Fate/Zero – 15
「黄金の輝き」 (Ougon no Kagayaki)
Thy name is… Excalibur! The Sword of Promised Victory, Saber’s most powerful Noble Phantasm, truly lives up to its name by finally defeating Caster’s summoned creature in one fell, awe-inspiring swoop. While its sheer power was surely an sight that even put many of the already over-the-top attacks in the Fate universe to shame, a thought-provoking question lies behind the sword’s light, a question which Rider and Archer have diametrically opposed answers to. Does one find the brilliance of a hero borne from tragedy to be beautiful, or does one merely find it painful and tragic?
Fate/Zero is not lacking in tragic heroes for us to answer this question. As I thought about the back-stories of each character, it quickly became clear that my answer wouldn’t be so cut and dry. First of all, what exactly does the brilliance of a hero mean? Some characters, like Kariya, seem as if they do not have much ‘light’ or ‘brilliance’ to speak of, even though their lives can be just as tragic as any others’ lives. Just like his ignominious defeat at the hands of Tokiomi, Kariya’s self-sacrifice for the sake of Sakura isn’t brilliant nor is it a thing of beauty, as admirable as it may be. The way Kariya fights back against the misfortune and tragedies that have befallen him may be assuredly commendable as well, but they are also a few key ingredients shy of turning into something that can be considered brilliant.
The crux of Kariya’s motivation comes from revenge: killing Tokiomi for giving Sakura up to the Matou family, and Zouken for basically torturing her in innumerable ways. Vengeance and retaliation, while completely understandable in his case, are never brilliant and beautiful deeds – and neither are they honorable. Even though we may not consider Kariya’s actions, and consequently, who he is as a tragic hero to be anything coming close to brilliant, we nevertheless keep rooting for him (or at least I do). I almost always cheer on the underdog, of which I believe all tragic heroes are in some sense. We see in them an opportunity to break free from the misfortune that bedevils our lives, and live vicariously through their deeds and accomplishments. However, their struggle isn’t always considered brilliant because I believe that this distinction requires more than just an underdog status, a tragic hero status.
My theory is that for a tragic hero to be considered brilliant, they require not only mere tragedy or sacrifice, but also they should hold high ideals and/or have ambitious dreams – qualities which several Fate/Zero characters possess. One Heroic Spirit who made his sacrifice in the name of honor and chivalry was Lancer, who destroyed Gae Buidhe in order to free Saber’s left hand from her curse and enable to use her anti-fortress Noble Phantasm. Lancer might not be considered that much of tragic hero compared to the others, but I still find the sacrifice of his spear in the name of chivalry to be brilliant, because it was made for the lofty cause of a knight’s chivalry.
Perhaps out of all the Heroic Spirits, Saber is the one who most exemplifies a tragic hero’s brilliance – both literally and figuratively. As the King of Knights, she is arguably the most honorable and chivalrous of heroes as well. And like Rider describes, she has also sacrificed much for her country, such as her childhood and the chance to fall in love. Most importantly however, all of her actions have been guided by her pursuit of her dream – a dream which Archer deems to be too much for her to handle, one that is beyond attainment by mere humans. For me, this is where her brilliance comes from – a drive, an aspiration, a sacrifice, all in the name of the greater good, as idealistic as it may be.
This is also where I find her brilliance as a tragic hero to be something beautiful, although I do not think it is for the same reasons as Archer, who seems to revel in her foolhardiness and lamentation. I too, recognize the pain of her sacrifice like Rider does, but I would argue that it makes her aspirations and actions all the more admirable and beautiful because despite everything that has happened to her or will never happen to her, she perseveres. After much thought, I would consider Saber’s brilliance and that of other tragic heroes like her to be quite beautiful indeed. However, I also recognize that it is a bittersweet beauty; it is bitter from the pain of sacrifice and tragedy, but it is also sweet from the perseverance in the pursuit of higher ideals such as honor, chivalry, and the greater good.
So in the end, in this mini-debate of kings, I find myself surprisingly siding with Archer for once, albeit for different reasons (hopefully). I’m basically agreeing with Caster as well, who found the brilliance of Jeanne D’Arc, one of the most tragic of all heroes, to be so beautiful it was worth dying for. I believe it is possible for one to recognize the pain of tragedy and suffering, look past it, and see the beauty of brilliance borne from it – for there is much beauty in the lessons of those who are willing to look past their own pain and suffering, and forge ahead in pursuit of their dreams.
- Rider doesn’t like Saber being molested.
- Wish we could’ve seen Rider in action with his Ionian Hetairoi inside the Reality Marble.
- Kirei’s smile was especially disturbing after considering what he’s doing to Kariya while he’s healing him and seeing his flashback conversation with Archer.
- Full-length images: 02, 08, 12, 23, 27, 28, 30, 31, 39, 41