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.