「暗殺者の帰還」 (Ansatsusha no Kikan)
“Return of the Assassin”


If I weren’t dead inside, I would have shed many a manly tear watching this episode. Saying goodbye is never easy to do, especially when it’s two of my favorite female heroines.

Some people have voiced their discontent with the placement of Kiritsugu’s backstory within the greater narrative of Fate/Zero’s second season, but after watching this episode, I now think that it was actually perfect timing, more or less. With the Holy Grail War shifting into its final gear, the inclusion of the assassin’s tortured past was essential in shedding light on the two markedly different emotional reactions Kiritsugu showed upon seeing yet another person close to him lying on their deathbed. He is the main character of this series, and I believe that knowing what drives him will be of paramount importance in understanding the conclusion of the series.

I don’t know if Irisviel and Kiritsugu’s conversation in the beginning of the episode amounted to a final farewell, but it definitely felt like one. Her words to him were laced with pureness of love, and heart that reflects a yamato nadeshiko ideal that was shaped during World War II by war-time propaganda: a woman who is not only expected endure pain and suffering, but to also be ready to die for the sake of her husband and her country. The return of Avalon to Kiritsugu was a powerful symbol of Iri’s acceptance of her fate, as she gives away the last thing that is keeping her human functions intact. And ironically, even though she gives up the legendary Arthurian artifact, she remains a container for another one, the most legendary artifact of them all, the Holy Grail. For me, Iri is a wonderful, yet sad example of the yamato nadeshiko archetype, and I think her personality, especially her love for Kiritsugu and everything he stands for, was the main reason that she was able to shine so brightly in her waning moments, making a melancholy scene somewhat easier to bear. She may not have the independence of spirit or the power to form her own opinions about the world, but the strength of her dedication and love to Kiritsugu is something to admire, even to the very end.

All things considered, I, like Kiritsugu, could not bring myself to cry for Iri – and some of our reasons for this are similar. From the outset, both of us knew that she would not be surviving this war; her death was not a matter of if, but when. Also, both of us had steeled ourselves for the time when Iri would have to serve out her purpose of being a container for the Holy Grail, a fate which would not allow her to stay human. While I had mentally prepared for her death as the simple result of knowing the outcome, Kiritsugu had prepared for this eventuality in order to stay focused on the pursuit of his true goal of mankind’s salvation.

There is one reason that explains his lack of tears, an explanation that he does not share with me. From watching his backstory, we know he has already lost many a loved one in pursuit of his ideals, experiences which have taught him the unfortunate lesson of how to deal Iri’s inevitable sacrifice. So even though he loves her dearly, so much so that he later uses up a command seal to presumably protect her, the only emotion he allows himself to shows was one that was unknowingly etched on his face, an expression that Maiya found to be like those of his old self. Ultimately, this is still a face I cannot empathize with, as it looked too much like the face of an emotionless machine, and not of person who knows how to love.

However, the face Kiritsugu wore and the moisture that welled up in his eyes as he watched Maiya leave the land of the living were human emotions that were sadly all too real. Without the benefit of knowing his backstory in the previous two episodes, his tears would not carry such an emotional weight. This is a man who after killing his father did not cry even once, and was so emotionless that Natalia even warned him about becoming too much of a machine. When a man like that cries, you know that he can no longer bottle up his emotions. Why did Maiya’s passing affect him so much? I think it’s because he didn’t see it coming. He knows that the life of an assassin is fraught with danger, but even still, there was always a chance she would escape the conflict unscathed. In contrast to Iri, Maiya’s death was never a question of when, but if – and that is why I believe Kiritsugu took it so hard. It’s also why I don’t think he is as machine-like as some have made him out to be, and why I am holding out hope that these are not the last tears we will see him shed.

In any case, none of these observations about Kiritsugu’s emotional responses would have been possible had we not seen his back story, and I feel that much of the emotional impact in this episode would have been very different as well, if not even blunted altogether. I am confident that going forward, the value of Kiritsugu’s arc in the greater narrative will reveal itself even more as we trek towards the resolution of the Fourth Holy Grail War.

More thoughts (no spoilers within, just hiding them so the wall of text looks a bit smaller, and sorry for the late post, had a term paper to write):
Show Spoiler ▼


It’s a great dichotomy – a doll masquerading as a human being, and a human being that calls itself a machine. It’s a hard dose of reality for everyone in Fate/Zero this week, as each character comes face-to-face with what they really are, and the role they must play in the Fourth Holy Grail War.

To me, without a doubt, the most tragic character has always been Iri. There’s something subtle about her situation, something so underplayed that the audience might find it easy to forget that she cannot survive the War. It’s just a fact that’s always been there, resting right beneath the surface and never played up with much fanfare and tears. She will die.

Created for one sole purpose, it’s been implied that Iri wasn’t always the cheerful, strong woman she is now – yet the character presented to the audience now is every bit as human as some of the other characters in the show, and Iri perhaps possesses some of the most unwavering devotion and loyalty that most of the other participants in the Grail War just don’t have. Her conversation with Kiritsugu was easily my favorite scene of the episode, and it was also the most emotional. Having never seen the world, there was no way Iri could have fully understood Kiritsugu’s ideals and what he fought so hard for – but she understands him and that’s what separates her from being a cardboard cut-out. It’s not that she has blindly followed him “just because”. It’s a choice she made because she understands Emiya Kiritsugu, the human being.

The farewell was rather understated and very to-the-point, but a delivery like that is the best way to bring the reality of the situation in perspective. To Iri, not only is sacrificing her life for the Grail what she was created for, it’s a role she must fulfill; if she doesn’t succeed, the next Einzbern homonculus that must perpetuate the cycle is Ilya, her daughter. A mother’s love for a child is a bond anyone can understand as unbreakable, and it’s an aspect of Irisviel von Einzbern that truly makes her an admirable character. It’s a motivation separate from her love for her husband, and the peaceful way she accepted her fate – no tears, no dramatics – just gutted me. It will truly be a sad moment for me when she dies, not only because she’s one of my favorite, but because as a character, she’s really something else.

Iri’s bond with Kiritsugu shows a lot of complexities this episode as well, because before they are husband and wife, they are master and tool. It’s something they both understand, which is why their goodbyes are centered away from the two of them – again, it’s a subtle but important point. Kiritsugu looks cold and uncaring, but he knows he cannot save his wife, and as difficult as it might be, he has already accepted that fact as something set in stone. From this point on all Kiritsugu can do is simply view Iri as the Grail vessel and nothing more – anything else will hinder his chances of winning and damage his chances of salvaging something that can be saved: his daughter.

Ilya can be considered Kiritsugu’s “absolution” of sorts, a salvation from the guilt and sin of killing his own wife in exchange for the good of humanity. With this in mind, it makes perfect sense for Iri to ground her words to their daughter, a hope for her husband after all the bloodshed ends and he’s left with nothing but the weight of all his crimes. In a way she’s encouraging him until the very end, telling him it’s okay to sacrifice her for his goals since it would ensure Ilya’s safety.

With her kidnapped by “Rider” (sneak attack is so not his style), I’m interested in what will happen to Iri from now on, aside from the obvious confrontation this will breed for Saber and Rider.

  • Full-length images: 04.




    1. Irisviel doesn’t have much time left and the person she promised to make sure her husband is not alone in this world is dead… her wish NEVER came true (-_-メ) WHY DAMMIT!(ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻

      Being Kiritsugu IS suffering (T_T)

  1. Waver is less stupid and naive than both Kiritsugu and Kirei estimate him to be.

    While Kirei may have tracked down his supposed hideouts with the muggle family, and Kiritsugu made good use of that obtained intel to send Saber to try and finish off Rider, Waver has gone one step ahead of them and correctly chosen to go into hiding, knowing his Servant has used up a lot of his own MP after the battle with Caster.

    His survival into the “semi-final” is certainly no fluke.

    PS At last, Berserker speaks in his real voice. It’ll be a waste of veteran seiyuu Okiayu Ryuutarou’s talents to have him roaring mindlessly all the time otherwise.

    Kinny Riddle
    1. I felt it was more like Waver and Rider just happens not to be at home (decided to go to the ley line that day) when Saber arrived rather than they went into hiding knowing their base has been discovered but I do agree that Waver is more competent than they think. If we all didn’t know who the winner would be I’d wish it would be them claiming the grail.

    2. Yesh, Waver is definitely capable. The only “problem” he had was his low self-esteem, having always been treated as inferior to others by guys like Kayneth and such. But, as we see in his conversation with Rider and whatnot, his experiences in the war, like Rider’s constant confidence in him where others would’ve given up on him or treated him the opposite, so far as well as things he witnessed has been hardening and toughening up his character.

  2. I felt that Kiritsugu expresses the most emotion in Fate/Zero when he fails to save someone. Three times so far have we seen his mask falter: when discussing running away with Iri in season 1, killing his “mother” during the flashback, and now when Maiya is dead. For someone who aimed to be a hero by saving others, it is tragic to be forcibly confronted with the hated mathematical equation of those you can’t save.

    However, I always felt that Kiritsugu’s ideal was somewhat warped. His strict adherence to his ideal let’s him sacrifice those that he loves above all others to save total strangers. Yes, he “saves” more people, but what value is the world when everyone you know is martyred for the cause by your hand?

    Regardless, this war is entering its final stage. In all its towering glory and mind-numbing horror.

    1. Also, during his short debate with Saber after Lancer’s death, when Saber brings up his past (unknowingly hitting the nail right on the head on her assumption), you also see his mask falter into a split-second glare of anger, like a, “What would you know?!” type of glare.

  3. It looks like I’m going to be alone in this but.. I thought the ’emotional’ bits weren’t nearly as powerful as people are making it out to be.

    The moment with Iri at the beginning was too sudden. I went back to the episode 17 just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. There was such little build up to it that it felt forced.

    Same goes for Maiya. I get that people like her, I know I did, but she just died suddenly – off screen as well. Sad but no where near heart wrenching.

    I’ll miss the characters but this was no ~After Story~.

    You may now shoot me.

    1. Powerful or not, it took me by surprise though. First I thought Kiritsugu wasted a command spell by sending Saber over there when if it would only take a servant a few seconds to kill even someone with Maiya’s combat skills and that possessing the homunculus did not seem to give any strategic advantage since no one mention anything of the sort so why bother if Kiritsugu was just the calculating cold assassin Maiya thought he returned to. It was like doing what your enemy wanted you to do but when he almost broke down when he saw Maiya dying I thought it took an incredible resolve or sense of justice for someone who had a soft heart like his to aim for something as lofty as dedicating your life to saving everyone you can. But I guess only someone with a soft heart would want to be an ally of justice and whatever quality that Kiritusgu has pushes him not to hesitate to pull the trigger to save the most people even killing his own father and mentor. What surprised me was that I thought he finally had his game face on but then he breaks down again when he surely would have thought of the high possibility Maiya would either be dead or beyond saving when he was on his way back to the warehouse. Makes me think that no matter how hard he tries he can never be completely cold bastard like Kirei for example.

      1. Did I? 😉

        It’s complicated, but yes, this ep was pretty emotionally flat for me. I took my share of flack for it over at LiA but I’m used it with F/Z, because I don’t toe the company line in my reactions to this show. It’s great most of the time – I just don’t see it the way most viewers seem to.

  4. Strangely enough, this episode doesn’t move me as much as the novel counterpart, though that may be because of last week’s episode. Still, Maiya’s death was nicely executed, albeit the lack of her backstory.

    If it was me, the episode would’ve been titled “The Beginning of the Descent to Madness, Tragedy and Betrayal”.
    We’re close to the end of the line here, and there’ll be very little battles left. But damn they will be the most glorious battles in the whole series.

  5. I highly doubt that Rider is involved in the kidnapping. He has way too much pride to do something so underhanded. Furthermore, he told Waver that he is going to rest in spirit form until night to recover strength, and Iri was abducted in the afternoon.

    If I had to guess, then I would say Berserker is the one responsible. He seems to be shrouded in mystery, and Waver pointed out that Berserker is completely unreadable. Maybe he can also use that ability to disguise himself as Rider. Not sure what he would gain in the kidnapping, though.

    On another note, seeing Iri so weak and vulnerable really tears at your heart. ;_;

  6. Looks like the death toll is about to rise . Urobuchi will finally live up to his reputation.

    Poor Iri, so accepting of her death all for the man she loves and the belief that he will make things better.

    Poor Kariya, trying so hard and not realizing how irrelevant he is to the war.

    Poor Maiya she’s just an assassin and is no match for a servant. (Although they did cut out a lot of her back story like the fact that she has a child.)

    Being an Urobochi character is suffering.

  7. I can’t help but pity Iri and hate Kiritsugu. Sure he was the one who gave her her strength and emotions, but he didn’t give her a choice, and always expected her to die to do the duty she was created for. In a way it’s even crueller to have educated her as a human being and then expect her to become an object again. And the poor thing won’t even object, because she’s grateful to Kiritsugu for everything he gave her. That’s just twisted but I guess I can’t expect any healthy relationship to form around the likes of Kiritsugu. Poor Maiya had it pretty bad too, though in another way.

    1. http://angryanimebitches.com/2012/05/fatezero-drama-cd-1-kiritsugu-x-irisviel-forever/
      After rescuing the homunculus, Kiritsugu is surprised at how she does not react to pain as well as not having a sense of anger towards Acht for doing what he did. Kiritsugu realizes that her only sense of self-preservation is to maintain function as the Holy Grail’s vessel, and urges her to find her own happiness and concern. When she says it is difficult, Kiritsugu offers to teach her, and she introduces herself as Irisviel von Einzbern. Kiritsugu offers Irisviel the chance to walk away from becoming the Grail vessel after experiencing the way the world is and how people live, however she realizes that the reason he’s been educating her is because everything he’s taught her are things he’s forsaken himself for the sake of living like a machine.

      Kiritsugu also discouraged Irisviel’s advances, stating that lovers would not seek the death of their partner, in relation to the Grail War.

      Random Hobo
  8. While I don’t dislike the flashback and understand your point about it’s necessity, I think it might have been even better if it was given earlier. If it had been in the first season we would have also ended that season with the revealing of Ionian Hetairoi instead of in the middle of a fight.

    1. Well, we have to consider the timing and the impact it would have based on that timing, especially if it’s something relevant to a main character(s) backstory or just a “random” filler.

      If they showed Kiritsugu’s past early on like that, how much of an impact would this episode have really caused? I’d guess not a WHOLE lot in comparison considering, given how “filler” a lot of people felt those 2 episodes were, a lot of people probably wouldn’t even remember much of it by this point. However, by placing those 2 episodes just before this episode, it helps strengthen the impact because those 2 episodes are more or less still fresh in our minds because they literally JUST happened.

      But if they were to place the “Rin’s Adventure” episode in the previous episode slot…eh…that would’ve been VERY off and mess with things.

  9. I must be at the minority here. I really like Iri, I feel she is one of the most “human” characters in fate zero thanks to her sincerity (which is a bit ironic, considering she is a homunculus) but the conversation between her and Kiritsugu feels too sudden, and even kind of awkward. She pours all of her love into every word she said, and yet Kiritsugu’s expression still looks as flat as a board, and he doesn’t even looks as if he made any effort to reciprocate to her words. I find it peculiar he sheds tears for Maia yet he doesn’t flinch when he sees his wife on the deathbed.
    On the other hand I really enjoy conversation between Waver and Rider. I really am rooting for them now, and it’s interesting to finally find someone who questions the existence of the Holy Grail.
    And I am 99.99% Rider is not the kidnapper.

    1. Kiritsugu seemed deadpan in front of Iri because he’s already readied himself to lose her. He has practiced his deadness to such a degree that the mask didn’t falter then, but it did falter when Maiya got done for because he wasn’t ready for it. Losing her means, losing his right arm because to him Saber is of no use. Also, Maiya was the one who knew him (at least 70%), while Iri just knew him for a few years. Big difference.

    1. Same here, partly why I don’t find this episode emotional or the last 2 backstory eps is that to me they are tools to watching kiritsugu suffer. The only person I like enough to root for is Kariya.

  10. Do theories count as spoilers? Anyway, THEORY: The Black Knight DOES have a Noble Phantasm that obscures his identity, with Kariya’s mana boost (eugh) it could give him another’s identity.
    Poor Maiya died like a punk.

    Bio D
    1. Show Spoiler ▼

      1. Well at least it looks like someone of the blogger team edited the post and added a spoiler space. Wish they would have also done that in the case of the first few eps. of the first season where someone spoiled Berserker’s real identity.
        Guardian Enzo is also quick to edit spoilers, e.g. Mirai Nikki manga spoilers. 🙂

  11. What makes this even sadder is that you know Kiritsugu won’t be successful and that Ilya will become Einzbern’s next tool. People who played the game knows how tragic Ilya’s character really is and it is heavily implied that Ilya’s death (in some of the endings) becomes Archer’s greatest regret as he inherits Kiritsugu’s legacy.

  12. This really is an Urobochi Gen’s work. Though I like tragedies and such, Urobochi’s works make me want to hate tragedies. First, Kiritsugu’s scarred childhood, then Natalia, now Maiya, then next will be… Oh God why are you so good at making your characters suffer!?

    Having read the novel, I don’t know what will I feel when *someone important* dies when it’ll be animated. Oh those scenes!

    Saber do not believe that. Sometimes, you must not believe your eyes! Rider is the most honest heroic spirit for me and he will not use that kind of thing!

  13. I was waiting for this post and continue to remind myself that not everyone is done for the school semester @.@

    This episode was heartbreaking since it’s been reiterated that Iri will die but some corner of my mind never really accepted it and wish with all the power in the world to let her live. I had thought I would cry my eyes out when Iri will return Avalon but that didn’t happened. ._. Instead there was this sharp pain in my chest. I can only imagine what her real death will do to me @.@ *goes off and buys boxes of tissues*

    Although I didn’t like Mayia much but her death was emotional as well. I guess Verdant is right about how we all expect Iri to die and so we’ve been prepared but Mayia was shock. I had expect it to happened several eps later but this was just too much. One heartbreaking farewell is enough but why two?! One at the beginning already tore my heart; why another at the end to stomp out any remains? D:

    There’s no way Rider would do that so I’m guessing it’s Berserk since Kariya just digested (very wrong) Sakura’s pure powers. I wouldn’t be surprise to see him with new powers. =.=

    I haven’t written this much since Code Geass…I guess this series worked me up too much.

  14. Burn in hell, Zouken. Kariya you are not much better (BOTH physically and mentally)….. “Feminist” guys?

    SOOOOO apparently TRAGIC PAST + EXTRA = DEATH….. Well how am I going to ship Kiritsugu x Maiya now? Man, I feel conflicted with my feelings toward Kiritsugu….. BUT WHY IRI MUST SACRIFICE FOR U? And Saber should also get a bike in f/SN and trigger another lesyay flag .

  15. Hey guys, I know it’s not the best place to ask, but given that there are so many knowledgeable individuals on this subject around here, I thought I may ask.
    I have been thinking for a while to dedicate some time to reading/watching/playing through the Type-Moon universe, be it Fate, Tsukihime, Melty Blood…
    My main concern, apart from WHAT to watch is HOW to watch, considering the possibility that these series might be related (are they and how?), I may want to watch them in an specific order for a more enjoyable experience.
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Well both Tsukihime and Fate/Stay Night visual novels has been completely translated into english by MirrorMoon. So you can grab their translated patch if you got the game and enjoy. The order doesnt really matter since there’s no direct relation between the 2 universe other than similar terminologies and factions.

      Most fans hated the Tsukihime/FSN anime though. I’m fine with them but the novels are clearly superior.

    2. I would recommend you to read them in release order, which is Tsukihime, Kagetsu Tohya, Melty and then the Fate series.(You can throw in the Plus+Disk anywhere too as an extra)
      The reason simply being the earlier works are… well… not really graphical masterpieces.

      1. “Notes” was forgotten on the list. It should be before Tsukihime, as it talks about type-moon (aka true ancestors)and some of the dead apostle ancestor that are later mentioned. Also as aside note, the end of Tsukihime is the beginning of Fate/Stay Night.

      2. @Kob264
        Ooops, forgot about that. I was only listing the VNs so it slipped my mind.(Well, Melty is not a vn, but still.)

        No, Notes only mentions the Aristoteles in general and Type-Moon is not even mentioned, much less dead apostle ancestors. The closest it gets to Tsukihime(or Melty Blood by extension) is through Black Barrel.

  16. Maiya ;_;
    Being a normal human, no matter how skilled, in a world where everyone else has superpowers sucks. Unless you’re Batman.

    In other news…Berserker reveals his true identity as Ghost Rider. Marvel vs Capcom vs Nasuverse crossover coming soon!

  17. This episode does very well in portraying how human Kiritsugu actually is. He is not a proper mage, so he cannot make fully commit atrocious acts like Kirei or Zouken without damaging his conscious. He CAN fully commit to heartless acts and cold calculated killings, but he can only hold up the facade for so long before something breaks through.

    I do find it very very touching that the only person he can truly let go in front of is Iri. This was the distinction that Fate/StayNight could not properly explain between Saber and Shirou’s impressions of Kiritsugu.

  18. I wonder if we’ll ever get to see Berserker’s human face. That vision of Berserker Kariya saw in his dream-ish state cant be what he actually looks like, especially when many of us has his identity spoiled already.

    Maiya’s death was totally unexpected. I find it pretty weak to be honest. I guess its purpose was to show us Kiritsugu’s pent up emotions after the flashbacks but I feel like she died for nothing in a very insignificant way. They really could’ve given her a bigger role or just let her live. Why does every side characters have to die?

    No use complaining I guess. Its how this show is.

  19. The overall episode was well done, though I’m quite disappointed with how they didn’t go more in depth into Maiya’s back story. As such it didn’t quite hit home in the way the light novel’s version did.

    Show Spoiler ▼


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *