Ah, the talky exposition episode. A necessary evil. Well, not an evil as such, but somewhat of a chore to get through if you’re not in the mood for it and are waiting for more magical fight scenes. Though there’s certainly a dark and dubious air to the priest we meet this week, who talks Shirou (and thus the audience) through exactly what’s going on with this whole Holy Grail War thingamabob. In the meantime, we get treated to Saber in a raincoat and Rin having a Waver-esque butt-in-the-air crisis, so there’s some basic entertainment value injected too.
In blunt terms, this is an episode where nothing happens. But you know what? You need those. I just know people are already bemoaning his, as they bemoaned the first episode of the prequel, because heaven forbid a show should actually make you think. In a world as convoluted as the Nasuverse you need to step back every once in a while and lay your ground rules, even if, regrettably, it takes the form of infodumps. In that, this instalment succeeded, and even managed to make the dialogue kind of interesting by breaking it up visually, especially the first half, where Rin is talking to Shirou and Saber in their now somewhat smashed-up house. Archer is brooding on the roof so he’s no help, but the animators once again make use of body language and movement to characterise Rin. Just having her get up and do stuff, even if it’s as mundane as getting more tea, adds a dynamic to a scene which is otherwise talking heads.
When she deems her explanation of affairs inconclusive, she escorts Shirou and Saber (decked out in stylish, bright yellow wet-weather gear for reasons that are not entirely explained. I think it’s pretty easy to figure out that she’s disguising her armour from any gormless innocent civilian who might be out at two in the morning, but why she can’t vanish into spirit form like Archer and Lancer have is only touched on lightly, and that’s if you make the connection that it’s due to her improper and, to use official mage terminology, n00bish summoning) to the church across town, where we meet the decidedly ominous, mullet-toting overseer of the Grail War, who’s masquerading as a priest.
Apart from that menacing air, we don’t get much of a sense of the character of Kotomine Kirei—he’s essentially a mouthpiece for the rules of the game in this scene, and gets the chance to circle the n00b in question as he too was once circled, ten years before. All that’s irrelevant, really—if you don’t know him from Zero, you don’t get much on him in his introduction, apart from his résumé as War overseer, ex-pupil of Rin’s father, and teacher of Rin herself. Which is a little disappointing, to be honest. I can only hope that he’s generated enough of an aura of importance and mystery to stay in the minds of new viewers who’ve just been lectured by him.
And what a lecture it is—finally we can nut out the rules of the fantastical conundrum these kids are now in, Shirou by stumbling, Rin by deliberately stepping. Seven Masters summon seven Servants, Heroic Spirits from the past (Lancer, we heard last week, is “Ireland’s Child of Light”), to duke it out in a last-man-standing battle for the prize of the Holy Grail, an omnipotent device of infinite power that can, apparently, grant any wish its possessor desires. “What if a complete bastard wins it, then?” asks Shirou, to which Kirei just kind of goes “Well golly gee, son, that would be awful huh? I guess your only option, especially as you want to be A Hero of Justice, is to fight to win yourself.”
Scooting right through his initial Refusal of the Call (right on schedule), Shirou declares he will fight, if only to make sure the orphan-maker disaster ten years ago (apparently caused by, if you take Kirei’s word for it, the almost-winner of the last War wussing out of finishing the job) never happens again. As LI pointed out, since all the Masters we’ve met so far are in their teens, it seems like Kirei’s running a very sinister school camp. Luckily, they’re using the buddy system, and those buddies are supernatural beings.
Shirou makes sure he’s friends with his, cementing the contract by shaking hands with a rather surprised Saber, who for all her good graces of diplomacy and raincoat-wearing, so far has the apparent personality of a brick. She was pretty much reduced to backdrop this round, so hopefully that will change in the future. Just because she’s cool and closed-off, doesn’t mean she has to be flat.
Anyway, if your head hurts from digesting all that information, rest assured that you can chill out with a good old battle next time, as that pint-sized threatener has returned to come after Our Heroes, and it appears she’s brought a giant. Shirou’s expression has a lot of inherent “oh crap” but in Kirei’s own words, isn’t this what he wished for in the first place? To save people, after all, you need something to save them from. Whether he’ll be pondering that philosophy or running for cover, only time will tell. Dun dun dun!
- In which, without ever mentioning his name, everyone ends up talking crap about Kiritsugu. Shut up, Kirei. Rin I can understand, but you know exactly what happened that night everything caught fire. Leave the guy alone.
- Rin’s ass-in-the-air crisis though. Was that, or rather the emphasis on it and the ass in question, really necessary? The comparisons to Waver in Fate/Zero are rather amusing, though.
- Ditto for Shirou putting on his jacket. But I’m just glad he’s keeping warm.
- Panning over Archer with Kirei’s voiceover about Servants making new contracts in the event of their Master’s death? Hmmmmmm…
- Sakura was not relevant in this episode