Fate/Zero #15: Punching Out Cthulhu

(319)

Kirei, I should probably mention, has been lurking from an observatory point this entire time. He was sent to keep an eye on things, but has clearly decided there’s little he can do about the spectacle of the as-yet-unremoved giant squid monster and is watching Kariya and Tokiomi’s fight. Well, Kariya’s fight, Tokiomi’s… flick of the wrist, which sends his opponent and rival staggering over the edge of the railing screaming and on fire. You tried, Kariya. You really, really tried.

It seems that for today, Good Guy Kariya remains the scalded underdog to the oppressive haughty force of Tokiomi and the establishment. But he’s not out of the running yet, it seems, because Kirei lopes away from his post to find where our bug-infested friend has collapsed… and uses magic to revive him. With a hint of a smile. A charitable deed, or something darker? After all, given his previous interest in Kariya and Gilgamesh’s suggestion that maybe Kirei just enjoys being a voyeur of suffering, it really doesn’t bode well… but at least Kariya is slightly less dead. For now.

Meanwhile, Gilgamesh and Berserker are still keen on shooting each other to pieces with as many aerobatics as possible. Down below, the sensible people have regrouped to discuss how they can get rid of the giant squid monster. Iskander thinks he can buy everyone some time if he reactivates his Bro Sphere and traps the creature in the metaphysical desert of his mind and memories. A separate pocket of reality is a neat idea, but it will only hold for so long, and the Reality Marble full of valiant and loyal warriors is unfortunately only a Band-Aid solution.

(117)

In the midst of this, Iri gets a call, which she has absolutely no idea what to do with since it’s the 90s and the phone resembles a black brick. Waver, being the resident Young Person, takes it up, and is surprised to hear the as-yet-unseen Master of Saber on the line. Kiritsugu informs him that there may yet be an alternative—Saber’s Noble Phantasm is ranked as ‘anti-fortress’, and the cephalopod in the river is about that size. He specifies the need for her left arm, however, and basically drops the information and runs, leaving them to figure out what to do next from the cryptic implications. Thanks, Morpheus.

The implications are dire though—Diarmuid is horrified that the reason Saber can’t use her left arm and activate her anti-fortress blast of awesomeness is because of the wound he dealt her in their first fight. Oh, continuity is a cruel mistress! Saber tries to assuage his woes by saying that, although her arm has been out of use (and probably in pain) due to a curse throbbing evilly in her very veins and as a warrior who uses handheld weapons to the point of legendary status, you know, that kinda sucks… she doesn’t blame him. It’s just what you have to do in a war, right? Besides, she got the injury in a truly awesome fight with a truly valued opponent and companion, and she wears it with pride.

Diarmuid’s reply is that, well, that’s nice and all, but we really do need to put the hellish octopus demon back where it came from. But what are they to do? This is what Kiritsugu was leaving them to decide—apparently he’s not up to telling them outright, but from his dialogue, seems quite interested in what the honourable knight will do in such a situation. They’ve expressed before, after all, that the surest way to break the curse is by killing the man who dealt it.

(191)

There’s a sufficiently chivalrous loophole to this worrying riddle, though: Diarmuid pulls up the golden spear that caused the cursed wound and breaks it. Saber is horrified that he’d do such a thing, to destroy his own weapon, so much part of him that it’s manifested in his Heroic Spirit form long after his death. Diarmuid just smiles, looking far more melancholy and soft-featured than we’ve ever seen him; certainly a far cry from the cocky fellow who issued the challenge in the shipping yards, and says it’s alright. This is bigger than them both, after all. Saber wins? Lancer wins? What does it really matter? As long as the day is saved and goodness and honour prevails.

And the spear is snapped (presumably with magic, otherwise this man’s upper body strength is bordering on the legitimately unbelievable) and the curse is lifted. Saber thanks him, and fires up, using this new burst of power to bring her concealed, mysterious sword out of its shell and into Kickass Mode. Waver, Iri, and especially Diarmuid, can’t help but stare in awe. And then ‘Sword of the Promised Victory’ starts playing in its most epic and orchestral rendition ever, and hopes and dreams manifest as golden light and begin to float up from the land, and everything is genuinely epic for a heart-clutching few moments.

It’s spoiled along the way by Berserker careering down from the sky in his stolen jet plane at the appearance of the golden sword. Clearly, the memo about everyone working together to defeat the rogue Caster did not reach the desk of this particular Black Knight. His desk has probably been thrown out the window envelope in black smoke. Saber has enough on her plate without having to dodge airplane bullets, so Diarmuid moves from his spot for the first time in two episodes and goes to tell him to calm down, for goodness’ sake, and cut him loose from his guns with his red spear. Gee, lucky he had a spare one…

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Turmoil along the way or otherwise, we reach our crescendo, and everything is gold and wonderful as Saber shouts her weapon’s name and, in a display that would make Magical Girls truly proud, turns the holy sword into a laser canon that blasts Caster’s Lovecraftian mess in half with the power of the hopes and wishes of warriors everywhere.

And here, in the face of hopes-and-dreams laser fire, does Caster see the light both literally and figuratively—he flashes back, or forward, or in some sort of deluded state, to the time he was alive and serving Joan of Arc, and sees the real Jeanne, the one he mistook Saber for, reaching out to him and welcoming him home. Being abstractly pardoned by his favourite saint seems to give him an epiphany about how horrible he’s truly been, because we hear him ask “What have I done?” of the meaty walls of magical fish flesh around him before they’re blasted to oblivion.

Again, I was never entirely sure what to think of Caster. He seemed, in many ways, an unnecessarily gory and hammy villain with an irritating (if only because it’s used so often as a display of villainy) obsession with Saber. Everyone’s obsessed with Saber, man. Calm down, and tend to your coral reef of unseemly horrors elsewhere. Of course, his being completely disgusting, otherworldly and evil serves the purpose of uniting the other characters against a common cause, and now that he’s gone, all they have is each other.

The morality of the battle seeps back into grey at the defeat of the monster. This is no longer a David and Octopus Goliath story or a fight against a universally evil antagonist—the narrative has been complicated. As the golden lights fade, you could detect, if you were cynical, an undertone of foreboding in the wake of that moment of supreme hope. If only because the episode ends with Gilgamesh leering down at Saber from atop the bridge expressing in soliloquy that she is broken and beautiful and he must have her. Ew.

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5 Comments

Filed under Alex Watches

5 responses to “Fate/Zero #15: Punching Out Cthulhu

  1. Skip

    “(presumably with magic, otherwise this man’s upper body strength is bordering on the legitimately unbelievable)”

    Nope, it’s all him. The guy can pole vault the length of a football field with a normal-length spear. Being insanely superhuman is something of a minimum requirement for hero status in Celtic mythology.

    • Hmm, that’s a good point… I do love the pole-vaulting part in The Pursuit. Enemy at the gates? Pole-vault over their damned head!

      • Skip

        Gotta love the over-the-top nature of Celtic mythology. While Greek heroes are slaying oversized lions and fighting wars over beautiful women, Celtic ones are going full Lovecraft and single-handedly ravaging armies that are very, very keen on stealing a particular cow.

      • In a berserk mode that can only be broken by the intense embarrassment of seeing a row of topless women… incredible

  2. Pingback: Fate/Zero #16: Chivalry’s Not Dead | The Afictionado

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