Wednesday, October 19, 2011

:anime: First Impression:: Fate/Zero Ep. 2

<--To Fate/Zero, Ep. 1 | To Fate/Zero, Ep. 3-->

Fate/Zero, Ep. 2 - "The Fake First Shot"
[Nico Nico Douga] [Crunchyroll]

We get to know a bit more about the summoned beings in Fate/Zero's second episode, which yielded some facts I was suspecting beforehand, one being that the Servants are actually real-life (or based on real-life) figures from history (Warning: link contains some spoilers). The episode's beginning illustrates this with a humorous reflection by King Iskander ("Rider", who is based on the Arabic account of Alexander the Great), who expresses amazement at the diminutive size of the land he spent his life trying to conquer when shown the area on a world map. The idea of historical figures being used as magical pawns is a neat, awe-inspiring deal, but it is when his Master, Waver, brings up the matter of the Holy Grail that another, more important aspect is highlighted: the "Servants" aren't entirely subservient.

Rather, the dynamic could be better described as a "partnership" than a "master-and-slave" one, as the Servants display a sense of autonomy and individualistic thinking (though each Master has just three "Command Spells" at their disposal to enforce obedience). They are actual, free-thiniking people, after all, and this was no more apparent than in the way Iskander talked of their (his) aspirations and when he warns Waver that "there is no room for two rulers" if he is aspiring to rule the world, too (luckily for him, he only wishes for acceptance by his peers, which doesn't impress the king). It's another interesting wrinkle to the "summoning fantasy tale" that continues to make Fate/Zero such an enjoyable watch.

Out of all of the given personas, perhaps the most notable and best is that of "Saber", whose real name is Arthuria Pendragon--here, the true King Arthur of legend. How the stoic blonde became regarded as the legendary male king of England is given a sensible and believable explanation, if not a melancholic one, certainly worth making a good prequel story on. Yet similar to Waver and Iskander, she and her Master, Kiritsugu, do not see eye-to-eye on things, though both vie for peace--made all the more worse by their distant and hardened personalities, leading to a lack of communication between the two.

Not suffering from a dearth of chemestry are the new duo introduced in the episode, Master Ryuunosuke and Servant Gilles de Rais/Bluebeard (Caster), based on the real-life French baron and compatriot of Joan of Arc. "Gurobuchi" rears his head during this encounter, where the young, unscrupulous serial killer manages to unwittingly summon the bug-eyed Bluebeard, thinking he was summoning a demon with the blood of a family he had just slain--save for the sole-surviving little boy, who he wanted to test its killing skills on. Ryuunosuke has no clue about the Grail and couldn't care less when ask of his intent by the man, who frees the bound-and-gagged little boy and shows him the way out, much to his Master chagrin. The entire scene is unsettling and sick--as it's supposed to be--but is perhaps so to a fault, as it is a little too uneasy to sit through (perhaps not BLOOD-C Ep. 12-level sick, but still not the most pleasant thing ever).

In spite of that, it is still a thoroughly good episode, capped off with the surprising first casualty of Kirei's Assassin servant, who he sends to attack Tousaka's estate. He does his best channeling his inner Ocean's Twelve by weaving through the tight magic security in a neat, slickly-animated scene, only to be viciously brought down in impressive (if not morbidly-amusing--I blame the previous scene and BLOOD-C) fashion by Tousaka's Servant, the all-powerful Archer (hey, it's not like Kirei intended to be in competition with Tousaka, either). And while we didn't get to know much of anything about Kirei's Servant, the episode did seem to insinuate that the particular Servants summoned by the Masters seem more dependent on what their personal desires (and, sometimes, personalities) are than chance, which should yield some pretty interesting relationships and interactions as time goes on.

One of my favorites…

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