「魔境の森」 (Makyou no Mori)
Any concerns out there about the action dwindling down should have quickly subsided, though I don’t think anyone truly expected all the Masters to simply cooperate once Risei ordered a temporary truce until Caster is eliminated. Kiritsugu is naturally on top of that list given his assassin mindset, and not without reason due to the suspicion of a secret pact between the Church, Kirei, and Tokiomi. In connection, what’s most interesting was the genuine fear toward Kirei, which he displayed rather uncharacteristically for the very first time. It almost looked like he was having a relapse of a traumatic experience when he asked Iri if she would run away with him, and it felt so out of place for a moment that I wondered if he had been affected by some spell or sorts.
I came across some tidbits about how Kiritsugu would come to fear Kirei — an enemy whom he doesn’t understand — but I would’ve never imagined that it was to this degree. It’s a completely psychological effect too, as Kiritsugu maintains his composure when pitted in a Master vs. Master battle against Kayneth yet is completely shaken at the mere thought that Kirei can seemingly see through his plans. What Kiritsugu still doesn’t know is that Kirei is actually at a loss as well, with the difference being that Kirei is a lot more driven to understand Kiritsugu in his attempt to find a purpose in the Fourth Holy Grail War. In the mental battle, Kiritsugu is evidently the first one to crack, so I have a very ominous feeling about how their first encounter will unfold. I can already picture a breakdown in Kiritsugu’s judgement once his fear consumes him, reiterating the thought that Kiritsugu and Iri’s dialogue serves as some great yet subtle foreshadowing even when Kirei didn’t show up in this episode.
The other eye-opening revelation was from Kiritsugu’s interactions with Saber, or lack thereof I should say. I had read that he rarely talks to her because of their clash in ideals, but I didn’t foresee that he’d outright ignore her opinion. It’s as if he doesn’t even acknowledge that she’s in the same room as him, which leads to some rather interesting pent-up anger in Saber. If it wasn’t for her knightly code of honor, it probably wouldn’t be too far-fetched to assume that she’d already be scouting out for another Master like Archer appears to be doing. She’s already swallowed her pride by putting up with his disrespect toward Ancient Heroes, and now she’s in constant disagreement with his underhanded tactics as well. The implication is pretty clear that Kiritsugu would have no problem sacrificing all of Caster’s hostages if it presented him with an opportunity to put a bullet through the back of each and every one of the other Masters’ heads — even after he’s shown that he’s softened up by helping evacuate the civilians from Kayneth’s hotel last time — which makes for one of the most intriguing character dynamics in this series. I mentioned last time how it would’ve been easier for Kiritsugu if he had summoned Assassin instead, but I never once said that’s actually what I want to see.
As a natural juxtaposition to Kiritsugu and Saber’s relationship (if you can even call it one), I couldn’t help but take notice of how Kayneth came waltzing into the Einzbern castle with his mercury-based Volumen Hydragram (Getsurei Zuieki 「月霊髄液」) Mystic Code, asking for an honorable duel between Masters, only to be met with a trap set up by Kiritsugu. From my perspective, that was clear indication why Kiritsugu doesn’t care to get Saber’s approval with his plans, especially after Lancer came to Saber’s aid as part of Kayneth’s orders to defeat Caster. It’s easy to say that Kayneth is defying the Church’s new rule so that he can eliminate Saber without dealing with her directly and regain a Command Seal in the process, but I doubt Saber would see it as such when she has the utmost respect for Diarmuid and would gladly fight by his side. I dare say Saber probably would’ve been okay with Kiritsugu answering Kayneth’s request for a fair duel, despite the fact that Kiritsugu isn’t well-equipped with a repertoire of abilities to face Kayneth head-on. I for one love Saber for her honorable conduct, but it’s interesting to see how it’s not always warranted against all the adversaries she faces. Just take Caster for example, who deserves a knife in the back at the first opportunity with his torment of children and use of the demon spellbook, Prelati.
Much like I’ve come to expect from this adaptation, the animation quality maintains its top-tier status. Kajiura Yuki’s soundtrack continues to bring out the scenes exceptionally well too, particularly during the battle sequences. Amidst all the developments, the production values were definitely the highlight this episode. The only thing that caught my attention just as much was Kiritsugu’s use of some magecraft, namely his own Reality Marble (Koyuu Kekkai 「固有結界」). His Time Alter abilities were no Unlimited Blade Works, but they were still a spectacle in their own right. Double Accel increases his movement speed outside the realm of time, whereas Triple Stagnate does the opposite and slows his biological functions. Both provide tactical advantages that compliment his assassination techniques at the cost of burdening his body, so it was cool to see how he best makes use of them. The last scene with Kiritsugu whipping out his single-shot Thompson Contender was a nice touch, so we should learn why he favors this old-fashioned gun so much. The thought crossed my mind as to why he doesn’t just Double Accel right behind Kayneth and put a bullet in him a point-blank range — faster than he can defend with the Volumen Hydragram — but this makes for a much more interesting cliffhanger since I’ve been curious about the gun as well.
* Waver and Rider get a bit of screen time after being noticeably absent last episode. How can anyone NOT like Rider’s t-shirt? Give the man some pants Waver!
* Kudos to ufotable for featuring some potentially degenerative tentacle fan-service without taking away from the severity of the situation.
* The screams of the victimized children was notably censored, so I can only imagine how horrific it’ll come off in the Blu-ray release.