I said it was a good title for this post last week and I stick by that fact. But it seems the lesson of why Kiritsugu is a ruthless assassin apparently is going to take more than one episode. But I guess you don’t turn into a mechanical murder machine from one incident in your life. It takes a bit of time and wear to fully kill a person’s soul. You have to be involved with the deaths of all the people you have ever loved for one reason or another. We flash back to Kiritsugu’s origins that made him into the Mage Killer of the 4th Holy Grail War. And so the journey of a thousand miles begins with a few significant steps in this episode. Interesting note: They did not use the standard opening in this episode. They just play the credits over a conversation while driving to get the maximum story in this episode.
It seems that life is good for young Kiritsugu Emiya. His father is a genius sorcerer. He lives in a tropical paradise with good friends and a simple life. There is even a possible blossoming romance with an older girl who has become his father’s assistant. But magical research can be dangerous and often the bigger the risk the bigger the reward. But at the same time when you take big risks the fallout of a mistake can be apocalyptic. One such mistake will change Kiritsugu’s life forever.
We start with Kiritsugu surrounded by friends playing by the water. Since this is based on a work by Gen Urobuchi you know those kids will go on to have wonderful productive lives filled with joy and success. Or they will die in flames. You know. One or the other. But those doomed children aside Kiritsugu is picked up by the effervescent Shirley. We learn from Shirley that the Kiritsugu house used to be a shrine which probably means it has an abundance of leylines. We also learn that he was bullied for being a stranger but Shirley helped him integrate with the locals so he is an accepted member of the community. She is even the one responsible for his nickname of Kerry. They have an extremely close relationship but not a romantic one. Kiritsugu clearly has a crush on Shirley but she likes to use the dread phrase “like a younger brother” and not in that Akiha Tohno manner.
But Shirley is more than just a friend to Kiritsugu. She is also Kiritsugu’s father’s apprentice and assistant. Noritaka, who looks like the missing link between Kiritsugu and Tokiomi, has been researching how to stop time as a method of immortality. Like so many mages Noritaka is seeking the Root but is convinced that only an immortal mage would have enough time to reach the ultimate discovery. So it is the Emiya family’s job is to discover the path to immortality so an immortal can find the answer to the greatest mysteries of magic. So far they can sop the aging of flowers but humans seem still be a long-term goal. But then Shirely whips out a little surprise. She has become skilled enough to create her own timeless flower. She claims it is not as good as her instructors but it is an accomplishment. This prompts Kiritsugu to want to join in on the research but he is quickly shot down by his father. You can see the rejection of his face. It is not one of jealous of Shirley but more of questioning why he is not good enough to help as well.
But is seems that life is not all sunshine and roses for Shirley. While the villagers might be afraid of the Emiya house the town priest realizes there is magic afoot there and seems to be trying to stop Shirley from continuing her apprenticeship. He even goes as far as giving her a minor talisman knife if she gets into trouble. But none of this phases Shirley. She sees an amazing potential in Noritaka’s work that could change humanity. That is why she is willing to stand up to any adversity to help. We also learn two other things. As much as she might seem to be accomplished magus it seems that Shirley is only an assistant. Her flower has already faded unlike Noritaka’s 100 samples. The second is that both Noritaka and Shirley see Kiritsugu as the true heir to his father’ research. It is clear that Shirley wishes to support Kiritsugu in whatever he does leading to a cute little romantic scene by the lake. But if we read between the lines it is also clear that Shirley is a bit desperate for progress. Between being hounded by the local priest and Noritaka’s recent conservative attitude she see seems desperate to prove that this research is actually beneficial. This hunger for acceptance leads to a foolish mistake.
When Kiritsugu awakes the next morning something seems to be very off. His father seems a bit panicked and tells him to stay home. When sunset comes it seems that no one has come home and Kiritsugu begins to worry about Shirley. So Kiritsugu sets out to see what happens and stumbles upon an undead Shirley. She apparently uses the prototype of one of the drugs Noritaka made that have turned her into a vampire known as a Dead Apostle. She has enough of her mind left intact for conversation but she cannot control her hunger for blood. She begs Kiritsugu to kill her before she feeds on more people but then proceeds to kill herself when her friend cannot end her life. Kiritsugu is understandably shaken and goes to get the one author figure that might be able to help, the town priest. But Kiritsugu seems to not be aware of the common horror movie tropes as he quickly get the priest killed and set himself up in a Resident Evil situation.
While I doubt she was Yumizuka Satsuki levels of powerful (No Depletion Garden for her) is seems Shirley feared better than the rest of the islanders who are infected by his curse as they are just shambling ghouls. Just as the ghouls start to overtake the church where Kiritsugu is hiding some executors and Mage’s Association assassins arrive and start laying waste to everything and anyone in their path. While they don’t seem to be racking up any civilian casualties but it also seems neither group is overly worried about helping survivors either. They are just clearing up the mess. And in the Mage’s Association’s mind that also means destroying any evidence of what occurred here with fire. Garden of Sinners fans will notice a familiar face in, Cornelius Alba, although without his trademark piece of haberdashery. He is laying waste to everything and everyone with his trademark fire spells. It is good to see he was always a ruthless jerk.
As neither agency is looking to help anyone Kiritsugu soon finds himself surrounded by the hungry dead. When all look lost it seems that someone who also made a cameo in a flashback is here to save the day. Natalia Kaminski, bursts onto the scene in wonderful Blade like glory. After some glorious gun fu she lays down he situation for the young man she just saved. While she is clearly not the most empathic person (mercenary life does that to you) she is also distinctly the only person willing to help anyone out. It seems that Natalia was hired to find out who was responsible for this travesty and take them down. As it turns out Kiritsugu knows all to well who is behind this all so he agrees to help.
Kiritsugu goes back to his house and confronts his father. He now realizes his dad was not simply researching time and immortality but the distinctly forbidden creation of a dead apostle. The veil over Kiritsugu’s eyes is lifted as he sees exactly how ruthless his father is. Noritaka sees Shirley’s death as a mere stepping stone to his greater research. His father’s inability to see not only what he did wrong but to continue his research somewhere gives Kiritsugu proof of what needs to be done. Kiritsugu stabs his stunned father and then finishes him off with his own gun. Kiritsugu’s path to the man he will become has been set. While the event has clearly traumatized him it has also removed a vital piece of hismorality. Once you kill someone you loved like that you cannot go back to being the same person.
Natalia and Kiritsugu leave the burning island together now that their task is done. With nothing left for him on the island he can only move forward with his new-found guardian. Like the opening sequence we do not get our standard ending. We instead leave the episode with another Kalafina song. But the flashback does not end here. Kiritsugu still has much to learn from Natalia and much to lose before he is the Mage Killer we met at the beginning of Fate/Zero. There is more to come with Kiritsugu is Forced to Murder Everyone He Ever Loved, Part 2.