Fate Something or Other Ep. 14 & 15: Decisions, decisions…

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Poor guy, though. He poured his heart out in last week’s episode only to get an “I don’t exactly hate you” in return. But this is that tsuntsun nonsense that people love so much, right? Anyway, they’re both Masters without Servants. That sounds like the setup to some goofball BDSM-themed sitcom. How will these two wacky Masters ever manage to live together! But alas, we’re watching another episode of Fate Something or Other. And because they don’t have Servants, Shirou and Rin may as well run to someone who does. Like that loli we met way back in the first half of the series. You remember her? Unfortunately, I remember her. She has a bigger role to play in the story, and it’s coming up soon.

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But first, Caster’s backstory!

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Why? Because, like, character development is important, man.

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This doesn’t really have much to do with Fate Something or Other — well, maybe it does — but I really like how it’s all-or-nothing with fans. If a show doesn’t have the ambition to pursue grand ideas, t-t-then it must be a character-oriented series!

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But not all character development is equal, and Caster’s story doesn’t really do anything. Look at it this way… she starts off as a villain, right? So how should her backstory add drama? By making me reconsider whether or not she’s really an irredeemable villain. By making me reconsider whether or not her actions are justified. By making me reconsider my first impressions of her, so on and so forth. Long story short, I should probably feel some sympathy for Caster, and thus understand her motivations a little more. But what we see here doesn’t really move me one way or the other.

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And to be quite frank, I don’t really see her as a villain either. I see her as a stepping stone. She’s just someone to tie up the hero’s time. I’m just waiting for her story to be history already. Obviously, I don’t love the character, but there’s not even much to hate. Her villainy doesn’t even disgust me.

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You gotta make me make a decision. That’s one of the many strengths of storytelling:

“The success of the show, I think, is because we have back & forth emotion during the storytelling. And the key is that we come to a climax where the audience individually has made a decision…” — Quote about a wildly popular show.

Applied to Fate Something or Other, for Caster to be anything more than just a bit character, I have to decide whether or not I’m disgusted by her villainy. But in practice, I never reach that point. And like I’ve said, I don’t even lean strongly in one way or anything. Her villainy is rather muted.

Maybe this is just a microcosm of the series as a whole. Supposedly, this is a story about an epic clash between divided interests… and they’re after the Holy Grail. Not just some dinky treasure. This motherfucker will make your wishes come true! Maybe you can even reshape the world with it! Like how Reasons operated in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. But somehow, Reasons felt a whole lot more significant despite belonging to Nocturne’s rather understated narrative. Here, on the other hand, I can’t say I really feel the true gravity of the situation. Like yeah, logically, I know it’s bad if a bad guy gets his hand on the Holy Grail. But I don’t feel it on a human level. I don’t feel it at some raw, emotional level that makes me want to get up out of my seat and go, “C’MON SHIROU, DON’T LET THAT ASSHOLE WIN!” Whoever that asshole is. My point is, I don’t feel particularly compelled to root for anybody.

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The show doesn’t compel me to root for or against Caster.

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And more significantly, I don’t feel compelled to root for or against Shirou. It’s just like eh…

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And really, the same thing happens again with the next episode.

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Yeah, yeah, Berserker and… blond dude (I forget his name–… ZOMG IM NOT EVEN PAYING ATTENTION LAWD HELP ME) are “fighting,” but we don’t really see them fight. All we see is blond dude standing still, smirking, and conjuring up weapons out of thin air and hurling them at Berserker. I’ve harped on the show’s lack of action enough, so we’ll just leave it at that.

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What I mean by “the same thing happens again” is how the story just dumps loli girl’s backstory on us (now, I actually know her name, but I just don’t want to type it out).

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Character development is so great! Oh, let’s worship at the altar of character development!!!

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Don’t get me wrong. I’m not disparaging backstories at all.

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But this shit isn’t organic. We haven’t seen the loli in how long? Weeks now, man… weeks. Hell, if you count the winter season that sat smack dab between the first and second halves of the story, we haven’t seen her in months. Then when she finally returns to the picture, the narrative drops a massive, steaming backstory deuce on our chest. I can appreciate good character development, but whatever happened to slowly peeling away at the layers of an onion to learn the true nature of a character?

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We’re just shoving the raw onion right down your gullet, skin and all.

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And like Caster, loli’s story doesn’t force me to make a decision. I’m not sitting here teetering between two sides. I’m not wracking my brains over whether not I should root for or against loli girl. After all, I just got a massive backstory dump after not seeing the character for quite some time. It’s really hard to engage my sympathies that way, and you can really tell they really wanted you to feel for her plight as a homunculus (or whatever she’s supposed to be) and how she has been abandoned (supposedly by Shirou’s dad).

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But then the silent but impossibly strong Berserker shows that he has a softy-wuddly side to him! And I think the “Awwww~!” emanating from our lips are supposed to melt the fallen snow around these two characters. But y’know, theory is not practice, and these scenes don’t really elicit anything from me. Loli girl was not a major player for much of the story, so some sudden character development won’t change that.

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Besides, parts of it are kind of corny. I think the scene above is supposed to be creepy.

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Ditto for loli girl’s conversations with the dolls in the water. But everything’s too pretty to be disturbing or offputting. Everything just treads that safe, familiar path.

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Like how I’m rather tired of the whole large man and little girl pairing. It’s just so cliche at this point.

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And all the rulebreaking shit is really starting to become predictable. Like as soon as blond dude said that nobody — especially not a god!!! — can break free from these chains, you just knew Berserker would. Ah well. I’m sure I can still tough this series out until the bitter end. After all, this is the second half of the story, right? So it’s not like Fate Something or Other will continue on forever.

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Shhh, shhh… it’ll be over soon… You’re just making it harder on yourself by struggling.


By the way, that quote above was from Maury about Maury.


26 Replies to “Fate Something or Other Ep. 14 & 15: Decisions, decisions…”

  1. Explaining your world and characters are fine but you do need to make it interesting to read through. The little girl Illya’s story would have been great if she was the main character or even a more prominent side character. As it stands they literally showed the scene at the last minute and expect everyone to get teary eyed when the scene itself was more informative than emotional. Ugh, watching this after watching Fate Zero makes me think of Fate Zero as a slightly more polished version of Fate UBW.

  2. To be honest, I dropped the franchise after the first Fate anime. Until I picked up Fate/Kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA. Because, I dunno, fuck it I guess; I haven’t watched a mahou shojou show in a while. And I stuck with it because at least it played with the regular Fate formula a little bit, even though it was largely still the formulaic magical girl show. Even then it was more of a distraction than a show that I was engaged in.

    Frankly, I lost interest of the “Magical Battle w/ Servants” that Fate seems to re-hash over and over and over again. If you watched the first one, you’ve seen it all essentially. It’s just people with magical peeps battling each other. The Call of Duty or Battlefield of anime. Hell, I’d rather just watch/read JoJo with their sick-ass rock-referencing Stands. At least there’s less (ie, almost none) animu-bullshit littering that show.

    Plus, why are the faces super-deformed up? The bodies are “fine”, but why do the faces look like something I drew back in middle school?

  3. I think even the 2006 version did Caster’s story better but she didn’t play such a big role in the first half, or at least I don’t remember, she was less over the top there and her backstory was more simple, here it’s like “she’s as had quite a bit of screentime and she has only done bad things, to justify this lets make it so someone even more comically evil than her appears in her past! Surely that’ll work out!” And her relationship with the teacher guy just hasn’t been that well developed, it’s really different from the original I feel.

  4. “By the way, that quote above was from Maury about Maury.”

    Haha, well I can’t say much here. You really nailed it so finely that there’s little else to say. I do find it very interesting you used Nocturne as a comparison, though, and not just because that game is one of my favorite works of storytelling ever. The difference between the Reasons and the…well, yeah, that’s the first issue: No one really knows what anyone will wish for, even themselves.

    The Reasons were clear and not only unique but were presented in a highly disturbing way. It’s very much akin to reuniting with a friend who turns out to have been assimilated into a cult, or even formed one on their own. They don’t just go BWA-HA-HA! JOIN ME, E MINOR!
    ___Rather, they speak with an almost casual calm as they discuss the potential of national Sharia Law or just how “right” it feels to view the world through a Marxist-Leninist lens. The worst part is that they know how to present their ideology to you in such a way that it doesn’t seem wrong at all. Common sense and even facts are brought up when they talk about the truths behind Mein Kampf. Then it dawns on you, the horrible reality that your friend truly believes in the purity or righteousness of their ideology. They don’t even get mad with your reaction, more disappointed, and they hold out hope you’ll see it their way until the end…where they inevitably choose to be your enemy.

    One of the greatest parts of Nocturne wasn’t just how well its bloody and grim visuals matched its tone and story (which, as you noted, the pristine aesthetics of this F/SN refuse to do), but rather how it presented the cast’s division as they followed the paths they believed were right. Some were ineffectual, others were manipulative. One of your friends even commits genocide (of a rather allegorical people, btw), rejoicing in their actions as they’ve taken another step towards righting a wrong world. Each one of them, even the main villain, believes they are following a just path. They think they’re acting in the best interest of mankind when in truth they were always acting for themselves.

    It’s not just a clear and worthwhile motivation that’s missing from these characters but any sincere attempt to convey those motivations like real people would. Real people DO enslave, oppress, commit genocide and then deny it (or laud it), and most of them do so because they believe it’s “right”.

    The concept of the Holy Grail, an item that can grant any world-altering wish to the victor of this game of death, is grandiose, and it deserves a cast with equally grandiose goals. It’s fine for the protagonist to meander about. He’s the point of reference for the audience. The others, though? We should know WHY they want the ability to take hold of the Holy Grail and WHY they feel their wish is the deserving one.

    But we don’t. In fact, as much as I like the Fate route (first route) of Fate/Stay Night, I can’t recall a single motivation of any of the characters. Seriously, none. Well, no, that’s a lie; I remember Saber’s wish and the main villain’s wish, which wasn’t even a wish. He was just the typical anime “I DO IT FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT BECAUSE I’M BORED” shit.

    Anyway, wow, I found a lot to say despite not having anything to say. HAhaha! My bad, mate.

    tl;dr Your Nocturne comparison was Ace and really showed how poorly handled the characters’ motivations are. In a story all about a game of death with a wish-granting prize, they really should delve into what the cast’s wishes are.

  5. Also, I had kept teasing a particular moment of the original story this is based on where I just dropped it in disgust. I guess we either passed that or they didn’t put it in, which would have been the better choice.

    It was a “magical” rape scene between Caster and Saber. “Magical” because there was no physical contact but rather Caster was using her magic to, well, rape her. Her narration was creepy and sounded like a staunch feminist with it’s ramblings of “I would never taint her like they [men] would!”

    It went on for too long and only pissed me off. Not only did it serve no purpose other than what I can only assume to be fan service. Yet this “fan service” of the main heroine, the real central focus of the entire first route, the woman who the story worked hard to flesh out and make into an admirable character, being kidnapped and raped in a croft.
    Yeah, fuck you too, Nasu.

    It’s like reading an alternate telling of Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling where partway through Snape gets raped behind a fridge. It’s just not done.

    1. To be fair, the original Fate route had Shirou make out with Saber to revive her or some shit, though at least that has been censored/skippable/removed entirely on later releases.

  6. > Like how Reasons operated in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. But somehow, Reasons felt a whole lot more significant despite belonging to Nocturne’s rather understated narrative.

    My god, you played SMT: Nocturne too? First Demon’s/Dark Souls, and now another favorite RPG of mine?

    Anyway, if you ever get really bored and decide to drop Fate (you shouldn’t), you should try another, infinitely better show about a game of death: Game of Thrones.

  7. You play Nocturne too? I absolutely love that game. The setting, the interesting premise, the world design, the combat system, and shota Louis. (I got True Demon Ending on my first playthrough because I cannot resist the temptation of shota devil.) That being said, the “reason” of each character is extreme to the point of being stereotypical straw man politics. However, it’s true that a sense of urgency existed in that game, and all parties makes pretty clear to you what they believe in, so it’s easy to sympathize, or criticize their ideology. It’s a simple story, but I think it uses the setting effectively.

    1. The Reasons weren’t supposed to be realistic. though. They were ideological endpoints — applying Kant’s categorical imperative to a video game. Would Nocturne make a good book? Nah. But it’s pretty interesting for a PS2 game.

      1. Yes, it’s truly interesting for a game. My most favourite one on PS2 to be honest, even though it’s largely because of the gameplay.

      2. Oh, I meant the way they were conveyed to the player was realistic rather than their ideologies themselves, but true enough. And come to think of it, while I agree that Nocturne works better as a game for a number of reasons, I think given a good enough author and some nice embellishment it could make for a good novel. Then again, the same can be said for about almost anything so it’s not saying much I suppose.

        At least it’d be better than F/SN or that one Fate Stay Night book which has a loli Jack the Ripper. HAha

        1. Forget about Genghis, a series that is clearly Nasuverse inspired (but much blander) has Odin as a 14 years old loli who only covers a quarter of her body. She nukes & recreates universe about 10^30 or so times & finally falls in love with our bland hero kun “who never gives up” & has super duper plot armor.

  8. “Weeks now, man… weeks. Hell, if you count the winter season that sat smack dab between the first and second halves of the story, we haven’t seen her in months.”

    It is interesting to read the opinion of someone who is not aware of the massive… well let’s call it mythology behind this whole franchise and considering that you did not even watch Fate Zero, your indifference especially towards Ilya is understandable. But to be honest, even if you were aware of Fate Zero, that time gap you pointed out is absolutely inexcusable if you rate Unlimited Blade Works as a standalone work.
    As you can probably guess this is a remnant of the original medium and even though everyone likes to talk about “routes” in the Fate Stay night Visual Novel, it could be considered misleading, because in a meta-structural sense it is more or less totally linear. While other “traditional” Visual Novels usually let you more or less freely decide from the beginning which route to take (or which heroine your harem lead needs to save and bed), the Fate Visual Novel enforces the order of the routes which leads to comparably distinct storylines (at least in the Visual Novel medium) and allows a buildup between the routes.
    Considering Ilyas story, well it pretty much happens across all three storylines and due to the enforced order the gradual reveal or as you said the peeling of the onion really happens more or less organically.
    In a way its a little bit sad. The first season cut off at quite a far point in the original story so I hoped that they would fill the second season with a lot of new material. Medea’s episode had a lot of stuff never explicitly shown in the VN, so I kinda had my hopes up they would diverge more from the orginal work to make the anime a stronger standalone product, but in the end this ends up as a show that only people with the massive background knowledge can appreciate.

  9. “But we don’t. In fact, as much as I like the Fate route (first route) of Fate/Stay Night, I can’t recall a single motivation of any of the characters. Seriously, none.

    I find it interesting that you like the Fate route so much, because on my readthrough it ended up as my least favourite. Later, I grew to find it even more problematic when I read other people’s opinions on that route especially on the topic of Shirou’s sexist behaviour. In the end one particular female blogger (who is quite into feminism), nailed it down pretty well for me:
    “The whole romance between Saber and Shirou felt forced and simply did not work” and it pretty much reflected my experience when I read it, because as long as I was able to blend out all the romantic shenanigans, Saber worked pretty well as a reflection of Shirous character and his… particular flaw.

    “Well, no, that’s a lie; I remember Saber’s wish and the main villain’s wish, which wasn’t even a wish. He was just the typical anime “I DO IT FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT BECAUSE I’M BORED” shit.”

    It wasn’t until I actually finished the reading the whole VN and started to read up a little bit on the *spoiler-name*-Mythos, that Mister Blondie actually grew up on me. While reading the VN, my reaction was basically the same as yours. One could probably fault the author that his outward behaviour is so steeped in tired cliches, but if there is one Hero who could (justifiably) behave that way, it would probably be him.
    Nevertheless, as a standalone character he is still pretty crappy until you contrast him to – guess who? – Shirou.

    “The concept of the Holy Grail, an item that can grant any world-altering wish to the victor of this game of death, is grandiose, and it deserves a cast with equally grandiose goals.”

    I disagree with you here, because this is quite a stiff preconception or let’s call it expectation that you place on the premise of this story. You are right that putting up a cast with grandiose goals would be the more conventional move to build up the story and drama, but just because Fate diverges from that does not neccessarily make it bad by itself.
    At its core Fate is a very somber story, more or less the opposite of grandiose, and if you ask me it fits pretty well thematically and I like it for that. Unluckily, these “themes” can only be reasonably argued if one includes all the fucking three routes, though Unlimited Blade Works actually starts the discussion which all centers around – again- Shirou. In the end Fate could be considered a character study of one particular person and if you do not like that person or are indifferent about him, there isn’t much to like about Fate.

  10. The thing about Caster is, she’s actually Medea. So if you showed her TRUE backstory, that would involve her murdering her own children in cold blood in an act of petty revenge and jealousy towards their father. So honestly, even though here they were trying to elicit some sympathy of sorts… hard to hold her in especially high esteem.

    1. Euripides’ Medea is a brilliantly written and highly sympathetic character. That millennia old play is a prime example of how it is possible to despise a character and yet still sympathise with her.

      F/SN’s Medea has none of the pathos or power of the original though.

      1. Well, I wasn’t necessarily implying they had to riff off Euripides’ version (which I studied and saw in a theatre many years ago, and honestly remember little of right now). The myth is older than that, after all. And I agree that you can “sympathise” in the sense of understand the reasons moving her, but it’s hard to make her truly likeable. Either way, I just wanted to point that out in constrast to the way this flashback tries to make her likeable by showing that OH LOOK SHE SAVED THOSE HUMAN SACRIFICE CHILDREN SHE’S NOT BAD. She still is, at best, psychotic. Not evil for the sake of it but highly unstable and generally extremely dangerous and not one I would trust with supernatural magic powers, just to stay on the safe side.

        1. I wasn’t referring the F/SN’s Medea, who plain fails to evoke any emotion in me, positive or negative. I was responding to the idea that Medea could not be sympathetic just because she killed her own children in the original myth/play.

          Technically, morally F/SN’s Medea is probably actually better than her Greek counterpart. She’s just really boring.

          1. I just meant that there’s a difference between sympathetic and actually likeable. It seems to me that what F/SN is trying to do here is make her the latter, show her as some sort of misunderstood but fundamentally good heroine gone cynic (pretty much like Archer). Which just doesn’t really work with her past endeavours. Usually F/SN borrows heavily the existing mythology for its characters, for example Berserker’s motivation for protecting Ilya is supposed to be rooted in his regret for that time when he was sent into madness by Hera and killed his own wife and sons, he’s basically trying to make up for that. Here they kinda look like they actually hid the mythology because they wouldn’t have known how to make it work in their vision.

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