The worst kind of villain is one that very clearly doesn’t know what the fuck they’re doing, or even why they’re doing it. I don’t mean the likes of Gargamel and Skeletor, since 80’s Saturday morning cartoon villainy still has a method to the madness; Gargamel wants to abduct the Smurfs for his own foul, if inconsistent purposes, and Skeletor wants to rule Eternia by defeating He-Man and sounding vaguely like somebody doing a bad Chicago gangster impression. It’s very cut and dry, but the characters still function on a consistent level. Then there are the villains with moral complexity that almost make you want to root for them, most relevant example being Death Note’s Light. These villains are all somewhat likable in their own ways, whether it’s through an adorable lack of complexity or an overabundance of it that constructs them into believable people.
Fate/Zero has floundered hilariously with designating its hero and villain, which is a shame when taking into consideration that it does almost everything else with what I’d call near-perfection. Yeah, it missteps every so often with everything else, but for the most part it’s a well put together series that leaves little room for complaints. It’s unfortunate that, instead of going with a format of each character having their own level of grey morality fighting for their selfish wishes, we have a show awkwardly trying to pick two compelling sides of the same coin.
Kiritsugu is obviously the protagonist, but just who stands diametrically opposed to him? Is it Waver, the master trying to help Rider win? Is it Kariya, somebody driven mad by his frenzied devotion toward keeping Sakura out of the Holy Grail War? Unfortunately the answer is much less interesting than either one of those, in that it’s unfortunately not much of a surprise; our designated villain is none other than Kirei, the only person in the show that had might as well mace himself whenever he opens his mouth.
It’s unfortunate that in a show that’s been building him up as the primary antagonist, seemingly every other character would make a better fit for the role of villain. If Caster and Ryuunosuke were still around, they would be the pure chaotic evil that gives everyone a common enemy. If Lancer were still bandying about, Saber would actually have something to do that isn’t just chasing after Irisviel and getting into meaningless skirmishes with Rider. Kariya would probably make the best villain, even if he wouldn’t get much of a chance to shine; he manages to be the right kind of crazy that elicits a combination of scorn and sympathy on the part of the audience, an unfortunate rarity. His character really is underutilized for what it is, and that’s a tragedy.
Kirei, and Gilgamesh by extension, is easily the weakest link in the story. Even compared to Kiritsugu, whose motives often come across as contrived and forced, Kirei reaches new levels of disengagement with the war. There’s nothing stopping him from dropping out and resuming his miserable life, no reason to stay in and continue fighting against Kiritsugu. It honestly seems like he has nothing better to do with his time than take up the role, even his Iris-strangling done with all the enthusiasm that any other person would muster after having broken a yolk while frying eggs. I swear, when he found out what Kiritsugu was fighting for from Iris, he just seemed to say “Yeah! I’m against whatever he stands for! Why? Because I can be, of course!” For somebody so apparently consumed by apathy, he seems irritatingly on the ball with manipulating the course of the war, something that’s in no way believable for me.
I fully understand that we’re not supposed to like Kirei, but I expected him to at least have some depth to his character beyond not having any idea what he wants to do in life. I think less “Damn you Kirei, you magnificent sexy bastard!” and more “Get the fuck off screen so we can have more Rider and Waver bonding, you fucking fuck!” and I don’t think that was the intended result. In other words, I don’t like Kirei because he’s boring, not because he’s a bastard. In other, less eloquent, cruder words, Kirei can eat a dick.