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