Fate/Zero #18: Worst Beach Episode Ever

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This episode, we… hang on, that’s not Fuyuki city, that’s an idyllic and beautifully drawn tropical island. Where are we? Why are we here? Who is that happy, confident and fluffy-haired young boy? Oh my goodness, it’s a flashback!

Said fluffy-haired youth goes by the name of Kerry, though as we find out when he clambers from the beach into a beaten-up car with an older girl, it’s merely a nickname for Kiritsugu. Our grizzled, weepy anti-hero is looking as vibrant, happy and cheek-pinchingly adorable as we’ve ever seen him, so clearly something’s soon going to go horribly wrong. The girl, Shirley, who young Kerry totally doesn’t have a crush on or anything, foreshadows softly as she drives through the town, telling her companion a local legend about a girl stealing food from an offering to the sea gods and getting transformed into a crab. She meant well, as she was just trying to feed her sick mother, but she ended up at the mercy of magic nonetheless. Hmm…

Before we get into magecraft and crabmeat and all that jazz, first I just need to stop and appreciate how visually stunning this episode is. After so long in the dim, midnight-blue shadows of the Grail War and its night-time battles, a beautiful tropical town (which is, in fact, a real place, located in the Philippines, and given the tender care with which ufotable has animated other real places, like the locations that inspired Fuyuki and later Glastonbury and London, I’d hazard a guess that this vision of the Negros Occidental is accurate and lovingly realised) with its rustic atmosphere, sun-bleached and vibrant colour scheme and decidedly different feeling is incredibly refreshing.

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In the hills of this sweet island locale is a mysterious foreigner who nobody quite trusts, even though Shirley, his assistant, seems to hold him in the highest esteem, and his son has been adopted into a friendship circle among the local kids. This mistrust is a little justified when you find out that said foreigner—Kiritsugu’s father, Emiya Mark One—is experimenting with magic to make flowers bloom forever. Which is really cool, but kind of spooky, given that he drowns out Shirley’s happy chirpings about the good of magic with a deadpan warning against it. Don’t go messing around with that stuff, son. Leave it to the grown-ups, and they’ll hide away in their hilltop laboratories where it’s safe.

Shirley, bless her bouncy, flawlessly noble little heart, can’t stand that the people of Alimango don’t trust Papa Emiya, and that he won’t let them get close enough to see that he’s not doing anything harmful. In fact, if he gets his time-altering trick to work on people rather than flowers, it could revolutionise medicine and, well, the world as we know it! And nothing bad has ever come from seeking immortality, right? When the local priest gives her a dagger “just in case”, he’s just being unfair and superstitious, right?

Shirley is clearly our resident faultless, cheerful and dedicated cute girl, and Kerry is clearly smitten. This is not a combination that could ever go wrong, especially not when she adds the promise to be with him to watch him grow up and help him achieve his dreams into the mix. Right? There could be no significance and danger in her and our young hero having a heartfelt and important-feeling conversation under extraordinarily nicely-animated stars, then sharing a tender moment? Right?? Oh, God, look, we know this is going to be tragic, just get it over with.

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The next day, Shirley doesn’t arrive for her Cute and Dedicated Assistant duties, leaving Kerry waiting for her on the porch among the immortal flowers made by his dad (and the one made by Shirley, which has since wilted, because her magic skills aren’t as good, and absolutely not because of foreshadowing) until he decides to wander into the sunset-lit town and search for her. The lad eventually stumbles upon a place where she might be, following a trail of empty mad-scientist-esque vials and… feathers.

It’s rather a shock when he rounds the corner and finds his innocent-adorable-first-love-in-a-white-dress chowing down on a chicken. She turns around, shocked to be caught in the middle of her raw-meat meal, and her eyes are glowing and red. Shirley flings herself backwards into the blood-splattered chicken coop, apologising, admitting that she only wanted the villagers to see what good Papa Emiya was doing… so she drank some of his time-altering formula, and may have turned herself into some sort of flesh-hungry vampiric creature as a result. ‘Vampire’ is a bit of a step up from ‘crab’ but the transformation story is still there, and oh boy is it ugly. Kerry is plainly horrified, especially when she flings the gifted dagger towards him and begs for him to kill her.

Here, we skip forward, where Kerry’s holed up in the church, traumatised but, we are led to assume, without the blood of his friend and idol on his hands. Shirley seems nowhere to be found, and peaceful dark has settled over the island. Trouble is afoot outside, though… people can be seen lurching around, eyes faintly aglow and red, and seem to be attacking other villagers. Kerry reels back, even more freaked out, as you would be had you discovered your dad and crush had unleashed an apparent zombie plague on your hometown.

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What’s interesting, though, are the strangers who appear in the midst of the fray—figures in dark hoods, carrying long retractable knives like Kirei sports, as well as another party of folks who seem to be able to flick fire everywhere with merely a motion of the hand. We later learn that they’re the Executioners (indeed, the group of church-appointed assassins Kirei was part of) and the Mage’s Association, respectively, who have been lurking keeping watch over the island and its resident time-bending mage, and have swooped in to clean up as his ritual gets out of hand. ‘Clean up’ apparently means, in this case, burning the bejeezus out of everything so there’s no evidence left, living or dead, of the outbreak.

Our idyllic island is reduced to flame and rubble, overrun with flesh-eating zombie-vampires, religious badasses with knives, and fire mages, and poor Kerry is caught right in the middle. When he’s about the get eaten, another, this time solo, party arrives with a shotgun in hand and a long leather coat whooshing in the fiery breeze. The woman proceeds to lay waste to the nearest conglomerate of zompires before turning her gun on Kerry, and seeing that he’s still alive, tows him away to safety, refraining from dropping any Terminator-esque “come with me if you want to live”s.

Who is this mystery woman, who doesn’t seem to be connected to any of the groups down there (the nature of which she explains to her shell-shocked companion)? She’s a freelancer, she explains, somewhere between the two opposing parties (who don’t seem particularly opposing at that moment, as both Association and Executioners appear fairly keen on destroying the place), and in the wake of this great irretrievable mess, what she’s really interested in is how it all started. Kerry wouldn’t happen to know, would he?

We jump forward again, and find Papa Emiya packing with the kind of swiftness you’d expect for someone who’s just accidentally converted an entire town into the straggling, flesh-hungry undead. At Kiritsugu’s deadpan questioning, Papa Emiya admits that yeah, this is kind of his fault, but mostly Shirley’s for daring to be good-natured and caring about people and stuff, which you just can’t do when you’re a mage. All that fluff gets in the way of the hard research.

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He’s interrupted mid-planning for setting up his next base and starting his time magic research from scratch… by his son leaping forward and stabbing him in the stomach.

What was it Kiritsugu said before, in the midst of that chivalry-bashing speech? Even if the Grail War is the bloodiest conflict on earth, if it’s the last one the earth ever sees, it will be worth it? You can see that same logic here: if he’d just killed Shirley when she asked him to, presumably this haphazard strain of vampirism wouldn’t have spread. The death of one means the salvation of a whole town of others. It’s simple math, when you put it like that, but his poor little scared adolescent brain didn’t jump to that conclusion in the heat of the moment. In killing his father, finishing the job with the handgun in the drawer and a frighteningly hard-eyed expression, he stops the problem at its source, and prevents it from happening again.

Having just murdered his sole parental figure (I told you this was all going to go sour), Kerry seems glued to the gun and a little unhinged, as you would be having had such a terrible evening… and the woman in the long coat arrives, helps pry the gun out of his hand and get some air back in his lungs, and kind of says “damn, kid, that was hardcore” and offers to help him get off the island.

And so ‘the boy is killed, and the man is born’, or at least, we can infer as such as we watch the young Kiritsugu sail away from smoke and blood and wreckage into an uncertain future…

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5 Comments

Filed under Alex Watches

5 responses to “Fate/Zero #18: Worst Beach Episode Ever

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