Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fate/Zero - 21

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I think in order to enjoy F/Z to its fullest, you need to be either a major sadist or a major masochist.  Happily though, either would probably work.

It’s not like he ever makes it easy to forget, but Urobuchi-san certainly likes to remind you with brute force just who’s writing what you’re watching.  There’s an undeniable genius to the man and what he does, but I do sort of wonder if there’s a point of diminishing returns for some viewers – myself, anyway – in watching him torture his characters existentially.  If you enjoy watching people suffer, great – and if you enjoy torturing yourself by watching others suffer, great.  But if neither of those things is true, I find myself turning half of myself off watching his stuff as a kind of self-defense mechanism, and just enjoying him on an intellectual level.

There’s no denying that Fate/Zero knows what buttons to push, and pushes them well.  The whole business with giving Saber a motorcycle is flat-out pandering, but it’s such good pandering – it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the cool factor of a moe-fied King of Knights surging into battle on a supercharged rice rocket, Excalibur at the ready.  Saber is really Fate/Zero at its most free and elemental, with most of the higher thought-processes turned off and pure adrenaline and righteousness kicked in.  I’ve certainly long-since realized that I was fooled when I thought she was the main character at first in S1, but she’s undeniably the show horse.

Thing is, though, when you dig a little deeper Saber is fundamentally king of boring.  Her righteousness and sense of honor certainly makes her stand out in this rogues’ gallery – especially with Lancer destroyed by Kiritsugu – but her world view is (as quite correctly pointed out by The Magus Killer) simplistic and rigid.  It’s interesting as a counterpoint to Kiritsugu’s consequentialism but once you’ve got the handle on it, you pretty much know what Saber is going to do in any given situation.  That’s why Rider and Waver are so essential.  Rider, in addition to being the most entertaining character in the cast, actually has a rather sophisticated and well-considered philosophy – a blend of ruthless ambition, a kind of optimistic self-realization, and even some idealism.  And Waver is quite unlike anyone in the cast – fragile and naïve, but also possessed of a sort of resourcefulness that his weakness has forced on him, and that his more powerful rivals lack.

The chase scene with Rider and Saber was certainly one of the more glamorous action sequences of any anime this year.  I’m more of a hand-drawn fan as a general rule but if you love your CGI, this is about as sterling as it gets – other studios could take lessons from ufotable, who know that reliance on CGI doesn’t mean you don’t have to think about stuff like choreography and scene composition.  The interesting element for me is: at what point did Saber figure out that Rider hadn’t taken Irisviel after all?  She obviously knew it by the end, but I suspect she knew it as soon as she got a good look at the chariot – I think deep down she suspected that kidnapping wasn’t Rider’s style anyway.  From Rider’s perspective he’s almost as obsessed with Saber as Berserker is, though obviously for very different reasons.  I know he loves the heat of battle, but to think he could defeat Excalibur without the use of Ionioi Hetairoi was the height of arrogance – but he seems resolute on saving that final usage for the Servant he considers the real threat.  What would he have done had Saber not chosen to break off her attack, leaving he and Rider with no worse problem than having to walk back to town?

The sadist/masochist conundrum is in full force when it comes to Kariya.  His main purpose in the story seems to be to suffer – at the hands of his vile and evil father, at the hands of Tokiomi, now at the hands of Kirei.  Gilgamesh has clearly fully awakened the sadist gene in his new disciple, who’s finally found his purpose in life – to make others suffer (and oh, don’t the wine taste sweeter).  I can’t take any pleasure in watching Kariya suffer – he’s not a well-developed character in the anime, but his motives for joining the Grail War were arguably the most selfless of the bunch, and no one could deny he’s paid the price in suffering.  It’s as if Urobuchi couldn't abide the notion of Kariya being truly selfless though, and that torturing him wasn’t enough – he had to plant the notion that his love for Aoi wasn’t real love, but greed – he wanted to possess her, plain and simple.  That’s the inescapable conclusion from the symbolism of the scene in the Church, one of the most depressing and bleak in Urobuchi’s impressive catalogue.  One of Aoi’s daughters is still being tortured by Zouken, and the other is now an orphan.  Suck on that, Kariya, and taste true suffering.

It’s hard to decide who to hate most here, but Zouken would certainly be making a run if he had a little more screen time.  Kirei has gone full Sith mode, with Archer gleefully pulling his strings.  Archer is the puppet master of mischief here, making everyone dance to his tune – surely with the grander victory in mind, but also because he just really enjoys it.  Meanwhile I still get the sense that Kiritsugu is in a very uncomfortable place – the master of control watching things begin to spiral out of control.  I can count more surprised and dismayed facial expressions by the adult Kiritsugu in the last two eps than the first 17 combined, perhaps reflecting the growing panic on his part that as the endgame heats up, things are behaving for more unpredictably than he’d hoped.  His security blanket is dead, Iris’ time in her current form seems close to ending, and he’s in a state of full opposition with his servant – it’s hard to imagine Saber doing anything of consequence he asks unless Kiritsugu uses a precious command seal.    I suppose it’s time to find out how good Kiritsugu is at improvising, and I suspect that’s not his preferred modus operandi.

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32 comments:

  1. I think that Urobuchi kinda summarizes here his own mindset pretty well.

    http://www.baka-tsuki.org/project/index.php?title=Fate/Zero:Volume_1_Postface_1

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    1. Thanks, I have seen that... Doesn't really answer the question of viewer fatigue with his works, though.

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    2. Relevant quote from AS thread about the man (the interview is sort of filled with spoilers for the show, so this is the most relevant part)

      When I try to write love, it only turns into horror. Thinking about it with a clear head, feeling such deep emotions to some other person you don't even know is truly a terrifying thing. Also, I wonder if love isn't a manifestation of madness in some way. These thoughts gave birth to that work. On the other hand, I realized that displaying "love as a reward" is impossible for me.

      So yeah ...

      Also wanted to say, http://lh3.ggpht.com/-O5cTv_KrGxg/T8FiS7oyzfI/AAAAAAABPhU/YT7hOO-JnbU/s1600-h/Commie-Fate--Zero---21-9CF47580.mkv_%25255B47%25255D.jpg

      The man has some pretty funny faces lol

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    3. He's good at deadpan expressions.

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  2. hmmm I thought Kariya loved Sakura and not so much of Aoi? Okay so that sounds a bit pedophile as Sakura is a child AND the flashback scene of Aoi face while Kariya was going berserk after told that he never loved anything was misleading by stupid Aoi (yes I have no sympathy for the dead woman. boo~~). Still. Still! I think he went all that trouble to save Sakura since he loves her. Why else you go into a suicide mission to save someone else's child? Sakura is Tokiomi's blood child, the man Kariya hates with all mights. I don't get the logic beyond saving your sworn enemy's blood child in exchange of your life just because you love her mother. No. The only logical thinking for me would be if Kariya actually loved the child in danger himself. Now I do understand that Kariya do ultimately restore happy family among three women, but I still don't buy that Kariya actually loved Aoi.

    BTW, darn it, the visual of this show continues to put shame onto the rest of the shows and beyond. Heck, it's better than almost all feature anime films. Where is all the money coming from?? They are seriously going banana with it. If Hyou-ka's visual is pretty and adorable, this is seriously 2010s. Very good indeed. I wonder whether there will be another rivaling this visual effects any time soon (I can't recall seeing one from the past. No Guilty Crown wasn't this good, even purely in visual effect departments).

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    1. oh wait. I meant to write: "...the flashback scene of Aoi face while Kariya was going berserk after told "by stupid Aoi" that he never loved anything was misleading...". I was distracted!

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    2. Also "...Now I do understand that Kariya do ultimately 'want to' restore happy family among the three women."

      Man, I gotta start reading what I wrote while I was distracted before submitting! No more footnote after this one.

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    3. You may have LN insight that I lack, but the vibe I got was definitely that Kariya loved Aoi, too.

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    4. GE, oh no, I have no idea of what goes on LN. In fact, I still don't get what LN exactly is. All I know is that it stands for Light Novel or something, but don't know what that means exactly. Is there a such thing as "Heavy Novel"? Anyway so my reasoning was based on my logic. I did dig up about Rider last week as I thought that was uncharacteristic move for him and it turned out other posters were right on Rider being innocent on killing the bob-hair woman.

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    5. Nah, Kariya definitely loves Aoi - and hates Tokiomi. He also loves Sakura and Rin in a paternal sense. His fantasy is to replace Tokiomi as the "Dad" in their little family, although he knows it's impossible. He fails at logic and tends to act without thinking things through. His problem is that he puts Aoi on a pedestal and forgets she has feelings too (basically that she truly loves Tokiomi and her happiness is intrinsically linked to his), which led to her accusation that Kariya's wasn't really love. He got involved in the Grail War in order to save Sakura because he loves Aoi AND Sakura (and Rin), because he wants to kill Tokiomi, and also out of a sense of guilt on behalf of the Matou clan (Sakura was his replacement after all). I imagine his plan was to die in a blaze of glory, leaving Aoi eternally grateful to him (and without Tokiomi :p).

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  4. Sorry, but sort of obligatory:

    is this ff7?

    &

    Sword Fights on Motorcycles! And Chariots!
    ''when you dig a little deeper Saber is fundamentally king of boring''

    A pun or a typo? Either way, lol

    I think the issue with the fatigue has more to do with Urobuchi's writing being very emotionally exhausting. Yes, it's very effective, brilliantly written tragedy, but after a while, you are going to have to switch gears into distancing yourself from it all, since your emotions can only take so much beating after a while. It's a shame, since I think that this episode was probably a return to form for the show (multiple focus on the cast with constant advancement to the plot and character arcs with each scene) after the extensive focus Kerrytugu had had for the last several weeks (which were pretty great a individual episodes IMO, but their placement this late in the series and without a good leeway was obviously a mistake).

    On the actual episode, the fight between Rider and Saber was pretty fantastic, and it was worth the wait to see the much promised Saber bike in action (also a bit of nationalistic pride with seeing the King of the Britons kick so much ass. SUCK ON SMOKE ALEXANDER, OUR KING IS THE FASTEST THERE IS!) Ahem, A lot of it also had to with the VA (which I will probably go into much detail once the series is over, seriously an ensemble cast here) but also from the dialogue and how much it reflected on the best qualities of the fighters involved, in particular Rider and Waver. (Also, the bit where Saber HINSHIN'd her bike was pretty epic, even if it was a rejected Honda TV advert lol)

    Now Kerrytugu's part were as you said, a good reflection to how he felt, which goes back to the point back with Kirei's betrayal of Tokiomi and his wide smile back then. I think that the reason why the staff of the aime went into painful detail to make both of them as facially and emotionally stoic is to help place more emphasis on this part of the show, where everything is going to hell and we see how Kerry completely breaks down and have his panic expressions have more effect (since they are so out of character for the usually calm and collected Kerry) and the more mischievous Kirei. Pretty great stuff.


    ''but to think he could defeat Excalibur without the use of Ionioi Hetairoi was the height of arrogance ''
    ''What would he have done had Saber not chosen to break off her attack''

    She wouldn't be Saber is didn't, and he wouldn't be Rider if he wasn't. Remember, King of Knights, chivalrous to a fault. King of Conquers, arrogant knows no bounds (you said it before in regards to Lancer (I think on RC on one of the comment on episode 9) that these characters, these Heroic Souls, they can't act against the legends that glorifies them, they can't break the codes they lived and died with and for. It;s in their very being)

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  5. ''It’s as if Urobuchi couldn't abide the notion of Kariya being truly selfless though, and that torturing him wasn’t enough – he had to plant the notion that his love for Aoi wasn’t real love, but greed – he wanted to possess her, plain and simple''

    Hm, I had a different image. Mainly, the inclusion of the rape-like imagery (at times like this, I'm still reminded that Ei Aoki-san had made his directorial debut with Girl's Bravo ... of course, unlike with that show, here it's certainly intended to make the viewer feel repulsed at what is going on) I think it had more to do with his love becoming more of an obsession, to the point where it ended up unleashing on her in a very feral, animalistic manner filled with nothing but the desire to well ... hurt her? Force her to accept him? Silence her to keep his image of her pure?

    The thing is though, I think that the lesson to be taken from Kariya's story is this: Think before you leap. In a lot of ways, Kariya made a lot of mistakes throughout the course of the show, from him going to his ''Father'' and agreeing to undergo what can only be described as willing torture at the hands of an evil, evil man, to not explaining the situation to clearly to Aoi and Takiomi, to not thinking there might be better ways to solve the probelm, to not having a clear goal ... Kariya sort of wanted to play the hero, but he never really understood the stakes in play or the end game, had no tools to help him, and ended up suffering for it.

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    1. I really agree with your points on Kariya. He did have a noble cause to join the war...But damn! He sure lets emotion get the better of him throughout the entire series! I don't know if the LN is clearer about while it never come across him to actually DISCUSS Sakura's situation with Aoi or Tokiomi. Tokiomi might place more value in being a mage more than being a father, but perhaps he doesn't know how badly Sakura is being treated in the Matou household. Also, Kariya never consider how Aoi (or Sakura and Rin) might feel in case he actually succeeds in killing Tokiomi (who seems nice enough to his family in general, apart from the 'giving Sakura away' thing.)

      Also... He went along with some random 'judge' who suddenly takes his side for no reason whatsoever... I can't see any other master going along with it without any backup plan.

      I still pity him a hell lot, and he sure has the bad luck of meeting despicable people way above his league. However, he also makes his situation worse...

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    2. He couldn't tell anyone the truth after the worms were put inside him. It was literally impossible for him to tell the truth after that point because Zouken would know and by the time he found out that they gave Sakura to him it most likely wouldn't change a thing as the worms were already inside her.

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  6. LN-related, but LN-Iskander was hardly being foolhardy upon challenging Saber's Excalibur. He knew he couldn't survive it, and was betting on the speed of his chariot to overcome the speed of her draw. He gauged the odds as 50-50, and in the end, it was the necessity of protecting Waver that caused him to abandon the chariot.

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  7. So like someone please tell me why Kariya cant just knife that zouken guy? It certainly would be alot easier than self torture or fighting masters who are out of his league.

    Poor rin is now an orphan...

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    1. Well you saw this episode why Kariya can't knife Zouken. Kotomine tried it, and it was completely ineffective. Zouken's body is made up of a collection of disgusting worms. Unless you can completly obliterate him at once, he can't be killed. Even if you could, he has other disgusting methods of survival that I won't get into. Zouken is so sick and fck'd up, that Kotomine the sadist troll thinks "At least I'm not Zouken!"

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    2. From the time Sakura has been violated by the worms, there is no escape for her. Zouken controls the worms and can kill her as well as Kariya if they decide to escape. Plus Zouken is someone who is freaking hard to kill for reasons but any more is a spoiler.

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    3. Oh yeah one more thing; Rin is an orphan, or so you'd think, but she has KOTOMINE KIREI as her guardian now!!! =O

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  8. This is what I like about Fate/Zero, it doesn’t bother with sugar coating and shows us the darkest side of human in its entirety, not very common in mainstream media and certainly not anime. Kariya’s a wretched and miserable soul and as you said, his motives for joining the war were arguably the most noble, but does retribution or justice has any meaning in the face of war? The human beings can be despicable creatures and while it’s not something viewers would like to believe, it is the unfortunate truth. Urobuchi sensei’s superb writing handled this delicate topic extremely well and I dare say it could have been much more distasteful in less capable hands.

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    1. I don't disagree with anything you say - rarely has someone who hates humanity so passionately written about it so brilliantly. But for me, fatigue sets in - it's happened with every Urobuchi project I've experienced - and I have to shut myself off emotionally and limit my appreciation to the intellectual level.

      What I feel for his writing - and for F/Z at the moment - is much closer to admiration than enjoyment. I still enjoy it, and it awes me sometimes, but I don't think I can say I love it.

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  9. In full agreeance with many of your points. I actually stopped on the scene when Aoi stepped into the church, because I knew what was about to unfold and it was painful. Had to tell myself that it would be insulting to the writer and director to skip through the pain and anguish, and had to force myself to watch that scene in full.

    The scene was very well executed (like much of the rest of F/Z), when Kariya was strangling Aoi. It certainly would have been easy to just have him screaming at her while strangling her, but instead we get a glimpse inside his mind; him calmly explaining his view, before slowly breaking down, while we catch flashes of the horror unfolding. It really left a great impact, as I imagined him screaming those same words hysterically while I was watching, giving quite the contrast.

    As for the chase, I had to turn off my logic and reason, and just lose myself in the cool of the Saber/Rider chase. I mean, it's pretty dumb, having a rocket/magic powered motorbike, what what the heck! I had to actively suspend my disbelief to thoroughly enjoy that scene, but it was worth it.

    You raise an interesting point about Saber being boring though; I was chatting with a friend back when Game of Thrones season 1 just ended, and he brought up a very good point: Eddard Stark was a boring character. He's upright and honourable, but that makes him boring. If he had lived, he would have played a very boring role in season 2, so storywise, killing him off was probably the best thing they could have done. I suppose that Saber is playing a very similar character: one of honour, but it makes for a boring character.

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  10. I definitely agree with a lot of your points. I feel when watching Fate Zero (or any of Urobuchi's works) it's best to not get emotionally involved and just be an outside observer. His works are always interesting but I can't find myself really caring about the characters when I know they are just going to suffer in the end.

    Rider & Waver are also my favorite team by far, too bad they won't be around much longer I am sure. I guess I am glad they lasted this long (even though their appearances in the 2nd season were greatly reduced).

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  11. first half: AMAZING, EYES GLUED TO THE SCREENE HECK YEEEAHH!
    second half: omg, couldnt watch when Kariya was breaking down, i was literally breaking down myself but when he started to strangle Aoi, i was disgusted with him and realized his true "love" for Aoi :S

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  12. Kariya truly is the epitome of that saying, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

    The most selfless character in the show has now transformed himself into a homicidal maniac. He's completely broken now. Why does Urobuchi have so much trouble showing his characters mercy? It's kind of a funny thing when Zouken, the disgusting creature that he is, is clearly having the time of his life. In fact, he's probably going to get a HAPPY END. WTF, Urobuchi.

    "If you enjoy watching people suffer, great – and if you enjoy torturing yourself by watching others suffer, great. But if neither of those things is true, I find myself turning half of myself off watching his stuff as a kind of self-defense mechanism, and just enjoying him on an intellectual level."

    I can certainly sympathize with this sentiment. Once Fate/Zero is finished I think I'm going to have to watch all four seasons of Natsume over again.

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  13. The episode where Kirei finally learned to stop doubting himself and realized how much fun it was to troll for the lulz, and while sipping fine wine at that as well.

    Speaking of trolling, it sure takes a troll in Zouken to recognize Kirei, another troll-in-training. No wonder they never got along well in FS/N.

    And of course, Kirei, Zouken and Gilgamesh are all just proxies for the greatest troll of them all: Urobuchi Gen himself. As duly noted by Enzo, even the usually calculating Kiritsugu is starting to feel like he's getting trolled.

    I don't know whether it was intentional or not, but when Kariya did his heavy breathing after strangling Aoi (especially with the pan-up shot of Aoi's nice figure and her exposed thighs), I just couldn't help but LOL.

    So join me in raising your hands if your mind is as dirty as mine. ;)

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    1. Well, it takes one to know one so Zouken was able to sense the troll/evilness in Kirei. Kirei's just tsun at the moment to admit it, that's why he attacked him lol

      And there's actually some parts of the conversation left out but only one part is important that will kind of affect the next episodes. I really dunno why they left it out. It would take about 30 seconds or a minute to mention it.
      But well, with the next episode title they might do something about it though.

      And they kinda oversexualized the strangling part(it was just a regular strangling in the novels) but it made the scene even more
      intense. Guilty as charged though for kind of enjoying it lol.
      *goes to grab the gifs of Aoi in /a/*

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  14. "There’s an undeniable genius to the man and what he does, but I do sort of wonder if there’s a point of diminishing returns for some viewers – myself, anyway – in watching him torture his characters existentially."

    On the one hand, yes, the characters are falling and failing due to human flaws. On the other hand, the plot is stacking the deck rather heavily against them, so it is difficult not to not feel that the tragedies to be somewhat contrived.

    Zouken certainly set up the situation so that Kariya would fail, by making him summon Berserker who he can't really support with his poor mana supply and can't communicate with, but it's having Kotomine in the background giving him the extra push that exacerbates it all, which is hardly something Kariya himself could control. The pattern repeats in other cases - Lancer just happens to be summoned by an arrogant moron with the exact same situation as his past lord, who happens to not die from the Origin Bullet but is crippled, allowing Sola to interfere; Tokiomi happens to get a Servant with the ability to troll his student until he turns to the Dark Side, said student happens to get his father's Command Seals after the father was murdered, etc. Certain events are playing off the characters' personalities and flaws, but others are just blatantly set up that way by plot contrivance.

    Kariya might not be seeing Aoi clearly, but he's also the only character who seems to care about Sakura's situation instead of turning a blind eye. I'll always wonder if he might've been able to turn his jealousy into something positive and productive had he gotten a sane Servant (Saber, Lancer, Rider) he could have talked with and gotten a bit more perspective. Come to think of it Saber and Lancer in particular would probably have some interesting things to say about love triangles.

    Also agree that it gets emotionally tiring after awhile. Sure, it's "realistic" to show the horrors of the human condition, but there are also many good things that happen in real life, and personally I'd rather my entertainment involve themes that are a bit less nihilistic. "Dark" does not necessarily equate to more meaningful or interesting.

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  15. Ha ha, it is actually quite an exercise to consider FZ and GoT together. Both adaptations of fairly amibtious material, though in different ways. And both stories where I don't really think it's so easy to define a clear-cut "right" way versus "wrong way" of acting or thinking.

    I suppose it's easy to go with Rider and Waver, but that's as much because they're likeable as because either of them initially stands for things that are *so* much more clearly right than anyone else. Now, both show growth and maturation over the course of the series, so in that respect, I think they're extremely critical characters, thematically.

    Not much to really say about Kariya, honestly. I've never found him all that interesting of a character, and thought that they filmed the final snapping of his sanity about as well as you could. I do feel sorry for him, but in the way I feel sorry for a dying puppy. There's nothing I can really do, and there's nothing particularly redemptive about the death.

    As for Zouken... Well, I was looking forward to the scene with Kirei for quite a while now. And ... I don't know. I guess I'm a little disappointed. It was nifty watching Kirei meet his kind of match here; but having the material omitted (and it is not particularly spoilery because it never seems to recur in any form, except maybe the FSN game, which I haven't played) that Zouken most likely has seen every Grail War up until now, is kind of important. And there are ramifications to that--reasons why he wanted to participate in this War, besides watching Kariya suffer (though that was certainly the main reason), but which I will not speak to, as those would almost certainly be spoilers, though I doubt that they'll be able to get into all the history.

    I don't know if in the game Kirei ever gets his showdown with Zouken, but I know I really wish he had one in FSN...

    In the meantime, as the title for next ep suggests, we're really getting down to it, now. Not sure how many eps this runs for, but we're almost exactly halfway through volume 4. Lotsa action from here out.

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