Fate/Zero – 15

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Alas, poor Caster – we hardly…

Eh, screw it – good riddance, you crazy bastard.

Before I delve into this episode on its own terms, what struck me first while watching it is how interesting it was to do so after watching the first ep of Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean.  What you have here are two very well-animated, big budget action series – yet they take a radically different approach to how they animate their action sequences.  ufotable is all 2012, state-of-the-art, and their big set pieces are almost entirely CGI.  You won’t see CGI done much better (GONZO is still able to deliver great-looking CGI of another flavor, about the only saving grace of Last Exile: Fam).  BONES, by contrast, is all old-school – their E7: AO project relies on well-known mecha designers and animators and they do their epic stuff almost entirely hand-drawn.  It’s a fascinating contrast – neither is right and neither wrong, but they do illustrate two different ways to approach sci-fi fantasy anime in 2012.

I can’t help but think of this series in non-anime terms for some reason.  In some ways it seems to be the anime version of Game of Thrones – a big, beautiful, sprawling epic where events with global consequences sweep people up in their wake, and those who seek power willfully subject themselves to the ultimate danger.  Treachery is rampant, alliances are formed, and morals and ethics are cloudy – although unabashed evil is certainly present.  I also tend to want to group the servants (and masters to some extent) by their alignment RPG style, as they tend to strongly influence the events of the series.  And when the alignments of the servant and their master don’t match up (see Saber – certainly lawful good, and Kiritsugu – probably true neutral) things get complicated.  When they do align – Caster and Uryuu were certainly both chaotic evil – you have a powerful but ultimately predictable combination.

It’s the lawful good servants that team up to take out Caster, whether their masters care to or not – the honor brigade at work.  Perhaps Rider could be argued to be lawful neutral but he’s definitely honorable, and he uses his reality bubble to temporarily imprison Caster and buy some time for the others to figure something out.  Of course, it falls to Saber and Lancer (those two really need to just get a room already) to do so, and Lancer sacrifices one of his spears to release Saber’s left arm, and with it her “Anti-Fortress” Noble Phantasm, Excalibur (Soul Eater flashbacks anyone?).  These two lawful goodies are the ultimate in chivalry, with Lancer taking the big picture than his honor code can’t allow him to let Caster proceed unimpeded and only Saber can stop him.  With Sola apparently uninterested one way or the other, he’s free to do what he wants – and Rider manages to buy enough time with his Ionian Brigades for Saber to escape Berserker and finish off Caster at last.

I’m not sorry to see Gilles de Rais or his master go, because I think their absence frees up the story to go to subtler and more interesting places (and I don’t get off on seeing children graphically tortured over and over).  He got his vision of Jeanne, and he’s gone – don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, Bluebeard.  What was interesting was that once Saber unleashed Excalibur, Berserker (probably chaotic neutral, though a case can be made for chaotic evil) lost interest in Gilgamesh and went after her.  That had to be quite a blow to the King of Lawful Neutral’s ego, but it was (naturally) Lancer that came to Saber’s rescue and broke the link between Berserker and the F-15 (wonder what happened to the pilot), allowing her to dice up Caster.  It was a bad day for Gil – he was dissed by Berserker, and his UFO was destroyed too, apparently.

As all this was playing out, the masters were having their fun, too.  While Kiritsugu finally saw enough self-interest to get involved in destroying Caster, Tokiomi was thoroughly dominating poor chaotic neutral Kariya – I was surprised, frankly, that the matchup was so apparently one-sided.  After terribly burning Kariya he leaves him as a “present” for Kirei, but the latter decides not to finish him off – and indeed, apparently casts some sort of healing spell on Kariya (though I won’t swear to that).  This is a fascinating subplot here, because we have Archer clearly trying to drive a wedge between Kirei and Tokiomi, and apparently succeeding.  I still get the sense that Gil is playing with Kirei mostly for his own entertainment, but he may have a larger goal in mind.

Ultimately, it seems that Archer, Saber and Rider must be the “Three Kings” who battle it out for supremacy in the end.  Lancer is surely fated to battle Saber (maybe next week), and the laws of dramatics dictate that he’ll surely lose. I certainly can’t see Berserker making it to the end (or Kariya for that matter) and that leaves the big three who held their “summit meeting” last season, an event which more and more seems to foreshadow the ending of the series.  Rider clearly sees himself battling Archer in the end – of Saber he has a grudging admiration, but ultimately pity for what he sees as her pointless selflessness and lack of perspective.  Gilgamesh seems more interested in Saber, and there might perhaps be something a bit more than interest there on his part – in his conversation with Rider he gives us the memorable “Ephemeral and brilliant one, fall to my embrace!”  The subtext flies fast and furious whenever Rider and Archer speak, that’s for certain.  With the big battle won, perhaps the series will return to subtler machinations in this ultimate game of thrones.

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29 comments

  1. d

    It is possible for berserker and kariya to survive. After his recent defeat he got to retreat and possibly go into hiding until the last battle. Possibly wait for someone else to finish off Tokiomi for him. (we all know that someone is going to betray tokiomi and steal his servant).

    Good catch on berserker changing target due to excalibur.

    …If that spear was so easy to break….

  2. I

    You know when I gave F/Z S1 to a friend of mine who thinks only animes like DBZ, Naruto and Bleach are good (because they go on forever, idiot) I described it to him as Game of Thrones animated. The same complex characters, motivated or working towards one thing, clashing, uniting and betraying for it.

    I was actually expecting Lancer and Saber to fight it out, as I thought that Lancer had to die for the curse to lift. This development means that Saber has a big advantage over Lancer in their next fight.

    Kirei has no motivation to fight for the grail. Which makes a complete wildcard, certainly something that draws Gilgamesh to him; unlike Tohsaka who is aptly describable as boring in his actions.

    Berserker is obviously the toughest target to defeat now, if he can beat Gilgamesh(that's how it would seem in Archers mind) and immediately chase down Saber, he can defeat the other Servants. His obsession with Saber though is strange. This is the second time he changed targets to fight her.

  3. A

    I just cant help but have a giant grin on my face any time berserker shows up, he always manages pump the adrenaline dial up to 11 and looks pretty badass while doing it.

  4. A

    Aye, he's my favorite Servant of them all.

    I like the fact that he has no dialogue, that none of us are privy to his inner thoughts.

    A total wildcard in a game of pompous self-inflated heroes.

  5. r

    "(those two really need to just get a room already)" LOL

    also, if Lancer could teleport like that… why didn't he do that last episode and help out trying to defeat Caster instead of just staying on shore =0= (albeit, cutting off tentacles didnt do much)

    hasn't Gil fallen in love with Saber yet?

    ps i love how you already blogged about F/Z, other blogs seem to be slower than you ;v;

  6. Heh, F/Z always jumps to the top of the list when it's released. Give the people what they want.

  7. S

    This is why you're awesome, Enzo 😉

  8. P

    I agree with ruirui, Enzo you are truelly a fantastic blogger, it always amazes me of how fast you blog these releases, not to mention how thought out and insightful your posts are. Nowadays I always come to LiA before RandomC :)

  9. I

    Since last season I also come to LiA much more than RC. GE you've done a great job blogging so many shows by yourself and so quickly. Keep it and have fun doing it GE :)

  10. All I can say is thanks, I give it my all.

  11. A

    I, too, concur here. Randomc has slipped lately, and you've stepped up your bloggin' game several levels to make up for that. Kudos, GE :)

  12. A

    same 😛

  13. K

    Berserker is just so badass. His F-15 gets torn to pieces, but he still manages to grab the minigun and make it his Noble Phantasm. Seeing Saber's Excalibur was quite a treat. The build-up to it was really nice, but the actual attack was less flashy than what I was expecting.

    Looking forward to the Lancer vs Saber rematch, hopefully coming next week.

  14. S

    All according to Kiritsugu's plan ufufu~

  15. True neutral – the scariest alignment there is…

  16. b

    Alignments huh. The Servants already have their alignments in the novels. Saber and Rider are lawful good, Archer and Berserker are chaos good, Lancer is lawful neutral, Assassin is lawful evil and Caster is chaos evil.

    For the Masters, isnt Kiritsugu more of lawful neutral/evil? His goal is to save people by killing people.
    Could be chaos good too.

  17. A

    I would actually argue that Kiritsugu is as lawful good as Saber. That's what makes them great foils for each other. They cling absolutely to ideals that clash but they both want the same thing: the salvation of others. Furthermore, both are ready to sacrifice their own happiness to obtain it.

  18. I could see Kiritsugu as lawful neutral. I don't think someone so dependent on relativism could ever be good, alignment-wise.

    I don't see how Lancer could possibly not be lawful good, at least as the anime depicts him. He's totally dependent on a chivalric code, completely honorable and selfless. How can he be neutral?

  19. b

    The source material in volume 3 has the complete stat list of all of the Servants, including their alignments and Lancer is listed as Lawful Neutral.
    I would think this may be because of his status as a knight. He is lawful in the sense of chivalry but he is just a knight who follows the king's orders so he remains neutral. Not really sure how this works really.

    And made a mistake on Rider's and Berserker's alignment. Rider is neutral good while Berserker is lawful mad.

  20. w

    Pretty awesome episode. My jaw dropped when I found out the first Blu-ray box sold over 45,000 copies and made over $15 million dollars (or 1.9 billion yen). THIS is where your money goes, folks (and I guess to the producers: Aniplex [even richer], Kodansha, Type-Moon and ufotable).

    Loved the music during Excalibur's reveal, loved the Rider and Gilgamesh talk and I lol'd at Irisviels lack of phone know-how. I hope next episode doesn't involve who I think it involves…

  21. A

    ''Caster and Uryuu were certainly both chaotic neutral''

    Really? I mean the unrestrained murder of children and civilians for their twisted philosophy and disgusting tastes puts them into the very depths of chaotic evil. I'd like to know why you'd peg them down as anything else.

    In terms of Alignments, the only ones I'm aware of are Saber (as you had guessed, Lawful Good, if you ignore the whole killing babies on May Day) Archer (Chaotic Good, and yes, there have been many discussions about that) Assassin (Lawful Evil) and Berserk (Lawful insane, do note that any servant in the Berserk class will not have any reasoning left other than to go insane, so you can't really say they are good/evil/neutral at that point, they are simply either following orders to a certain extent, but their mental state makes them unable to act as they normally would've otherwise without the mad enchantment)

  22. Heh, definite typo there – should have said "chaotic evil". They practically define the term.

    I'm old-school – Gary Gygax baby. There's no "insane" alignment in my world.

  23. J

    Seeing Caster go was really sad, I will really miss that crazy old bastard. An amazing villain he is, there are no dull moments when he is in the scene. I guess the next one will be the VERY chivalrous Lancer (more like lovestruck) I guess his curse love mole backfire on him. He and Cu Chulainn of FSN can form a club.I wish I can play F/E to know how will the infamous Vlad III the Impaler can defy the fate of "Being Lancer is suffering".
    And also I really wish that they animate the fight between Cthulhu and Rider's army at least for a couple of seconds, that will be awesome.

  24. C

    Vlad had a cannibalistic clown for a master.

  25. B

    Really great post! And I'm sorry that my first ever post on your blog has to be to gripe, but I have to correct you on something because it's kind of major (although I don't know if you were aiming to do it purposely with the Soul Eater reference right after): it's ANTI-Fortress – NOT Fortress – Noble Phantasm. And I point this out because there ARE subclasses of Noble Phantasms that act as actual barriers, and the way you label Excalibur is misleading.

    And also your alignments… Type-Moon Wikia has their own alignments listed there if you're really interested in making comparisons (they ARE full of spoilers, so research at your own risk). Unfortunately, they don't have the Masters' listed, but I would disagree with your view of Kiritsugu as 'True Neutral' nonetheless. Of course, I'm working off Type-Moon's definition of alignments, so maybe the 'true RPG' version differs. Either way, I would classify him as 'Chaotic Good' though: someone who works for order, but will use any means to do so. By that definition, Kariya would also fall to that category. So yeah, if you want more 'official' info, refer to Type-Moon Wikia in the future.

    I really did like your post though, so please don't be offended;;;;; XP

  26. t

    Interestingly enough, the official material gives Rider's alignment as Neutral Good. I find that very appropriate, because he doesnt really follow rules(live for the moment and all that) but he also does not seem against laws (such as when he agrees with Archer's claim about his law as king in episode 11) and of course he is definitely the most obviously Good kind of person along with Lancer and Saber

  27. Heh, I didn't realize this alignment thing was such a hot-button issue. Benefits of not reading the source material.

    I could see Rider as neutral good. I still can't see Kiritsugu as good, period, because it's clear Type-Moon is using alignments in a different way than they were originally defined (as in D & D). Perhaps in their definition he's a "good" and Lancer a "neutral", but in original terms it's definitely the reverse.

  28. b

    Well you were the one who brought it up 😛
    And I agree, Kiritsugu is definitely not in the good alignment because if he is then he wouldn't have any issues getting along with Saber who is Lawful Good through and through. He definitely has a clash of ideals with Saber even if their goal is the same. So yeah.

    Interesting topic this is, the alignments.

  29. A

    I didn't get the impression that Berserker started to attak Saber when she got her "sword-arm" fixed. Rather it seems that when Kariya lost, he lost control over Berserker who immediatly went back to his original objective: Killing Saber.
    He has attacked Saber before as well and none of these times seems to be by Kariya's orders.

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