This post has spoilers for Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Zero (up to episode 17). If you do not wish for certain information regarding plot points from this series or other related series to be revealed to you, you might want to consider not reading any further.
With a name like ‘The Eighth Contract’ and an opening scene featuring the now fatherless Kotomine Kirei, there a few prizes for guessing who this new contract involves. The events of this episode have been a long time coming; since about six or seven episodes ago, the series has been teasing at a friendship between Kirei and Gilgamesh’s based on their shared fondness for mongrel misery. Many of the ‘twists’ in this episode will be familiar to fans of Fate/Stay Night who, of course, would have been aware that Tohsaka Tokiomi dies and that Kirei and Gilgamesh go on to be some of the antagonists of FSN. All this episode does is provide a bridge connecting the characters in their current state to their future selves, but in a logical and entertaining way. Apart from that, we spend some quality time with Irisviel before she begins the process of reverting back to her natural form as a metaphysical cup.
As we head into the business end of the series, I think it would also be appropriate to set up a weekly obituary section where we remember the dearly departed. This week of course, we gather here to remember Tohsaka Tokiomi; teacher, father, Master, Mage. Of those four things, he was only really any good at one, but let’s not speak ill of the dead. In all seriousness, Tokiomi wasn’t the most sympathetic Master of the bunch but he wasn’t the least either; on one hand, he wasn’t an absolute monster like Ryuunosuke and his love for his family left a better impression than Kayneth’s, but at the same time, Tokiomi had an arrogance about him that made it clear that he would not emerge victorious and in addition, it’s hard to really sympathize with someone who gives his younger daughter away to an abusive household, even though I know his rationale for it. As a Master, Tokiomi was well prepared, well informed and played the Holy Grail War game carefully and tactfully. He really did everything he could to put himself in the best possible position for victory; whether it was allying with Risei and Kirei (ok, not in hindsight, obviously, but we’ll get to that) or summoning the ‘strongest’ Servant, Gilgamesh. His defeat and demise is a perfect instance of the saying that even the best laid plans can go often askew. I don’t blame him for trusting Kirei though trust is a dangerous thing when dealing with a magical wish fulfilling device, and I certainly don’t blame him for not understanding his student, because not even Kirei understands Kirei. Having said all that, however, I have to admit that I don’t feel a whole lot at his death; partially because I knew all along that it was coming, but also because I never felt like I got to really know him as a character. What little I feel comes mostly from my fondness of Rin and the impact his death will have on her, especially after this episode showed her at her most adorable. Speaking of Rin, there were a whole bunch of references and call forwards in this episode – from the last words that Tokiomi says to Rin to the transfer of the Azoth dagger to Kirei’s hands.
Moving from dead characters to dying characters, I really liked Irisviel in this episode. She was pretty bland in the first few episodes of the series and for a while I was worried that she would be doomed to a more plot-relevant version of Fuji-nee but she’s really picked up this season. Last week, she stuck up for Saber and Kiritsugu some questions that he owed the team answers to and this week she led the negotiations with Team Archer. She has a steely resolve under her delicate fluffy exterior and we really begin to see that when she has to strain herself to even function after the negotiations. I think I might even miss her when she starts turning into a magical mug. She mentioned something interesting about having an in-built instinct for self-preservation and I wonder if we’re going to see that come into effect before the end of the series. On a tangentially related note, I’m beginning to understand Kirei’s fascination with Kiritsugu. Just what is it about him that draws people like Maiya and Irisviel so strongly to him? (No, I mean apart from the trench-coat and his devil-may-care attitude) Both characters are committed to him with an absolute loyalty that, as this very episode illustrates, is very rare for characters in this series. Both women are willing to die for him and his dream without a second thought and Iri is willing to go so far as to ensure that she is able to die for him without anything going wrong. I think that’s the key aspect of Iri’s character that I like; she knows how this all ends for her but she behaves with a dignity and nobility that I respect and can appreciate. In other news, I don’t think we knew that Avalon was in Iri all this while, did we? I can’t remember but the news doesn’t really surprise me – we saw her recover almost instantly from being stabbed by Kirei’s knives. I wonder though; would Saber have been able to recover from Lancer’s curse if she had Avalon? It seems that Saber wasn’t aware that Iri had Avalon all the while but it is a shame that we never get to see Saber at her full power but I supposed she would have been just too OP.
Speaking too OP, check out the new power couple on the block – Kirei and Gilgamesh! We’ve all been thinking it, but theirs is really a match made in heaven. Previously, I struggled a little with understanding each characters’ motivation for the betrayal that I knew was coming – Kirei seemed determined to be a good priest and student and even though there was some underlying unhappiness, I wasn’t sure how the series would amp that up into a full-on backstab, while in Gilgamesh’s case, it did feel more like a matter of when rather than if. Still, considering how unsure Kirei was of himself just one episode ago, he really did plan his betrayal out perfectly – from giving Gilgamesh just the right piece of information to flip sides to obtaining the Azoth Dagger (thus giving him legitimacy) and the inheritance letter before finishing Tokiomi, Kirei showed in this episode that he really shouldn’t be underestimated, though we really didn’t need to be told that. After all, it takes a real piece of work to stab your teacher in the back with the same dagger he gave you as a sign of trust. More than anything, this episode helped me understand both Kirei and Gil’s motivations better than I had before. I don’t think Tokiomi knew about the new Command Seals, so he probably didn’t realize that he was asking Kirei to do more than just take an extended vacation but his request pretty much sealed his fate, since it forced Kirei’s hand, in a sense. Kirei needs the Grail and the Grail War to understand himself – he feels closer to it than he has ever been and he knew that if he let the chance go now, he would never get another. I still think he would have killed Tokiomi at one point or another, but his upcoming departure was a catalyst that sped it all up.
This episode also provided a timely reminder that Gilgamesh is pretty fucking scary. Over the course of this series and FSN, I think I’ve sort of gotten desensitized to the threat that Gilgamesh constantly poses but watching make his not-so-veiled threats to Kirei reminded me that Kirei’s turn to the dark side wasn’t just a product of Kirei’s own development. I can’t emphasize how much more entertaining Gilgamesh is to me in Fate/Zero – in FSN, the danger he posed as an antagonist was more physical, in the sense that if you crossed him, he had the power to erase you from existence. In Fate/Zero though, we see a more intellectual and manipulative side to him and while he still has the firepower in his arsenal, it’s just a lot more fun watching him seduce Kirei. It seems that Gil is also more insightful than I’ve given him credit for in the past. He seems to think that Kirei wanted to kill Risei and based on the former’s reaction, he’s not wrong. It’s times like this where it would be really beneficial to get Kirei’s full backstory adapted into the anime – how he ended up the way he is, for example, so we know a little bit more about our primary antagonist. I also really like that Gil is literally in this for the fun of it. It fits in very well with his character that he gets more entertainment from Kirei’s fall from grace than he would from just killing Servants and their mongrel Masters.
With Kirei inheriting daddy’s fortune of Command Seals, the new and improved Team Archer is looking unstoppable. To be fair though, there are no easy marks left in this War – Saber and Kiritsugu, despite their differences, are a formidable duo even when they aren’t working together while Rider’s Noble Phantasm is daunting thing to go up against even if Waver wouldn’t be very useful in combat. Kariya and Berserker can’t be taken too lightly either – Kariya won’t come across another Mage as formidable as Tokiomi in the remaining characters and Berserker has shown that he can hold his own against Saber and Gilgamesh. Let’s see what fresh bodies fall next week – my money is on Irisviel.
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