36 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Scamp /

Rider and Waver are my Fate/Zero

Spoilers for Fate/Zero up until episode 23.

4 episodes into Fate/Zero, I wrote a post saying that I would prefer the series to completely ignore every character in the show who isn’t Rider and Waver. In a world populated by deep-voiced, brown-haired, humorless dullards, they were the only people who weren’t completely stoic and yet still managed to have far more interesting stories than anyone else. After episode 23, the final episode of Fate/Zero (shut up it is the finale), everything I said in that post remains true. I don’t care, and never cared about any of the other characters in Fate/Zero. Only Rider and Waver.

I’m going to end up repeating a lot of the points I made in that original post, but what makes the Rider/Waver combo work is Rider is exactly the person Waver needed in his life without him realising it. Shunned from school by his upper-class teachers, he sought respect by trying out some dark magic to gain ultimate power. However, instead of getting the beautiful loyal powerful warrior Saber, or some other cool ass fighter who would bow to his every wish and he could indulge in a power fantasy, he instead got the brash Rider, who wouldn’t listen to what he said. Whenever he complained, Rider would just clap him on the back and say “man up there young lad” or something to that effect.

Waver grows and develops through his interactions with Rider. The first time Rider listens to his tactical advice is when he displays prowess at forensic investigation, specifically praising his ability to do the most with his limited abilities, saying he respects a man more who can do that than one who has almighty power and can do anything with it. When Waver collapses from panic during their first fight, Rider tosses him rather unceremoniously onto his chariot and calls him a wuss. Later on, when Waver steels himself for charging into battle on his horse, Rider calls him his important comrade.

As the story progresses, Waver’s view of the world is slowly torn down. The scene where they uncover Caster’s lair was particularly memorable, because it was the time when Waver realised there are worse fates in the world than his downtrodden one. The more the Holy Grail war progressed, the more he opens up to Rider and confesses his fears of abandonment and his own lack of self-confidence. He finally gains self-confidence when Rider respects him and treats him as an equal, but Rider only respects Waver fully when he has self-confidence.

The pivotal scene is when Waver gets rid of the last of his command seals but Rider hoists him onto his horse into battle anyway. Because Waver is no longer the ‘master’ and now feels comfortable with the fact that he can’t control Rider if he wanted to, Rider can finally treat him as an absolute equal. It’s a weird cyclical case of respect and self-confidence, but it all comes from their interactions and Waver coming to believe in his own abilities through the praise Rider had for him.

There was that wonderful scene right at the end where Waver faces off against Gilgamesh, probably the hardest character in the entire series to please, and manages to get a grunt of respect from Gilgamesh. Considering what Waver wanted to wish the Holy Grail for was respect, he managed to get that respect from the King of Heroes himself. It was pretty telling that, right at the start of the series, Rider scoffs at this wish of his, as if he knew that Waver had this ability in him all along. It’s damn brilliant character development.

As for Rider, what I loved about his character was this ideal he had was shown up to be a bit of a folly all along. Starting off as an enigmatic charismatic muscled king, you slowly peel off layers behind his ideals and reveal that he’s chasing something unreachable. This idea that he’s trying to take over the world is an excuse on his part to keep leading towards some sort of goal. The image the show kept bringing up was him at the edge of the ocean, realising that he had nowhere else to conquer, and then feeling a bit lost. His actions in the series, from buying the t-shirt with the world emblazoned on the front, to his reading up on stealth bombers, were not real attempts to take over the world but instead part of his ideal that he should be always conquering and leading, inspiring confidence in those around him. He was never going to win, because he ultimately never wanted to because that would mean stopping. And that doesn’t matter, because he still inspired Waver by following this flawed ideal.

As for the rest of the characters, I could happily cut out their stories and really not give a shit. Their only parts I cared about were how they related to Rider and Waver. Let’s do a quick run down.

  • Gilgamesh: Liked the idea of a massive pompous jerk, but his speeches were so long and redundant that his scenes quickly became dull. Only really cared about him for that final scene with Waver.
  • Kotomine Kirei: Incredibly dull stoic boring fart. Contrasting him to Rider and Waver just made him seem even more boring.
  • Emiya Kiritsugu: See Kotomine Kirei.
  • Saber: See Emiya Kiritsugu.
  • Caster/Ryuunosuke Uryuu: Chaotic evil is cool, but largely irrelevant to the story. Focusing on them was pretty dull because there’s very little you can do with characters whose motives are ultimately non-existent. Only really cared about them for how Waver realises what a dangerous game he’s gotten himself involved in.
  • Kayneth Archibald El-Melloi: Kinda liked the story of how his wife would eventually leave him for Lancer in a retread of history, but that ended up never happening, resulting in all that backstory being fairly useless. Only cared about him because it was interesting to see the collapse of the high-class mage that had insulted Waver in the very first episode.
  • Lancer: See Saber.
  • Irisviel von Einzbern: See Lancer.
  • Tokiomi Tohsaka: See Irisviel von Einzbern.
  • Matou Kariya: I sorta like the story of a man who had everything turn against him, but it was woefully mishandled. He disappeared for most of the story, then suddenly appeared again towards the end and expected us to care as everything went wrong when we never had the chance to get to know the guy, so it became an amusing spectacle rather than having any emotional attachment to it.
  • Berserker: Kept his fucking mouth shut, so was much more bearable than almost every single other babble-mouthing moron in this anime. Was rather surprised that we were apparently supposed to care about his grand reveal though.
  • Maiya Hisau: See Tokiomi Tohsaka.

One day I’m going to level up my video editing skills, get all my Fate/Zero video files and cut them down so only the Rider/Waver scenes remain. Get rid of all of Kiritsugu’s dull backstory. None of the nonsense surrounding Irisviel. No more Saber and Lancer blabbing on about honour. Dump all those mind blowingly dull conversations involving Kirei where characters walked in circles around him. Whatever little bits of story we need about these characters that are relevant to Rider and Waver’s story we get in the few instances they meet each other. I’ll cut it down into one file, which should be about 2-3 hours. In other words, a fairly long movie. Stick it up on torrent sites and call it ‘The Tale of Iskander’ or something, and future generations can watch the Good Part of Fate/Zero.

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  1. Posted June 12, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Eh, no wink and nod to the fact that Rider’s sendoff was aired on the same date as Alexander’s the Great’s death in Babylon? For shame, Scamp.

    For all the awesomeness of the episode, apparently a lot of nuances from the novel didn’t quite make it, or rather they’d only be caught by someone who spoke Japanese. Like Gil calling Rider “sonata” (a measure of respect, though still spoken by someone who’s in higher status) instead of his usually rude “kisama”, or the fact that he used his most treasured Noble Phantasms (which Gil would never do, ever) against him.

    • Scamp
      Posted June 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      Eh, all that was gotten across anyway. Gilgamesh respects Rider enough to treat him as near an equal. Didn’t need to notice the dropping of kisama to pick that up

  2. Posted June 12, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Something about the visual nature of the anime effectively flattened the majority of Fate/Zero’s complex characters to one-dimensional farts.

    No omniscient narrator, no internal monologue, no cheatin’ exposition = Cart Driver complaining about the obvious.

    • Scamp
      Posted June 12, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      I read that as “the novels were even more long winded”. That’s the last thing I need from this story

      • Posted June 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        They were. More information, more exposition, better realized characters.

        But by telling us too much, instead of showing, it’s a classic species of bad writing. I stopped reading after volume 2.

        I also wonder if you would make the same complaint had Rider/Waver won the Grail War.

      • Posted June 12, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        To be fair, you could apply most of these criticisms to Lord of the Rings and its movie adaptation. Lots of characters who spend a lot of time talking, subplots spread very far apart from one another with little interaction, and a general trend of stoic-ery and motivations that are very interesting in concept but very dull in execution.

        I believe it would be very easy to make a leading good character out of most the cast, but many of them either didn’t get the screen time or ended up spouting exposition rather than taking action. There were lots of good ideas in place here, unfortunately acted out by uncharismatic wooden mannequins rather than actual human characters with nuanced personalities.

      • Scamp
        Posted June 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

        Which is why I prefer the Lord of the Rings movies far more than the books. I did really like the books, although I’m sure part of that was because I was 10 and had never read anything like it before, but since the movies I’ve realised how much pap there were in them

  3. Higanzakura
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    “‘The Tale of Iskander’ or some­thing, and future gen­er­a­tions can watch the Good Part of Fate/Zero.”

    Please do this, I’ll watch it in a heartbeat.

    • DarkEnergy
      Posted June 13, 2012 at 1:42 am | Permalink

      Me too. Scamp, please have this done within my lifetime.

  4. Flawfinder
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Out of curiosity, what other pair ups in anime do you find really interesting because of how well they compliment each other?

    • Mr. Anon
      Posted June 12, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      His obvious answers would be Horo/Lawrence, Lafiel/Jinto … and whatever the third one was.

      • Scamp
        Posted June 12, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

        Nodame and Chiaki, which would be the answer I’d use for the question. Nodame’s total battiness contrasts quite nicely with the uptight Chiaki

    • Chipp
      Posted June 13, 2012 at 6:03 am | Permalink

      Okarin and Kurisu?

  5. Posted June 12, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Somebody else out there doesn’t like Kayneth? THANK GOD. As terrible as it may sound I’m glad they stuck him in a wheelchair before killing him off. I’ve always viewed him as an arrogant asshole.

    Did I mention that I hate Kayneth?

    On a lighter note, I think one of Rider’s greater moments in the series is when he sat down with Gilgamesh and Saber as they drank wine and talked about what it means to be a king. When he destroyed Saber’s ideals of how to be a king was his shining moment in the series and set him apart from all the other Servants. You can really tell that that meeting of the minds still jabs at Saber from what transpired in episode 23

    • Scamp
      Posted June 12, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

      I liked that scene, but it did drag on for a bit long. I think the episode was saved somewhat by it ending so dramatically with Rider unleashing his noble phantasm

  6. Maximillian
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I agree that Rider and Waver were the best part of Fate/Zero, no doubt, but I also continue to like some of other interactions between the characters.

    Even all the repetitive “Honor? Honor!” talks between Lancer and Saber eventually build up to the ridiculously dishonorable way that fight concluded, with Lancer pretty much cursing everyone as he died. I tend to appreciate that kind of irony.

  7. Posted June 12, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    If you’re more concerned with what characters feel than what they do, sure, everyone sucks but Rider and Waver.

    • Scamp
      Posted June 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

      And you don’t? Actions are driven by emotions. Actions with no emotion behind them is nothing. Which incidentally isn’t my complaint about Fate/Zero at all. I don’t really get where your statement comes from

      • Posted June 13, 2012 at 12:19 am | Permalink

        See Kotom­ine Kirei.

      • diz1776
        Posted June 13, 2012 at 5:36 am | Permalink

        Baka be damned right

  8. Mikhail
    Posted June 13, 2012 at 2:14 am | Permalink

    Err…what? Kirei spends the entire season attempting to find himself, before finally accepting that he enjoys human suffering. Kiritsugu sacrifices everything to achieve an illogical, emotionally-motivated dream. Ditto with Saber. I don’t even see why anyone would charge that Lancer doesn’t have any emotional displays, when he constantly goes on about knightly honor and is obsessed about cleaning up his past mistakes. I think a large part of why some viewers can’t relate to the characters other than Waver is because most of them are so much older than many anime viewers, many of whom are teenagers that are closer to Waver’s age.

    • Posted June 13, 2012 at 2:49 am | Permalink

      *Looks at Durarara, where literally only five characters in the opening were teenagers, and they were boring compared to everyone else.* Nope. Wrong.

      Word of advice, when you create an ensemble cast, NEVER give them all the same professional personality. There is literally no difference between most of the characters besides their motives and histories. But their motives and histories do not affect their personality at all. The fact that they’re adults doesn’t have anything to do with why they’re boring. The fact that they’re the same stoic badass (and I’ll never understand why people like that character type) with minute differences has everything to do with why they’re boring.

    • Posted June 13, 2012 at 3:29 am | Permalink

      Oh, and honestly, I think even the staff behind this show like only Waver and Rider. In the first episode, I seem to recall that their scenes (aside from the summoning ones, as the animation was good on all of them) were the only ones that any actual animation was put into. Not only that, but do you notice that they’re the only team with actual chemistry? Aside from maybe Kirei and Gilgamesh, the other teams in this show are composed of Masters that barely share screen time with their servants, let alone communicate with them. I was so disappointed that Caster didn’t interact all that much with Ryuunosuke, instead going off on his own in order to get Saber.

      • Mikhail
        Posted June 13, 2012 at 4:19 am | Permalink

        I don’t understand how character motivations don’t have anything to do with a character’s personality. I’m also not seeing the similarities between the likes of Kiritsugu, Lancer, and Kayneth. I do agree with you on the team dynamics, though, in that Team Rider’s dynamics are the most well developed, followed by Team Archer.

        On the topic of age, marketing wisdom generally does suggest that people relate better to people in their age group, which is fairly relevant since majority of the English-speaking anime fanbase seems to be made up of teenagers. That’s also why you’ll rarely ever see an adult protagonist in a shonen anime and why J-RPGs will always be populated by 17-year olds.

      • Posted June 13, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

        Character motivations hint at and expand upon certain personality traits, but are not of themselves a proper personality. If a character wants to make life better for a sick family member it’s a good indication that they’re an altruistic person, but this doesn’t tell you if they’re short-tempered, patient, clingy, distant, idealistic, competitive, naive, simple-minded, paranoid, or schizophrenic. You can’t tell if they like cereal or pancakes for breakfast, or what they’d do for fun on a day off. There’s an entire spectrum of characterization out there that needs to be considered.

        These are all things which add nuance and humanity to characters, and make them into more than soulless androids who only exist to obtain their directive. Okabe Rintarou isn’t defined by his quest to save his friends or invent a time machine – he’s also a kooky “scientist” who knows nothing about science, wears a lab coat at all times, projects a false personality to hide behind, yells mad things in public, and yet under it all only wants very normal things (love, friendship).

        Many of Fate/Zero’s characters have an interesting motivation, and a detailed backstory, but draw a blank when it comes to actual personality traits. They’re flat, boring people with compelling goals. Since we don’t care about them as people, it’s very difficult to be invested in what they’re striving to accomplish.

      • Mikhail
        Posted June 14, 2012 at 5:54 am | Permalink

        To Naota: Which characters would you say lack personality traits?

      • Flawfinder
        Posted June 14, 2012 at 6:10 am | Permalink

        I think it’s just easier to say that I, Scamp, and some of the other commentors here don’t think super serious people trying to out cool each other is fun. Especially when the animation for most of the series is shockingly bad. And because of the high art and very wordy dialogue, the bad animation just stands out even more.

      • Posted June 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        Most characters in the anime version probably have a personality trait, but few have fleshed-out identities of their own.

        Maiya serves Kiritsugu and is stoic. That is all there is to her.

        Irisviel does what Kiritsugu says and talks about what makes Kiritsugu’s wish so great. She likes cars. Not awful, but a huge missed opportunity. Think of how much better Horo or Makise Kurisu worked as contrasting companions. I want to like Irisviel – there’s just not much there for me to like about her.

        Saber believes rulers should serve their people, is dutiful… and stoic. Compare this to Fate/Stay Night where she’s fleshed out much better and contributes more to the story than just a noble phantasm with legs. Not enough agency to be interesting.

        Lancer is honourable. That’s it. With a history of illicit affairs with women, you’d think he might be a playboy of some sort, but you’d be wrong. He’s totally unremarkable in every other aspect of his personality.

        Tokiomi is the worst. Besides being Rin’s father he literally has nothing going for him. He’s just… a guy who is there and tries to win. Other characters in the series lament how bland and uninteresting he is.

        Remember how Kirei toyed with Shirou in F/SN and underlined the flaws in his heroic ideals without being overtly antagonistic? Remember his passive-aggressive jibes? His utterly random of curry? Fate/Zero Kirei is just an automaton. This fits his role as a person with no desires or emotion, but it doesn’t make him any more interesting to watch or listen to.

  9. Sigma
    Posted June 13, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Episode 23 was good. That is all. Carry on.

  10. luffyluffy
    Posted June 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Maybe Saber would be less irritating if she got that mile long pole out of her ass, but then again, she’s British.

  11. hint
    Posted June 14, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I still cant understand why i don’t like the other characters unless Ryder and Weaver. The rest of cast is so boring that makes me want to drop this series.
    While saber for me was better on FSN with dumb Shirou, here she feels most of time irritating and the other inexistent.
    There are 3 full episodes of flashbacks stories of someone that i don’t care… how more boring than this can be? Will be a bit easy for Scamp, since there will be less 3 episodes that need video editing.
    Maybe its just me, because the FZ fanatic fans love all characters, some more than Ryder and put Weaver at the bottom of their list.

  12. Scamp
    Posted June 14, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Just a note: Great that people are having discussions about what makes Fate/Zero click, but also don’t put words in my mouth please. The characters do clearly have emotions and a certain degree of nuance. The show is just terrible at conveying them, a large part of which is because they’re all so goddam stoic.

    • Flawfinder
      Posted June 14, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      Sorry Scamp.

  13. Erif
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 3:04 am | Permalink

    At first I was going to go off at Scamp, but then I realized how ridiculous some of these comments are. I give up. :/

  14. Posted June 24, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    If you loved Rider in Fate/Zero, see the trails and tribulations of alternate-history Alexander the Great in Reign: The Conqueror. You will need no other depiction of the ancient western world!

One Trackback

  • By Spring Season 2012 Summary | Standing On My Neck on June 30, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    […] I’m not into this as much as other people are. The characters are horrifically dull, the animation is shockingly bad, and the dialogue is utterly banal. However, Waver and Rider are one of the greatest pair-ups of all time, the story is great, and it was a lot better than the horribly bad Fate/Stay Night anime. I’ll probably rewatch it when it comes out here, but I think I’ll greatly prefer Scamp’s upcoming director’s cut of this series: The Tales of Iskandar. […]

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