Fate Something or Other Ep. 20: Quit hitting yourself

Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 2022

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?

Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 2017

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.

Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 2020

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.

Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 2021

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…

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30 thoughts on “Fate Something or Other Ep. 20: Quit hitting yourself

  1. Emmannuel

    This whole thing about Archer is, in my opinion, about throwing yourself out of the window in the name of an unreachable utopia where there won’t be crying faces. Since Archer hadn’t any sort of guidance regarding this distorted ideals of his, and moved on with his life using himself as a balancing factor of some sort to resolve conflicts, he just kept self sacrificing blindly. The apex of all this was the day when he made a contract with the world, literally selling his soul. Then he went through all these things shown in the anime and whatnot, only realizing he can’t save everyone when it was too late and he himself was trapped in a “job” which goes completely against his wishes forever. During this Route, he keeps throwing himself away further by obstinately trying to kill Shirou, but this time because he wants to put an end to his own misery. A funny thing is that Archer relates his own existence to the validity of his ideals, and maybe that’s why he kept self-sacrifing to insane levels during his life. Being proven that such ideology is unattainable, he thinks he needs to disappear along with it. Hence this “I must convince my naive self to live another way or kill him if this fails” mentality. Archer tells Shirou to drown in his ideals if he can only live by holding onto that. But… Isn’t Archer trying to end his existence because of this same flawed ideal? In the end, as much as Archer despises the Ally of Justice figure, he himself still can’t abandon it completely. Also, I’m pretty sure everyone in the world has borrowed ideals. We base our own worldview on the experiences the people we live with give us, and also on our own life experience. If such a thing was wrong, every doctor, police officer, firefighter or whatever worker you like should die for not being the first one to live by doing those actions or following those specific standards. At the end of the day, if you like an idea, and it suits your mindset and doesn’t bring other people harm, then it’s alright. It doesn’t matter if it’s original or not. Also, Archer must understand he is a PERSON, not an IDEAL. He must consider his own wishes, his own personality and his own needs. He doesn’t need to disappear because he pursues something impossible and acts as being a living incarnation of said ideal. He must accept it’s only partially appliable and live with it, accepting its consequences, or move on to another belief without feeling guilty or obliged to waste himself because of it. He needs to separate the concept of self from that of ideal. And it is the same for Shirou. So, saving people is not wrong, but forgetting about yourself for the sake of an utopia is. The worst thing though is this damn contract of his and the World. If there was a chance to set him free, while making he realize he is a person and not and ideal, then we would have a nice resolutiob for him.

    Reply
  2. fgfdfh

    Now you made me want a Fate anime with all the modern politicians. Just imagine Obama vs Putin vs Kim Jong Un. Let Urobuchi write it.

    Reply
    1. higgsbosoff

      Well, you might have something frighteningly similar in the Legend of Koizumi manga. It’s not strictly speaking up-to-date (Obama still wasn’t a thing back then, the US president is Bush Jr.) but it DOES have world leaders duking it out in ridiculous Mahjong battles. And Pope Benedict XVI fighting Hitler.

      …it’s THAT kind of manga, yeah.

      Reply
        1. higgsbosoff

          A bit of understanding of the basic rules helps, but that’s about it. Most battles are basically the various people trying to out-cheat each other anyway or screaming attack names. It ain’t a sports manga. All you need to know is mahjong is a game based around getting certain combinations. Think a sort of super-complicated rummy game.

        1. higgsbosoff

          Apparently they had an old bone to pick since those times. Also Hitler had come back from the moon to enslave humanity. He then turns Super Aryan, with blonde hair, blue eyes and a golden aura.
          It makes almost as much sense in context.

  3. sonicsenryaku

    “I mean, who honestly even struggles with that in the real world?”

    Someone by the name of George Price struggled with unrestrained altruism to the point that he committed suicide

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Let me respond to a broad, rhetorical question with a specific example! You don’t make some long winded story because a small percentage of the billions that have walked this earth are that stupid.

      Reply
  4. higgsbosoff

    Yeah, exactly. Shirou’s ideal seems to be not to help others, but to help others *in a stupid way*. Like, do the one thing that harms yourself the most just because self sacrifice means you’re altruist! But that’s just Shirou being a massive idiot. This could have been fixed by Archer going to Shirou and telling him “hey, you know, if at the end of your life you ever felt like selling your soul to a magical force that will use you as an agent for balance or something and thought that was a good idea… trust me, it ain’t. Been there, done that.”. Plot solved. In addition, the entire reason why Shirou became a Counter-Guardian, aka Archer, wasn’t that he felt like he was too weak and didn’t have the chance to do any good in life? And then isn’t the fact that Shirou is now absorbing Archer’s abilities and learning to fight at his level ALREADY changing history? So couldn’t Archer just TRAIN him? If this isn’t a multiverse world, anything that changes Shirou’s final actions will remove Archer from existence, not just his death. Sometimes you gotta kill Hitler’s mom, sometimes you might just go back and convince her to screw a different man.

    And anyway I think this could have made more sense if it was more focused on the time travel aspect. As in, Archer simply, genuinely wants to erase his own existence because he’s undergoing one of those “I have no mouth and I must scream” fates that are worse than death. So he wants to kill Shirou to achieve that. Good one, but just quit the chatter and go for it. It’s a decent motive, but now it looks like he’s just trying to win a philosophical debate with swords.

    Reply
  5. flamerounin

    With all the talk this episode of Shirou supposedly just “copying” his ideals from Kiritsugu, I don’t get why we get only two scenes of Kiri played over and over again in this series. Come on, Shirou stayed with the guy for over five years and learned magic from him (as the exposition claims). Heck, Kiri probably even celebrated Shirou’s birthday like any father would. But Ufotable seems to be lazy to animate those and expand on Kiri’s influence on both Shirou and Archer a bit more.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    “just because you are correct doesn’t mean you are right” that has to be a translation thing Right?

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Is “people die when they are killed” a translation error? I think the writing just happens to be that bad.

      Reply
  7. The Real Sugoi Sugoi

    > The good guy’s fall comes swift and mercilessly. The only warning you ever get is… well, gosh, the musicians are particularly bad tonight!

    I’m curious as to why you don’t do any blogging for Game of Thrones? Care to share a reason?

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I don’t personally care for the story, but that doesn’t prevent me from recognizing what it does right.

      Reply
  8. Anonymous

    Is it not a plot hole that lancer kept on living for brief moment despite the order given to him was to KILL HIMSELF. Did the story not explain that the command seal is an absolute that cant be overcome no matter how powerful the servant is? So what kind of bs does it have to justify lancer living after that command was given?
    Also another question about archer’s death, how can he die a miserable death when he should also have a bs plot device inside of him like shirou? Man this must be the episode of plot holes.

    Reply
    1. Saint

      He did it thanks to his ‘Battle Continuation’ skill, which he has quite high for a Servant, but that’s something that you only realize in the V. Novel, here they don’t explain all the Servants’ Skills/Stats. Lancer DID obey the command seal, he inflicted himself with a wound that ‘killed’ him, but he still could fight even with the mortal wound thanks to his Battle Continuation, and the Command Seal is just ONE order, so yeah, that.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        That still disprove the worth of the command seal being absolute. The command was for lancer to die at that very moment, not to be put in a critical state where he would die eventually.

        Reply
        1. Saint

          Not really, it’s just that it’s difficult to explain ‘Battle Continuation’ and how it over-writed the Command Seal without going into the asbsurdly complicated rules that work in the logic of the Nasuverse (The world within which Fate and others happen). I will try to said it like this: Lancer DID kill himself, a spear Noble Phantasm through the heart is an instant death, even for Servants NORMALLY, Battle Continuation, however, allows a Servant to ‘keep fighting even after receiving a wound that has killed them’, the higher the skill’s rank, the more time. So, essentially, the Servant was dead already, just running in borrowed time thanks to the Skill. Just like the ‘Independant Action’ of the Archer class allowed EMIYA to stay around without a Master, it’s a ‘cheat’ over the laws of the world. Also, Command Seals have their limits, as it is also stated in the novel, so things like Noble Phantasms and a couple of Servants Skill CAN overwrite the ‘Absolute’. As I said, it’s pretty complicated and boring if you aren’t into the Type-Moon absurdly complicated world-mechanics fanbase, but it’s not illogical (by the standards of that world, at least.)

        2. higgsbosoff

          I always wondered why the hell wasn’t Fate Stay/Night simply made into a proper RPG. The elements are all there, and the rules are definitely more appropriate for a game than a fantasy system of magic. I suspect the main reason is just that VNs are cheaper to produce, but yeah.

    2. higgsbosoff

      The best option would probably have been to slightly change the line – Kirei simply ordering him to “stab himself”. In this way it would have worked in the anime as well, and his eventual demise would have still been a consequence of him overlooking a detail (albeit a way more obvious one).

      Reply
  9. kcat4

    Archer reminds me of a rather sad part of this series’ fanbase as both their reactions can be summed up like this.

    I was wrong. Maybe what I believed in isn’t quite as glorious or beautiful as I imagined? Should I reevaluate my previous thoughts and chart a new direction? No I’ll just viciously defend my beliefs I already know are flawed and attack anyone that points out said flaws.

    Reply
    1. Emmannuel

      This. I so much agree with this. What is the big problem of choosing another way of life? Is this character so shallow that he can only live by a single standard? Oh wait, there’s survivor’s guilt. Oh wait, there the beauty he saw in Kiritsugu’s ideal, so it is alright to walk towards demise as long as the path is beautiful. Wow.

      Reply
  10. frenze12

    Hey E Minor, i’m just wonderering but isn’t your interpretation of this episode just one possible answer? I mean if you look at the time this episode went out in japan, they completely went crazy over it, some even called it the best episode in years… So i’m just wondering if “we” are missing something…

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      i’m just wonderering but isn’t your interpretation of this episode just one possible answer?

      Do I really need to tell you that?

      I mean if you look at the time this episode went out in japan, they completely went crazy over it, some even called it the best episode in years…

      Who cares?

      So i’m just wondering if “we” are missing something…

      Man, come to your own conclusions. If you want to think you’re missing something because Japanese anime fans raved over an episode, that’s your prerogative. Frankly, an anime fan’s ethnicity doesn’t mean squat to me.

      Reply
    2. hurr

      The same otaku who love to watch every shit LN adaption and rate it highly. Anime fans have shit taste, I usually find the best anime when I listen to people who are *animation* fans – not fans of anime specifically. and for good reason.

      Reply
  11. BlueHighwind

    I’ve officially dropped this show now that Kirei is dead. Fate/Zero fan here, this is such a disaster of a show.

    But I won’t drop reading these reviews. I don’t want to watch this show anymore since everybody I liked from the last show are now dead or pointless, and all that’s left is Shirou’s stupid crew. At least I can follow along and continue to be salty at Moe Sucks without actually watching any more of this crap.

    Reply
  12. Bydoless

    I like it where the morals of anime aren’t really that much different from those of American children’s cartoons. Like for instance, here, where the moral is basically ‘Use common sense’, and Madoka is basically taking the plot of every episode of every children’s cartoon show involving wishes and/or genies and extending it to 12 episodes (and admittedly better visuals, but there are better stuff with such visuals, so eh).

    Reply

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