“It is said that Heracles overcame twelve labours and was welcomed by the gods afterwards. He is unyielding, the ultimate expression of human perseverance…” – Gilgamesh
This week probably gave us one of the most powerful Fate episodes to date. It’s definitely one of my favourite battles and least favourite deaths in the series as a whole. I really love Illya. Her background as an artificially created and bred master places her in a really unique position among the other contestants of the Holy Grail War. What’s more, I loved that her relationship with her Servant made her more human than any family relations ever did. While I enjoyed seeing Illya interact with the other characters as a regular girl in the first Fate route, I really love how the Unlimited Blade Works route isolates her character strictly to the Holy Grail War and develops her in a much darker complex way.
We see Illya’s flashbacks many years ago when she’s eagerly awaiting Kiritsugu’s return at the Einzbern castle. Shortly after she’s left by her mother and Kiritsugu loses, she ends up on her own, continuously experimented on and groomed to be the perfect master for the next Holy Grail War. She eventually finds herself witnessing another Homunculus being discarded and comes to a jaded understanding of her role in the war and the “duty” of the Einzbern household.
Illya’s story with Berserker brings an interesting topic to the table – the one of Servants having “free will” on earth. Since Servants are spirits resurrected of heroes past, they require their Master’s mana in order to maintain themselves in the earthly realm. We do see that time and time again troublesome Servants who go rogue from their Masters or disagree with their Master’s inclinations. For Illya who’s been grown and prepped as a tool for the Holy Grail all her life, she never really believed in free will (not in long terms anyway). After Berserker saves Illya from a pack of wolves, she takes to him as the strongest servant, one that she comes to unconditionally depend on. Berserker also shows more subtle human-like qualities than in the Fate route because he defends Illya to the end. Illya’s trust and bond in her Servant ultimately pushes Berserker beyond his Noble Phantasms when he reaches out to attack Gilgamesh after Gil cruelly blinds and stabs Illya
Man sometimes Gil’s Noble Phantasm seems really unfair. This battle was one of those times. Since both Gil and Heracles are demi-gods, both are examples of half-breeds who lean to opposite sides of the spectrum. For Gilgamesh who is both born and created, he sees himself as a god only; Heracles on the other hand has endured so much, can empathize with humans more.
Always the interesting episode when Gilgamesh is present in battle. Though I really wish Shirou hadn’t cried out at the end of the battle. No use in making a scene after everyone’s already been killed by Gil. I really can’t wait to see what the anime has in store for us next week.
What are you pondering today?