Archive for November, 2012

Let’s Watch Fate/Zero, Ep 9

November 23, 2012

Flashback from Lancer – ooh, myth time!


I’ve watched enough soap operas to know where this is going…

Fionn mac Cumhaill, the legendary warrior hero, leader of the Fianna, is betrothed to the lady Grainne, but at the wedding party she sees Diarmuid’s love spot and falls for him. A series of cutscenes of Diarmuid in a battle appears, interspersed with their eloping, Fionn being angry, Fionn outwardly saying he accepts their love, and Fionn inwardly saying he’ll never forgive Diarmuid. The two threads converge on Diarmuid falling on a battlefield.

And then Kayneth wakes up, realizing he has for whatever reason just had a very vivid dream in which he experienced Diarmuid’s legend.

Wiki-supplement – in legend, Fionn mac Cumhaill led a band of warriors called the Fianna as they ran around adventuring. Diarmuid was the first and foremost of the Fianna, Fionn’s number two as it were. One day while hunting he met a woman who was the personification of youth, and they slept together, and in the morning she left a spot on his head such that any woman looking upon it would fall in love with him. Cut to later – Grainne was the daughter of the high king Cormac mac Airt, who promised her to Fionn, but by this time Fionn was an old man and so she fell in love with Diarmuid who was still youthful and was entranced by his love spot. She laid a geis on him to compel him to elope with her, and they were pursued by the rest of the Fianna until the god Aengus who was Diarmuid’s foster father got Fionn to make peace with the couple. Years later, however, Fionn invited Diarmuid to a boar hunt. The boar gored Diarmuid fatally. Water drunk from Fionn’s hands had the ability to heal, but Fionn found himself unable to truly forgive Diarmuid. Thrice he carried the water from the river to where Diarmuid lay, but thrice he allowed it to spill out before it reached him, until his own sons threatened him at swordpoint to play fair.


But by then it was too late.

On a side note, I feel like Irish heroes are always at a disadvantage in these things, because Irish mythology has this thing called a “geis” (no, not that one) which is a compunction spell that seemingly anyone can lay on people, and breaking the geis results in bad mojo. Diarmuid got a geis put on him to make him elope with Grainne. The Lancer of Fate/Stay Night, Cu Chulainn, died because he had mutually conflicting geis put on him, one that said he couldn’t refuse food offered to him and one that forbade him from eating dog. Guy died because he rejected the affections of the war goddess Morrigan, who transformed herself into an old woman, placed herself in his path on his way to a major battle, and offered him a pot of dog stew, and the breaking of geis weakens him enough that he died there. So any time you summon someone like Diarmuid or Cu Chulainn, they’re always going to be weak to their original geis, whereas if you summon someone like Heracles or Hou Yi, they don’t really have any myth weaknesses to take advantage of.

Lancer’s memories are a little different from the orthodox interpretation of the myth, since here it looks like Fionn just put Diarmuid in a position to die easy in a normal battle and didn’t do anything to help him, but hey, maybe those historians were the ones who got it wrong, hmm? Kayneth tries to get up, and he finds himself strapped to a cot as Sola arrives. She explains that every magic circuit in his body was shorted out, and he’ll never cast a spell again.


Isn’t it sad, Kayneth?

She continues to comfort him, saying that they haven’t been defeated yet, they’re still in the game, and the Holy Grail can surely grant his abilities back. Alright, this is totally going in the direction I thought –

She then asks him to give her his command spells, so they’ll win.

Never mind, not the direction I thought.

Kayneth is like, “WHAT NO”. Oh Malfoy, still trying to hold on to your pride, but for some reason I’m feeling bad for making fun of him now that he’s all bedridden and stuff. And Sola’s all like, “don’t you trust me?” Kayneth questions whether Lancer will be loyal to her, but she shrugs it off. He continues to warn that Lancer isn’t as admirable as she thinks, flashing back to the Love Spot and Sola’s reactions, and argues that when he first summoned Lancer, Lancer said he has no interest in the Grail, and what kind of Servant answers the call for a Grail War without wanting anything from the Grail?

Segue – okay, now I’m somewhat confused. Saber seems to insinuate that all heroes who are summonable for the Grail Wars are here because they want something from the Grail, and generally they think that they’re able to get the Grail to grant their wish instead of their Master’s somehow. But what if you tried summoning a hero who didn’t have any regrets upon death? Or is it there’s a pool of heroes who are summonable, and the Grail War participants generally know who is available and so only summon those guys? Anyways…Sola grabs his hand, caresses it…


OH GAWD FINGERS DON’T BEND THAT WAY

In an incredibly sweet and calm voice which just heightens the creepy factor, she informs him that he has no choice. Her healing powers has limits, and if she can’t get his his fingers one by one, then the only option left to her is to remove his entire arm.


Damn bitch that’s cold.

Cut to Einzbern mansion. Maiya’s still hurt as Iri heals. Saber approaches, asking her to ask Kiritsugu to authorize prioritizing Caster. Saber’s concern is stopping the childmurder, even though she’s still wounded. Iri nods as she opens the door to meet Kiritsugu, who asks how long before they can use Maiya (those exact words). He goes to finish Kayneth off, predicts that she is going to ask to prioritize Caster. And we get our first real “long game vs short term”/”honor vs pragmatism” conflict, as he cuts off Irisviel by saying that Saber might have trusted Lancer not to kill him, but she could not have known whether Lancer would have kept his word so it was still a bad idea, and saving a few dozen children is highly meaningless when the goal is the win the Grail War.

So, right now, there is starting to be a problem with Kiritsugu and Kirei’s motives being too vague. All we know is that Kiritsugu has “ideals” and that he wants to “save the world” – but what does that mean exactly? Is he going to ask the Grail for world peace? Stop the internecine Grail Wars altogether? What does that even mean? I’m a very big-picture guy, and I’m starting to find it hard to sympathize with Kiritsugu because they’ve been giving him some moments intended to be kick-the-dog (blowing up the hotel, letting Saber hang back to ambush the Masters going after Caster, and now this “a couple dead kids ain’t nothing but a thing” moment), and they’re not really showing us what exactly was given up. Kirei gets somewhat of a pass because he himself doesn’t even know what he wants. And really, if it was something like Saber’s wounds still aren’t healed which means the job isn’t finished which is why Kiritsugu needs to take care of Kayneth once and for all, then that would be ok, but as it is, we need to see what exactly the opportunity cost of not saving the children is supposed to be before we can feel at least some measure of justification for Kiritsugu’s actions here.

Cut to Sola, beckoning Lancer over. Lancer is concerned about his Master, so Sola’s attempts to get Lancer to take her as his Master aren’t very successful, even when she then shows her new command spells to Lancer. But, Lancer says he’s sworn fealty to Kayneth already, and he can’t serve two lords.

Oh God, he’s here because he just wants to serve someone loyally for once isn’t he.

Lancer is about to walk away, but then Sola tries a different tack, pointing out that the Grail is their only shot of healing Kayneth. Faced with this, he agrees.

See, now I really feel bad for them. The fact that F/SN happened means they’re not going to get their wish, at all.

But Lancer’s still somewhat suspicious (which you should be if the woman who just two episodes prior was busting hubby’s balls in front of you now says she’s only doing something for hubby), so he asks her to swear that this is only for helping Kayneth, and she does.

Oh Lancer, it’s about time you realize that not everyone takes their word as seriously as they did in your time. You get imprinted with knowledge of the modern era when you get summoned for the Grail War (specifically to avoid stuff like ancient people getting freaked out by these “metal horseless chariots” or protectors of some ancient kingdom suffering a BSOD upon realizing their kingdom doesn’t exist any more), it really shouldn’t come at a surprise to you.

Sola departs, and Lancer realizes she had the same look as Grainne. We get introspection, and we learn that Lancer feels fate has been unkind. He just wants to be loyal in this era to make up for his biggest error, but now it looks like the same thing is happening, with him supposed to be loyal to Fionn/Kayneth, but their woman Grainne/Sola fell in love with them, and laying a geis/using a command spell to make him loyal to them instead.

Called it!


congratu-fackin-lations

Oh.

Ah.

Poor Lancer. I feel so bad for this guy. Not only is he mistrusted by the guy who he swore loyalty to, but now he’s put in this situation…and because Gilgamesh and Kirei survived into Fate/Stay Night, I know he’s not going to have the happiest of endings.

Lancer, when you go, I will shed a manly tear for you.

Mood whiplash time!


A very appropriate image considering I watched this ep on Thanksgiving

Cut to RIder, who is laughing with some…old dude? And they’re getting drunk together? Ah, Waver’s fake parents are back! They’re all like “Waver, I didn’t know you were bringing a guest, or we would have prepared more food!” But Rider is all like “no worries, home-cooked hospitality is best hospitality!”

YAY ANCIENT GREECE REFERENCE

(Ancient Greeks were like the ur-example of the concept of hospitality being sacred. Once you admit a man into your home and break bread with him/are accepted into someone’s home and break bread with them, you are honor bound to be on your best behavior. Causing any sort of harm, be it stealing stuff/wives/murdering them, earns you a lifetime of accursedness and an afterlifetime in Tartarus.)


Rider is happy because fake!dad also gave him some pants! Although togas allow for more airflow.

Waver is annoyed, however, and breaks open a briefcase and goes to work. He’s broken out a map and vials containing water collected from the river running through the city, and does some alchemy to detect traces of magic in the water. Rider wonders why he’s doing that, and Waver replies that since the river runs through the city, each vial contains water from a certain point, and by following the flow, he can isolate where the magic residue is strongest, which is at least a start in giving them a lead on where Caster might be.


One vial from each location


test the magic content from each

Starting from downstream where the river empties and moving up, magic content will steadily increase until you hit the location where Caster is hiding, at which point it will be zero because there’s no one dumping magic into the water.

YAY SMART PEOPLE FIGHTING SMART


Hermione approves.

And so does Iskander, who is taken aback and thinks that maybe his Master is actually a talented mage after all. Waver replies that nope, a real master mage would do something completely different. This is just the simplest way to do stuff.

This turns out to impress Iskander even more, because as any real strategist will tell you, this thing that fiction does where someone is supposed to be a supersmart guy because he has these intricate complicated strategies that go off without a hitch is utter bullshit. They will also tell you that “no plan survives contact with the enemy”, and what you need to do is give a couple of big-picture  mission statements for your field officers to determine how to carry them out to achieve the desired results so you can actually have the flexibility to respond to changing conditions. Amon the Equalist a magnificent bastard? Heath Ledger Joker a chessmaster? HA. Call me when they fight someone who’s not artificially dumbed down and can actually throw some wrenches in their plans, and then we’ll talk. The KISS principle applies to many things, most notably the business world, but also warfare.

So fuck yeah Iskander being a tactician. And he’s excited because his Master did something useful – the method worked, and now they’ve zeroed in on Caster’s location. So excited that he’s now taking Waver on a ride through the sewers and running over tentacle monsters. They break through the walls and find Caster’s lair, but then Rider suddenly stops. Waver wonders why, but Rider simply says it’s better if Waver doesn’t see. His massive sexily-muscled back provides gory discretion shot. I guess it’s dead babies? Anyway, Waver ignores, throwing magic pills that double as flares. He continues forward, when he suddenly stops upon realizing he’s been stepping not in water, but in blood.


Isn’t it sad, Waver?

Waver falls to his knees and vomits as he starts to realize just what he got himself into. Iskander comforts him, saying he’d pummel anyone who can look at it without flinching. Yay acknowledgement of ancient Greek mores! Back then, it was actually considered manly to cry – you can look at pretty much every single epic poem and find some instance of the hero crying when appropriate. Tears meant you weren’t psycho, that you actually gave a shit, that you were confident enough in your manliness to show emotion. Waver calls him out for being so calm, but Rider is clearly seething on the inside as he steps off…and deflects an attack from Assassin, catching blade and throwing it into its head.

Waver now knows that Assassin isn’t quite dead, and a bunch of them appear, but then they retreat. Alex, knowing that a dark underground place filled with cover is where Assassin-class Servants have the advantage, advocates a tactical withdrawal as well. But before they go, they destroy the place instead. Thunder erupts from the chariot, a fitting power for a Noble Phantasm supposedly granted by Zeus himself, and sets the place ablaze. They go, knowing that in destroying the lair, at least they set Caster back.


The Bro-Rider is a little higher

Tokiomi reassures Kirei that it’s okay that Team Rider knows that Assassin is around. Just be more careful, and keep more eyes on them, but don’t be too overt – after all, battles still need to be fought with dignity, while Kirei flashes back to Gil complaining about how Tokiomi is insufferable.

Tokiomi you are so screwed.


You know nothing, Tokiomi Tohsaka.

Thoughts:

So this is another breather/post-battle aftermath episode. It’s far superior to the previous one, because in addition to licking wounds and settling down, stuff actually happens. In episode 6, the only thing really moving the plot forward was Kiritsugu bombing Kayneth’s hotel, with everything else setting stuff up several episodes down the road – Saber knowing that Caster thinks she’s Jeanne d’Arc which ultimately didn’t pan out into anything happens there, the rocky nature of Kayneth and Sola’s relationship is set up a little bit there, and the inevitable end that leads to Kirei and Gilgamesh surviving until Fate/Zero is alluded there – but aside from the last one the other two don’t really impact the plot.

Here, however, they set up point of future conflict between Kiritsugu and Saber with K’s incessant pursuit of Kayneth and Saber’s desire to stop the childmurder. The cooling action with Team Lancer lets you know that future actions from them are going to be a tad bit rocky as Sola’s desire to assert control and tap that hot Irish ass clash with Diarmuid’s desire to be loyal to someone for once, which works as parallelism with Kiritsugu’s unflagging pragmatism against Saber’s desire for honorable combat and chivalry and whatnot. In addition, stuff is accomplished with Team Rider destroying Caster’s lair, and Waver getting success at his simple solution also works in parallel with Kiritsugu’s dismantling of traditional magi using muggle methods.

This episode truly gave me the feels for…all the characters, really. There’s this sense of tragic fatalism as the series go on, because by its very nature, 6/7ths of all the characters are going to meet a violent end, yet they fight on so unflaggingly (except Caster) is just so…sad.

Until next ep.

Let’s Watch Fate Zero, Ep 8

November 22, 2012

Irisviel is in the forest, Maiya watching over her (since the plan was for her to take Irisviel away while Kiritsugu fights Kayneth). Irisviel’s mage senses tingle and find someone…right in front of them. it’s Kirei! Maiya notes that Kiritsugu told her to protect Irisviel, but also that they can’t let Kirei find him, since Kiritsugu is the real Master. Irisviel kind of sort of hints that maybe Maiya’s saying this because she too has feelings for Kiritsugu, while to her Iri is the third wheel…huh, does she know about the kiss? But then Iri agrees that they have to keep Kirei from Kiritsugu.

Attagirl Iri. Your feels can wait until after the Grail War. If either or both of you go down, the Einzberns still have a Master in the Game, but if Kiritsugu goes down, it’s game over man, game over. Girl’s got her on the prize, which already puts her above like 90% of all fiction protags..


Iri is simultaneously concerned about, amused at, and rolling with your sudden but inevitable betrayal.

Back in the house, it’s a recap of the last episode’s ending. Volumen Hydragyrum used Barrier, defense rose; M950 Calico used Bullet Spam, it’s not very effective. Kiritsugu recalls M950 Calico; Kiritsugu sends out Thompson Contender. Thompson Contender used .308 Winchester, and BAM CRITICAL HIT and SUPER EFFECTIVE!


SHOT THROUGH THE HEART AND YOU’RE TO BLAME / YOU GIVE MAGES A BAD NAME

According to Type-MOON wikia, Volumen Hydragyrum’s default setting for the barrier mode only uses the optimum amount of defense for any given attack, so if you make it think that it’s only getting hit by attacks of X strength and suddenly hit it with an attack of 2X strength, it will go through. Hence the SMG barrage to keep Volumen Hydragyrum’s defense rating at a certain level so that it couldn’t react in time against an attack with a higher armor-piercing rating. Kayneth is super pissed while Kiritsugu runs away.

YAY SMART PEOPLE FIGHTING SMART

Alright, so the “anti-magic bullet” prediction wasn’t really the case, but I was half right.


Congratu-fucking-lations.

Cut to the forest. Kirei is in the forest when he detects weapon fire. He dodges and throws a set of knives at the direction, and the shooting stops. Suddenly, it comes from another direction, and he does the same. Third time’s the charm, however, and he realizes it’s an illusion. Soon he finds the real Maiya, however, and rushes her with his swords as she pulls out a knife and prepares to melee.

Unfortunately for Maiya, Kirei’s kung fu is superior.


So…since when did the Church train their priests in bajiquan?

Irisviel summons up threads of light that she weaves into a hard light construct of an eagle. It attacks Kirei, who punches it, but it simply dissolves into a mass of string that first ties up his arms, then binds him to a tree. The girls get a breather, but Kirei then starts one-inch punching the tree, eventually breaking it as well as the threads.


Nice “not impressed” face…oh, you and Gil are going to get along just swimmingly.

Cut to Saber and Lancer, surrounded by the tentacle monsters, who keep replenishing as they’re cut down. Caster’s managed to revert to Episode 6 levels of insanity, seemingly adopting the attitude of “if you won’t admit you’re my beloved Jeanne d’Arc, then DIE”. Saber IDs the problem – Caster’s grimoire. As long as he holds it, the monsters will keep summoning. Lancer wonders how they’ll cut through and get to Caster when they’ve been failing so far, but Saber gets an idea. Taking advantage of both Saber’s offensive power and wind magic, and Lancer speed and Noble Phantasm, she first shoots a blast of cutting wind at Caster, clearing a brief path for Lancer to run towards Caster and stab him right in the book with Gae Dearg. As the anti-magic spear hits the grimoire, the tentacle monsters disappear.


Right in the weak point for massive damage

Malfoy Mad!  He goes on a rampage through the Einzbern house, destroying everything he can see while demanding that Kiritsugu come out and fights like a mage. Kiritsugu obliges (sort of), stepping out and shooting at Kayneth with his SMG. Kayneth laughs, saying the same tactic won’t work twice. He’s maxed out the defense on his shield, see, but Kiritsugu’s grin as he pulls out the Contender, however, indicates that 1. it wasn’t the same tactic and 2. it will. He pulls the trigger and the shield retracts as it takes the bullet.

Caster retreats now that he has no access to his Noble Phantasm, and Saber curses his cowardice, but as things wind down, she and Lancer are melancholic as they realize they must now finish their duel. Suddenly, Lancer’s Servant-senses tingle as he realizes that his Master’s in trouble and that Kayneth must have gone to fight Kiritsugu. Saber wants to finish their duel honorably, so she lets him go.

Cut to flashback!


Strange women smoking in alleys distributing bullets are also no basis for a system of government.

Some smoking green-haired mage lady (that is, a lady who is partaking in tobacco, not an exceedingly sexy one, though she does look like she has a decent body from the angle shown) explains some magical theory, and then notes that she has created special bullets for Kiritsugu, created by taking his own ribs and grinding them up, thus imbuing them with his “Origin” (whatever that is) of “severing and binding”. 66 (lolnumber) of these were created in return for taking his “Mystic Code” (whatever that is) as payment. If he shoots someone with it, and they try to block it with magic, it’ll kill their magic circuits, and the stronger the mage and magic, the worse the damage. The results when Kayneth is shot with it are…suitably horrific, as his veins bulge, he vomits blood, his face becomes a rictus of pain, and he collapses to the ground, writhing for better part of a minute before laying still.

…wait, so it’s an anti-magic bullet?

FUCKING CALLED THAT SHIT


congratu-fucking-latiaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuggggggghhhhhhh…..

Lancer shows up before Kiritsugu can finish Kayneth off with his SMG, however, deflecting the bullets with his spear. They leave, Lancer warning that the only reason he didn’t just spear Kiritsugu right then and there is on the honor of the King of Knights.

Lancer…if that was supposed to shame Kiritsugu into fighting honorably, you clearly know nothing about how people like that work. Guys like that, they don’t care about themselves. They’re willing to be the monster in the shadows so everyone else can live in the sun. Personal shame? What’s another sin on one’s own back if others may live in paradise for it? At least your Master did that thing where Sola-Ui is an alternate mana supply, or else you’d totally be fading right now.

Kiritsugu looks outside and sees Kirei choking a bitch. Specifically, his. Kirei figured out that Iri isn’t the Master and that she’s a homunculus created by the Einzberns to protect the grail or something. Assassin informs Kirei that Saber’s about to show up, so he retreats, but not before stomping Maiya and stabbing Iri.


Irisviel, you have now earned your place among the strong female characters of my mind. Going head to head against the guy who punched out the designated Fighter when you’re the Healer Chick? This is krogan-worthy.

As he goes, he wonders why they’d fight him on his own free will despite knowing they’d probably die. Irisviel faints, then wakes up to the sight of Saber applying pressure to her stab wound.

Flashback!


Excalibur’s sheath, the artifact that was used to summon Saber

Kiritsugu gave Irisviel Avalon (which is what they’re calling Excalibur’s scabbard. The original myth has it where Excalibur’s scabbard heals wounds, while Avalon was Arthur’s final resting place, but here they’ve combined the two along with the implication that it was lost to her at some point) to implant inside her. Here, the properties are that it will heal wounds as long as Saber is close by to provide mana to the Noble Phantasm. Since the strategy was for everyone to think Irisviel is the Master while Kiritsugu snipes from afar, Avalon isn’t really useful to him, so it’s meant to increase Irisviel’s livability as well as keep up the pretense. As soon as Saber touched her, she became strong enough to heal Maiya. As both women come to, they reaffirm their will to fight – they will win next time!

Also, they’ve kept the fact that they had one of Saber’s Noble Phantasms all along a secret from her. Hmm, there’s no way this could come back to bite them in the ass.

Final thoughts:

So..we have a Love Triangle. I have to admit, Legend of Korra and Hunger Games has pretty much turned me off on the entire concept due to how utterly shallow and undeveloping the love triangles there are, but this one is actually not making me hate it upon first sight. Probably because the love here are given exactly the amount of screentime they need to remind you of them, show you just enough to make you want to know more, and hint at character motivations more complex than “you had me at hello”. We are shown initially that Kiritsugu is generally a stoic and taciturn man not given to emotion, but we find out he does love Irisviel, enough to marry her and have a daughter with her and consider just quitting the Grail War and living a peaceful life with them. This little romance bit tells you that there’s more to Kiritsugu than his initial appearance. We are later shown that Maiya also has feelings for Kiritsugu, enough that a kiss from her to calm his nerves is considered a reasonable thing, which tells makes us wonder what that history was and whether Iri knows. Basically, every little tidbit we found out about the various legs of the triangle added a little something to the characters. We learned that Kiritsugu is not so stoic as to feel nothing for the women in his life, that Maiya is not so slavishly devoted to Kiritsugu as to not creatively interpret orders and changing battlefield conditions to suit her needs, and that Irisviel, while the most stereotypically feminine of everyone we’ve seen so far, is just as mission focused as anybody.

Contrast Korra’s triangle, which more or less existed as an extraneous tumor that told you close to nothing about the characters involved and did not advance the A-plot in any way at all. Bolin likes Korra based on love-at-first-sight and exactly one date where they discover personality compatibility. Korra likes Mako because love-at-first-sight at the cool handsome hard-to-get probender. Mako likes Asami because love-at-first-sight at the pretty lady (it’d have added some nuance if it was also because she was rich and while he might have liked Korra more he feels like he has a responsibility to pull him and his brother out of poverty, but oh wait we did this for the shippers anyway so who cares if there’s layers right?). Asami likes Mako because love-at-first-sight at the guy who plays the sport that she likes. And it never evolves beyond initial infatuation love. Bolin was the goofy jokes guy, Korra was the awkward tomboy main char, Mako was the sexy brother, and Asami was the somewhat well-adjusted lady before the shipping episode. Nothing changed after the episode, and it didn’t reveal anything new about them other than Mako is a scumbag who will forget about Asami because thirteen episodes ran out and we have to give Korra someone to kiss at the end.

In addition, Fate/Zero knows when to the love triangle needs to make way for awesome stuff. Really, in an underground war magic series, who gives a shit about love triangles when you have King Arthur fighting Diarmuid Ua Duibhne and Alexander the Great and then Gilgamesh and some mystery knight who I’m going to milk for as many Monty Python and the Holy Grail references as I can? If you cut the romantic conflict out of Fate/Zero, you lose a little bit of relatively minor characterization (at least, from what I’ve seen so far) from characters who’ve been pretty well developed already. If you cut the romantic conflict out of Korra, you not only lose absolutely nothing, but now you gain screentime that could have been devoted to developing the characters, or worldbuilding, or advancing the plot, or a host of other actual meaningful things.

The other takeaway is a continuation of smart people fighting smart. So now we have a sorting algorithm of smartness which apparently goes Saber – Kayneth – Kiritsugu. In episode 4, Kayneth and Lancer were completely controlling the flow of battle by doing a gradual escalation of their powers to repeatedly stay one step ahead of Saber – first fighting normally to probe her out, then using only one Noble Phantasm to injure Saber and make her ditch her magic armor, then using the second one to inflict real damage. Here you see Kiritsugu doing the exact same thing that Kayneth did, but with guns – probing and testing with normal firearms, making Kayneth think he’s only capable of so much damage with the Calico, then suddenly switching to the Contender to land that first hit. When Kayneth thinks he has the counter to the Contender, he then switches to the Origin bullet and completely fucks Kayneth up. Really, we’re seeing parallelism here – both Kiritsugu and Kayneth are smart people, with Kiritsugu’s dismantling of Kayneth mapping almost exactly to Kayneth/Lancer’s dismantling of Saber.

Through it all, I must stress that Kayneth’s not a dumb guy, he’s only hampered by a general disdain for muggle methods which is completely understandable when you consider that it was only a few decades ago when tech could actually catch up to magic, and only in terms of combat – magic healing is far superior to modern medical tech, and if you’ve ever been about to leave the house but could not find your keys or your wallet and have to spend like 10 minutes looking for them, well, just remember that for all our advances in technology we still don’t have accio down pat. And now, Kayneth’s not even out of the game because of the modification he made to the summoning contract.

One final thing – a criticism I’ve held for works I otherwise like, such as Korra, Dark Knight trilogy, Mass Effect 3, and more recently Skyfall is that they fall into the trap of making their villains too effective usually coming at the cost of making the hero and their allies artificially incompetent. Cerberus, for example, is only able to effect the plot to the extent it does because, among other things, Thane Krios fought like a moron and Kai Leng’s gunship is invulnerable to anti-materiel rifles (which brought down gunships enough in the previous game, mind). The Equalists only enjoy as many successes as they do because people in the Avatarverse forget that their bending is literally the exact same as real-life martial arts with an added bonus of being able to throw their attacks and because metalbenders forgot that they had to have known how to earthbend normally before they could metalbend in the first place. Writers could stand to learn from the Beast Wars cartoon – that Megatron was a threat not because he always succeeded, but because every time he failed, he was constantly searching for some new opening in the situation that could be exploited, controlling the flow of battle by constantly seeking new opportunities. Or from Fate/Zero, where if people have the edge, it’s because they prepared extensively using only what knowledge they had at their disposal, such as someone deciding they want a second mana supply because you can’t ever have too much mana, or they want to specialize in mage-killing and thus purposefully create Origin bullets for that purpose. Kayneth was not anticipating getting his magic circuits severed. Kiritsugu was not anticipating fighting a Holy Grail War for some other magic family. Yet both preparations now served an additional unforeseen purpose, thus making both characters seem intelligently prepared instead of crazy prepared.

The former is good pretty much anywhere. The latter is bad if a work is supposed to be “gritty” or “realistic” or “grounded”, because since when were crazy people grounded?

Until next ep.

Let’s Watch Fate Zero 7

November 20, 2012

Muggle law enforcement shows up at the burnt out hotel site and discovers a giant ball of mercury. Captain, despite everything that high school chemistry tells you not to do, touches it. There’s a shot of enchantment, and he’s ensnared, repeated “we must move it” over and over. Looks like Malfoy isn’t so dead after all.


Strange thing that you’ve never seen before in your life and have no idea what it does? Touch it.

Head priest (who I am remember just now is named Risei) announces that because Caster’s actions put the Grail War in jeopardy by his disregard for the masquerade, he is calling on all the Masters to put aside their fights and focus their efforts on eliminating Caster. The one to do so will receive extra Command Spells – unsused ones left over from previous Grail Wars that are LITERALLY FILLING UP HIS ARM like that one time I had too much to drink and the Asian Glow was getting all up on my arm like it was Zerg creep.


That arm must weigh as much as, like, twenty ducks.

Priest’s closing lines indicate two things – he knows everyone is spying on the church, and El-Melloi isn’t dead, as there are five familiars around, and both Tokiomi Tohsaka and Kirei Kotomine are on his side so they don’t need to spy. After the announcement, he psy-links to Tokiomi, agreeing that the plan is to let others soften Caster up before sending Gilgamesh in for the kill so no one gets the extra Command Spells. They are generally counting on Lancer, as Kayneth has already used up a Command Spell and so is at a disadvantage unless he can replenish them somehow.

I should mention that the Church’s angle mentioned in Ep 1 which I didn’t realize was all that important until Kirei showed up again was that they’ve always been the mediators of the Grail War, but something happened in the Third War that made them think the Grail being summoned isn’t the actual Holy Grail, so Kirei’s supposed to ally with Tokiomi to investigate this. So for motives, we got:

1. Kiritsugu Emiya – officially to reverse the Einzbern family fortune, privately to ask the Grail to “achieve his ideals” (which I’m going to assume is to “save the world”).
2. Tokiomi Tohsaka – find “the Root” (whatever that is)
3. Kayneth Archibald El-Melloi – for the honor and prestige
4. Waver Velvet – to prove himself
5. Kariya Matou – to save his niece
6. Kirei Kotomine – to find out what’s going on with the Holy Grail
7. Uryu Rinnosuke – no reason, having happened on the war by accident.

One of these motivations is not like the other and is not compelling at all – three guesses as to which one, and the first two don’t count.

Cut to the “MacKenzie residence” – a delivery guy shows up with a package for one “Iskander, King of Conquerors” – Rider can order Amazon! Oh wait, 90s – I guess it’s Japan’s version of FedEx or UPS? Turns out he went and bought himself a t-shirt with a world map on it and is now happy because he can wear his future conquest on his chest.


Bro-Rider, never change.

Waver is annoyed because he told Rider to stay inside, but Rider protests that 1. he didn’t go outside, he tried out that newfangled “mail order” contraption and 2. he saw Saber walking around in casual wear, so there should be no reason he can’t. In fact, as the King of Conquerors, he doesn’t want to be upstaged by the King of Knights. More bickering ensues, until they reach a gentlemen’s agreement – as soon as Rider defeats an enemy Servant, Waver will buy him a pair of pants so he can go outside in modern wear.

Meanwhile, at Einzbern Castle, Kiritsugu and Saber disagree on how to proceed. Kiritsugu believes they should wait until other Masters come in for Caster and use this opportunity to take them out – no one will be suspecting such an attack by someone who’s ostensibly in a truce, so Team Saber gets to maintain their normal strength and they can always swoop in after Caster’s been killed and pick off the weakened victor, but this clashes with Saber’s knightly pride, as 1. her duty is to protect the innocent and so she wants to rip and tear the child-murderer’s guts, believing this should be the first priority and 2. she is a warrior and takes Kiritsugu’s ways as meaning he doesn’t have any confidence in her abilities to defeat enemy Servants in a straight-up fight. Kiritsugu replies that this is not the case – rather, it’s that while they have the advantage in that Caster thinks Saber is Jeanne d’Arc, he doesn’t trust the Church. Irisviel also points out that the wound on Saber’s wrist hasn’t healed, which means Kayneth isn’t as dead as they would like.


Nice bit of characterization and relateability. I think most of us, if faced with a similar situation, would want to jump in and kill the child-murdering freak with our bare hands. At the least, save the children first. But Kiritsugu’s got a longer game to play, and he literally can’t be concerned with that.

Cut to Kiritsugu on the castle, having a crisis of faith because apparently KIREI SCARES HIM. So…I guess I have more things to look forward to in the future? He considers just taking Irisviel and running, and grabbing their daughter with him, but Irisviel gives more reassurance that she believes in him.


When you don’t believe in yourself, find someone who believes in you.

Back inside the Castle, Irisviel and Saber spy on the forest where Caster resides using crystal balls as long-range video cameras as Kiritsugu and Maiya lock and load. Caster, however, is aware of the spying, and Saber can see he is is baiting them with kidnapped kids. Saber wants to save them. Caster wants an audience….so he decides to play a game of tag with the kids, where he’s “it” and “tagging” means “ripping the head off”. This royally pisses Saber off, and Irisviel as well, as she orders Saber to kill Caster. I guess being a parent yourself makes you a wee tad touchy about child-murdering as a thing.

Cut to Saber entering the Dark Forest, with Caster meeting her, child in tow. Looks like his angle is that God isn’t worth her service, so she should give herself over to the dark side? Anyway, he releases the kid he has, as he promised to do that if his Jeanne will have an audience with him. The kid runs to Saber, clinging to the pretty foreign lady for support as she gives him a reassuring hug, but something is off…


LIVE FOR THE SWARM


Saber is suitably horrified.

…And he’s turned the kids into Infested Terrans that explode into tentacle bombs.


I’ve seen enough Fate/Stay Night to know where this is going…

Saber summons up an energy burst that tears through the tentacles holding her in place, however, and as more tentacle monsters burst up around her, she gets thoroughly pissed, cutting into them as she tries to close the distance to Caster. Meanwhile, it is detected that another Servant has entered the field somewhere. After some more rambling, Caster confirms that he wants his Jeanne to give up her faith that Jesus saves and join the Dark Side with him. Saber, naturally, declines, so Caster breaks out a Noble Phantasm – the grimoire he had in life – and summons more tentacle monsters. Saber continues cutting through them, but her previous injury gets to her, and a tentacle monster catches her off guard.


That awkward moment when you realize somebody swapped your grimoire for 50 Shades of Grey.

But suddenly, two spears, one red and one yellow, explode the thing. Diarmuid! Apparently he is the only one allowed to defeat Saber, since he started the wound on her during their duel and by the Tuatha de Danaan he’s going to finish it. And also because El-Melloi ordered him to kill Caster. Caster is mad b/c he believes the grail granted his wish to bring Jeanne back and WHY WON’T THINGS JUST LET HIM BE.

And see, here’s another reason why insane characters generally suck. Look at the list of seven motivations up top. Each of them are relatable in some way. If you didn’t watch Fate/Stay Night, you want to see who ends up getting their wish granted – Waver, desperate to prove himself? Kiritsugu, using unsavory means to achieve a good end? Tokiomi, discovering lost knowledge? Or someone else? But Uryu Rinnosuke has no goals other than “murder people and summon demons”, and since we know Saber is a genderbent King Arthur (or rather, the Arthur from legend is a genderbent Arturia), Caster’s goals (convince her she is Jeanne) are doomed to failure. And even if you did watch Fate/Stay Night (like me) and know who lives and who dies, and thus know that it’s a foregone conclusion for most of these people, the complaint in the previous Let’s Watch still stands – that in foregone conclusion stories the fun is in seeing how characters react to setbacks and obstacles that push them away from their goals in a way that makes you go “ooh, that’s clever,” but with Caster, it’s just “okay, like, wtf?”


England and Ireland, brought together by France-hate, because fuck those cheese-eating surrender-monkeys.

Lancer taunts Saber by saying he expected more from a King of Knights, and Saber replies that she could easily cut down another hundred of the things. And now they’re going back to back. Maybe they’ll have a  bodycount competition? I certainly hope so.

Cut to the front gates of the Einzbern castle. Kayneth Archibald El-Melloi invades the residence with his Volumen Hydragyrum, a vial of mercury of mercury which is the ball that we saw in the beginning of the episode. He seems to be giving it commands in Latin (which is also a nice touch, as Rin Tohsaka in F/SN gave all her spells in German), and it easily cuts through the stone door. He strides in, announcing his name and lineage and his availability at your service – Oh jeez, announcing your name in intent to duel when invading the home of the Mage-Slayer? YOU ARE ASKING FOR A HEADSHOT.


PREDICTABLE

But, Kayneth proves himself smarter than we thought, as the mercury blob forms itself into a shield, allowing him to advance harmlessly. Kiritsugu monitors the events from his room, and then is about to head out the door when he sees a thread of metal poking in through the keyhole. He throws himself aside just in time to avoid being sliced into ribbons.


If you’re going to use muggle dueling implements, then forgive me if I respond in kind with similar…under the table shenanigans.

Kayneth appears from the hole, and attacks with his mercury, but it looks like Kiritsugu is good at physical stat buffing magic, casting a haste spell on himself and using it to bullet time past Kayneth’s attack and gtfo. Kayneth thinks it unimportant, as in the Fate-verse, those kind of spells rely on creating a reality-altering field around the body, and drain mana like crazy. He continues to search, and as Kiritsugu rounds a corner and takes cover, he notices the mercury thread again. However, he also realizes that since mercury is an inanimate object, it has no sense of sight, smell, or taste, detecting things only by sensing vibrations or by actual physical contact, so he casts a stagnate spell to slow his bodily functions – breathing, heartbeat, etc – and trick it into thinking he’s an inanimate object. As Kayneth rounds the corner, Kiritsugu calls him out and shoots him with his SMG, but the mercury protects him like Gaara’s sand shield. Kayneth thinks it foolish that Kiritsugu wasted his chance to sneak attack as Kiritsugu’s clip empties, but Kiritsugu drops his SMG and pulls out his Contender pistol with a grin.


Kayneth, that thing is going to have some kind of anti-magic bullet or something and you are going to be all kinds of fucked.

And then…end of episode.

Thoughts:
This episode returns to the quality of the previous ones, with actual stuff happening and people planning and using the equipment and powers they have at their disposal. It was good at reminding us that Kayneth, despite being rather thoroughly humiliated in episodes 5 and 6, is still a very skilled magi and a good tactician, even if he’s not one for strategy (jumps right into the Church’s trap) and has glaring holes in his decision-making heuristics (discounting Kiritsugu’s firearms). It does much to heighten his credibility as a threat, and reminds us that while thinking outside the box is an equalizer, so is just having more power.

Not going to comment on Caster because I think I’ve whipped that horse dead enough. Waver’s agreement with Rider makes me think he’s going to be rolling in soon enough, and we know Gilgamesh is slated to show up as well. Could be another glorious free-for-all like last time.

Until next ep.

Let’s Watch Fate Zero, 6

November 20, 2012

We open with Irisviel and Saber on a date – I mean, a cruise – as they’re driving up and down a mountain road. Apparently, Kiritsugu’s bought his main lady a car, and it’s her favorite gift ever. And now that they’re in Fuyuki, she can drive all over the roads instead of being confined to inside Castle Einzbern. …Kiritusugu what have you done.


 Hey guys, why can’t Helen Keller drive? BECAUSE SHE’S BLIND AND DEAF.

Suddenly…a wild Caster appears!

JESUS CHRIST IT’S A CASTER GET OUT OF THE CAR AND STAY CLOSE TO ME

Caster pours his heart out to his Maiden of Orleans, but Saber is equal parts confused because she’s King Arthur, not Jeanne d’Arc, and equal parts annoyed because she came here for some good honorable fighting while this guy is babbling like a crazy person. Trying to get through, to her, Caster reveals his identity as Gilles de Rais, who fought by Jeanne d’Arc’s side during the Hundred Years’ War.


 AND IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII WILL ALWAYS LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE YOU

Saber isn’t amused at his ramblings, however, and gives her own identity as King Arthur, claiming it is the honorable thing to do since he told her his real name. So here I must explain – in the Fate-verse, all the various figures we worship as heroes exist on a plane outside of time. For the Grail Wars, mages summon them using contracts and some artifact that was connected to them in life, and it’s hinted that they too all have some reason to come back. Saber’s reason, as Fate/Stay Night revealed, was that she regretted the destruction of her kingdom and was going to ask the Grail to make it so someone else, not her, became King of the Britons. Caster’s reason here, apparently, was to ask God to stop punishing Jeanne d’Arc, and Saber’s words make him flip out. He falls to his knees, wailing and pummeling the ground the ground with his fists, as he believes God is punishing Jeanne by making her forget her own identity. Saber launches a warning cut that narrowly misses him, warning that his ramblings are insulting to her identity as a heroic spirit. Faced with this, Caster withdraws. Saber and Irisviel note that they were fortunate, since Saber still retains her injury from the last episode. They drive off…under the gaze of two Assassins, hidden in a clump of trees. It’s a nice touch, 1. demonstrating that writers remember what happened prior 2. reminding you that Kirei is also smart, sending his Assassins to tail everyone and 3. demonstrating that Saber still has some head for strategy, going for a purposeful near miss so Caster can’t realize that the strike is weaker than expected from the “strongest Servant class”. Well, either that, or I’m just giving her too much benefit of doubt and she really was just doing a warning shot. Anyway, back at his home base, Caster is sad and emo. Apparently he believes that God is so adamant to punishing Jeanne that the only recourse is to show the world that someone can be super-evil and still not face punishment, and so ready a crapton of children for sacrifice.

Um…what?


YOU CAN’T UNDERSTAND MY PAIN. Or my thought processes.

You know, I’ve actually never cared for insane characters, and yes, I am including the Joker in this assessment. When you break things down to the basic components, all stories can be boiled down to “character wants something and faces obstacles to get it.” Earlier I compared Caster unfavorably to Twilight, with the “there are three things of which I am certain.” Contrast that line from Twilight, and the line from the fic Luminosity which is a rewrite of Twilight if everyone was rational – “My favorite three questions are, What do I want?, What do I have?, and How can I best use the latter to get the former?”.

Compelling characters do stuff that makes sense, and you keep watching because you want to see them eventually find success (or not) depending on what they do and what obstacles are thrown in their way. Very rarely do insane characters do the same, and their random-ass thought processes make it super hard to actually give a shit about them, whether it’s their retarded-ass motives (showing that we’re all really bad people deep down inside is highly irrelevant since cultural conditioning makes us act good like 99.9% of the time anyway and the rest of the time are so situation it might as well not matter) or their retarded-ass methods (imma solve the problem of synthetics killing organics by building synthetics that kill organics) or their retarded-ass realization that their cunning plan wasn’t thought all the way through (how could waking up a legendary beast that will turn all the water in the world to land be a bad idea?). Heath Ledger’s Joker is the exception that proves the rule, because he actually wasn’t insane. HLJ was a Nietzche wannabe anarchist who wanted to prove that people ultimately will eat each other to stay alive, he lived in a city where the .01% situations happened on a daily basis, and so he did this by repeatedly forcing situations where people getting pushed beyond the limits civilized society imposes on them would happen. Not insane, but rational (fits the three questions that rational!Bella asks herself all the time). And so far, while I can emphasize with all the other Servants who’ve been getting speaking parts, I’m already getting annoyed by Caster and thinking the show would not lose anything if someone or something just killed him out of the blue.

Cut to TV, which shows that the previous night’s battle was explained as a warehouse explosion. Kayneth Archibald El-Melloi, who is watching said TV, yells at Lancer for not taking the chance to kill Saber, lambasting the fact he wasted a Command Spell, while Lancer sits there looking dejected like a sad puppy.


Cheer up, emo jerk. Or not.

Suddenly, a wife appears! Sola-Ui, wife to El-Melloi (man, what ethnicity are these guys?), tells him off for his unmanliness and inadequacies, although to be fair it’s hard to feel adequate as a man when you’re hanging with guys like Iskander. Apparently he’s also added a nonstandard clause where his wife is a secondary mana supply. Not only does this mean Lancer can fight on longer since he now has two Masters pumping mana into him, but I think it may also mean that in the event El-Melloi dies, Sola-Ui can take over as Master, essentially giving them two lives (either that, or I’m just forgetting type-Moon lore). As she continues her tirade, however, Lancer gets angry, warning her that if she continues he’ll have to take it as an insult to his master, and that is something his own chivalry won’t allow. There is a zoom on Lancer’s love spot, and wife apologizes. Kayneth looks annoyed. Does he think Lancer is trying to bang his wife?


She’s a ginger? QUAN-APPROVED. Go get her, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne.

Suddenly, there is a report of arson and an order to evac the building. El-Melloi has no doubts that it’s Saber’s master here to finish the battle and looks super smug as he explains in detail the many many many many magic protections in his hotel. He dispatches Lancer, confident in his eventual victory.

Meanwhile someone who looks like the hotel manager is making sure everyone left. He’s looking for El-Melloi, when Kiritsugu appears, reassuring the manager that he saw the El-Melloi couple outside. Not sure if he is using magic to do a hypnotize, but at any rate the manager buys it. And then…

Kaboom.

Hear that sound, Malfoy? That’s the sound of your superior bloodline getting blown out of the water. Muggles do it better, bitch.

However, they were not unobserved. Kirei appears, and there is a battle between him and Maiya, in which Kirei reveals that he has…bat bombs? AND THROWING KNIVES.


AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMEN!

Kiritsugu tosses a smoke bomb which allows them to withdraw. Assassin shows up at this time to inform Kirei of Caster’s apperance, and they withdraw. Meanwhile, at the church, the head priest decides that Caster must be dealt with because he is breaking the masquerade with all those childmurders, and notes that as mediators, the church is allows to put in place slight rule changes.

So…I guess this means it’s open season on Caster? Meh, I’m fine with that.

Meanwhile, Archer crashed Kirei’s apt. Gil’s hitting the bottle pretty hard, but as a King of Heroes, his tolerance is superior to that or normal men. He also has a rather fab casual appearance.


Oh myyyy…

From their conversations, Tohsaka wants to search for something called “the Root” which is why he wants the Grail. Archer asks Kirei what he wants the Grail to do. Kirei doesn’t know, so Archer suggests that Kirei simply asks for bliss. Subsequent values dissonance, as Kirei finds the idea sinful, while Gilgamesh just laughs at the thought of equating bliss with sin.

You know, why did we replace all those funsauce ancient religions with the Big 3 of monotheism anyway? I would totally take Bacchanalia over Lent or whatever. And as the good edda says…


Hammer meet nail.

The end result of the conversation is Archer finds Kirei “interesting”.

Tohsaka you are so screwed.

We close with Kirei wondering that if he can find out what motivates Kiritsugu, maybe he can find out his own motivations?

Final thoughts: a rather meh episode as we cool down from awesome buildup. Everyone needs to go back and recoup from the previous ep’s battle, and we do see a bit more of how Team Lancer rolls (not as well as Kiritsugu, apparently). We also see a little bit of Kiritsugu somewhat regretting the drastic measure he’s taking, as during the bombing attack on El-Melloi, he’s shown fixating his gaze on a little girl crying.


Isn’t it sad, Kiritsugu?

Although here I feel like the creators missed a step. Kiritsugu was already shown to have gone above and beyond to evacuate civilians so they weren’t caught in the blast. Really, the only one who’s really suffering anything worse than like some work laptops or iPads (oh wait, it’s the Clinton era, no one has those yet) or lost travel clothes (expensive travel clothes, since the hotel is rather high-class, but also not a big deal for the guests who can afford such a nice hotel anyway) is the hotel manager and the hotel waitstaff who now has to close down until they can build a new building, and any guilt he has should be directed their way. A common thread in fiction is that they don’t pay enough attention to financial well-being – as long as the main characters/side characters/NPCs aren’t dead, everything’s treated as fine when realistically, it wouldn’t be. In an otherwise very detailed series, the presence of this misconception stands out like a sore thumb.

On the whole, though, this seems like it’s all setup for the next episode. Thus…

Until next ep.

Let’s Watch Fate Zero, Episode 5

November 15, 2012


FUCK YEAH RIDER

Everyone is in various states of D: and o_O as they had not prepared for this eventuality at all.

Waver is all like “OMG NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” With good reason, since standard procedure (as Lancer and Saber demonstrated earlier) is to hide your Servant’s identity so their weaknesses could not be used against them. Before Waver can continue to protest though, Rider silences him with the Man-Flick, then like a good head of state begins aggressive negotiations. Specifically, that Saber and Lancer surrender the grail to him, and then become his bannermen as he continues on his quest to rule the world. The sheer audacity of the request…Rider, never change. Lancer quietly notes a disinclination to acquiesce, while Saber notes that 1. asking her to stop her duel is insulting to a knight and 2. as a king herself, she would never bend the knee to a foreign monarch. Britons, after all, never shall be slaves, and Cambria cannae yield.


Thus Rules Britannia!

Kiritsugu’s watching from his sniper perch, and he has Waver in his sights. Oh jeez, is he gonna shoot a little boy? Don’t do it Kiritsugu, Rider is too awesome to be taken out of the game this early, but suddenly…a wild Malfoy appears! The seventh Master’s identity is now revealed, as Kayneth Archibald El-Melloi enters the field, noting with amusement that it was the student he had dismissed for his silly little “work > bloodline” theory who stole his original summoning artifact, and closing with obligatory jerkass snark about how he will put the little mudlood in his place. Waver is frightened, as in literally shaking and sweating, but fortunately for him, his Servant is the Bro-Rider who proceeds to call El-Melloi out for being too much of a pussy to join everyone else on the battlefield, whereas Waver at least has the balls to be riding in Iskander’s chariot (even if it was Rider who picked him up and stuffed him in the passenger seat). Being a fair and just king, he then calls out everyone else who was hiding from the shadows.


NO KIRITSUGU DON’T DO IT

Cut to Tohsaka Mansion. Tokiomi Tohsaka isn’t amused by the smear to his honor (yeah, the honor of giving up your daughter to be raped by parasitic mana worms, jerkface). And so, a wild Gilgamesh appears! And now he is engaging in who’s the better king one-up-manship. Between Arturia, King of Knights (Arthurian legend being pretty much the codex exemplar of chivalry), Iskander, King of Conquerors (having conquered most of the known world in his lifetime, although this now makes me want a 1st-3rd Holy Grail War where someone summons Genghis Khan as an Archer or a Rider. I mean, srsly, look at this.), and Gilgamesh, King of Heroes (The Epic of Gilgamesh being the Ur-example of the mythological hero’s journey). Right away the personalities become clear, between Saber, the knight who fights to defend those who cannot defend themselves, Rider, the conqueror who believes in honorable combat on the field along with might makes right, and Archer, who is not only unimpressed by Saber and Rider’s pedigrees, considering himself leagues above any one of them, because he is the hipster hero who was a myth hero before myth heroes were cool.


So all of you are heroes from ancient mythology? Sorry, ancient myths are too mainstream for me.

Oh Gilgamesh, so arrogant. Never change.

Cut to a thin hooded guy in an alley – oh shit, Kariya? He’s here too? OH FUCK IT’S BERZERKER. There are now five fucking Servants on the field, along with Assassin who’s watching.

What is this i don’t even –


NONE SHALL PASS

Waver tries a combat scan, but apparently Kariya’s enchanted Berzerker such that his stats and identity are completely obscured. Gilgamesh continues to be unimpressed by this “mad dog,” until he has the temerity to look Gil in the eye, at which point Gil decides to give Berzerker the Old Yeller treatment and launches a couple of weapons from his armory at him, using the same Noble Phantasm that killed Assassin (as far as everyone knows, anyway).


Time to put you down like the Bull of Heaven.

What follows is another excellent contrast to the previous series. In Fate/Stay Night, while it was possible to summon Hercules as a Saber class, Ilya von Einzbern summoned him as a Berzerker to max out his STR and CON stats. This also gave the Twelve Labors as his Noble Phantasm, which gave him twelve lives. F/SN’s Berzerker would launch himself at an enemy and smash until it was dead. Fate Zero’s Berzerker, on the other hand, shows himself to be high in DEX as well, snatching a sword out of the air and using it to deflect the other weapons in the blink of an eye.


I may be crazy, but I do know karate.

This also has the effect of making Gilgamesh has lost his cool completely at the thought of such a base creature dirtying his precious weapons with his peasant hands. The Gate of Babylon opens wider, and more weapons come flying out, but Berzerker gives a repeat performance. Sword, spear, ax, shield, he seems equally proficient with with every weapon despite being batshit insane. The animation here is also quite good, and although the CGI-ness of Berzerker’s character clashes a bit with the hand-drawn-ness of everyone else, it also kind of somewhat works to highlight how being summoned as a Berzerker makes you a warped, almost artificial version of whichever heroic spirit you were in life.


Impressed? No. ENRAGED? YES.

Yet again, the Gate of Babylon opens, super wide this time, like a friggin football field covered in legendary weapons waiting to be unleashed.


Each one of those dots is someone else’s Noble Phantasm. So. Ovepowered.

Tohsaka doesn’t like this constant use of the Noble Phantasm however, considering it to be too much of a risk of others learning his identity (as happened with Lancer). He uses one of the Command Spells and call Gilgamesh back, much to Gil’s chagrin. “You dare order a king around?” he rages. And since we know Gilgamesh is now pissed at Tohsaka, and we know that both he and Kirei survive into FSN…I foresee a rocky relationship for Team Archer. Better hold on to those Command Spells…

One down, four left. The combatants appraise each other. Suddenly, as Berzerker locks eyes with Saber, he flips the fuck out, picks up a broken light pole, and attacks Saber with it. The ad hoc weapon begins to glow and warp in his hands. Apparently everything he wields becomes his Noble Phantasm, and that, coupled with his natural speed, strength, and ferocity, plus Saber’s old injuries, puts him at an advantage. He sets aside her sword, and there is a slow-mo shot of his light pole about to dash her brains out…


“I’M INVINCIBLE!” “You’re a loony.” “IKNOWEPUJGOAJDSGAHFIGAHGLOIAJFA”

…but Lancer intervenes, claiming he’s already claimed the duel with her. El-Melloi does not agree, saying this was the best chance to eliminate Saber (who is generally considered the strongest Servant class, all else being equal). Lancer (who was quite the ladies’ man in his day) begs his Master to let him help Saber, his voice quavering as he pleads upon his honor and chivalry as Diarmuid Ua Duibhne. And looking back, I think I see what Lancer is getting at here. Previously, only Saber knew his identity, and possibly Rider, but depending on when the others showed up it is possible that they had not seen Lancer’s Noble Phantasm (Assassin would have, but as far as anyone other than Kiritsugu knew, Assassin is out of the game, so he doesn’t count). And so, Lancer probably guessed that his Master would try to get him to kill Saber to preserve his identity, and pre-empted that by announcing it to everyone.

Unfortunately, El-Melloi just uses a command spell to make him help Berzerker. Wow. That was…somewhat of a dick move. And…also unnecessary? If he wanted to eliminate a Servant, he could have just let Berzerker and Saber fight it out and then pick off whoever remained. Sure, there was Rider to consider, but Lancer being the fastest class pretty much guarantees a first hit. Then again, there’s no better time to kick someone like when they’re down. Alternately, he feels like since he and Lancer started the fight, he should be the one to finish? Although judging by how his lines indicate El-Melloi has no use fr Lancer’s worthy-opponent ramblings, it’s almost certainly the former.


Isn’t it sad, Diarmuid?

Either way, Lancer can’t resist, as going against a command spell makes a Servants stats permanently drop by a rank. As the two walk ominously towards Saber, Kiritsugu and Maiya search for Lancer’s master. He has El-Melloi in his sights, but Rider seems to sense it, and right when Kiritsugu is about to fire, a wild Rider appears!


This is not a dri-i-i-ive by

Iskander continues to call out El-Melloi for being a big giant pussy hiding behind his bloodlines, announcing that if he and Lancer do not retreat, and if he continues to sully Lancer’s honor by making him double team a wounded woman warrior, he will ally with Saber and beat the crap out of both of them. Now that force concentration is no longer in his favor, El-Melloi leaves.

Crisis averted, Rider departs as well, after offering Saber advice – finish her duel with Lancer first, so the cursed wound can be lifted. Once that happens, he hopes to have a nice fulfilling battle with whoever remains. Such a bro, that Rider.

Cut to continued bramance (to borrow a friend’s terminology) between Saber and Irisviel. The two women are nothing but supportive for each other, and I have nothing but all the love for this dynamic they have. Having to grown adult women converse with each other as peers and equals with respect and admiration for the other’s attributes is most preferable to all that idiocy in F/SN with Shirou being like “yo saber i know ur king arthur and all but ur a girl so i have to fight and protect you even though i am a squishy high school student with no combat training”. As well as all the vestiges of F/SN being originally an H-game being manifested as half the main female characters in F/SN being annoying clinging tsundere romance interests. But here? Bechdel test passed and then some. Saber/Ilyasviel > Shirou/Saber


Whoaoaoaoaoaoaoa caught in a rad bromance.

Cut to Kariya…and oh my. Looks like torture made Kariya somewhat crazy, as he does the maniacal laugh routine, noting with glee that as soon as Berzerker showed up everyone went all “Oh Crap”. Hey, Kariya, you do remember the part where Alexander the Great ran your Servant over with a chariot, right? Anyways, he’s so happy that he coughed up a pool of blood and worms. Gross. Oh Kariya, you’re totally going to go mad and die messily with only the thought of saving Sakura as your morality chain, aren’t you?


The blood is symbolic of the remnants of Kariya’s humainty, and the bloodsucking behavior of the worms represent the loss of humanity inflicted upon him by his family. In other news, symbol-hunting in literature is bullshit.

Inside the church, an Assassin shows holding  a dead familiar with…a camera attached to his leg? Kirei now knows that Kiritsugu knows that he’s still alive and in the game, although now that the familiar has died, Kiritsugu knows that Kirei knows that Kiritsugu knows, which means that Tohsaka also know…fuckin’ web of intrigues, mate.

Meanwhile, cut to Caster and Uryu, who have been watching the battle through the crystal ball. Apparently Caster now has an Edward/Bella thing towards Saber…except one look at the fair maiden with sword and plate leads him to conclude that she is his beloved soul mate, the Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc.


About three things I am absolutely positive. First, Saber is my beloved Jeanne d’Arc. Second, there is part of her— and I didn’t know how potent that part might be — that will kill me for the Holy Grail. And third, I am unconditionally and irrevocably in love with her.

Well, hilarity will certainly ensue once he finds out that she’s apparently gone and become an English ka-nig-it.

The awesome ramps up yet again with this episode, with all the new combatants getting respectable showings, and here we have an example of a Worf Barrage being done well instead of for artificial drama. We know from F/SN how utterly overpowered of a skill Gilgamesh’s Gate of Babylon is; dude killed Lancer in like one hit with it, and was owning Saber all over the place later. In this episode, we see how awesome Berzerker is for countering the Gate of Babylon by his own pure skill along with his ability to make anything he wields his own Noble Phantasm. But because this is still early-game, Gilgamesh isn’t going all out, so we don’t lose respect for his own power.

The other key takeaway is Rider’s obfuscating boisterousness. It’s easy to dismiss him as just a meathead looking for a good scrap, but here he demonstrates a good amount of strategic thinking as well. For example, Kiritsugu who we know to be the designated smart pragmatic thinks-outside-the-box guy assessed the situation and understood that in this case where Rider and Assassin are neutral, Archer has left the field, and it is Berzerker and Lancer against Saber, the key is to eliminate one of the masters. Since Berzerker’s Master isn’t there, Lancer is the only one. Meanwhile, Rider saw the same facts and came to the exact same conclusion, even if his methods (incap Berzerker and make it two-on-one against Lancer) was different from Kiritsugu’s (bullet to the brainpan squish). Rider here definitely retains Alexander the Great’s military acumen, only doing less than optimal things because he just wants too.


Momma didn’t raise no fool.

Until next ep.

Let’s Watch Fate Zero, Ep 4

November 14, 2012

Oh my. Bring on the epic.

This Lancer seems to fancy himself quite the ladies’ man. After some pleasantries, and Lancer being glad that both his opponents weren’t so smitten that they couldn’t fight him properly, they get right to it. There is a good use of division of labor on both teams’ part. Saber fights, Irisviel heals, Kiritsugu and Maiya finds the enemy Master and kills them, while Lancer’s Master hides while his Servant probes the enemy.


Hello ladies. Look at your man, now back to me.

Saber and Lancer test each other out, neither really gaining an advantage for a while. The fight is well-animated, with slow motion where it needs to be slow to show off technical expertise and fast motion when it needs to be fast to show off attack speed and power. Footwork is emphasized, and someone did their research on broadsword fighting, as I am recognizing a lot of what Saber is doing from the Liechtenauer manual from my local library and the wikipedia page on the German School of Broadsword Fencing. Granted, it’s German and not English, but the English school is rapier focused and the German school is pretty much the best source we have on how broadsword fighting rolls.



Vom Tag (left)



Zornhau (left)



Pflug (left)

Throughout the bout, they are nothing but polite and respectful to each other, and you really gain a sense of equal measures of honor and chivalry as well as a thirst of victory in their duel as they compliment each other’s technique while making repeated guesses at each other’s identity and cut each other’s hair. Saber gets first blood in, as she uses wind magic to make her sword invisible, thus making it difficult for Lancer to control distance, although the fact that she is using magic to hide her sword leads Lancer to narrow down her possible identity as belonging to the subset of heroes with a famous sword.

I once met a person who claimed she could guess a lot about someone by the contents of their wallet. So I handed her mine, which pretty much only had cash, student ID, and driver’s license. Her response? “You are a technocratic man of simple tastes and pleasures.” And I was like, “Well played, woman. Well played.” Sometimes you can tell a lot about someone based on what they hide or don’t show.

Yay smart people fighting smart!

Here I will take a detour to explain the Grail War and general strategy.

One Grail, seven mages, seven Servants. The Grail will only grant a wish once six Servants have been killed. To avoid your Servant being killed, it is also important to hide their identity so that they can’t be killed by whichever means they were killed in their own lifetime. Specifically, let’s say you summoned Sigurd the dragonslayer from Norse Mythology (you might know him better as Siefgried from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, from which the wonderfully epic “Ride of the Valkyries” song originates. You know, that song that goes dun da-na duuun duuuun dun da-na DUUUN DUUUUUN) as your Servant. Sigurd bathed in the blood of the dragon Fanfir, which made his body invulnerable, save for a spot on his shoulder that a stray leaf fell on and prevented the blood from covering it. Thus, if you know your enemy Servant is Sigurd because you recognized his sword to be Glamdring, you’d aim for that spot all the time. At best, you’ll kill him, and at worst, you’ll force him on the defensive. Thus Masters always refer to Servants by their class (Archer, Saber, Caster, etc) rather than their names, and Masters generally tend to avoid using their Servants’ Noble Phantasms – special powers/attacks/weapons that are intricately linked to a hero’s identity, such as Iskander’s Chariot of King Gordias, Arthur’s Excalibur, or Chu Chulainn’s Gae Bolg – unless either absolutely necessary or to end fights.

Servants are usually a lot stronger than mages, such that most mage attacks just annoy Servants at best (reasonable, as at least half of all myth heroes beat up evil magicians for a living, and when they are incarnated as Servants, they also a permabuff to magic resistance). Since Servants are so tough, the usual way of eliminating opponents is to catch the Master off guard and kill them with your own Servant (since presumably they can give you a good magic-fight, being a skilled mage themselves and all). This did not happen in F/SN because Shirou was an idealistic high school student who was raised under conventional human morals and so didn’t want to kill any humans (or at least, any people that were “supposed” to exist since it’s somewhat hard to argue that Servants who were historical figures like Iskander aren’t humans who just happen to have powers and that Servants who were mythological shouldn’t be treated as humans because they are still sentient…yeah Shirou’s morals aren’t exactly the most airtight). But Fate Zero is a different show.

Kiritsugu wants to end the battles as fast as possible, so he’s gunning (literally) for the Masters using his nice snazzy sniper rifle which has a magic-detecting scope in addition to the normal one. He’s looking around, but instead discover an Assassin here, watching the battle and confirming that the first battle was indeed a work. The two of them hold off on action, Kiritsugu noting that they are not equipped to fight Servants at this time.


Bringing a gun to a sword fight.

Hold on a second.

This line about not being prepared to fight Servants “at this time” indicates to me that he is at times prepared to actually fight Servants, which most mages don’t do because mages fighting Servants is generally an invitation to suicide.

And now I can’t wait to see what amounts of dakka is considered enough to fight Servants. Maybe a couple of B2 bombers, eh Rider?

Back to the battle. Suddenly, Lancer’s Master appears – or at least, his silhouette and voice does. He gives Lancer permission to use his Noble Phantasm, a bold move this early in the game and an indication that he has something up his sleeve.


duun dun dun DUN dun DUUUUUUN

Since Servants generally have one Noble Phantasm, Saber is curious as to which of Lancer’s two spears is it. Lancer drops his shorter yellow spear and blitzes at Saber, and upon the first blade clash, some kind of magical aura occurs, and Saber’s expression reveals that something went awry. More gorgeous fluid fight scene occurs, and now Saber is being pushed back. Moreover, her sword is now glowing gold upon every clash. After a few bouts, however, Saber believes she has Lancer’s measure, and goes into an exaggerated vom tag, deciding to take a hit on her magical armor which will put her in position to launch a kill blow.


Stabbed through the side, and you’re to blame/you give dueling a bad name

Someone’s cunning plan was not thought all the way through. Lancer, being the chivalrous sort, explains that his Noble Phantasm ignores magic. Since Servants are all made of magic, including their armor and non-muggle clothing, and Saber has armor, presumably Lancer judged that she would try to tank it and thus attacked accordingly.

Yay smart people fighting smart!

In reaction, Saber immediately dispels her armor to save mana.


Oh, are we playing this game? I’m up for that.

As Lancer backs away to regain distance and Irisviel heals, Saber gathers her energy and blitzes, dispelling the wind magic on her sword to give her a speed boost, intent on giving it her all this time. Lancer’s smug grin, however, indicates that things aren’t going to go in her favor, and sure enough, right as she reaches him, he kicks up the other spear that he dropped earlier and thrusts, inflicting a wound on Saber’s left wrist right as she inflicts the same wound on him. Another round of healing occurs…except Irisviel’s heal isn’t working? Turns out both spears are Lancer’s Noble Phantasms, and the second spear inflicts a cursed wound that will not heal. Apparently the first strike was to get her to dispel her magic armor so the second strike would launch a more debilitating injury.

Yay smart people fighting smart!

The two spears and their powers, however, is enough for Saber to recognize the weapons as Gae Buidhe and Gae Dearg, and this coupled with the love mark by his eye which makes her heart to go aflutter allows her to deduce Lancer’s identity as Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, first of the Fianna in the Fenian cycle of Irish myth. Meanwhile, having dispelled the wind magic around Saber’s sword, Lancer recognizes it to be Excalibur and thus Saber to be Arthur/Arturia, and is rather amused that the King of Knights is actually a girl.


Oh Ireland. Always a thorn in England’s side.

It must be said, though, that the genderflip is highly beneficial to Saber, just because every know that its King Arthur, not Queen Arturia. Anyway, Saber’s left tendon is shot, but she insists on continuing the duel, and the two square off, when suddenly there is the sound of thunder, and…a wild Rider appears! He rides between them on his chariot, and the very first thing he does?


“BEHOLD! I AM ISKANDER, KING OF CONQUERORS! GAZE UPON MY WORKS, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR!”

Oh my.

Seriously. He literally interrupts a duel between two servants by getting between them (with Waver riding beside him, no less) and announcing to everyone in the immediate vicinity who his real identity is. Because that’s how he rolls. Rider don’t care, Rider don’t give a shit. And he’s just so…happy about it.

Rider…Never change.

I JUST HAD SEEEEEEEEX, AND IT FEEEEEEEL SO GOOOOOOOOOD

Thoughts for this episode:

YAY SMART PEOPLE FIGHTING SMART.

Here you see that both Lancer and his Master have high stats in INT and WIS, detectable from the way they’ve been controlling the flow of battle. First Lancer tests Saber out, probing for weaknesses and generally not finding any, as Saber has the highest overall stats while Lancer simply has the highest speed stat and low Noble Phantasm mana cost. However, knowing that Servants are by nature made of magic and that Lancer’s Gae Dearg ignores magic, Lancer’s master orders him to use “his Noble Phantasm” (also effective use of ambiguous phrasing to mislead both the audience and the characters as to what’s coming next), and Lancer is either smart enough to only use Gae Dearg and have Gae Buidhe in reserve, or his Master explicitly instructed him to do that at some point offscreen. Either way, it demonstrates a solid understanding of economy of force (use the smallest amount of force possible to win, that way you can keep all your cool toys in reserve in case the enemy catches a second wind), and it’s used to to great effect – twice Saber thinks she has Lancer’s measure, and twice it opens her up to a surprise counterattack by Lancer.

Saber, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have that good a head for all this misdirection strategery. Maybe she’s just not that good at it, and in the Fate-verse, that’s why her kingdom ultimately fell? Perhaps this will be a plot point later? At least Team Saber has a decent build, with Saber as the tank to draw aggro, Irisviel as the healer to keep Saber in the game, and Kiritsugu and Maiya as the two rogues to backstab and be smart. Clearly teamwork between all four of them will be key in future battles here.

Here’s to more smart fighting.

Until next ep.

Let’s watch Fate Zero, Episode 3

November 13, 2012

We open in Tohsaka Mansion, Gilgamesh continues to be not impressed with the modern world, considering it ugly and boring.


Not. Impressive.

Iskander’s first conquest is…Waver’s apartment, as Master tries to interest Servant in the Grail War, but Servant is only interested in TV documentaries about modern warfare.


I will conquer you first, Supreme Warlord Premier Clinton.

Seriously. Rider is entralled with modern military technology and decides that Bill Clinton would make a worthy opponent to conquer. Just as expected from the man who, upon his untimely death, decided the heir to his empire should just be whichever of his generals was the strongest. Oh Iskander, so audacious. Never change.

Thankfully, this scene also averts a particular pet peeve trope of mine, that of a soldier/warrior from an earlier time coming to the modern day and finding our methods “dishonorable.” It is silly and has rarely if ever been true in the history of warfare. The funny thing is that we consider samurai and gun-aversion to be the ur-example of this trope, when in fact samurai used guns quite readily as soon as they were introduced. Miyamoto Musashi, widely acknowledged as the greatest Japanese swordsman in the world to ever exist, writes about gunners without any disdain in his Book of Five Rings. In the Imjin War between Ming Dynasty China and Hideyoshi’s Japan over suzerainty of Korea, many a Chinese officer fell due to Japanese musketeers using tanegashima matchlocks. The warlord Oda Nobunaga rose to prominence during the Sengoku/Warring States era after a battle in which his musketeer regiments literally broke the elite cavalry of the powerful rival Takeda clan. And in the Boshin War, the samurai rebellion during early Meiji Japan upon which the rebellion from The Last Samurai (starring Tom Cruise) is based, the rebels actually used relatively modern weaponry imported from Europe even if their status as rebels meant that they got fielded alongside more primitive weaponry. Summer knights and sunshine soldiers are concerned with “sporting” rules. Modern humans with a desire to romanticize history to escape their otherwise dreary lives attribute lofty ideals to those who lived in the past. Real warriors, when confronted with new weapons that let them be more effective at warring, don’t think “dishonorable weapon that is beneath me”, they think “I want one.”


As the ancient Japanese say, moar dakka > less dakka.

Anyway, Waver finally gets Rider’s attention away from TV, so Rider gives him a crash course in the art of war. Namely, of the importance of gathering intelligence; specifically, “did you notice anything odd about the Assassin-Archer fight last episode?”. And like any awesome teacher, the price for failing is PAIN in the form of a MAN-FLICK.


Say why. Say why one more time, I dare you.

Cut to the church. Kirei informs his superiors of his failure and request sanctuary for bowing out. And then…a wild Assassin appears? Turns out Assassin is some kind of hive mind with many bodies, and the previous battle was a work to make everyone else think Kirei and Assassin are out of the game. Well played, guy. Well played.


Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.

Irisviel and Saber arrive in Japan via airplane. Unlike Rider, Saber isn’t so enchanted with the marvels of modern tech, finding air travel boring. This being the 90s, when Walkmans were just barely a thing and we didn’t have these newfangled laptops and Kindles and iProducts, I’m rather inclined to believe her. We get a bit of funny wherein Saber notes that even though planes didn’t exist in her time, part of her powerset as the King of Knights is the ability to ride anything as long as she can mount it and grasp its reins (ohhhhh myyyyyyyy), so…she can probably fly a plane. Moving on, they were supposed to rendezvous with Kiritsugu, but since this is Irisviel’s first time outside the country, they decide to take a little detour and do some sightseeing first. What follows is a nice tender little moment between the two women, one bred with all the traditional feminine virtues upon whom the future fortunes of her clan rests, the other born with a woman’s body into a man’s role. And this scene is nice, because while Irisviel has a heavy burden placed upon her, she accepts it stoically instead of emo wangsting about it, and while Saber had a heavy burden placed upon her, she accepts it stoically instead of emo wangsting about it. As the lupine avatar of courage did say, “life’s a bitch – so make it yours.”


“It is a knight’s duty to escort his lady.” Bless your chivalrous heart, Saber.

Cut to Kiritsugu and his lady partner, Maiya. Team Saber’s plan seems to be to make others think that Irisviel is the Master and thus focus everyone else’s attention towards her so Kiritsugu can take out the opposing Master using enhanced muggle dueling techniques. Maiya’s come packing heat, including a rather spiffy looking sniper rifle and a big old pistol that looks like it was made for a dapper-dressed vampire or a genetically engineered super-soldier.


Enough dakka? Never. Could always use moar dakka.

And then…they kiss.

So was Maiya Kiritsugu’s true love? Or does he actually love Irisviel but will just indulge Maiya? Or was he Maiya’s one that got away? So many questions…


Looks like he’s…All In for the duration. Curse your cheating heart, Kiritsugu. (Oh I’m sorry, was that too soon?)

Anyway, cut to Irisviel and Saber at the beach. Irisviel loves it there, and asks Saber how she feels. Saber replies that she’s actually never liked the sea, because that’s where all the people who’ve tried to invade the British Isles came from. Which is kind of a downer, and you kind of see the effects of the pressures of kingship upon this young woman, but it doesn’t stop them from enjoying the moment.

What does stop it, though is a bad feeling that Saber has. And sure enough, a wild Lancer appears!


FIGHT ITEM PKMN RUN

Meanwhlie, Rider and Waver are also on the scene, observing from afar (aww, he’s giving Waver a hands-on lesson in reconnaissance. such a bro). Lancer’s Master is nowhere to be found, so Saber will fight while Irisviel buffs with healing magic…and then cut to end theme.

So, a couple of thoughts for this episode.

This is definitely a more cerebral series than Fate/Stay Night. As previously mentioned, most of the combatants here are adults with the exception of Waver, and he has Alexander the Great counseling him, and so we get to see everyone fighting smart instead of facepalming at idiot Shirou Emiya being all like “hey saber i know ur king arthur and can cut through a skyscraper and all but ur a girl and im a man so ill protect u while u fate/stay in the kitchen k?” In contrast, both Kirei and Kiritsugu demonstrate themselves to have a good understanding of the Art of War, especially the parts about all warfare is the art of deception. Lancer’s master does the same, hiding in the shadows ready to provide support while Lancer fights. Keep this up and this show could definitely be Fullmetal Alchemist or Game of Thrones quality.

Or DIEGO QUALITY!

I’ve touched on my love for the fact that Rider, instead of looking at the ways modern wars are fought and thinking “killing from afar is so dishonorable, not at all like the phalanx clashes and cavalry charges of the good old days,” is totally psyched about this new world of warfare that he has found. This leaves one last thing this episode left me with – feminism.

I consider myself a feminist. And to qualify that, I do not think a rejection of all things considered stereotypically feminine is beneficial to the cause of feminism, if we take the end goal to be true equality between the genders, where not only can one gender take on the same role as the other barring biological impossibilities (and the day m-preg becomes possible is the day I go running for the hills screaming) with no stigma, but staying within traditional gender roles also holds no stigma. It’s very easy to look at Irisviel and Saber and think that Saber is a strong female character because she fights things and isn’t that awesome while at the same time think Irisviel is a simpering sissy who exists solely for her husband (who’s totally snagging himself some tender loving on the side) and her family (bc women are supposed to give themselves for their family). I think that would be entirely wrong, at least for the interpretion of Irisviel. From what we know about her so far, she is the daughter of the Einzbern family, an ancient mage lineage who have fallen upon hard times, and so her marriage to Kiritsugu is supposed to be a bid to win the Holy Grail War and reverse her family’s fortunes. Now, let’s say she was a man. If a man falls in love with a woman and comes around to her ideals (like..John Smith from the Disney Pocahontas movie), while choosing to undertake a difficult task which has a high chance of him dying for the good of his family/country/people-not-himself (pretty much every single heroic tale ever. heck, that’s pretty much Kariya’s motivation right there), do we consider him a weak man? If not, then why consider Irisviel a weak woman? Yes, Irisviel is in many ways traditionally – even stereotypically – feminine, from her appearance to her personality to the way Saber treats her as a noble lady. And yet, push comes to shove, she’s fully willing and prepared to fight on the front lines with Saber, despite being a squishy mage in a battle between lightning bruiser magic knights. Add to consideration that Irisviel takes all her duties and responsibilities in stride, can it really be said that she is weak?


These women have more balls than YOU.

Steel beneath silk is a wonderful thing.

Until next ep.

Let’s Watch Fate Zero, Episode 2

November 10, 2012

We open with Rider who has busted his way out of a building. Waver is annoyed by this, asking why Rider can’t just materialize out. Turns out Rider needed to bring things back from the inside, and he can’t do that if he dematerializes. Accusations of being a thief are waved off by pointing out that thieves sneak around, whereas by taking what he wants and openly leaving, that makes Rider a conqueror. Turns out the stolen items are world atlases, and we find out Rider’s identity when he asks for where his former kingdom, Macedon and Persia, are, and laughing when he realizes all that territory that he fought so hard to acquire was actually such a small part of the world. Yup, Rider is Alexander the Great, referred to here as Iskander, the self-proclaimed King of Conquerors. Waver is somewhat fed up by all this getting sidetracked, and expresses his opinions, which starts the recurring gag of Rider flicking him in the forehead and knocking him on his ass whenever he gets too uppity/unmanly. Waver briefly debates using a Command Spell, but decides against it once Rider expresses that he doesn’t care about being granted a wish by the Grail, he just wants to conquer the world again. He does, however, get Rider to show us his Noble Phantasm, the ox-chariot of King Gordias.
Myth segue – Gordias was a poor Macedonian farmer who was driving his cart one day when he happened upon a prophecy that resulted in him becoming ruler of Phrygia. The cart was tied to oxen by means of a super-intricate knot, the Gordian knot (which we use today to mean an extremely difficult puzzle/conundrum). He proclaimed upon his ascension that whoever could unravel the knot would one day become “Master of All Asia”. Centuries later, a young Alexander happened across the knot that so many had failed to untie, drew his sword, and split it. Today we use the phrase “cut the Gordian knot” to mean solving a difficult problem in a highly unorthodox but effective way.

Anyways, Rider takes Waver and rides off into the night.


TRUCK YEAH!!!!!!!

Yup, easy to tell who wears the pants in this relationship.

Cut to Kiritsugu, playing with his daughter Ilya, while Irisviel and Saber look on. Apparently Saber and Kiritsugu had a falling out on philosophy, and she is surprised to see Kiritsugu show a tender side. As they play, more call forwards Ilya’s tsundere-ness appear. Seeing this, Saber expresses an admiration for their goals. The die is cast.

 


So Kawaii!

Meanwhile in Japan, the police are on the scene investigating a series of murders. Turns out it’s a crazy hedge mage, trying to use the old blood magic for some wholesome demon summoning. The family who lived in the house are all dead, save for the young son, bound and gagged. As the mage begins his spell, however, Command Spells appear on his hands, and out of the summoning circle pops a strange man with goldfish eyes. The mage introduces himself as Uryu Rinnosuke, and the strange man acknowledges him as his Master. Rinnosuke, believing he’d summoned the demon he was looking for, allows his new Servant of the Caster class dibs on the boy, but to his surprise Caster unties the kid and lets him go. Kid makes his way to the door. He opens it. The glow of outside is so warm and inviting.

 

Into the light…

Homestretch…


TROLLED.

In this day and age, we’re very used to our onscreen villains having at least some amount of sympathy, usually conveyed by making them noble demons who just want a challenge from the heroes of giving them some kind of standard, some kind of villainous act that they consider crossing the line. Even in real life, pedophiles and those who kill their mothers are often singled out by other prisoners for abuse. That’s why this scene works so well. It starts off like that – we know that every Servant is some kind of legendary figure, and so we assume at least some nobility on their part. We see him lurch ominously towards the kid, and think, “is he gonna do it?” We see him cut the kid free, and think that’s our subversion of the day.

And then we get hit with another subversion, as Caster lectures Uryu that when you keep making someone afraid, eventually they become numb to fear, but if you offer them that hope spot before snatching it away, the fear and despair from that is truly exquisite. And the screaming. Oh God, it just keeps going and going forever until you the audience is like “make it stop just make it stop.”

Well played, sir.

Uryu asks Caster his name (not being aware of the Grail War, Uryu presumably is unaware that usually Servants don’t like to make their identities known to strangers, as knowing their identity exposes their historical/mythological weaknesses). Caster, however, recognizes Uryu as his Master, and informs him of his identity as Bluebeard, aka Gille de Rais (Servants tell their Masters who they are so their Masters can plan adequately).

Here is another major difference between this series and Fate/Stay Night. In FSN, we never found out the identities of the Servants until way late. It was supposed to be a mid-season revelation that Saber was actually King Arthur. I spent a long time thinking Rider was Arachne myself. The only ones to be revealed off the bat were Berserker (Ilya reveals him to be Hercules because she was arrogant like that) and Lancer (his Noble Phantasm has a low mana cost, so he spams it all the time, and anyone familiar with Irish mythology knows the wielder of Gae Bolg, the Hound of Ulster, Cu Chulainn).

We close with Kirei giving an assignment to Assassin. Apparently, Caster was the last to be summoned, even though we’ve never seen Lancer yet, and now it’s time to begin the Grail War in earnest. Assassin’s first task is…Tokiomi Tohsaka. Wait, aren’t they allies? Or is Kirei trying to knock out an eventual enemy while his guard is down?


Feathers fall and PEOPLE DIE

Assassin makes his way to Tohsaka Manor and pulls some serious Assassin’s Creed dodging and ducking in between the moving magical barriers. Tohsaka magic is based on keeping spells inside gems and crystals, and we are treated to Assassin demonstrating the power of a Servant over a normal human mage, bobbing and weaving while destroying the crystals via flicking pebbles from his fingers. Soon he’s reached the main power gem, when a flying blade spears through his hand.


A gem in the hand is worth two in the -STAB

A wild Gilgamesh appears! With a barrage of legendary weapons via his Gate of Babylon Phantasm (the idea is that Gilgamesh, being the archetypical monomyth, is the font of inspiration of every single other myth story, he has access to every single Noble Phantasm to ever exist, and as an Archer class, he launches them at enemies), Assassin is reduced to a pile of meat.


Boom, headshot

You come at the King, you best not miss.


Not impressed

So…the stage is still getting set, although the last part started getting shit real, real quick. Right when our main characters have found resolve, someone’s fired the opening shot already. But that can’t possibly be the last of Kirei, he has to last all the way until F/SN, and I don’t think it would be due to hiding out the rest of the war without a Servant. Iskander is all kinds of awesome though. Totally my favorite Servant so far.

Until next ep.

Let’s Watch Fate Zero, Episode 1

November 10, 2012

There are two things you must know about me this year:

1. I have ragequit a terrible TV show (JJ Abrams’ Revolution) and found two others to replace it, Fate Zero and The Myth.
2. I will have no time at all for NaNoWriMo, which saddens me, because I still harbor delusions about one day becoming the next George R. R. Martin. WRITING IS COMING.

The obvious solution, then, is to take on the grand tradition of Mark Oshiro’s “Mark Does Stuff” and liveblogging my forays into these two shows. For if I can’t write, I may as well nitpick/squee. Given that I liked the source materials for both those shows, indications point to the latter as being more likely.

So, without further ado, Let’s Watch Fate Zero.

——————

Fate Zero, Episode 1: Summoning Ancient Heroes

Every sixty years, the Holy Grail (yes, that Holy Grail) calls forth seven mythological/historical heroes and assigns them to seven combat classes as Servants, to be summoned forth by seven mages so that they may battle each other for possession. When only one Servant remains, the Grail will appear and grant one wish. At this point, Servant and Master may clash due to differing wishes, but the conflict is usually solved simply enough by the three Command Spells that Masters may use to force their Servants to their will.

The series Fate/Stay Night dealt with the Fifth Holy Grail War, which was highly irregular due to having drawn a random high school boy into the mix of magic masters battling it out. Fate Zero, being a prequel, is about the previous war and how a battle of truly powerful mages is fought. The first episode introduces us to all the various players involved.

We open with Kiritsugu Emiya (adopted father of the main character from Fate/Stay Night) and his wife, Irisviel von Einzbern, celebrating the birth of their daughter, Ilya. They seem like quite a happy couple. It also makes the Ilya/Shirou tsundere romance arc in FSN juuuuuust a wee tad awkward. Kiritsugu worries Iri will die due to the war, but Iri says she believes in his ideals. Careful Kiritsugu, people die when they are killed.

OMG baby Ilya so kawaii!

We then switch to Kirei Kotomine, a priest in the Catholic Church, who has also been selected as a Master. The Church has arranged with the Tohsaka magical family to ally together. Since Kotomine appeared in Fate/Stay Night, we can assume this plan more or less remains intact despite whatever wrenches the other Masters throw in Kirei’s way. Go on, KK. In the words of a great man, show us your moves. Yes, Captain Falcon does too count as a great man.

If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let them be accursed at His coming. God save you from your fate.

Kariya Matou of the Matou magical family visits his…sister-in-law? Friend? I dunno, but she’s a Tohsaka and the mother of Rin Tohsaka from FSN. Apparently Sakura (from FSN) and Rin were actually biological sisters, but Sakura was given away to the Matou family who lacked heirs of magical ability. Kariya goes home to call the old man out, in which we discover the with the exception of Kariya (man, that is three characters with “K” names already), Matous suck and need to die in a fire.

this is not a human. it is some kind of…xenos thing.

“On the fourth day, the screaming stopped.” srsly, who the fuck does that to a little girl?

Kariya is suitably horrified. Eh, you’re alright. The rest of your clan can srsly get killed by all the things, now.

Kariya makes a deal with Zouken Matou – he will fight for the Holy Grail, and upon his victory, they will release Sakura. To do this, he has to undergo the same ordeal with the worms as she does. It turns him from looking like the above…to this.

Kariya, you’re probably gonna die since we never heard anything from you in F/SN, but I will be sad to see you go.

Now we hop across the pond to a lovely little magical school in jolly old England (no, not that one). Waver Velvet has proposed a radical new theory, that with training, effort, critical thinking, and properly applied spell construction, anyone can become a great mage even if they are lacking in bloodline pedigree. Naturally, his jackass teacher tears down this theory, lecturing the class that bloodline will always be the deciding factor in magical prowess, a theory which is highly convenient because if you belong to an ancient line, then no matter how inept you might be at magic, if blood is all that matters then you’ll always have the important thing that no one else can get, right? Wait a minute…

Kayneth Archibald El-Melloi, asshole instructor…


OH MY GOD.

THAT AWKWARD MOMENT


WAVER/HERMIONE OTP FOREVER.

Anyway, being the cheeky little Gryffyndor, Waver steals the artifact meant for El-Melloi, hits up the library, hops on a plane away, finds a rural family, Confundus-charms a family into thinking he’s their son returned from studying abroad, and prepares to enter himself in the Grail War to show them all what he can do.

Now we get a series of contrast scenes, with Kirei and Kiritsugu gathering intel and analyzing each other. We learn that Kirei has summoned his Servant already, a shadow-man who can only be Assassin. Meanwhile, tiny!Rin Tohsaka demonstrates how much of a tsundere she can be, as she yells at Kirei that if her father dies – wait, but the only survivors from this war as shown in FSN was Kirei and the previous Archer. WTF IS GOING ON.

Tohsaka, Assassin, Kirei.

We also find out that Kiritsugu is known as the “mage-killer” because he uses guns and bombs and modern tech in conjunction with his magic, such that he’s really more of a mercenary/contract killer who just happens to also have magic. Kiritsugu worries that their plan to summon King Arthur as a Saber class won’t work so well, since surely Arthur’s knightly ways would contrast with his pragmatism. Irisviel reassures him that surely Arthur will be swayed to his ideals just as she was. Using the recovered scabbard of Excalibur, they begin the ritual, segueing in an epic scene where all the various Masters summon their servants.

Waver prepares a casting circle and calls forth…Rider. Kariya is told that since he is naturally weak at magic which debuffs the stats of any Servant he summons, they must add lines to the summoning incantation to mitigate this. Presumably, this means they’ve summoned Berzerker. Tohsaka is confident that the alliance of him and Kirei will win, as he’s summoned Gilgamesh as an Archer class.

Gilgamesh thinks this episode is highly formulaic, not impressive at all, and thinks the plot twists can start right about now.

And at Einzbern mansion, the smoke clears around Kiritsugu’s summoning circle and we discover that King Arthur… is actually Arturia Pendragon, Queen of the Britons.

Yes, I am suggesting that coconuts migrate. Deal with it.

Overall, this was a very well done episode. The focus on adult characters straight off the bat with the exception of Waver Velvet makes it clear that this is no Fate/Stay Night, which, again, featured many high school students in its cast. The major players are revealed, and it gives you enough of a glimpse into their motivations to kind of let you tell what kind of people they are while keeping you interested in how they will accomplish their goals. You get the idea that Tohsaka’s got some kind of grander scheme going, that Kirei’s just sort of aimlessly wandering and seeing where the road takes him, that Waver’s on a standard “make everyone recognize me” quest, that Kariya’s trying his best at a goal that he may not be able to finish for the hope of saving his niece. Most of all, you get this idea that Kiritsugu’s this guy who has a grand vision that will be good, and that he’s so dedicated to that vision that he doesn’t care if people think poorly of him for his methods to accomplish it. Much like the Operative from Serenity, he believes in achieving his utopia, even if it means there’s no place for him there, and that to me is something worth admiring.

Eagerly awaiting the next episode.