Fate/Zero #17: Et Tu?

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If you’d forgotten in all the chaos of last episode, somewhere in there the judge was murdered. Tokiomi, who was using him to cheat, is pretty distressed by this. Funnily enough, not nearly so much as Kirei, who came home from dropping the revived but barbecued Kariya back at the Matou house to find his father dead in the Church. After an initial shock, he really doesn’t seem to harbour much emotion, which he’s a little concerned about. Gilgamesh, of course, just finds the whole business quietly hilarious.

Meanwhile, Iri wakes up in a magic circle drawn in the shed of Team Saber’s new hideout (a magic circle which no one will clean up, and will eventually become very important), to find a very worried Saber looming over her. Iri insists that she’s fine, and her fainting the night before was just a touch of the vapours and not anything serious, the same way her cutting off her sense of touch and that offhand mention that Ilya’s not expecting her mummy to come home and the shots in the opening theme of her leaking black goop is not anything serious. Really. Don’t worry about it.

Maiya arrives to interrupt Saber and Iri’s soulful gazing and hand-holding, and if there are any hard feelings about her assisting the brutal murder of Saber’s buddy and his team, they’re put to the side. The ladies (my God, three women on screen at once, being important??) are all business as they discuss a message received from Tokiomi, who wants to form an alliance. Obviously, in a game where everyone’s going to end up trying to kill each other anyway, alliances are a temporary measure and can never be totally trusted, and it’s only made worse by the fact that Kotomine “jogs-up-and-beats-you-within-an-inch-of-your-life-in-the-forest” Kirei is still his right hand man.

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Saber, you have to remember, has been too busy dealing with Servants to actually know properly who he is, so Iri tells her adamantly to remember his name, and keep him at the top of her shit list (it’s a shame that never became relevant again…). They go to meet anyway, on the supposedly neutral ground of the Church, apparently ignoring the fact that it’s now the scene of a murder. With Tokiomi, Kirei and Gilgamesh facing off against Iri, Maiya and Saber, we have a lovely mirror image set of mage family heirs, hard-boiled assassins, and their Servants, all eyeing each other off across the pews. Kiritsugu is nowhere to be seen, but it transpires that he’s listening in through a hidden microphone Maiya’s got on her wrist.

Tokiomi suggests that they team up until they’re the only remaining Masters, a gallant gesture to keep the Grail War between the families that started it in the first place as well as scuttle into another protective alliance now that his trump card has been shot. Iri says she’s cool with that, as long as he breaks his partnership with Kirei in exchange. Diplomatic enough not to point out that he nearly killed two of their party on a previous occasion and seems to be stalking her husband, she simply says that there’s bad blood between Kirei and the Einzberns. This is news to Tokiomi, who’s quite shocked Kirei would have any history so negative without his knowledge. Oh, imagine if he found out about him rescuing Kariya…

With this arranged, Team Saber departs, Saber herself on a snazzy new motorcycle Iri describes as “Kiritsugu’s present”. I can only speculate that he left it on the doorstep with a scrawled card that said “Sorry for killing your chivalry buddy and trashing your ideals”. Saber speeds off to scout ahead, leaving Iri to slump in another near-dead faint against Maiya when they climb into their car. But it’s nothing serious though, right?

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Nope. Iri caves and admits that she’s pretty much falling apart on the inside, a direct result of the Grail War progressing. She’s the vessel for the Grail, after all—and though this isn’t entirely explained, we have to assume that something about her construction as a homunculus connects her to the Grail and to the ceremony, and at its conclusion, the woman named Irisveil will cease to be. Suddenly, Kiritsugu’s lament that he’ll be the cause of Iri’s death makes sense: he can win the Grail, but Iri will be destroyed along the way. It’s simply what she was built to do, and it was their bad fortune to fall in love and realise how awful that was. Oh, cruel fate!

She doesn’t want anyone to worry, though, least of all Kiritsugu, who’s already carrying the weight of the world as it is. The reason she’s expressing herself to Maiya is because she knows Maiya won’t pity her, whether because she’s too matter-of-fact means-to-an-end, or because of the connection they’ve realised they have over their time spent together. Maiya also seems to live solely to help Kiritsugu get his wish, and not only promises Iri that she won’t pass on the news of her imminent disintegration and death, but also tells her stone-facedly to please die so Kiritsugu can save the world. Iri just closes her eyes and thanks her, and leaves the audience reeling as they drive off into the night with their cursed destiny and strategically warped worldview in tow.

There will be time aplenty to talk about Iri, Maiya, Kiritsugu and that goddamned bombshell of sadness later, so let’s instead swing back to Team Archer. Before the negotiations, Tokiomi dropped by his house to exchange a knowing, affectionate look with his wife and give his favourite daughter a present. Rin, that is, not the other one, who he sold as worm food. He gifts his exuberant heir with a spellbook, and tells her that he has faith in her abilities and that she’ll keep learning, and one day, she must strive to reach the Holy Grail. No pressure or anything. Aoi just looks on with a smile, and I have to wonder what on earth is going on in her head.

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Spoiler alert, this is one of the last times I’ll get to talk about Tokiomi, so let’s talk about Tokiomi: I adore him as a character, but have no idea what to think of him. Is he a suave and clever tactician ready to bend the rules and throw away the lives of others to suit his selfish wishes for success? Is he like this as a matter of course, or has he moulded himself into that kind of person because it’s what The Family wants and he must fulfil that role? Is he a cute cuddly dad and affectionate husband? What kind of relationship does he have with his wife, who’s had to give up one of her daughters, and is watching him teach the other one to follow in his footsteps? Does she truly accept it as “what is to be expected from marrying into a mage family” or is she burying anguish? Is Tokiomi burying anguish? Or is he a genuinely villainous, classist, selfish life-ruiner? Who are you??

I’m also not sure if this is deliberate creation of intrigue in terms of the writing, or if it’s contradictory by accident because it doesn’t fill in enough of the gaps between these different versions of Tokiomi and leaves more questions asked than answered. He seems to fit whatever role is needed of him at the time: at the beginning, he’s the Proper Mage, the exemplary Grail War participant to show the highest standard; to Kariya he’s the perfect heartless antagonist, his opposite in every way; to Rin he’s an idol and a loving father and mentor; and now he’s the trusting fool who provides the perfect stage for Kirei’s Turning to the Dark Side.

Because Kirei’s been sent home, oh yes, but he has no intention of going. Least of all now that he’s inherited, via a clue his father left at the scene of his death, all the extra Command Spells. Gilgamesh, happily teasing him about how he’s still searching for his wish, while teleporting needlessly around the room, practically chortles when he finds this out. But what are you going to do, Kirei? Your plans to keep hunting Kiritsugu and reaching the Grail are all very well, but you can’t really compete without a Servant. And as of tonight, it would be deliberately disobeying Tokiomi, to his handsome devil-bearded face. Which would make him, and his Servant Gilgamesh, Kirei’s enemy.

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Well, Kirei asks in return, what are you going to do? Don’t you know that the Grail War’s a crapshoot for Servants anyway? Even if Tokiomi does get to the end with your help, he’ll only order you to kill yourself so your heroic little soul will get sucked into the Grail, and then it will have all the necessary ingredients to complete Tokiomi’s snazzy ritual to unlock the Root and unlimited power. We’re certainly learning a lot about the Grail today. Gilgamesh is disgusted, but not really surprised, with this information.

This dilemma of alliances in his pocket, Kirei goes to meet with Tokiomi for a final cup of tea, where his teacher provides him the winning combination of a) his last will and testament, announcing that in the increasingly likely event of his death Tokiomi will leave not only the house but custody of Rin to Kirei, and b) a dagger, as a parting gift. The audience knows that this is the absolute literal worst thing he could have done, but Tokiomi is happily oblivious, practically dancing out the door as the animation slows, a grin creeps across Kirei’s face, and a spooky music box version of ‘Let the Stars Fall Down’ starts playing.

Tokiomi, bless him, does not get any of these visual and aural cues the audience does, and is very, very shocked when his beloved student plunges the knife into his back (hence the pretentious Shakespeare reference, which Tokiomi would have probably made himself had he not been too busy being murdered to compose himself). Oh crap.

Gilgamesh materialises to inspect the body, and Kirei’s all “your Master was in danger, why didn’t you stop me?” and they have a good laugh before they light up the room with Kirei’s million-and-one new Command Spells and form a brand new contract. And it’s a bloody, but intensely satisfying, resolution to episodes and episodes of subtle build-up—so much so that it’s almost a shame we don’t see more of their interactions in the sequel, or at least, get any indication of what their dynamic was like when they were let loose on the world together before that.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? I have a feeling these two have a world of trouble to cause before this War is over…

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3 Comments

Filed under Alex Watches

3 responses to “Fate/Zero #17: Et Tu?

  1. Pingback: Fate/Zero #20: Grail Girl and the Amazing Human Gun | The Afictionado

  2. Pingback: Fate/Zero #21: Your Princess is in Another Castle | The Afictionado

  3. Pingback: Fate/Zero #25: Nice Job Breaking It, Hero | The Afictionado

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