While all the Masters are off emotionally manipulating each other, summoning demons, chugging wine, having affairs and bickering with their allies, it seems like there’s only one person who’s actually getting anything done—and that person is a seven-year-old girl.
Yes, it’s time for a dip away from the main cast, to look at a pint-sized version of Rin, Our Heroine (one of them anyway) from Fate/Stay Night. As filler episodes go, you could do worse, though of course everyone who’s watching this anew with no context of the franchise will have to scratch their heads and wonder why the plot is suddenly randomly focussed on one of the main character’s daughters (though not the one he had adopted out into a pit filled with bugs, because that just wouldn’t be as cute, unfortunately).
Even if you aren’t in constant awe and state of worship over Tohsaka Rin, it’s a neat little look into her life, and someway fulfils exactly what I was asking for last week—a proper look (however brief) into the secretive world of mages. The episode opens with Rin practicing her family’s jewel magic, and along the way she gets tutored by her father Tokiomi… which was actually really nice to see considering we haven’t really observed him in anything other than Mage Mode where the Grail War is what his entire business is about. I know it’s your family goal, man, but surely you have motor functions and maybe even a personality outside that?
It’s great that you’re being such a good mentor to Rin and all, Tokiomi, but you kind of lose any Dad Points I’d be keen to hand out when I remember that you gave your other daughter away to be worm food. What is going on in the mind of this man and his meticulous goatee? For now, we cannot know—we only see him from Rin’s perspective, and it’s perfectly clear that he’s her number one idol in life, the one she aspires to be just like. Maybe one day you too will be able to bend matter to your will and shape hard minerals into cute crystal ponies.
For now, there’s not much Rin can do though, a fact that clearly frustrates her. She and her mother are sent away to the in-laws’ house for the duration of the Grail War, which not only gets her pouting but sneaking down to the magic cellar to search for a way she can help her father. It’s all quite sweet-natured until she opens what appears to be some sort of sentient book that sprouts arms, starts yelling in a Slavic language, and tries to drag her into whatever devilish portal she’s accidentally opened up. It’s Tokiomi to the rescue in what proves to be an endearing Papa Wolf moment for him, after which he gives Rin an early birthday present—a compass that detects mana.
Even with The Coolest of Dads having to save her at every turn, it’s pretty clear that Rin is still a ball of fire-eyed confidence in every aspect of her life. At school she strikes fear into the hearts of bullies, gets a whole classroom clamouring around her for help with their homework, and is obviously cemented in everyone’s minds as a mature, somewhat god-like but ultimately lovely and approachable figure. Her natural charisma is shining on show, but so is her natural kindness, as we see in an adorable friendship montage between her and a classmate called Kotone (it would have been more fun if this little side-plot had also served as the origin story for her friendship with archery captain Ayako, or something of that nature, but that’s just me and my love for sharp continuity and non-disposable characters. But hey, the more friends for Rin, the better).
And even The Coolest of Dads cannot protect her from the “strange occurrences” that tie eerily in with the murder plotline—children from Rin’s school have been disappearing, one of which is even found dead. It’s enough to freak anyone out, and Rin’s clearly rattled by it, especially when Kotone suddenly doesn’t show up in class. Where others may falter, though, Rin decides the next logical option is to sneak out at night and get on a train into Fuyuki City to track her missing BFF down, red coat on and compass in hand.
She’s guessed that there’s something magical and sinister in nature afoot because Rin’s a clever cookie. This episode does well to showcase that, while not making her a perfect childhood genius or schoolyard celebrity. Clearly she is those things and we should all worship her, but it also shows that she’s big-hearted to the point of irrationality, easily frustrated and brimming with emotions, and perfectly capable of freaking the hell out like a normal person (and child!) would when she stumbles across Ryuunosuke and the room full of apparently hypnotised, ready-for-murder batch of children he’s compiled in an abandoned shop.
Where the relatability ends and the cheering begins is where she surges her magic, fights him off and wins, carting all the kids out of there and sending them in the direction of police. So, wow, wait, if that’s the power and sense of basic justice possessed by a seven-year-old, what the hell were all the adults in the magical world doing that they couldn’t take a night off, track Ryuunosuke down and dispatch of him in much more brutal and efficient ways? Slightly inconsistent filler or not, what this episode concretely tells you is that mage society breeds adults with their heads up their asses.
What it also does is provide a way to bring Kariya back into the picture after a long absence, when two of Caster’s starfish demons slop their way towards Rin to cut off her moment of triumph… then get attacked by a swarm of spiky bugs. Pick which is more disgusting, really. Rin’s between a rock and a hard place, but evidently she gets hauled out of there okay, since when her mother sprints into town looking for her (I’ll talk about Aoi later, but can I just say, my God, the things this woman has to deal with…) she finds Rin curled up asleep on their favourite park bench. It would be more idyllic if she wasn’t being watched from the shadows by a creepy-looking guy in a hoodie with half the flesh in his face eaten from the inside. Hi, Kariya.
It’s kind of nice to see Kariya again, but he remains a figure of miserable mystery to me who’s entire bug-filled motivation seems to be Aoi. The lad raises so many questions: what inspired him to leave (apart from the obvious, you know, bug pit situation)? Does he harbour any sentimental feelings for the Matous or is that where his black-and-white morality began and he’s written them all off as Terrible People? Where does Aoi fit into all of this? Is your face okay? What does someone raised to be a mage do once they break off and have to exist in the ordinary world?
Pine after their unrequired childhood love, apparently, and devote their entire plotline to making Tokiomi look like a total dick in comparison. Though whether killing Tokiomi = retrieving Sakura = making Aoi finally realise he’s the better option and them all running off into the sunset is Kariya’s battle plan… remains unclear. Aoi seems nothing short of horrified that he’s on a mission to murder her husband, so it doesn’t seem, at this point, that said plan was very well thought through. Nor does it seem that his storyline was, but that’s a whole other conversation that contains a few spoilers, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
While Kariya’s limping off into the moonlight (watched by the Assassins, oh dear), things are looking sunny for Rin: she’s trying her best in magic practice, having fun and making friends, and totally committed to being the most elegant and wonderful mage she can be… she’s just not quite there yet. It’s good to see the little one has big dreams and an even bigger smile on her face.
I would dearly love to tell you all that it will remain there, but this is a prequel, so given the laws of the genre it probably won’t. It’s pretty interesting to note that a lot of Rin’s major traits, though aged down a little, remain consistent to her teenaged self… which either speaks of lazy writing or the implication that at some point Rin was behaviourally stunted at age seven. She’s mature for her age, sure, but she’s also a kid, and it was kind of nice to see her childish side in its natural habitat before we’re forced to view it as something psychologically wrong with the way she’s grown up.
At least she had this ray of sunshine. Get wrecked, Ryuunosuke.