Episode 9 largely deals with the after-effects of the immediately previous battles, as shown through a focus on three different relationships. The most important one in a plot sense is the fallout in the Lancer camp. With Kayneth incapacitated thanks to Kiritsugu’s last shot, his fiancée Sola-Ui offers to step up to the plate to take over full duties as Lancer’s Master, rather than just settling for providing mana for Lancer. This can be interpreted two ways, neither of which involves the loyalty to Kayneth that she espouses: she is either engaged in a naked power grab or has utterly fallen for Lancer, or possibly both. Kayneth seems to recognize this (he could be just holding on to his last tenuous link to being a proud Mage, but he’s too smart to not realize what’s going on), but he’s not in a position to prevent it.
The flash to a love from Lancer’s life as Diarmuid (who is also shown in the closer) is also important here. That young woman is Gráinne, who is Diarmuid’s co-star in the Irish mythological story The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne. In that story, Gráinne is strategically betrothed to the lord Diarmuid loyally serves, but she rejects the lord and becomes enamored with the more handsome and youthful Diarmuid (in some versions specifically because of his love spot). She seeks to run off with Diarmuid, who is reluctant at first but relents under threat of magical compulsion. That is a strikingly similar situation both to the relationship of Sola-Ui, Kayneth, and Lancer and to what plays out here in episode 9. In the original story, Gráinne is shallow, willful, and ruthless, and those characteristics also absolutely fit what we have seen of Sola-Ui so far. Between that and the situation, Lancer seeing a similarity to his past love is no surprise. There are several different versions of how that tale ends, so seeing which version this story most closely parallels should be interesting.
The Kiritsugu/Irisviel/Saber trio also has things to sort out while Maya heals from her injuries at Kirei’s hands. Irisviel is once again stuck being the intermediary between the two wholly different philosophies: Saber wants to limit peripheral damage (i.e. more children dying) by focusing on taking out Caster, while Kiritsugu is willing to tolerate that in pursuit of his goal, so he aims to finish off Kayneth (whom he doesn’t know is being rendered irrelevant by events with the other trio). It’s a clash of trust–or lack thereof–as much as it is of philosophies, with both shaped by their past experiences, and it is another of the series’ defining internal conflicts.
One other relationship–that between Iskandar and Waver–is not in conflict, though things are not entirely smooth there, either. Waver still does not seem to understand how much he lucked out in getting Iskandar as a Servant, nor does he fully appreciate how the actions he considers weak or unremarkable are nonetheless impressing Iskandar. Why wouldn’t a conqueror respect a Master who can use cleverness to ferret out the location of an enemy, even if a full Mage might be able to do it more simply? That Iskandar does not consider Waver’s inability to stomach what they find in Caster and Ryonosuke’s lair to be a weakness simply shows what Iskandar values: a good person should be sickened by something like this, as nothing at all is noble about this kind of slaughter. The brief encounter with two of the Assassins provides the one minor bit of action and expands the number of people who know about Assassin still being around. And of course we cannot forget about the ongoing joke about Iskandar and his pants to lighten the mood, or the way Iskandar gets friendly with Waver’s “grandparents,” before that darkness sets in.
Episode 10, by comparison, is mostly a standalone, and the episode so far that is least accessible to franchise newcomers. Rin Tohsaka has long stood alongside Saber as one of the franchise’s two fan favorite characters, so seeing her get a whole episode devoted to a young version of herself is a special kind of fan service; newcomers, contrarily, will only know her from popping up briefly in the first episode. Even if you weren’t already one of her devoted fans, this episode could make you one, as she is so absorbing to watch here that this episode being a side story can easily be overlooked. Her tracking down of her missing friend using the magic compass follows in the grand tradition of precocious youngsters, and the way she thwarts Ryonosuke by destroying his magic bracelet is another of my favorite scenes in the first half. Extra effort seems to have put into animating this episode as well.
The one connection to the bigger plot is Kariya’s appearance to protect Rin at the end of it all. He does not seem to understand the irony of what he say’s to Rin’s mother: that restoring Sakura to her by winning the Grail War quite possibly will mean killing her husband (and Rin’s father). That reinforces the tragedy of the situation and further bolsters the theme about how the Grail War doesn’t make anyone happy.
As a big fan of Rin, I might rate episode 10 a step higher if scored separately, but both are solid contributions to the series.
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