Posts Tagged ‘berserker’

Let’s Watch Fate Zero, 15

January 25, 2013

Golden Radiance

As we open, our heroes still have difficulty with Caster’s monster, while Berzerker and Gil continue their dogfight. Rider and Saber retreat, and Rider offers to trap the monster in his Ionioi Heitairoi while the others strategize. Oh man, all the armies of Macedon vs a giant squid kaiju? This is gonna be so awesome – wait, what do you mean I don’t get to see it happen?


No ticket, no show, bub

Meanwhile, the young underdog Matou Kariya fights the master mage Tohsaka Tokiomi. Yeah, Kariya…you’re like a skinny-ass kid who ran away from home and only knows ad-hoc magecraft. You have all the physique of the kid that bully victims pick on to make themselves feel better. Your magecraft is so fail that your own grandfather pretty much said you had to summon a Berzerker in hopes that his Mad Enhancement skill would compensate for your weaksauce. Tokiomi, meanwhile, has spent his entire life training magic and is the head of his very prominent magical family. This…is not going to end well for you.


“Not impressive. Hey Gil, am I doing it right?”

Rider goes off to engage Caster’s monster again. He can’t see outside while he’s inside his Reality Marble, so he’ll send a scout when he’s about to be unable to hold out, and hopefully Iri, Waver, Saber, and Lancer will have come up with something then. Meanwhile, Berzerker and Archer duel while Kariya continues to fail at magic-fighting. While Kariya sends waves and waves of bugs that crash ineffectively against Tokiomi’s shields, the effort of which is literally making the kid bleed out of his skin, Tokiomi just kind of stands there, bored out of his mind, before casting a single fireball that incinerates Kariya’s bugs and sets him aflame. Kariya staggers about blindly in pain before falling over a railing.


Swift as a coursing river, with the force of the great typhoon, I strike at thee!


You forgot strength of the raging fire.


Strength of the whaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh…

Iri gets a call from Kiri (man, it sounds like I’m naming Dwarves from The Hobbit), although she fails at tech and Waver has to actually take the call for her. Kiritsugu confirms that Rider has limited choice over where he materializes after coming out of the Ionioi Hetairoi and says he will shoot up a flare that will signal where to dump Caster. And then he asks to speak to Lancer.


I’m sorry, I am not acquainted with this “Seymour Butz” gentleman.

Kiritsugu drops the rhetoric bomb – Saber has a Noble Phantasm that’ll gank Caster like a blackthorn shillelagh on a red-headed stepchild, but she can’t use it while her left hand is shot. Lancer blinks, then understands what he must do. Saber protests, saying that a wound she suffered in an honorable chivalrous duel is a point of pride, and that surely they can find some other way to defeat Caster, but Lancer reminds her that their number one vow is to defend the weak. What is important, he asks Saber – their pride as warriors? Or stopping evil?


Breaking the curse..literally.

Wow.

Lancer, you are a true hero, every bit deserving of the title. Gil may claim to be the King of Heroes, but you have acted as one in a manner above and beyond the rest of the cast.

I know that later on, because tvtropes has spoiled me somewhat, Kiritsugu will have an outburst monologue, at which point I will say “SHUT THE FUCK UP KIRITSUGU YOU ARE FUCKING WRONG YOU FUCKING FUCKTARD BECAUSE DIARMUID UA FUCKING DUIBHNE.”

More on this later, but as the Golden Spear is snapped, energy releases, and the full might of Arturia Pendragon, First of Her Name, Queen of the Britons, Lord of the British Isles, and Protector of the Realm is unleashed.


By the power of Camelot!

Unfortunately, this now draws the attention of Berzerker, who turns right around and begins shooting at her, much to Gil’s fury – although he’s more angry that Berzerker’s turning his back on him, mind.


Dammit Berzerker, she has NOT lost that loving feeling! Now come back and fight me before your ego writes a check your ass can’t cash!

Meanwhile, Kirei comes across the comatose Kariya, after a brief hesitation, does not kill him. Instead, he casts a healing spell, then takes the unconscious young man home with him.


Oh myyyy…</takei>

Meanwhile, one of Rider’s hoplites appear, awaiting orders. Waver asks him to wait just a bit longer, since Berzerker is now keeping Saber busy. But now Lancer steps in, and he teleports (wait, this guy can teleport!?) up to the F-15 and stabs it full of holes, forcing Berzerker down. Kariya’s Servant is not out, though. Guy rips the Vulcan gun right out of the aircraft, and his “make anything my Noble Phantasm” ability allows him to continue shooting even as he falls. Still, he’s at a disadvantage, and Archer swoops in and gives Saber a clear shot.


Too close for missiles. Switching to guns.

Kiri’s flare goes up. Rider’s hoplite disappears. Caster’s monster gets dumped into the river. Saber lines up her shot, and then, with a single cleave, unleashes her Noble Phantasm: EXCALIBUR.


[Shonen WWWOOOOOAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH goes here]

Caster is obliterated, and in his last moments, sees a vision of his beloved Jeanne.


Well, now I see how you got confused, anyway.

Rider is impressed that Saber can wield so much power despite being just a little girl, while Archer replies that the power of Exaclibur is the combined power of the hopes and dreams of everyone who believed in King Arthur and the ideals she represented. So while eventually she was betrayed and her kingdom fell, that mattered much less than what she eventually came to stand for. Rider notes that Saber has so much power, yet her life was so sad and tragic. He then turns and says that taking out Caster spent a lot of his power, and if Gil was to come at him now, he’d have a good shot of winning, but Gilgamesh turns it down – when they have their Clash of Kings, Gil says, he wants to enjoy taking Alexander down at full strength and prove once and for all that Gilgamesh’s way is superior.

Meanwhile, he will continue to watch Saber creepily.


Ah, little lioness. Your mouth says no no no but your eyes say yes yes yes…

Final Thoughts:

So here the battle winds down, and we see just what the difference between a Saber with a shot wrist and a Saber at full health who’s not holding back is. Holy crap. That Noble Phantasm sure is…a cut above the rest.


YYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH

Anyway, I voluntarily spoiled myself for who Berzerker is. But now is the part where you start noticing that both times he’s showed up, he’s gone for Saber and no one else. Related to that team, I find it somewhat unfortunate that Kariya seems to have gone somewhat off the deep end, and there’s very little to no effort done to remind you that he was originally in it for Sakura. When you see him try and fail at fighting Tokiomi, all you’re seeing is a “mad dog” to borrow Gil’s favorite phrase trying to lunge at the snazzily-dressed master mage. You’re not seeing an uncle who all but destroyed his body to save his niece from a fate worse than death. You’re not seeing . I guess they’re trying to go for a “becoming the monster” thing with Kariya, but that really doesn’t work when the guy he’s fighting is actually a monster whether out of malice (as initially assumed) or stupidity (as when we found out he apparently gave Sakura up for her own good, but out of every single magic family out there, he just had to choose the one whose magic is based on body horror and rapeworms), and when his goal was both good (save the little girl) and just (beat the crap out of the jerkface). I dunno, maybe it’s some kind of cultural moral dissonance or something, where Japanese people just no longer believe that violence can ever be right, like how stupid Zero Tolerance policies punish both bully and victim by the logic “it takes two to fight!” (never mind it takes only one to take an ass-kicking)?

But all this is small potatoes compared to what is, to me, the real RIGHT IN THE FEELS moment for this episode.


No one will know your name. No one will know what you did. Yet, you made a difference. Despite that, you made a difference.

Hero.

It is a word with many definitions as there are cultures. But interestingly, all cultures attempt to write down and codify rules regarding what it means to be a hero.

In the Western tradition, this is chivalry. In the Japanese tradition, this is bushido.

In the Chinese tradition, this is xia.

Xia means many things. But the best and most concise meaning comes from the pen of the master wuxia novelist Jin Yong, specifically from the second novel of the Condor Trilogy, Return of the Condor Heroes, more specifically the phrase 为国为民,侠之大者 – or “To serve the nation and the people with all of one’s being, such is the Hero among heroes.” This phrase is said by the established kung fu master Guo Jing as he leads the martial arts community and the Song Dynasty garrison to defend the border city of Xiangyang (and by extension the rest of China, as Xiangyang is THE chokepoint separating the Mongol Empire between China proper) against Mongol invasion. It is this phrase that set the main character on the path of hero, and it is by this phrase that Guo and his entire family eventually died when Xiangyang was finally overrun, presumably surrounded by a mountain of Mongol corpses.

What is the purpose of kung fu? To Guo Jing, it isn’t just acquiring fame for defeating so-and-so in a duel. It isn’t just “spiritual enlightenment”. It isn’t just so you can avenge your family who was killed by ninjas. It is, simply, the fact that you have great power, and thus you have the responsibility to use it for good (and thus, against those who would abuse their power). Yes, fame is good, and sometimes it helps you rally others to your cause. Yes, spiritual enlightenment is nice, and it gives you peace of mind. But they are merely byproducts – the real goal should always be to serve the people.

And that is what Lancer did.

Diarmuid Ua Duibhne’s life was, honestly, shit. He was a Knight of the Fianna, joining the band of merry men of the epic hero Fionn Mac Cumhail as a young lad, and he would have had a fulfilling life full of quests and adventures and wenches like all the other happy young knights, but for one single misadventure wherein he banged a fae who gave him his Love Spot. From then on, his life became less “hero’s journey” and more bad fanfiction of the “so beautiful it’s a curse” variety. His king’s own wife fell in love with him. When he rejected her advances, she put a geas on him and made him elope with her. He didn’t want to betray his king, liege lord, and friend, but he was forced to (otherwise the geas wouldn’t have been necessary). And only upon his death did he realize that while a peace was made, Fionn in fact never forgave him for this. Lancelot at least had his early glories and got to participate in the quest for the Grail in his last days. Diarmuid’s legend consisted of never being able to become the hero he dreamed of being since youth, instead always fleeing the men he formerly called brother and dying knowing he was never able to make things right.

There is a stain on his honor. So what does Lancer do? He comes back to the Grail War, intending to do things correctly this time. He gets summoned. He swears to obtain the Grail for Kayneth. He promises to himself that this time, he will act as a true knight, he will serve faithfully, he will keep his vows.

Knights, Samurai, Kung Fu masters, they are all similar in many respects. They are all trained in methods of war, ways of killing, and they make their name upon their skill. And many of them never become, in the grand scheme of things, anything more than a glorified attack dog. It is incredibly easy, when making a name for oneself as a warrior, to get caught up in the duels, the wenches, the drink, and sink into the quagmire of mediocrity. It is incredibly easy, after too many brutal battles, to say screw it and pack up to live as some kind of hermit in the mountains. It is incredibly easy, when people are lining up to wipe your arse just because you are good at fighting, to start feeling entitled to such treatment over the plebs. The hardest thing for an up and coming warrior to do is to see past their name, see past their desires, see past their life, and live up to the ideal that Guo Jing described.

And that is what Lancer did.

His previous actions can be merely chalked up to pride. Oh hey, Saber. You know they say you’re the strongest Servant…so let’s test that. Oh hey, you’re a woman, well I’m so awesome and chivalrous so I’ll take your side against everyone else when I can. Oh hey, Caster’s here again? Well my Master hasn’t said anything, so sure I’ll help you take him down. Even his initial motivations can be interpreted as such – gah, I’ll prove that I can serve someone faithfully! Master, I swear to you that I will win the Grail!

Pride, power, possessions. So many aspiring heroes do not pass these tests. Here, Lancer faced the test – lift the curse on Saber, and not only strengthen an enemy, but lose one of his own Noble Phantasms in the process, placing him at a great disadvantage and possibly (well, possibly to him; we know from F/SN that he doesn’t make it to the end) causing him to lose the Grail War and fail to fulfill his promise to Kayneth. Yet he weighed his own pride and the desires of a single pair of mages for glory against the lives of everyone in Fuyuki city and unflinchingly chose the latter, even managing to get in a mini-lecture on the true meaning of chivalry to the King of Knights while he’s at it. Keep in mind that he comes from an era when you could literally build your name atop a pile of corpses and people will sing your praises for it (as Rider noted a couple episodes prior), and when armies routinely never gave two shits about civilians except in terms of taking they wanted from them, and his choice becomes all the more meaningful.

So after the bloody battle at the Mion River, who is Diarmuid Ua Duibhne?

Merely a knight who, in the end, did not forget his vows.

And that makes him morally superior to all the conquerors who left rivers of blood in his wake to fulfill some flight of fancy**, and all the despots who lived in luxury while his population broke their backs and was so despotic the gods themselves created a man specifically to put him in place, and all the warrior kings who could not bend and instead broke because they personally found the hard choice offensive, to say nothing of the child-murderers and the hired killers and the mad dogs.

Lancer’s life was a tragedy. And from what we know of Fate Stay Night, we know his second chance at life will also end in tragedy. But if nothing else, he saved thousands of innocent people (at the least; keep in mind Japan has extremely high population density) and their families, none of whom will ever know his name, at cost to himself. To my recollection, he is the FIRST out of anyone in the main cast* to do so.

For country and countrymen.

Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, you are a true hero.

Guo Jing would approve.

Until next ep.

*I can only really remember Rin going out of their way to purposefully save someone hurt by the Grail Wars, but she doesn’t count because she is not a main cast, and her one episode was more filler than anything. Waver and Rider did go after Caster in his lair, but they are active combatants and it was par for the course – they would have had to go after a Servant at some point, and they weren’t exposing themselves to any more risk than already present by simply being a participant in the first place. What Lancer did actively hurt his own chances at winning – it was a true sacrifice for a noble cause, and that makes it admirable.

**I cannot stress this enough, Iskander is all kinds of awesome, but by modern standards he is NOT a hero. Guy launched how many wars of conquest? And in this show, it all just so he could take a vacation to the beach? That’s hundreds of thousands dead and countless more widows and orphans, all because a charismatic leader whipped them up into a nationalistic fervor and wait…But seriously. Godwin aside, there’s a reason why in real life his conquests never reached past the outer borders of India, even though he lived a few years after he paused his wars to consolidate his rule. And really, all the “good” stuff we remember Alexander for, such as his preservation of knowledge and construction of libraries, took place *after* he stopped conquering. In short, Alexander is awesome in the sense that, say, Azula is awesome. They do impressive things, but you sure as heck do not want to share the same world as them.

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Let’s Watch Fate Zero, Ep 14

January 23, 2013

The Bloody Battle at the Mion River


I feel the need…the need for speed

A pair of military jets fly overhead, noting that the scene below them looks like something out of a kaiju movie. Jet 1 wonders if they’ll get any glory. Jet 2 replies that if they’re really in a kaiju film, they’ll be the ones to die first to make it look threatening before the Ultraman shows up.

Meanwhile, Saber cuts through a giant pulsing flesh thing…but it’s just a tentacle. Rider does the same, but it’s regenerating. Rider notes he can’t get a clear shot. Rinnosuke is happy because it’s so cool!

Oh hey, new theme song. I think I like the older one better tbh. The previous one sounded happy and upbeat but with notes of drama and tension in it. This one seems a bit bland.

Priest is headdesking, noting that everything’s been a disaster full of utter fail. They’ve fogged up the whole river, but lots of onlookers are still appearing. The Masquerade is in danger of being broken, and they’ll have to ask for help from Mage Association to keep things under control. Kirei reports that Tokiomi and Archer are coming, and he’ll follow them. As it turns out, Archer’s there already, but he’s not doing anything. He disdains the fact that even working together, King Arthur and Alexander the Great still can’t take out Caster.

No, Saber, this is not a good idea. This is not time to buzz a tentacle.

Tokiomi notes that they must destroy Caster’s monster before witnesses show up, and asks Gil to kill it, using a metaphor that the beast is destroying the King’s own splendid garden. Gil isn’t buying it, however, saying that pest control is a job for gardeners, not kings. Tokiomi tries to appeal to his pride, saying that it’s a kingly deed that proves he’s better than everyone else, but Gil says that there’s no need for him to “prove” himself, when he’s obviously better than everyone else already, duh. Anyways, Archer gets bored and decides to leave. Before going, he leaves four of his weapons to Tokiomi for use in killing Caster’s monster, saying that the kaiju’s so dirty that he doesn’t even want them back after they touch it. Tokiomi says that only the Sword of Rupture which is in Archer’s possession can kill it, but Archer gets pissed that Tokiomi would want his most prized possession to be used to put down a mere beast. Tokiomi considers using his command spell, but doesn’t want to destroy his rapport with Gil. Besides, he’s used one already, and the whole point of coming up with the plan was so he could get the remaining spell. Even if he wins, it leaves him with the same number of Command Spells as before, except Gil would be even more pissed at him.

The jets from the prolog are still doing their flyby. There’s also a green glow in the sky. One of them goes in to get a closer look. Dammit, pilot, that’s what your camera is for. And also what AWACS are for. Predictably, he gets nommed.


GOOSE! GOOOOOOOSE!

Man, guys doesn’t even get off a single shot. Fail. At least wingman has the presence of mind to go in for a shot…but hey, Berzerker?

THAT’S RIGHT, ICEMAN, I AM DANGEROUS

He lands on the plane, grabbing on to it…omg is he using a fighter jet as his NP?

OMG CHAOS JET.

Tokiomi goes to take on Kariya…and we see that Berzerker is going for Archer, who sends his Gate of Babylon. Sword missiles impace with missile missiles, and the camera zooms out to review that Gil has a spaceship, apparently.


“Aliens”? This is 100% made proudly in Mesopotamia, you Eurocentric ass!

Also, while Iskander and Saber’s skills do not impress Gil, the F-15 Strike Eagle amuse him. I approve of this greatly, as Muggles Do It Better has always been one of my favorite tropes. Berzerker isn’t doing anything that a decent human pilot couldn’t pull, yet he’s fighting on a level that can prove a decent amount of sport for Gilgamesh, King of Heroes. Consider that – we can literally manufacture thousands of Gilgameshes from our war factories and training bases.


Humanity, fuck yeah.

Kariya is fatigued…and Tokiomi shows up. He laughs at how Kariya is now back in the Grail War when he once turned his back on being a mage, the silly boy. Kariya retorts by asking accusingly why Tokiomi gave his daughter to the Matou family. Tokiomi replies that he did it because only one child is allowed to inherit the family’s magic, and the other can only be a mediocre human. But both kids had lots of magical potential, so he sent one off to the Matou so she could have magic too.

OK, that hereditary rule is hella stupid. Mages are an increasingly small group already, and it’s not helped by bloodline advocates like El-Melloi. Making it where only one child can inherit the family magic is a guaranteed way of making the bloodline fade into obscurity. “If we hadn’t interbred with muggles, we’d have all died out” – you know who said that? Ron Weasley said that. How retarded do you have to be if Ron fucking Weasley can come to that conclusion and you can’t?

Anyway, Tokiomi continues that now both his daughters have a chance to reach the Root, whatever that is. Mages have innate power, but they can have more power, and to Tokiomi, this means it’s the responsibility of all mages to strive for the apex of what all that is. So I guess the Root is some kind of ultimate underlying principle that rules all magic, like the Truth from FMA or like what modern physicists are working towards? Anyway, Kariya is pissed, since the natural outcome of this is that both sisters will end up fighting each other in the next Grail War (which is kind of what ends up happening in some of the paths of Fate/Stay Night). But Tokiomi doesn’t mind, as either way, one of his descendants will win everlasting glory.


And she’ll~ bring~ honor to us all!

Berzerker shoots more missiles at Gil, who responds with more point defense. And…now they’re charging at each other.

http://straywolfnest.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/1333811884118.jpg
THOU ART UPON A CAUSEWAY TO YE ZONE FRAUGHT WITH PERIL

Kariya is now filled with rage at the mages and their inhumanity. Meanwhile, Tokiomi muses that maybe he should thank Kariya. After all, since Kariya severed his ties with the Matou when he quit being a mage, that made Sakura the heir to Matou. But, he can’t forgive Kariya for shaming Magic. Responsibility is the essence of being human, Tokiomi says, brandishing his crystal wand which now bristles with fire, as a collection of Matou larvae swarm around Kariya and metamorphose into mini-mutalisks.


Hey Tokiomi, why don’t you just…bugger off? YYYYYYYEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH


Idiot, Fire is super effective against Bug!

Meanwhile, in the shadows, Kirei readies his knives.


SNIKT

Cut to Rider’s cow is being strangled, but Saber saves by cutting off the tentacles. The fight continues to stalemate, and Rinnosuke is amused, rambling on about how he can see the blood and stuff and it’s awesome. Funny how no one notices his rambling. Suddenly there’s a crunch?


Wipe yourself. You’re bleeding.

Oh, I guess Kirei stabbed him? Nope, gun sight view reveals it to be Kiritsugu. Rinnosuke looks at his wounds, to which bystanders are now reacting horrifiedly, and notes that it’s…so…beautiful…


BOOM headshot.

Hell yeah Emiya Kiritsugu, killing motherfuckers like it’s cool.

Scoped and dropped.

Caster is now sad because his Master is dead, but he pulls out his book and announces that he will keep his promise to deliver a gift of the “coolest thing ever”. Turns out Caster has enough remaining mana to keep the monster around, and Kiritsugu notes that they need to obliterate it in one hit somehow. This necessitates an anti-fortress NP, not just an anti-unit or anti-army. Saber has one, but Lancer’s curse makes her not able to use it. So…let’s see what they call Chivalry. I guess he’s banking on Lancer lifting the curse voluntarily?

New end theme. Which I also consider inferior to the previous end theme, as this one is lacking in the mournful and soulful vocals that the previous one had. Eh, I’m sure it’ll grow on me eventually.

In the meantime, some final thoughts:

So, here we see one the culmination of one of the themes of Fate/Zero – muggles do it better. We see it in Berzerker’s dogfight against Gil, where even though Gil is toying with the guy, fact remains that the muggle-made F-15 is a thing that crosses the threshold for someone like Gil to feel combat rush. Keep in mind, this is a guy for whom Alexander the Great, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, and King Arthur presented unimpressive first impressions. The best MMA fighter in the world could challenge Gil to a fistfight and he would be considered beneath the King of Heroes’ notice. Yet one mindless berserker in an F-15 is at least bumped up to “amusing enemy” tier. Similarly, all these heroes and their Masters go through so much trouble to take out Caster, and ultimately what did him in wasn’t some skillful magecraft or the powerful abilities of a Servant, but just a bullet to the brainpan, squish.

Although I have to admit, even though I had previously predicted Kiritsugu ending a fight via sniper round to the head, I totally didn’t expect it to be this guy. I’m rather curious, though, as to what happens to the extra Command Spell. Does it just disappear now? Does Kiritsugu just get four of them? Meh, I’m sure I’ll find out eventually.

I am, however, calling minor inconsistency. Caster got stabbed in the book by Gae Dearg, which interrupted all his casting, but now he has it back. Saber, however, gets stabbed in the wrist, and her arm is still shot. It is somewhat of a failing thus far that we aren’t really shown just what the difference between a wounded Saber and Saber at full strength is, athough I’ll give it until this current fight ends before deciding.

Until next ep.

Let’s Watch Fate Zero, Ep 13

January 20, 2013

The Forbidden Feast

We open with a flashback – it’s Iskander leading his army, having just reached the edge of the sea…and then Waver wakes up.


Brings a new meaning to the term “wet dream”.

He realizes that he’s having that thing where he experiences his Servant’s memories, and rouses Rider, who’s still snoring at this point. Cut to them walking the streets – Rider is perplexed as to why Waver wants to go outside all of a sudden, but Waver just responds it’s because he wanted to.

…so Waver is tsundere?


I-it’s not like I sumoned you because I like you or anything! I just wanted to, alright? Stupid baka!

Rider shrugs, noting that exploring a marketplace is just as exciting as invading a country. Waver, in a display of modern values, expresses his opinion that invading a country is pathetic.

…ok, Waver, please stop this passive-aggressiveness. You’ve been likeable so far. Don’t stop that trend now.

Cut to Rinnosuke and Caster arriving at their lair. Rinnosuke is sad someone just rode in and destroyed their masterpiece. Caster reassures him that their work is beautiful, and only the philistines can’t appreciate it.


Haters gonna hate

Rinnosuke wonders if this was God punishing them for their acts, but Caster vehemently disagrees – God doesn’t punish, he just dicks with people! He cites as proof the fact that he was totally ridiculously evil during his lifetime, but he never faced divine retribution at all. When he finally stopped, he realized that he’d been doing the childmurder business for 8 years. At no point did God stop him – rather, Man did. The church and the Inquisition tried him for witchcraft and hanged him, but even then that wasn’t for the public good, but so they could then divvy up his estate. A God who punishes the wicked and rewards the good doesn’t exist!

Aside: the historical Gilles de Rais was indeed tried and executed for witchcraft and a child-killing spree that did last eight years. The conviction went through rather easily, as there were literally lines of peasant families who reported that their children would go to Gilles’ castle to beg for food and then end up missing, and his accomplices offered up testimony of bloody and gory occult rituals that were reportedly so lurid the court had to order the worst stricken from the record for being extra-heretical. Curiously, however, the title to all of Gilles’ lands and assets went to the Duke of Brittany, who led the prosecution.

Anyway, Rinnosuke disagrees, however. The world looks boring and stuff, but if you look underneath, you’ll discover wonderful things everywhere. It can’t be mere chance that’s created everything, so why not call it God? By his world view, God loves everything – he loves our emotions, he loves bravery, he loves courage, he also loves blood and carnage. He loves watching humanity and its trials and tribulations.


I love watching the world, and everything you do. I love humanity, and all its accomplishments and things. Boom de ya da, boom de ya da.

This raises Caster’s spirits considerably – Rinnosuke’s belief is “super cool,” especially in this world of secularism where we no longer worship like we once did. But then he wonders that if God just sits back and watches stuff, then that means he’s just a joke – a clown who spent so much effort blaspheming against a guy who doesn’t even care.

Rinnosuke disagrees – God approves! You’re amusing Him, that’s enough!

…heresy.

Cut to Waver browsing a bookstore. Suddenly, his eyes fall on a book about Alexander the Great, and he picks it up. From reading, he learns how Alexander didn’t bother ruling – instead, he left people behind to administer his conquests and continue his campaign. All he wanted to do was to see the ocean with his own eyes.

…on a side note, I like how the section labeled as “religion” in the kanji is “non-fiction” in the English.


YO WAVER, U RDY 2 B PWNT BY MY L337 SKILLZ? BOY YOU MAY BE MY MASTER BUT BY THE END ONLY 1 OF US IS OWNING THE OTHER AND IT SURE AIN’T YOU

Meanwhile, Rider’s pretty happy that he bought the newest edition of the “Admirable Grand Strategy” game, the t-shirt for which now forms his casual wear. Waver points out that he needs the console to play, but Rider’s bought that too, as well as a set of controllers. Come on Waver, all Rider wants is a good old LAN party, just indulge! Rider then notices the book Waver is reading and is a little perplexed that he would look for a book written by other people about Alexander the Great when he has the genuine article in front of him. Waver proceeds to get awkward, stammering for a bit before pointing out that history says Alexander the Great was short, but how come Rider is so huge?

Rider takes the book and notes that huh, it does say he’s short. Whaddaya know. Waver is perplexed that Rider doesn’t seem to care, since Great Men generally tend to be super anal about that stuff. Rider says that it’s true that being remembered after one’s death is one form of immortality, but he would prefer simply continuing to live for a fraction of however long he was remembered for.

Waver is reminded that the historical Alexander only lived to his early thirties and has a sad.


WHOAOHOHOHOHOHOHOH CAUGHT IN A RAD BROMANCE

Cut to a bridge – looks like Rinnosuke and Caster went on a date, presumably with zoos and ice cream and ice skating and doing shots off a hooker’s belly. Rinnosuke stares longingly at his bromance, shouting at him to do something cool. Caster starts up the old Grimoire – wait, how did it start working again? I guess all that needed to happen to reset any magical effects of a Servant is to render the Master unable of doing magic?


EVERYTHING I DOOOOO I DO IT FOR YOUUUUUU

Cut back to Rider, who’s now walking back with Waver, who’s been uncharacteristically taciturn. He asks what’s wrong, and Waver just replies that he’s lamenting how boring Rider is. Dammit boy, stop being tsundere. It’s annoying when the female characters do it and it’s doubly annoying when male characters do it. Fortunately the show doesn’t spend to long on it, and Waver spills – he feels like claiming the Grail just because Rider is so strong feels like cheating. He doesn’t mind fighting his own battles, but Rider having such an overpowered Phantasm just makes it seem unfair.

Rider displays more patience than I have, reassuring Waver that no one ever said the Grail War had to be the most important thing in his life. So what if it’s a little unfair? One day he’ll find something that he really truly wants, and then he’ll understand what it is to fight for it with all his heart. Waver then reveals the real reason for his insecurities – he feels he’s too weak of a mage for Rider. Given how tough Rider is, with a different Master he’d probably breeze through the Grail War.

Rider continues to be the Bro-Rider. He reaches into Waver’s backpack and pulls out a world map. This is our enemy, he says. Compared to them, we’re just tiny dots! There’s no point in comparing heights, who’s strong or weak. Compared to the world, Iskander is but one person, yet he doesn’t let that stop him from desiring to conquer. Besides, he doesn’t mind having Waver as a Master. For Waver may be tiny and weak, but he knows that and still fights, and that makes him cool. “Glory is beyond the horizon!” is what Rider believes – or, in modern business parlance, ‘stay hungry”. It’s why he wanted to see the ocean. Unfortunately, he never did, but he still wants to do so. Maybe it’s somewhat of an idiotic dream, yeah, but hey, pact with fellow idiot works.

Suddenly, they sense something at the river.

Cut to Team Saber who’s sensed the same thing as they drive out. Caster’s got an army of tentacle monsters! He’s now being abosrbed into them…he’s made a kaiju?


It’s Gojira!

Rider pulls up on his chariot. Saber is wary, but Rider reassures her that he’s not here to fight her, pointing out that they won’t have the chance to if they don’t defeat Caster’s giant tentacle monster. He’s also delivered the same message to the other Servants, and Lancer’s on the way.

Iri sees that right now, Caster is providing the kaiju with the mana to keep it holding its shape in the physical realm, but once it finds food – that is, reaches the shore and beings siphoning mana from people – it’s going to hit self-sustaining critical mass. So they have to keep the beast on the sea.


Did you miss me, ladies?

Lancer shows up, saying that if they can expose Caster, then he’s fast enough to stab the guy with Gae Dearg. Rider agrees, then tries to get a bearing of everyone’s capabilities. He can access the beast, for his chariot can go anywhere. But what about Saber?

Saber says not to worry – she has the Lady of Lake’s protection – no water can impede her progress. Rider quips that the ability to be an ultra-marine makes him want her for my army even more. Saber is not amused.


Screw you guys, I’m outta here.

The plan decided, they charge forth…and that ends the season!

Final Thoughts

Not fond of a cliffhanger…but it does work very well to keep me watching.

So, tsundere!Waver was a bit annoying here, but as opposed to the other characters I’ve grown annoyed with (Kiritsugu, Kirei, TEAM CASTER), Waver is still somewhat tolerable simply because his situation is one that is actually somewhat quasi-understandable. He’s already fighting an uphill battle trying to prove that bloodline isn’t everything in a magical world that’s already convinced that blood is what matters and being the only student in a game being played by full-fledged mages. Really, only Rinnosuke is probably around the same skill level, being what appears to be a hedge wizard. Now he’s surrounded by all these legendary figures, the literal paragons of humanity’s best and brightest – it’s hard not to feel inadequate about this stuff. Waver’s insecurities are something real that most of us have experienced at some point in our lives, as opposed to Kiritsugu or Kirei who we’ve just not seen enough to understand what kind of person they are. But still they fall too close to Wangst, and I’m rather hoping this period is temporary.

Rinnosuke has gotten slightly better, but only slightly. Again, they’re just too weird to be relatable. It’s not like weird people can’t be relatable – Big Bang Theory certainly shoots a hole in that idea, but there’s a line of weirdness that you can’t cross. The better Warhammer 40K books do this well. The daemons of Chaos turn you insane, but you see that, say, ordinarily good and steady Space Marines who come from a superreligious world turn to them because the Emperor forbade religion and chose to punish their religious devotion to him by nuking the capital city of their proudest conquest. Thus when they found that actual gods do exist, it’s incredibly easy to understand the sense of betrayal that leads this Legion to turn against the Imperium and eventually start the civil war that will culminate in the galaxy burning. Rinnosuke…all we see is more weirdness, but at least it’s something that you’d expect from a normal human who has some mental issues and just so happens to have magical ability, and that’s why he murders kids. Caster…”I think you, King Arthur, are Jeanne d’Arc, so please return my affections and forsake God because God let you burn at the stake, and if you don’t I’ll murder some more children until you see my point!”

Anyone, season 1 ends. Until next ep.

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.

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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.

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.