“Night of Stratagems”, indeed. There was all sorts of interesting stuff happening here, especially for a relative newcomer to the material as I am. In the first place, Caster did indeed mistake Saber for Jeanne d’Arc, which was the only explanation that made sense but it’s still nice to see it confirmed. Also confirmed is that both Caster and his master, Uryu, are absolutely crazy. “An insane servant and a master unable to control him” is how Tokioimi puts it, and that sounds good to me. Caster is now so frustrated over “Joan” not recognizing him that he declares his intentions to commit larger and grosser atrocities as an affront to God, in some sort of bizarre attempt to bring Saber back to her senses. Thankfully we were spared the details of what was happening in the dungeon where the two psychopaths are hiding, but with 15 children already kidnapped I imagine we’re going to be dealing with some grisly stuff next week.
There were a couple of relatively new turns for the series that were quite interesting to me, one of them being the focus on the rules of the Grail War. While there’s obvious a code of conduct that mages are more or less expected to follow even in this situation, it’s equally obvious that there are a couple of players at least – Caster/Uryu and Kiritsugu – for whom rules mean nothing. Last week there was much focus on the divided nature of the servants, with chivalry being the chasm that splits them – this time, we got a look at how the masters are different. Uryu and Caster’s crimes are obvious, but Kiritsugu – nominally the hero of the piece – thinks nothing of blowing up an entire hotel to attempt to kill Keyneth, who has surrounded himself with a great wall of magical defense. There was a fire drill that cleared the building, but I doubt Kiritsugu would have hesitated merely because civilians would die.
Of course Keyneth is not dead, I’d stake my car on that. And while Kirei witnesses Kiritusgu’s attempt on Keyneth’s life and almost kills Maiya in the aftermath, any outrage over that deed is soon set aside as Assassin brings him word of Caster’s atrocities. These are apparently such a blatant violation of rules that they can’t be ignored, and a decision is reached by the priest at the sanctuary – who I assume is acting as a sort of referee – that all of the masters shall combine their efforts in an attempt to stop Caster and Uryu in their tracks. Given that they seem to be making no attempt to cover those tracks finding them shouldn’t be hard, but I suspect we’ve seen only a tiny fraction of Caster’s true power. I’m also very curious to see how this attempt to get the other masters to work together takes shape – I suspect that isn’t going to be as simple as it looks. The irony here is that I sense the outrage is not so much over the nature of Caster and Uryu’s crimes themselves – the kidnap and murder of children – as over the fact that they’ve broken the rules of the game and risk attracting unwanted attention from the muggles.
The other prominent focus of the ep was on strategy, and Keyneth is clearly in the camp of relying on subterfuge to win the war. He has his wife Sola-Ui (Toyoguchi Megumi) with him, and she’s a mage too – and is effectively cheating by acting as a second master to Lancer and providing an additional source of prana (though she’s clearly not immune to Lancer’s charms – that mole!). I don’t know if that literally violates the rules, but then the secret alliance between Tokiomi and Kirei is probably on similarly ambiguous ground. Of even more interest is the fact that Gilgamesh – a clever fellow he, in addition to being an egomaniac – looks to be trying to drive a wedge between Kirei and Tokiomi. Due to their circumstances those two are spending a lot of time together, and Kirei has been very much the enigma to this point, his motivations for allying with Tokiomi or indeed fighting at all unclear. I like the fact that Gilgamesh notices that just as we do, and as he seems like the most devious of all the servants, I’m curious to see just what he has in mind – is it pure mischief, and attempt to sow trouble? Or perhaps genuine dislike for his master, who he dismisses as “boring”?
Notably absent this week was the Rider/Waver pair, which sort of makes sense given that Rider’s clear forte’ is action rather than strategy, and Kariya/Berserker, who’ve had almost no role in the series thus far. I’m very curious to see what Waver is going to bring to the table, as he’s the one figure who’s contributed nothing in terms of either brains and brawn to the game thus far. But he was smart enough to finagle his way into that game, so sooner or later, I assume that intelligence will play some sort of role in events on the ground. For now, things seem mostly focused on the seeds that were planted in this episode, and the Kirei/Tokiome/Archer thread is the most interesting of those.