Fate/Zero – 05
「凶獣咆哮」 (Kyoujuu Houkou)
“Howl of a Mad Beast”
They’re really pulling out all the stops now, as what looked like four Servants standing off against one another suddenly became six. I don’t recall that ever happening in Fate/stay night. With the way they were assessing the situation and feeling one another out, it could’ve easily turned into a free-for-all battle royal. All it probably would’ve taken is a gunshot from the shadows, which is probably why Kiritsugu was wise enough to not set off all the Servants off and cause all hell to break loose. He could’ve easily put a hole through Waver’s head and taken both him and Rider out in one fell swoop, but the only ones who would’ve benefited from that are the Masters who didn’t have a Servant standing on the battlefield. Kiritsugu clearly isn’t stupid enough to act before he has to, and I dare say that if he had a choice, he wouldn’t have let Saber take part in the actual first battle to mark the start of the war and instead, let the competition thin itself out as much as possible. Saber of course wasn’t going to cower and hide in the face of an enemy, leading us to where we are now. I’m not going to lie; Part of me wishes Saber and Lancer accepted Rider’s offer to team up — or at the very least, proposed that they be treated as equals — simply because they would’ve been a force to be reckoned with. (What a waste indeed.)
Now is it just me or does Berserker (Okiayu Ryoutarou) look pretty amazing? Ufotable’s really outdone themselves animating him (with what I imagine is CG), especially the black fog that helps mask his true identity. For the inquisitive minds out there, his fog is known as “For Someone’s Glory”, presumably one of his Noble Phantasms, the other of which allows him to create a makeshift Noble Phantasm out of other objects like he demonstrated here. Interestingly enough, the offensive ability is known as “Knight of Honor” or in its literal translation, “A Knight Does Not Die Empty-handed” 「騎士は徒手にて死せず」, in reference to how he doesn’t seem to carry a weapon. In any case, Berserker sure made an impact with his sudden arrival, shrouded in mystery and fending off Archer’s “Gate of Babylon” Noble Phantasm like it was nothing. While his true identity may have been inadvertently spoiled for a lot of readers (no, not by me), there have been enough hints from the show itself to make viewers suspect as much. We have the ending sequence shot, plus Berserker losing control once he set his eyes on Saber. It does however raise questions about what effect Berserker and Saber’s repeated encounters are going to have on Kariya. From the look of things, it’s taking quite a toll on him to keep Berserker under his control, as Zouken’s bugs eat through his body even faster.
For those unfamiliar with Fate/stay night, it’s nice to see Fate/Zero “formally” introduce the use of Command Seals so that everyone’s on the same page as to exactly what they entail and the different scenarios that can prompt a Master to expend one of their three uses. I was pretty surprised to see two uses burned in a single episode, but it did help showcase the Servants’ personalities and more importantly, how they don’t always see eye-to-eye with their Masters. Archer is easily provoked by Rider because of his arrogance, forcing Tokiomi to use up one of his Seals for a tactical retreat, whereas Lancer’s honor wouldn’t allow him to double-team Saber, prompting Kayneth to do the same. Incidentally, all this Command Seal stuff did leave me wondering why Irisviel isn’t wearing gloves, because her lack of a seal easily casts a shadow of doubt over whether she’s Saber’s Master. I was under the impression that Kiritsugu was hoping to confuse the competition by having Iri pose as a proxy Master for him, but now I’m starting to think he’s only doing so because his ideals clash with Saber’s and he deems it counterproductive to be around her. After all, he perceives her as nothing more than a tool in this war, so in all likelihood, he’s leveraging her abilities as much as possible within the confines of her personality. Suffice to say, it’s a pretty stark contrast from Waver’s partnership with Rider, who was utterly awesome yet again with the way he supported his Master when he was intimidated by Kayneth. He also wouldn’t stand for Kayneth’s cowardly two-on-one crap and was “considerate” enough to tell Saber to settle things with Lancer first, primarily because he doesn’t want to fight her in her handicapped state from the wound Lancer inflicted.
Pacing-wise, I would normally be concerned about how we’re five episodes in and very little has happened from a broader perspective. This is only the first real battle between Servants after all. The beauty of it is that I’m not the least bit worried, as everything’s been masterfully scripted so far. If it means that the quality of encounters will all be like this, I’ll gladly take that over simply increasing the quantity to fill up time. I find it’s more believable to see things settled after only an encounter or two, rather than dragging things out with constant clashes and retreats. It also gives the plot a more movie-like feel — befitting of the production values — where it looks like character can be killed off at any moment. What’s more, it places more emphasis on the character interactions, such as the level of respect between Saber, Lancer, and Rider, providing an interesting perspective on the Holy Grail War. In a sinister game where the Masters are cunning, cutthroat, or simply insane, it’s nice to know that there are Servants who would much rather prefer to see it structured as an honorable tournament. At the same time, we’re not exactly devoid of progression, as it looks like the gig is up on Kiritsugu monitoring the church and Kirei/Tokiomi know that someone’s suspicious of their secret alliance. Ryuunosuke and Caster were watching the battle too, which helps solidify that everyone’s aware of who they’re up against now. The series has done well in establishing that all the participants have some redeeming qualities — albeit some only in the Servant’s case (i.e. Kayneth & Lancer) — which is what I find makes the portrayal of the Fourth War much more interesting than the Fifth. The only exceptions at the moment are Ryuunosuke and Caster, whom I wouldn’t mind seeing killed off at the very first opportunity.
I gather I don’t have to say too much about Caster’s excitement over Saber, seeing as I got a lot of flack about mentioning that he would mistake her as Joan of Arc, but I still question exactly what I ruined for readers from an enjoyment standpoint. I provided no context because I didn’t know of any, and as someone who learned here that he was overjoyed to the point of tears (i.e. in the same situation as those I “spoiled”), I got more excited because I had some anticipation toward it. Rather than a spoiler, I intended for it to be a teaser — no different than the ones you might see in an opening sequence — and I still feel it worked well as one.
Kirei: “Yes, quite bad indeed.”
Tokiomi & Kirei: “He just called us f**ken scrubs!”