「聖杯問答」 (Seihai Mondou)
“Holy Grail Dialogue”
For the better part of half of this episode, I was pretty set on how my impressions in this post would go — that Urobuchi Gen writes some exquisite dialogue that’s truly worthy of kings — but then the second half rolled around after Rider lectured Saber on what it means to be a king and I just had to tackle it from a different angle — Fate/Zero is too epic for words.
There’s really nothing I can say to describe just how awesome it was to see Rider unleash his greatest Noble Phantasm, Ionian Hetairoi, on all the Assassins who crashed his banquet, so it’s really something you have to see for yourself. What I will say is that it was absolutely priceless to see the arrogant look on their faces wiped away and replaced with fear, especially when it was apparent through their masks. The battle (if you can even call it one) was over before it even started, but I love how the screenplay drove that point home with the lead female Assassin resigning to her fate and letting Rider decapitate her. It was one heck of a statement about the power of Rider’s charisma that has an army following him even in death, much like the sight of Saber in awe over how a “true king” leads. It looked like Archer was a little taken back by the Reality Marble spectacle before him too, seeing as Rider declared that his faithful followers are his greatest treasure.
This episode packed a lot of punch that will surely have viewers raving about Fate/Zero, but what I was planning to talk about is how the exposition in this series continues to impress. The talk between Saber, Rider, and Archer played out like an extremely captivating novel — so much so that I would’ve enjoyed this episode just as much even without Rider’s epic display at the end. After Rider arrived with a barrel of wine and asked Saber to drink with him, I found myself completely absorbed by the unconventional progression of the Fourth Holy Grail War — especially compared to the Fifth War in Fate/stay night — and how it provided further characterization of the Servants. I particularly like how none of the Masters even made an appearance this episode, save for Waver who wasn’t allowed to interrupt anyway, as it allowed the three kings to speak their minds. Their discussion on what they hope to obtain with the Holy Grail was interesting in its own right, but Rider’s view on what it means to be a king was far more so.
More specifically, Rider makes a convincing argument with how a king has to exhibit the extremes of both good and bad, and how the people are expected to devote themselves to their king and not the other way around, because he serves as proof that not all “tyrants” are heartless and cruel. The most intriguing part is that it’s a stark contrast to Saber’s noble yet martyr-like view, something that I always figured was the “right” way to rule. It was an eyeopening argument to say the least, as it reminded Saber of how another knight at the Round Table once claimed she doesn’t know how other people feel and made her start doubting her ideals. It also hinted at a weakness in Saber’s resolve that will likely affect her in this war, and foreshadowed something else for those like myself who know a little too much. (Hint for those who don’t mind a bit of a spoiler.)
The one thing that I would’ve liked to hear is Archer’s take on what it means to be a king. It’s clearly more in line with Rider’s ideals, seeing as he laughed at Saber and had him explain it to her, but he also seems infatuated with Saber’s to a certain degree and wants to see where her beliefs take her. As such, I’m looking forward to subsequent dialogue between Archer and Saber, especially since they meet again in the Fifth War. I have a whole new opinion of Archer after getting a better portrayal of his character, so I get the feeling that Fate/Zero will continue to alter my understanding of Fate/stay night.
Perhaps someone should tell Saber that Britain is doing fine in present day.
* Not only was the opening sequence skipped in favor of more time, the ending sequence featured scrolling credits in movie-like fashion.