Fate/Zero – “The Bloody Battle of Mion River” Episode 14 Recap
Season one of Fate/Zero ended on a dire cliffhanger, with Fuyuki
City in grave danger from the massive, grotesque monster that the
homidical Caster has made himself into. As his master Ryuonsuke
delightfully observes the ensuing carnage, Lancer, Saber and Rider
temporarily join forces to finally bring down Caster for good. For all
their efforts though they can only keep the foul creature at bay, as the monster is able to regenerate itself and quickly recover from any damage they do.
The real highlights of this episode, though, are what happens on the sidelines rather than the main event. While the trio struggle and try to figure out what to do, Tokiomi Tohsaka observes the battle along with Archer. Tokiomi realizes that only a single massive, overwhelming attack can put an end to the threat and get the Holy Grail War back under control, and he knows Archer has enough power and just the right weapon to win the day. But despite Tokiomi’s pleas and his attempts to appeal to his servant’s vanity, the King of Heroes only offers token aid and becomes enraged at the very idea of using his strongest weapon. He considers the battle beneath him and questions the worth of the other servants if they truly can’t deal with it themselves, and with that Tokiomi can only quietly despair. More than any other time in this series this moment highlights how despite being Archer’s “master”, Tokiomi is that only in name; his “servant” is too prideful to control and far too powerful and valuable for Tokiomi to lose or alienate.
In any event, the pair are soon diverted when Kariya Matou appears to challenge them. Tokiomi departs to confront him personally, while Archer fends off a determined, over-the-top assault when Berserker manages to actually leap aboard a fighter jet and use his ability to make it his own personal weapon. The dogfight is high-paced, well animated and thrilling, though it’s not a tense encounter since Archer handily negates Berserk’s attacks with his horde of weapons. In fact he seems amused by the battle more than anything, though he does compliment Berserker’s performance. As this happens Tokiomi confronts a very volatile Kariya, who furiously demands to know why Tokiomi gave Sakura away to the Matou family, but Tokiomi calmly explains that it was for the good of both his daughters. Both were born with the talents to be exceptional mages, yet only one could be allowed to inherit the Tohsaka family’s greatest secrets and realize her full potential. He reasons that by giving the Matous a successor both daughters would get the fate they deserved, and so long as one of them ultimately won the holy grail the family legacy would be preserved in the end.
Kariya is disgusted, enraged that he would so casually break up the happy family life the two girls shared together; Tokiomi merely responds that a prodigal son like Kariya can’t begin to understand the tradition or pride of a mage’s family. This is an effective dialogue that starkly contrasts the values of these men; Kariya values a traditional family and thinks a simpler life with love is a better one to have, while Tokiomi has a seemingly earnest fixation on on looking out for his children by not holding them back. Naturally Kariya’s side is the easy one to take though; it is the everyman perspective and Tokiomi is disturbingly casual about the idea of his two daughters possibly fighting one another for the grail.
In a development long overdue, Kiritsugu locates Ryuonsuke and promptly assassinates him with a pair of gunshots. The killer dies marveling at the sight of his own blood, remarking that this sensation must have been what he was looking for all along. He was insane and despicable to the end, a villain anyone would love to hate, which is hopefully the one and only reason he ever ranks in any Japanese popularity polls. Despite Ryuonsuke’s death that’s not the end of Caster though, as in his monstrous state he can just feed on the city and beyond to sustain himself without the support of a master. Kiritsugu concludes that a massive “anti-fortress” attack is needed to win, which Saber has, but she cannot unleash her Noble Phantasm so long as she is afflicted by the curse Lancer placed on her arm. There is nothing he and Maiya can do, so Kiritsugu decides to let the servants show him their idea of chivalry. It’s quite the gamble – either the servants fail and die or Lancer removes Saber’s handicap, securing victory but leaving himself at a disadvantage in the war. All in all this is an episode that clearly begins building up to the climax of this great battle by the end, and it does so with same balance of thoughtful plotting and dynamic action that was there in the first half of Fate/Zero. The prospect of Saber unleashing her full power, meanwhile, is quite the enticing hook for the following episode.