「双輪の騎士」 (Sourin no Kishi)
“Knight on Two Wheels”
The word tragedy might not be sufficiently depressing enough to describe this series. First we were introduced to a man who wanted to murder his loved ones, but lacked the motivation to do so until it was too late. Then we saw the story of a man who did not want to kill his loved ones, but because of circumstances was forced to do so in order to save the lives of others. Finally, in this episode we watch a man who is led astray by others, and ends up taking the life of the only person he has ever loved.
To me, Kariya is an immensely tragic figure who belongs on the same level as Kiritsugu, if not higher. Out of all the characters, he’s arguably been dealt the worst hand in life, but unlike the others, he neither has the intellect nor talent to make the most of what he has been given. Time and time again, Kariya was largely powerless to accomplish his goals, leading him to seek out the assistance of others. As a result, the people who gave him help also gained undue influence over him, which eventually led to his descent into insanity. The beginning of Kariya’s downfall can be traced back to his wish to save Sakura from Zouken’s evil machinations. His lack of magical training meant he had no choice but to use Zouken’s Crest Worms, which put him at the beck and call of the diabolical Matou family head. Another example of Kariya needing the help of others was when he turned to Kirei for assistance in defeating Tokiomi. In exchange for the use of Berserker’s Noble Phantasm, the young Executor repaid Kariya by cruelly toying with his hatred for Tokiomi, all for the sake of his and Archer’s enjoyment.
Probably the most chilling example of Kariya being influenced by others actually comes from his own servant Berserker, whose thirst for revenge ends up consuming Kariya as well, and leads him to strangle the life out of Aoi, his childhood love. Even the scene leading up to her death was excruciating to watch because it was done so well. Although it was already night time outside, the interior of the church was so dark and ominous that the front door in which Kariya and Aoi walked through was blindingly white, as if the two were entering a realm so evil that even the dim light of the moon and stars became brilliant as the sun’s rays. One of the hardest sequences to watch was Aoi’s walk from the entrance to her husband’s lifeless body, as a terrified and speechless Kariya looked on. The walk (which was painfully slow as I expected her to rush over in shock) was eerily silent, save for the rhythmic clicking of her heels on the wooden floor. Each and every step ratcheted the tension ever higher as my mind frantically tried to predict what her reaction would be, what his reaction would be. Out of all the outcomes I came up with, I honestly never saw the one that eventually played out.
Since Aoi’s personality largely remains a mystery, I wasn’t really attached to her character in any way, but her passing will be forever engrained in my mind. Death through strangulation happens often enough in media, but I don’t think I’ll even forget this one because of the way it played out. We first see a black screen with only Kariya’s monologue to guide us, leading me to believe we were headed for another flashback, but then single frames of what was actually transpiring began flashing all too briefly. Finally, as it was beginning to dawn on me that he was trying to kill her, the scene cuts to the expected flashback of Aoi’s serene face, and just as abruptly, it switches back to the present day, and the anguished and teary eyed face of a woman in the final throes of her life. Fate/Zero tends to overuse the “Caster” eyes a little, but I can’t deny that they leave an indelible mark in my memory as they are unique, unforgettable, and most importantly, the series’ trademark symbol of tragedy.
Fate/Zero is filled with characters who enjoy tragedy, regularly crossing the line into sadism to satisfy their lust for suffering. In one corner, we have Kirei, who is just beginning to acquire a taste for anguish and misery thanks to the guidance of Archer. In the other corner, we have Zouken, who wants to watch Kariya crash and burn even more than he wants to win the Holy Grail. Given his advantage in experience and wisdom, it’s not hard to believe that Zouken outwitted Kirei this time and that he’s even more sadistic than Kirei, who’s already shaping up to be quite the sadist himself. However, what was most unsettling was his prediction about Kirei’s true nature eventually rivaling his own. If the scene at the end of the episode is a sign of things to come, I don’t want to even imagine what kind of vile ideas are currently concocting in his mind.
Saber’s riding skills and her upgraded motorcycle were in full display during this segment, and thankfully the quality of the animation did it justice. I even thought that the scene of her weaving back and forth to dodge the falling slabs was even more impressive than Excalibur itself – although her Noble Phantasm still doesn’t cease to make my hair stand on end in excitement and amazement, even if this is the second time seeing it. As for Saber’s ride, at first I wasn’t sure to make of the transformation because as a gearhead, I’m more into unmodified aesthetics and I thought that the images I had already seen of her customized V-max was another example of style trumping function. Good thing this wasn’t the case at all, as there was an explanation behind every modification. The 125-130 mph top speed of the Yamaha wasn’t enough to close the gap with Rider’s Gordius Wheel, so it made perfect sense for Saber to transform her armor onto the bike and use her Invisible Air ability to make it more aerodynamic. I also liked how her Master played a small role in her impressive defeat of Rider, since Kiritsugu’s nitrous oxide modification was the final kick she needed to take her over the edge (both figuratively and literally). My takeaway from all this? Saber is so powerful and talented that she’s not only superior than all others at using melee weapons, but with a little help and ingenuity, her riding skill can even surpass that of Rider’s, which is the skill that he’s supposed to be the best at. This means she needs to face an even more talented rider, and I think I know just the person: Celty Sturluson from Durarara!. If Saber’s pursuit and battle with Rider in this episode are any indication, a duel between two maidens of legend wielding ancient weapons while expertly navigating busy city streets and winding mountain roads would probably be too epic for words.
- Full-length images: 18, 21, 32, 33.
- This was… not what I expected to be in Fate/Zero.
- BakaMochi should be back next week!