Fate/Zero – 22

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After 22 episodes of buildup, it looks like it’s finally time for Urobuchi-san to start dishing out the despair for real.

This was really the first episode since before the Kiritsugu side-story that I really felt Fate/Zero was firing on all cylinders.  As a whole I think it’s lost a step this season – still fascinating and unassailable from a technical standpoint, but lacking the same urgency and emotional accuracy that it had in the first season.  This episode seemed to focus on what the show does best – which ironically is buildup, when you get right down to it.  There’s actually nothing unusual or even unfortunate about a series that tends to do buildup better than the actual fruition of events, and there are few that can portray the sinister feeling of impending doom like F/Z can.

Of course along with that is the notion that the experience of watching this show now always carries with it a giant lump in the pit of the stomach, waiting for the next atrocity to drop.  As he so often does Urobuchi goes a little too big when trying for the emotional payoff, tugging at the emotional heartstrings just a bit too hard with Waver and Rider.  But because of the goodwill those two have earned in 22 eps, it mostly works – for me, anyway, there are no other characters in the show (now that Lancer is gone) for whom that scene wouldn’t have rung false.  But Rider and Waver have actually experienced positive character development, and have actually showed genuine human feelings towards each other.  So if Waver’s gesture, Rider’s speech and Waver’s reaction were a bit over the top (not to mention the scene with “Grandpa”) these are the guys for whom it sort of fit.

This is Urobuchi Gen though, so for all that they must surely be punished.  I expect terrible things to rain down on them, defeat and despair and existential agony – though Alexander will certainly weather it with gruff defiance like always.  We all know where nice guys finish in the nihilistic Hell on Earth of the Urobuchiverse.  It looks as if Rider is going to be doing battle with Archer in the next episode, which means he’ll finally be pulling out his “A” game with no reason to hold it back.  It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Rider wins that makes sense with the dramatic structure of F/Z, but I also expect some sort of final confrontation for Rider and Saber, so we’ll have to see how than pans out.

As Rider and Archer do battle, it looks as if Berserker will be entertaining Saber.  She seems to be operating pretty much as a free agent at this point, with Irisviel gone – she certainly shows no inclination to volunteer any service to Kiritsugu, and anything he gets from her will require the use of a command seal.  Kiritsugu is playing the lone wolf card to the end now, feeling a bit sorry for himself maybe, but seemingly too proud or stubborn to try and reach some sort of détente with the heroic spirit who’s supposed to be serving him.  Kiritsugu has always worn his contempt for Saber on his sleeve – no doubt prompted at least in part by just how anathema her ideals are to his own – but with things having progressed to these dire straits, you’d think he would try and utilize such a valuable resource more effectively than he has so far.  Perhaps there’s a master plan for Saber than we haven’t been made privy to yet.

To be blunt, I still find Kirei’s mindset one of the weaker elements of the whole F/Z scenario – especially given that he appears poised to be one of the key figures left standing when all the others have been cast aside by fate.  He is, as he states himself, an “empty man” – that’s obviously crucial to the very essence of his character – but it makes him less compelling as a dramatic figure.  He’s certainly gone fully Sith at this point, as witness his grim encounter with Iris, but it feels just a bit arbitrary – as does his hatred for Kiritsugu.  His very emptiness is obviously crucial to the resolution to the story – Gilgamesh’s comments about the Grail “revealing what hides in his heart” make that clear enough.  But at the least, he can point to Kiritsugu having a purpose as something to give him purpose, such as it is – to destroy Kiritsugu’s purpose.  It has a certain symmetry to it, but it still feels like a bit of a plot device.

Irisviel’s fate is one of those elements of the anime that comes off as if it was written for viewers who already knew the details, so I’m pretty much in the dark.  After being “killed” by Kirei, she appears to be inside the Grail – and whether her meeting with Ilya was also “real” and inside the grail or just a dream I can’t say.  The essence of it seems to be that her fate is to be the same as many others like her through history, as witness the pile of abandoned Irisviels she encounters – and she is a homunculus after all, a kind of puppet created for a specific purpose which once fulfilled, seemingly makes her as expendable to fate as she was to Kirei.  There are too many possible explanations for the corpses, the dream, the darkness closing on her, the hands pulling her under, the grisly smile – any guess would be just that, a guess, so I’ll wait and see what next week brings before formulating a real theory.

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  1. A

    After sleeping for a couple of weeks, Fate/Zero is ready to resume its dominance over the rest of the field.

    Here's hoping for a monumental, epic showdown in the remaining few episodes (Saber – Berserker, and Archer – Rider).

    The more nihilistic the results, the better!

  2. A

    hunter x hunter is dominating imo.. can't argue with anyone thinking f/z is the best because it was. maybe next episode will make f/z go back on track.

  3. t

    That scene at the end with Iri was intended to be very vague. and what it means will be revealed in time.

    "she certainly shows no inclination to volunteer any service to Kiritsugu, and anything he gets from her will require the use of a command seal."

    Nope. Saber is still serving Kiritsugu/fighting for him in the war. What she meant by that comment is that if he is ambushed, to summon her with a command seal, like how he sent her to the shed before. She's playing lone wolf only because Kiritsugu wont open up to her and hasnt given her any other orders, and really she doesnt know what else to do but ride around randomly searching for Iri.

  4. y

    That thing with Iri will be kinda touched, but yeah, its one of those things that is only fully explained in the climax of Fate/stay night VN.

    And regarding to Kotomine I already put it into words, but I will like to add that in my opinion Nasu's Kotomine is far better than Urobuchi's one. The first is an already experienced character constructed with an interesting core doing what he does best, while he second is an inexperienced fellow in his first steps. Not that compelling.

  5. A

    To continue with Game of Thrones parallelisms, this is as if you see first a young Tywin Lannister (to put another Magnificent Bastard) coming of age before you see the real thing.

  6. If Kirei is the evil SOB that he seems by general consensus to be, I think Kiritsugu is actually a better comp for Tywin. Tywin always thinks he's doing what he's doing for the greater good as he sees it. He's totally ruthless about it, but he's serving what he sees as the benefit of the greatest number of people. He also thinks he's doing things free of emotional biases, when of course he's not.

  7. A

    Yeah, I wasn't really comparing characters, it was more of an example.

    But, even if I also think that you are true about Tywin being more Kiritsugu in core, Kotomine (ten years later) share with Tywin his wittiness and verbal strength, something that Kiritsugu really lacks.

  8. K

    Rider & Waver moments were the best part of the episode, in fact the best part of the series in a long time for me. They honestly don't seem to fit in the series as a whole as they are so positive compared to everyone else.

    And while I fear the next episode will be their last (although they lasted much longer than I ever thought) I actually don't think their end will be "too bad" at least not compared to how many other character's ends were. For some reason I get the feeling that Gen Urobuchi kind of likes Rider too.

  9. h

    Nah, I think they're perfectly fit in here(at least for me), they're like the light/mood maker of this dark story&stand as an opposing contrast of kireixgil perfectly-twisted combo anyway. Also totally agree with your "hunch", despite his style, I think Urobuchi likes RiderxWaver a lot(their chara development), beside they're the fans most beloved master-servant combo(from the pool), so I still have positive feeling with their fate next ep. Anyway, can't wait for next week ep of the epic battle, don't disappoint me Ufotable!!^_^ Btw, have you notice the airing date of next ep, coincidence?!

  10. S

    Another great episode even though it wasn't nearly as intense as the previous few. Fate/Zero can do no wrong in my book at this point and I'm tempted to call it the best anime ever made!
    Without a doubt, Kiritsugu and Iri are the most tragic figures in Fate/Zero and the bits and pieces of their back stories reinforce that very well. It also makes the suspense even harder to bear when we know a catastrophic outcome is probably inevitable. My gut’s telling me Rider and Waver won’t survive till the end but I guess the jury’s still out there. After all, Urobuchi sensei has genuinely surprised me many times.

  11. A

    Oh god, UTW rendition of Kotomine and Iri last talk was far better than NicoNico/Commie one by far.

  12. Really? Hmm… F/Z is the one series I try and get posted as quick as humanly possible, and Commie is always first past the post. Maybe I'll wait on UTW next week.

  13. y

    UTW takes a bit more, bit their translation is always better and/or fixed.

  14. S

    I don't see anything wrong with NicoNico's to be honest…

  15. H

    I thought that the conversation between Iri and Ilya really happened sometime before Iri left for Japan and she was just remembering it here, that seemed like the most logical explanation.

  16. I

    While these last few episodes will be epic, I feel that those of us familiar with F/SN will not find it as great those who are not familiar with the original Nasuverse.

    This episode was also a little slow since it was setting up the brilliant conclusion, but still a little lacking. It's in these moments that the difference between F/Z and GoT really show because GoT excels at these sort of moments while F/Z lags a bit especially since Urobuchi has no freedom and most follow the path set by Nasu.

    Cheers to some mind blowing though.

  17. S

    Waver you cute little tsundere!…seriously though if something Urobuchi-like happens to waver/rider i'll actually die 🙁 Although i am PSYCHED to see these upcoming epic battles and grand finale.

  18. A

    …are you gonna number this post? it just says Fate/Zero.

  19. No it doesn't…


  20. B

    You know, I remember watching Fate/Stay Night when it originally aired. I remember the characters and the basic plot of the Grail War. But I honestly can't remember a single goddamn specific event that happened in that show. I think once this prequel is over I will both revisit that anime and finally get around to playing the VN.

  21. y

    Just forget the mediocre anime and go for the VN, really.

  22. A

    I don't think there's anything over the top or overwrought about Waver freeing Rider by using up all three Command Seals. :/ It was a powerful and emotional gesture.

  23. L

    I think Enzo's point was that it works for them because they're pretty much entirely positive characters, which we're running a bit low on. The scripting does tend to throw in everything and the kitchen sink for dramatic scenes.

    Unfortunately, heartwarming, uplifting, or hopeful moments in this show are generally followed by some horrible disaster, so it's difficult to watch even with foreknowledge from FSN. Any time a character does something to benefit someone else, or for the greater good, they get smacked down viciously by the universe at large (Lancer, kid!Kiritsugu, Irisviel and Maiya, arguably Kariya), so it's difficult not to be at least slightly apprehensive of the results from an audience reaction perspective.

    Also, the next episode preview…

  24. That's pretty much it, Lenn. In my view it works, but only because it's Waver and Rider.

    Urobuchi's track record – not just here, but generally – is that when he goes for an emotional scene, he goes the kitchen sink route. I think it's an uncomfortable mode for him, and the only thing he can do is go over the top.

  25. r

    Apparently there's no episode next week!!!! *dies*
    and the week after is going to air episode 23 and 24 D:!!!

  26. T

    The issue with Kirei is that he's badly handled in the Anime. The novel exposes every raw feeling and his frustration, his pointless quest. Also they cut down his emotional reactions a lot (he was supposed to be crying when he closed his father's eyes, he was supposed to be recalling his dead wife, etc). A lot of things went wrong that I hope they'll fix with the blue ray episodes.

    He is extremely compelling because his tragedy is internalized rather than the typical sob story Kiritsugu or Kariya got to justify their breakdown. It's difficult to portray on screen. This was a portion that explains exactly what the issue is:

    "In retrospect, Kirei had been wrong since the start– his question was answered, but his anticipation became disappointment.

    Emiya Kiritsugu was not looking for the truth amongst meaningless repetition.

    That man had simply consigned all meaningful things into nothingness.

    It wasn’t that he had no wishes, but that he had such a ridiculous wish that he fell into a cycle of nothingness. His futile efforts and what he had wasted was so foolish that it was unsalvageable.

    Perhaps Kiritsugu could see through Kotomine Kirei’s empty heart, and perhaps he would fear that emptiness and be alarmed. However, he would never be able to imagine the meaning of having such an emptiness. He could never hope to understand the fervent desire that Kirei harbored.

    Emiya Kiritsugu’s life could be concluded as having repeatedly discarded everything.

    The joy and happiness that man had discarded – even its fragments were important enough in Kirei’s eyes for him to protect with his life or even die for.

    For a man like Kirei who continued to be lost and could not find a single piece of such joy and happiness, Kiritsugu’s life only existed in his dreams and his admiration.

    His insatiable thirst and unrecoverable loss had been belittled and mocked in such a way – how could he endure this? How could he not hate this?

    The dark feelings swelling up in his heart twisted Kirei’s smile."

    Kiritsugu empties himself, killing his normal happiness to accomplish a childish dream. To Kirei, who has pursued a life of virtue for over twenty years by trying so hard to enjoy it and love but was unable to (unable to the point he almost killed himself because nothing stopped his emptiness: no marriage, no being a father, no success, absolutely nothing), is completely unforgivable. Someone who can appreciate their luck and pretend they can lead his lifestyle? Oh yeah, he is going to crush them.

  27. T

    Oooops. I mean 'can't'.

    The point is that Kiritsugu had the normal happiness Kirei was never able to enjoy even if he tried (once again the anime never goes in deep how Kotomine tortured himself physically and mentally to fit in society and made everyone proud with their expectations of him: perfect son, husband, student, etc), but he threw it away without consideration for the sake of an impossible ideal. That made him angry. Because he can't even feel anything for the simple things and he would have wanted to (he's broken since he was born). He had thought he was a man like he was, he was going to ask him what answer he found to the end of a futile quest.

    I hope it's clearer XDDDDDD;

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