Fate/Zero – 23
「最果ての海」 (Saihate no Umi)
“The Sea at the World’s Edge”
The banquet of kings concluded with a feast for our eyes and an emptiness in our hearts. This epic episode served as a fitting epitaph to one of the most legendary heroes participating in the Holy Grail War.
A Eulogy for Rider:
Of the three kings presented to us, Rider is the undoubtedly the closest to whom we would consider the ideal monarch. His ideology can be considered as the middle road of sorts: one which lies between the path of a ruler driven purely by pride and pleasure, and that of a leader driven solely by her ideals. As he has told Saber, he doesn’t merely strive to save others, he leads them; he not only serves others, he also serves himself. In one way or another, both of these precepts are absent in the ideologies of the other two kings, making Rider the best king in my book.
Aside from whatever his personal ideology might be, Rider’s personality has several other qualities that make him a great king in my eyes, and one of my favorite characters of the entire series. Besides his undeniable charisma, one of the most notable things about him is that he eschews the lonely life of kingship that both Archer and Saber have chosen to follow. It is abundantly clear that Rider enjoys and values the companionship of others, with his Master being the most obvious example. He also doesn’t hesitate to elevate someone weak like Waver, up to being his equal – which in my eyes, makes him somewhat like a man of the people, a king who shows the same respect to both commoner and royalty alike. In everyday conversation, you would probably be hard pressed to learn that he’s actually the King of Conquerors instead of a friendly and jolly giant. This mutual respect has its upsides as well: what better way to lead others than by returning the respect your followers show you in kind? His respect for others extends to fellow kings as well, as Rider isn’t above sharing one last pitcher of wine with his foe Archer, and nor is he above suggesting to him that they combine their Noble Phantasms in order to conquer the world. It’s scary to think that if the King of Heroes weren’t so prideful, the two of them probably would have succeeded without any difficulty.
Although I consider him a great king, it’s not the main reason why I will miss Rider the most out of all the characters who have died so far. It’s actually because to me, he was the lone voice of reason amongst all the participants in the war. Although his eventual goal like all of the Grail War participants is the Grail itself, he has realized that because its existence, like the mythical Ōkeanós he’s searching for, isn’t a sure thing by any means, so therefore he’s not willing to sacrifice everything in order to obtain it. This is an idea that none of the other Grail War participants have even stopped to ponder, and shows that he is a king who doesn’t think merely of himself, of his own ideals and dreams, but also that of the others who support him.
Rider is also epic in every sense of the word, and who doesn’t like that? Every aspect of him is larger than life – whether it’s his war chariot Gordius Wheel, his steed Bucephalus, or his ultimate Noble Phantasm Ionioi Hetairoi. In my opinion, the wonderful animation in this episode captured his majesty and grandeur very well, but it’s a shame we couldn’t see more of what the King of Conquerors at full strength was truly capable of in battle. I don’t think there was anything he could do against Archer’s most powerful phantasm, the anti-world sword Ea, as it was the perfect weapon to destroy the world created by Rider’s reality marble, but in his final epic charge on the Fuyuki Bridge, I think that there is a slim chance that his chariot might have been enough to make up the mere centimeters keeping Gilgamesh’s head in one piece. Even without it, Rider was everything I expected him to be and more. Running through the hail of weapons fired from the Gate of Babylon, he manages to block quite a few of them before getting impaled, and even then his wounds appeared to not affect his progress at all. A part of me wants to believe that even in the end when the chains restraining him stopped their chatter, Rider never gave up, for he is that type of king – an epic king, a noble king. A king who although he might be less than perfect, it also makes him more than perfect. Rider – tonight, I drink a toast in your honor.
Thoughts on Saber’s duel with Berserker:
Show Spoiler ▼
- Gilgamesh’s remark about only having had one friend ever most likely refers to Enkidu, whom he names a Noble Phantasm after. Its form is a chain, and it is most likely the one which held back Rider in the end.
- I’m calling it the best confession scene of 2012 so far: Rider asking Waver to become his subject was so bromantic!
- The psalm that Kirei recited at the end was the 23rd one. Not quite sure what to make of it yet, because I actually don’t know very much about the Bible, so feel free to leave your interpretations in the comments!
We all knew it was going to happen, but the expectation did not diminish the epicness of Rider’s death. It was inevitable, and I’m sure that even without prior knowledge in regards to Fate/Stay Night, it would’ve been easy to see the Waver and Iskander pair was never going to make it to the end. Urobuchi Gen is staging a grand play pitting two morally opposite people against each other; the last match was always going to be about them fighting for what they believe is right. Of course, I’m pretty sure Urobuchi doesn’t expect all his readers to agree or even like either of the two characters (I certainly don’t) – but their thought process is fascinating and so utterly different. Their animosity towards each other has been growing all series, and it’s finally set to culminate in one big showdown. Who will win? Only the next two episodes (or Google) will tell.
Rider’s showdown with Gilgamesh was an epic battle befitting of two great kings, and I could probably sing praises until the cows come home about how nice the animation looked. Archer really earned his title here, as that scene of him summoning his greatest treasure really drove home the image of a proud and lofty king. He really is the King of Heroes, and that was the moment I really felt like he deserved the title. That’s not to say Rider is any less impressive though – his doomed charge was every bit as exciting as any warrior’s final moments can be and his death was particularly well-handled: neither overdone nor understated. The King of Conquerors went out in a fashion befitting of someone as larger-than-life as he, and the callback to Okeanos was a great touch to the dream Iskander had strove for when he was alive. Great, great stuff, ufotable.
But – and here I’m going to play the Devil’s advocate here – Waver. Waver, Waver, Waver. I’ve never read the light novels. I don’t know what he’s like on paper. So I guess this is a question to all the LN readers out there: is Waver as moe/uke-ish as he is in the anime? I love him, I really do, but at times it seems like ufotable is playing up certain characteristics and vibes too much; it becomes distracting and really detracts from poignant, serious scenes. If Fate/Zero was a light slice-of-life show the tonal cacophany wouldn’t be as much of an issue, but it’s not – Fate/Zero is like gravity if anything. It pulls everything to the ground and the atmosphere is always somber; moe/uke tactics are seriously out of place. Perhaps whoever was involved in character development thought it would be a great way to show how young and inexperienced Waver is compared to all the grizzled veterans, but it’s not. And it’s almost inconsistent considering how down-to-Earth and grounded Waver has been in key scenes. I’m not sure which version to believe, but I certainly know which one I prefer.
Before I get crucified though, an analysis of this episode would not be complete without the mention of Lancelot and “Arthur”. Ufotable hit another homerun with this scene and the crushing despair on Saber’s face was just palpable. That girl really cannot catch a break when it comes to her ideals. But seeing her trusted subordinate in such a twisted state is completely different from hearing the rebukes of a fellow king; it’s akin to receiving a fatal wound – much more real and heavy than a paper cut will ever be. Reality certainly delivered a harsh blow to Saber as it revealed just how much her ideals twisted one of her own. Lancelot’s twisted expression was simply chilling, and I have to say it was pretty difficult to watch Arturia come to terms with his current state.
Although Berserker will probably give Saber a difficult fight, judging by how weak and delirious Kariya is, I don’t imagine he’ll beat her. Like I said, the stage has always been set for Kirei and Kiritsugu from the very beginning; those two will have their face-off, come hell or high water. I will say that Kirei’s speech – so, so so ironic – sent chills down my spine. It’s a perfect intro to the battle between the Magus Killer and the Executor, and what can I say? My body is ready for those explosive final episodes.