Pledging Devotion in Fate/ and Its Spinoffs [Mar. ’20 OWLS Blog Tour]

“The path of devotion is a great labour. Do not ever mar it.” – Gilgamesh to Waver, Fate/Zero

Hiya again. If you’re not familiar with this blog, this is the Animanga Spellbook, this is Aria (pseudonym) and you’ve probably been brought here by OWLS, the Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect. This month’s OWLS prompt concerns “devotion”:

When we talked about fandoms, we show our appreciation and support by buying merchandise, cosplaying, writing fanfiction etc. In fact, our appreciation can end up looking like a sign of religious worship. For this month, we will be talking about how certain characters express devotion to others, objects, and values. We will also be discussing how devotion can turn into an unhealthy form of passion and obsession and the implications of that.

Turns out fonts like “You Murderer” and “Tall, Dark and Handsome” don’t work out…because they’re slightly too hard to read. (Image source: Fate/Zero ep. 16)

When I first read this prompt, I was considering not doing it – the only way I could think of approaching this was from a meta perspective. However, after thinking about series I could feasibly use the prompt with and then working on more Fate/ posts, a good series to approach it with turned out to be in front of me all along…so about 1200 words later, I proved past me wrong. Not sure if I should be happy about that.

Note: I do not recommend going through Fate/ at a rate faster than you would usually watch a series with a lot of lore and philosophical concepts. I thought I was pacing myself when I chose the “4 episodes a post twice a week” format, but nope – for the most part, I’m finishing the posts about 8 hours before they go live…just another reason why I don’t do weekly posts on simulcasts.

Fate/ fans are known among anime fans for being nutty over their own lore and whatnot…and they particularly seem to like throwing it into other people’s faces with things like Fate/Grand Order. Notice the language I’m using – despite my giving the second half of Fate/Zero a 90/100 as I type this, I don’t identify as a hardcore fan of the series. Going “hardcore” requires not only Fate/Grand Order (which, knowing how obsessed I can get with anything involving gacha, would ruin me), but other anime and materials from the so-called “Nasuverse”.

This is where that warning comes in – because I chose to watch so fast, any relationships I have with the series are rush jobs. However, because I was paying attention to some characters more than others (looking at you, Waver!), this still allowed me to forge my signature brand (?) of fanaticism for them. Basically, if I think about something too much in a short amount of time – and especially if I’m bored enough to pour everything I have into loving the series – I can easily become obsessed. Generally, if I spend money on merchandise, that’s the major hallmark that I have pledged myself to the fandom and it’s unlikely my fan status of that series will ever go away…that’s not a line I’ve crossed yet for Fate/, despite said merchandise being a fairly frequent sight in every dedicated store I’ve encountered in recent memory. (It helps quite a bit of that merchandise is Fate/Grand Order-related or for characters I don’t quite care for.)

Within Fate/ itself, a lot of care is given to devotion as a double-edged sword…although it’s normally given a positive spin in the protagonists’ case, such as Shiro’s dedication to being a Hero or the developing relationship between Rin and Shiro (both examples hailing from Unlimited Blade Works), there is also plenty of discussion for what happens if devotion goes awry, normally through Mages who seek the Root or relationships which fall apart due to the Grail War. Outside the actual religious figure of Kirei (whose entire character development is seeking something to dedicate himself to), one of the relevant discussions is the king’s treatment from Fate/Zero – should they be a figurehead, shying away from their subjects? Should they be “one of the people”? The former arguably makes it easier to direct devotion. On the other hand, the latter makes it easier to understand the person behind the facade and relatability, as any author can tell you, is in itself a tool to make people buy into what you’re selling and make them more devoted.

Even Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files, which has less influence from the War, shows how Waver clings to his relationship with, and has been changed by, the Rider he knows and how summoning Rider again would end up with the Servant’s memories of him gone. It gets to the point where Waver values the last vestiges of Rider so much they almost look like a god and his subject when taken out of context. Waver even talks to a piece of Rider’s mantle – which he used to summon the Servant, so it acts like a proxy for Rider – when he’s troubled.

As part of the aforementioned “[relationships falling] apart due to the Grail War”, it is rare the series offers up “healthy” relationship options and generally the “healthiest” options betray the series’s origins as an erotic visual novel (i.e. these “options” are, to my knowledge of the ‘verse so far, Shiro and his love interests, plus Kiritsugu and Iri). Of course, a lot could be blamed on the nature of Fate/’s general structure being a battle royale. In that regard, it can only make space for established relationships that are proven to move discs and merchandise. However, regardless of whatever ships you pick or whether you interpret new ones, due to the series’s extensive lore, you’re sure to be rewarded for your choice, since these characters go through a lot of suffering to get to their happy ends…if they even get there at all.

Generally, the spinoffs are more light-hearted, so familial (or pseudo-familial) relationships are much better in those, most notable in how Kiritsugu and Iri aren’t actually dead in Prisma Illya, despite my initial thinking of the contrary (due to how that is eventually the case in Fate/Zero). In Case Files, the El-Melloi class and “family” gets along, albeit with some level of bickering/teasing, as well as the shadow of the original Lord having passed away.

What does this tell you? Devotion is a great driving force and sometimes it can even become a person’s raison d etre, but it can just as easily cause ruin.

Condensing 2 months’ and 4 separate series’ worth of one franchise was actually quite difficult, considering I’m missing a lot of details from the Nasuverse (including Prisma Illya seasons I still have to get to and parts of the ‘verse I don’t even intend to touch, so this is far from comprehensive). Then again, the different angles of the prompt mean I’ve got more than enough material to work with, so consider this the crystallisation of my hard work this season…! (Hence why I’ve tagged it under the project, too.)

I didn’t realise I was first this time until said schedule went out, so the next post is by Megan (from Nerd Rambles) on the 12th.

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