Fate/Zero Episode Twenty

Just think: I almost started off this post with a cap of naked Kariya.

But then I remembered: our real hunk-a, hunk-a burning love here is obviously Beserker! Amirite, bros?

Ahem.

We’re all back in business this week, even though Katherine is recovering from being a party-hard graduating senior, I’ve been traveling all over the damn place for work, and Lily has been… uh… ok, so, Lily’s pretty much been around, although she did miss out a couple weeks ago. If I’m not being particularly clever, its a minor miracle I’m functioning at all. I slept on my office floor the past two nights D=

Without further ado, Katherine’s up first:

Everybody’s screwed. Everybody.

Exhibit A from this episode:

Maiya. We were never really given reason to feel attached to her, but I did feel bad for her when she revealed how she grew up. She is a good foil for Irisviel, as someone who has seen a lot more of the world, but at cost of her identity and family. We can see that she isn’t as dead on the inside as she thinks she is, since she loves Kiritsugu. But it’s easy to see how she would think of herself the way she does. She knows that because her current personality–everything she knows how to do–is a product of what Kiritsugu is trying to eradicate, she herself doesn’t fit into Kiritsugu’s ideal world, while Irisviel would if she were able to survive past the war. This begs the question of what Kiritsugu would do if he were successful. I am glad that she was able to die happy. This brings us to…

Exhibit B, Irisviel.

Unlike Maiya, we know that Irisviel has spent minimal time in the outside world, and is acting on the good faith that it needs to be changed. Because of the Einzberns’ plans for her and Illya, at least, she knows that people can be incredibly cruel for the sake of winning a conflict. My heart broke for her when she told Maiya what would happen to Illya if Kiritsugu loses. Which, yeah, he obviously will. Illya does represent the Einzberns in the next war as a Master. It’s exploitative,  and it sucks that the Einzberns tell Illya that Kiritsugu abandoned her when the truth is that they won’t let him see her anymore, but at least she doesn’t ultimately face as cruel of a fate as Irisviel. But I’m going on a tangent. As little as Irisviel has seen of the world, she experienced it more fully than Maiya by being loved and being able to enjoy it for a while, at least. While Maiya probably behaved like a normal little kid at some point and became deadened, Irisviel was completely dead to the world–just like a breathing doll, in keeping with how the Einzberns regarded her–when she was created, but came alive once she was treated like a person. But like Maiya, her identity will be subsumed by the war that she has been forced into. (Quite literally, for Iris.)

Sadly, no yummy Saber x Iris interaction this week. The suit is finally back, and every time Suit!Saber zips off on her motorcycle in this show, I think an angel gets its wings. The next episode will focus on her saving Irisviel from…someone. I refuse to believe that the person who kidnapped Irisviel is Rider. Rider is the most honest character on this show as well as one of the most honorable. I know he said earlier in this episode that he wanted to challenge Saber before the other Servants…but if he did challenge her, he would come riding up on his chariot grinning and being like, “SABER! I challenge you to do battle!” I cannot see him trying to win in such an underhanded way–let alone kidnapping someone who can’t even sit up by herself and coldly killing the person guarding her. That just…doesn’t feel like Rider. I can’t see Waver approving of winning that way either. Archer can fly too, so maybe Kirei used magic to disguise him or something. Rider’s personality aside, the way that Iris’ kidnapping was framed–like “Rider”’s face never being shown and him never speaking–gives off a strong “things aren’t as they seem” vibe. I’m on pins and needless waiting to see how it plays out next week.

And next up is Lily:

Ow, my heart.

So much has happened this week, to so many characters. Irisviel weakening by the second, Waver resolving to prove his value, Kariya decaying more and more, Berserker finally gaining a voice, Saber losing Irisviel, and Maiya meeting her demise. What a way to make up for two weeks of half-caring for Kiritsugu.

Iri keeps pulling at my heartstrings with her unshaken devotion to Kiritsugu and his cause. By admitting that she doesn’t completely understand his ideals and the world itself, she shows so much devotion and selflessness. Is she wonderful because she’s an artificial being and above the pettiness of men, or did the nine years of marriage and happiness give her the very core of humanity, love for life and love for love? Despite being a homunculus, Irisviel has more humanity in her than Kotomine, who can’t connect to anything or anyone, or Tohsaka, whose pursuits for answers of the universe strips him of mercy for his own kin. Although Kiritsugu’s goals are almost impossibly grand, Iri never falters. She has known happiness, and she believes in a world where it is within reach, for those she cares about, and those Kiritsugu cares about. A fantastic woman Saber will surely do everything to protect.

In contrast to her, Maiya, who has known only death and who barely has a life of her own. Who is an instrument and allows herself to be an instrument, who is human while Irisviel is not. And yet, it is Irisviel who encourages her to find a heart, to find somewhere to belong. Because to Kiritsugu’s wife, there is a place for everyone in their ideal world, the world Kiritsugu fights for – a place for life, not death.

I was sad to see Maiya go. Was it surprising or shocking? Not really. But Irisviel made me believe, too. She gave me that hope. I wanted her to be more than an extension of Kiritsugu’s arms , and perhaps she was, in the end. She was found in Kiritsugu’s tears, in her kindness and admiration for Irisviel. She was in the strength to survive until she had fulfilled the mission set for her. It was more than being the perfect soldier – she wanted to give as much information as she could so Irisviel could be saved. She cared for Kiritsugu, and I believe she cared for Irisviel too. And she went with a smile in her lips. The smile of someone who truly believed in the cause she fought for.

Another interesting part was Berserker – the hatred he bears, the curse. The shadow. I am unfortunately and fortunately spoiled about his identity. Unfortunate because it kills the suspense, but fortunate because the anticipation doesn’t fade, the need to see how it plays out. The fall of grace, the knight of dishonor. The dark armor, contrasting with all the other mighty heroes, all of which have their share of regrets, but not enough to taint their very spirits. Yes, yes. Show me more of Berserker, and may it completely obliterate my heart.

To hell with moderation; I eagerly await every episode from now on.

Hmm, smells like Katherine and Lily both had different reactions to this episode than I did! Hope you can manage to stay awake through my slog:

I’d be lying if I tried to claim that I haven’t been growing increasingly ambivalent about Fate/Zero. I mark this down largely to the show not doing a terribly great job of making us care about Kiritsugu from the get-go – if he is our protagonist, and it certainly seems he’s going to be jammed into that role, I think the show tripped up by spending a lot of time with characters who are more engaging than he (Irisviel and Waver come to mind immediately). I just can’t be made to care much about him by this stage of the game. It isn’t even just that I dislike him; I have disliked characters who are leads in other shows, yet my dislike of them hasn’t necessarily left me feeling irked by their status as leads. If a lead character is going to be unlikeable, they’ve at least got to be something other than boring, and as a character Kiritsugu fails on this front.

I’m also annoyed with the fact that the badass women of the show and the independent women of the show keep croaking – see Natalia, Maiya, and Sola-Ui (the only one who is really both is Natalia; independent for Sola-Ui and badass for Maiya). Not only that, we’ve got a repeated undermining of female characters, where its either the stunningly obvious dismissal of Saber by Rider as a “girl” or the quieter variety in Maiya’s mini-speech about only existing to help Kiritsugu, or Irisviel’s lack of her own wishes and dreams separate from Kiritsugu. It’s tiresome, and in a show where a number of women fight tooth and nail “just like the men”, it’s irritating. Being able to say that one does a better job on gender equality than Fate/Stay Night isn’t exactly something worthy of praise.

In the case of Rider’s latest implication that Saber isn’t worthy of much effort, my frustration was enough to snap me back from the narrative a bit – to that point, I had been enjoying the conversation between Waver and Rider, one which I think demonstrated that Waver’s matured a bit over the course of the show. They have a really good dynamic, so I welcome their presence on the screen. Too bad the staff felt a need to ruin the moment with the dig about Saber via Rider. Granted, it wasn’t exactly surprising, although it was amusing to hear him make statements about her being wrong about things right before admitting that he pursued something (Okeanos, better known as Oceanus) that didn’t even exist and that a lot of his soldiers ended up dying as a result. Wait… uh… didn’t he accuse Saber of not really being a true king because she pursued an ideal that caused her subjects grief? Is what’s good for the goose not good for the gander here?

By the way, speaking of Okeanos/Oceanus, it’s a mythical body of water that was claimed at various points to be a river that encircled the entire world, the waters beyond the Mediterranean, all the oceans in the world, or an ocean that existed by some nonexistent continents. During Alexander the Great’s time, it was either the giant river or that ocean by the nonexistent continents. But there’s a pretty large problem here – Alexander didn’t think the world was flat. He was a student of Aristotle, who taught that the world was round, and by this period of Greek history only the uneducated generally believed in a flat Earth. And when Alexander spoke of Oceanus, it is generally understood he spoke so euphemistically, really simply to indicate that he intended to conquer the entire world, not that he specifically wanted to see this mythical body of water.

Now, we could nitpick here about my nitpicking – after all, the Servants have largely been fairly healthy combinations of historic fact and mythical elements to this point. But in the case of Rider, the matter of a flat versus round Earth is just flat-out wrong; it wasn’t even drawn from legend.

But enough about factual errors in the depiction of Rider. Let’s consider Saber for a second. This  has nothing to do with the episode, but it occurred to me between last week and this when I re-watched the first Fate/Zero ED (personally, I think it’s the best of the OPs and EDs the show has had). Remember that frame at the end with Saber impaling someone on a spear? That’s actually a nod to Le Morte D’Arthur, where Arthur kills Mordred by stabbing him through… which allows Mordred to mortally wound Arthur because Arthur is now within arm’s length of Mordred. So, yeah, that scene is immediately pre-death for Saber. Of course, Saber being a woman makes Mordred a bit of a difficult case to square properly, since Mordred was supposed to be Arthur’s illegitimate son in Le Morte D’Arthur…

Uh… where was I again?

Oh, yes, Fate/Zero. I think it’s safe to conclude that Rider did not kidnap Irisviel; it isn’t his style, Waver and he have been slumbering all day, and we never see his face, either, which leads me to believe that it is likely that this is Archer in action. While it could possibly be Beserker, there’s nothing to suggest thus far that Beserker is really capable of anything other than murderous rage, so Archer seems the safer bet.

On the topic of Beserker, we watch Kariya get tortured a little bit more, in part by his own father. The other part is a little more difficult to suss out – is Beserker actually tormenting Kariya (in his mind), or is Kariya hallucinating the whole thing? Either way, Fate/Zero’s depiction of Beserker is interesting, as it comes in strong contrast to the depiction of this particular Heroic Spirit in other tales. But if I said anything else right now, I’d be spoiling… sigh. I’ll just mention that Beserker definitely has a connection with another one of the Servants, and, if anything, that Servant should be the one angry with him. Beserker’s fate is a sad one, but in the literature it ranges between either strongly implied or explicitly stated that he only has himself to blame for it.

You know what? Fuck it. I’m going to talk spoilers for Beserker’s identity; if you don’t want to know, just ignore these next two paragraphs.

Knowing that Beserker is Lancelot of the Lake makes his break from fighting with Archer to go after Saber make sense… even as it doesn’t make much sense. Like with Rider’s lack of knowledge of a round world, this is a spot where Fate/Zero oddly deviates from both fact and traditional fiction about a Heroic Spirit. Yes, yes, Arthur wasn’t a woman, but this isn’t a change that dramatically alters the basic narrative, i.e. that King Arthur was a knightly king of England whose life ended tragically. Lancelot as a crazed, deranged figure who loathes Arthur, though, is a pretty significant departure – one of the central tragedies of Lancelot’s own life is that he truly cared about and respected Arthur, yet caved to desire and helped bring about the destruction of not only Camelot, but his dear friend as well. Lancelot becomes a monk after Arthur’s death (admittedly after Guinevere sends him away), and desires to be buried next to Arthur and Guinevere. He dies a saddened and broken man, but certainly not an embittered one, and not one who feels hatred for Arthur.

I don’t really know how I feel about the change. On the one hand, a Lancelot driven mad is kind of a cool idea and is a decent way to put a fresh perspective on things (which they’ve already managed to do with Arthur merely by making him Arturia). On the other hand, Lancelot’s existence as a man desperately seeking redemption is strong enough in the original stories that I feel reluctant to trade it in for a different model. I also, quite frankly,
worry that he’s just going to be another one of these warrior men with temper problems who have the hots for Saber, that it’ll be that he’s angry because he actually loved Saber and she clearly had no interest in him.

Anyway, done with spoilers.

Poor Kariya. He’s the only Master I feel sympathy for (I don’t think Waver needs it, and I don’t think Kiritsugu or Kirei deserve it) at this point. And we know he has no hope of winning, really; he’s at his limit. I’m shocked he survived being lit on fire several episodes back.

I don’t really have anything else to say. Nice that we’re going to get some Saber saving Irsiviel next episode, but right now I’d say the second half of Fate/Zero is running in the low-B to high-C range for me grade-wise. Too bad – the first half was so good, and the first few episodes of this season were as well. With fewer Masters of interest left on the table, I’m getting pretty leery about this one.

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3 Responses to Fate/Zero Episode Twenty

  1. Lily M. says:

    I’m positively amused that I’m like “eeee” while Katherine is all “pffffft nice try”.

  2. I find the contrast in everyone’s impressions interesting also. :-)

    Re: you-know-who as Berserker behaving differently from how he’s usually presented, there is a good reason for that. (Which I wish would have been explained in F/Z for those who aren’t already familiar with it.) Any Heroic Spirit summoned as a Berserker class Servant will act like a homicidal nutjob regardless of his normal temperament. This way, the Fate universe is able to put a different spin on you-know-who’s character without really betraying his “original” personality. And yeah, adding him to the “YOU MUST BE MINE SABER, WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T LIKE ME??!!” club would be a bit much. ^_^;; Thankfully, from what I hear of him, he isn’t interested in Saber.

    “A fantastic woman Saber will surely do everything to protect.” <- Sums up what I’m most looking forward to the next episode. XD BRING IT ON!!!! *grabs popcorn*

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