I guess Fate/Zero (Crunchyroll link) has been aiming for tragedy all along. (I certainly hope that nobody has been watching this and hoping for a happy ending!) But it wasn’t clear whether they fully understood the difference between “tragedy” and “bloody farce.”
The 16th episode lays these doubts to rest. This is tragedy, as the spoiler-laden excerpt below should make clear.
I think this illustrates the true power of hand-drawn animation as an art form. Imagine trying to do this scene with computer-generated animation. The idea is revolting. It would be obscene.
Could it be done with live actors? Yes, but they would have to be very good indeed for it to be as effective. And if you did the bloodier scenes as live action the result would be unbroadcastable. You probably couldn’t even show it in a movie theater.
(It would have to be the sort of theater that would show Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein. But that was pure farce. This would be much more disturbing.)
Hand-drawn animation at its best can convey the characters’ feelings more effectively than live action while preserving enough emotional distance to allow the audience to bear the unbearable.
(And no, I’m not going to show anything really bloody below. I’m not going for cheap thrills here.)
SABER: Kiritsugu Emiya …I finally understand what a fiend you are. I was a fool to believe that although our paths differed, our goal was mutual.
SABER: Up until now, I had faith in Irisviel’s words, and thus I did not doubt your character. But now, I simply cannot believe that a man like you would use the Grail to save the world.
Answer me, Kiritsugu! What do you truly want the Grail for? Even if it is my sword that wins the Grail…If it means that I must yield it to you, I…!
IRISVIEL: Answer her, Kiritsugu. This time, you owe her an explanation.
KIRITSUGU: Come to think of it, this is the first time you’ve seen how I do my killing, Iri. If all you do is kill a Master, his Servant might make a contract with another Master. That’s why I had to eliminate both Master and Servant simultaneously.
IRISVIEL: Come on, Kiritsugu. Speak to Saber, not me. She needs to hear your words.
KIRITSUGU: No. Honor and glory…There’s no point in speaking to a killer who takes pride in such things.
SABER: You would insult chivalry to my face, fiend?!
KIRITSUGU: Knights cannot save the world. They call certain methods of fighting good and others evil, acting as if there were some nobility to the battlefield. Such illusions, perpetrated by heroes throughout history, have led countless young men to their bloody deaths, all for the sake of this valor and glory.
SABER: They are not illusions! Even the taking of life, as a human act, must have laws and ideals. Otherwise, every war would bring Hell to this world!
KIRITSUGU: And there you go. You heard her, Iri. Our Heroic Spirit here thinks the battlefield is something better than Hell.
What a joke. It’s Hell itself. There’s no hope on the battlefield. It has nothing but unspeakable despair. Just a crime we call victory, paid for by the pain of the defeated.
Yet humanity has never recognized this truth. And the reason for that is, in every era,a dazzling hero has blinded people with their legends and prevented them from seeing the evil of bloodshed. The true nature of humanity has not advanced a step beyond the Stone Age.
IRISVIEL: Then, Kiritsugu…Is your hatred for Heroic Spirits the reason why you force Saber to endure such humiliation?
KIRITSUGU: Of course not. I don’t allow private feelings to interfere.
I will win the Holy Grail and save the world. I am simply waging that battle using the most appropriate methods at my disposal. Righteousness cannot save the world. I care nothing for it.
SABER: Kiritsugu, do you understand? If you do evil out of a hatred for evil, that rage and hate will merely birth new conflict.
SABER: Kiritsugu Emiya. I don’t know what betrayed you and caused you to fall into such despair in the past. But your rage and sorrow are found only in those who once sought justice.
SABER: Kiritsugu. In youth, deep down, you must have wanted to become a hero. You believed in a hero to save the world. You desired it more than anyone. Am I wrong?
KIRITSUGU: I will end this ceaseless cycle. The Grail will make that possible. I’ll make sure the blood I spill in Fuyuki is the last blood humanity will ever shed. Even if that means staining my hands with every evil in the world, I don’t care. If it will save the world, I’ll do it gladly.
IRISVIEL: Kiritsugu has gone, hasn’t he?