Say what you will about the problems gnawing away at Fate/Zero like ravenous locusts in a lush cornfield fertilized with blood and decapitated limbs, but it certainly has a sense of consistency about it. Whether this is good or bad depends on how much the viewer is put off by the lack of focus on Berserker’s history with Saber, or how much they enjoy seeing two ideologically opposed men get in a scuffle in Batman’s spacious garage, but the best way to describe this episode in relation with the rest of the series is “consistent”. Unfortunately, part of that consistency is neglecting elements that would add richness to particularly thin areas of the story, and that’s where the show fumbles considerably.
I mentioned Berserker, and implied the involvement of Kariya just by association earlier, so I’m going to take this chance to rant about how the two of them weren’t treated as anything other than another obstacle on Saber’s path to the Holy Grail, something that doesn’t do him enough justice when taking into account the history between him and Saber. If reading up on their back story has taught me anything, it’s that the conflict between the two would have felt more important if the tension between the two was explained at least a little. Otherwise, Berserker had might as well just be a practice dummy for all the use he’s had in the plot. Maybe it’ll be in DVD extras or something, but their lack of inclusion here harms what could have been one of the more tragic sideplots. And as for Kariya, very little was made of how he essentially sacrificed his humanity to save Sakura; again, a large, bulging, pulsating missed opportunity.
Oddly enough, for being the female lead of the story, Saber’s development in relation to almost every character is woefully neglected. There’s very little shown of her history or interaction with any character, instead the show opting for watching her ride from battle to battle on a motorcycle. It’s not exactly boring, and she’s hardly Fate/Zero’s red-headed stepchild when compared to Berserker, but it’s still disappointing to have the series’ designated patron servant do little else but wax chivalric and scream at Kiritsugu.
Speaking of shrieking at impractically chivalric douchebags, there wasn’t enough of that from Saber to Kiritsugu, despite their exchanges being one of the more interesting things in the series, particularly with the two ignoring the massive irony in arguing over honor and their similar goals. The similarities between the two are as numerous as can be, and yet there’s only been maybe ten minutes total spent with the two at odds over small details. But hey, at least chances to build on their relationship more have been consistently neglected.
Thankfully, the episode did at least see it fit to put Kiritsugu’s ideology of taking the side of the greater good to the test, and this is where it really shone as a vehicle for putting its impracticality through the wringer, even if it continued to make (most likely unintentionally) uncanny allusions to The Dark Knight by doing so. The height of the madness, when he killed his illusory wife and daughter, cemented his resolve to continue living as inflexibly as he has; it’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s one of the high points of the series, seeing Kiritsugu give up everything in his life in order to preserve what he perceives to be the greater good.
For all its neglected characters and for how inexplicable some actions may seem, Fate/Zero has reliably stayed the course for its entire run. Even when some of the tried and not-so-true aspects don’t quite mesh with the rest of what’s on display, it’s still a strong enough offering to make overlooking its many flaws an easy task; as somebody whose blog relies on picking nits like this to keep up posting frequency, that’s saying a lot. It is definitely frustrating at times, but there are very few contradictions on display, and even fewer things exaggerated to the point of unintentional comedy beyond bulging eyes and gaping expressions. Granted, this makes the few blatant problems more pronounced for just how rare they are, but the rest is just that fucking good that I can drip with more praise than I can grievances.