Last episode of Fate/Zero ended with the participants in the Holy Grail War summoning their
Personas Summoned Beings Servants. Kiritsugu has Saber, Tohsaka has Archer Gold, Kotomine already had Assassin Black, Kariya has some unknown version of Berserker, Waver has a hero that I thought was from Mesopotamia but Crimson7 corrected me in the comments that he was from Macedonia, which means he’s probably Alexander the Great, because Philip of Macedon gets no love. And that means he’s probably Lancer, given how much the ancient Greeks liked phalanx warfare. The lecturer is still unaccounted for, as is the seventh Master whoever he or she is. All the other Masters are guys, I would hope for at least one chick to get some gender balance. In Fate/Stay Night there were either three or four female Masters, depending on who you counted as Rider’s master. I guess gender equality has come a long way since 1994. Let’s watch episode 2 of Fate/Zero!
…thirty minutes pass…
When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept with joy for there were more new worlds to conquer.
So this Holy Grail War is kind of a sausagefest. No female masters, only one female servant we’ve seen so far. It looks like Irisviel will be playing a reasonably major role, though, as sort of a liaison between Kiritsugu and Saber, and also as the eventual vessel for the Grail. That sort of confines her to traditional gender roles, though. She’s not a fighter, but golly gosh she is good at talking to people and dealing with emotional issues! Plus a bunch of men are fighting over who gets to possess her! Kiritsugu is gonna make her stay in the kitchen for her own safety, it’s the most heavily-reinforced room in the castle, also she should be barefoot in case she has to escape in a hurry and shoes would just slow her down. It’s all coming together.
I like the dynamic that Waver has with his Servant, it kind of reminds me of Rin and Archer. Of course Rin was not nearly as dominated by Archer as Waver is by Rider Red, but not everybody can be as awesome as Rin. She’s probably a better mage, too. Waver can write all the papers he wants about closing the bloodline gap by using magic thoughtfully and creatively, but there’s no reason a mage from a good bloodline (say, Rin) couldn’t do that too. Waver strikes me as sort of a whiner, bitching about people not respecting him just because he is an objectively less powerful mage. If he really, truly wanted to become powerful, then he should do as some other mages do, and fill his body with magic worms, or chop off the arm of a powerful mage and graft it onto his stump, or have sex with a powerful mage and transfer his or her mana that way. He doesn’t have the singleminded drive to do any of those things, and that’s why he’ll lose this war to one of the fighters that does have that drive. (Kiritsugu, Kotomine, and Kariya. Although Kariya probably won’t win, because Berserker never wins. Also Kotomine probably won’t win because we already know Kiritsugu wins.)
I can’t say I like the seventh master much at all. I’m not a fan of villains who are just straight up evil for no reason and who murder people for fun. “I’m just crazy as heck, BUGGA BUGGA BOO” is not an interesting, compelling motivation, even if there are some people IRL who are like that. I’ll appreciate it more if he ends up being used as a pawn by the sane masters – it doesn’t seem like there are any goody-two-shoes masters like Shirou and Rin around this time to interfere with a mass-murdering Caster. Kariya, maybe. He seems like the sort of fellow who would take offense at murdering children for entertainment. The lecturer might too, because who knows how he feels about stuff? He might be a cool guy who is being unfairly slandered by Waver.
I guess the big question from this episode is, why did Kotomine try to kill Tohsaka? They were supposed to be allied, and yeah, I’ve played enough Diplomacy to know that doesn’t mean shit when only one guy can win, but I’ve also played enough Diplomacy to know that you stab your ally in the back after you’ve worked together for a while, reaped the benefits of cooperation, and subtly persuaded your ally to leave themselves unguarded. It’s possible that he considers Tohsaka the greatest threat and is seeking to neutralize him ASAP before he can get set up. But surely he considers Kiritsugu the greatest threat? They had a cool nemesis moment last episode, don’t tell me that meant nothing. Archer Gold is supposed to be a really good Servant, so maybe he was trying to snipe Tohsaka and take his servant intact. Assassin’s not great for winning a whole war with, so that might be a reasonable plan, except that Archer Gold is a really good servant and so his odds of success wouldn’t high enough to risk it.
Maybe the question we should be asking is did Kotomine try to kill Tohsaka? Assassin Black seems to have walked into a trap, perhaps Kotomine sent him there on purpose. But why would he want to kill Assassin Black? I mean eventually Assassin Black has to die or the Grail won’t be born, but he might as well try to kill some guys first, and then let Assassin Black die in honorable combat? Also, if he really wanted to kill Assassin Black there would be no need for subterfuge: he has the command spell, he could hold him helpless while Archer Gold killed him. This would also remove the risk of Assassin Black accidentally succeeding at his mission – it seems kind of foolish to point an Assassin at something you don’t want dead. Perhaps this was a deal worked out between Tohsaka and Kotomine. Tohsaka doesn’t trust Kotomine (which seems reasonable), so he demands that Kotomine sacrifice his Servant at the beginning of the War. Assassin would have to be just about the worst Servant for your untrustworthy ally to have – you would never be able to sleep at night. So, since he has the powerful Servant Archer Gold, he is confident in his chances of victory alone, and so demands that Kotomine disarm himself.