This week, Rin decides to take action and figure out just what Shirou is to her – is he a friend and potential ally or is he just another enemy in the war and a convenient way to get a powerful Servant like Saber out of the war? She makes her choice by the episode’s end and we meet a new Servant, Rider, who reminds me irrepressibly of a dominatrix, what with her outfit and her love of chains. We also spend some time talking family history and how the actions of the previous generation continue to influence the current one.
I haven’t talked much about the way these past few episodes have been assembled and constructed but this episode especially, brought a few things to my attention. First of all, this show seems to end its episodes really abruptly and on a discordant note; this episode ends with Rin noting that Kiritsugu prioritized being a father over being a mage and then is a long (and if you ask me, awkward) pause before the end credits rolled. It gave me the impression that they didn’t really know how to end the episode and just decided to cut their losses and roll the credits after a pretty shot of the moon. This is probably a really odd thing to be complaining about but it’s something I noticed and now I can’t un-notice it, ugh.
There’s a bunch to discuss vis-à-vis the characters and the plot so we needn’t waste more time over the specifics of how to end an episode. I feel that Rin attacking Shirou today wasn’t so much her being opportunistic and seizing her chance to take him out – there didn’t seem to be any real murderous intent on her part, though I won’t deny that she wasn’t holding back either (I think?) – but more a culmination of several other factors. She probably got the feeling that Shirou wasn’t taking the whole Holy Grail War seriously enough, despite her repeated warnings and on the other hand, she was under some pressure from Archer to do her duty as a participant. It goes back to the ending of the previous episode where she tells Archer very clearly that she doesn’t owe Shirou anything if he can’t be bothered to look out for himself. Still, he takes a bullet for her not long after their fight begins and I think that only exacerbates the moral conflict in her. The way I’m reading her character is that she knows that Shirou is nothing more than a well-meaning idiot but the fact that he is so clueless and also a pretty nice dude means that she can’t really feel good about killing him from a moral standpoint. She retreats behind her old excuse of ‘I owe you one’ but by the episode’s end I’m glad that they’ve reached a more permanent solution. This ceasefire seems more like an alliance to me but I’m just happy that Shirou isn’t going to have keep ‘saving’ Rin just so that she continually feels obliged to keep him alive. The interesting thing is what Archer is going to have to say about this arrangement because no matter how you look at it, having Shirou on your team not only lacks any kind of benefit but, depending on how stupid/heroic he wants to be on a given day, might also actively worsen their odds. I guess, one pro of having him around is that you get Saber in the process and while I don’t know if she’s strong enough to be worth a Shirou, it’s worth considering, I guess.
Let’s talk a little about what we learned about Shirou this episode. We’ve known for a while that he wants to be a ‘hero of justice’ which is a really odd phrase and one that I’m loosely translating as either ‘superhero’ or just someone that people look up to and respect. We learn this episode though, that this dream isn’t just Shirou’s – Kiritsugu had the same dream but couldn’t accomplish it and thus Shirou, in a pretty adorable moment, decided to succeed for his father’s sake. What I found particularly interesting was the phrasing – Kiritsugu said that it’s hard to call yourself a hero when you grow up. Now, we know/suspect that Kiritsugu took part in the previous Grail War based on what Kirei said when we last saw him and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that something happened during that time or before that made him realize that it’s impossible to commit to a dream like becoming a ‘hero of justice’ in the real world. I don’t know what exactly made him think this and it doesn’t really matter either because what we see from him is an acknowledgement that practically speaking, their now shared dream of becoming heroes is doomed to fail. Shirou hasn’t learned this lesson yet but it also feels like it isn’t a lesson that others can teach you; you have to experience it first-hand to really internalize it. We also learn a little about Kiritsugu’s decision not to give Shirou his magic lineage though I wonder if such things can only be transmitted by blood ties. It’s clear that Rin and Shirou were raised in very different households – Rin and her father before her put their pride and dignity as mages above everything else. This also fuels Rin’s decision to attack Shirou – she is doing what is expected of her as a mage in the Holy Grail War but Shirou is not and I guess it’s just annoying watching someone be obliviously happy. On the other hand, Shirou was raised with no pressure to be a mage, almost as though Kiritsugu was protecting him from the world of magic by not forcing him to inherit all of his (Kiritsugu’s) knowledge and skills. This is basically the crux of the difference between Rin and Shirou and where all the tension between them comes from. Rin has been trained for this war from the moment she was born; you could even say that she was bred for the purpose of the war and to continue the Tohsaka magic line but Shirou on the other hand has so far bumbled into everything, from being a mage, to participating in the War to getting a Servant. It must be incredibly frustrating for someone who has practiced and honed herself for so long to see a total amateur turn up and put up such a weak display. I suspect that Rin herself wants to be free of the cycle of magic and that is part of the reason Shirou annoys her so much – she is pissed that he is able to be carefree and happy-go-lucky when she is burdened by her family’s history and expectations.
On a final note, we have now met all the Servants except Caster and Assassin though we are also missing Lancer’s master and Rider’s master. It’s rather unlikely that Rider’s master is someone we haven’t already met and assuming Rider is antagonistic then that would suggest to me that Shinji is Rider’s master. For a while I debated it being Kuzuki but Rider was definitely chilling with a student and I can’t imagine any of the other students, apart from Shinji, being the kind to harm others and suck their life force. It would be a good twist if it was someone we didn’t suspect like the archery club chick or the student council dude. In other notes, Shirou can certainly take a beating, can’t he? He took a metal rod through the arm without flinching despite it very clearly hurting him and was then roughed around with the rod still in place. It’s lucky he still has that healing factor (I wonder if they’re ever going to explain it) but even that has to have some limits right? I mean this is his third major injury in three days, for fuck’s sake!