I admit I was a bit spoiled by the first two eps of this series (or more accurately, the first two weeks). They seemed larger than a normal TV anime – big and busy and beautiful and intense. Given that this series is scheduled for two cours it’s inevitable and even desirable that there should be some off-speed pitches, so the audience isn’t sitting on the fastball. This week was a bit of a breather episode, and I’m sure there will be more. While it wasn’t as exciting or compelling as the earlier efforts it probably came at a good time for me and other first-time viewers to catch our breath.
That’s not to say there wasn’t important and interesting stuff happening, both on the character and strategic fronts. It always seemed possible, but it was confirmed that the business of Kirei attacking Tohsaka via Assassin was a ruse. Assassin isn’t dead, as he’s apparently a servant composed of many component forms (as hinted at in the OP/ED). The idea, of course, was to convince the other teams that Assassin was dead and that Kirei was out of the running – a ruse continued by Kirei checking into the neutral church set up as a sanctuary for defeated masters. So far only Waver and Rider seem to have been taken in – their combination of inexperience and bull-headed literalism seemingly most vulnerable to subterfuge – but I’m not sure even Rider/Alexander was fooled. Tohsaka seems like the mastermind behind this whole plot and the leader of the alliance, to he’ll be the one to watch.
We met another servant this week, Lancer (Midorikawa Hikaru), a spearmaster whose name sounds a bit like “Lancelot” though we don’t know much else about him. He seems to have a Knight’s sensibilities too, as he’s offended at being forbidden by the rules to give Saber/Arthur – whom he’s challenged to battle – his name. This challenge, and Tohsaka’s ruse for that matter, seem like part of a feeling-out process – not so much an attempt to defeat the opponent but to get the measure of him or her. In Lancer’s case to see what kind of fighting strength Saber has, and in Tohsaka/Archer’s case to see who’s clever enough to worry about. If we’ve been told who Lancer’s master is, I can’t recall it.
And on that topic, we also don’t know who Kariya’s servant is yet, either. He’s been basically absent after being very prominent in the premiere, and from the wikis I’ve seen and simple math it seems like the other servants who could belong to him are either Lancer or Berserker, who we also haven’t met as far as I can recall (there’ve been a lot of faces and names). Berserker seems to command a lot of respect among the others, so I assume he must be a badass. As for Alexander, the only one he seems to respect as an opponent is Bill Clinton, who he sees on Waver’s TV. That and a reference to the VCR serve as a clever reminder that this is indeed a prequel, set in the 90’s and not the present day.
Finally, there were some interesting scenes involving Kiritsugu’s wife Iris and Saber, as well as Kiritsugu and his servant Maiya (Tsunematsu Ayumi). We already knew that Iris was fated to die in this battle, but now we know why – she was “created” (homunculus?) specifically for the purpose of winning this war, presumably by Kiritsugu’s sponsors the Einzbern Family. There’s much I don’t understand about this situation – did she actually mate with her “husband” and give birth to Ilya, and is Ilya human? She appears to be a sacrificial lamb but it strongly appeared that Kiritsugu loved her and their daughter both – yet this episode finds Kiritsugu and Maiya making out in their hotel room. Meanwhile, the scenes of Saber gallantly showing Iris around the city after she’d told Saber it was her first time away from the castle where she was created were some of the most quietly involving of the series.
Based on these three episodes, if we have a “main” character pair, it’s surely Kiritsugu and Saber. They’ve gotten the most development so far, have been major players in all thee episodes and Saber especially has a personality quite unlike all the other servants. It’ll be interesting to see what happens once all these gentle preliminaries are out of the way and the battle is joined in full.