After the breakneck action of the tail end of the last two episodes, this show finally slows the fuck down and decides to explain just what the fuck is going on. As it turns out, there’s quite a bit going on though interestingly, the emphasis on this episode is shared between divulging the history of the Holy Grail War and delving deeper into Shirou’s mind and his own reasons for participating in the war. Both are fairly interesting and toss in some adorable moments from Rin and Saber and the whole episode pretty much flashed by. We are also introduced to an interesting ‘fake priest’ Kotomine Kirei, who explains most of the key concepts in this War to us.
There is conflict throughout this episode and I don’t mean physical conflict (which was totally absent this time around, though there promises to be a whole bunch in the next episode). The main conflict I sense was in our protagonist, Emiya Shirou. On one hand, everyone knows that war is bad – people die and shitty things happen to good people in war. Yet at the same time, winning a war in which the prize is so overwhelmingly powerful means that you can effectively ensure that wars will never happen again. I found Kirei’s angle of egging Shirou on particularly interesting: a hero of justice (which still feels like really awkward phrasing to me) is meaningless unless he has something to fight against. It’s the same way that a villain makes a hero but Kirei seems to missing out on a few things (also, how did he know Shirou’s dream?). First off, no one said that everyone in the Grail War is evil so even if Shirou is ostensibly fighting for the side of the righteousness, what happens when he has to face off against Rin? Is he still the good guy? Does that concept even make sense? Back to the topic of conflict though, I guess in the end Shirou is essentially going to have to choose – is winning the Grail and potentially destroying evil forever (how would that even work) be enough to offset everything he has to do to get the Grail in the first place?
Rin is conflicted between doing what she knows is the ‘right’ thing to do and doing what she thinks she is supposed to do as a Master. I don’t think she is fully aware of this herself but the evidence is ample: she feels she owes a debt to Shirou (who naively tries to shrug it off) yet that instinctive emotion contrasts with the colder pragmatism that Archer represents. You will notice that Archer just wants Rin to eliminate a future enemy now and be done with it but Rin stands firm in her morals, for now at least. This same conflict was present in the first (prologue) episode when she tries to follow the Mage’s Association rules of leaving no witnesses – she would rather just be secretive and keep to her moral code of not killing innocents rather than have to purge every witness. There is some practicality in that too, to be fair, but all in all, it’ll be interesting to see how her attitude towards the Grail War changes as we go along.
Ok, so last but not least we have this Kotomine Kirei motherfucker. Now, this fake priest is throwing all kinds of red flags into the air. First of all, the fact that he is both a priest and a mage is just fishy. I’m assuming that this universe is a little like our own in the sense that magic and its practitioners are considered heretics who then get burned at the stake. The fact that Kirei not only is not a bag of crispy smugness right now can be attributed to the fact that he was possibly spawned just for the purpose of being the overseer of this whole crazy affair. The next major red flag is that he knows way too much about Shirou. Kirei probably knew Kiritsugu fairly well. Let’s look at the facts: Kirei is the overseer of this War thing, Kiritsugu was at the scene of the fire ten years prior and the name Emiya means something to Kirei. Yet, none of that explains how he knows what Shirou’s dream is or how he is able to provoke Shirou in just the right way to convince him to fight in the war. Shirou seemed genuinely on the fence until the mention of the fire came up and I’m guessing that suddenly it all made sense in Shirou’s head: by winning the Grail, he could become a ‘hero of justice’, bring the guy (or the Servant?) that created the fire to justice and ensure it never happens again. It’s perfect motivation for a perfectly messed up young lad.
This episode was only half the length of the first two and here I was, hoping for an hour a week of carnage, not that this episode had any to speak of. From a more plot oriented perspective, I was glad to see that the pendant from last week hasn’t been forgotten though I’m still quite confused about it. Are there two pendants or something? Or did Archer pull a fast one over on Rin just to mollify her? That doesn’t even make sense since she barely realized it was gone. I guess we’ll figure it out eventually. Meanwhile, the mysterious white little girl has reappeared with the Berzerker servant. I don’t recognize him either so I’m wondering if at this point, they’re just making up the whole ‘world-renowned hero’ bit. Still, there is definitely going to be a fight, but can the cute little girl win against two?