Posts Tagged ‘lancer’

Let’s Watch Fate/Zero, Episode 18

February 9, 2013

Distant Memories

Flashback to a beach…and it’s a young Kiritsugu! Who everyone calls Kerry! He’s quite the cool guy too, diving off cliffs like it ain’t a thing. And he has a GF named Shirley? Or maybe it’s his sister? She picks him up and tells him a story about their island, and how the gods are dicks – the island is named after a crab, because there was this one family who was very poor and so could not afford to spare any food as offerings to the gods, so the gods turned the family’s eldest daughter into a crab.


Your gods are so petty. And tiny.

Kiri doesn’t like this story, which amuses Shirley. We learn that Kiri is actually a transplant here, since they call him “Kerry” because the closest they could get to his name is “kerrytoogoo”.

Cut to Kiri’s house, where we find Papa Emiya. Papa Emiya grows flowers…that don’t wilt? Oh, right, daddy’s a mage. Who stops time. And tries to apply same theory to humans. And Shirley’s also kind of managed to learn a little by imitation. Kiri wants to learn, but dad says he’s not ready.


One day, Kiritsugu, everything in Za Warudo will be your kingdom.

At the local church, we learn that the Father doesn’t want Shirley to keep learning magic. He invites her inside, and we learn that he’s really also speaking on behalf of the villagers, who are suspicious of the Emiyas and don’t want her to keep working there. He gives her a magic dagger for luck and protection.  Shirley disagrees though, she thinks the magic is pretty awesome. It’s not normal, sure, but it’s interesting and can lead to some really groundbreaking stuff

Shirley visits Kiritsugu again, and while using her new magic dagger to cut a melon and nom it, confides that she thinks Papa Emiya is setting Kiri up to be his successor. She says his medicines can eliminate death, but she’s already plateauing, being limited by talent and relative newbie-ness. Cut to her flower, which has died. It’s all on you, Kiri! She then takes him to the local lagoon.


Wait, is that the local Makeout Point? Oh Shirley you’re so gonna die in this flashback.

At the lagoon, she pops the question to Kiri: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Kiri gets flustered and stammers that it’s a secret. Shirley shrugs, saying that in that case, she’ll just have to wait and see what he will become. Until then, she’ll stay by his side.


ALWAYS I WANNA BE WITH YOU MAKE BELIEVE WITH YOU LIVE IN HARMONY HARMONY OH LOVE

Next norming. Papa Emiya wakes Kiri up with a grumpy expression on his face. Apparently someone went into the workshop, and he’s asking if it was Kiri. Kiri says no, he never did that. Papa Emiya considers, then warns him not to go into village – or better yet, just stay inside the house.

Hours pass. Kiri notices that Shirley’s late. I guess the villagers have finally decided to burn the witch?

Naturally, Kiri decides to disregard Papa Emiya’s advice and goes out to find her. The local kids haven’t seen her, and they’re acting too calm for some kind of witch hunt…unless that’s what they want him to think. Anyway, she’s also not at home. Cut to a bleeding chicken.


WRYYYYYYY

Shirley’s been possessed by a daemon or something. She turns around, recognizes Kiritsugu, and cries that she just wanted to show Papa Emiya’s research to the village, but it doesn’t work. I guess she drank the time-stopping potion? Anyways, she’s sliding the dagger to him and asking for a mercy kill. Well, at least she has the good sense to ask him to do it before she loses control to the possession. Which places her above, like, 90% of all characters in fiction ever.


Isn’t it sad, Kiritsugu?

Cut to night time. Priest comes across the scene and tells Kiri to stay inside while he goes to tell the village about Shirley. Kiri waits, still visibly shaken, when suddenly zombies.


See, this is why you should just leave anyone 4 dead.

Eh? I thought it was just Shirley who got mutated by the Emiya potion. What happened to that guy? I guess she bit him before Kiri found her? A trip to wiki later, I find out that it’s actually Kiri unable to kill her, thus she got out and started biting people. And upon further rewatch, I’m now seeing that it was very poorly harmonized. You get the scene of Shirley screaming and begging Kiri to kill her before she loses control, and a closeup of Kiri’s eyes widening, but the next scene is just Kiri showing the local priest to where he found Shirley and the chickens, along with the dagger that, for something so important, is only onscreen for like half a second to show that it has no blood and thus Kiri did not perform the mercy kill. Priest tells him to stay put while he goes to inform the village.

God dammit Kiri. Understandable given he’s just a kid at this point, but God dammit Kiri. Seriously, any of my friends reading this: if we are in a zombie apoc or whatever, and I get bitten, please just give me bullet to the brainpan squish kthxbai.


Just like that time back in ‘Nom…

Soon enough, everyone is undead, including the village church priest. But fortunately, containment units arrive, bearing cargo…deadly cargo. We see mages killing it with fire and pilgrim looking dudes killing things with knives just like the ones Kirei uses.


Mustang who?


Hell yeah, stake what your Father Anderson gave ya.

Anyways, Kiri runs away, but zombies close in on him when suddenly a shotgun toting chick save him. I think she’s supposed to be a younger version of the lady who gave him his anti-magic bone bullets. She dresses similarly and has a similar voice, anyway. She explains that Patient Zero (Shirley) was what is called a Dead Apostle, and that everyone who is bitten by her comes back as a zombie, and that there’s actually two groups trying to control the zombie outbreak, Church Executors (who will kill everyone who they think have their blood drunk) and Mage Association (whose priority is to erase evidence of magic from muggle eyes). Anyways, she’s a contractor for the Mages, hired to find the a mage who caused the outbreak and put them down.


Mission: Search and destroy.

“Do you know anything about this mage?” she asks. Ooh boy. And after a bit of deliberation, he says yes, but also that there’s a magical barrier that stops enemies from entering, so he’ll handle things.

Ah, like you handled Shirley from before, right?

Anyway, cut to Emiya residence. Kiritsugu finds Papa Emiya who’s busy burning research notes. “Why were you researching Dead Apostles?” Kiri asks. Papa Emiya replies that it was just a theory he had, and notes wryly that Shirley managed to disprove his hypothesis earlier and bloodier than he was hoping for. We find out that House Emiya is also looking for The Root. “So were you going to turn me into one of those things, daddy?” Papa Emiya is taken aback before being all like “of course not! you’re my son!” Anyway, it doesn’t matter now. This was just an accident, and they must escape. He’s hid a motorboat for that purpose, so just come on and-


Oh, so now that you have the balls to use it…you use it on someone who didn’t deserve it

…he just killed daddy.

OK, seriously? This is why kids are fucking stupid and should not be trusted with anything. Why the hell did you not just escape with him? Was it not obvious Papa Emiya’s research was, even if that wasn’t his actual goal, hugely beneficial to humanity at large? Or that it actually was an accident and not Papa Emiya’s fault? Or that he wasn’t even thinking about human test until his research assistant jumped the gun and zombified herself? Seriously, the blame chain here goes Shirley for being genre-blind and using an untested magic potion on herself when she knows that her own abilities are highly limited, then to you for not giving her the Emperor’s Peace when she specifically asked you to do so, then to you again for going to the priest who’s just a normal human instead to daddy the mage, then maybe to Papa Emiya for negligence, but even that is arguable because honestly who expects their research assistant to fail middle school lab safety 101 “DO NOT EAT THE LAB MATERIALS”? You can’t even do the Unit 731 argument, because while Unit 731 did all kinds of body horror experiments on POWs to discover new ways of germ and chemical warfare, Papa Emiya was researching fucking immortality. Even if he falls short of his goal, do you realize how fucking extended longevity would be? Shit, Kiri, If hell exists in the Nasuverse, I hope that your punishment is to be strapped to youtube and forced to watch videos family funerals for eternity. Every grandparent who went to the light, every dog who left before their time, that’s what you fucked up, Kiri.

Anyway, strange lady shows up with a gun, and Kiritsugu insists on finishing the job. We end on the two of them leaving on her boat. Lady says that the barrier wasn’t as strong as Kiri made it out to be, and Kiri replies that that she’s a good person, but he couldn’t take the chance of Papa Emiya escaping, so he had to go by himself to at least incapacitate him.

Final Thoughts:

Upon hindsight though, this episode was pretty decent from a technical standpoint. Adds some much needed insight to Kiritsugu’s character, from how he started out as a happy-go-lucky kid who got traumatized, resulting in the sulky cynical warrior of today. Now, again, if only they’d gone and sprinkled bits and pieces of that earlier so we’re not getting this just now… I swear this show has been terribad at developing its main protag and antag, but then again, that’s a failing of the show, not this episode. Anyway, there was also some nice bits of callbacks to snippets they showed you in the beginning, like the lady who made Kiri’s anti-magic bullets, to some foreshadowing imagery, like going from this


Strangely vivid…

to this


NEEDS TABASCO SAUCE

Or the story about the girl being turned into a crab by the gods kind of somewhat sort of mirroring Shirley being turned into a zombie by magecraft, even if the two situations are NOT AT ALL EQUIVALENT except in the most general of terms.

Anyway, thematically…EMIYA KIRITSUGU YOU FUCKING FUCKTARD. What was wrong with your dad’s research, exactly? It just involves zombies, and since this show takes place in the 90s, before everyone had internet, the idea of “messing around with anything involving undead = BAD!” hasn’t sunk in to the collective consciousness yet, which makes this no different from any other form of medicinal research. Shit, the zombie outbreak wasn’t even Papa Emiya’s fault. And what the hell, show? Why are you playing this for just desserts instead of idiocy?

Remember in The Empire Strikes Back, how everyone pretty much agrees that it was a bad idea for Luke to go run off before his Jedi training with Yoda was complete? And how, after it was all said and done, it turns out he could have stayed with Yoda, literally nothing would have changed on the Han-Leia-Chewie side of things because he got there too late for anything but a duel with Vader? And then when he finally returns to Dagobah, Yoda ended up dying of age anyway, and it was pretty much just a fluke that Luke managed to turn Vader enough to toss Palpatine down a vent shaft? And even then, there was literally decades of the New Republic fighting with Imperial Remnants and hidden Dark Side practitioners before everything finally got settled in…until the Yuuzhan Vong came along, anyway? And Luke came out of it humbled and wiser, with an understanding of the consequences for his actions?

Luke Skywalker is how you let a protagonist make mistakes correctly. Suboptimal choices should have consequences and be portrayed as a result of failing. Because Luke went to confront Vader before he was ready,he was unable to complete his Jedi training and lost his hand, and that’s only because he was hotheaded and impatient. Afterwards, he learns to be patient and develops the proper mindset to become a master. Here? Kiritsugu was unable to mercy kill Shirley because he’s a kid and that’s a hard thing for a kid to do. Fine. Afterwards he rejects that this was his fault, or Shirley’s fault, and instead decides it was daddy’s fault and kills him before leaving with some mysterious lady whose only saving grace was that she was shooting zombies instead of stabbing them like the Church or burning them with fire AoE spells like the Mage Association. Again, if this was portrayed as a flaw on Kiri’s part, fine. But the show does not do this at all.

If this was supposed to be “some knowledge man was not meant to know”, fuck that noise too. There is no such thing as evil knowledge. I do kung fu. Kung fu teaches me the knowledge of killing a man with my bare hands. If I use that knowledge to kill babies, that’s me being evil. If I use that knowledge to kill someone who kills babies, that’s me being good. The knowledge itself is kinda neutral here.

Between them playing Kariya’s justified vengeance quest as craziness, adult!Kiri’s “violence is inherently evil,” Kirei’s utter fail at having a character, I seriously have to ask, what the hell is wrong with the writers? How do they give us cool guys like Lancer (who retains his status of “most heroic character in this show”) and Waver (who is, really, the Master with the most sympathetic goal now and the least dissonance with that goal) or understandably flawed guys like Rider (demonstrates the good and the bad side of rule by strongman) and Saber (demonstrates the good and the bad side of striving to be the paragon) and Archer (making us question whether you can really call it arrogance if the guy can actually back it up), while simultaneously delivering Team Caster (bumbling assclowns who belong in Fate Stay Night) and Kirei (still has all the personality of a block of dried ramen and what development is dumped by leaps instead of organically grown) and Kariya (HE HAS A GOOD GOAL why are you making him evil and crazy?) now both adult and kid Kiritsugu (OMG SUCH A FUCKTARD)? I swear, if this turns into some bullshit where “that was the day Kiritsugu Emiya started saving the world from the messes made by uncaring and callous mages”, I might just ragequit this show too, at least once Rider inevitably goes out in his blaze of glory.

tldr version: this show’s morality is bullshit.

Until next ep.

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Let’s Watch Fate/Zero, Ep 17

February 8, 2013

The Eighth Contract


My name is Kirei Kotomine. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Kirei finds daddy bleeding out in the church. Tokiomi is pissed about this. This is unpermissable! He assures Kirei that vengeance will be had. As Kirei leaves, Gil comes to continue whispering in Kirei’s ear. Why didn’t you tell Tokiomi earlier? You’re dad just died, why are you not at least pretending to be upset? Is it because you didn’t kill him with your own hands?

…ok where the hell did that come from? We’ve been given nothing to indicate that Kirei has even a rocky relationship with his father, much less hates him. Dammit Type-Moon how is it you are so good at doing these Servant battles that are so focused on detail and character motivations but suck so hard at developing your human characters? This guy’s only your main antagonist, you don’t think it’s important to set up changes to his character before you go and change his character? Seriously, Kirei has never been shown to be anything but obedient and stoic. It takes more than a little pseudo psych scan by Gil to sell the idea that he’s even slightly miffed about what’s happened in the Grail War so far. Much less has the daddy issues to want to kill daddy with his bare hands. Sheesh, WTF is up with the pacing in this show?


Wait, I was supposed to have character developments? Like, multiple? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Anyway, cut to Irisviel, who is lying in the middle of a casting circle, getting healed. Saber senses something, but it’s just Maiya, coming in to report that Tokiomi wants to ally and is calling a meeting at the Fuyuki Church. Maiya says Tokiomi is meticulous from the start, and Kirei’s probably his pawn also. Since Kirei poses the greatest threat to Kiritsugu, they should accept the meeting.

…eh? I don’t see what any of these reasons you cited have to do with the question “should we accept the meeting or not.” Now, Tokiomi being a meticulous planner should be a reason not to accept, since that means he probably has some kind of trap waiting for you and as far as we’ve seen, Kiritsugu is still gone so you can’t rely on his brutal combat smarts to save you. Kirei being his pawn should also be a reason not to, because if the two of you (Iri and Maiya) couldn’t beat Kirei before, you sure as heck won’t be able to beat Kirei + Tokiomi. Saber is irrelevant here, as Archer is still in the game.

Now, if someone who’s actually fought on a modern battlefield (like Maiya) points this out, and someone with cultural insight into mage society (like Irisviel) replies that Tokiomi’s pride as a magus won’t let him do that, and then they go, fine. But smart-at-fighting-idiot-at-philosophy Kiritsugu isn’t here, so they do a right-for-the-wrong-reasons.


Wait! Hold on, I have the slightest feeling…nah, it’s probably fine.

Cut to Tokiomi is visiting Aoi and Rin. He leaves her with the words of advice, that she must always try to keep the church in her debt, and that all members of the Tohsaka family must always try to get the Grail. Before he goes, he gifts her with a spellbook.

Tokiomi you’re gonna die aren’t you.

At the church, Tokiomi and Kirei meet with Iri, Saber, and Maiya. Tokiomi explains his reasoning – right now, there’s only 3 original families left, by which he refers to the three magical houses of Einzbern, Tohsaka, and Matou who came up with the original Holy Grail summoning ritual, plus one outsider, Waver Velvet. Tokiomi says they can’t let an outsider claim it. Iri says allying is ridiculous. But, if they want to mutually agree on what order to fight each other, then she could find that acceptable to fight Tohsaka last, upon two conditions: 1. Tokiomi gives them all information they have on Rider and Waver, and 2. Kirei is fully removed from the team. There is a great deal of animosity between Einzbern and Kirei, Iri says. As long as Kirei is part of Tokiomi’s team, she can’t trust them.

Yeah, you could say Kirei’s kind of been a pain in my side…

As Iri and co leave, we find that Kiri has given Saber a motorcycle. She rather likes it, as it’s closer to a horse than a car, and offers to scout ahead. Meanwhile, in the car, Iri is weakening and slumps on Maiya’s shoulder. She tells her to drive on, otherwise Tokiomi will catch on that there’s something wrong. Iri tells us she’s a homunculus created solely to serve as a vessel for the Holy Grail, because her grandfather wanted it to have a survival instinct? Wait, this helps how/why? I guess this means when the Grail finally materializes, it’ll pop out of her so Team Einzbern/Emiya gets first crack at making a wish? Dammit show, a sense of mystery is good (as many creepypastas have proven), but sometimes you have to be explicit about things! Anyway, Kiri left Avalon in her to slow the breakdown of her body. Iri confides that she tells Maiya this because she knows Maiya won’t pity her. Maiya promises to protect her to the best of her ability.


Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur…

Meanwhile, back at Tohsaka Manor, Tokiomi notes with annoyance that he wishes Kirei would have told him of his dealings with Einzbern, and apologetically asks that Kirei withdraws officially from the Grail War. As Kirei gathers his things, he sees his dossier of Kiri and hesitates. Right when he’s questioning whether he still needs to go, Gil appears to tempt him again.

Kirei laments that he’s spent his whole life looking for one thing. He’s wasted so much time for nothing, but now he’s so close. Gil asks him why he hesitates if he’s still close. Kirei answers that he has a feeling this will destroy him. Then he gets a phone call. Gil materializes next to him and starts all creeping on him, listening in that they have found where the Einzberns are hiding. Gil laughs, seeing that Kirei had planned to continue all along. Kirei nods, then pulls back his sleeve.


…OMG KIREI HAS AN ARMFUL OF SPELLS.

Flashback. As he lay dying, Risei wrote the words “John 4:24” in his blood, and gave all his Command Spells to Kirei. At least…I hope it was some kind of ritual, and not something out of Storm Riders where he had to cut off his own arm and switch it with daddy’s. Anyway, next comes a round of beating around the bush. Gil’s all like, so…if you’re gonna re-enter the Grail War, Tohsaka Tokiomi is going to be your enemy. Which means now you’re standing in a room with his Servant. Isn’t that dangerous?

Kirei smiles and responds that he knows something Gil doesn’t. He then sits down to explain to us – er, to Gil – everything about the Grail. Namely, that it was supposed to open a path to the Root (which I think is supposed to be the source of all magic) through the death of 7 Heroic Spirits. All 7. That’s why Tokiomi has been conservative with his Command Spells, so at the end he can force Gil to suicide.

Gil isn’t so much shocked as interested that noting that by pretending to be loyal to him only to backstab him later, Tokiomi has bumped himself up from boring-tier to amusing-tier. Although still not impressed-tier. Gil’s still trying to draw out the request from Kirei, though, pointing out that even if Tokiomi was planning to betray him, he’s still Gil’s mana source, and if he turns his back on Tokiomi, he won’t have much time in the world…unless there was a free Master with no servant. Possibly standing right in front of him…and Kirei cuts the crap.


FINE. Okay? Fine. I’ll say it. I want you. Now let’s get it on like Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhal.

Cut to Tokiomi and Kirei having tea. Tokiomi does not suspect a thing. He’s actually planning on taking a flight out, and as he leaves, he states that he has nothing but pride for Kirei, who’s performed admirably as his student. He hopes Kirei will continue to have strong ties with House Tohsaka, that as his senior student, he will watch over Rin and help her learn the family magic. He also hands over his will, naming Rin as successor to Tohsaka, and Kirei as her guardian. Kirei accepts all this. In the meantime, Tokiomi also gives Kirei an Azoth dagger, to prove he graduated from Tohsaka.


You gon’ get shanked.

Just like daddy,you never understood me, Kirei says, as he stabs Tokiomi. Dammit Kirei, it’s not just daddy, none of your audience really understood you either. Gil materializes again, noting that for such an accomplished mage, Tokiomi went out like such a puss. Kirei shrugs. He was in his own home, with his own Servant dematerialized right there. Who can blame him for feeling safe?


Et tu, Brute?

We end on the eponymous eighth contract, between Kirei Kotomine and Gilgamesh, King of Heroes.

Final thoughts:

Hot damn, again, how is this show so good at character study of the Servants but so suck at doing the same for their main characters? Seriously, Type-Moon, would it have killed you to show us a little more about Kirei or Kiritsugu, to sprinkle some tidbits about these two guys throughout your series so we actually form a connection with them? Shit, they’re only, you know, the main character and his antagonist. We had 15 episodes before we finally got confirmation that Kiritsugu is planning to ask the Grail for World Peace (or something like it), and now you give us 16 episodes of Kirei displaying the emotional range of Kristen Stewart before now springing a bunch of daddy issues on us?

Again, look at Avatar (kung fu magic, not CGI smurf-cats). Crossroads of Destiny. That’s how you do a proper seduction to evil. This? Kirei went from “yes dad, I’ll investigate” to “yes Tokiomi, let us cooperate like daddy said” to “huh, Kariya is interesting” to “I HATE YOU DAD AND TOKIOMI DIE SO I CAN FIND MYSELF.”

I watched the Rirouni Kenshin movie on the plane to China a couple weeks ago. I found Kenshin to be a giant pussy with inconsistent morals, and wondered why the show isn’t about Hajime Saito instead.

Here I am finding Kirei and his metamorphosis into the main antag bland, and Kiritsugu and his idiotic ideals barely tolerable only because there is a literal deus ex machina, and wondering why the show isn’t about Waver and Iskander instead.

Until next ep.

Let’s Watch Fate Zero, Ep 16

February 2, 2013

The End of Honor

Risei Kotomine talks with a man in a wheelchair, who is revealed to be Kayneth. Risei thanks him for his help, and Kayneth plays it cool. He’s all like, no probs dude, happy to help on behalf of the Mages Association. Now about that deal we made…

Sola clings to a fence, watching the departing Servants happily – her bond with Diarmuid will be complete once she receives her final command spell. Wait, how does that work? Saber killed Caster, and Kiritsugu killed Rinnosuke. There’s like no amount of rules-lawyering that gives them credit for the victory. Suddenly – SMACK! She falls to the ground, but her right arm is still on the fence? Oh shit, Maiya just cut her arm off, preventing her from using any of her Command Spells to summon Lancer! Sola starts to freak out, but Maiya knocks her out before she could make a scene, then makes sure to mangle the hand via judiciously applied bullets.


Sola-Ui realizes that her obsession with Diarmuid might have gotten a little out of hand.

Kirei leaves Kariya in front of a door. He knows that it’s a betrayal of the original arrangement (that is, help Tokiomi win), but he feels excitement from this.


You’re a real bro, Kirei. Truly, you make Amon grateful.

Inside the church, we see what the dealings were. Risei acknowledges that Lancer was instrumental in fighting Caster. Kayneth presses the issue – that he gets a Command Spell. Risei takes a dig at him, saying that while Lancer’s role was important, he’s not quite sure that Kayneth even counts as a Master at this point. After all, Sola-Ui is the one who 1. owns the current command spells and 2. provides the mana to keep Lancer in this world. Kayneth shrugs it off, saying the Master Servant pact was between him and Diarmuid, and that of the two, his is the name registered as a Mater. Risei shrugs, then begins the transfer, which apparently works by Communion as Risei tells Kayneth to drink of his blood. There is some power aura going around, and Kayneth lifts his hand, observing with glee the singular Command Spell inscribed upon the back of his hand. Man, the custody battle’s gonna be hella awkward.


SWING HEIL!

BLAM.

Kayneth shot the Father! Using a gun! Oh Kayneth, even you see that muggles do it better. I guess this is to prevent others from getting a Command Spell?


What was that about your pride as a mage again?

Cut to Lancer finding a pool of Sola’s blood. Then cut to Kayneth raging at him like he’s a misbehaving puppy. He calls Lancer useless and pathetic, unable to even do the very simple job of protecting a single woman. Lancer apologizes profusely through this, trying to explain that since the pact was between him and Kayneth, he couldn’t sense Sola’s presence. Kayneth doesn’t accept this though, saying that because of this, Lancer should have tried harder and been more careful. His thoughts then turn more accusatory, and he accuses Diarmuid of purposefully letting Sola get closer to him, failing just like he did in his legend, that for all his vaunted honor and chivalry, one look at his boss’s wife and BAM adultery time.

Okay, seriously, Kayneth? Did you miss the part where Grainne laid a freaking geas on Diarmuid to compel him to elope?


I cannot wait for the point where this dog bites back.

This crosses a line for Diarmuid, and he tries to get his newfound Master to stop, but Kayneth raises up his pimp hand. He continues to scold Diarmuid, disdainful of how the Servant apparently still feels like he has pride left to wound. Not only Diarmuid’s pride was worth nothing back in his myth, Kayneth says, but it’s worth nothing now, as he can do nothing against Kayneth’s Command Spell.

Wow, Kayneth, you’re such a dick. I mean, yeah, I get that it’s your wife who’s been kidnapped with her arm cut off, but raging at your Servant and insulting him way past the point of motivational criticism isn’t exactly conducive here. Also, did you like not pick up an encyclopedia before summoning Diarmuid? Seriously, it was literally not his fault. The fae gave him the love spot, and Grainne laid a geas on him. Not exactly his fault here.

Anyways, Lancer detects something something before the tirade can go on. It’s Saber and Iri driving in. Iri notes that there used to be a magic barrier here as she and Saber step out, and then Lancer steps out to meet them. Sola’s gone, he says, and asks if they know where she is.

Saber says she doesn’t. She then draws her sword, stating she is here to finish their duel.

Dammit Saber, can you fight like a proper soldier for just one second? Although in her defense, she does note that at this point, pretty much all of the Servants are off recuperating, so there’s little chance of being interrupted. Plus at this point, Saber just regained used of her Noble Phantasm, while Lancer lost one of his, which indicates that she is at least thinking about these things and isn’t doing a Honor Before Reason.

This was the silver lining to the dark cloud that was Lancer’s day thus far. He readies his spear with a smile, saying her fighting spirit is the only thing that can calm his heart.


Lancer/Saber…secondary OTP.

They begin with gusto, and very quickly Lancer notes that even though Saber just got her Noble Phantasm back, she’s still not as quick and strong as before. He then notices that she is still not using her left hand in attempt to make the duel as close to how they left their previous fight as possible.

God dammit Saber.

Although admittedly, she has quite the strong arm too, if she’s one-handing a 2-3 kg longsword while decked out in armor. And I have to admit she is being quite the bro here. Diarmuid agrees, saying he is glad to have met her. If nothing else, he knows that with her, he can have a good old honorable fight.


Once more into the fray, to the last good fight I’ll ever know.

Kayneth watches from the sidelines, complaining about why Lancer doesn’t just up and finish Saber already….and then there is a clinking sound.


Look around you, Kayneth. Where are you? You’re in an abandoned warehouse, with the mage your mage could spell like. Look down.


What’s that on the ground? It’s a bullet. Look up.


Look up. I HAVE YOUR WIFE.

Kayneth is about to piss himself, and Kiri tosses a scroll at him. Kayneth picks it up and sees that it’s a Self-Geis Scroll – which I presume is some kind of magically binding contract. Sure enough, he reads them to himself, and the conditions are interspersed by scenes of Lancer and Saber’s fight. We see that Emiya has signed it already, and that it’s a magically binding contract that forbids him from employing any and all means from personally harming Kayneth or Sola. And it’s detailed too – it’s binding upon the soul, not just the body, so he couldn’t, say, set off a suicide bomb with the two of them in the vicinity. It’s also powered by the Emiya family crest, so as long as the crest exists and the Emiyas are recognized as mage, the contract will remain in effect.


Can’t kill me…ownage rights to the Willy Wonka factory…must kill…Albus Dumbledore?

Saber and Lancer has weapons at each others’ throats. Although I’d have to give the advantage to Lancer here. Saber’s already at her maximum reach, but Lancer still has a third of his spear left. If she wants to continue to stab him, she’d have to move right into his spear, but if he wants to stab her, he just needs to back away a little and poke.


Advantage: Ireland

They acknowledge the point, and slowly disengage in preparation for the next round when suddenly…


BLOODY HELL

Saber is surprised at this turn of events, and then we see what the conditions were for Kayneth. Yeah, anyone with two brain cells could have guessed it was an order to withdraw from the Grail Wars. The method, on the other hand…


oh. oh lancer. oh my heart. and your heart. but also my heart because it just broke just like yours did. oh diarmuid, you poor sweet child of summer. you deserved better than this.

In exchange for his and Sola’s lives, Kayneth is to use his last Command Spell to make Lancer commit suicide. And as Lancer begins to disintegrate, he looks back upon the Masters and delivers one last dying monolog of rage. He rages at Kiritsugu and Kayneth, at how their ambitions have sullied what was supposed to be an honorable duel between knights. He rages at how all he ever wanted was to serve honorably in this life, to find redemption for what happened between him, Grainne, and Fionn by fighting for his new Master and either winning for him or dying trying, but Kiritsugu would go so far to win that he would trample upon Lancer’s last wish, and Kayneth would go so far to save his own life that he went along with it. He rages at Sola, for being the second time he’s been screwed over by an unfaithful woman.  He rages at Saber, for the dishonorable way her Master ended their duel. He rages at how, to the mages, Servants are nothing but pieces for their game, and with his last breath he curses them. May whatever wish the Grail grants them be terrible and backfire horribly.


Fucking… what the fucking fuck… who the fuck fucked this fucking… how did you two fucking fucks… FUCK!

I think, in retrospect, one of the more heartwrenching things about this is how utterly right it proved Kayneth. All his pride as Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, First Spear of the Knights of the Fianna, literally did mean nothing compared to the Command Spell. Lancer was doing quite well in his duel, until Kayneth snapped his fingers and everything went to hell. The good guys lost. The assholes won.

And then, while everyone is stunned, another chorus of shots ring out, riddling Kayneth and Sola with bullets.


Holy crap Kiri, you pulled a “I can’t kill you, but Maiya can”.

Kayneth is in good enough condition to asks for a mercy kill, but Kiri shrugs, saying his hands are tied. Saber gives it to him, then walks off, saying that now she sees Kiritsugu for the vile man he truly is. She regrets being taken in by Iri’s support for Kiritsugu’s dreams and no longer believes he can save anyone.

Iri’s pretty pissed at him too, and this is super jarring considering she’s been super supportive and worshipful. She tells him with the most delicate little murderface going on that he owes Saber an explanation.


Guess who’s sleeping on the couch tonight…

Kiri is also taken aback until he realizes that this is actually the first time she’s seen him fight. He then explains that if you kill a Master, Servants can still link up with another Master before they expire, so he had to kill both Master and Servant simultaneously.

Iri is not satisfied. Talk to Saber, not to me, she says.

Kiri shrugs, replying that there’s no use explaining something like that to someone who thinks there are right and wrong ways to fight. And then he goes on his War Is Hell rant.

“See, just like so – just like you said, Iri. This great Heroic Spirit dares to think that the battlefield is better than hell. What a joke! No matter in what era, the battlefield has always been a veritable hell.

In the battlefield, there is no place for hope. What lies there is only cold despair and a sin called victory, built on the pain of the defeated. All those people who met there have wholeheartedly admitted the evil and foolishness of this act called ‘war’. As long as people don’t repent and don’t regard it as the most evil taboo, then hell would endlessly reappear in the world.

However, humans did not realize that truth no matter how high they staked their mountains of corpses. That’s because in no matter what era the courageous and fearless great heroes have always bedazzled the eyes of the multitude with their splendid heroic legends. Because of the wistful actions of those idiots and their refusal to admit that bloodshed is by itself evil, the essence of humans has stayed on the same spot since the Stone Age!”

Ok, Kiri, you are a fucking fucktard.

You cannot tell me there is no such thing as justified violence. You cannot tell me that defending yourself against someone trying to invade your home and kill your loved ones and steal your property is somehow shameful. You cannot tell me there is any fucking moral equivalency between the victim and the perpetrator. The Americans at Saratoga disagree with you. As do the Spartans at Thermopylae. The Mexican cadets at Chapultepec. The Sioux at the Black Hills. The Chinese at Nanjing and Shanghai. The Polish at Wizna. The Jews at the Warsaw Ghetto. The Russians at Stalingrad. World War II, you fucking shithead, the most classically unambiguous good vs evil war in the history of ever. No such thing as a just war? You do realize that it takes two to fight? Even if one side is the most evil, wicked, genocidal bunch of assholes, that means there is the other side who is being victimized by said assholes. You going to say that blood shed by these guys in the course of defending themselves still constitutes something evil in and of itself? So what, then, it’s morally superior to be a victim than defend yourself?

Fuck that noise.

I begrudgingly admit, Kiri, that you are at least partially right. There will always be evil in the world. There will always be those who use violence for ill. But Jesus do you not have the cause-effect relationship or the problem-weight right. First off, as demonstrated above, violence is not inherently evil in and of itself. Second, people are not violent because Heroes dazzle others in a spectacular display of the Truffaut effect. A few of them, yes, but more are violent because they are assholes to begin with, and most others are violent because they are being preyed upon by the assholes, and in real life, the most pragmatic (since you’re all about pragmatism,Kiri) way to stop that is to retaliate violently. Third, what exactly is the problem with heroes who use violence to save others, exactly? For a supposed analytical guy, you’re sure sucking at doing the very basic math of, say, Hua Mulan kills a couple thousand Huns vs the tens if not hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians killed or raped or sold into slavery if she didn’t kill them, therefore killing the Huns is good. Heck, you do it all the time, and I don’t think you should loathe yourself for it. Or look at the hero you just sent to an ignominous end. How many people do you think Diarmuid Ua Duibhne saved during his own life to earn his reputation before that thing with Grainne? Not to mention here, where he not only didn’t kill anyone who didn’t deserve it, but he sacrificed his own chance at victory to save thousands of civilians.

And, so, as promised, SHUT THE FUCK UP KIRITSUGU YOU ARE FUCKING WRONG YOU FUCKING FUCKTARD BECAUSE DIARMUID UA FUCKING DUIBHNE. The only thing stopping me from being part of your hatedom and ragequitting your show like I’ve done for that godawful series Revolution is that unlike the libtards, the existence of a reality-warping epic artifact means that as long as you get your hands on it, you really don’t need to care about practicality.

Iri calms down a little, asking if Kiritsugu’s standoffishness against Saber is really just because he seems to hate all Heroic Spirits for inciting the public to Not Do That Really Cool Thing Called War. Kiritusug merely replies that being a warrior for justice the way Saber and some of the more “noble” Servants are won’t save world. Presumably he’s going to wish for world peace once he gets the Grail, but this can only happen if he actually gets his hands on the Grail, and the importance of this goal is such that he must necessarily murder every mofo in his way as efficiently as possible, without being choosy about his methods. Saber protests that committing evil to stop evil still makes you evil, but Kiri shrugs it off. Like the Operative from Serenity, he will take on all the evil and all the sins of humanity to create paradise, even if there is no place for him there. He walks off, leaving Saber and Iri to contemplate.


Bullet Action Jesus!

It’s daytime…and Iri faints.

Final Thoughts:

I know my problem with the end theme now. It’s a little too calm and smooth for a series involving the battle royale of seven of the most revered heroes of humanity’s history and legends and the inevitable tragedies that occurs within. And the end animation is almost exclusively about Iri and Kiri. Contrasted with the previous, where the vocals have more emotion, and the ending is pretty much all about the Servants, opening with Gil’s chess set, and ending with a series of artworks depicting the Servants in their life, all of which are based on actual classical depictions.

Seriously look at this. Beautiful, it is.

Saber’s is “How Mordred was Slain by Arthur, and How by Him Arthur was Hurt to the Death”, by Arthur Rackham.


Rider’s is “The Entry of Alexander into Babylon”, by Charles le Brun.


Archer’s is the statue of Gilgamesh at the University of Sydney.


Lancer’s is a statue called “The Tree of Love”.


Caster’s is “The Execution of Gilles de Rais”.


Assassin’s is from an artistic rendition of Hassan-i Sabbah


Berzerker’s…well, Berzerker’s is actually pretty revealing, so I’ll be putting it on once his identity is revealed in the series proper. But yeah, anime renditions of classical artworks for the win.

Anyways, I’ve already covered the thing with Kiritsugu’s philosophy. But I want to call out attention to another things this series does well – it makes everyone seem like people. And just like people, they’re not all good or all bad, but rather run through all combinations of good/bad people do good/bad things for good/bad reasons. Just look at the antags for this episode, Team Kayneth-Sola-Diarmuid.

Supplementary materials say that Kayneth and Sola were an arranged marriage, and while he loved her, she was less than enthused about the whole deal. So it’s very easy to understand why she’d fall right for the strapping dashing knight who leapt through time, even without his love spot helping it along. And yes, the whole “give me your command spells or I’ll break your fingers” thing was pretty evil, but it is still understandable why she does it. And with Kayneth, again, his berating of Lancer is way over the line, but given that he’s been noticing Sola giving Lancer the goo-goo eyes, it’s again understandable why he’d be so mean to the guy. And even though ordering Lancer to kill himself was a cruel thing, it must be remembered that he did it pretty much only for Sola, and despite all the things she did to him, he still cares about her and wants to save her.


Kayneth and Sola. Proving my belief that the worst thing isn’t evil people doing evil, but normal people doing evil things for good reasons.

Pity about the multiple rounds of dakka to the chest.

And pity about Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, who retains his crown of “Most Heroic Character Thus Far In This Series.”

This one is for you.

Until next ep.

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.

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.