I am a huge lover of the Fate franchise and the overall TYPE-MOON media collective bearing the name Fate. After recently re-watching Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works I decided that I wanted to talk about heroism and how characters in these shows specifically struggle with their own ideals of being or becoming a hero.
The theme plays a very central part in Unlimited Blade Works and a rather large part of Fate/Zero also. In this post I will only be discussing 3 characters and how each of their own choices and experiences have affected their views on heroism.
If you haven’t seen any of these fate titles, there WILL be spoilers below.
Lets start off with Kiritsugu. The protagonist of Fate/Zero. Kiritsugu was a freelance assassin eventually being dubbed the “Magus Killer” for his specialty in tracking and killing heretic Mages.
From a young age Kiritsugu has always wanted to become a hero of justice, but it is only as his life unfolds that this dream becomes somewhat twisted and warped, whilst still holding the same desire true. Kiritsugus father was an accomplished Mage who experimented in creating Dead Apostles, which are essentially vampires. Kiritsugus friend and first love Shirley gets accidentally caught up in the experiment and thus turns into a Dead Apostle. Upon discovering this, Kiritsugu is begged by Shirley to end her life but he refuses and tries to get help, effectively causing the utter annihilation of all the islands inhabitants.
This one decision will ultimately haunt him for the rest of his life.
Once kiritsugu learns of his fathers involvement in the devastation, he steels his resolve and decides to take matters into his own hands. Learning from his mistake with Shirley, he coldly murders his own father. This action forms the basis of his future decisions and changes how he chooses to pursue his dream of becoming a hero of justice. His view of heroism has now soured into the idea that sacrificing the minority to save the majority is always the best course of action.
I’m going to lead off of Kiritsugu with Shirou. His story of wanting to be a hero is a strange and ironic one. His whole idea of becoming a hero of justice is completely adopted from Kiritsugu, who ironically was the one responsible for shattering his entire world as a child.
Shirous desire to be a hero stems from the expression of happiness he saw in Kiritsugus face when he was rescued as a child. due to that, all he wants to do is see others happy. He doesn’t want for anything himself, nor does he necessarily want to be a mage.
This premise forms the entire basis of Unlimited Blade Works. Heroic spirit Emiya, a future version of Shirou from an alternate timeline, has been summoned as the Archer class. This Archer seems to hate the Shirou who is essentially his past self, for making all the wrong decisions with his life and for chasing the ideal of heroism he adpoted from Kiritsugu.
Basically, Archer tries to explain to Shirou how all his efforts to be a true hero of justice are futile. Nothing he does or accomplishes will ever be enough to fill the void. He will never be able to save everyone and he wont be satisfied unless he does. This is what separates his desire from that of his adoptive father. Kiritsugu had conditioned himself to sacrifice the few and save the many, whereas Shirou felt the need to save everyone.
The one we all know and love. Artoria Pendragon was a famed king of England, famous for pulling the holy sword Excalibur from the stone. This is very, very summarized but essentially Artoria was groomed by the great wizard Merlin to become a powerful ruler. She was taught how to fight for the people, how to save the people, but not how to understand the people. Its the latter part of that statement that is the focus of this discussion.
In Fate/Zero, we are offered various looks into Sabers past through conversations with Rider and Archer. The first time we see how much Saber struggles with the idea of being a hero is through one such occasion. Rider calls her out for being a bad King because she ultimately regrets her rule and blames herself for the deaths of many of her people. By doing this she refutes the wishes of her comrades and fails to understand their desires.
An example of this would be the drama surrounding Sir Lancelot and Guinevere. Guinevere was politically married to Artoria to give the appearance of a more unified “Kingdom of Britain”. Sir Lancelot and Guinevere fall in love and begin an adulterous relationship behind Artorias back. When Artoria eventually finds out, she holds no anger towards the pair and actually goes as far as blessing their secret relationship. Lancelot pleads for punishment but Artoria denies his request. Being one of Artorias greatest Knights of the Round table, he simply cannot get over the guilt he feels for betraying his King and is driven to despair. Artoria simply could not understand his feelings.
Her involvement in the Holy Grail War is due to wanting her own wish granted. She wishes to undo her actions in the past by never becoming king in the first place. Saber doesn’t see herself as a hero but she does believe a King should do whatever it takes to protect the people above all else. Saber’s idea of heroism is self sacrifice in order to save her people.
I really enjoyed looking at heroism from the view point of these characters. Its very interesting to see how such a simple concept can be so very different depending on perspective. Fundamentally, wanting to be or becoming a hero involves saving people, but is it really as simple as that?
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