Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fate/Zero - 17

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Can’t say this was a hard one to see coming…

Where’s Freddie Mercury when you need him?  Two things mentioned here last week, a “death of the week” scenario and Tokiomi being the next Master to face the axe, are certainly looking good so far.  I don’t know whether we’ll see this exact pattern every week, but there are about as many surviving Masters and Servants combined as there are remaining episodes, so it will likely be a regular occurrence.  As for Tohsaka, that’s one’s past tense already, courtesy of the parting gift he have his student (though I suspect the specific means of execution were largely incidental).

It’s certainly no surprise that this ep was a significantly less powerful one than last week’s blockbuster, about as intense as any anime episode this year (just look at the comment count here).  As a new viewer, I’d say that this week’s F/Z felt like an odd mix of slow pacing and rapidly occurring events.  An awful lot happened, and it seemed as if for 16 episodes worth of build-up everything came to a head in the Tokiomi/Kirei/Gilgamesh drama very suddenly.  But at the same time the episode itself was about as talky as any in the series so far.  I certainly don’t have a problem with listening to Urobuchi dialogue for 22 minutes, so that’s fine with me, but the result of this contrast is an episode that felt a bit jerky at times, and it wasn’t helped by the fact that the ending was telegraphed pretty much from before the episode even started.

Possibly as much as with any of these characters, it’s with Kirei that anime-only viewers are at a disadvantage to the novel readers.  I commented more than once during S1 that Kirei was a cipher – impossible to read and frankly, boring.  Of course that’s largely intentional, as he’s a man adrift and seemingly apathetic, contenting himself with being part of another Master’s scheme rather than seek the Grail himself.  We know he’s obsessed with Kiritsugu – but not why, not really.  We get a sense of his cold relationship with his father (certainly confirmed by his reaction to his death), but again, no real sense as to why.  This really is Kirei at this stage of his life, but it doesn’t make him an especially compelling character.  It was only when Gilgamesh started to lure him to indulge his darker impulses that Kirei started to show a little fire.  And it’s been obvious since those conversations began that Archer was drawing Kirei towards this point (indeed Kirei clearly never had any intention of leaving the field) – which makes the anime-only viewer ask, what did Archer see in Kirei that made him so much more interesting as a potential Master than Tokiomi?

Likewise with Tokiomi, it’s hard to feel too much one way or the other.  He’s been the consummate cold fish for most of the series – arrogant, genteel, entitled – as if he believed winning the Grail War were his right and the inevitable result.  His occasional flashes of affection for his daughter are about the only color we’ve seen from him – apart from torturing Kariya – but when the time came for Tokiomi to die at Kirei’s hand I didn’t feel much, perhaps just a shade of pity that he was dying at the hands of a disciple that he genuinely seemed to like on some detached level.  Hoist with his own petard, almost literally – a fitting end for this grandiose but foolish popinjay of a Magus.

It’s interesting that the two most arrogant and entitled Mages – Tokiomi and Kayneth – have been eliminated early, both by treachery.  If this ep was more very good than gripping, it seems to have done some real heavy lifting in terms of setup, and left us with a very interesting situation.  While Tokiomi was obviously the big loser, as a handicapper I think this was a very bad week for Kiritsugu.   I get the feeling that a motivated Kirei is going to be something of a beast, and he has arguably the strongest (certainly the most cunning) Servant in his corner.  It’s telling that Kiritsugu’s demand (via his mouthpiece Iris) for even a temporary truce with Tokiomi was that Kirei be cut off, and this isn’t the first time in the series we’ve seen indications that Kirei is the one man Kiritsugu fears.  For the ultimate schemer and practitioner of dirty pool, Tokiomi was a very safe opponent to have in the game – predictable and manageable.  Kiritsugu has always been one step ahead of everyone else with his tactical cunning, unscrupulous nature and the Iris gambit, but now the game has spiraled in a direction I don’t think he will have expected – and Kirei has the location of his hideout too.  To top that off Irisviel seems to be running down at last, which may force the rat to finally crawl out of his hole and face the enemy head-on – the last thing in the world he wants to do.

What of the others – Rider/Waver and Berserker/Kariya?  Rider and his master are certainly an interesting pair, but they’ve had “side character” stamped on them from the beginning and I see no chance they win this game – I’ll be satisfied if Waver merely survives.  He’s probably the closest thing to an idealist among the Masters – for his youth if nothing else – but I don’t see that as a helpful trait here.  And Rider may be the one who’s philosophy actually makes the most real-world sense, but he seems destined to go out with a heroic bang sooner or later.  Berserker and Kariya are the true wild-cards here, quite literally.  Either of them is capable of doing anything, especially now that the object of Kariya’s loathing is already dead.  It would certainly be ironic if Kariya and/or his Servant popped up out of nowhere and killed Kirei at the end, after Kariya was saved by him – and that seems one distinct possibility.  One thing seems obvious – Kariya, Kirei and their servants are probably the opponents Kiritsugu would least have wanted to be left standing because they’re by far the hardest for him to control and manipulate, and the least likely to be taken in by his outsider tactics.

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37 comments:

  1. The anime pretty much conveyed all the stuff about Kirei, is just that it did in a subtle way (and that episode 12 conversation with Gilgamesh was heavily edited in TV version and makes much more sense in BD version).

    Kotomine Kirei basically is... the opposite to Emiya Kiritsugu. If Kiritsugu is a normal man that sacrificed his happiness, Kirei is a void man who never was able to feel nothing, at least until now. Kiritsugu does evil to save the world, Kotomine does evil because that's what makes him happy, that's just his true nature.

    Kotomine obsession with Kiritsugu was adressed in the first episode, and developed during the first season. Kotomine believed that they were the same, and if Kiritsugu was able to find "something", he needs to meet him to know what it was. That's why he just wasn't able to accept Iri and Maiya helping Kiritsugu on their own volition, because to him Emiya Kiritsugu was supposed to not be accepted and comprehended by anyone.

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    1. To be honest, I assumed there had to be more to it than that, because while those things were referred to in the anime, they add up to a pretty weak reason for that level of obsession.

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    2. Well, there is a bit more, but that's basically it on the bigger picture.

      You had to realize that in all his life, Kotomine probably never met someone like Kiritsugu, and he being not able to just felt positive feelings tormented him to no end, given the expectation his father had for him (the whole reason Risei called his son Kirei, or beautiful, was because he wanted his son the be a virtuous man).

      And it will be very funny to see Kotomine disappointment once he understands Kiritsugu true nature, don't you think?

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    3. The obsession comes from the fact that he's very religious. He is a priest after all. His whole life he's been looking for a purpose, yet the only purpose he ever found was the one that he knew he should never succumb to: evil.

      He's obsessed with Kiritsugu because Kiritsugu is clearly a man who knows what he wants and is willing to do anything to achieve it. By contrast Kirei is someone who could never admit what he wanted, even to himself. He just wants to know why he was born. It's a bit more complicated than that, but basically he's a very philosophical/theological person who struggles with the fact that everything he loves is something he knows he should hate.

      Admittedly, the anime does a pretty poor job of characterizing him, because he's a very "internal" character.

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    4. To be fair, that sort of character always comes off better on paper than in an anime. Especially when Urobuchi is the one putting words on the paper.

      I suppose if you look at Kirei as literally an "empty man", which is how I've remarked upon him mostly, it makes sense that anyone who seems to have motivation would be both fascinating and infuriating. He tries to see beauty in God and the Church but that doesn't float his boat, and the only thing he gets pleasure from is doing nasty things. That's what Gil sees in him I guess.

      Still, it makes sense but as portrayed in the anime, it feels weak as a motivation - it's not up to snuff with the rest of the series, really. It seems as if any number of people could have been subjects of obsession for Kirei under this scenario - all it takes is a sense of purpose and determination, and there are others besides Kiritsugu that have that.

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    5. Well, even if the obsession with Kiritsugu is interesting because of the huge antagonizing parallelism between the two, what is really the backbone of Kotomine's character (and what makes him so interesting to Gil eyes) is his true nature.

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    6. To be perfectly fair Enzo, there is only so much Gen could do. Nasu had already established what Kotomine Kirei was like in Fate/Zero via Fate/Stay Night, and there was very little room to get creative with the character.

      Hell, if read some of the interviews with the staff, Type-Moon had apparently instructed them very clearly to draw Kirei to look as emotionless as possible, and in many cases even they had to remove facial lines from his face to make him look more detached and apathetic.

      So yeah, this might be a case of the original creator giving a rather specific characterization and the author of the novel having to somehow work it into the work ... Kotomine Kirei had a bond with Emyia Kiritsugu according to Fate/Stay Night, but they had never meet prior to their first battle. Gen had to stay true to that no matter what, otherwise the whole continuity would be fucked up.

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    7. Yeah, that's about what I figured - and it certainly worked, up till now he's come off flat as a board. I've also thought from the beginning that the choice of Nakata Jouji was an odd one - he sounds too old for the character as written here, and he sounds way too much like Hayami Shou.

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    8. Well, Nakata was always his seiyuu, and his Kotomine in the original game always was one of his most praised and famous performances, so it's kinda logical they go with the fan-loved guy again... (It's even funnier, because TYPE-MOON LOVES Nakata Jouji so much that he always voices some character, usually philosophical villains, in their works).

      And well, Kotomine here is late twenties/early-thirties, so that kind of voice is not that odd.

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    9. As much as I love Nakata Jouji, I have to agree with you. I don't think he sounds that much like Hayami, just that the two share the same emotionless tone. But even then, it's clear that he doesn't really work with the more solemn, apathetic Kirei who we had for the majority of this series, but with the Kirei who had already fallen to the dark side. Chalk it up to established casting decisions ...

      I think that the show had been doing pretty great up to the points where it faces the walls that Fate/Stay Night placed in front of it. Sure Nasu, it's pretty interesting to listen to Saber say that ''Kiritsugu never spoke with me once'' or ''Kiritsugu and Kirei never meet, but they already knew they were enemies bound by fate'' and all that, since it makes us go 'Wow, I wonder how did that work out?' until someone actually has to sit down and write how it actually happened and how it's suppose to work out, and they realize that it just doesn't work that well at all in practice. Sometimes I think Mentar might be on to something when he calls out Nasu on his sloppy and paradoxical writing ...

      In either case, I do think they managed to do the best they could with the limitations they had. Seeing Kirei slowly but surely go from an emotionless shell to being elated with joy when stabbing his mentor is a pretty interesting visual evolution, and IMO adds a lot to his character arc.

      Well certainly help out a lot more to appreciate him when you get around to playing Fate/Stay Night after the show ends Enzo

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  2. Gah, you really hate Kiritsugu to no end, Enzo, calling him "the rat to finally crawl out of his hole". (don't gimme the innocent look, it's written clearly with a glee under a disguise of paronomasia). It's unhealthy to hate an anime fictional character so much, buddy boy. Take a deep breathe and let the hatred go. There, there. I won't stare up the stink pot again (that's SO last week) and I think it's really time to move on with this Kiritsugu hatred stuff. Who knew executing a bad guy would.. nah, nah, not falling for that temptation again. ha ha. TIME. TO. MOVE. ON.

    The only good guy in this show is Waver anyway. The rest are ALL guilty, one way or another.

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  3. Name the next fall guyApril 29, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    anyone cares to wager who'll go down next? Forget side characters. Just masters/servants. The tally stands 4/4. Clearly it's not the time to kill off Kiritsugu and saber since they're the main guys. And neither are Kirei/archer since they are the big bad boys. My money is on berserk and the bug man master. Now that Tokiomi is dead, it sort of loses purpose for the bug man to hang around much longer. he was practically dead in last episode anyway. Plus they won't give a sucker ending for Rider, not after creating him in such a larger than life style. So probably bug man will die heroically (since his intention to enter was heroic) and maybe bring berserk with him or something.

    Let me add that this is not a spoiler, but a pure hunch/speculation on my part. Anybody who read LN (not me) should know that I am taking a stab in the dark and perhaps making a fool of myself. But let the discussion flow~~~~.

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    1. It seems like it should either be the Kariya/Berserker team or the Waver/Rider team that go next. From a dramatic standpoint I think you could make a case for either - Rider is a more interesting character, certainly, but both Kariya and Berserker are interesting because they're totally unpredictable. And if Kariya dies so soon, that makes such a big deal being made of Kirei saving him sort of pointless, apart from the fact that is demonstrated his distancing himself from Tokiomi.

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  4. so much doujin material in this ep... xD

    again like last week, im alittle disappointed that kariya couldnt fight tokiomi one last time or something (last week i was disappointed that there was no waver vs kayneth) its like F/Z is only gonna focus solely on kiritusu/kirei/gil/saber now

    anyway iunno about someone dying next ep since it looks like its gonna be a past revealed sort of episode, unless they have time for it between :O

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  5. This episode was a bit rushed, but felt slow at times because of the long conversations. I actually think since the new Kirei/Gilgamesh pair know of Irisviel's hideout they will strike their and the battle in the forest will be continued. So my next choice for death is Maiya, as Irisviel should probably die near the end to spur Kiritsugu on. Maiya's conversation with Irisviel screamed death flag to me.

    If the world is fair Waver and Rider should win the war as they are awesome. Next week's episode seems to center around them.

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  6. Wow, if there was an episode that would ever need to be re-done in the BD Box release, it would have to be this one. So many apparent cuts, even to one who didn't read the novels ...

    What I found interesting is how when Kirei drop the truth on Gil, he mentioned how even the last Servant must die in order for the Gate to the root to be opened, which is why a Command Seals is needed by the end of the war if the Master wants to ''win'' ... But more than that I think I now realize why Kiritsugu doesn't want to talk to Saber or treat her like a person, since he, being one of the agents of the Three houses, would know he's going to order Saber to kill herself at the end, and so it would be easier for him to order a tool to self destruct than a human to commit suicide ...

    And the whole thing with Avalon ... wow, Kiritsugu might really be a decent guy deep (waaaaaaaaay deep) down, if totally off his rocker when it comes to morality ...

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    1. I'm a bit confused here... How does the Avalon thing reflect on Kiritsugu's decency one way or the other? Doesn't he need Iris "alive" as long as possible to help him win the war? I'm not saying he has no feelings for her, but the practical necessity seems self-evident.

      I also seriously doubt the ultimate resolution to the game makes no impact on how Kiritsugu treats Saber - I can't see him being bothered by using a command seal that way after all the other stuff he's done. It is what it is - I just don't see any evidence that he has any interest in connecting with anyone apart from Iris and Maiya, and there's no reason Saber should be any different. Not to mention he finds her naive and loathes everything she stands for, which he blames for all the ills of the world.

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    2. Actually, even if this episode worded it a bit oddly (probably because TV time constraints), you only need to kill the seven servants to make the Great Grail function at his best and reach the Akashic Records.

      If you "only" want a wish-granting machine, there is no need for that much energy.

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    3. Well then, Anon had pretty much shot my theory down regarding Saber being forced to commit suicide (Kiritsugu doesn't care about the root, the Ezinbern's care only about wining the goddamned war) so ...

      As for Iri, going by what I understood about the Grail, she doesn't have to remain alive (or rather, in her human form) in order for the Grail to survive. If anything, this episode tells us that she would had reverted back to the shape of the original Grail once enough Heroic Sprites had been defeated, so if anything, Kiritsugu was trying to delay the inevitable I think and trying to keep her alive for as long as possible.

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    4. No, but she does have to remain in her human form for Kiritsugu to continue the ruse that she's actually Saber's Master - which in some ways is the key to his entire strategy. With her gone, he's flushed out in the open where he doesn't want to be.

      Of course he feels something for Iris, I certainly wouldn't deny that. And I think he's happy to have her in human form for as long as possible for that reason, too - but he'd do it even if that wasn't the case.

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    5. Is Irisviel wearing gloves all the time because otherwise I don't see how the other masters wouldn't have seen through the ruse. Also Kayneth must have seen the command seals on Kiritsugu's hand, not that it matters anymore.

      Also wouldn't the Church, and due to that Tokiomi, know that Kiritsugu is Saber's real master if there running/observing the whole war?

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    6. @Ishruns
      Tokiomi only knew that the Einzberns took someone in their family for the first time since forever. And it's the Magus Killer of all people so one would think they just hired a mercenary like Kayneth thought when he fought Kiritsugu.

      And the Church did not know that Kiritsugu is the real Master as they(Einzberns) did not declare it to them. As long as one is beside a Servant in the battlefield one would assume it's the Master and that's Iri's role. To be fair, Waver and Ryuunosuke did not introduce themselves too. As long as the Servant is summoned, anything after that is moot.

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  7. Haha, I must be one of the few who really /really/ enjoyed this episode. We all knew how it was going to end, but it was a thrill nonetheless to see the journey.

    Loved how Kirei flipped upside down and told Gil the truth about the winner's Servant, loved Tokiomi's final scenes with his family, how he was portrayed as a good, honest man before his death, and the whole extra-dramatic shots when Kirei literally stabbed him in the back. Also, very nice touch about that dagger Tokiomi gave Kirei...

    I do agree with some people above: it seems the show will exclusively focus now with Kiritsugu and Kirei; it would have been nice to have some Kariya vs Tokiomi, or some Waver vs. Kayneth speech at least.

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  8. It's the difference in medium I guess. A lof of the internal monologue is certainly missing to understand and sympathize with Kirei. He was in so much struggle in looking for the meaning of the emptiness in his life and the conflict between what he is feeling and the teachings he grew up with. In this war he found Kiritsugu whom he thought was the same empty man as him and wants to confront him about his(Kiritsugu's) reason to fight.
    Gil is interested in him because of the conflicts that Kirei is experiencing. As a king he's experienced all the pleasures of the world and nothing is more boring than a guy who follows the rules and employs such tactics like Tokiomi.
    Kirei however is someone different because of his conflicting thoughts and actions and therefore unpredictable and interesting to him.
    This new team is certainly gonna change the flow of the war, being the ones least interested in the Grail.

    From how the discussion last week went, next episode will be something to look forward to for a certain character. I'm certainly looking forward to it.

    Oh and this episode actually has more significance if you've seen F/SN first. Specifically Rin's scene and the betrayal.

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  9. What really was lost during this episode was Tokiomi monologue during Rin scene. In the novel, that paints him in a more positive light moments before his fateful demise.

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  10. I was under the impression that the decision to meet with Tokiomi and subsequently the demand to remove Kirei from the war were Iri and Maiya's idea, and not Kiritsugu's. Of course, it's up to interpretation since it was never specified, but I'm inclined to believe the request stemmed from the women's desire to keep Kiritsugu safe rather than his cowardice, as you seem to be implying.

    That's just my conjecture though... maybe someone can clear it up

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    1. I don't think it's cowardice, just strategizing. I think Kiritsugu sees Kirei as his greatest threat.

      I really see no evidence that those two make any major decisions independently of him. He listens in to their conversations with a wire, so he certainly knew the meeting was going to take place and planned for it. Why in the world would he cede control over such a critical event as that kind of negotiation when he's been controlling every detail until then?

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  11. Those command seals on Kirei's arm that he stole from his dad...that's got to be more then 3 right? If you could still transfer the command seals after death why didn't Kayneth just shoot the priest first and steal them all? That confused me a bit because I have no idea how the magic in this series works but still a really excellent episode, even though i knew what was going to happen I took guilty pleasure in watching Kirei go to the dark side and stab Tokiomi. And i like Archer much better in his 'casual' clothes he's much more interesting.

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    1. Command Seals are impossible to steal except when the owner gives his consent to give it. That's why Sola threatened Kayneth to give up the Seals before and why Maiya destroyed Sola's hand because those Seals cannot be taken and used anymore.

      As for Risei's collection, the same rules apply but he had put an incantation in the form of the verse in the Bible Jn4:24 to transfer the Seals to another person.
      Only someone who practices religion can understand it. In other words Risei believed that Kirei will be the first to locate his body, understand his last message and take the Seals for safekeeping.

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    2. I see, thanks for clearing that up :) I hope Kirei puts all those seals to good use on Archer. ufufufu~

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  12. Can't say I didn't see this coming but Tokiomi's downfall was sooner than expected, we barely know him D:
    I wonder why did Iri requests for Team Rider's information. Does that mean Kiritsugu intends to target the King of Conquerors next?

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    1. Believe it or not Kiritsugu doesnt know where Waver and Rider resides. Waver didnt have a big mansion like the Tohsaka and Matou, nor did he check in a hotel like Kayneth. Plus Maiya's familiars cant catch up to Rider's chariot. Iri's group was actually terrified at how accurate Kirei's report was about Waver;where he lives, the owners of the house and even the detail that Waver hypnotized the Mackenzie couple.
      Kiritsugu's lack of information plus Rider's unpredictable streak is not good for him so he asked his harem to get the information seeing as how Tokiomi is allied to Kirei and Kirei had Assassin before.

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  13. Oh boy, Kiritsugu is not going to be happy camper when he learns of these developments. Quite frankly, I'd be terrified if I were in his shoes.


    As for the episode itself, I think it would have been more enjoyable had we not expected Tokiomi's death at the hands of Kirei. At least then it would have been shocking.

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  14. I'll explain more about Kirei. Kirei was born broken since birth. He was born evil and finding only beauty in evil. But he had a righteous upbringing by his religious father and a conscience, so he tortured himself all his life to be a good man (to the point of masochist: he cut his own flesh to the bone, worn thorned shoes in a 10 years pilgrimage). He tried EVERYTHING. He even married a woman who had a terminal disease, hoping for a sense of normalcy with her.

    But that never made him happy. Even with the child they had together, he realized he was only happy when she suffered. No matter how much he tried to grasp the happiness most people accomplished, he was unable to reach it. He tried to love that woman so much. So, he decided to say goodbye to his wife and go kill himself. But his wife, who knew of his struggle and his agony, stopped him and committed suicide in his presence, so he could see he could have compassion and feel something about her loss.

    Agonizing, she took his weeping face and brushed his tears away: "See, you do love me." Kirei wiped that memory out of his mind in revulsion because he was crying about missing a chance to kill her himself. This bottled up buried memory reemerged when he discovered his father death. He had a brief flashback even.

    In the Light novels, he began to cry and the tears of regret were about the same: he didn't have the chance to kill him. He's just so completely messed up.

    The anime did a bit of disservice to Kirei's depth in this episode since he's one of the most compelling antagonists I've read about. He was looking forward to chat with his father, who loved him and believed with him (but he could never understand him, just like his wife and his mentor), to guide him in his confusion (his actions with Kariya). His smile when he killed Tokiomi in the novels were more of a goofy bright smile than an evil grin. He was joyous rather than cartoonish evil. They forgot his laughter, how he was snapping in high emotion during his last chat with Tokiomi.

    As for his obsession with Kiritsugu: he mistakenly believed he was an empty man like him (that's more FSN Protagonist, Shirou Emiya) who somehow found his purpose. So he was looking to meet him to guide him in what he should do. Before Gilgamesh got it obviously. He thought he could find a purpose in his purpose.

    When he finds out Kiritsugu isn't a hollow man... but a man who had the normal happiness he always wanted an tossed it away to play the role of 'necessary evil' which seemed assigned to him since birth without choice for the sake of a childish ideal. Oh well, let's say Kirei wouldn't be amused. Nor would Kiritsugu Team after he's done with them.

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  15. Additionally:

    >which makes the anime-only viewer ask, what did Archer see in Kirei that made him so much more interesting as a potential Master than Tokiomi?

    It was pretty obvious novel wise, sadly. Kirei was disobeying Tokiomi's orders behind his back (rushing out the Church to pursuit Kiritsugu) and Gilgamesh caught him. He also realized the wine collection Kirei had rivaled with his own. Really, he dug deeper and noticed his nature since the beginning. He was entertaining and complex, and not a worthless one (Kirei is nearly superhuman in his strength. He can probably beat down his Assassins). That for a King like Gilgamesh who complains how low humanity has become was satisfying. He only needed to nudge him towards the path to give him a suitable companion to keep him from boredom.

    Gilgamesh who is fickle and whimsy never angers or tires of Kotomine. It's a miracle. He's even nice to him (as you can even see in contrast of how he treats everyone else).

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