Anime has long been lacking male characters who aren’t emo teenagers, one-dimensional saviors, comic relief, or romantic pretty boys. Fate/Zero doesn’t follow conventional anime trends, instead, history’s most righteous heroes and cunning villains are brought together in an epic battle royale. This might sound strange coming from someone whose favourite characters are all bishoujos, but Kiritsugu has captured my interest as one of the most interesting characters this season. He is by no means kawaii, moe, or funny, but his beliefs and ideals so closely match mine that it’s hard to ignore. The question is: is he an admirable hero or a despicable villain?
I was taught the following when I was growing up: men don’t cry; make decisions based on logic, not emotions; and show no mercy when threatened with hostility. These beliefs made perfect sense to me for most of my life. Showing weakness (ie: crying) is an open invitation for someone to take advantage of you; making bad (illogical) decisions will eventually cause you more harm than good; and beating an enemy to the ground will ensure they never get back up. Now, how many of these qualities can you find in Kiritsugu?
I’m sure he has shed a tear or two during the series, but they were all in private. I don’t think it’s wrong to say that Kiritsugu is someone that comes off as cold and emotionless. As Kirei said, he’s certainly not someone you want to mess with.
Kiritsugu’s devotion to making the logical rather than the emotional choice is highlighted in the flashback episodes. As a child, he had no qualms about killing his father to prevent him from causing more harm. His adherence to acting for the greater good remains intact as he grows up, showcased in the episode where he kills Natalia in order to prevent a potential outbreak of magic bees in New York.
To win a fight is one thing, to completely destroy your enemy is another. Kiritsugu shows no mercy when he fights his opponents. Ryuunosuke was the first to feel Kiritsugu’s wrath; taken down before even realizing what happened. Kayneth was next with his team being wiped out after having lost. Neither of these two will ever challenge Kiritsugu again.
By all means, I should admire Kiritsugu; he has an almost religious devotion to his beliefs (which are the same as mine) and never strays from his path. He helps as many people as he can and avoids killing innocents – he should be recognized as a hero. Why then would I not trust a man like him with my life? In fact, I am actually disgusted by some of his actions. Perhaps the answer lies in the sacrifices that have to be made to follow those beliefs.
A lot of people have told me that I’m emotionless, and I have to attribute that to the beliefs I share with Kiritsugu. Someone once asked me what I would do if an out-of-control speeding train was heading to a fork in the path, one leads to my best friend and another leads to 5 railway workers, and I was at the control switch. Would I direct the train towards my friend, or the 5 workers? I said I’d direct it to my friend because 5 lives are worth more than one.
The reason I don’t admire Kiritsugu is because his beliefs are too much like mine and I despise myself for knowing that I would act for the greater good rather than for those close to me. Logically, it makes sense; emotionally and morally, it would be devastating. Sacrificing those close to you is something you would find in a villain, not a hero. Even more evidence of Kiritsugu’s role as a villain is revealed when you consider the definition of a villain, as taken from dictionary.com, “a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime.” Kiritsugu’s methods are clearly cruel and malicious, and killing is a crime in every society.
So in this story of legendary heroes and infamous villains, where does Kiritsugu belong? Should he be admired for trying to save the world, or despised for his methods? I don’t believe Kiritsugu is a hero or villain that should be admired or despised. He is merely human, lost and imperfect, but striving for what he believes is right.