Fate/Zero – 22
「この世全ての悪」 (Konoyo Subete no Aku)
“All Evil in this World”
There’s never a dull episode in Fate/Zero, even when most of it revolves around character interactions on the eve of the final battle. Just as I enjoy watching every swing of the sword, every parry and every riposte, dissecting the dialogue of this series phrase by phrase and word by word gives me the same enjoyment, if not more. With such a large swath of the moral spectrum represented in this series’ ensemble cast, the dynamics between the characters are even more complex than the already superbly choreographed action sequences, and that’s what makes this series unique, and it’s why I savor every second, hoping each episode will never end. Unfortunately, the countdown at the end of each episode stands as a vivid reminder that like all good things, this too must come to an end.
Thankfully, each episode is packed to the brim with enough material for two episodes of most other shows, but in some cases this can be more of a curse as well. This particular episode proved to be a bit of a challenge to write about primarily because there isn’t a central theme I could focus on. So instead, I’m going with mini-essays in order to cover everything I want to. I do apologize for the lack of flow and cohesion that I usually strive for in my posts.
The first theme I noticed was that a good portion of this episode was dedicated to showing the differences in relationships that each pair of Master and Servant had. The first duo shown, Kiritsugu and Saber, have little relationship to speak of, much less friendship. Each has recently lost the person that they are most used to working with, but instead of turning to one another for support, they continue on working alone. Kiritsugu even forgets about Saber, and when she comes to deliver her report, he doesn’t even say a word to her. Neither Master nor Servant show any signs that their relationship is anything more than a business one, as exemplified by their attire.
Whatever their relationship might be, the two are actually more alike than they realize, like we’ve seen several times before. Both have spent much of their lives alone, a sacrifice they have made in order to achieve their goals. In Kiritsugu’s case, we’ve already seen in his backstory episodes why he’s so used to being alone, but as for Saber, we only learn of her emotional detachment in her life as Arturia from Rider referencing it during their dialogue in episode 11. For both individuals, even if it wasn’t by choice, they are all too familiar with a life of solitude as was necessitated by the pursuit of their ideals.
At the other end of the scale is the bromance between Waver and Rider. The two of them are some of my favorites characters of this series, and each week I look forward to their banter almost as much as anything else in the show. To me, Waver is the closest thing to an everyday person in the Fourth Holy Grail War. He’s perhaps the most relatable of all the characters and watching him develop has been very rewarding. As Waver is basically an outsider, he doesn’t have a wish for the Grail like most of the others do, which is why he was so easy to convince that it wasn’t worth dying for. Two weeks ago, we saw that Rider didn’t want Waver risking his life for a Grail whose location might not even be certain, and this week, it was his “grandfather” who finally managed to convince him that there is nothing really worth dying for. And yet in the end, there did exist a reason for Waver to put his life on the line: his friendship with Rider. The pair no longer consists of a Master and a Servant, but of equals. It may be a little clichéd, but there is just as much honor in fighting for your brothers as in fighting for your ideals, an idea that I hope Kiritsugu and Saber will come to understand.
The dialogue between Kirei and Irisviel sheds a lot of light on not only their respective personalities, but also Kiritsugu’s as well. I felt that my support and empathy for Kiritsugu as a character was finally vindicated this week with Iri’s two-fold revelation into her husband’s character. His prayer for “humanity’s salvation, the elimination of war and bloodshed” is as just as any cause worth fighting for – there is no moral relativism to be found here. Unless your moral compass points the direction Kirei’s does, I think it’s probably safe to say that most people would agree that a few deaths would be acceptable if eternal world peace was the eventual outcome. Along with Iri’s explanation that Kiritsugu can’t help but love others, it shows that the assassin’s heart is not empty like the Executor’s is. Kirei is the one who you should hate, not Kiritsugu, for he is a man whose heart only knows conflict and the pleasure he derives from it – nothing more, nothing less. A man who has no prayer to ask of the Grail, other than to illuminate the darkness hidden inside him. A man who takes lives merely because he cannot find a reason for them to live.
The loss of Irisviel weighs heavily on my mind, as I’m sure it does for both Saber and Kiritsugu. Early on in the series, we heard his grim prediction about him eventually causing her death, and in this episode, his prescient words became an unfortunate reality – although it was probably not in the manner he would have liked which was for him to win the Grail and for her to serve as its vessel. Yet because Kirei was so obsessed with Kiritsugu because of his actions as an assassin, in a way, it could be argued that he still indirectly led to her death. If Kiritsugu had not killed other the way he did in the pursuit of the Grail, would Kirei still have taken an interest in him, and end up killing Irisviel? My guess is probably not… making the mage killer’s story yet even more tragic.
It’s worth noting that as an eroge/visual novel, Fate/Stay Night contained many female characters, some of whom were particularly strong and independent. (Disclosure: I have not played the game, only watched the anime.) However, Fate/Zero is for the most part dominated by male Masters and male Servants, save for the pair of Irisviel and Saber. Now after Iri’s death, only Saber is left holding the banner of the heroine. Irisviel, you will be sorely missed – it’s been a long time since there was a yamato nadeshiko as beautiful and as tragic as you.
The final sequence of the episode, where Irisviel finds herself presumably inside the Holy Grail after dreaming about being at home in the Einzbern Castle with Ilya, came completely out of left field and added yet another twist to the epic saga that Fate/Zero is knitting together. There was a lot of imagery and symbolism here that I’m not sure what to make of yet, other than her realization that she is one of a long line of homunculi created to serve as the vessel for the Grail. As for the spreading dark stains and ooze, and the twisted evil smiles worn by one of the of the homunculi and then by Irisivel herself, I’m not quite sure what their meaning is yet, other than the possibility that the Grail is something actually corrupt and not as good and pure as everyone has made it out to be. The same meaning can probably be ascribed to the black and red dress Irisviel wears after being pulled into to the other side of the black goo, which was a stark reversal of the white and gold gown she wore in her idyllic dream. I originally thought that the episode’s title, “All Evil in this World” referred to Kiritsugu’s wish from the Holy Grail, but perhaps it refers to something inside the Grail itself? In any case, I expect the answer will be as well written as everything in this series so far.
- Sorry for the late post, was busy with the podcast and another term paper, and then I was feeling under the weather as well… Mouretsu Pirates will be coming soon though, and hopefully the Berserk movie as well!
- Full-length images: 05, 06, 07, 18, 21, 22, 32, 33.