and blasting another round at Kirei. It gets him in the hand, but Kirei moves it so the round overpenetrates through his arm instead of piercing his torso.

That awkward moment when you realizes the full implications of being a priest sworn to celibacy with a crippled hand.

They do it again, Kiritsugu realizing that he can’t win in close quarters, but fortunately he’s got Avalon to heal him (conveniently explaining how he was able to get up from the baji punch that shattered his heart). Since it works on self-inflicted wounds, he figures that he can draw his knife, get into close quarters, and then set off the two grenades he still has on him, and Avvy can piece him back together. Meanwhile, Kirei figures he’ll just punch Kiritsugu until he dies. Not a bad plan, since even one-handed and being attacked from his blind side, Kirei is bitchslapping the hell out of knife-armed Kiritsugu.

Have I mentioned how awesome bajiquan is?

But an opening appears, and Kiritsugu does a pistol whip, which Kirei tanks with his already damaged arm.

Works as well in real life as it does in MechWarrior.

They disengage, and the Holy Grail starts spilling blood all over the place as they charge for each other again…and holy crap are the animators abusing the hell out of the camera.

Meanwhile, Sad Kariya collapses, and Saber gets a thrust of wrath through Berserker’s chest. She apologizes to Lancelot, promising that she’ll win the Grail for him, so he won’t ever have to suffer like he is now. It’s the only thing she can offer him as compensation.

Wait, that’s it?

Lancelot, meanwhile, accuses her of being intractable as ever – that she would presume that her way was the right way, and that her winning the Grail would somehow make things okay, when maybe all he wants is to just kill her. And then he dies.

No, seriously, was that it? No reluctant Saber getting pushed around until enough is enough and she remembers what she’s fighting for? No painful discussion of personal philosophy? No soul-searching? Just dead-stab-dead? God dammit show.

Cut to starscape. Kiritsugu is standing on a beach. Suddenly a voice behind him says she knew he would come – OMG it’s Iri! This is where his wish would come true, she tells him – so they’re inside the Grail.

Look up, there’s a hole.

Just offer your prayer, she tells Kiritsugu, and then it will leave the Grail and enter the real world. Only he can give it a form. Kiri draws back – who are you, he asks. She can’t be Irisviel, because Irisviel is dead. The Iri-but-not-Iri agrees – she’s not really Irisviel, just a form that the Grail is taking, but she does have Iri’s personality, and thus she knows about Iri’s final wish. She’s the Grail’s Will, see, and all she wants is to be born into the world, so she needs him to wish her out. Kiritsugu shakes his head – if he uses his wish to let her out, how will his wish be granted?

Fake!Iri smiles. “You should know,” she tells him. Kiri’s known how to save the world for a long time. So she’ll just do as Kiritsugu would to answer your prayer. Kiritsugu is still confused, so she tells him to ask his inner self and transports him to a mental world…

Hmm. Strangely familiar.

Kiritsugu is now in the hotel he stayed out back when Maiya was delivering his toys. The TV turns on, presenting him with one of those moral dilemma litmus tests: there are two ships, one with 200 passengers, one with 300 passengers. Both have sprung a leak that will soon sink them at the same time. You know how to fix the ships, but there’s only enough time to fix one. Which do you fix?

Kiritsugu shrugs. 300. Duh.

But there’s A TWEEST! Suddenly, the 200 capture you, drag you on their boat, and insist you fix theirs first. Now what? Kiritsugu isn’t sure, but the TV answers for him.


Kiritsugu is startled, but accepts this. Since the 200 would have died anyway, it makes no difference whether it’s because they drowned or whether because he shot them. Now he’s being taken to the dock where the first fight between Saber and Lancer went down, and there’s another rub – the 300 do not take the lesson to heart and instead continue to get on two ships, 200 on one, 100 on the other, and sure enough they sprung the same leak at the same time again. What next?


Kiritsugu argues it’s not fair, that he wouldn’t do that, because he just killed 300 people to save 200, but the Grail continues to filibuster, saying that he’s always sacrificed the few to save the many, and that the logical conclusion to Kiritsugu’s philosophy is that this would be a recursive loop until there’s only 1 and 2 left.

OK, Grail…your accounting sucks. I’ll get to why in a second, but Kiritsugu apparently lacks the logical reasoning ability to call OBJECTION, so the Grail continues to explain that you can’t wish for something you yourself don’t know. It can only gives you a solution in a way you know how. Kiritsugu now objects, retorting that how’s that a miracle? The Grail responds that it’s because he’s only one man, so killing everybody except for him is not doable, but the Grail has the power to commit genocide.

No man does it all by himself, so young man, put your pride on the shelf!

Cut to his dad…and he’s now dead. Cut to Natalia, and now she’s dead. The Grail says that he’s the embodiment of Angra Mainyu, the embodiment of all the evils in the world, that which will take on all evil into himself to save the world. Now there are only three people left, Maiya on one side, Iri and Ilya on the other. Do you save two or one?

As Commander Shepard would say, “can’t I have you both?”

As expected, he shanked Maiya. Cut to Einzbern Mansion. Ilya says “Welcome home daddy!” as she leaps into his arms. We can’t go look for walnuts anymore, he tells her. That’s okay, she replies. “Ilya just needs mommy and daddy to be happy!”

Such casual disregard for gun safety, Kiritsugu! What if someone’s behind the target? Get yourself a backstop, at least!

Yup, he just shot blew Ilya’s brains out. Now Iri is despondent – why, she asks. Why do you reject the Grail and us? Tired of her jibber-jabber, he reaches out and chokes her. Because you’re right, he says. I do always sacrifice the few to save the many, and right now it’s six billion versus three.

Man, this series just loves necksnaps

Kirei wakes up in a fountain of blood, and hears a pistol behind him.

Why did you refuse the Grail, he asks Kiritsugu. You sacrificed everything to make it this far. How can you toss it aside? Dude, Kirei, do you seriously not understand the concept of “I changed my mind”? Anyways, Kiritsugu replies that it’s not an omnipotent wish granter. Kirei responds that Kiritsugu should just give the Grail to him, then. If you don’t have a use for it, let me have it! It can answer my questions about who I am and what I really want! It longs for life, it wants to be born, please don’t kill it!

“And you are so stupid I can’t understand you,” Kiritsugu replies, speaking for a good chunk of the audience as he puts a bullet through Kirei’s brainpan.

Well. That’s certainly a new twist on the pro-life vs pro-choice debate.

Yeah Kirei’s kind of an idiot.

Saber finds the Grail and the crater where Iri’s body used to by. Suddenly, it’s Gilgamesh! “You’re late, Saber! How could you keep me waiting?” She challenges him to step aside, and gets a sword to the leg for her trouble. Gilgamesh then, delivers his ultimatum: why obsess over a fantasy like some magic cup that grants miracles? Be his wife instead, and know all the pleasures of the world and more!

“Soon there’ll be more than one sword sticking into you…if you know what I mean…”

She blocks the next strike, some kind of shield, but it knocks her back. Another refusal gets her an ax. Gil is indifferent. Fine, then, he says. Before you understand joy, understand pain.

In all its fifty shades…

But wait! Suddenly, Kiritsugu appears from behind, and Gil doesn’t see him. He lifts up his hand and uses a Command Spell, ordering Saber to use Excalibur to destroy the Grail. Excalibur begins to glow with power, much to Saber’s horror. Again, awesome voice acting as she tries to refuse, her voice and arm quivering as she slowly loses the fight to put down her sword.

Again, it must be said, Command Spells provide power bonuses for following the order and intense debilitating pain for disobeying. The more specific the order, the stronger the effect; an order of “obey everything I say” just gives them a dull headache if they do something you don’t like, but something specific like “kill yourself” is almost instantaneous and causes stat drops and all kinds of horribleness for disobeying. Seeing that one spell is not enough, Kiritsugu uses his final Command Spell to repeat the order. Why, Saber asks. Why now?

Meanwhile, Gil is also pissed that Kiritsugu is interrupting his wedding ceremony.

Hey man, when I said “speak now or forever hold your peace,” I meant that rhetorically! But now that you’re here, what color tablecloth do you think we should have? Blue? Or Yellow?

Try as Saber might, she can’t fight the two Command Spells, especially not when she’s already spent and wounded to her current extent. All she can do is scream out a horrified “STOP!” as her sword goes up, and then down.

Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

Final Thoughts:

Good riddance, Kirei. And heartbreaking betrayal for Saber, who’s come so far only to have her dreams crushed. Granted, the Grail’s corruption meant it probably would have granted her wish in the way that gets most people killed anyway, but she didn’t know that at the time, all she knew is that apparently Kiritsugu was trying to save the world with the Grail even if it meant becoming evil, and now not only does he not want even that, but he’s using his Command Spells to make her into an accomplice in the destruction of her own dream.

Also, Grail…you seriously suck at accounting. And Kiritsugu, thank Buddha you had the presence of mind to at least detect something wrong with the Grail’s reasoning, although it is seriously unforgivable that it took you so long.

See, I consider myself a utilitarian. I’m the guy who always says “yes” in all variants of the “there’s a train hurtling to the tracks where there are 5 people walking on the tracks, you can [perform action that results in only 1 person being killed instead], do you do it?” And it’s easy to pick apart the Grail’s deconstruction of utilitarian ethics when you realize that its basic premise is flawed.

First off, we must start with the premise that since human lifespan is finite, the definition of “saving” someone really needs to be “they would have died within a reasonably short timeframe had you not intervened.” Conversely, killing someone really needs to be “they would have lived were it not for an action you did having less than or equal to one degree of separation, barring actions to save your own life” (because nothing pisses me off in fiction more than playing straight of the attitude that leaving someone in a position to die easy is morally superior to killing them outright; I consider the reverse, in fact, since killing outright is usually quick and relatively clean, while leaving them to die usually means they get to drown or starve or excessive blood loss or whatnot). Any other form of accounting leads you to absurd conclusions like fire departments don’t save anyone because everyone they pull out of a fire die of something else eventually, or that stopping Hitler meant nothing because everybody we saved died of old age eventually.

Second, we can treat each iteration of the ships as a discrete event or as one singular event. If discrete, then combining this with the above definition of “saving, Kiritsugu’s kill-saved tally should go 200-300 for the first iteration of the ships, then 300-400 for the second iteration (100 killed for 200 saved), and so on and so forth. No matter how you calculate it, it always results in a net of 100 saved, because 100 had their lives extended when it would have ended without Kiritsugu’s intervention. Only accounting by how many people eventually live is basically a combination of reductio ad absurdum (see above: it means you can’t ever save anyone because everyone dies of old age) and perfect solution fallacy (it means you can’t ever save anyone unless we as a species become immortal, invulnerable, eternally young, and requiring no resources to survive).

And if we make it one singular event, then only Kiritsugu, Irisviel, and Ilya surviving is the only possible outcome, since it would mean everyone in the world are so suicidal that they would continue to take boat trips on the exact same type of boat, and do nothing to try to improve the safety features said boats, and oh yeah without Kiritsugu’s intervention they would all die in short order anyway. So, again, reductio ad absurdum, combined with sharpshooter’s fallacy – I have carefully constructed this one exact scenario which makes your philosophy fall apart (but not really), therefore this invalidates your philosophy in all scenarios. It’s the exact same reasoning that makes people say, because a gun was used in a mass shooting that killed 20+ people within the past two years, we should discount the tens of thousands if not millions of times saved by a gun’s presence every year. Or that because a mass shooter played violent video games, we should discount the millions of people who play violent video games and don’t go be violent to each other.

You can make anything seem stupid by a sufficiently far-out hypothetical situation. Suffice to say that if Eliezer Yudkowsky/LessWrong of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality fame were writing this, the only possible response from a supposed smart guy utilitarian like Kiritsugu to the Grail would simply be “congratulations on creating this highly limited scenario which I am almost certain to not encounter the whole purpose of which is to create a fallacious deconstruction of my ideals which fail upon any application of proper rational thinking and critical reasoning.”

But, again, at least Kiritsugu is able to kind of see the problem with the Grail’s reasoning at the very end. Since if he lets it out and it kills everyone, that counts as “they would have lived but for my letting the grail out” – thus, killing six billion.

On a side note, my mouse passed over the “Rider” tag and didn’t click it. And I was sad.

One more episode after this.

Let’s Watch Fate/Zero, Episode 23

March 12, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the World

This episode title…oh no, Rider is gonna die isn’t he. Readying the tissues.

Open to everyone saddling up, getting their gear, and readying themselves for the final battle. Kiritsugu locks and loads as he walks down the steps of the temple. Kirei awaits everyone on the civic center’s roof. Rider and Waver galloping down the highway…but suddenly a wild Archer appears!

Clash of Kings, Part II: Electric Boogaloo

Rider asks if Waver is scared, and Waver replies of course he’s scared, but now he’s ready to face it. As Rider always says, his “heart is dancing.”

I always get the shakes before every drop…

Cut to Saber, who rolls up to the Civic Center on her bike when suddenly KA-BOOM. It’s Berzerker! And he’s holding guns? I guess he must have a shotty or something because that one seriously made a big boom.

Sup bro, long time no see. How are the wives and kids?

Cut to Alex and Gil, having one final drink from the Gate of Babylon’s stores. It’s pretty cool to see them act civil to each other. See, I don’t like honor before reason when Saber does it, where she purposefully handicaps herself in the interest of “fairness”. I don’t mind it from Rider and Archer here, though, mainly because you know from their characterizations that they’re not going to pull any punches once they actually start fighting. Before that happens, though, there’s no reason not to be polite. Gil’s a little miffed that Iskander no longer has his chariot, as he wanted to defeat him at full strength. Iskander shrugs. He may not be fully equipped, but now he’s beyond perfection.

Come at me, bro

Yeah, I respect you, bro

Before they go though, Iskander wants to ask Gil one last thing – see, Iskander has a massive army, while Gil has every single legendary weapon from every legend to ever exist. Now imagine if they joined forces, arming the Ionioi Hetairoi with the Gate of Babylon – how much ass would that kick? Won’t you ally with me? We could rule everything!

But wait, there’s more! Join now, and for 29.99 drachmas more, I’ll throw in a shiny new Australia!

Gilgamesh is taken aback, then throws his head back in amusement. Sorry, bro, but I must decline. There was only ever room for one manfriend in his heart, he explains. See, initially Gilgamesh was a tyrant who did as he pleased. The people prayed to the gods for succour, so they created the wildman Enkidu who could match Gilgamesh’s power and sent him on a quest to challenge Gil and thus teach him humility. Gil and Enki, however, became best buds, going on adventures together. One day, however, the goddess Ishtar desired Gilgamesh, only to be rejected as Gil listed all the misfortunes that have befallen every single one of her lovers, and she created the Bull of Heaven to come down and wreak havoc on the mortal realm. Gilgamesh and Enkidu slew the bull, but the gods were displeased and struck Enkidu with an illness. Upon being forced to bury his only friend, Gilgamesh went on a quest to discover eternal life and eternal youth. Supposedly, he found it, but dropped the potion and it was devoured by a snake instead, which is why snakes shed their skin, why the ouroboros is an alchemical symbol, and why a fossil of the first snake to shed its skin is an acceptable catalyst to summon Gilgamesh as a Servant. Nice bit of characterization for Gil though, to see that behind the arrogant demeanor, there are some things he cares about.

Oh yeah, that Enkidu, he was a real cool guy. This one time in Baghdad…

Oh, he also says that he’s already king of the world, and there’s no room for two kings (clearly you’ve never been to Sparta). But if Iskander believes he can conquer Gilgamesh’s kingdom, then by all means try. After all, to Gil, Iskander is a worthy opponent. They drain their cups and return to their respective sides, readying for battle.

OPAH! (no, not that one)

Waver is a little incredulous at this, but Rider explains that if anything, now is the time to be nice – this might be the last opponent he’ll ever face. Waver, channeling his newfound inner Patton, admonishes Rider that he doesn’t want to hear that kind of defeatist talk! I gave you an order backed by my Command Spells, dammit, now forth and conquer! Rider nods, then calls up Ionioi Hetairoi.

Harooh! Harooh! Harooh!

As the armies of Macedonia gathers, Rider gives a rousing speech to them, telling them that having conquered their way through so many kingdoms, now lies the ultimate test, and that if they find themselves strolling along a fine meadow, fear not, for they are in Elysium and are already dead! Mounting Bucephalus, Iskander begins his charge.

Wedge formation FTW!

Meanwhile, Gil awaits the charge. Come, Lord of Conquest, he says, and I’ll show you a true king.

Bitch please, you want the keys to my kingdom? How do you say… molon labe, mothafucka.

Also, Waver fails at giving an intimidating war cry.

Gimme your war face, son! Your war face!

Cut back to Saber and Berserker, who is continuing to shoot at her with a rifle that seems to give all the boom and kick of a shotgun. And now he’s adding an SMG to the mix. Where does he get these fancy toys?

Sucks to your gun control, Japan!

Kariya, meanwhile, is in pain somewhere due to the strain of providing Berserker with mana. He sees a hallucination of Sakura, asking him questions. Why are you in pain? Because Berserker has to fight. Why does he have to fight? Because the priest said so. Why do we have to listen to the priest? Because he promised he’ll give me the Grail if we win, and I need the Grail to save you. Then when you save me, I can see mommy again?


Dakka fills the air, forcing Saber on the run and preventing her from closing in. She hides behind a car, using it as cover…but wait, cars aren’t good cover against bullets. In fact, it’s pretty much only the engine block that has a chance to stand up to normal bullets, much less the Noble Phantasm bullets that get buffs to their stats due to Knight of Honor: A Knight Does Not Die With Empty Hands. I guess it’s an armored car? Anyway, Saber lifts it up using Invisible Air and uses it as a mobile ballstic shield…and she just shoulder barged a car at him, creating an opening to let her get in a headshot…but his helm blocks the stab, and he catches her follow-up swing. And now he’s setting it on fire.

Pictured: one of the few times I will let a lapse in realism slide for this show because hitting people with cars while not being the driver is AWESOME.

Saber is shocked that he knew the length of Excalibur, which leads her to conclude that he is a knight she once knew. She immediately identifies herself as Arturia Pendragon, Queen of the Britons, and asks Berzerker do the same upon his pride as a knight.

Name yourself! You’re Berzerker class, so you can’t possibly be Sir Robin. And it’s just a hunch, but I don’t think you’re Sir-Not-Appearing-In-This-Anime…

Berzerker draws his sword, which seals away the identity-obscuring haze, and Saber gasps because she recognizes the weapon. It’s Arondight, sister sword to Caliburn, wielded by Sir Lancelot of the Lake! As recognition hits her, rage cracks his helmet in half, revealing that while he was quite the bishounen in life, pent-up anger has not been kind to him.

Well hello beautif-

Whooooaaaaaa. Disco Stu is peacing out.

“Why?” Saber asks, but all he can answer is a RAGEful cry of “AAAARRRRTTTTHHHHHUUUURRRR!” as he presses his attack, forcing her on the defensive.


Rider’s words echo back at Saber. How she saved her people, but never led them – they only saw her as a shield, but were never inspired by her. How she only existed as an ideal, but as such a paragon that no one was able to identify with her. A king like her could only be alone, and so Lancelot left.

Isn’t it sad, Saber?

Kudos to the voice acting though. You really hear the hurt in Saber’s voice as she realizes firsthand that even one of the first and foremost of her knights was so disgruntled with her rule that not only would he run away, but his rage made him eligible to be summoned as a Berzerker class. And the show doesn’t really go into this, but I think it’s supposed to be that since King Arthur was a (straight) woman, her marriage to Queen Guinevere was purely political and prevented Guinevere from being with Lancelot, her actual love. Arturia at the time didn’t think much of it – after all, to her it was merely a case of closing her eyes and thinking of England – but to Lancelot, this was the final straw of him seeing Arturia be this emotionless robot for “the realm”, which caused him to elope with Guinevere, which in turn kickstarted the war that led to Camelot’s fall.

Also because fucking Galahad, telling everyone I was gay ever since we left Castle Anthrax!

Meanwhile, inside Ionioi Hetairoi, Team Iskander continues their charge, but Gil is ready for them. “I applaud your zeal and the audacity of your dream of conquest…but all dreams end when the dreamer wakes.” Gil says, pulling out some…computer key thing? It generates a pink crystal lattice that collapses into a ball, that then becomes a sword.

Awaken, Ea! Enuma Elish!

So Enuma Elish is the title of the ancient Babylonian creation myth. In background materials, this is meshed with Gilgamesh’s status as the first epic mythological hero to be, literally, the “first sword”. The sword that existed before the concept of “sword” came into being. It is the only treasure in the Gate of Babylon that Gilgamesh sees fit to wield himself with his own hands.

Edged swords? Please, those are too mainstream for me.

Anyway, the Hipster Sword works its magic, opening up a chasm in the ground. Bucephalus leaps over it, but all around him the Marble disintegrates. Waver provides the much needed analysis that there are classes of Noble Phantasms – Lancer’s spears are anti-unit, Rider’s Ionian Hetairoi is anti-army, Saber’s Excalibur is anti-fortress, and Archer’s Enuma Elish is friggin’ anti-WORLD. Because it is the first creation myth, that gives it the ability to literally tear reality a new one and force Rider’s Ionian Hetairoi to collapse in on itself.

Entropy to the left of them, entropy to the right of them, entropy in front of them, into the jaws of oblivion rode the thirty-two thousand

Entire phalanxes crumble as the land beneath them turns into nothing, and their bodies in turn dissipate into mana as they return to the Throne of Heroes. It’s pretty hard to watch, especially since I’m going in with the expectation that this fight was going to be Gate of Babylon weapon-spam vs surging tide of hoplites, like the Pickett’s Charge sequence from the Gettysburg movie where you have the attackers massing up for one desperate final effort to take the objective against the defenders throwing everything they have in defense of the objective, resulting in a massive clash of wills that only ends when one side is one side is destroyed and the other horribly bled and wounded. Instead you have this total wipeout of Iskander’s army against something they literally are not able to fight. After all, the best spear and shield in the world does absolutely nothing against the ground swallowing you up into a bottomless pit.

h4x and OP. just…h4x and OP.

And judging from Iskander’s expression, it’s hard for him as well, since even though he’s not watching, he’s fully aware that his entire army, every single soldier of which are hardened badasses so tough that they are fully eligible to be summoned as Heroic Spirits themselves, got utterly destroyed without the chance to strike a single blow in anger…and soon they are dragged back into the real world.

Isn’t it sad, Rider?

Rider halts Bucephalus, having now been reduced to being a general with no army. He turns to Waver, saying that before he forgets, he needs to ask Waver something – boy, will you be my retainer? Waver says yes, of course, I will follow and serve you and share your dream! Rider is pleased at this, then picks Waver up and puts him on the ground. As king, Rider explains, it’s his duty to inspire others, so his last order to Waver is to live and tell others of Iskander’s charge so that he may continue to inspire. Rider then spurs Bucephalus on, sword drawn, facing the full Gate of Babylon. As he charges one last time, he notes internally he’s always told himself that glory is always beyond the horizon. That’s the beauty of his philosophy – since it’s always over the horizon, he can never reach it, thus spurring him to always improve. Legendary weapons rain down all around him.


Soon, Bucephalus is downed, but Iskander rolls off and continues charging, making it closer and closer even as more and more weapons find their mark. Soon he makes it to cutting range, and begins a swing…

Zeus Nike Brontopheros!

Anunna. Enki. Marduk. Tiamat. Ishtar. Tammuz. Your point?

Oh yeah, among the other weapons in Gil’s treasury, the chain that he used to bind the Bull of Heaven before killing it, named after his manfriend Enkidu who participated in the quest with him and was eventually struck down by divine illness for it. They hold Iskander’s limbs tight, preventing him from completing the downstroke. Iskander is impressed – Gil’s always got something up his sleeve.

So this is what defeat feels like…

Gil nods…and stabs him through with Enuma Elish.


“Have you awoken from your dream?” Gil asks. Iskander says yeah, he’s had enough. His heart danced quite a bit on this campaign, and it was a fun ride. As Iskander’s body disintegrates, Gil tells him to come back for a rematch anytime he wishes. So long as the world remains King Gilgamesh’s garden (that is, forever, duh), Iskander will never grow tired of it.

Go tell the Macedonians, passerby, that here, chasing the ocean, we lie.

In his last moments, Iskander hears the ocean, and realizes the sound of Oceanos’s waves was the beating of his own heart. That is, it wasn’t so important that he didn’t actually get to literally see the ocean, simply that the journey happened and it was a good and fulfilling one, such that he may die with no regrets.

Return to the Throne of Heroes, Iskander, King of Conquerors. Truly you have earned your place there.

Gil now begins walking towards Waver, sword in hand. “Are you his Master?” He asks. Waver, attempting to muster up as much balls as he can, replies that no, he is Iskander’s servant. Gil’s now intrigued. If that is the case, Gil says, then he has just struck down Waver’s lord. Does he not have a duty to avenge Iskander? Waver says no, because if he fights Gil, he will die, and he was ordered to live.

OMG WAVER please don’t be banking on Gil not striking down a helpless kid. He’s from thousands BC the age of majority was puberty back then!

Turns out that again, there are some things that Gil cares about. He turns away, commending Waver’s loyalty at not letting the words of others goad him into disobeying orders. So Gil has it in him to do secret tests of characters.

Hmm. Impressive.

Meanwhile, Kirei recites Psalm 23 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (no, not that one), I will fear no evil: For thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over. Rather appropriate, as this is interspersed with Waver mourning for his lost friend, Kariya crying out in agony from mana overuse, Arturia and Lancelot continuing their duel to the death, Kiritsugu finally arriving at the civic center for his final showdown, and golden light surrounding Irisviel as her body lays on a table.

Final Thoughts:

Holy crap, MANLY TEARS for Rider.

Rider is an…interesting character. He appeals to the blue/white-collar worker in all of us, the one who might have a pretty good petty bourgeoisie life but would seriously love the hell out of the idea of becoming the warlord of some place. Even if realistically our army of bros would probably get quashed by the local street gang of the first territory we try to conquer. Or if realistically it’s because there’s no more people like Rider that we can have our petty bourgeoisie life in the first place. But damn if it isn’t fun to dream sometimes, and Rider gives us that dream. We know from Fate/Stay Night that Rider has to die because Gil survived. But damn if the last charge of Alexander the Great wasn’t as awe-inspiring in this era as it was back in his lifetime.

Rider’s death episode segues nicely into the other parts of this ep, mainly Saber’s mistakes finally catching up with her as she realizes she failed so hard that one of her most trusted knights was driven away, as well as giving us a nice little bit of character development for Gilgamesh as we see that no, he’s not completely 100% the arrogant jerkass who just happens to be able to back up his talk. Much like Alexander was totally bros with his army, Gilgamesh had Enkidu, whose place in his heart no one would ever take again.

And in the end, both Rider and Waver’s development comes full circle, as both become individuals that even Gilgamesh, King of Heroes, will deign to respect.

Alexander the Great, King of Conquerors, this one is for you.

Let’s Watch Fate/Zero, Ep 22

February 28, 2013

All the Evil in the World

Waver is tired as he finally made it home. Grandpa MacKenzie waves to him from up on the roof and wants to talk to him. Waver doesn’t really want to, but Rider encourages him.

So Waver gets up, and Gramps tells him that it’s the best place to see the sunrise. He used to do it all the time, and when Waver didn’t come back, he figured he’d wait up on the roof for the sun to rise and his grandson to return. We find out when the MacKenzies first moved to Japan, they did it with the dream that they’d start a new life here, and eventually they’d end up with a house full of grandkids that they’d take stargazing every night, but their real grandkids never showed any interest. Huh. So he knew. Probably from quite a while ago, since he adds that he’s not sure why they were so convinced – Waver was too nice to be one of their kids.

Waver is now embarrassed and asks if Gramps is angry with the whole hypnosis thing. Old Mackenzie replies that he supposes he should be, except his wife’s been so happy since Waver’s been around, and he doesn’t seem to mean them any harm, so he’s okay if Waver sticks around for longer.

oh. my feels. all of them.

Waver apologizes, but he and Rider might be dead b the time this is all over. Gramps is somewhat surprised that it’s something they’re risking their lives for. He leaves Waver with the advice that while he doesn’t know what’s so important, but once you get to his age, you realize nothing more important than your own life.

And now I have a sad because this is really kind of like Gran Torino, except Grandpa MacKenzie isn’t Clint Eastwood, so instead of having a fearsome angryface and a sweet ride, he just has to settle for being reminded every day of the dream he had never coming to pass. And it takes Waver literally strolling in and brainwashing him and his wife to allow them to indulge in this fantasy for a couple months before it eventually has to end anyway.


Finger off the trigger when not shooting stuff. Yay gun safety!

It’s been 40 hours since Kiri slept. We learn that in order to call forth the grail, you have to do it at one of the four key ley lines intersections in the city. He hasn’t seen Kirei two of them, which leaves the temple and the civic center. He muses that had Maiya been alive, he could have stationed her at the civic center, but now he’s alone again. Then Saber shows up and he realized he’s never counted Saber as a teammate. Anyways, Saber’s scoured the city looking for Iri but found nothing. Cut to Kirei, who’s got Iri in a magic circle.

The opposite of a circle of life. So, a circle of death.

It’s in Caster’s Master’s old lair. The Grail War is about to end, Kirei says to Iri as she wakes up, and he’s probably going to win. Iri denies this, saying that Kirei’s forgetting about Kiritsugu, and how Kiritsugu has the advantage of being able to see right through Kirei, but Kirei doesn’t understand Kiritsugu at all. This riles Kirei up, and he begins choking Iri, ragefully asking her how they are different. To Kirei, they’re the same – they both do nothing but kill people, be it on the church’s orders or for money. But, he challenges, if they’re really so different, what does Kiritsugu want from the Grail?

Iri answers: World Peace.

No war, and no violence too. Seems hard to imagine, but it’s easy if you try.

Kirei dismisses it as naive, and Iri retorts that that’s why Kiritsugu is asking the Grail to do it. Since it requires such a radical alteration of the human condition, he knows that nothing short of a miracle will accomplish this. Thus, ask this reality warping artifact to rewrite reality such that there will be no more wars-

What’s that, Irisviel? You have a bone in your throat? Here, let me fix that for you.

Aaaaand necksnap. Alright, wasn’t quite expecting that. Looking up from his handiwork, Kirei announces that he now has a reason to fight – finally, he understands Emiya Kiritsugu, this mystery he had been struggling with since episode 1.

Back in the MacKenzie residence, Waver is sleeping while Rider reads…it looks like the book about himself? Waver stirs, and admonishes Rider, since he was supposed to wake him up at night, but Rider thought it’d be better if they waited and rested up. He has a feeling that everthing is going to end tonight. It’s only the powerful enemies left now…and a mana burst just flew from the sky.

It’s the magical equivalent of flares, and Waver notes that together, the spell out “Victory Achieved”? Can’t be from the church, based on trajectory, so it wasn’t the mediators deciding this, but rather someone’s getting uppity. It’s a challenge. Rider, naturally, decides to meet it. He calls upon Zeus’s lightning for his mount…

Hey, Rider, you don’t have a mount, your chariot got totaled by Saber remember?

OH SHIT IT’S BUCEPHALUS! The beloved horse of Alexander the Great, considered wild and untameable until a young Alex stepped in, wagered that he would either tame it or pay the horse dealer the full asking price, then proceeded to do so by observing that it was merely spooked by its own shadow and turned it towards the sun, calming it down enough for him to mount. From then on, Alexander and Bucephalus became entwined in legend, such that it was said the two were actually born and died on the same day. This also kickstarted the trend of conquerors being obliged to have a favorite horse, which is why Roman emperor Caligula held birthday parties for his own steed and wanted to make it a consul. According to Nasu, Becephalus itself is so famous that it actually qualifies as a Heroic Spirit – the King of Horses, as it were.

By decree of Bucephalus the Magnificent, *shades* the neighs have it. WHINNYYYYYEEEEEAAAAHHHHH

Granted, this does lead to the fridge logic of why didn’t he summon the horse so they could ride back, but yay history! Anyways, as Iskander saddles up, Waver raises his right hand. He’s using his first Command Spell to order Rider to be victorious. Well, Command Spells are able to provide a boost of power to allow a Servant to do things he might not otherwise be able to do, and this late in the game, might as well use them. This one’s a pretty specific order also, so the compulsion factor is raised as well. Waver commands him to be victorious. Wait, now he’s using another one to order Rider to obtain the Grail. And now he’s using his final spell to order Rider to conquer the world! Oh shit, in a lovely culmination of characterization, Waver just used all his Command Spells, effectively freeing Rider from his summoning contract as well as freeing himself from the Grail Wars! The Grail, proving his theories, everything, it’s no longer so important as living his life the way *he* wants to, rather than than letting it be ruled by the opinions of others. Go on, Rider! Do the things you want!

Like Frankie said, do it your way! Just live while you’re alive!

…and then Rider picks him up and sticks him in the saddle again. Hell yeah Bro-Rider! You are no longer my Master, he tells Waver, but you are my friend. Join me on this excellent adventure!

My feels, they are melting.

As are Waver’s, he’s even doing the Hinata-fingers!


Now that they finally made their relationship official, Rider’s first order to Waver is to simply sit tight and watch him kick ass.

Ride into the danger zone!

Meanwhile, in the MacKenzie residence, Grandpa MacKenzie is smiling…

Urgh. Dammit show, my feels can’t take it!

Kiritsugu recognizes that whoever launched the flares chose the worst possible place to hold the Grail summoning ritual – the Civic Center. I guess the point is that thinking that due to heavy muggle presence, it will force the other Masters to pull their punches, so Kirei can use Archer to kill all the other Masters from range? Although Kiritsugu can’t possibly have known about all that, unless at some point it was relayed to him that Kirei is still sufficiently in the game for him to piece the backstabbing together and…meh. He figures the best thing he can do is just attack head-on.

Cut to Gil, who is amused at how fierce Kirei looks. So what’s the plan, he asks. Kirei figures that unleashing Gil’s powers at close range might damage the Grail, so if he wants to go all out for this final fight, stay far away. Gil raises an eyebrow. What if you’re attacked, he asks. Kirei, demonstrating more EQ than Tokiomi, responds with “I’ll use a Command Spell”, but phrases it as a “if you don’t mind” kind of request, to which Gil acquiesces. He’s a little disappointed though that Kirei still doesn’t really have a wish beyond “let the fight be uninterrupted.” As Gil exits, he advises Kirei that if both Berserker and Saber show up, let the two of them fight it out, and also asks about what happened to Irisviel.

Kirei shrugs. I killed her. NBD.


Hello, nightmare fuel!

Cut to Iri comforting Ilya by her bedside. Oh, are we inside Iri’s head? Ilya had a bad dream – she turned into a cup with seven lumps inside OH GOD SHE’S A HOMUNCULUS TOO. Iri comforts her that everything will be okay, Kiritsugu will make his wish and she won’t have to worry about it and OH GOD ONE OF THE IRI CORPSES JUST SMILED.

Sweet dreams!

A shadow envelops everything, and hands begin to drag Iri into it.


We end with Iri realizing that she’s somehow inside the Grail, and it’s not at all what she expected.

Final Thoughts:

Well. This show finally figured out how to do downtime. Good deal of character development for Team Rider. We see Waver grow from the young boy who wants to be recognized to a more mature adult who’s learned to decide for himself what is important in life. We’re also seeing him grow apart from the traditional mage mentality of being so superior to muggles – he didn’t really give two thoughts about hypnotizing an old couple into thinking he’s their long lost grandson, but now he actually ends up feeling bad about it, and really, this would have been a more effective way of doing “mages are jerks!” than that bit with Kiritsugu’s dad, but I digress. More importantly, we also see Rider himself change from the cocksure King of Conquerors to someone who’s learned to be more introspective of himself. It’s a subtle process, but contrast how he was at the beginning – certain his way is the correct way and derisive of Saber’s approach to kingship – to how he is now – more withdrawn and methodical. Especially given the events of the last episode, where he finally pitted his style of kingship against Saber’s to surprising results. Iskander cast his Gordius Wheel, the chariot representing his drive for conquest, against Saber’s Excalibur, the representation of all the hopes of everyone who believed in King Arthur’s protection, and the followers’ desire for safety utterly vaporized the soldiers’ desire for more stuff. And coming from the era of might makes right, Rider has to concede that Saber, at the very least, has a point here. After all, their approaches to kingship aren’t necessarily exclusive – Iskander’s historical fondness for leading charges from the front is pretty similar to Arturia’s need to be the paragon, and it’s really only Arturia’s belief in leaving others alone versus Iskander’s use of conquest as motivation for his subordinates that is their main difference.

The inclusion of Waver’s fake family is a nice touch, showing that life goes on outside the scope of these mages and their secret war. It’s also a good developing moment for Waver, and squares with Rider’s earlier advice to him that nobody said the Grail War had to be the most important thing in his life. Indeed, he made an old couple happy for a few months, and that’s always worthwhile, right? And on a personal level, that hit me in the feels. See, my parents went to the US to pursue higher education and employment opportunities, so from up until I was six, my maternal grandparents took care of me. And then I came here to the US with them, and they returned to China. And so every time I go back, I’m visiting my grandparents, but at the same time there’s not so much a cultural gap as just an experience gap. I grew up here in middle class household going through American public education and American college. They lived through like the Japanese occupation of China and the Chinese Civil War and the establishment of the People’s Republic and the Great Leap Forward and the Mass Campaigns and the Cultural Revolution and the Deng reforms and…well, it’s hard to connect. And I feel bad that it’s hard to connect, because I feel like I owe them a lot for bringing me up in my formative years. And it’s worse when I visit my dad’s side of the family, because I never really met them as much. It feels pretty terrible when I’m sweeping my paternal grandfather’s tomb on Qingming, because apparently he was a really smart and cultured guy, but I never got to know him. So…the MacKenzies’ grandkids, who eventually grew so far from their grandparents that Waver being nice was a sign that he’s probably not their real grandkids? Ending up like that, not even purposefully but on accident, is a real fear of mine.

So I’m gonna think happy thoughts about the Asian kid who got Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino in, well, Gran Torino.

Until next ep.