Fate/Zero – 17
「第八の契約」 (Daihachi no Keiyaku)
“The Eighth Contract”
And so the apprentice becomes the master. When Kirei brought Kariya back from the brink of death, all it did was whet his appetite for rebellion. It was only a matter of time before he hungered for the ultimate act of defiance: betrayal, at the tip of a blade.
Kirei has always been an extremely dangerous man, even when he was an emotionless one who felt that joy and pleasure were sins. However, his lack of feelings tempered his behavior to such a degree that his actions had no sense of direction, no purpose. Emotion plays an essential role in guiding our behavior, so without them, Kirei was not the agent of his own destiny; he either relied on the guidance of others, or he would stand idly by and let things happen before he could summon enough will to take action himself. One prime example is the people closest to him dying before he can take their lives by his own hand: first his wife, and now his father. He did feel some emotion in that it bothered him and he felt a little regret, but other than that, there was nothing. No grief, no sorrow. In all aspects of his life, Kirei was never a master of any sort.
How did he come to be this way? Was he born devoid of emotions, or is his personality the product of being told what to do for what seems like his entire life? The latter reason is probably the most likely one; Kirei’s father and Tokiomi always issued him orders, instead of trying to understand him and asking what he wanted to do. That’s also probably why Archer’s words were able to have such an effect on Kirei, and why they are a great match for one another. Archer is a King who is used to giving orders, as we’ve seen with Tokiomi, but in his dealings with Kirei, he didn’t give any orders; he only gave him suggestions, and then let Kirei decide if he wanted to act on them. Most notably, by appealing to Kirei’s inner desires, he was the first person who attempted to understand him.
Just as Archer hoped, a character who was once merely intriguing now becomes entertaining. Kirei’s newfound agency was evident throughout this episode, and it made the man whom Irisviel and Kiritsugu feared the most become an even more formidable foe. Where he once lacked direction and purpose, he now is so driven to seek out his answers that not even the fear of destroying himself in the process can stop him. Where he never dared to speak up, he’s now even able to “persuade” Archer to serve him instead, by revealing the truth behind the Holy Grail War. Where he once hesitated to kill those who were close to him, he now relishes in the pleasure and joy of murder. Although I might not approve of his actions, I do respect that at least he finally has a purpose and direction. Kirei is now truly a Master, with a dangerous and powerful Servant at his side.
Speaking of Archer, it was a bit surprising at first that he believed Kirei’s explanation so easily. Is he not clever enough to realize that there was a possibility he was being manipulated? Then again, it was pretty clear Archer doesn’t show any loyalty, as he was never happy with Tokiomi as his Master, and this episode was merely the culmination of all his efforts to manipulate Kirei for the one thing that Archer truly cares about: his own entertainment. As we saw in episode twelve, he has been giving Kirei veiled suggestions and near-propositions for a while now, all to lead to the events of this episode – forming a new Master-Servant contract. In the end, while Kirei might show signs of growth as a shrewd manipulator, it is his new Servant that has been the one gently pulling the strings all this time.
As for third Master who met his end, it was pretty obvious that Tokiomi was going to be the latest casualty of the Holy Grail War. Whether it was saying his farewells to Rin or bequeathing his will and a dagger to Kirei, the death flags in this episode were hard to ignore. As I was never a huge fan of his character, I can’t say I’ll miss him much – he just wasn’t a very likable guy. His whole goodbye speech to Rin about staying indebted to the church and striving for the Holy Grail, all for the sake of the Tohsaka family, showed some of the same lack of understanding that led to his demise. He never considered what Rin’s dreams and aspirations were, because to him, it’s all about what the family wants, and above all, what a mage desires. In the end, Tokiomi never felt like he amounted to much in this war, even though he had meticulously planned and prepared for every detail from the start. Perhaps it was because he was just tactically biding his time and conserving his command spells for the very end, but as a result, his character turned from one who was at the center of the war to one who was more of a bystander. So unlike Lancer, whose presence is sorely missed as the one who understood Saber the most, Tokiomi’s passing won’t be memorable for the person, but instead its effects: the titular eighth contract.
With the casualties of the Holy Grail War beginning to mount up, I fear everyone’s favorite homunculus will be next in line. Irisviel, an example of a yamato nadeshiko done well, has slowly become one of my favorite female characters in recent history. There’s something both alluring and bittersweet about the strength in which she faces the fragility of her body. All this time, it felt like Irisviel had these pent up emotions that she couldn’t tell Saber or Kiritsugu, so she needed someone to understand who she was and what she was going through. It was a bit unexpected that Maiya was the person whom she eventually opened up to, but nonetheless, it was definitely nice seeing Iri able to talk about herself before she weakens too much and can no longer do so. From the snippets that we’ve heard of her back story, it has all the hallmarks of a touching and emotional one. So while the preview for the next episode is a bit vague, I’m hoping that it will be the episode that gives a memorable character like Irisviel the character development she deserves.