Archive for December, 2012

Connecticut School Shooting Musings

December 19, 2012

Or, Sh!t Concerned Citizens Say (that don’t make no sense, yo).

On December 14th, 2012, an armed gunman entered an elementary school and shot twenty kids and six adults to death before turning the gun on himself. I think enough of my friends/acquaintances/people-who-will-probably-no-longer-be-friends-after-reading-this have posted their outpourings of grief and support.

I myself prefer to analyze the problem and attempt solutions. As well as attacking argumentfail because that’s fun too.

1. Arm the teachers! Arm all the teachers!

Arming the teachers – defined as giving them all guns is hella stupid. While guns dominated the battlefield despite their individual inferiority compared to other weapons due to requiring much less training time, training time is still necessary to operate them properly. Even in a state like Texas you would have a decent amount of teachers who have not handled guns. Basis common sense tells you that the risk of accident in this case far outweighs the risk of another shooting, given that shootings occur relatively rarely.

However, this just means you need to control for firearms proficiency when deciding who to arm. It is known that CHL holders generally can be just as if not more proficient than actual police/military personnel, depending on how much range time the CHL holder has and what the cop/soldier actually did (obviously an Army mechanic isn’t going to have too much combat experience). There is no reason why teachers who already have CHLs should not be allowed to carry. At my high school we had a cop who was armed. If we trust him to not have misfires that would scare the kiddies or to go on a shooting rampage of his own due to a bad day, why do we not trust teachers to do the same, especially when we trust said teachers to practically mold our kids minds anyway?

According to this seemingly neutral website, there were 613 fatal firearms accidents and 15,698 nonfatals. There are 300 million guns in the US total, owned by roughly 70-80 million adults, or a quarter of the US population (roughly 300 mllion). This is an accident rate of less than .007% (using 20K/300 mill) per gun, or .027% (20K/75 mill) per adult owning a gun. There are 7.2 million teachers in the US and roughly 300 million people in the US. Thus, an extremely basic analysis makes for 1.8 million teachers who own guns, having 480 misfires/year. This number, however, needs be further modified to account for school days, which the Dept of Education says is on average 180, bringing us to 236 teacher misfires per year. Divide this again by the number of teachers and multiply by 13 (number of grades, K-12), and this gives you a .04261% chance of your child being in the classroom when a misfire happens. This is not accounting for the fact that it must be lower, since not everyone who has a CHL will carry, and the liberal slant in higher education means that the percentage of CHL holders among teachers will be lower than the national average. In contrast, you have a 1.19% of being hit by a car, a .84% chance of committing suicide, .518% chance of accidental poisoning, and .089% chance of drowning.

1a. Hello Kitty guns for the kiddies!

The reductio ad absurdum argument of “well maybe we should give the kids guns too” also does not work because no one said that, so it is a strawman. As well as being absurd. The difference is that I am saying people who are already trained in firearm use and safety and are already trusted by society to be in a position of authority over children should be allowed to carry if they so choose. This is, again, not nearly the same thing as arming all the teachers or arming any of the students.

2. Control the guns! Control all the guns!

I was initially very against the idea of gun control. Since then, I have come to realize it does work to a limited extent because the situation actually not as simple as “if you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns”. There are actually three sets of guns here – guns owned by reasonable people which are not used to commit crimes, guns owned by bad people which are used to commit crimes, and guns owned by reasonable people or were initially obtained legally that a bad person eventually gets their hands on and uses to commit crimes (such as the case in the Connecticut shooting). If it is “more difficult” – and by that I mean the standards as to who is legally allowed to own a gun is more stringent, possibly in terms of sales to family with mentally ill people or something – to obtain guns, then the third subset will decrease. This can be coupled with a gun buyback program.

However, it is highly important to recognize that these measures do nothing to the second subset of guns. Bad guys do not surrender their guns, thus it is still necessary for good guys to have them. And no, only allowing police to have them does not cut it.

I was an Orientation Adviser for the University of Texas, which has its own police department. The official statistic that we inform incoming students is that average response time for UTPD is roughly two minutes. Two minutes is a VERY – and I cannot emphasize this enough – a VERY long time for an active shooter to do a lot of damage. And keep in mind, UT is a mere 40 acres in size. If you are somewhere with an active shooter, it will almost certainly take longer for the police to arrive.

Gun control is only relevant in controlling the numbers of guns obtained legally by normal people who just happen to, say, live in the same house with mentally unstable people. It does not affect guns already in the hands of criminals or mentally unstable people, because criminals do not follow laws and guns are non-perishable products.

3. Ermahgerd, semi-automatics!? WTF Y U NEED THOSE

The reporting around this and my Facebook friends’ statuses reveal to me that despite having not shot a gun in my life, apparently I know much more about guns than most of the media. Yay for Texas I guess?

Semi-automatic is a word that sounds scary because it has many syllables. It really only refers to a gun that gets you one shot per trigger pull. It is not quite a “weapon of war”, as military-use weapons are selective fire – that is, in addition to semi-auto, you can also select full auto (hold the trigger to spray), or burst. A cowboy’s six-shooter is technically not a semi-auto, but in terms of rapidity of shots is the exact same thing, differing only in shots required before reloading. The bolt-action rifles that were used in WWII would be the next step down, but those are still only marginally slower than semi-auto. To make any perceptible difference, you would pretty much reduce law-abiding folks to toting around muskets and flintlock. If you think “good” at that, you obviously have never been home invaded. Or considered that again, such laws do not affect criminals.

There is a blogger who I follow who posted an account in which there was a doctor who lived in the same neighborhood as he did who got home invaded. Doctor grabbed his revolver and shot one of the invaders, but he ran out and had to reload and that’s when the other invader shot him dead.

So to answer “why do you even need semi-automatics”, it’s because the bad guys already have them. Banning them only puts all the good guys at a disadvantage.

3a. Assault Weapons Ban

Dianne Feinstein wants to reintroduce the Federal Assault Weapons Ban to “get weapons of war off the streets”. This merely proves that Dianne Feinstein doesn’t know shit about guns or war. First off, the term “assault weapon” does not exist. There is such a thing as an “assault rifle”, but that just means a rifle that is magazine fed and can be set to semi-auto, full-auto, or burst, but those are already illegal for civilians to own anyway. The Federal Assault Weapons ban to which Feinstein refer is but a laundry list of features guns aren’t allowed to have selected mostly on the basis on how scary they look. From wiki, the banned features are:

For semi-automatics, the ability to have a detachable magazine and two or more of the following

  • Folding or telescoping stock – of marginal use when shooting. Only makes them take up somewhat less room when transporting. If you remember the scene from Jurassic Park, the warden had one of these that he was using to hunt the escaped velociraptors before they went “clever girl” on him. Man, that assault weapon feature worked out real well for him, huh?
  • Pistol grip – slightly improved ergonomics, nothing more.
  • Bayonet mount – I think everyone who supports the Federal Assault Weapons Ban also cheered when Obama did that “we also have less horses and bayonets” retort to Romney during the debate.
  • Flash suppressor, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one – all this does is reduce the muzzle flash so that the enemy cannot pinpoint your location using that. Yes, it helps the crazed gunman doing hit and run like the DC sniper a while back. It also helps homeowners defending their homes against invasion because they are not blinded when firing their gun defensively.
  • Grenade launcher – this one I actually kind of agree with, but then I thought about how useful they might be in case you had a home invasion or an active shooter and you shot some smoke grenades off. Since you know the terrain much better than the shooter, I am thinking this should really only benefit you, and as such I’m inclined to say don’t ban the launcher, ban the actual explosive grenade.

Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines and two or more of the following:

  • Magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip – this seems like it was meant to limit magazine capacity. But, according to same blogger I paraphrased above, hi-cap mags are prone to jamming because too many bullets aren’t good for the springs. In the hands of the Lawful Good guns group, it only helps. In the hands of the Chaotic Evil group, banning these don’t help because the Chaotic Evils will just hang on to them. Whether or not the Adam Lanzas of the world have access to these would not impact the damage they can do, because there is very little difference between killing twenty unarmed children with a normal gun that you maybe swap out a magazine for and killing twenty unarmed children without swapping.
  • Threaded barrel to attach barrel extender, flash suppressor, handgrip, or suppressor – another one of those things that benefit defenders as well as attackers. Suppressors make it hard for someone to hear you shoot (but they do not, contrary to what movies suggest, silence a gunshot). They also reduce recoil and prevent hearing damage.
  • Barrel shroud that can be used as a hand-hold – most ridiculous item on this whole list. Barrel shrouds are a safety feature. They make it so you don’t burn yourself if you ever need to grab the barrel because shooting guns tend to make the barrel very hot.
  • Unloaded weight of 50 oz (1.4 kg) or more – neutral.
  • A semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm – I guess this is just to ban the possibility of you converting it to be full auto?

Semi-automatic shotguns with two or more of the following:

  • Folding or telescoping stock – covered above
  • Pistol grip – covered above
  • Fixed capacity of more than 5 rounds – helps only criminals.
  • Detachable magazine – helps only criminals.

Most of these things are features that help someone defending their homes from invasion just as much as they help the criminals. And in a situation where the criminals have access to these things already, preventing normal people from getting access to them only helps the criminals.

3b. Well, other countries have good gun laws and few shootings!

Many also cite the absence of gun crimes in other parts of the world, to which I say: confounding variable. One must realize that violent crime is achieved by the criminal being able to bring about more force than any prospective victim is able to respond with. In other countries, where most civilians are likely to be armed with nothing but their bare hands and harsh language, it only takes a knife to get them to part with their wallet. Here in the US, where a good amount of civilians are armed anyway, it requires heavier firepower along with the advantage of initiative for a criminal to make good with their loot. Now, if you are okay with this, fine. Just realize that this is in effect paying off criminals so they don’t do worse things to you.

The problem with any kind of firearms or firearms feature ban in the US is that there are already a lot of guns at large that will not be turned in because they belong to criminals. This is vastly different from other parts of the world where there was never widespread public ownership of firearms, thus one can’t simply say “look at Australia, they banned all their guns” or “look at Britain, they banned all their guns” and expect it to work for the US. It also does nothing to make schools safer  the real problem is that a school is a public land that isn’t fenced off and has many possible attack points for someone wanting to enter violently. Being that we don’t want to turn schools into fortresses, the only thing to do is to realize that there’s next to no way to prevent an active shooter from entering. Any countermeasures must necessarily be from the perspective of what to do when the next one happens (since even if mental illnesses did not exist, criminals still do).

Oh I guess there’s that thing where rights aren’t supposed to get taken away just because a small number of lawbreakers have their goals achieved somewhat easier because that right exists.

4. Silly gun nut, the Second Amendment is for militias!

There are two ways this argument goes. One is that the Second Amendment is for militias, not random-ass people getting access to guns. It should, however, be noted that you cannot have a militia without civilians owning and training with guns. We do have an army, but regular military and militias are not the same thing, and the Founding Fathers most certainly did intend for the United States to have both, given their mistrust of centralization of governmental power and their experiences in fighting off a regular army due to a well-maintained militia. They wanted a militia to overthrow the government in case the government ever became tyrannical and to provide one last line of defense in case the United States does become attacked and the regular military alone isn’t enough to handle it. Private ownership of guns goes hand in hand with having a militia.

Faced with this, the common counterargument is that given the mismatch in power between the regular US military and any grass-roots armed resistance efforts, such measures would be useless anyway. Or that the US government simply isn’t tyrannical enough to warrant the continued presence of an armed militia. The former belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the art of war, namely, that it is not necessary to actually be stronger to deter. During the Cold War, the US and NATO were, objectively, stronger than the Soviet Union. There was not an attempt to attack and defeat the Soviet Union because the Soviet Union would have been able to destroy the world in its last moments. On a more personal level, back in middle school there was this bunch of kids who would pick on me all the time because i was a fat unathletic Chinese kid with delusions of kung fu mastery. And I would fight back, all the time, but objectively speaking, if we were counting damage dealt against damage taken, I lost all the fights. However, they stopped picking on me when this continued and they decided it was not worth it when the assistant principal took notice and gave us both detentions due to Zero Tolerance. All that really needs to happen is the ability to cause enough damage to deter, to escalate the situation to one the enemy finds intolerable. And if a bunch of third-world insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan can give pause to the mighty American war machine, the chances can only improve for American insurgents who would have had superior training and insight into the American psyche, as well as being far more difficult to other-ize and dehumanize as the enemy.

Which brings me to the other counterargument, that our government is wonderful and fuzzy and what do you mean “overthrow tyranny” or “defend against invasion”, that can’t happen here in the US! The problem with this is that it’s purely an emotional and sentimental argument unsupported by fact. The world has seen plenty of warm and fuzzy governments that eventually went despotic. Rome’s transition from Republic to Empire comes to mind. As does Sparta’s transition to the relatively normal city-state of myth (Helen of Troy’s first husband was a king of Sparta, mind) to what in modern terms would be a slave-owning military autocracy. And let’s not forget that Hitler was voted into power, or that North Korea started out ruled by Kim Il-Sung, hero of WWII who was a major leader of the anti-Japanese resistance, in contrast to South Korea, ruled by an authoritarian strongman who spent most of his years in the US apart from the people he was supposedly leading. Similarly, history is filled with nation-states that were once strong but then declined and got conquered by others – again, Rome, Sparta, every single interation of the Chinese dynastic cycle, etc. So the US being the same, starting off nice and free but turning despotic, or currently being strong but eventually declining in power or having more powerful neighbors and gradually getting Red Dawned is not impossible, merely improbable. And, to borrow a quote from the aforementioned blogger – low probability is not a risk management strategy. It is not impossible but merely improbable that your house will flood, so you get flood insurance because if it ever happens the results would be catastrophic. Is there any reason to not apply the same reasoning to governments?

5. God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost! Repent, for tomorrow you die!

There seems to be a somewhat vocal minority saying that apparently all these shootings and crimes is because we took God and prayer out of schools. To this I say, betch please. The lack of God did not cause this to happen any more than his existence prevented it. Takes some goddamn (har, c wut i did thar) responsibility for childrearing instead of using religion as a crutch. Seriously, the corollary to this idea is that the all-knowing, omnipotent, benevolent God let this happen because we stopped paying homage to him. Or he’s just “testing” us…for what, really? Our resolve? Our sympathy? And he could not find some way to do this that did not involve having a crazed gunman kill twenty kids? Why the hell would you follow a God like that? Zeus may be a prick who can’t keep his prick to himself, but at least with him you know where you stand. Plus you are also ignoring the millions (AND MILLIONS!) of atheists who don’t go out and decide to kill children.

On a side note, Deism is all kinds of awesome and it’s what the Founding Fathers believed. If you have religion, and it inspires you to be a better person, awesome. Don’t push it on others, and don’t push it as panacea.

Besides, there is no god but Tzeentch, Khorne, Nurgle, and Slaanesh- *BLAM! Heresy!*

6. The solution to guns isn’t more guns!

I am a martial artist. Let’s say someone is trying to physically assault me. Would you say that the solution to fist isn’t more fist? Or would you say that the correct measure is to use my kung fu to defend myself? If the solution to guns isn’t more guns, police would not carry guns.

As has been covered many times, the situation now is that many do have guns, and there is no way to prevent them from instigating a shooting. Yes, we can have all the mental health counseling programs we want. Yes, we can have less violent tv shows or at least more tv shows that deal with nuances in terms of how to use violence responsibly. Yes, we have have a host of things. All of that is useless if a criminal decides he wants to shoot up a mall unless they give him money.

As a martial artist, I believe strongly in the idea that self-defense is a human right. Because while we have laws, there exists that gap in time between when a breach in the law occurs and when law enforcement can show up, and I find the idea that we are obligated to remain docile in that meantime reprehensible. You cannot have self-defense if the defenders are not allowed to match the attackers in combat capability. That leads to the aforementioned situation in which the doctor was shot dead because the home invaders had more ammo capacity than he did.

The TV show Revolution, written by J. J. Abrams, is a godawful show filled with plot holes and protagonist centered morality and characters being artificially dumbed down so the plot can be moved forward and many other sins of writing. But the early episodes did have some good moments, including a monologue by the side character Aaron. See, Aaron is a fat and unathletic nerd who always got picked on by the jocks at his school. But then he graduated, went to college, studied computers, and went to work for Google in a tech job while his former tormentors ended up flipping burgers at McD’s. And then the Blackout happened, all electronics stopped working, militias confiscated all the guns, and right when his life was good, he went right back to living in an entire country ruled by the jerk jocks who tormented him. There is some truth in the saying “God created man, but Sam Colt made him equal.” An unarmed jock easily outclasses an unarmed nerd. A jock with a gun is only marginally more dangerous than a nerd with a gun. Historically, the samurai never enacted a gun ban due to guns allowing lowly peasants to easily kill the flower of Japan’s fighting men. But the fact this myth persists indicates we all accept at a basic level the gun’s ability to equalize defense. Life with no guns does not mean no crime, it merely means criminals just have to have bigger muscles and sharper knives than their victims.

Solutions

Currently, the solutions being bandied about – gun control, improved mental health, permitting concealed carry in more places, etc – are being suggested in opposition to each other. They are presented as being mutually exclusive, and that is a mistake.

As stated before, there are three groups of guns – 1. guns belonging to criminals used used for crime, 2. guns belonging to law-abiding citizens not being used for crime, 3. guns belonging to law-abiding citizens being used for crime. There is also a time constraint – any solution will require time to implement fully, and it is important to maintain public safety in the interim.

Obviously, we don’t have to do anything about Group 2. Gun control does work for Group 3. But this can only be controls that increase the penalties for when something goes wrong. Thus, I would propose some kind of national gun registry, where every gun sold gets a serial number and a “seller” and “current owner” data field that logs who owns it at any point, be it a storefront or a customer. If a guncrime is committed, the popos look at the serial number, find who the gun belongs to, and punishes them. This gives incentive for gun-owners to lock up their guns and prevent others from using them improperly and gun-sellers to actually do background checks. In addition, a national mental health database would be good too. If you live in the same household as a mentally ill person, you are responsible for whether they use their guns for ill.

In the meantime, better mental health services would be pretty awesome as well. As I am not nearly as well versed on mental health as I am in strategery and tactics, I’m not going to spend time talking about something I don’t understand – a virtue that many who do comment on these topics should keep in mind.

In addition, as a friend of mine pointed out, the fact that so many of these shootings end in suicide for the shooter indicate that these are really a combination of a glorification of violence as the solution to problems as well as a failure to instill the idea of personal responsibility in the youth. Suicide here is very much the easy way out when you don’t want to deal with the consequences of murdering a boatload of people. Obviously something within the culture must change. However, what cannot happen is a cultural shift to make violence in and of itself bad. As long as evil exist in the world, pacifism is an ideology that only helps the bad guys. Better would be more series like Game of Thrones, in which while there is conflict, all of the factions have at least a decent reason for why they are fighting, or Macross, in which while violence is useful for self-defense and buying time, ultimately conflict resolution is achieved by finding common ground and convincing the other side you have more in common with each other than differences, or Fearless, in which violence is bad when you are using it for your own ego, but good if you are using it to defend the weak from being preyed upon.

However, improving controls and mental health services and culture are somewhat long processes, and again only takes care of one of the subgroups of guns being used for crime. As previously mentioned, America’s situation is different from other countries in that there are already massive numbers of guns floating in circulation, many of which have features that would be banned if their owners would actually follow gun laws (which I hope is obvious to everyone that they don’t). It must also be recognized that in places where shootings do happen, there is nothing preventing an active shooter from entering and doing their business – most schools have open campuses which mean anyone can walk in, and the cops can’t be everywhere at once.

We all know the ideal solution to any problem is prevention. However, here prevention is not an option available to us. Just think about all the ways you might keep an invader out of your home – lock the doors? Schools can’t do that because people come in and out all the time. Fence it up? Same thing. Metal detectors? That would slow student inflow to class to an unreasonable crawl. Limit the number of entrances? Same thing. The fact stands that schools (and most public places in general, such as malls or department stores or parks or coffee shops) are open areas meant to facilitate the inflow of large numbers of people. There is nothing you can do to prevent an active shooter from entering these areas. The only meaningful discussion is how we can stop a shooting after it occurs, and I have yet to see any better alternative to allowing people who the law already permits to carry their guns everywhere else to do so at schools too.

From a tactical standpoint, an active shooter entering his chosen location has the advantages of firepower, surprise, and initiative. Normally, the defenders have a terrain and numbers advantage, but because they have no way to fight back, this is nullified. The shooter is obviously better armed, his presence causes an initial panic, the interim before police arrive and get their bearings gives him time to run wild.

If you arm even only one or two of the defenders, however, things change dramatically. The shooter now loses all of his advantages – he loses the firepower advantage because firepower is now roughly equal, he loses his surprise advantage because the defenders can actually react, and he loses his initiative advantage because someone shooting back now forces him to react. In addition, the defenders now get to bring their advantages to bear. Numbers turn at worst even (since it’s usually only one or two active shooters), and usually it’s the better case of turning against the shooter since even one or two defenders with guns can, at the least, keep the shooter pinned for someone else to close to melee. The defenders now also get to use their terrain advantage, since they generally know the layout of the locale better than the shooter, and it should be noted that this is also an advantage they have over actual police.

It should be noted that when CHL holders were present at shootings, the shootings ended very quickly. Leaving the handling of active shooter situations when they happen (and they will happen, because even if the kind of gun control measures I or even the Left propose worked, they will not eliminate all shootings and we still need some kind of countermeasure) to the police is a reactive strategy. Allowing at least some people to be armed is still reactive, but at the very least it greatly reduces the reaction time.

Senator Feinstein speaks of getting weapons of war off our streets. This is funny because it’s clear she does not understand the art of war at all.

Now, are there risks? Yes. Misfires do happen. But very rarely guns just go off on their own out of the blue when they’re holstered and the safety is on. The proper course of action is then to perform data analytics more sophisticated than what I’ve already done to determine what would cause less deaths, an increase in misfires or accidents due to allowing teachers to go armed on campus, or the current situation where everyone is at the mercy of the shooter until police arrive. Whichever one causes less death is the one we ought to opt for.

Closing remarks

The shooting happened on December 14, 2012. Just a day prior was the 75th anniversary of the Rape of Nanjing, an event in the early stages of the Chinese theater of World War II in which, following the surrender of the Chinese garrison in Nanjing after a several-day battle, the invading Japanese army then proceeded to engage in a six-week massacre and mass rape of the Chinese civilian population. 300000 people were killed – that is, one dead every 12 seconds – with more being dragged off into slave labor camps or “comfort women” stations. And it must be restated that these were either disarmed POWs or civilians who, due to China’s relatively low tech level at the time, had no guns.

Contrast this quote from Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto about what would end a war with the United States.

“Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it is not enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. To make victory certain, we would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House. I wonder if our politicians, among whom armchair arguments about war are being glibly bandied about in the name of state politics, have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.”

There is another quote that is often misattributed to him that runs like this:

“You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.”

Made up, yes. But what does it say about the reasonableness of the idea behind the quote when so many can pass it around without any doubt of whether he actually said it?

I bet the citizens of Nanjing wished they had guns when the devils showed up on their doorstep.

My right to bear arms may end at your right to feel safe. But your right to feel safe ends at my right to be safe.

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Let’s Watch Fate/Zero, Ep 12

December 13, 2012

Episode 12 – the Grail Beckons

Back at Tokiomi’s crib, he and Kirei discuss next steps. Kirei believes Rider’s Noble Phantasm to be the equal of Gil’s Gate of Babylon, which is…impressive given how broken of a skill Gate of Babylon is. Tokiomi isn’t worried, however, given that now that they know what Ionioi Hetairoi actually does, they can formulate a response to it. From the way they talk, it seems like all the Assassins did die.


Protip, Kirei…when you put all your eggs in one basket, you’re supposed to watch the damn basket.

Cut to Kiritsugu who’s on the phone with Maiya. She agrees with the assessment that all the Assassins are gone. Kiritsugu asks about the “new workshop” which I presume means a new safehouse for Iri to live in. It’s ready, and Saber and Iri are being taken their now. Meanwhile, he enjoys a late-night meal, then gives us all a reminder of where everyone is at.

Tokiomi Tohsaka is turtling behind his defenses. Kariya Matou hasn’t been doing anything, but he’s useful to keep around if only to keep Archer in check, so it’s not conducive to go after him now. Caster is still at large (I guess everyone forgot about the supposed temporary truce to prioritize him). Kayneth is incapped, but Lancer is still at large. Rider goes everywhere on his flying thunder chariot so he’s hard to track. Which leaves Kirei, who Kiritsugu notes is acting in ways that make no sense if the goal was to just ally with Tohsaka – were that the case, there would be no point in ambushing him at the hotel or going after him in the Einzbern forest.


I take this cheeseburger…and EAT IT!

Cut to Gil enjoying Kirei’s booze, sitting in front of a Holy Grail themed chess set (where does he get those fancy toys? I want one). He picks up the Saber piece, interested, while confirming that yup, all the Assassins are dead, as Kirei has no more command spells.


Let your soul take you where you long to be….only then can you belong to me…

Gil and Kirei sit down to explain to us how unused command spells work – apparently, they still remain in the world after the war ends, going to whoever the mediator was, which explains why Priest Risei Kotomine has all those spells running up his arm like it was Zerg creep. When a Servant is killed, the Master is usually out of the game for good. But, if a Master is killed, there is a window of time before the Servant disappears when another mage could step in and take control of the Servant. This is why the church always provides asylum to Grail War losers (to prolong the game) and also why everyone prefers killing Masters rather than just incapping them.

…Tokiomi Tohsaka you are so screwed.


I foresee a sudden but inevitable betrayal in your future

Cut to Saber driving a car! She’s acting as Iri’s chauffeur and wonders what it would have been like if automobiles existed in her time. They’re actually driving to the aforementioned safehouse, and as they get out, Iri explores the place with childlike wonderment. She rather likes it, starts talking magic, and asks Saber to help her get the materials.

Saber pauses to notice that Iri has avoided touching stuff for the entire day. Iri smiles, and asks to hold her hand. She squeezes as hard as she can, and apparently Iri has lost all her physical strength.


In other news, Iri/Saber still >>>>> Shirou/Saber.

Iri reveals that she’s actually a homunculus, built by the Einzberns for…some purpose that hasn’t been revealed yet. Her body’s breaking down, I guess? To prevent it from shutting down entirely, she’s cut off her sense of touch and now needs Saber to do stuff for her. In the meantime, resting in a magic circle will help. Saber understands and goes off.

Cut to Kirei’s crib. Gil is not impressed with Tokiomi’s motives, considering it petty. Meanwhile, he analyzes Kirei, trying to get at his motives at doing his part in playing support for Tokiomi so well. Does he really have no wish he wants the Grail to grant? Of all the things he’s seen, he’s followed Kariya for a while. What would happen if Kariya, who’s done next to nothing so far, ended up winning the Grail War by sheer luck. Kirei considers it, then writes it off by listing reasons why, but Gil is amused that he entertained the possibility instead of denying it outright. And then he switches gears to trying to convince Kirei that happiness is kosher.

Kirei is offended, stating that deriving happiness from this turn of events is just schadenfreude, and maybe it’s ok for Gil, but it’s definitely against his religion!

Suddenly, Kirei’s Command Spells come back.


Out, out damn spot!

Gil is again amused at this turn of events. He says that the Grail clearly has bigger plans for Kirei, and that the Grail can show him what he wants even if he doesn’t know.

Kirei is still ambivalent, noting that he’d have to crush the dreams of six others just to satisfy a somewhat petty desire for self-discovery.If he did that, his teacher would become his enemy.

Gil shrugs. For better or worse, the Grail wants him to rejoin the Grail War, so he’d better find a strong Servant if he wants to tangle with Gil. Or…he can take another option.


Tokiomi you are so screwed.

Final thoughts:

So…I’m finding that Fate/Zero is kinda bad at “set things up”/downtime episodes. all this ep does is set up stuff. It’s okay, but nothing special. Part of this episode was devoted to just setting up what Team Saber is doing now. Part of it is us learning Iri’s a homunculus who is breaking down which I’m sure will crop up later. But the part that moves the plot forward is the Seduction of Kirei Kotomine, and that part just…fell flat.

When you do a seduction scene, where a character is convinced to do something they are supposed to have deep reservations about, it is important that we get a good grasp of that character’s personality. How they think, what’s important to them, what they want, etc. We have very little insight into any of that from Kirei beyond that he’s your standard straight-laced antagonist who probably doesn’t enjoy himself and is used to a stern and spartan life, but nothing beyond that. And his convictions are still just a tad too…unconvincing, I think the word is. It’s probably just me, but a secular progressive like myself finds it very hard to imagine anyone taking their religion so seriously that they think seeking their own happiness is sinful. Kirei’s not as batshit as Rinnosuke or Caster, but he’s still just a little out there, and that combined with the fact we know very little about him just adds to the meh-ness.

Now, in contrast – how to do a seduction scene well? Avatar; the Last Airbender, Book 2, Chapter 20: The Crossroads of Destiny. The part where [SPOILER]Azula convinces Zuko to turn against his uncle Iroh and join her in capturing the Avatar[/SPOILER] was a thing of beauty. We knew from the previous season that Zuko’s an exiled prince who’s always been about capturing the Avatar to restore his honor and make daddy love him. The current season establishes him as trying to come to terms with the fact that his father has officially given up on him, branding him and his uncle traitors and sending his sister who had always been more talented and more favored on the mission instead. The last several episodes shows him developing more empathy for the people that his nation was trying to wage a war of subjugation against, and his uncle is pleased that he seems to be starting to take in the message of tolerance and multiculturalism.

However, Azula knows more about how Zuko rolls than Iroh does. She correctly identifies that no, his hesitation isn’t because he’s coming around, but because he’s given up on any chance of his mission succeeding. And so she attacks the core of the issue, deigning to ask for his help even though she’s always lorded the fact she was better than he was at everything , then shutting down Iroh when he’s trying to convince him otherwise by insisting he lets Zuko choose for himself. She correctly read that Zuko still wants his honor/daddy’s love/everyone else’s recognition, and so she seized on that, planting the idea in his head that things aren’t hopeless, that everything he’s lost he could have back if only he just helped her. Between going with Uncle who’s telling him what to do and gain nothing, vs going with Sis who’s just offering a path to everything he’s been trying two seasons to get, that’s a very easy choice to make.

That is how you do a proper “join the dark side” scene.

Also, why doesn’t this exist yet?


Shut up Type-Moon and take my money!

Until next ep.

Let’s Watch Fate/Zero, Ep 11

December 6, 2012

Episode 11: The Holy Grail Discussion – or as I call it, A Clash of Kingship.

Saber overlooks the walls of Einzbern mansion, while Iri looks around. The Castle’s in pretty rough shape from the Kiritsugu-Kayneth fight, and I must say it again, Kayneth was not a weak mage. He got pwnt pretty badly in the end, but aside from the glaring weakness of disregarding any weapon of muggle make, guy was doing pretty well.

Suddenly…Lightning!

Wheels!

ISKANDER!


OHHHH YEAAAAAAHHHHH

Saber and Iri believe that Rider’s here to attack them, taking advantage of Kiritsugu’s absence. They show up to confront him, but it turns out Rider’s only here to chitchat, critique Saber’s fashion sense, and drink booze.

Such a bro, that guy. Understands one of the rules of hospitality – you crash a guy’s house, you bring booze.

Cut to the King of Conquerors and the King of Knights sitting in the courtyard, drinking out of wooden spoons. Saber demonstrates that yes, Britons can hold their liquor. Rider cuts to the chase – since they say the Grail is supposed to go to whoever deserves it most, then before fighting, they should always try the diplomatic solution and see if they can decide who has a more noble motive for wanting the Grail. He went to Saber first because she too is a king, and thus as a measure of respect she deserves to be the first to be invited.

What a gentleman, that guy.


Salut!

Suddenly, Gilgamesh crashes the party! Turns out Rider saw him wandering around town all alone by himself and invited him too. Iri and Waver are totes scared (as they should be), but Rider offers him a drink of wine. As it turns out, Gil respects hospitality, although the wine fails to impress.


I could have the Jewish carpenter who did my flooring turn this to water and it would improve the taste

Apparently the best of Fukuyi’s supermarket shelf isn’t quite up to par, so he opens the Gate of Babylon…and materializes a jug of wine and some goblets out of the air.


…hold on, he can summon booze on demand? OMG I WANT HIS POWERSET.

“Be it wine or swords, only the best is in my treasury,” he says. You know, I’m still not quite sold on the idea that because you were the inspiration, that gives you claim to literally everything to exist, but for now let’s go with that.

Now that the three kings are gathered, Rider announces the beginning of the discussion – why does everyone want the grail?


Answer me these questions three…

What is your name?

Gilgamesh, King of Heroes.

What is your quest?

To obtain the Holy Grail.

To what end?


I am the alpha, the beginning, the inspiration of everything. Every treasure in the world is traceable to my collection. It’s rightfully mine, thus I want it.

Rider immediately begins attacking his argument. “Have you ever held it?” he asks. There you go, Rider! Use that logic Aristotle taught ya!

Gil says no. But his King’s Treasury has long since grown far beyond the point where he can know the exact inventory of what is in it. It’s enough that at least one of the goblets in his collection inspired the Holy Grail, therefore it is his. Besides, copper-counting is what slaves are for.

Saber interjects here, saying his words make about as much sense as Caster’s. How can you own something you never even knew existed?


Stop drop and roll Gil because you just got burned!

Rider laughs and says that he has a pretty good inkling of who Gilgamesh is (as at this point all anyone knows is that Gil is just some shiny guy who got summoned as an Archer class). In addition, he also concludes that Gil doesn’t really have a wish he wants granted. Gil agrees with this – he’s only interested in the Grail because he doesn’t want others to have it. If you take it, he’ll punish you.

How…Hammurabi like.

Saber demonstrates the advances in argumentation that a few centuries have made by attacking Rider’s basic premise, that he admits that there is such a thing as the “rightful owner”/”most deserving” of the Grail, yet he sees no problems with taking it by force. Thus she must doubt his motives.


Answer me these questions three

What is your name?

Iskander, King of Conquerors.

What is your quest?

I seek the Grail.

To what end?


REINCARNATION.

Waver is all like “lolwut” but is silenced by a MAN-FLICK. Rider continues to explain – Servants will disappear after the Grail War ends. He wants to be human again, to once more feel the rush of conquest and battle, to conquer the world as he once did. As someone who spent her life defending her kingdom from foreign aggression, Saber disagrees strongly – kings shouldn’t roll like that. Rider responds to her argument by turning it around – what’s your goal then, King of Knights?


I am Arturia, King of the Britons. I seek the Holy Grail, such that I may bring peace to my home and change Britain’s path of destruction caused by my becoming king.

Gil merely laughs at Saber’s wish. Rider becomes displeased at this – Greeks, after all, know that challenging fate never works. In addition, he’s offended at the idea that she’d try to erase the history that she herself made. Saber counters by saying that a king should sacrifice themselves for their kingdom, and whether it’s her life or her legacy, if it leads to peace for her people, then she’ll make it.


I’ve already given my life for you. What more can I give?

Aside: So, according to wiki, most Servants that get summoned are actually a copy of themselves. When you become a Heroic Spirit, the essence of your being – that is, a conglomerate of your real life self plus the legends people tell about you – gets placed in a dimension called the Throne of Heroes. When you are summoned for a Grail War, a copy of you is created and put in one of seven vessels which are the Servant classes. Arturia, however is unique in that a major part of her myth is the search for the Grail, and thus until she finds it, she can’t die. Thus, she’s actually the real deal, and she is literally sacrificing her entire existence if it means the long-extinct kingdom she used to rule would enjoy a different fate.

Rider disagrees. Kings shouldn’t sacrifice anything! The whole point of being king is that people give you their stuff! Kings don’t give, they receive!

Saber retorts, saying that that’s not a king, but a tyrant. Before she continues, however, Rider replies that yes, duh, they were all tyrants to some extent, and that’s why they are considered heroes. If Saber regretted her reign, then she must have been a shitty king.

Both of them have decent points here. It is admirable to sacrifice for the benefit of others. That is why every single culture has legends about heroes who did that. But at the same time, the important thing (which is what Rider is getting at) is benefiting others, not sacrifice. In addition, while Rider’s argument marks him as a product of his time, when absolute rule by monarch and legitimacy via force of arms was an acceptable way to do things, it is also applicable to the world of today – namely, the need for strongmen.

Ideally, we’d all be functioning democracies comprised of relatively well-informed and tolerant people who vote on what we want to do. But realistically, while you have some countries like America that have had 200+ years to learn to live with each other, and other countries like Germany that have had centuries of unification to forge a national identity, a lot of countries aren’t like that. And even in the functional democracies of today, the nation itself is rich enough that there’s not really a scrabble for resources to survive. In many other countries, such a situation is not feasible. In a country like China, for example, which has historically always been comprised of poor subsistence farmers ruled over by local lords doing whatever they liked as soon as the central government’s back was turned, or a country like Iraq, which has its borders artificially drawn to include three groups of people who don’t like each other, you need a strongman to keep the entire country running and prevent it from descending into destructive factionalism. The Founding Fathers of America may have overstated slightly factionalism’s dangers – political parties are but a natural outgrowth of the right to assembly, and the two-party system that the US currently has is but its logical conclusion – but dangers do exist. In such a case, you need a person or a party who, if he/she/they are not universally liked, then they can at least be universally feared, at least enough to force the trains to run on time (yes, yes, I know he didn’t really do that, but the principle still stands). China has corruption problems, yes. But enough corrupt officials do get executed and enough corrupt people do get punished to prevent the sort of fragmentation and clique-building that destroyed the Nationalist government prior as well as prevent a total loss of faith in the system as a whole. The Chinese government is commonly known for seizing land (as “private ownership of land” is not a part of communism, technically the gov’t can do as it likes), sometimes merely for developing expensive condos, yes. But it also means that infrastructure projects and power plants can be built where they are needed instead of having to cater to the NIMBYists. And dissidents who criticize the government’s policies are jailed, yes. But it also means that in cases where something has a net benefit for the country on the whole while leaving segments of the population worse off than they were before – such as increased free trade and changes in the price of labor resulting in China outsourcing its own unskilled labor to nearby countries like Vietnam and Burma, benefiting China because it now has cheaper goods and benefiting those countries because they have influx of Chinese cash – there’s no one to agitate and put the kibosh on that. You contrast the consistent growth of an authoritarian country like China to the political gridlock of a democratic country like India (based on conversations with actual Indian people, so many parties means pork barreling and corruption up the wazoo) or a place like Taiwan (which according to Taiwanese friends somehow keeps running despite a very useless government), it’s clear which government has more political efficacy.

Of course, there are problems with this, and Saber follows up by pointing out the problem with rule-by-strongman – once Iskander died, his empire fragmented. Having your will and testament go to “the strongest” also doesn’t help since it means your underofficers are just going to fight it out to determine who the strongest is. And her point also has a real-life analog to it. Look at what’s happening in Egypt after they got rid of Mubarak. Or Libya after they got rid of Ghadafi. Or Iraq after we got rid of Saddam. Whereas before you had a dictator at least holding things together because they feared his retribution more than they wanted anything else, this peace through fear situation means that none of their subjects ever learned how to live in civility with each other, and now that the strongman is gone, they now have no one holding them back. As the Good Book says, while it is better to be feared than loved, that only applies if the two are mutually exclusive. If you can be both loved by your friends and feared by your enemies, that’s the best thing to be. And maybe fear can get your kingdom started, but if you don’t transition to love, then your kingdom will inevitably collapse once they no longer fear.

Rider, however, considers it irrelevant. OK, so the diadochi fought internecine wars between themselves, disintegrating the greatest empire of the Western world. So he’ll mourn for the loss of his empire, but he would never try to change history so it never happened – that would be an insult to everyone who’s fought and bled for him over the years.

Saber changes tack, arguing that we need rule of law, not rule by strongmen. And initially, I read that as her just being naive, but looking back she has a good point here too, since if we do law of man instead of law of jungle, there’s much less of a need for people to fight and bleed for you in the first place. Rider dismisses this as her being a mere slave to her ideals, unable to even live for herself. Saber retorts that she is a warrior servant of her people, whereas Rider is just a selfish greedy robber baron.

Rider then delivers a verbal smackdown to that notion. He argues that if you don’t want things, if you lack drive or ambition, then you’re not worthy of kingship! He doesn’t doubt Saber’s nobility, per se. But who the hell wants to live like that? Her criticism of his idea of kingship is flawed because it attacks a strawman, that because you are king you deserve better and can lord your status over everyone else. Rather, it’s that if you are king, then you should strive to be better than everyone else, such that all your subjects want to be you.


No one fights like Rider, flexes might like Rider, no one’s pecs are as tight in his shirt like Rider

Being king means you lead by being that guy everyone wants to emulate, not being that guy who lives by an impossibly immaculate standard. Maybe Saber’s ideals saved its kingdom once. But then what? She made herself so perfect that everyone thought she was out of touch. Rider’s method former galvanizes his followers into action. Saber’s method makes her followers call her a sanctimonious bitch behind her back.

The words hit home, emphasized by a convenient cloud that covers the moon and causes a shadow to move across Saber’s face as tears well up in her eyes.


Isn’t it sad, Saber?

Rider continues the smackdown. Sure, Saber, you saved your people, but never led them. You won the war, but you lost the peace. You had a vision, an idea, and you wanted your ideals, but didn’t give a shit about whether they were implementable.


Everyone’s dead, Art.

So, back in 2008, Beijing was selected to host the Summer Olympics. As a Chinese myself, I found this a very joyous moment where what was formerly the largest third-world country picked it up by the bootstraps and joined the modern world. So I go online when it was about to start, and to my surprise there were people who didn’t like that. They said that because China didn’t have enough human rights, because the people in China didn’t have enough freedoms, because the government sent an army to quash a riot in 1989, because China was a country that just so happened to have parts of it be inhabited by ethnic minorities with secessionist movements, because this because that, it did not deserve to host the Olympics and we should boycott them.

This is when I learned the word “slacktivist”.

They get taken in by an ideal, whether it’s “human rights” or “self-determination” or “stop persecution”. And they’re good ideals. And then they’re lazy and don’t think about what it is they’re doing to try to achieve that. They don’t think that, say, the rest of the world perhaps needs to meet China halfway – from China’s POV, the supposed free and civilized democracies of the Western world have carved up its lands and ignored its sovereignty for over a century just because they were stronger militarily. Why should they trust the intentions of any Westerner who has ideas on proper Chinese governance? They don’t think that, say, hosting the Olympics brings closure and catharsis to a people who have been treated as second-class citizens in their own lands and are the perpetual foreign “other” when they do immigrate to other countries, or that it’s a very good thing for these people that such a thing is happening, only that it’s bad that the baby-murdering Communist Party of China gets the credit. They don’t think that, say, this evil government of China could use their call for boycott as propaganda to say to their people, “see? The imperialist ambitions of the West does not die, they still wish to keep us down, only they dress their true purpose up in gilded words. Good thing your leaders in the CPC work tirelessly to improve your condition”, only that a group with “human rights” in its name is calling for a boycott, so it must be good, right?

In other words, they may have a good ideal (or maybe not, as in the case of those Falun Gong jokers whose idea of fair retribution for their religion being banned seems to be to call for the overthrow of the Chinese government, blind to the chaos that would bring as explained by the previously mentioned strongman analysis). They’re just fools who can’t see that their methods only take them farther from achieving their goals.

As the good Bella said, “What do I want? What do I have? How may I use the latter to obtain the former?”

And this is a common problem across all parts of the political spectrum, that people get caught up in ideals whether it’s “traditional family values” or “universal healthcare” or whatever that they don’t stop and think to themselves the full effects. Socialism sure *sounds* nice, where everyone works as hard as they can and gets what they need, until the part where people stop working as hard because their payout is not tied to their performance. Not having a military draft *sounds* nice, until the part where it means your military is increasingly and disproportionately made up of people who were unable to get private-sector jobs and can’t be fired and your military is no longer representative of the population from which it is drawn, and your individual soldiers are only incentivized for lasting until the tour of duty ends as opposed to when the war is won. Taxing the rich more because they can pay more *sounds* nice, until the part where they just leave the country so they don’t have to pay the taxes.

It is said that the Arthur C. Clarke short story “Superiority” is required reading at MIT, with the purpose of teaching students the perils of overengineering solutions and not thinking through the consequences. It would be good if all activists were to read the same.

Anyway, Assassin appears to cut me off before this gets hijacked by politics.


Assassins, sir! Zillions of them!

Waver is surprised at their numbers. Gil is not impressed. Well, he also doesn’t care, what with the deadly alliance and all. As they surround the gathering, they begin chanting ominously. We are the many who are one, one who are many…OMG ASSASSIN IS ANONYMOUS


Nothing is true. Everything is permitted. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.

Rider, however, is unperturbed. He even gets up to offer hospitality (YAY ANCIENT GREECE), inviting them to join. “This wine is as your blood,” he says. “Drink and let us be joined by blood”.  Also it means he can lay down the pain if they break it….and they just did.


May Zeus have mercy on you soul, for I sure as hell won’t.

Rider asks Saber one last question as he is preparing to get dangerous – “are we kings to stand in solitude?” Saber replies of course, the life of a king is a lonely one. Rider yells at her, saying NO! YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND! A TRUE KING LEADS, THUS HE HAS FOLLOWERS!


What time is it? Noble Phantasm Time!

Suddenly, everyone is in a desert. Iri notes that somehow Rider’s summoned up a Reality Marble.

Explanation: a Reality Marble is kind of like an extra dimension that usually only mages can summon, containing something important to themselves. In Fate/Stay Night, Archer’s basic power was the ability to summon/manifest copies of other Noble Phantasms. Unlike Gilgamesh, who has the real deal, Archer’s weapons all drop one rank in stats because they are only copies. His Noble Phantasm was a Reality Marble containing copies of literally every single weapon in existence, which he shoots at enemies, manifesting as an endless field of blades planted into the ground.

Here, Rider explains that this dimension is the desert his armies once marched across. Wait, is that HOPLITES I see? And some unique-looking guys…I guess those are the Diodochi? OMG RIDER’S NOBLE PHANTASM IS THE ENTIRE MACEDONIAN ARMY THIS IS GLORIOUS.


Seriously, even his horse is here. And it’s in correct colors too!

Kings are never alone, Rider tells Saber as he saddles up. If you are truly a worthy king, you have followers who share your dreams and will fight for it alongside you. This world doesn’t just exist in his heart, but in the hearts of everyone who campaigned with him! His Phantasm isn’t just the Marble, or the army, it’s his bond with them, the shared dream that pushed them forward, faster, farther, to boldly go where no army has gone before. And it is this bond that allowed him to summon his entire army back as Heroic Spirits, that allowed their souls to travel across the space-time continuum just to fight alongside him once more. Of course…in history, Alexander the Great stopped his invasion of India because his armies mutinied, not liking the prospect of fighting more prolonged wars against large armies as well as getting homesick and missing their families. But this version of events is so much cooler so we’ll go with that.

And the name of his Noble Phantasm?

Ionioi Hetairoi.

OMG COMPANION CAVALRY FUCK YEAH YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HAPPY THIS MAKES ME. I SERIOUSLY JUST HAD A HISTORGASM

So, explanation: The Hetairoi, also known as the Companion Cavalry and “Alexander’s Hammer”, was an elite unit of cavalry that the city-state of Macedon kept around. Ancient Greek warfare was characterized by massed phalanxes of spear and shield pushing against each other until one side broke. In such a situation, cavalry was not of much use beyond scouting and pulling chariots – cavalry going into melee simply results in the phalanx forming a square which eats horses like hungry Frenchmen, so no one really had much of a cavalry force. Alexander, however, changed that; he would have his phalanxes be armed with massive pikes that outreached his enemies’ spears, and while those kept the enemy phalanx occupied and their spears pointed in one direction, he would lead his companion cavalry and smash into their flank or rear. Thus the Companions won Alexander the Great many of his victories, and to this day his tactics are studied in military academies as textbook examples of combined arms warfare and hammer-and-anvil tactics.

Also, fun fact – Alexander was kind of an attention whore, so he’d always lead from the front. As the Hetairoi liked to charge in a wedge formation to facilitate breaking the enemy’s line, this also means he was in the position of most danger. Such a bro, that guy. Also, doing this helped facilitate unity among his army which was comprised of people many disparate nations and tribes, as whatever their differences, they can get behind this conqueror who’s in the shit just like them.


YO DAWG I HERD U LIKE SERVANTS SO I SUMMONED MY OWN SERVANTS SO WE CAN FIGHT GRAIL WARS WHILE WE FIGHT GRAIL WARS

Oh jeez, Assassin you are so fucked. All you have is DEX, but there is no cover for you to take advantage of that. Sure, you can dodge, but you’re not going to dodge a thousand javelins and arrows coming at you at once. You’re inside Iskander’s reality marble, so there’s nowhere for you to run. The hoplites have more Str and Con than you, and their armor reduces your damage even further. You can maybe try to critical hit, but it won’t matter since they’ll cut you down as soon as you land one. And you may be the flower of Persia’s fighting men…but we all know what happened the last time Persia fought Macedon. So Hoplites vs Assassins turns out to be pretty much a bloodbath. A beautiful beautiful bloodbath for which no prose is appropriate…only verse.


I AM THE BONE OF MY ARMY


BRONZE IS MY BODY, AND SAND MY BLOOD


I HAVE CONQUERED OVER A THOUSAND NATIONS


TO SATE MY HUNGER FOR EARTH, MY THIRST FOR WATER


HAVE WITHSTOOD PAIN TO DEFEAT MANY KINGDOMS


YES, MY NAME SHALL EVER ENDURE


SO AS I CONQUER


IONIOI HETAIROI!

Man, he even leads at the front of the wedge just like he did in real life! Anyway, soon the last Assassin falls, and all is well.


Everywhere and PEOPLE DIE!


ZEUS BRONTIOS NIKEPHEROS!


HAROOH! HAROOH! HAROOH!

As the battle ends, so does the discussion. As Rider prepares to leave, Saber tries to ask for more wisdom – but Rider no longer acknowledges Saber as a king.


You know nothing, Arturia Pendragon.

Meanwhile, Gil is surprising supportive, telling Saber to ignore that numbskull and keep at her ideals. Hold on, he’s empathizing? Oh no, just schadenfreude at her situation and some interest in this clash of ideologies. And…he hits on her creepily as he leaves, saying that she just might be interesting enough for him.


Hey girl, I seem to have misplaced my scabbard, so I’m gonna put my sword in yours.

Saber is pensive, and we close with her confiding in Iri that once there was a knight who left the Round Table, saying King Arthur could never understand others’ feelings.

Final thoughts:

Wow. This was an episode comprised almost entirely of people sitting there and talking, and it was AWESOME. We got a crapton of characterization, a few vague call forwards to Fate/Stay Night, and neither side got reduced to strawmen. Also we got to see Rider smack the Tartarus out of Assassin. If they ever dub this series, I think they should totally get Gerard Butler to voice Rider.


The hundred Assassins of the Persian Empire await you. Our shadows will block out the sun.


Then we will fight in the shade.

So…Rider isn’t just a dumb meathead, anyone? His Noble Phantasm can pretty much kill Assassin right off the bat, but he tactically withdraws from fighting Assassin in the sewers because there’s only a couple of them and he doesn’t want Assassin’s Master to be able to figure out a countermeasure. But now that he knows most if not all of them are here, and that he can land a psychological victory against Saber while he’s at it, he makes what is possibly the first Servant kill of the series. Economy of force, Kiritsugu, you are not the only person who understands it.

I really do have to wonder what the hell was Kirei thinking, though. He had to have known from observing the first Servant battle that Rider and Archer are noble types and would probably at least ally with each other against Assassin, clash of kingship or no. Sure, Einzbern Mansion offers cover which is good for Assassin, but it’s also Saber’s home turf so she has defender’s advantage, plus cover is really one of those things that benefits both sides roughly equally. I guess he was he was banking on being able to take out the Masters before their Servants can defend, but didn’t expect to get dragged into a Reality Marble? Or maybe hoping Gil would back him up?


Oh, I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear your cries of pain and dying over the sound of how douchey I am.

I’m interested to see how things develop from here though.

Until next ep.

Let’s Watch Fate Zero, Ep 10

December 4, 2012

Alrighty, Episode 10 – RIN’s Big Adventure? Girl, stay away from this…whirlwind of blood and despair that is the Holy Grail War! You are not prepared!

Intro to Tokiomi’s crib, where he gots all the jewels! And magic circles! And…loli?

10RinButt

10RinButt

…gratuitous fanservice shot.

OMG BABY RIN AND SHE’S TRYING TO DO THE JEWEL MAGIC THING SO KAWAII

Explanation: the Tohsaka family specialty magic is storing magic spells inside gems. In Fate/Stay Night, Rin’s main magic attacks comes from throwing gems filled with offensive spells which explode upon contact. There’s other forms too, such as a magic gem dagger that Kirei later gives her. We also saw it back in episode 2, when Assassin does the possum ploy on Tohsaka mansion – the magic barriers protecting Tohsaka mansion are powered by crystals.

Another one of those alternating-scene montages follows. It starts with Rin’s most recent attempt at gem magic. There are a lot of jewel shards scattered all about – Rin’s been at this for a while to no success.

Cut to school – a little girl, Kotone, is being picked on, but fortunately for her, Rin is a bully hunter and tells off the bullies. Faced with a named important character, they tactically advance in the opposite direction.

http://straywolfnest.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/1322924665140.jpg
In the name of Tohsaka, I will punish you!

Back at home – Dad gives her pointers. She lacks focus and is putting too much mana into it. It needs precise control, and when you have that…you can reconstruct the jewel shards into its original form. Segue that the family magic is tied to how the family image and motto – always the proper amount of composure and elegance.

Meanwhile, Rin’s now made friends with Kotonie and is offering to help everyone with their classwork. Wait, Rin was once nice?

You must realize – Rin Tohsaka of Fate/Stay Night was like the poster child for tsundere – that is, a “hot and cold” person who alternates/develops from initially cold and aloof (tsuntsun) to eventually warm and welcoming (deredere). Take her on a date, she’ll never drink the water and make you order fresh champagne. She changes her mind like a girl changes clothes. And when she does do something nice for you, it’s not because she likes you or anything, she just wanted to, alright? Baka!

So…this is a different, less bitchy Rin.

Then again, I guess having your daddy be horribly murdered in a previous Holy Grail War will do that to you.

Back to Tohsaka manor, grace and elegance can transform crystals into PONY.

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Lesson of the day: friendship is the strongest magic of all.

Aww Tokiomi such a cool dad.

DAMMIT SHOW WHY MUST YOU MAKE ME FEEL BAD ABOUT EVERYONE’S IMPENDING DOOMS.

Meanwhile, Rin is good at school, and we have a little  montage of her being successful at school.

Tokiomi sends them away to live with the “Zenjou” who according to wiki is Aoi Tohsaka’s side of the family. Rin doesn’t want to – she wants to stay and help dad win, but Tokiomi says (rightfully) that it’s too dangerous. Undeterred, Rin goes to the library at night to do some learning, opens a book, but it suddenly starts talking German as two hands materialize and grab her.

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I AM SAMUS. SAMUS IS HERE. SAMUS IS ALL AROUND YOU. SAMUS WILL GNAW ON YOUR BONES.

Fortunately, Tokiomi arrives in the nick of time and saves her. To avoid further incidents in the future, he also gives her a mana compass as an early birthday gift. If she puts mana in it, it’ll point to nearby magical objects and react depending on the how strong it is. Violent reactions means it’s something she’s not ready to handle. As father and daughter leave, Tokiomi promises that when it’s all over, he’ll give her a real lesson in gem magic.

T_T

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Isn’t it sad, Tohsaka?

Although by the time F/SN rolls around, Rin does all of her magic in German, so I like to think that she’s mastered the contents of that book at least.

Cut to TV at school – oh, everyone’s reacting to the Caster kidnappings.

Funeral – OH GOD IT’S THE LITTLE BOY FROM EP 2

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The feels, man. All the feels.

Segue – there are many things that differentiate great works from average cookie-cutter stuff; that separate your Monets and Rembrandts from your Hirsts, your Hitchcocks and Yuen Woo Pings from your Shyamalans, your Mass Effect 1s from your Mass Effect 2 and 3s. Some, like having Bookends (where the first and last scenes of a work are mostly the same) or a Five Man Band (where, if you have a team, one guy leads, one disagrees, one is smart/tech savvy, one lifts, and one is the “heart”), are pretty easy to do. Others, like tight-knitness of narrative, is much harder as it requires you to plan stuff out. The film “Chinatown” is considered the Holy Grail of this, as I hear that every single detail mentioned is relevant at some later point in the movie. Fate Zero is no Chinatown, but it is doing nicely with reminding you that everything that’s been happening has real tangible effects on people. Caster’s tentacle-murder of that little boy isn’t just something that happened to show you how evil he is, that little boy has family who will never understand why their child never came back, and his death has an impact on others even if they never knew him.

Anyway, Rin’s gotten concerned enough to place a call to Fuyuki City to Kotone. No one’s answering the phone, so she takes a little field trip.

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But who was phone?

Rin’s compass goes all wonkers as soon as she sets foot inside the city, due to all the magic residue caused by the Servant fights. Suddenly, she sees Rinnosuke! And he has a child in tow with a glowing bracelet. Foolishly, she decides to follow him, hopping into an alleyway and ducking a popo while she’s at it.

She spies Rinnosuke again, with two kids this time. Willing herself to be not paralyzed by fear, she leaps into action and follows him to his new lair. The compass goes boom to show her what a bad idea this is, but she’s not deterred.

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Dammit Rin have you never watched a horror movie in your life? NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING DON’T GO TO THE DARK CORRIDOR

After some investigation, she discovers Kotone, who is under some kind of sleep spell.

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And now…a wild Rinnosuke appears.

Gah, I felt like a child molester just typing that.

And now Rin looks to see all the bodies of all the kidnapped children lying all over the place. She figures that the bracelet is the magic holding them to Rinnosuke’s spell, so she climbs away, throws stuff at him and grabs the bracelet, trying to de-magic it. Initially the bracelet is overwhelming her, but she gets a hero second wind. A flashback to her initial attempts with gem magic happens, and she successfully casts Mana Clash.

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POWER OVERWHELMING

Rinnosuke gets hit with feedback, shattering his artifact, and the kids are starting to wake up. Rin quickly takes the opportunity to get everyone to run. Rinnosuke is rather exasperated with this turn of events. And I really must say, being punked by a little girl truly is not his finest hour. “Man, Caster’s gonna be pissed,” he says.

Good thing you have those Command Spells, bro.

Outside, Kotone tries to locate her savior, but Rin is nowhere to be found. Cut to Rin, who’s run off because she doesn’t want the cops to find her. Suddenly, her compass goes crazy again.

…oh god it’s a tentacle monster.

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DAMMIT JAPAN STOP BEING STEREOTYPICAL

But suddenly…Flying Swarm? And a guy in a hoodie…

KARIYA!

Cut to Aoi Tohsaka, driving around town and all worried sick about her daughter running around town all by herself with a child-murdering maniac on the loose. She finds Rin sleeping on a park bench. Kariya saved her and has been standing vigil all this time. Such a bro, that guy. But Aoi is horrified at what happened to him.

Kariya explains that this is the Matou family magic. You let the worms inside, they tear up your body, but it gives you good mana.

You know, I really don’t understand why anyone would want the Matou family magic. So far it hasn’t been shown to be all that much better if it even is better than anyone else’s magic, which does the exact same things except it doesn’t involve getting raped and eaten by a bunch of parasitic worms. I’d rather take the branch of magic with as little body horror involved as possible, kthxbai.

They chitchat for a little, and Kariya promises to save Sakura. That with the Matou family magic which according to him makes him strong and his Servant which is also super-strong, he’ll save Sakura from his evil father’s clutches and then Sakura and Rin can be sisters again. Believe it.

Kariya…you used to like Aoi, didn’t you.

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DAMMIT SHOW WHY MUST YOU GIVE ME ALL THE FEELS

Meanwhile, Assassin is always watching.

Cut to Kirei, who orders him to leave them for now and follow Berzerker’s master.

Final thoughts:

So…filler much? Rin’s adventure didn’t really tell us much other than remind us that Kariya is in it to save Sakura and tell us “oops, didn’t mean to make him seem crazy back in Episode 5”. It hints a little that maybe he was carrying a torch for her all this time, but it’s nothing that we didn’t know. Honestly this one seems more like an episode dedicated to fanservice for people who watched Fate/Stay Night at the detriment of moving the plot forward. I understand the scene at the end with Kirei ordering Assassin to follow Kariya being necessary to maybe set up a future development, but that could have easily fit into anything since it was like all of ten seconds long.

Also, Uryuu Rinnosuke, punked out by an eight-year-old girl. Have I expressed how much I hate this pair yet? Not only are they jerks, but they’re not even compelling or threatening jerks. The human Master is a bumbling fool who only stumbled into the Grail War by chance (huh, not unlike a certain protagonist of Fate/Stay Night), and his power level is clearly subpar compared to all the other Masters. The Servant is an insane stalker (my problems with insane characters have been covered previously) with zero relatability compared to the other Servants – even Gil’s haughtiness and arrogance or Berzerker’s RAEG has relatability, as those are at least human emotions. Please go die in a fire, Team Caster.

In addition, remember back in episode 5, when Berzerker fought Gilgamesh, and how I cited it as an example of how you do a Worf Barrage (that is, character B is demonstrated to be tough by defending against character A’s attack) without nerfing people? That’s not what happened here. We knew Gil’s Gate of Babylon Noble Phantasm to be a horribly broken spell from F/SN. Even if you didn’t watch F/SN, you still knew it was powerful based on how everyone in-verse found it reasonable to have killed Assassin in one hit. So Berzerker being able to defend against it with flair demonstrates that him >>> Assassin > any mage, but the fact that Gil wasn’t going all-out allows him to keep his dignity intact. Here, it’s the opposite. Rin may grow up to be a skilled mage by the time F/SN rolls around, but currently she’s still just a little girl, and getting owned by her only reduces Rinnosuke’s threat level further.

There have been parts of episodes that I have disliked, but I think this is the only full episode so far that I straight up disliked.

Oh well. Next episode’s intro screencap has Rider in his muscle shirt. Looks promising.

Until next ep.