A Clash of Ideals: Shirou VS Kiritsugu
Fate/Zero is a massive trove of philosophical ideas. Today, we will have an in-depth look at Emiya Kiritsugu’s ideals, and compare it with the ideals Emiya Shirou, Fate/Stay Night’s main protagonist. Please be warned that there will be major spoilers ahead, and also do take note that I will be comparing Kiritsugu with the Shirou of Fate/Stay Night’s anime, NOT the visual novel, as you can basically control how Shirou should go about his ideals in there anyway.
There’s no hope on the battlefield.
It has nothing but unspeakable despair.
Just a crime we call victory, paid for by the pain of the defeated.
Yet humanity has never recognized this truth.
And the reason for that is, in every era,
a dazzling hero has blinded people with their legends and prevented them from seeing the evil of bloodshed.
The true nature of humanity has not advanced a step beyond the Stone Age!
We will first have a look at Kiritsugu. The foster father and role model of Shirou, was actually a man with a very twisted ideal. He aspired to be a hero of justice, but he also understood it is impossible to save everyone. Viewing things objectively instead of subjectively, his way of salvation focuses on “maintaining” the scale of good and evil. If he was forced to kill five person to save five hundred people, he would gladly pull the trigger, and if being forced to kill five hundred thousand people in order to save six billion people, he would again, gladly do so. Kiritsugu kills people and criminals to increase the higher statistics of people who will be saved by his actions.
Through his countless killings, Kiritsugu has shielded off his emotions, which enabled him to think logically. He selfishly understood that his brutality and atrocity is needed by the world and by shutting off his human emotions, he kills and kills non-stop, with the delusion that his act of murders are for the greater good. However, deep down, Kiritsugu is a human, he has doubts, and is surprisingly quite emotional. Despite his countless killings, the man knew his way of saving the world is completely wrong. That was why he sought the Grail once he was aware about the existence of the Holy Grail War, in hope that the Grail would do what he couldn’t.
Once Kiritsugu discerned of the Grail’s true identity, and it’s method of granting the user’s wish, it is no doubt Kiritsugu wanted to destroy it. His ideals and beliefs were in a haywire after that, and his merciless facade was completely shattered. After being shown such a hell, even saving one, just one life is enough for him, as even just saving one life, would be a ‘salvation’ to his struggles.
Kiritsugu: When I was little, I wanted to be a hero
Shirou: What? You wanted to be one.. Did you give up?
Kiritsugu: Yeah.. It’s unfortunate but being a hero is a limited-time thing. When you grow up, it gets hard to call yourself one. I should have realized that earlier.
Shirou: I see. That’s just too bad, then.
Kiritsugu: Indeed. You’re absolutely right.
Kiritsugu: The moon’s really nice tonight..
Shirou: Yeah.. Since you couldn’t do it, I’ll do it for you.
Shirou: You’re an adult now, so you can’t do it. But I can. Leave it to me.
Shirou: Your dream..
Kiritsugu: Right… Yeah… I can be at peace now..
..which brings me to Emiya Shirou next. Shirou, who was saved by Kiritsugu, is a young boy, and probably because of that, his naivety knows no bounds. He wants to be a hero, an “Ally of Justice” like his father, to uphold his idealistic views and most of all, to obtain his childish dream of saving the world. Unlike Kiritsugu, Shirou isn’t as logical as his role model, and in hopes of achieving his dream, he relied on simple activities like helping everyone with their daily tasks, works hard, and to have a healthy lifestyle.
Later on when he begins fighting as the master of Saber, his perspective in battles also begun taking shape, and his outlook when compared with Kiritsugu, is like hell and heaven. In contrast to Kiritsugu’s cold and calculating personality at both his opponents and allies, Shirou opted a more self-sacrificing altitude. Instead of looking at things logically, and making a small sacrifice, Shirou always makes his best attempts at saving everyone without a care of his own well-being. Countless times shown, Shirou, who barely knows how to use magic, was injured to the extreme core by the more experienced magi. He couldn’t stand people getting hurt for his sake, and even sacrificed himself keeping Saber from getting hurt, even though as a Heroic Spirit, Saber’s strength is inherently stronger then that of Shirou’s. Rin repeatedly argued with him and his philosophical stance in Unlimited Blade Works too, to show Shirou just how wrong his idealistic approach is.
In a way, Kiritsugu’s approach in saving the world resembles that of Fate/Stay Night’s Archer. They are cold and calculating, and saving everyone and making small sacrifices are nothing but daily routines to them. Blankly, they kept on repeatedly “saving” the world almost to the brink of insanity. Kiritsugu himself becomes exhausted after years of killing, and immediately turns to the Grail as his one and only means without even questioning the seemingly vague omnipotent wish granting device.
Archer, who is the manifestation of Shirou’s future form, had been ridding the world off evil by mechanically “saving” it, to the point that he became dead, incarnated into a Counter Guardian, and was even ultimately betrayed by his own ideals. Two men, who both grew weary by their own foolery, desired to end it in one way or the other. It is ironic that Kiritsugu’s adpoted son would ended up in almost the same path that he did in the future.
Shirou’s approach would definitely resembles a genuine hero. However, he has no love for himself and had no qualms about sacrificing himself. In a way, Shirou even sounds more like a monster, compared to Kiritsugu, who dons an emotionless and merciless mask, was just an ordinary human deep down who is prone to extreme fears and despairs. Between Shirou and Kiritsugu, who do you think is the true “hero of justice”?