Burn baby, burn!
Well, can’t say that was as… oh. Wait. That would be a Shiki spoiler. Ahem.
Before I move forward with this at all, I just want to say that I’ve really enjoyed team blogging Fate/Zero with my lovely co-writers, and based on conversations I’ve had with them, I think it is safe to say that we all enjoyed it. You can expect sometime in the future that we’ll be tag-teaming another show!
And here’s Lily:
And so the countdown reaches zero.
Saber’s Excalibur obliterates the cup. The capricious Grail, however, doesn’t simply go down – it takes the city with it. It saves the ones it wants to save. Kirei. Gilgamesh. Kiritsugu? The man is devastated. In his desperation to find someone to save from a desastrous fate, he finds and holds the hand of the child who would become a hero. A child who, much like the greatest king of Britain, desires to save everyone.
One story ends, another one begins. You can see the second where they overlap, where they meet. Kiritsugu gives way for his son, Shirou, to do what he couldn’t do. The weight of the world falls, literally, on the boy’s shoulders, to fight for a relic that grants no wishes but its own.
I know my co-writer Day couldn’t wait until this show was over, and also that there many frustrations along these 25 episodes of Fate/Zero. I feel that, perhaps, it was a mistake to split it into two halves with four months between them, and that the show felt even slower because of it. But when the credits rolled, I thought that it did a very good job at what it proposed.
More serious than its predecessor (or sequel, if you want to take a chronological approach), Fate/Zero may have lacked in action but it featured an actual war, rather than showing a few kids who didn’t really know what they were doing, and whose successes or failures lied simply on the hands of fate. Rin, Ilyasviel, Shinji, all of them are immature and cannot compare to the masters who fought in this war, and neither can their servants. Even Saber herself, summoned by accident, was incomplete and weak, whereas in Fate/Zero we could witness all the power that she truly holds.
Fate/Zero had a clash of kings, and a Berserker who did more than prove to be resilient like a cockroach. It had a mad Caster with the power to sacrifice inumerous innocent lives, brutally, and simply because he could. Medusa is powerful and a figure to be feared, but she did not possess a chariot and the power of thousands of loyal men.
More importantly, Fate/Zero explored interesting matters that are pertinent on Fate/Stay Night, which was its purpose as a prequel. In the last few minutes, as Saber cries on the battlefield with her dead men, feeling defeated and hopeless, we lament that the words of her best friend and greatest knight could not lay her spirit to rest (presumably, given we saw the death of Berserker and he didn’t seem to tell her what was shown to the audience). Arturia is consumed with regret, and it becomes her purpose, a need. We were led to this very moment, where we meet the servant present in FSN who would not obey her naïve master, who would not settle down, who would do anything for the Grail. Nothing in FSN serves to prove her conviction as the scream she lets out right before she and the Grail destroyed each other.
We also have the origins of the relationship between Kirei and Gilgamesh. We get to see how the emptiness in Kirei amuses and fascinates Gilgamesh, and how Kirei, in his pursuit to understand himself, ends up in the middle of chaos. However, even after watching both adaptations, I cannot think of him as more than a petty villain. If anything, I recognize the irony that his nature is in death, as opposed to the salvation of souls. Perhaps I could find him more interesting if I had read the source material, but is the character so hard to translate?
And lastly, we have the parallels between Kiritsugu and Shirou. How one was willing to make necessary sacrifices, but the other can’t bear that thought, and how the dream that Kiritsugu once had, back when he still had his heart intact, is passed down to his son so easily. It is almost poetic. Even if FSN is disappointing in nature, if it’s simpler than this cold, scheming war, being able to see the two stories connect was the greatest achievement in Fate/Zero, and an example of remarkable narrative. I cannot suggest fans of F/Z to jump into FSN in excitement because the difference in tones between the two stories and treatment of its character is too great, but I feel that is the point. Everything that builds up and suffocates us in F/Z, and Saber’s incomplete tale, leads to Emiya Shirou. And while I recognize the anime is a rather poor adaptation of a not-quite-remarkable story, I could not avoid playing disillusion after Kalafina had faded away with the credits.
Close one book, open the next.
Followed by Katherine:
So. The Grail didn’t respond well to Kiritsugu trying to destroy it via Saber. Saber died without succeeding, leaving only one Servant-Master pair, Archer and Kirei- and of course Archer interpreted the Grail’s actions the way he did. Thus, we wrap up Kiriei’s storyline- that of a sociopath who finds fulfillment by embracing what he is. (Btw, Kirei’s story is fascinating in theory, but in practice, he is the dullest sociopath I have ever come across in fiction.) Gratifyingly, he will eventually be killed by the same knife he used to murder Tokiomi before giving it to Rin.
Just to be clear, I DON’T think that Tokiomi deserves vengeance. He was a horrible person. But as horrible as he was, he did something far worse than any of the atrocities on this show- being boring to point that I forgot about him, until his funeral came up. I am only gratified by the manner of Kirei’s death because he’s just as horrible as Tokiomi and it was sick of him to give Rin the knife he used to kill her father as a present.
And Kariya. Kariya was my favorite Master- the only one who I thought really deserved the Grail- for a long time. His fall from grace was so whiplash-inducing, even though it made sense given the context, that I initially condemned him more damningly than I should have. I am glad that, even though he was eaten(?) by bugs, he died happy, even though it was saddening also. But when I saw little Rin pushing her mother, now permanently brain-damaged and out of touch with reality, in a wheelchair, I felt angry and sickened at him again- while still feeling bad for him and knowing that he went through hell trying to save a little girl who no one else would lift a finger for. Bravo, Fate/Zero, for giving me such conflicted feelings about a single character, I guess. The only silver lining here is that Sakura grows up to be a decently well-adjusted person.
And we finally meet F/sn’s protagonist Shirou, before he grows up to be a sexist twat. As much as I don’t care about Kiritsugu, he’s loads more watchable than Shirou. While Shirou was like “UR A GURL, I SHULD PROTECT U SINCE IM A BOY!!11!1!!! IT DUSN’T MATTER IF UR A SUPER-POWERED WARRIOR, UR STILL A GURL, U KNOW,” at least Kiritsugu mostly left Saber alone to do her own thing. I do feel bad for Kiritsugu, especially since he never sees his daughter after the war ends, so Shirou was at least good for mitigating that.
And yay Waver! His portion of this episode made me smile. I’m not just saying that. He didn’t leave much of an impression on me at the beginning of this series, but he didn’t annoy me either. But he grew on me. And his final scene cemented he and Rider as my non-romantic OTP for this series.
Poor Saber. Lancelot’s madness and death really broke her, and she ended up condemning herself as a King far more than she deserved. At least the series itself makes it clear that she was a great king and her followers were (or at least, Lancelot was) inspired by her ideals. I found it interesting that Lancelot’s madness might have been prevented if Saber had punished him for his affair with Guinevere, allowing him to have a means of repenting.
My one criticism of this episode, purely from a writing standpoint, is Illya’s unexplained reference to “Justeaze-sama.” (See here to see who she is.) The writers could have easily worked in a small reference to who Justeaze is, instead of slipping her name in in a way that only folks who have consumed enough Type-Moon media (or read enough about the Nasuverse on the internet) can understand right away.
Despite the things I didn’t care for about this show, I really enjoyed it. When I learned about the Fate franchise’s premise, I envisioned something a lot more like Fate/Zero than Fate/stay night. Adieu, Fate/Zero, until I re-watch you. It was fun.
And closing out this post with myself:
So. I’ll hit the negative before I touch on the positive, as I was pretty well-satisfied with this episode, both as an episode and as the finale for Fate/Zero. It was exactly the right ending, and allowed Fate/Zero’s second half to end on a high note… which is a very good thing, since I don’t think the second half was all that great, particularly when compared with the first half. Put another way, I was really happy to watch the finale since Fate/Zero has really worn out its welcome to me.
Of course, not only has Fate/Zero worn out its welcome, but, quite frankly, the Fateverse in general. It is excruciatingly clear to me that this is really as far as I can go without being totally irritated with the franchise. From here it only gets worse for Saber as a character, and I really don’t feel like sitting around while watching her go from cool and strong badass to Shirou’s girlfriend. Barf.
But, there, I got the negative out of the way. Now, the positive.
So, Fate/Zero ended on largely an epic bummer note, as expected, but I was very pleased with the final bits about Waver. While everyone is futzing around and awaiting their own future bummer times, Waver has decided to walk away from the entire foolishness. He’s become an adult; that he reflects that he still has a ways to go solidifies this impression. For a character whom had so little screen-time in the second half, Waver was surprisingly well-developed… even more startling when we consider how poorly developed most of our primary characters were.
Speaking of, this episode also pulled off the shocking, in that I finally felt some sympathy for Kiritsugu and even GASP liked him a little bit. Watching his desperate search through the rubble did a lot more for his portrayal than seeing his past did in the flashback episodes. I think that this is, really, where one of the major problems with Fate/Zero lies – sure, they wanted Kiritsugu’s past to not be immediately apparent, but I think failing to give us something to grasp onto for him early on really damaged the show in the long-run. But I don’t want to get too deep into that; I still have a series review to do, after all 😉
I was also shocked to see Aoi alive, if not well. Not sure if it would’ve been harder for Rin if both her parents had died or for this situation, with her mother barely connected with reality.
And to round out the game of “wait, you’re alive?!”, I should probably mention Kariya. His appearance marked the second time I’ve been sure the man was dead, only for him to come waltzing out of the woodwork, somehow, some way, again. Even though I knew there was no way that the scene of him reuniting Sakura with Rin and Aoi was real, it was still a bit of a punch in the gut to see him collapsed fully on the stairs, apparently the victim of Sakura. Talk about cold. And I really didn’t see it coming at all. And as cruel as it was, it made me like Sakura a lot more; in that one instant, she went from being poor little lost loli to an actual person. Not a nice person, to be sure, but certainly preferable to just being someone’s martyrdom project.
Kirei being alive was not surprising. Gilgamesh being naked was, enough so that I legitimately almost spat my drink onto the computer’s monitor. Gilgamesh may be a total freaking pain in the ass, but, well, my. I don’t think I’ll complain about that artistic choice, let’s leave it at that. Although Kirei as a late-act villain still left a lot to be desired (since he’s boring as all hell), I did enjoy the exchange between he and Gilgamesh. There’s going to a porn-tastic OVA about them, right? Right?
Hilariously, we now know that the douchiness in Shirou started pretty young. Sadly, we know what this means for Saber, who ends the show sadface on a hill in a field of bodies… and yet recalling that Lancelot as a Heroic Spirit said that even though it made him upset that she had never punished him for his transgressions, he still thought she was a great king and didn’t regret being her knight, nor did any of the other Knights of the Round Table. So, hmm, people who weren’t there try to insist that she couldn’t’ve been a good king, yet people who were there say that she was? I wonder who we should believe on this one! Although we pretty much know what the canon’s answer is, sigh.
How genuine were Kirei’s words to Rin? We know he can lie through his teeth quite capably, but I’m unsure here. Speaking of Kirei, I don’t think that the Grail was acting on behalf of his desires, honestly. I think the Grail was just pissed off and so was sending a big ol’ Fuck You to Kiritsugu; it knows what would bother him the most, after all. Or, if it was acting out Kirei’s wishes, well, the show really dropped the ball here, because Kirei is too freaking boring to accept as our ultra-evil villain.
Anyway, you can expect a final wrap from me in a series review in the next few days. You can also expect me to hop a plane to Japan, storm ufotable, take over, and make the bestest show ever, in which Rin is actually the protagonist of Fate/stay night, Shirou gets hit by a train, and Saber builds the hottest harem ever. Cha-ching, instant profit.
Oh, and, here, have some naked Gilgamesh:
70% of the animation budget. Right. There.
EDIT: Thanks to the totally brilliant as fuck Katherine, I now know what it was that Kirei wished for. A nude Gilgamesh who was fully corporeal, so that he wouldn’t vanish after the end of the Grail War and they could have lots of sex! HOW DID THIS NOT OCCUR TO ME BEFORE?!?!