It's not what you think!
Wait! What’s this?! What do we have here? Chiaki! What are you doing? What’s with the get-up? Were you… posing?
I wasn’t the only one laughing was I? What made it funny? Well, I can’t quite answer that, but it’s obvious that we were meant to make the comparison between Chiaki and Marika in the regalia. With that in mind, I think it’s important to note that that was the underlying theme of this week’s episode.
I had difficulty with last week’s episode. Nothing difficult in enjoying it, but rather in knowing what to write about. That episode marked the official entrance of Princess Gruier Serenity (Gruelle? Gruyère?) and thus the transitioning of the plot from mostly introduction and characterization, to that of the beginnings of galactic political intrigue. It’s nothing that I wasn’t invested in, but what I’m most grabbed by in episodic analysis is subtext.
"Stay strong, Katou Marika! Fight, Katou Marika! Space awaits you!"
The opening narrations for these episodes are important. They bring the audience up to speed while simultaneously fleshing out more of the world and speaking to the themes of the forthcoming episode. The tone of this week’s introduction had me confused for a while. It took a much more bombastic approach than what we’ve seen prior, speaking to a bold and assertive Marika that’s perhaps a bit too enthusiastic about her role. I had it down as an allusion to a style of introduction long past that I had not seen and accepted it for that. It wasn’t until the end card had been revealed, which echoed a line that Misa Grandwood had given, that I had finally understood what this week was meditating on:
The dangers of pride, and hubris.
A curious thing happens when you’re in outer space, when the context of terra firma is taken from you. You realize that phrases like “left” and “right” are suddenly a lot less valuable than they once were, as the meanings ascribed to them conflict from person to person.
In space, there is no absolute direction.
"Are you scared?" "Yes."
This episode is telling. It cements in no uncertain terms what the series values above all else, and in turn the audience has a crystal clear understanding if they will enjoy this or not. Given my affinity with astronomy and the universe at large at a very young age, it taps into a primordial fascination I’ve had with the sheer vastness and the profundity of the isolation of space. Unfortunately, that’s not to say that this particular episode had some issues that aren’t worth addressing. That first episode was a promise, the second episode was a lesson, and in more ways than one this third episode was a test.
If the first episode was a promise, then this second one was a lesson. If there was anything in particular that stood out this week, is this show’s emphasis on the idea of responsibility. It pervaded every pore of every scene in this episode, and as if to emphasize that the deftness of the storytelling in the first week was no fluke, proceeded to inform characterization, plot, and dialogue all at once.
There is a promise being made here. Through girls in pirate outfits, shiny tech in somewhat familiar settings, the juxtaposition of the romantic mores of pirating society with that of the mundanity of adolescent schooldays and the high adventure of the most open frontier.
Holy Grail Dialogue
This week’s Fate/Zero proved to be incredibly interesting, despite the relatively static setting. We find the three servants seated and sharing a drink, discussing what it means to be a king and the philosophies that each hold to what that means. How this tête-à-tête plays out amounts to a verbal skirmish between the characters that doesn’t seek to draw blood, but rather to know each other and their thoughts more personally. Their theories on what it means to be a king were very fascinating to me.
It’s strange, in every season there’s always a single opening sequence and ending sequence that stands apart from the rest as the example that compels me to seek it out. And while there are several incredibly good opening songs this season (Persona 4’s comes to mind easily), there’s only been one song that has truly grabbed me like no other. That’s Un-Go’s “Fantasy”, by LAMA. The melancholy minor key tonality of the vocals being pulled along by the repetitive lilt of the piano transfixes me like no other. I’ve enjoyed several opening songs so far, but none have really grabbed me viscerally so much as this particular song has. Perhaps I need a little more time for the songs to grow on me. I know for instance that I didn’t know how much I enjoyed Tiger & Bunny’s Orion wo Nazoru until it was gone.