Fate/Zero – 19
「正義の在処」 (Seigi no Arika)
“Where Justice is Found”
“[…] choosing your calling based solely on your talents won’t always guarantee you happiness.” – Natalia Kaminski
Truer words were never spoken. Natalia was spot on with these prescient words, and with her assessment of Kiritsugu; his ability to leave behind his emotions while squeezing the trigger meant that he had great potential to become an efficient assassin, a potential which he eventually realized. However, this talent also ended up becoming a curse, because separating emotions as while pulling the trigger is only one half of the story. There are still the emotions that come after the mark is dead, emotions which were anything but happy.
From the start, I’ve always considered Kiritsugu one of my favorite characters of Fate/Zero, and this episode only served to reinforce my opinion. You can call him many names and ascribe to him a myriad of philosophies (some apt and warranted, while others are not), but what you cannot say is that he is a killer without a conscience. I do not find him reprehensible as others do because of this conscience – his whole raison d’être for being an assassin is to save as many people as he possibly can, all the while disregarding his own feelings, both during and after taking action. In this regard, Kiritsugu is the antithesis to Natalia, who holds no allegiances save for money and to her own life. The most notable distinction between the two is that she believes killing one person won’t change anything, while he remains unconvinced and can later even unfortunately vouch for the veracity of that ideology, having done so by his own hand. So if you dislike Kiritsugu, I would hope that you dislike Natalia even more so. They’re both just assassins-for-hire, pawns really, in the conflict between the Mage’s Association and the Holy Church – but while her gun fires for a paycheck, his bullets are destined for a higher cause.
For me, I still like Natalia regardless of what she does and why she does it. I really enjoyed watching her as an unorthodox mother/mentor figure to Kiritsugu, and seeing the harsh face of a killer melt into the soft smile of a mother is something I could watch an entire movie or even a whole series about. The care and affection she had for him was never outright stated until it was too late, but it was evident throughout in the little things she did for him: a simple pour of coffee, adjusting his aim, or preventing him from firing more than was necessary. What really made her death a hard pill to swallow was their long, honest, and heartfelt final conversation, one which tugged at my heartstrings even more considering it came so close to Mother’s Day. Everything in the story just built up my emotional attachment with her, and this attachment was played to devastating effect – a death that for me will resonate more strongly than most others in Fate/Zero, save Lancer’s.
Kiritsugu believed for a while that by becoming an assassin, he would prevent the deaths of many by killing a select few. However, it was never clear if he was happy while doing this, even though he was obviously talented at it. At the very least, it felt like Kiritsugu was trying to atone for what he wasn’t able to do with Shirley and to also justify murdering his father, but I don’t know if doing these two things made him happy – which leads back to Natalia’s quote. In the end, it’s the cruel intersection between his aptitude for assassination and his moral bearings that causes him to kill his adopted mother, to murder his loved one. No one should have to experience this pain even once, much less twice. He’s seen the consequences of both inaction and action, and for him, any personal cost to his belief of “kill one, save many” couldn’t be worse than what he’s already gone through. This is the burden Kiritsugu keeps inside, and exactly why he is trying to win the Holy Grail war on his own terms, using his own methods. His talent may not grant him happiness, but he remains committed to the path of a hunter in hopes that it will grant others happiness, one which, like many of his loved ones, has left him behind.
- This episode reminded me a bit of the 1994 French thriller Léon: The Professional, a movie that I highly recommend.
Forsake a few for the lives of many. A philosophy that sounds grand and even romantic in imagination. In reality, however, it is never that easy. Before I delve into the intricacies of that philosophy and how it applies to Kiritsugu, a couple comments I had about this episode, and this flashback arc as a whole.
Ufotable has done a commendable job with the series – production values are off the charts, actions scenes are gold, etc, etc. I haven’t read the light novels myself, but I do know that the material for the last two episodes does come from the books. And on the whole, production-wise, this mini-arc was exceptional. But the problem lies in the fact they feel too detached from the rest of the series… It feels like I’m watching something that should’ve been a prologue or an OVA and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to reconcile the tonal change.
Another problem lies in the fact that I’m not sure what the purpose of this arc is. Now, I’ve always liked Kiritsugu’s character, despite his… questionable moral standing. I never felt like I needed any additional convincing regarding his motives nor did I feel that his thought process and personality was under-explained. Some material from the light novels might have been omitted, but I don’t feel that it deterred me from empathizing with Kiritsugu’s character in any way even when I didn’t have the extra information in the back of my mind as I watched. I’m not sure what ufotable’s purpose was when animating this arc, but it is not one that made Kiritsugu’s character sympathetic to me. If the studio’s goal was to “salvage” his character from the wrath of discontented viewers, they chose the wrong arc to do so. An expansion on the ED scenes with Irisviel would have made for a more favorable arc, and frankly, that might have been the one arc that could have fully redeemed him within the context of the series, both atmospherically and tonally. It still would have been out of place, but the contrast wouldn’t have been as jarring when the series makes its transition back to the present next week. And given the ominous foreshadowing the OP has for Iri, a flashback of Kiritsugu and her would have been an excellent way to tie everything together and paint Kiritsugu out to be the sad, tragic hero.
After watching last week’s episode, it’s not hard to guess where Kiritsugu’s fatalistic view on life comes from. Psychologically, he’s broken at best, and the trauma of killing his father birthed a philosophy that keeps him firmly tethered to the past, to that one fateful event. That moment is where it all started, and that moment is what Kiritsugu keeps coming back to, after every kill in his life. Everything he’s done – shooting down his “mother”, sacrificing Iri, leaving Ilya behind, and dishonoring Saber – is to find justification for that moment, when he had to spill his father’s blood because he couldn’t kill the girl he loved.
In that vein, it’s not hard to understand why he shot down that plane – he’s effectively trapped himself in that deceptively idealistic philosophy… so much so that he cannot consider other possible outcomes. To Emiya Kiritsugu, the only perspective he sees is the pessimist’s perspective. He firmly believes that bringing down the entire jet was the only way to “save” the greater number of people. Whether that is true or not, we may never know. What matters is that to Kiritsugu, it was the only way. It’s sad that the guilt he feels has driven him to take on such heavy burdens, but at the same time, you have to lie in the bed you made. Thankfully Kiritsugu is not so righteous as to deny the wrongness of his actions. This unfortunately, is not as clear in this episode, and hence feels like a step backwards for his character… and for a character like Kiritsugu, the only way is to go forward (in the sense of “going further down the rabbit hole”, not “let’s work towards a new day!” forward). It’s why I don’t quite understand the reasoning behind putting these episodes smack dab in the middle of the most intense part of the series. The flow of the episodes are fine and I don’t question Kiritsugu’s thought process and I don’t have a problem with his emotional outburst at the end, either. The problem is that it doesn’t fit the context of the Kiritsugu from the last 18 episodes.
At least Kiritsugu found one person who could understand him though, as Natalia obviously seemed to think that bringing down the jet was the only option, judging by her bittersweet smile at the end. It’s a melancholy moment, as a mother always knows what her children are thinking. Happy Mother’s Day.
ED4: 「満天」 (Manten) by Kalafina