Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fate/Zero - 18

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So this is your plan eh, Urobuchi-san – turn Kiritsugu into a cute shota voiced by Miyu Irino to make me like him?  Devious, indeed…

It seems odd for F/Z to take an unannounced two-episode break from a very involving storyline to delve into Kiritsugu’s past, but that’s exactly what’s happening.  I’m not all that wild about to be honest – perhaps I’d feel differently if I’d made it through F/SN and had some affection for Kiritsugu as a character, but as it stands there was really nothing that would fundamentally change my view of the character – 17 episodes worth of Fate/Zero have indelibly stamped him as the man he is.  I don’t find him especially charismatic either as a full-grown extremist in the cause of consequentialism, nor as a 12 year-old – especially given that there are so many compelling characters in the cast.  Doing this  as a device to frame Kiritsugu’s character now seems a little bit like closing the barn door after the horses have escaped.

Be that as it may, that’s what ufotable has done and I know this is covered in the LN too, so the episode (and next week’s) must stand or fall on their own merits.  What we have a the young Kiritsugu (Irino Miyu) who lives on a tropical island (somewhere in the Okinawan chain, maybe?) with his magus father Noritaka (Isshin Chiba).  He’s been nicknamed “Kerry” by Noritaka’s assistant Shirley (Takagaki Ayahi) – could there by any name that sounds more odd in Japanese pronunciation? – a cheerful girl in her late teens who’s much closer to the boy Kiritsugu than his father is.  Noritaka is involved in some research to freeze flowers in bloom forever – the effectively stop their time – and he’s had some success, though of course the eventual goal is to use this device on more than flowers.  If Kerrey has any idea that what his father is doing is unnatural and dangerous, we see no signs of it.

This really isn’t a typical F/Z episode in any way, shape of form – it’s more of a zombie apocalypse in terms of plot, and the pacing is quite uneven by Urobuchi’s lofty standard.  There are a lot of call-outs to the TYPE-MOON mythology that haven’t been directly referenced in F/Z before (even cameos apparently) and the whole problem stems from the fact that Noritaka’s research actually involves an elite class of vampires called the “Dead Apostles” (who we’re later told “drink blood to reproduce”) , and when Shirley samples Noritaka’s research in an attempt to prove it works on humans, all hell quite literally breaks loose. A non TYPE-MOON expert isn’t going to get all the nuance here but the gist seems obvious enough – drinking the potion turned Shirley into a monster who’s bite turns others into a monster zombie-style – thus spreading the “disease” across the island in a flash.

None of that is really the point anyway, which is to show us how Kiritsugu ended up the hard and pitiless uber-relativist willing to do anything to anyone to create the universe he sees fit to create.  The message seems clear enough – the key moment was when Shirley, still possessed of a semblance of herself, begged Kerrey to kill her before she could spread the sickness around  the island.  He didn’t, and his hesitation basically condemns the entire island to destruction.  Two TYPE-MOON “plumbers” arrive to clean up – the church “Executors” and the Magus Association, who also place a priority on making sure word about all this ugliness doesn’t leak out to the public. One of them, Natalia Kaminski (Watanabe Akeno) saves Kerrey, and then allows him to put an end to the story by killing his own father rather than flee with him to start the cycle again elsewhere, as the island is cleansed by fire.

Really, this episode was preaching to the choir in every way that matters.  It was aimed at hard-core TYPE-MOON fans, and those for whom Kiritsugu is already a sympathetic character, and that’s perfectly fine.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t leave me a little cold, though – I’m perfectly capable of feeling sympathy for the child (and indeed I did) but that doesn’t fundamentally change who the man is.  It’s interesting in a detached way, and I certainly feel bad that the kind-hearted boy turned into the self-loathing, tragic figure we see later on.  And I can’t help but feel that Natalia is a first-order hypocrite for sending Kerrey to kill Noritaka when she could easily have done so herself, and then later philosophizing that his reasons for doing so were “a terrible reason for a kid to kill his father”.  The point is made – Kerrey had it rough, and he had balls of steel and the sentiment burned out of him young.  It’s worth knowing, but I don’t know if it was worth an entire episode – never mind two, as it appears we’re going to be following up on this flashback next week.

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44 comments:

  1. Yeah, I find this episode just horrible on all fronts. And I began watching this flashback with an optimistic mood.

    This episode had some great potential, but fell into the clichè pitfall that so many million other shows have done. Predictable pacing since the first 10 minutes or less, plus some huge holes in logic all throughout the episode.

    I'm not one of those hardcore fans, so I can't say I got every detail out of this, like the Magus Association's fire leader identity(Tokiomi family, maybe?). The only pros this episode had were Natalia's appearance and Sheryl's cuteness, but versus the overwhelming cons, this episode is by far the worst one in F/Z's records.

    Hopefully Part 2 will be better.

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    1. The "Roy Mustang" is actually Cornelius Alba from Ufotable/TypeMoon's Kara no Kyoukai =)

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    2. "Roy Mustang" ...That's exactly who I was thinking of when I saw the guy, lol :P !

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    3. Wait a minute...I haven't seen any of Kara no Kyoukai, but I guess it's a different franchise than Fate's...So it was all a crossover? The vampires too?!

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    4. Diferent stories set in the same world ( Tipe Moon's nasuverse); something like Baccano and Durarara

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    5. Tsukihime, Kara no Kyoukai, Mahotsukai no Yoru, Fate... all of it is the same universe.

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    6. don't compare to Roy Mustang!!! I love Roy Mustang (sorry that other guy from this episode is a nobody to me and i feel like a missed out on a lot of the explanation :P don't even know what TYPE MOON is)

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  2. The anime is expanding his backstory somewhat yes, but thats really just making up for lost time. They really did a bad job with Kiritsugu's character in the first season, and it has carried over into S2. In the novel with are given a third person viewpoint that shows us the inside of everyone's head. The story begins with Kiritsugu and immediatly tells us what kind of man he is and some (not really details till we get to the flashback this ep) of his history and what he is capable of. Above all else, it shows and tells us that he is a good man who has become a killer to try to save as many lives as possible. This continues throughout the story, showing us his inner workings and thoughts, and the conflict between his Magus killer side and his human side. Thus, when Kiritsugu destroys the El-Melloi couple and Lancer, it doesnt feel like some huge reveal of him as a monster, but as the natural progression of his character.

    The problem is that ufotable did Kiritsugu a disservice by cutting out all his thoughts in season 1. That's why in episode 8 so many people thoughts his sudden emotional moment with Iri was random. Since they haven't shown the man underneath the killer who has been agonizing over leaving his daughter behind and the fact that his wife is going to die as the Grail, his sudden desire to run away seems random and slightly pathetic instead of tragic.

    TLDR: The anime has messed up a lot of Kiritsugu's character, and this extra long flashback is their way of trying to dig themselves out of the hole they dug.

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    1. unfortunately, they dug even deeper. I hardly care him as a character at all, his background story was even more predicable and boring.

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  3. I couldn't help but LOL at the first line of your post XD
    Not even Irino Miyu can save the day huh? I was actually expecting a 4 bullet point post but you managed to churn out 5 paragraphs, very professional indeed, Enzo sama ;)

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  4. Wow, not even Miyu Irino can get Enzo to like Kiritsugu? This is serious shit 0_0

    Some minor mistakes,

    ''make me line him''

    ''In Kerrey has any idea that what his father is doing''

    Also, Dead Apostles can't reproduce at all. The official subs sort of confused the point, but it's more about them spreading the infection through drinking blood, making the zombie like monsters you see roaming around in the episode. Actual Dead Apostles are closer to being like the vampires from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, more intelligent than the ones you seen around here.

    But that doesn't really matter anyways ...

    '' I certainly feel bad that the kind-hearted boy turned into the self-loathing, tragic figure we see later on''

    And I think that's all what this episode was required to do. This isn't a justification for Kiritsugu's code of ethics(lol) but a look into the past of the series main character and what drove him to become the sort of individual he is right now. Is it placed at a strange time? Yes, I would think so, but that doesn't really matter IMO since this episode worked so well as a stand alone story that helps shed more light on Kerry's past and help the audience more with him, even if the don't agree and are repulsed with the sort of man he ended up becoming.

    It probably would've worked better earlier on the series, or as a series of flashbacks, but as the episode on it's own stands, I thought it was fantastic.

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    1. same here, I loved this episode. Honestly, I find the timing of this episode to be pretty good. Kiritsugu wasn't the most terrible human being until the last episode, so this was a good explanation of how someone can become like that. Although I understand why people wouldn't like him as a person, but I think him as a character is very entertaining to watch. He's cold, cool, and evil. I wouldn't label him as an anti-hero just yet (I don't know what his intent is after getting the grail).

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  5. Yeah, I really didn't think it worked that well - I thought it was just OK. Pretty good but mediocre by F/Z standards - more clichés in 22 minutes than the first 4 eps of the season combined.

    Miyu-Miyu was fine, did as much with the character as he could. But I just feel like the anime has made its bed, and they have to lie in it - it's really too late to fundamentally re-shape the way someone without LN F/SN grounding is going to view Kiritsugu.

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    1. now, now, Enzo's hatred of Kiritsugu has already begun affecting his sense of reality, LOL! "Pretty good but mediocre by F/Z standards - more clichés in 22 minutes than the first 4 eps of the season combined". It's pure grade gold stuff.

      This is what you get for dedicating a whole whopping 22 min of episode to Kiritsugu character! Take that writers! How dare them! LOL! This is way too funny.

      I eagerly wait for your Kiritsugu ranting, Enzo. Don't hold back now, the gloves has so far come off that hands of yours that you can't even see them anymore. LOL!! I secretly wish that they drop the ball and dedicate the next episode to the teen Kiritsugu again, just to read Enzo tossing and turning all blue with forming in his mouth! hahaha!!!

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    2. Right, I think your the one who's view of reality is starting to get affected. Enzo hardly showed any sign of ranting in the first place, and now your starting to sound insane ...

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    3. Kiritsugu was hated when the novel came out too.

      That's just his character.

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  6. The_Magus_KillerMay 6, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    Actually, Arimago island might have been a thinly veiled reference to a Filipino island called Alimango island; or it might actually be said Filipino island.

    1. Japan isn't a Christian country, the Philippines is. The nation have churches in almost all 7000 islands of the archipelago, even in the most impoverished ones.

    2. "Kerry", Kiritsugu's butchered nickname, when pronounced by Shirley, has a Visayan (the largest ethno-linguistic group in the Philippines) accent. Filipinos would recognize this.

    3. Japanese language doesn't have /ngo/ in its phonetics. /go/ would have been an acceptable subsitute. So that Alimango Island would be written by Gen Urobuchi as Arimago island.

    4. The Philippines in Fate/Zero is actually just far enough from the Mages' Association not to be noticed. Emiya Noritaka would have found the place ideal for conducting experiments. We Filipinos also welcome foreigners easily.

    source: http://www.baka-tsuki.org/project/index.php?title=Talk:Fate/Zero See the bottom section "About Arimago Island's Translation"

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    1. You're more the expert than me, for sure, so I'll take your word for it.

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    2. Well, he is the Magus Killer, I guess this info is sort of a necessary requirement for the job.

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  7. So basically Enzo is saying: "Nothing really matters, nothing really matters to me~~, any way the win blows~~ I'll still hate Kiritsugu!"

    Note to self, don't ever cross Enzo the blogger. He will never let go! You'd be on his black list and would be hated for life! LOL! How about instead of just saying excuses like "perhaps I’d feel differently if I’d made it through F/SN", at least reading the whole character bio at type-moon wiki or something, so that you know what you're ranting about on the character as a whole? It takes like 2 minutes to do so. Very lazy stuff indeed.

    Anyway glad that the writers are not here to please Enzo, but the general public and the story in general. Unlike him, the public deserves to know the back-story of the anti-hero. The way his character is portrayed it so far really doesn't give much credibility for having him as the main character, so this was much needed indeed. His character was fine as a bad-ass side character (like Saito Hajime or something), but to have him as the main guy, this was absolutely necessary. Otherwise every single viewer will turn to Enzo the Kiritsugu hater, LOL!

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    1. ...

      Enzo didn't say he still hates Kiritsugu, he's saying while he sympathizes with him and understands the chain of events that got him started on his road to become the man he is now, he still can not come to like the figure he sees as being nothing more than an extremist which, guess what, is what exactly adult Kiritsugu is.

      I don't like the adult Kiritsugu in anyway as a person (I think he's interesting as a character, but aside from that I'm what you might call a fan) either, and yet I enjoyed this episode greatly and thought it added a lot to my understanding of his character. Enzo didn't like this episode due to the strange timing and the fact that the show already established who is Kerry in the past 17 episodes. I can see where he is coming from and what his problem is with this episode, and I do not see him as ranting about it in anyway (in fact, he just said it was a good episode, just among the best of the show)

      Also, ''at least reading the whole character bio at type-moon wiki or something'' lol, because reading stuff written stuff by other people is the same as watching by your self right? Also, Enzo is an anime viewer, and it's the anime job to explain things for him and present the events in a good manner so that he can ''get'' what sort of person Kiritsugu is. He isn't obliged to go to a wiki to read info he isn't interested in.

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    2. *not among the best of the series

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    3. Aw cmon Anon, don't you think you're making wrong assumptions? Enzo said this flashback episode didn't prove to be the factor that'd make him wholly simpathyze with Kiritsugu. That's it. To each his own opinion dude.

      Would you rather have him summarize the whole episode wiki-style, and have him say only the stuff he loved about it, like a fanboy drone? Everyone's entitled to their own opinions, it's a free world =)

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    4. I don't think he's required to read wiki just to explain to ppl kiritsugu's character, if anyone's interested, they can do so themselves. He just gives his opinion on what is presented within the 22minutes episode

      Plus you don't need to like Kiritsugu to like the show. Besides I don't like Kiritsugu and can never agree with his methods, same goes for other characters, like Kirei, I think they're both evil, but thats what makes F/Z soo good, cuz it has unpredictable characters that won't act like what we predict the good honorable usual hero would act.

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  8. Call these episodes an interlude before the final stretch.
    But yep I'm a bit spot on with your reactions for this episode. This is actually more of a supplement story rather than an attempt to characterize Kerry in the novels but it turned out the other way in the anime. Cant blame them, the monologues and narrations are gonna have to go when it comes to making a TV anime and a lot of them developed even our kuuurruu Master Ryuunosuke. With that we lost a bit of view inside Kerry's mind about his conflicts and motives in this war. Be that as it may, Kerry certainly is a central character and a look into his past is needed.
    Take this episode how you wish about Kerry's character but for me it served its purpose well.

    Oh and Alimango Island FTW.
    Kerry said that Arimago came from the word crab. That would be Alimango in our language. Plus the people's skin color. So yeah it would seem like they're somewhere in the Phils.

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  9. I thought the episode was okay...

    I am with Arabesque. I find Kiritsugu a somewhat compelling character (who leads to some interesting discussions) but I am not really a fan.

    That being said I didn't mind this flashback as I think it was interesting to learn more about Kiritsugu's past and what made him what he was. However, I was hoping for something more compelling than Zombie Vampires.

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    1. You could say that the Dead apostles "Zombie Vampires" are a Tsukihime cameoin. In theory the gouls are the dead apostle's puppet like familiars but since Shirley cant control even herself, well, al went straight to a typical Romero-Zombie party.

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  10. Having watched only FZ, I can't see how Kiritsugu is worse that any of the Magus houses. In toto, they hardly seem worth the powder it would take to blow them to hell. Am I missing something?

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    1. Why do you think I'm Quixotically rooting for Waver and Rider?

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    2. To be fair, given his immaturity and self-important rant at the very beginning, I suspect that Waver started with the same attitude as the other mages, if not the power to back it up; he was just lucky enough to get Iskander to give him more perspective. Had he summoned, eg., Berserker, he could very well have turned into the same sort of man as Tokiomi or El-Melloi.

      All of the "proficient" mages - Tokiomi, El-Melloi, and Kiritsugu - appear to suffer from an inability to get out of their own little world and think that maybe other people with different experiences might have different opinions and theirs is just as valid: Tokiomi inflicting his magus priorities on his family without realizing how that feels from a non-magus (Kariya) perspective, El-Melloi not getting that Lancer's code of honor is every bit as important to him as the magus' pride is to El-Melloi, and Kiritsugu being traumatized by his childhood and unable to get away from the "world is a horrible place must save it!" mindset.

      Contrast that with Waver, who's young enough to be influenced by Iskander, or Kotomine, who spends time searching for who he is (even if who he is is not a very nice person), they've have already gained something from their experiences in this war. Maybe not entirely a coincidence that both their Servants are leaders with high Charisma, while Kiritsugu just flat-out ignores Saber.

      Played FSN, do not care for Kiritsugu due to his philosophy, but I think he makes sense as a character. The sort of person who tries to save the world by inflicting a magical solution on everybody whether they like it or not (how would that work, anyway? Aggression is removed from human nature?) has probably given up on the idea that people can improve on their own.

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    3. Totally agree with you!! ;)

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  11. I really liked this ep because it broke the tension of the series in a kind of 'calm before the storm' way and i think it will make the final showdown that will obviously involve kiritsugu alot more meaningful/potent. The episode itself was great-I was totally emotionally invested in what was happening on screen- we got to see some BEAUTIFUL scenery that was alot happier+ brighter then usual at the beginning-i always enjoy back story- and that whole vampire thing made a really good surprise twist and overall I loved it because i was like deer caught in headlights who couldn't look away even though i knew it was heading towards tragedy from the beginning i loved every dam moment! :) I'm bias though because really like Kiritsugu, maybe because i have a tendency to get attached to tragic figures and i find them much more interesting. That moment he thought about running away with Iri way back in Season 1 didn't feel out of place with me and neither does this ep like people are suggesting. I thought it was always pretty clear (also through his dialogue and actions)what kind of tragic conflicted guy Kiritsugu is. Kirei was far more enigmatic. Although i can totally understand why some people would disagree with his philosophy and thus inevitably dislike his character since that philosophy is what makes him up ad its who he is.

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  12. I mostly agree with comments here, with the caveat that as a novel reader, I did think it was a fair adaptation. The anime has been extremely faithful to the novels, so I didn't expect that they'd diverge here, though they may have taken a little longer with this flashback than I'd have ideally liked.

    That said, I always thought this part of the novels was written half-heartedly, as though the author wasn't all that interested himself, but had to write it in for whatever reason (maybe to explain the whole hero of justice thing).

    As an adaptation, though, I thought it did a good job with the material. The section with the flashback to Shirley, as Kiritsugu chambers the bullet was lovely, and though I initially questioned postponing this interlude until after Kirei's contract, it makes the parallels between them stronger (both having "just" killed their fathers, as well as some material presumably to come next ep, maybe).

    As for the drinking blood to reproduce, that was an unintentionally confusing line, which I'll (anonymously, ha ha) take the blame for here. I had to edit that one down, as I recall it, and I figured most people understand the basic vampire/zombie mechanics of bite = new monster. So I used the word "reproduce" as a shorthand, but I admit that seeing it out of context now, it does seem slightly confusing. Apologies for any misunderstandings; that was all me, not the translator (who had a much more accurate, albeit longer, explanation).

    Enzo, though I also find Kiritsugu (and Kirei, for that matter) fairly unlikeable except as a concept, I did find the second half of the interlude more compelling than this half--which felt like any number of chapters from fantasy novels/media. I hope you'll enjoy the second half more, at any rate. (I should also thank you here for your keen ear for dialogue--the translator and I have worked very hard on that for the Nico release, and I'm pleased at the lines you've singled out, though all real credit must go to the author, of course. And the reproduction thing here, well, that was a very fair flawed line to point out.)

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    1. Thanks - I'm quite honored that you stopped by to comment, and thank you for the clarification on the "reproduction" line.

      Thanks also for your insights on this section of the novels - it's interesting to hear from someone who knows the material intimately. I'll certainly go into the second part fully expecting it to be a return to form for the series.

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    2. Whoa there, Nelly! It's still going to be a Kiritsugu flashback, so let's keep our expectations in check! Uh, unless you really like Kiritsugu flashbacks, which would surprise me--oh, never mind. Just joking...mostly...

      Hey, and no problem. You've gotten me horribly addicted to your blogging of various series (even ones I don't work on!), and it made more sense to comment here than to spam you with PMs at ASuki, since others had the same complaint about that line.

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  13. "perhaps I’d feel differently if I’d made it through F/SN and had some affection for Kiritsugu as a character, but as it stands there was really nothing that would fundamentally change my view of the character"

    Hmm, no, I've watched F/SN and I still feel no sympathy for Kiritsugu as a character. I'm also kinda disappointed that we get such a huge flashback scene (next episode too it seems) cos I was really looking forward to the story now that Kirei knows Irisviel's hideout. I dunno maybe it would've been better to have this flashback in earlier episodes and not this late.

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  14. I think it's fine if anyone feel detached or doesn't like Kiritsugu at all-fundamentally this(and next) episode served to show how Kiritsugu become the man he is now. It wasn't meant to made people to feel sympathize with him, if that was the intent then they will show this earlier than the Lancer episode. Basically it is just how Kiritsugu reached his philosophy of killing few to save many and using underhanded tactics to do it.

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  15. For a minute there I thought I was watching some new Resident Evil flick.

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  16. I've been expecting this episode since they started showing flashbacks of the "origins bullet" where he had to grind up his ribs to produce. Was really looking forward to it too. The visuals for the fire was quite brilliant to say the least...

    I loved the episode! The ending of the previous one really made me wonder what kind of boy kiritsugu was, and this episode delivered what I wanted to see.

    Doesn't hurt to add a zombie apocolaypse too, one of my favorite themes. hehe

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  17. The_Magus_KillerMay 6, 2012 at 11:24 PM

    Takagaki Ayahi = voiced Shirley in Fate/Zero episode 18 = also voiced Desil Galette in Mobile Suit Gundam AGE. Haha. Yurin L’Ciel and Woolf Enneacle-taichou have been avenged once more. Do we need a SUPAH PAIROTTO here? XD

    Imagine if this happened (omake after Kiritsugu spots Shirley in dead apostle mode):

    Emiya “Kerry” Kiritsugu: "People’s lives…ARE NOT TOYS!!!"

    *Kiritsugu goes into an X-rounder rage with the silver dagger a la Flit in his Gundam AGE-1 Spallow* LOL.

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  18. I can't help but feel that you're constantly misusing the word "relativist". Kiritsugu is not a moral relativist. He's a moral absolutist utilitarian who believes that absolutely nothing can possibly outweigh the greater good of keeping the most people alive. Thus, kill the few to save the many. Kill the few mercilessly, because honor is worth nothing at all to the lives of the many. Frankly, moral relativism would involve giving more weight to the beliefs of others, not less. I can only assume that a moral relativist killed your dog or something.

    That said, I don't disagree with your interpretation of the episode. The pacing seems quite out of place, and throwing in more world-building jargon at this point is never a good idea.

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    1. Technically, he's a consequentialist more than anything, which is the term I normally use for him.

      And no, I've never had a dog. And in fact, many of Kiritsugu's core principles are in fact neatly in line with moral relativism so that label is perfectly valid. COnsequentialist is just more to the point.

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  19. Is it really that hard to write people as people? I must have groaned all the second half of the episode.

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  20. This probably won't be seen, but I've just read your write-up on episodes 16-19, and I must say that some of your assertions about Kiritsugu are incredibly unfair and biased. Yes, your blog, your opinion; when it interferes with your ability to compose a strong, reflective post, it becomes a problem. The best way I can explain without going into rant is through example, so take Gilgamesh, for example. He's not a character I'm particularly fond of, yet his scenes with Kirei, such as those in the previous episode, aren't any less enjoyable for me. In other words, his presence doesn't and shouldn't discourage me from thoroughly analyzing the scene or episode for what it is. I think you're so caught up in the idea of disliking Kiritsugu, that you fail to properly asses the episode as a whole. This particular blog post was probably the worst offense. The episode was centered on Kiritsugu, but it's purpose wasn't to change who Kiritisugu is, or how we perceive him. Rather, it was to detach us from the high-tension events of the Holy Grail War, and offer an explanation as to how Kiritsugu became the man he is now. I think it's folly to watch this episode and claim its sole purpose was to invoke sympathy in it's viewers, and while that may have been a minor objective, there was much more to take from this. Don't let your biases cloud you judgment, because it will sorely affect your writing capabilities.

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