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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Sidonia no Kishi – 06

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Hero. Idol. Tug-of-war Rope. Pawn. Fuck-up. Scapegoat. Nagate’s a little of everything this week, like the episode itself. We start off with the jubilation of him and Shizuka being rescued by all the other Gardes (a goosebump-inducing scene we’re glad was repeated), and he gains instant celebrity status upon his return.

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Before the celebrations, Nagate and Shizuka undergo extensive medical tests. A little yellow light on Shizuka’s readout appears to be nothing serious, but it sets a foreboding, optimism-eroding precedent. Nagate, Shizuka, Kunato and En are promoted to full Gardes pilots; a mere formality considering they did what the Elite Four couldn’t: defeat the Gauna and return alive.

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Nagate makes a point to visit the huge memorial to the Fallen Four, which only ingratiates him further with Yuhata, who enters Full Pursuit Mode at the post-promotion party. Izana remains thoroughly annoyed she has to share Nagate with anyone, but Shizuka takes a more pragmatic approach.

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In the ensuing bathysphere excursion, we get the closest thing Sidonia’s had to a harem quarrel, as the girls are literally jammed in the door, with Shizuka ending up alone with Nagate by sheer dumb luck (and physics). The mere fact they’re in their own bathysphere blushing at one another is more foreshadowing, lest we forget what became of the last couple we saw in one of these.

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As his peers revel in Nagate’s heroics and much of the greater public slurps up the feel-good narrative, Kobayashi consults with the elder council (whatever they’re called; I forget), who see Nagate as a valuable pawn in the never-ending quest to extend their own lives preserve Sidonia. And if he proves less pliable or competent than they envisioned, Kobayashi is to dispose of him.

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That leads to Nagate’s final roles this week: fuck-up and scapegoat. He and Shizuka can’t even complete their love cruise when they’re ordered to sortie against a very nasty and tough-looking “hive-type” Gauna. But we don’t see the battle; that’s likely to come. Instead, we go straight from Shizuka giving Nagate a parting salute the camera dwells on (the episode’s title) to him waking up in hospital.

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Like him, we have to piece together what happened, but unlike him I know immediately it’s nothing good. When the Honoka sisters give him eye-daggers and Izana says nothing, he has to get it from the TV, which slowly, cruelly reveals by steady text crawl what has happened: much of the Gauna was defeated, but Shizuka was lost. Another devastating gut punch, driven home by locking the camera on his stunned face.

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Throughout this episode we saw an adjustment in Norio: while watching Nagate receive All The Laurels, he resigns himself to absorbing rather than outwardly projecting his contempt for it all. He extends an olive branch, bides his time, and in the end, it looks like he comes out on top. Because to the masses, the only hero that matters is the one that just saved you.

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Nagi no Asukara – 13

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The day of the Ofunehiki and the hibernation arrives. Manaka tells Hikari she’ll tell him her answer after the ceremony, while Chisaki is still thinking about Kaname’s confession. When the ceremony begins with Akari as the Ojoushi-sama, Uroko uses the sacred fire to light her way, then knocks out Hikari’s dad along with the rest of Shioshishio. Multiple whirlpools open up; Akari and Tsumugu are thrown overboard. Chisaki, Manaka, and Hikari dive in after them. Chisaki rescues Tsumugu, but Kaname is crushed by a fallen concrete bridge pier. Shioshishio is cloaked in some kind of barrier. Manaka offers herself to the sea god so Akari is spared. Hikari tries to reach out to her but the sea pushes him away. Akari surfaces safe and sound.

We’ve reach the midpoint of the series, to where everything has been building up: the Ofunehiki. There’s a little more buildup early in the episode as characters arrive at peaceful places in their lives prior to the big event. In bittersweet scenes we see Manaka tucking her sleeping parents in, Chisaki’s parents letting her go, and even Hikari’s dad and Uroko cordially seeing off the four. Manaka and Chisaki haven’t properly addressed the confessions they’ve received, but both Hikari and Kaname assure them they’ll love them no matter the response. In all of these instances, with the focus on everyone’s lives and the futures they’re stepping towards, their personal affairs and conflicts loom large and prominent. And then nature—courtesy of the sea god, if you will—cruelly proceeds to dwarf and dash all of those hopes and dreams.

The episode gives the start of the Ofunehiki a proper level of pomp and ceremony: the fires, the flags, the fishing fleet. Akari and Hikari are transformed by their new traditional garb. In lighting the way, Uroko seems to be holding out an olive branch to the surface. But things turn sinister and it looks like the sea god really will try to claim Akari. While she survives, the town now seems to be totally asleep (and covered by…something), Kaname is taken out of the picture altogether by a freak accident, and the fate of Hikari and most importantly Manaka is left up in the air. If she became a sacrifice and Hikari surfaces, that’s a hell of a turn. We have no idea where the series will go in the second half, but all the upheaval here left us eager to find out.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)