Fate/Zero – 11

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I certainly hope I don’t hear the old “too much dialogue” complaints being levied against this episode of Fate/Zero, because for me it was a perfect example of how a series can be exciting and adrenaline-pumping without a ton of traditional action.

For me, this was Urobuchi Gen at his best.  As a writer, Urobuchi has a rare ability to combine elements that appeal on a purely sensory level with big ideas – pulp and intellectual content blended in a way not that many other writers can.  This was a sort of grail geek’s “fantasy foursome”, or “who would you invite to your dream dinner party?”  The notion of Gilgamesh, Alexander and Arthur getting together to chew the fat over a barrel of wine is interesting enough in its own right, but when you factor in what a fascinating contrast the three of them are, it’s doubly irresistible.  And if you’ll pardon my bias, it seems to  me that Rider verbally kicked Saber’s ass.

If I were to pick out a few favorite moments from the “banquet”, I think they’d center around Rider and Saber’s debate about the role of the King.  When Arthur suggested she’d use her grail wish to undo her impact on history and thus (hopefully) save Britain as she knew it, that exposed a fundamental chasm in their respective viewpoints.  When he offered that he would never regret anything that happened during his reign, even the dissolution of his empire after his death, she was shocked – to which he unforgettably replied “I would grieve, and I would weep – but never regret!”  That summed up Iskander the Conqueror’s worldview perfectly.  Arthur, by contrast, “walks the martyr’s path” in her own words.  I think Rider is right to ask if that’s really doing the right thing by her people.  In his view, the King has to be the extreme of everything that his people are – the most good, the most evil.  Saber clings to the notion that a King has to abide by an absolute code of morals (in her case a variation on the “Old Code of Chivalry”) even if that means they walk the path of loneliness and death.  I think there’s truth in both views, but if this had been a debate Rider would certainly have been declared the winner on presentation.

Of course, while this debate was happening Archer – having provided a power-up for the wine and three goblets – mostly sat and silently smirked.  He’s especially good at that, and the sense is that he’s so sure that he’s superior to these pagan pretenders that it would be beneath his dignity to even engage in argument with them.  His position is simple – he’s the King of Kings, and as such any and all treasure belongs to him by rights.  That includes the Holy Grail as well, of course, and this banquet that Rider has called is really just an entertainment for him – that, and an opportunity to sit quietly and gain the measure of his opponents.

When Tokiomi’s Assassins show up to crash the party, that brings and end to the social niceties and allows Rider the opportunity to finally show off his noble phantasm.  And it’s quite a trump card – he can call forth a “reality marble” that gives physical form to whatever environment he’s imaging in his mind.  And once there, he can call upon the legions of followers of his lifetime (even his horse) whose loyalty to Iskander is so great that they follow him unquestioningly, even in death.  This appears to validate his view of the role of a king, at least to an extent, and it certainly gives him a formidable weapon at his disposal. In his belief system he exists as the personification of the loyalty, adoration and envy of his people, so it’s only fitting that they should constitute his finishing blow.  We’ve seen Assassin die before, of course, and especially judging by Rider’s reaction I suppose it’s safe to assume he’s not really dead here either.  I still don’t fully understand Assassin’s nature, but I’m assuming if even one of his endless aspects is held back and not killed, he can recreate all of them even if “killed”.  In any case, it was quite a bloodbath in that marble as the others stood by and watched in shock and awe.

One thing that puzzles me a bit – and maybe wouldn’t if I were more familiar with F/SN – is the notion of the servants arguing over what they would do with the Grail.  It’s an interesting element to the debate – what Saber sees as Rider’s selfish desire to use the Grail to give himself a new body, he sees as his duty as a king.  But it isn’t for the servants to do anything with the grail, is it?  It was my understanding that it was the master’s decision as to what the Grail would be used for, and the servant’s role merely to help them obtain it.  It makes for a compelling basis for the Kings to argue their respective worthiness to take the Grail, but only as an academic exercise – if the Grail is not theirs to use, that is.  Even if Rider or any other servant were to try and usurp the Grail after winning the war (and why talk openly about that with your master 10 feet away?) the master could simply use the command seal to prevent it.  Perhaps the meaning of Rider’s question will become clearer in the final two episodes.

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17 comments

  1. t

    Just a few things here:
    The reason they were arguing about who deserves the grail is because its not only the masters who get it, its both the master and the servant. The way its supposed to go is that whichever team of master and servant wins the grail, that master and servant both get the grail, and each get their wishes granted. Thus Waver would get a wish and Rider would get a wish.

    Assassin is completly dead and gone. One servant down. Assassin splits himself, but he cannot regenerate any of the destroyed Assassin's, he has a set number that has been slowly decreasing as they were killed over the series. This episode cut out a scene where Tokiomi was observing the three kings and decided to have Kirei order the assassin's to attack with a command spell, in order to get Rider to expose his trump card. Thus all of the Assassin's assembled to attack Rider, and all of them were caught and killed in his reality marble.

    Anyway as for this episode;
    The animation quality in this episode really angered me. They made Rin’s anime original filler episode super pretty, but when we get to the Mad Feast of Kings that so many people like me have been waiting for they cut the budget and give us really weird faces!? At least Rider’s Ionian Hetarioi looked good. What makes Rider’s trump card so powerful, is that its not just an army of mooks, the entire army are all heroic spirits like Saber, Rider and Archer. Its a literal army of heroic spirits, with each soldier being a low level spirit, which is pretty damn badass.

    I was really looking forward to this episode. This was the scene in the novel that completely changed my opinion of Rider. Up till this point i had thought he was kind of cool, and hilariously funny, but it was only here that i realized how awesome he was and became a real fan of his character. He makes a lot of good points with Saber, bluntly spelling out everything that is wrong with her kingship and her wish to the grail. He basically says everything Shiro says to her in the Fate route of FSN, and he does it in a single scene!

    Then his army really proves her wrong about being alone. Unlike Saber, who could never connect with her people, and ruled as a solitary ideal, Rider’s men were so devoted to him that they return to him even after death! Rider is truly never alone, because anytime he needs them, his people will be there, answering his call. That was really awe inspiring to me.

    I loved this spisode, but i wish they hadn't burned the budget on Rin filler, when they could have given the meeting between the three kings the treatment it deserved!

  2. F

    Takashid beat me to the explanation about the grail and wishes, so thats covered.

    Here is where I really wish that this show had Saber Extra instead of Saber Arturia. Now THAT would have been a drinking party!

  3. t

    Fencedude: omg, if it had been Saber extra here, she and Rider would have had the BEST. PARTY. EVER.
    Saber extra is so awesome and similar to Alexander, i could see her even considering accepting rider's offer to join him. I can just imagine them as being the greatest of Bros.

  4. F

    Umu!

    Saber Extra would also not like Arturia very much. But who cares? She's a bajillion times cooler.

    And yes, Saber Extra and Iskander would be epic bros forever.

  5. r

    you forgot to mention that those legion of followers are all servants. making broskander's skill more hax than what it seems

  6. M

    I have a small question for those of you who have finished the light novel:

    During the secong frame of the Iskander`s army presentation (after the Greek Golden armor soldier), it pops a young man with long black hair and dark eyes.

    It is just me, or does it have an air/aura/similarity of Waver?

    We had Shiro return to the past as Archer, could the same time paradox happen to Waver, who return as someone "whose loyalty to Iskander is so great that they follow him unquestioningly, even in death".

    I really hope this is the case, since it will show/spoil that Rider was successful in GAR-ing Waver in the end.

  7. t

    Maverick05: I dont want to spoil anyone who hasnt read the novels, so i wont answer that question yes or no, and i hope others will do the same.

    I will say that i noticed that resemblance myself, and that it seems like other blogs did as well. we shall have to wait and see.

  8. S

    Saber is not a good leader but she would probably make a decent follower. Rider is right that she's not fit to be a king and I'm guessing her little girl ideals was what brought about her downfall in the past. I find Gilgamesh to be most amusing this episode. Yes, we knows he's a greedy and arrogant bastard, but it seems like he's always scheming something as well and that makes him the unpredictable one.

  9. A

    Alexander's not wrong. Saber's not either. I found myself agreeing with several points of both their positions as the talk went on. But I found myself annoyed by Rider's dismissal of Saber's kingship at the end. That, in my opinion, was too much.

  10. Thanks for the clarifications on use of the Grail – things certainly make more sense that way.

  11. b

    I'm pretty sure that person in Rider's army just looks like Waver. He is by no means able to become a Heroic Spirit, much less part of Ionian Hetairoi. Rider's NP is the manifestation of his and his army's hearts, beliefs and dreams. And pretty sure Waver didn't exist in his army back then.
    Waver's fate though, that's a spoiler.

  12. A

    For comparison, the Drama CD version of the Feast (right after Saber reveals her wish to the Grail):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DLlL9v3gMM

  13. M

    Great episode but I have two minor gripes:

    1. Rider's philosophy may indeed prove to be a more realistic and effective way to rule as a king but I feel Saber was too easily defeated. I mean, she was king Arthur and became the ultimate martyr – you'd think she had given enough thought to her ideals and had mustered enough resolution as to not be so easily swayed and remain largely speechless upon hearing Rider's speech. It's like he had just opened her eyes and made her realise she had been wrong her whole life. I expected more confidence from king Arthur, and specially more faith in her own ideals, to the point she'd be able to better defend them in this situation.

    2. Assassin's death felt anticlimatic. Tokiomi just sent all the remaining Assassins to face three servants? I understand that Assassin was just trying to find out more about Rider and is probably the best at running away but sending him there without preparing for the worst case scenario is foolish at best. What's more, Assasssin has felt incredibly weak since the beginning. I figured his ability to gather information and his sneakiness would eventually pay off but apparently not.
    If Tokiomi expected a positive outcome out of this little meeting then in my eyes he's become the most foolish and incompetent master, surpassing even Waver by a large margin.

  14. N

    I am Anime-Only watcher here.

    @Murkel:

    1. Saber's ideals are not as strong as they once were. The very fact that she needs the Holy Grail is probably already discouraging enough to her: if her ideals were right than she would not need the Holy Grail to begin with

    2. Tokiomi wanted to know what Rider's Noble Phantasm was and he sacrificed Assassin for it. Since he now knows what Rider is able to do, he is able to make a counter-strategy. And I'd say it is worth it because Rider's Noble Phantasm is simply OP and fighting against it unprepared it is an unavoidable death sentence IMO

  15. Murkel, if indeed that was the end of Assassin, I agree it was anticlimacic. Even if Tokiomi's strategy makes sense it still doesn't really work from a dramatic standpoint. I guess it sort of explains Rider's "Well, that wasn't as fun as I'd hoped" reaction.

  16. M

    @Guadrian Enzo: I'm assuming it's true since people everywhere are saying Assassin is gone for good. To be honest, Tokiomi's action is so foolish I'm starting to suspect he might have done this on purpose, aware of Kirei's recent behaviour and fearing he might turn against him.

    @Nayrael: do you consider a servant's life worth as much as knowing about an enemy's ability? I certainly don't, specially knowing there were so many smarter moves available (not sending all the Assassins for starters).

  17. t

    Murkel: Tokiomi sacrificed the assassin because Rider was the only threat left in his plans. Saber is no threat with her left hand sealed, Lancer's real master has been crippeled, and the new lady isnt as strong as kayneth, Berserker is strong, but Kariya is burning himself out quickly, and can be dispatched without a lot of trouble if they lure him into a trap, and Caster is being hunted by everyone, and isnt that strong anyway.

    Rider is the only unknown left, which is why he decided to take this risk to force Rider to expose his trump card. It was a calculated risk, with not much to lose in Tokiomi's eyes, since he sees the Assassin's as pawns, and plans to use Archer to win. The Assassin's also couldnt disagree, as Kirei used a command seal to order them to attack. In this case hTokiomi both won and lost his gamble. He discovered that Rider does have a trump card, a EX rank noble phantasm(equal in rank to Archer's noble phantasm Gate of Babylon) which he definitely would have been screwed against if he went up against that unawares. However on the other hand he has now lost the use of Assassin, which he only realizes after seeing Rider's NP that it might have been better to save them and try to off Waver from the shadows rather then face Rider's incrediable power head on. Its just an error on TOkiomi's part.

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