Hmmm… Anyway, let’s get Rin’s story out of the way real quick, since it’s not as interesting. Kirei intends to take her heart, but like a lot of anime villains, he also announces the fact to the entire world. He then asks for her final words. It may not seem as though he’s wasting too much time, but he does. Lancer somehow recovers and impales the guy right through the chest. It doesn’t matter how much time Kirei ends up actually wasting. All that matters is that he wasted enough, and so Lancer gets the upperhand. Could you imagine, though, if the bad guys just did bad things without giving you any warning? That would be truly shocking. That’s probably why certain story events in another series — not an anime, mind you — have people at the edge of their seats, because they truly didn’t see it coming. The good guy’s fall comes swift and mercilessly. The only warning you ever get is… well, gosh, the musicians are particularly bad tonight! So often in anime, however, the bad guys will stand there and tell you what they want to do. I’m going to kill you. I’m going to take your heart, beg for your life, blah blah blah…
So we’re back to Shirou and Archer, and it’s the same conflict as before. Archer claims that he is Shirou’s ideal, and since Archer is pretty shitty–… I mean, he’s led a pretty shitty life full of ragrets, Shirou should just die. And more insistence on how saving people simply because you want to is a mistaken desire. Man… I just don’t see what the big deal is. Like seriously, who cares? I get it. If you just put your head down and charge on ahead with nothing but good intentions, you can sometimes do more harm than good. Selfless to a fault. Your sense of worth isn’t based on just helping others. Sure. Fine. But did we really need to make some long ass story out of this? Is this really worthy of a character study? ‘Cause c’mon, this doesn’t mean the ideal is wrong. It just means you don’t have the ability to realize your ideal. “Ah, but E Minor, that is the point! Like how he tried to save the loli even though he was clearly no match for Gilgamesh!” I don’t see how this is very psychological. Or how we’re really deconstructing anything. Oh, you’re not strong enough, and you made a bad judgment call. Whoops?
I can sit here and imagine all sorts of possible scenarios, though. Like how if he hadn’t tried to save the loli, he’d always carry the regret of not even trying. Maybe it would always haunt him. Like, “Man, sure, I was weak, but I could have tried something.” The point is, you’re probably not going to come away from the situation unscathed, because it is a shitty situation. And that’s all it is. Sometimes, there are no winning moves. Sometimes, life is just stacked against you, and it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Archer sits here and drones on and on about how shitty his life was, and how Shirou will know it all too well if he keeps going down the path that he’s going. But I just can’t help but think, “You probably couldn’t win anyway.” We are supposed to believe you can do more harm than good, but it’s all speculation. How can you really know if you did or not? Now, for simple things like cooking, it’s clear: “Oh man, you shouldn’t have tried to help with the seasoning, because now the soup is too salty!” I’m certainly not denying that. But we’re not talking about just that, huh?
We’re talking… well shit, I don’t even know what we’re talking about, because we get to see so little of Archer’s past life. We just assume he did more harm than good, because he’s full of regrets and shit… and that’s that, I guess. But the real world isn’t so clear-cut, and Fate Something or Other’s storytelling doesn’t paint a convincing enough argument to say otherwise. It just gives us a premise that we supposedly must readily accept. You just know he did more harm than good, because we said so. Therefore, we can have this tortured intellectual exercise on the pros and cons of unrestrained altruism… but man, don’t even get me started on unrestrained altruism. I mean, who honestly even struggles with that in the real world? But to backtrack a bit, suppose a guy like Shirou gives up. Suppose he takes all this advice to heart, and unlike Archer, he decides to do nothing. You don’t think inaction would eat away at him? You don’t think he’d carry that regret with him for the rest of his life (can you imagine an alternative future Shirou going back in time and forcing his former self to help out more? It’d be just as pointless)? Yo, sometimes, you just can’t win, so you may as well do what you believe in.
But then the story gets into this debate as to whether or not Shirou’s ideals are even authentic. Like maybe he’s just a copycat at everything. He copies weapons, and as it turns out, he also copied his dad’s ideals. A lost kid saw the happiness on his foster dad’s face, and decided that he wanted to emulate the adult… so pretty much like every other kid, right? Again, what’s the big deal? This is pretty much what we all go through. We aren’t born with our ideals. We aren’t born with much but our instincts. But we learn from our parents. We adopt their ideals and viewpoints, so on and so forth. We’re all a little inauthentic that way. But I guess the belabored point here is that most of us eventually grow up and decide for ourselves what we truly want. Archer argues, however, that Shirou hasn’t really decided what he wants. He’s just following his foster father’s ideal “robotically.” But again, we have to accept the premise that Shirou is being robotic. Because he doesn’t care if harm comes his way as long as he helps others… but can’t someone actually desire that? You may not agree with it, but so what? Any talk about authenticity and hypocrisy always reminds me of the concerns I’ve raised a thousand times before:
…how is one ever able to authentically choose values if they are based on nothing other than the abstract will? What basis does the individual have to make such a choice? I may make choices that seem transparent and authentic from my perspective, but what guarantee do I have that these choices aren’t just a result of my existing delusions and biases?
Authenticity is cast as a kind of introspective transparency of one’s motivations, but people hardly (if ever) have such immediate access to their motivations. But if that’s the case, then people have no basis for judging an action as “mine” as opposed to “theirs,” and thus no grounding for determining a choice as authentic.
Actually, forget everything. Archer is just wrong. People who want an exercise in mental masturbation can sit there and nod over and over about how there are limits to this and limits to that and this totally deconstructs the modern anime hero. But the beauty of the human spirit is believing in the impossible even if all logic says otherwise. That beautiful motivation then pushes you to find ways around the impossible — make the impossible possible. And boo hoo, it sucks that Archer failed, and it sucks that he possibly did more harm than good. Meh. You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette, though. As such, I don’t really give a shit that he failed albeit spectacularly… supposedly, anyway. Again, we don’t really know the true details behind his failures. Just accept it, though! Point is, it’s too bad his fate sucked (MUCH LIKE DIS ANIME AMIRITE?!), but what’s the alternative? Give up completely? Of course not. Let’s be real.
Oh, what’s that? Let’s take the measured response, you say? Don’t give up but proceed with caution and much deliberation? Uh, no shit? No big revelation there! We just went through months and months of dialogue just to arrive at the grand, ol’ conclusion that we should try to help others, but let’s use some common sense when we can. Fantastic. Archer failed because it wasn’t meant to be him. He couldn’t be the hero. Oh well. We try again with someone else, and hope that the cards that we’re dealt with aren’t as bad this time around. That’s just the long and short of it. It’s definitely not, “Your ideals are mistaken!” It’s just, “Welp, you failed. Let’s literally just move on.” Like, for example, I don’t literally stop voting just because Obama sucked. I don’t stop voting because it seems like he’s doing more harm than good. I don’t throw a tantrum about how change ain’t real. I just move on, and keep hoping for a brighter tomorrow. Archer would probably go back in time and kill Senator Obama, though.
Something something Avalon, something something Shirou’s all healed up now, so the fight begins anew…