Fate / Zero – 06

“I may be an ancient king…but I don’t think you should be driving like this!”

And now I’ve come to it: the Fate/Zero equivalent of a meh episode. It had to happen sometime, so better early on than not; also, after last week’s multivector face-off and just-as-rapid standdown, it’s hard for the immediate aftermath episode to not feel a bit…anticlimactic.

And while I’ve enjoyed the moments of levity Zero has managed to weave into the action and drama, Iri’s crazy drive along a twisty mountain road kinda fell flat for me. I totally get the joy she feels from being ‘let out of the birdcage’, so to speak, and perhaps it was the animation, but the drive felt way too reckless for no reason.

“We can’t exchange insurance info if you’re all the way over there!”

It’s a good thing Caster seems to be standing in the middle of a straight and not on the other side of a blind turn; otherwise Iri would have hit him (and what a shame that would have been); instead, they get out and have a deeply unpleasant exchange with him.

Since taking out that kid after letting him think he was home free with his dark tentacles, Caster has not endeared himself to me, and his ranting about Saber being Jeanne d’Arc reincarnate does him no favors. I’m totally with Saber that I dislike opponents who you can’t reason with because they lack reason.

Thats…not…good…

In addition to being illogical and maddening to deal with, Caster is also a despicable monster, like his Master Uryuu, crucifying kids while still alive. They’ve abducted fifteen from a couple of towns, which just seems like a lot, though to be honest I’m not sure how much time they’ve had to do it.

In any case, Caster insists they must sacrifice all the children they have as soon as possible, then go out and get more, which, sure, fantastic. Even Uryuu is like, ‘I guess we’re just different kinds of serial killers.’

“Why do I have two Masters…and why are they so lame?”

Archie sits in his hotel room, scolding a brooding Lancer, until his companion Sola-Ui, who despite Archie’s Command Seals, is the Mana behind the Master. She’s not afraid to speak her mind to Archie about his hiding in the shadows, but Lancer then scolds her for badmouthing his Master. Even though technically, the two of them are more like Co-Masters.

In any case, Archie belives (rightly) that Saber will try to attempt a rematch with Lancer before fighting anyone else, to undo her cursed wound. So he’s laid a trap, filling an entire floor of the hotel with magical booby traps, and is very excited to see how everything works out.

“Look, that building had all kinds of code violations anyway.”

And then Kiritsugu just burns the whole mother down. I’ll admit, it’s a fine fake-out, and yet another stealthily bad-ass move from Kiritsugu, who approaches his work in a very deliberate, disciplined, military fashion.

I also appreciated that he’s aware that he has disrupted and possibly ruined more than a few lives by blowing up the building, but he’s going to defeat the other mages by any means necessary—but not by killing innocent people.

Kirei manages to briefly corner Maiya in an adjacent structure, but Kiritsugu bails her out with a well-timed smoke bomb. As for Archie, Sola-Ui and Lancer…I’m sure they’re just fine.

“Hey God Boy—run out and get me some more libations!”

Later, Kirei’s Assassins inform him, Risei and Tokiomi of Caster and his Master’s horrific crimes, which threaten the secrecy of the War. As observer, Risei stands ready to exercise his power to make minor rule changes; in this case, ordering all Masters to take out Caster ASAP. He’s a rogue element, and clearly Saber and Iri (and I) aren’t the only ones who’d rather he went away as soon as possible.

After a long day of morally ambiguous activity, Kirei encounters Archer getting drunk (or attempting/failing to do so) on a couch, who not only voices his disappointment in his Master, but also tries to pry out of Kirei what he’s getting out of this; what he desires. If Kirei doesn’t know, Gil figures he should use his Assassins to determine what motivates the others, so he might gain insight into his own motives.

So while Kiritsugu and Maiya’s special ops exploits were pretty cool and I dug the potential realignment of the War to focus on taking out the most irredeemably loathsome Master-Servant pair, I wasn’t as enamored with Lancer’s Co-Masters (indeed, I kinda just feel sorry for him), Saber and Iri only showed up for two minutes, and Waiver, Rider, Kariya and Berserker took the week off—and at least two of them were missed. So yeah, a 7 seems about right.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 12 (Fin)

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It’s the end of Seraph of the End, but what actually ended? Not the war between humans and vampires, nor the extinguishing of many lives on both sides for dubious purposes. And it isn’t really the end of the world, either.

No, the things that end are a bit smaller than all that. It’s the end of the pretense that the Moon Demon Company has the best interests of mankind in mind…if it even ever was. It’s apparently the end of Krul Tepes’ rule. It’s also the end of Guren’s place in Yu’s family; a bond that could not overcome the influence of Mahiru.

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And as a result, it’s the end of Yu and the Shinoa Team’s affiliation to the Moon Demon Company. Things…just got too weird. And boy did they ever: Kureto finally unleashes his Seraph of the End on the world, and it uses Shiho’s poor little sister Mirai as its vessel, killing human and vampire indiscriminately and randomly.

With Shiho, Mika, and Yu all skewered at various times during this ordeal, Yu decides he needs more than Ashuramaru to defeat the seraph. So he picks up the mystical “second trumpet” and blows it, summoning the “Salt King” who uses him as a vessel to similarly kill human and vampire indiscriminately, turning them into pillars of salt, along with Abaddon, the demon summoned by the Mirai-Seraph.

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With Kureto’s big experiment seemingly ruined and the end of the world postponed indefinitely, there’s a little more scuffling around; Kureto tries to go after Yu and fails; Yu refuses to kill Guren even in his state (he also spared his family); and Ferid, with Crowley’s help, sucks Krul’s blood until she’s unconscious, then accuses her of high treason in the Seraph of the End affair and names himself the new leader.

As for Yu, Shinoa & Co., thanks to Mika and Narumi they are able to simply get the hell out of there, which is probably the best move. It’s enough for Shiho that his sister is back to her human form, while Yu is in no condition to protest leaving Guren behind, even if he didn’t want to. As for Mitsu and her sister Aoi, well…there’s just nothing more said about that.

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Then, curiously, four months pass. Why four? No idea. But they pass, and Kureto and Aoi and Guren are still up to their old tricks, only they’ve got some nice evil red cloaks now. Ferid seems to have successfully consolidated his power, and is meeting with other nobles to join the apparent fight.

And Shinoa, Mitsu, Shiho, Yoichi, Narumi, Mika, and Yu are in street clothes on a remote beach, now fully healed and preparing to head back into the shit, apparently to save Mirai and Guren. They all gang up on Yu with playful barbs at his intellect; with even Mika joining in.

They’re still a family, for now, and they want to rescue the rest of it. But whether they will, and how, and what will become of Ferid’s new dynasty and Kureto’s continued mystical machinations, are all tales for another time.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 11

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This episode runs somewhat concurrent with Yuu and Mika’s reunion and re-alliance, focusing on Teams Shinoa, Narumi, and Guren. Shinoa in particular provokes the deadly ire of Rika, who blames her and her team for the death of her comrades. Narumi relieves Rika, only to step in an threaten to kill Shinoa himself, and bristles when Shinya, in charge in Guren’s absense tries to stop him.

At that point this becomes about more than fallen comrades and who is to blame, but how had it Narumi is with the all-knowing, all-powerful Hiiragis ordering humanity around and deciding who lives and dies. He’ll ignore orders to “stand by” (i.e. die) and instead head back to try to rescue Guren.

What Narumi didn’t expect was that Shinya, Hiiragi Shinya, a general and a part of the cabal he hates so much, not only doesn’t try to stop him, but thinks they should all go together. Shinya’s fought and bled with these guys, and we’ve been able to see the gradual change from almost vampire-like nonchalance to a solemn, haunted determination. Screw his orders and his last name; Shinya’s going to fight for his comrades here and now.

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Meanwhile, Guren is still alive, and still managing to be defiant in the face of the vampire nobles who take turns scooping him up. He’s going to give them false intel to lure them into a trap in Shinjuku, but needs the vamps to believe it’s because he’s been beated badly enough to not be able to go on keeping his silence.

Crowley, who saw through the machinations going on and correctly suspected Ferid, is bemused when Ferid admits he gave the Demon Army the locations of the nobles, including his old chum Crow. Ferid even has the audacity to tell Crowley to thank him, since he had a fun fight thanks to him.

Once Guren has been beaten enough, he goes into his Happy Place with his demon companion and dead ex-girlfriend Mahiru, who decides its time to awaken and fight back. I must say she show’s always done a good job portraying Mahiru as imminently mysterious, seductive (moreso even than the other demons) and ethereal, like a dark angel.

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She is also the reason for Guren’s dual personalities: one dedicated to his family, the other thirsty for power. When Krul takes him down and gets in close, out of earshot of the others, Guren/Mahiru discuss the plan Krul had been a party to all along, betraying her people in the process, and how that plan hasn’t changed: she still needs the Seraph of the End.

On the other side, Kureto arrives at the airport (with Mitsu’s stern sister Aoi by his side) to relieve the teams assembled there, saying “they’ll take it from here.” It’s clear Kureto has a new toy he wants to try out; he even admits he’s in a good enough mood he won’t summarily execute Narumi & Co. for questioning his orders.

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But what he does do is open the Big Box he flew in, out of which come hundreds of interconnected swing hangars with blades on the ends, many of which pierce through Kureto’s own soldiers, including Rika, who definitely looks like a goner. The blade go after Narumi when he lunges forward for revenge, but to his shock, he’s saved by Yoichi and Shiho, while Shinoa’s blind spot is covered in the nick of time by Yuu, who has arrived with Mika to help out.

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Mika doesn’t waste any time saying it was a bad idea to come back, as he sees the humans fighting amongst one another. But that fight is tabled when hordes of vampires drop from the skies and it becomes a giant line battle. Amidst all the chaos, Yuu catches sight of Guren, safe and sound, and runs toward him, beaming with joy.

Only Guren isn’t quite himself anymore, drawing his sword and bringing it down, followed by a cut to black. With dual personalities, crazy experiments, and betrayal and intrigue on both sides, what probably won’t be black—or white—is the impending finale, which looks to be a good one.

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Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 14

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There’s no time for Rin and Shirou to lick their wounds and sulk. They’re clear about what they think of each other (Shirou has fallen for Rin, while Rin “doesn’t exactly hate” Shirou) Now that they’re back at square one, there’s nothing for it but cooking dinner and coming up with a plan. They come up with the same thing I was expecting, which also makes the most sense: try to ally themselves with Illya and Berserker. They won’t get anywhere against Caster and her expanding entourage without a Servant.

Oh, and I liked how Rin and Shirou’s tea cups were sitting on that table.

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From there we cut to Caster at the church, making me worry that she’s going to have these repetitive Queen Beryl-style scenes all season, but then we dive into her backstory, and her previous Master, who was a shit-stain-and-a-half.

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Even Caster seems a bit put off with him using little kids as human sacrifices in his hi-tech mana mill…but she plays it more as being put out, stating its far too wasteful of life. She doesn’t go so far as to suggest she feels any sympathy for her master’s chattel, but orders the workshop shut down, and order her Master ignores, because he’s her Master. Furthermore, he uses a command seal to ensure she’ll never betray him with Noble Phantasm, as she has a bit of a reputation in this regard.

He also smacks her around, just to burnish that fresh, clean, asshole sheen of his.

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However, Caster’s a very old and very crafty Servant, and this guy seems a few grails short of a chalice, so she’s able to defeat him without too much trouble by using Rule Breaker on herself, releasing her from his control so she can engulf him in flames.

She…ahem…also freed the fifty-or-so children her ex-Master was planning to sacrifice.There’s still quite a bit of righteous Princess Medea in Caster, and it’s implied that her reputation as a treacherous witch isn’t entirely deserved…though her body of work last season obviously didn’t endear her to us, it’s nice to know she’s been twisted into what she is today because of her past.

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Before she killed him, Caster’s ex-Master put a hit out on her, which is answered by Lancer (sorry, not trying to rhyme there.) Master-less, bloodied, and left for dead, she’s eventually found by Kuzuki Souichirou, who takes her in and agrees to become her new Master, because it’s kind of her only hope. She showed compassion for those kids, and was showed compassion by the universe in return by being saved by Kuzuki. You give a little, you get a little.

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Of course, we can’t quite canonize the good princess quite yet…she’s still the primary enemy of our heroes, who are on their way to meet the enemy of their enemy Illya, who has a little fun with Rin and the shock barrier. Illya has a vague memory involving Shirou or Shirou’s dad (I have no idea what, mind you) which is enough to entice her to allow them an audience. Her chambermaid Sella doesn’t think this is a good idea, but Illya sends her and Leysritt out to capture them nevertheless.

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That’s when the chambermaids’ way is blocked by Matou Shinji, making his first appearance since teaming up with the Blonde Guy. Sella and Leysritt, homonculi both, are no match for his shitload-of-weapons-summoning ability, in a brutal smackdown full of striking images. Matou Shinji’s stomach turns a bit at the horrifying power of his new Servant.

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So what would have been a simple matter of Rin and Shirou visiting with Illya and negotiating an alliance is completely blown up by Blonde Guy, who for all we knew planned this attack knowing the two servant-less masters were en route. Between Shinji/Blonde Guy and Illya/Berserker, it’s not that hard for me to pick a side, but we should be in for a good fight bloodbath next week regardless.

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