Fate/Zero #8: Birds and Bullets

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There’s so much going on in this little arc. While the shipyards battle was perhaps the best example so far of all the characters clashing on the same stage, the deadly dangerous party going on at the Einzbern house is a similar but different affair in which we have multiple groups of characters looping around each other on their own tangents, each plot thread knitting together into an entertaining, engaging, and really quite terrible and violent episode. As if things weren’t hectic enough already, an extra feeling of heart-in-throat dread has to be had when we find out they’re adding Kirei to the mix. Good lord.

It’s Iri who senses him, on the way through the forest with Maiya—upon learning that their team’s greatest enemy is approaching at a leisurely jog, Iri proposes that yes, they could continue to escape like Kiritsugu ordered, or they could make their own decision to stay and protect him, and stop Kirei from getting into the manor itself. Maiya seems unsure, whether it’s about disobeying her boss or taking orders from his wife instead, but they come to the same logical conclusion. We don’t know for certain what exactly these two ladies feel towards each other, but whatever envy or spite may be brewing beneath the surface is put aside. They both care about Kiritsugu, and they’re going to attempt to protect him.

It doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test yet, but you can see the beginnings of a bond between two characters who may otherwise have been enemies, and that I enjoy. Whether or not the nature of Maiya and Kiritsugu’s affair (if it could even be called one, we just know from what we’re shown that she smooched him that one time) and how all three parties feel about it is ever fully explained, for now, the ladies are working together, and they’re going to go beat up Kirei. Nothing could endear me more at this point.

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Except possibly the awesome application of magic-science, which gosh darn, just gets my little nerd heart ticking into overdrive. Now that he’s finished making O-faces against the wall, Kiritsugu is locked in his battle with Kayneth, who is quite smugly shielding himself with his living mercury until one of Kiritsugu’s custom bullets manages to shoot right through it.

This is, naturally, a rude shock to Kayneth, who can’t believe that something as ghastly as modern weaponry has made him bleed his own blood. Kiritsugu has run off, far too pragmatic to stay and gloat that he found a happy medium in the magic vs technology conundrum by making magic bullets.

Bullets which contain, as we later learn in a disturbing and vague flashback to an unfamiliar woman, powder made from his ribs. His Origin, the specialised magic type he was born with (as far as I can see; again, it’s a case of being All There in the Manual, unfortunately), is ‘severing and binding’, which is where he gets his name from. His entire Thing, essence running deep into his very being, is irreversible change—when weaponised, it comes in handy for destroying Magic Circuits and incorrectly realigning them so they get frazzled, which is exactly what he’s engineered the bullets to do. Symbolically, it’s very interesting, but doubtless we’ll see much more of that later on. Now, it’s time for a demon fight.

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Saber and Diarmuid are still having a wonderful time battling side by side, but even they’re getting tired of Caster’s business. The solution is to take out his power from the source—and lo, beautifully contrasted with the steel-and-mercury mess indoors, we have ancient sword-and-sorcery awesomeness taking the stage in the forest. Saber blasts a path through the spiky octopi to Caster, and Diarmuid ‘runs with the wind’ and (while unfortunately not actually skewering Gilles de Rais himself) jabs the spell book with his magic-cancelling red spear. Screaming with frustration not for the first time that evening, Caster disappears (as you do) in a livid puff of smoke and what appears to be blood rain.

Diarmuid can’t dwell on their teamwork triumph for too long though—his Master’s here, and he’s in danger. Saber lets him go, promising yet another raincheck on that duel of theirs. He departs with a fond, respectful bow and a smile, and shimmers away into the starlight.

But before we get back to Kayneth, we must circle back to the third battle that has started in this territory, where Kirei has arrived on the scene and been assailed by Iri and Maiya. No one, bulletproof priest robes or no, is getting past them and harming their man. Not on their watch.

Maiya puts up a pretty impressive performance, proving that she can very much hold her own and is not only equipped to be a backup sniper. She’s raising Hell against our determined, churchy friend, until he manages to swing through one of her attacks and fold her right in half. He also steps on her in a graceless display of uncaring brute strength. Why exactly he’s pursuing Team Saber isn’t entirely expressed, but it matters not. One more obstacle is out of the way… though now he has to contend with Iri, who steps up to the podium despite Maiya’s breathless, broken-ribbed warnings that he’s trained to kill mages.

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Yeah, well, Iri was trained by the Mage Killer. She summons a wire bird and my favourite song from the soundtrack and manages, quite impressively, to slam the bugger against a tree and tie him there. It’s a beautiful moment of power for Iri, until, of course, we are reminded that Kirei is even more powerful and far too important to simply get hog-tied and shot by two cute girls. He breaks free of the bonds using some sort of martial art muscle flex magic that warrants a two-second shot of his butt, snapping the tree trunk in the process. In case it had not already been established, you do not mess with Kotomine Kirei.

In case it also hadn’t been established, Kotomine Kirei is a terrible person, and upon deciding that Maiya’s no longer a threat, turns to holding Iri up in a strangle-hold looking at her ponderously. Why would these two women sacrifice themselves for Kiritsugu, if they weren’t acting on his orders? What’s with all this ‘personal motivation’ stuff? He clearly decides it’s a matter for another night, as he stabs Iri through the stomach and casually jogs away at Assassin’s behest.

Kiritsugu is oblivious to this, but is also making great strides to establish that you also don’t mess with him. Kayneth is, once again, happily spouting haughty and increasingly violent taunts, looking progressively less regal and more manic as he goes along trashing the manor with the mercury—until he’s cut off with yet another Origin Bullet, this one hitting him square in the Magic Circuits and apparently frying his nervous system from the inside out. He definitely does not look well, least of all when he collapses, writhing and clawing at his throat, into the useless puddle his mercury has become. Kiritsugu is nonplussed by this, even smiles faintly. Where did that scaredy cat go? Here we see only the Mage Killer, and we can truly understand his infamy. Damn.

It’s knights to the rescue, though—Diarmuid fends off his non-magic bullets and carries the limp form of Kayneth to safety, promising not to harm him as it would be a betrayal to Saber; and Saber rushes to Iri’s side in the forest. Only to find that… her fatal stab wounds have healed. She sits up, apparently a little frazzled but fine, calmly explaining that she’s carrying Saber’s sheath and has absorbed its healing powers. Well, dang, what do you know! What in the world are these bloodthirsty, complicated mages going to pull out of their hats next?

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8 Comments

Filed under Alex Watches

8 responses to “Fate/Zero #8: Birds and Bullets

  1. Pingback: Fate/Stay Night #3: Exit Pursued by Berserker | The Afictionado

  2. truetren

    One correction because anime didn’t make it obvious. The first bullet, the one which shoot past the mercury wall and hit Kayneth, wasn’t an Origin Bullet. It was just a simple bullet, except it was different caliber than the previous ones. You can see that Kiritsugu first uses a gatling gun to make mercury wall thin out, but instead spread out more to protect its master. After that he immediately draws out his gun, which has more impact than the gatling and fires a shoot that goes through the wall, which didn’t have time to re-adjust itself. All of this is a preparation for the Origin Bullet shot. Next time Kayneth confronts Kiritsugu he pours a lot of magic into stopping his bullet, which was exactly what Kiritsugu wanted. The more magic Kayneth pours into the Mercury, the bigger would be damage to Kayneth once Origin Bullet hits it.
    This is better explained in novels and unfortunately was hard to show properly in anime without interrupting the flow of action.

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  7. Riley W.

    “It’s a beautiful moment of power for Iri, until, of course, we are reminded that Kirei is even more powerful and far too important to simply get hog-tied and shot by two cute girls.” Well, duh. He’s a trained Mage killer and is extremely proficient in all sorts of martial arts. The fact that Iri managed to tie him down for even a second was impressive. I get that you’re a feminist (so am I), but some of your comments imply unnecessary bitterness. Unless I misinterpreted and you actually weren’t making a subtle jab of some sort.

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