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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Servants and Masters: Relationships in Fate/Stay Night

Spoiler alert: Spoilers for volumes five through ten of the manga beyond this point! Please do not share any spoilers past this point in the series, please!

In my last Fate/Stay Night post, I cut it short to keep things simple and vowed to post about the wonderful relationships in this series later. So here I am, later, talking about the relationships in the Fate/Stay Night manga! I hope I do not bore you. Personal relationships in manga, whether romantic or friendship or otherwise, always intrigue me – and F/SN has been doing a really good job of keeping them developed and three-dimensional.

Especially Saber and Shirou. Oh, I adore them so much. But I’ll get to them in a second.

First things first, I don’t think concentrating an entire blog post on relationships is silly! After all, much of what Fate/Stay Night does is based on relationships – mainly, the one between a Master and their Servant. Their link is what keeps the Holy Grail War going. You cannot have a Master without a Servant and vice versa.

(And as recent events showed, sometimes you can have multiple Servants under one Master. But that is cheating, y’all! Real Holy Grail holders don’t cheat. They just mercilessly slaughter their friends in the name of victory! Ahem.)

I feel like the core relationship of this series is the one between Saber and Shirou. It has really evolved from a simple Master/Servant one to one where they can start to rely on each other for support and better themselves in the process. Just look at Shirou. He’s putting it on himself to become stronger so he can protect Saber and make her burden lighter. Masters don’t do that! But Shirou isn’t a typical Master, and Saber is no typical Servant.

In turn, Saber makes it her job to protect Shirou and make sure he achieves his goal of becoming a hero who saves people while at the same time understanding that his way of doing things involves saving people he considers friends. People like Shinji, who has shown his true colors as a controlling, manipulating Master – and yet Shirou still sees the good in him, the person he’s been friends with for years.

For someone who is fully entrenched in the culture of a War which teaches those involved to value power over friends, it has taken a lot on Saber’s part to accept these parts of Shirou’s accepting personality. Shirou wants to save everyone. Saber wants to save Shirou from his own nature. Eventually, these two interests will clash majorly, but for now they’ve found a balance within their Master/Servant relationship.

Also, I love that Saber has become a teacher for Shirou in several ways, mainly in the ways of combat and the history of the War. This brings me to Shirou’s relationship with fellow Master Rin Tosaka, who despite declaring her intentions on winning this War has given Shirou a lot of help in his Magecraft and understanding of how the Holy Grail War wins. But then again, Tosaka has said time and time again that she’d rather win against someone prepared – and she also has too much pride to beat an opponent who is so heavily mismatched against her years of skill and preparation.

Shirou did not have the benefit of coming from a family who has been involved in the conflict for generations; no one really raised him to be a soldier in this War like the Tosaka clan did with Rin. Really, the best resource for making sure him and Saber aren’t knocked out early in the game is, ironically enough, the girl most determined to take the Grail for herself.

As for Rin herself, it’s obvious that her strongest relationship is with her own Servant, Archer. As the series progresses, we see Rin learn more about her Servant and the person he once was in the distant past. Like Saber, Archer has had one hell of a time remembering who he is, but it has not fully come back yet. This has not negatively affected their relationship, although it has kept them from connecting as Saber has with Shirou. 

Which is not to say their relationship is strained or distant; it is obvious from their moments in combat that Rin and Archer has spent much of their time together becoming tuned in with each others’ thoughts and action patterns.

Plus, I would say that Rin and Archer’s relationship, compared to Saber and Shirou, is much more mature. Whether it’s the lack of an age gap (physically speaking) or the fact that they’ve spent more time together, the two of them have a much more honest dialogue and are able to talk to each other like adults. They have the occasional tiff but it does not completely break apart who they are.

And they are – let’s be honest, folks – really cute together. Archer wins for making Rin blush on occasion. Blushing Rin Tosaka is one of the cutest things in the universe, next to Saber wearing girly clothes and Shirou in an apron. Sorry, still shallow!

Aside from the two main relationships, the one I think really deserves mention so far is the one between Shinji Matou and his adopted sister Sakura (no, not the one between Caster and her Master, I’ll save that for when I read volume eleven). I think they have the potential to become closer and more sibling-like, so long as it doesn’t erase the fact that Shinji did a lot of jerk-like stuff to Sakura. He was very controlling and manipulative! Yes, it sucks that he’s not the heir, but it doesn’t give him the right to take it out on Sakura. Who knows – maybe Sakura will eschew her destiny to build a stronger bond with Shinji, who has felt like an outcast in his own family for so long? That would definitely be interesting.

Really, I could hit on a lot more relationships – that’s how good Type-Moon is at crafting connections on various levels between characters – but I’ve reached 1k words so for those who stuck around, thank you for reading! I hope my Fate/Stay posts have brought some kind of fresh perspective to the series, and I hope to make some more posts about Saber and company in the future. 

Please feel free to comment about your favorite F/SN relationships in the comment section! I’d love to hear y’all thoughts on this wonderful series.