by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 18 of
How would you rate episode 19 of
Episode 17 ended on the series' biggest game-changer to date: the death of Tokiomi at Kirei's hands (and essentially with Archer's complicity). So what does the series do for an encore?
Spend two episodes delving into Kiritsugu's backstory.
Kiritsugu is carrying so much baggage that some kind of backstory needed to be done for him at some point, but I was far from the only person who, during the original broadcast, questioned both devoting two episodes to it and doing it where the series does, and after having seen the whole series, my opinion on that has not changed. Also, the writing offers little lead-in for it; Kiritsugu had not experienced any major crisis right before it that might cause him to reflect. It just happened at this point because it needed to be done. At least at the end of the two episodes, where Kiristugu is coming from is now quite clear.
Episode 18 starts with Kiritsugu living as a child on a tropical island, where his Mage father is conducting research into immortality. His father's research works just fine on plants, but when applied to humans, it turns them into mindless Dead Apostles (the Fate universe's stand-ins for vampires or ghouls), so the whole island descends into the effective equivalent of a zombie apocalypse scenario, one that Kiritsugu's father is callously (if unintentionally) responsible for. In the midst of that Kiritsugu meets Natalia, the blue-haired woman who appeared in the much earlier flashback about where his special bullets came from. Seems she wasn't just his sensei; episode 19 shows that he not only left the island with her at the end of that scene but also grew up with her and came to help her in her wetworks-style jobs, which included killing Mages who were threats.
Between those two scenarios, that gives us two reasons why Kiritsugu has a reputation as a Mage killer: as a kid he killed his own father rather than escaping the island with him, and later he did it as a job. The two episodes together do not imply a strong an emotional basis for it, but that's hardly surprising; Kiritsugu has always been practical almost to a fault, only letting his emotions show in little moments where only Irisviel can see. The events on the island suggest that Kiritsugu's attitude about taking a small number of lives to save a bigger number is a direct outgrowth of how much things snowballed on the island because he did not kill Shirley when he had the chance, and he reinforced that in devastating fashion by showing, at the end of episode 19, that he had learned his lesson: even if it meant killing someone he cared about, the greater good has to be served. That he suffered emotional consequences for doing so is what separates him from being a psychopath.
One bit of trivia here: the setting for episode 18 is apparently based on the actual Alimango Island in the Philippines, and the crab legend mentioned in the episode is actual island lore. I think I was told at one point that a couple of the characters who appear in the scene where Church and Mages Association members are killing the transformed villagers come from one of the other Fate franchise titles, but I had trouble finding current reference to that. (If someone knows, please comment in the response thread.) In retrospect, these episodes are important foundations for the way Kiritsugu feels and behave the end of this series and the way he's remembered in Fate/stay night, so they are not skippable even if they are not one of the stronger parts of the series.
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