This post will be the first installment on the Fate series, specifically on the thirteenth and final episode of Fate/Zer0’s first season: “Forbidden Banquet” or “The Forbidden Feast of Madness.” We will be looking at the character relationships between Ryunosuke and his servant Caster and that between Waver and his servant Rider. Both relationships are developed subtly in way which may not at first be recognized as a juxtaposition of the two teams.
Ryunosuke and Caster are an apparently perfect match. They are both demented serial killers who share the same values, which are basically the reversal of all normal, moral values. They believe that the murder of innocents is an art-form and they take aesthetic pride in their work. In fact, they are still not engaging in the Holy Grail War, but simply continuing their own personal killing spree. But, when they return from an outing and find that their base of operations, or “art studio” in their minds, has been raided and destroyed for its vileness by Waver and Rider, a very interesting conversation unfolds in which the two become ever more united in their goal (bear with me; it’s rather long):
Gilles de Rais: Ryunosuke, only a very select few can comprehend true beauty and harmony. To the vast majority of common, ignorant philistines, beauty is but something to be loathed and feared and destroyed. It is for that reason that we must not become excessively attached to our creations. We creators must rather find joy in the process of creation, instead of the creation itself.
Ryunosuke: Maybe we were just having too much fun and God punished us.
GdR: Listen carefully to what I have to say to you, Ryunosuke! God does not punish humans ever! He simply toys with them cruelly! Once, long ago, I committed spectacular atrocities, the like of which the world had never seen. Day after day I murdered and defiled, and yet no divine punishment came. And, before I knew it, my exploration of the depths of evil had been ignored for eight whole years. In the end, it was not God that destroyed me and took away my life, but rather the selfishness of my fellow man. The church and the state executed me, not for any wrong that I had done, but because they coveted my wealth and lands! What brought an end to my sinful deeds was not discipline or judgement. It was simple theft!
Ryu: But, Big Guy. There’s still a God, right?
GdR: Why do you think that? You who are without faith and have never known a miracle?
Ryu: Because the world seems like it’s so boring. But the more you look, the more you find all kinds of neat and crazy stuff! I’ve always felt that way. A world filled with so many amazing things could never have happened simply by chance. If you set your mind to enjoying it, there’s no better entertainment than this unbelievable world! I’m sure there’s a master entertainer somewhere writing the story of 5 billion people. If you wanted to describe somebody like that, what other name could you give him but God?
GdR: Then, Ryunosuke, do you believe it’s possible that God loves humanity?
Ryu: He’s head over heels! If he’s spending every minute of everyday writing the story of this world, well, you could never do that without love! I bet he’s totally into it. While he enjoys his own work, he also loves all the things that make humans look good, like honor, courage and hope. And, at the same time, he loves screams and blood and despair just as much. If he didn’t, there’s no way the guts of living things would be so cool and colorful! So, I’m positive the whole world is filled with God’s love, Big Guy!
GdR: In this era where the people no longer believe, and the state has abandoned the true will of God, I had no idea that such a vivacious new faith had taken root! You have my admiration, Ryunosuke, my master. […] But according to your new religion, were not all of my blasphemies nothing more than a farce?
Ryu: Not at all. You know, the best entertainers can get smiles out of playing the villain. If you ask me, I bet God just loves playing against your cruel and demented villain routine!
GdR: [Maniacal Laughter] So both blasphemy and worship are, in your eyes, valid forms of godly devotion? That’s marvelous! Truly, Ryunosuke, you are the insightful bearer of a brilliant and important new philosophy! A God who makes mere puppets of all men for His own sport, and yet is nothing but a clown Himself! I see. His vicious ways all make sense now. Very well then. Let us go and paint the gardens of God with even more brilliant despair and terror! We will show the author of this world that God is not the only one who knows what entertainment is!
If nothing else, this dialogue is a defense of religious fervor and devotion against cold belief. You’re probably thinking, “yeah, I see that. Except that they were just talking about killing people and relishing in their entrails as a form of religious devotion to God! Hello, McFly? Anyone home?” Yeah, they clearly have a demented view of things, but let me explain the point here. This dialogue shows how no person can take comfort in being a mere theist. Personally, I felt eviscerated by this conversation when I first understood it, because Ryunosuke actually presents an argument along the same lines that I might (and have) in order to explain why I believe. He makes an argument for God based upon the wonders of creation, the likeness of existence to a great story with narrative elements, and the love of God evident in the fact of creation and its sustenance. But, if you lean on a theistic doctrine of the present tense found in natural revelation, and do not believe in the special revelation of what God says in his word (I’m assuming the Bible here, but a generally theistic view could insert any deity and its text), then you also may come to the same place as Ryunosuke and believe that God loves good and evil equally because both exist in His creation.
This is incredibly important to understand, because if you cannot or do not appeal to a solid standard and declaration from God about Himself, then you have no grounds to argue that God hates evil except from the revelation found in nature. And, in that case, you would be obligated to affirm the experience of Caster when he complains against the idea of a just God who would let him continue his atrocities for eight years and then not punish him, but make him the fatal victim of other men’s selfishness. Natural revelation leads to the idea that God has at least no problem with evil, and rather likely that He prefers it given how often and pervasively He lets it rear its head.
Also interesting is when Caster says, “It is for that reason that we must not become excessively attached to our creations. We creators must rather find joy in the process of creation, instead of the creation itself.” The philosophy of evil does not have a recognizable end goal. It only has a position, being eternally opposed to God. A Christian says that his purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever by never ceasing to learn more about Him and imitate Him in all the ways he is capable and in everything he sets his hand to. This too has no terminating point since the mission is to better know, glorify, and love an infinite God. But the philosophy of evil presented here states that it knows God already and that there is no single way to worship Him. It does not matter in what way you set your hand to anything, because everything, good or evil, is public worship. Perhaps I make too much of this, but I found this whole section very convicting.
That is why I found it even more interesting when, in the same episode, there is a juxtaposition of the conversation between Caster and Ryunosuke with that between Waver and Rider. Waver and Rider are an odd couple. Rider is boisterous, fearless, and takes everything head-on with seemingly little strategy. He is the one who declares himself as being Iskandar King of Conquerors without regard for the obvious element of surprise he could have used against his enemies if he had not, and Waver is the first to complain about that fact. Waver is strategic, intelligent to the point of over-thinking, and therefore almost constantly set off-balance by Rider’s personality. In a conversation in which Waver is acting particularly dour, this clash of qualities is discussed in a way similar to Ryunosuke and Caster’s conversation:
Waver: Even if I get the grail for a servant like you, who’s practically guaranteed to win, I couldn’t take pride in that at all. It would have been a lot better for both of us if my pact had been with Assassin instead of you.
Rider: I don’t think that would have worked out well for you at all. I think by now you would be…deceased.
W: I’m saying, I’m not the only one here who’s not satisfied with this pact, am I? You don’t like it anymore than I do right? Having me as your master. You’d have been able to have won this war a lot easier if you had sworn your allegiance to a different master, right?
R: [Sigh] Probably, yes. [takes out book out of Waver’s backpack and flips to a page with the map of the world] Take a look, kid. This is the real enemy I’m facing. Now, try to draw the two of us standing alongside this enemy. Draw it so that you can compare us. Impossible, right? Next to the enemy we’re about to take on, you and I are the same. Just little dots! What point is there in trying to compare our sizes? That is exactly why I am so excited! The weakest? The smallest? That’s just perfect! With a body smaller than a poppy seed, I will someday surpass the world! And nothing can stop my quest, for in my chest beats the heart of the King of Conquerors!
W: So, what you’re saying is, who your master is makes no difference? No matter how weak I am it really doesn’t matter one way or the other to you.
R: Now, where’d you get that stupid idea? That miserable complaining nature of yours is a sign that somewhere inside of you is a conqueror. No matter what you say, you are acutely aware of how small you are. And yet, in spite of that, you still struggle to reach heights greater than you can imagine.
W: That’s not a compliment. You’re making fun of me.
R: Indeed, boy! Face it, you are a stubborn and incorrigible idiot! Your deepest desires are something that is far beyond you. Like they say, “Glory lies beyond the horizon.” Back in the world that I lived in, that was the fundamental rule of a full life. […] Laugh if you like. I, who after 2000 years still dream the same dream about a place he’s never seen, am a great fool. So, you see boy, a pact with an idiot like you is just perfect for me!
Those who are thinking ahead are probably anticipating me to make an obvious Jesus allusion. And you’d be dead on. Yeah, there are elements of the narrative that are obviously not a direct mirroring of the gospel narrative, but I think there are some other things that are spot on. So…we’re gonna look at those things. Here we go.
Any conscious Christian has at some point in their life thunk thoughts along the line of Waver’s. There comes a time when you feel that the God you’re doing your day to day with is not only infinitely greater than you are to the point that, if anything, you feel like you’re holding Him back with your obvious failings and weaknesses, but also that who He is and what He does for you kind of disqualifies you from doing anything that could make you of any value to Him at all. This is an incorrect way of looking at the relationship between the believer and God, but it does not stop us from going there at least once in the sanctification process (if not once in the process of a week).
And the good news is, this self-deprecating pride has an answer which Rider gives and interesting version of. First, He points out that any alternative other than the one where we are allied with Him would be fatal for us. So, really, you’re being kind of dramatic. Take a breath and think it through.
Second is an argument of incarnation. Tis the season, after all. God doesn’t just say that He’s going to take the world. He sends His Son as an infant with fleshy, flailing arms and legs to a barn that was in use and He said, “not only am I going to take the world, but I am going to do it in this body, and He will be the King of Conquering Kings.”
And, thirdly, when we throw up our hands and say that it makes no difference then whether we’re weak, stupid, or simple people because our actions are insignificant compared to what He is capable of, somehow thinking in that way really is a “stupid idea.” An acute understanding of how useless we are to God on our own strength is precisely the footing from which He desires for us to reach for the otherwise impossible, for things we have never known or seen. For, when we do so from such a place, we are giving the best imitation of God we are capable of giving, that of His Son. We can glory in the fact that when we are called fools or considered insane for our hopes and convictions, that they said the same of the King of Conquerors.
I hope that this was an edifying little exercise despite the lengthy reading. I tried to work an incarnational message in for Christmas. I hope that you all have a merry Christmas and that this post might present those of you who read it with a different perspective on the importance of God’s word, God’s condescension to man, and God’s drawing of man toward Himself.