Fate / Zero – 20

This week is 95% talk and 5% action, resulting in an episode that’s 75% “8” and 25% “9.” Kiritsugu’s backstory duology was fantastic, as well as instrumental in helping us understand him more. One could also argue that positioning it after the Mion River Battle made sense, as all the Servants and Masters who survived the battle would require resting-up.

But the fact the two episodes are wholly self-contained, with no ‘bookends’ to tether the story to the present-day rest period, is a double-edged sword. The bad edge being that we simply time-traveled to Kiritsugu’s past; no one in the present was reminiscing. That meant a hard stop to the present-day story, which is a little jarring from a momentum and pacing standpoint.

It also means we barely skipped through the rest-and-recovery period for the Servants and Masters post-battle, so we’re presented with them now. Of course, Tokiomi getting killed and replaced as Archer’s Master was huge, but much of the episode that preceded that event felt like time-marking.

Fate/Zero’s long talks in dark rooms are always tolerable at worst and momentous masterpieces of the spoken word at best, but setting aside Kiritsugu’s past episodes, the proportion of present, legitimate Holy Grail War action set pieces and those of static dialogue has felt imbalanced.

That imbalance is amplified by the similar orientations of so many of the participants in those talking scenes, which are so simple in their execution one wonders if the studio was being more conservative with its budget post-Mion, post-Arimago, and post-Natalia. But they weren’t all bad. There were just a lot of them.

Iri is on her back, her body continuing to weaken as the War’s end draws closer, giving Kiritsugu Avalon since he’ll be needing it from now on. Their exchange is sad but also comforting; a kind of love has indeed taken shape in their nine years together, and there are no regrets, only the hope that Ilya will be able to avoid fighting in the next War, because there will be no next War. (Never mind that we know ful well there will be, of course…only adding to the tragedy).

Waver is on his back, in a full-length sleeping bag in the woods, trying to do all he can to restore Rider’s physical form and mana after having to use Ionian Hetairoi a second time (and saying there won’t be a fourth). They may have started out as comic relief, but they can pull off their share of dramatic scenes too; they’ve come a long way.

In the weakest scene, Kariya, while not supine, is strung up crucifixion-style, back under the tender care of Zouken, Evil Dad, who implants in him a crest worm that “first tasted Sakura’s purity”, and thus contains a lot of her life force, which Zouken then blames him for stealing, which is kind of like a bully using his victim’s own hand to hit him in the fact while saying “stop hitting yourself.” Such a creepy dick.

We don’t see Tokiomi, but we can assume he’s supine in death (unless Kiritsugu chose a more creative way to dispose of his body). And then we’re back to Iri, being watched by Maiya. As Kiritsugu infiltrates the Toosaka mansion and discovers Tokiomi is dead, Maiya answers Iri’s question about why she’s stood  beside Kiritsugu all this time.

We learn that as Natalia did with him,  Kiritsugu delivered Maiya from child soldier hell and, by taking her under his wing, inserted her into a different kind of hell that was better simply because neither of them were alone anymore. Despite Maiya’s believe that should she survive the war she won’t have a purpose any longer, Iri implores her to live life perhaps to find out what her name was and if any of her family still live.

A non-main character being told she has her whole life ahead of her is usually a sign that character’s hours are numbered, and so it comes to pass when Rider suddenly busts in their hideout, kidnaps Iri, and mortally wounds Maiya when she tried to stop him. The suddenness of Rider’s vicious attack really awoke me to the fact that the time for parlays, truces, and mercy is quickly waning, if it isn’t already gone.

That brings us to the final—and best—scene of a character lying on her back, the dying Maiya. Saber arrived almost immediately when Kiritsugu blew a Command Seal, but Iri had already been taken, and there was no time to heal Maiya and go after Rider.

By the time Kiritsugu reaches Maiya, she’s too far gone, which means Kiritsugu has to endure watching yet another person he loves die before his eyes. But the world without fighting he wants to build isn’t meant for him or Iri or Maiya; they’re all merely tools. That world is for his daughter, for all the world’s sons and daughters. So he will press on.

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Author: braverade

Hannah Brave is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

One thought on “Fate / Zero – 20”

  1. Ha ha ha, rest assured this is perhaps the final real talkative breather episode. The pieces are being put into places for the final part of Zero’s narrative, and it’s going to be quite the exciting ride. Don’t really have much to interject besides for my usual don’t take things for granted, and a small bit of cut Maiya stuff.

    “When I held that child and fed her… I was also very much aware that she wouldn’t be able to escape the destiny of becoming a ‘vessel’ in the end. Can you understand the feelings of a mother who felt endless despair when looking at her beloved child?”

    “…”

    Maiya was silent and didn’t answer. Irisviel continued.

    “However, that is the destiny carried by the homunculi of the Einzberns. Be it that child or my granddaughter, this sorrow is tasted again and again every time a daughter is born. This fate will be repeated every time the Fuyuki Holy Grail descends.

    “Therefore, I hope this pain can end here with me, using my body to end the stubborn wish of the Einzberns. If my wish can be fulfilled, then my daughter will be freed from this tragic destiny. That child would probably be able to live her entire life as a human and have nothing to do with the Holy Grail.”

    “Are those the feelings of a mother?”

    Only when Maiya asked this did Irisviel realize she had exposed too much of her feelings. She gave an embarrassed, bitter smile.

    “Perhaps. Maybe you find it hard to understand, Maiya.”

    “It’s not too hard. I’ve also been a mother, myself.”

    “– Huh?”

    It really was a surprising reply. Irisviel almost doubted her own ears.

    As if feeling slightly apologetic for surprising Irisviel so, Maiya related the event in a calm voice.

    “I… actually experienced pregnancy and delivery, although it could be said that it was an accident.”

    “… Were you married once?”

    “No. I don’t know who the father is. During battle, every night in the barracks, the male soldiers would come to all of us female soldiers and… I can’t remember when it started… anyways, I became pregnant soon after I became a woman.

    “The child wasn’t given a name and I don’t know if he’s still alive. If he hasn’t died, he must still exist in some remote corner of that battlefield, fighting for his life. The children there are all given guns and sent to battle when they turn five years old.”

    “How can it…”

    When she heard this former child soldier in front of her recounting tragic stories of the past, Irisviel couldn’t help but feel stunned.

    “Are you surprised? But such things are definitely not new in this world, are they? Modern terrorists and guerrilla warfare groups all know the benefits of using children as soldiers, and early successes such as I also serve as evidence. Therefore, children who share my experience did not decrease in the modern age, but rather increased.”

    Maiya narrated silently, her eyes seeming less and less alive. Sorrow and hatred also began to disappear from her voice. Perhaps the only thing left in her memories was endless despair.

    “Madam, perhaps you thought the world you saw with your own eyes for the first time was very beautiful and envied the happy people living there. However, I am very envious of you, who always lived in that castle. You did not experience any of the terror and ugliness of this world.”

    Although there were no feelings of jealousy or hatred in Maiya’s contemplation, Irisviel felt rather embarrassed upon hearing it.

    Maiya seemed to detect Irisviel’s feelings, so she continued.

    “If such a world can really be changed… then no matter how Kiritsugu chooses to use my life toward that end, I will not utter a single word of refusal.”

    But I don’t know how to do anything apart from fighting – Maiya muttered softly to herself. There was no exaggeration in that sentence. Without goals and without hope, her heart was as desolate as a barren, fire-ravaged field.

    Although her inner feelings were completely different from Kiritsugu’s, they were amazingly similar as soldiers. Maiya’s existence constantly served as a reminder to Kiritsugu, and at the same time provided him with an example. Because of Maiya’s close existence, Kiritsugu had sealed himself within this dilemma and made himself a cruel hunting machine devoid of mercy.

    “What… do you want to do after Kiritsugu achieves his wish?”

    When Irisviel asked this, Maiya’s eyes once again became confused.

    “– I never imagined I’d be able to complete this task and live. If I really managed to stay alive, I would have no reason to keep living. There shouldn’t be any place for me in the world changed by Kiritsugu.”

    A world without war had no place for someone like her, someone who knew nothing but combat. For Maiya, it was the logical conclusion.

    Such sad, melancholic feelings made Irisviel speak out.

    “No, that’s not true. Maiya, you still have things you have to do after the war finishes.”

    “…”

    Irisviel continued speaking while staring at the confused eyes of the female soldier.

    “You must search for your family and your own name, and the whereabouts of your child. They are things that shouldn’t be forgotten. They are things that should be remembered.”

    “Is that so…”

    Contrary to Irisviel’s passion, Maiya’s reply was full of emotionless nonchalance.

    “If we really can usher in a world without war, then the memories of people like me would be nothing short of nightmarish. Remembering them would only make me more painful. Would you want me to bring the seed of hatred into the utopia we’ve finally created?”

    “That’s not true. Your life wasn’t a dream. It contains facts that really happened. A peace created by burying all those memories in the darkness of the past is nothing but a sinful lie. I think a truly peaceful world shouldn’t simply forget those past pains. Instead, we should solemnly remember those previous pains and sacrifices so we don’t go down the same sad road and can continue on to create a peaceful new world.”

    “…”

    Maiya gazed at Irisviel silently – then spoke with a slightly more relieved face.

    “You should have said these things to Kiritsugu earlier. Had you done that, maybe he would already have obtained salvation.”

    Maiya’s heartfelt words brought both joy and loneliness into Irisviel’s heart.

    Perhaps – as she was on the verge of destruction, she would never have the chance to chat with her husband again.

    “– Then, Maiya, I trust you to bring these words to him. Tell him I said them.”

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