Oh Gil…you absolute asshole. Yeah…I gotta admit, I’m glad and also not glad I got this episode in the rotation, because its equal parts insanely awesome and insanely sad and hitting right in the guts. Actually its a perfect summary of UBW in a nutshell really, awesome and soul crushing.
So, as Shirou and Rin try and get their way into the episode, we get alot of the epic Gil vs Berserker fight and it is awesome. Gil keeps spamming blade after blade after blade, but Berserker still keeps coming. One advantage is that, basically any Noble Phantasm below A rank can’t hurt him, and then, there’s his 12 trials. Which basically gives him 12 lives to work with. In any other match up, there is no way he could be beaten, but unfortunately, Gil has several advantages. One is he can summon unlimited weapons to hit him with, another is that, since he’s targeting Ilya, Berserker is dealing with protecting her, whereas if he went all out, he could have a better chance. Instead, he takes everything Gil throws at him and then some, because he’s Berserker and Berserker is strongest there is!!!
So, there’s the awesome side, now what about the feels? Weeellll….alot of this episode develops and shows Ilya’s backstory. And its rather crucial, I love how the anime does this. In Fate/Zero, Ilya is kind, cute, a normal loving child, so how did she become a semi-psychotic girl who wants to kill Kiritsugu and Shirou?
The answer is simple-The Grail and all its heaping amounts of EVIL BULLSHIT!!
I’m guessing its due to Ilya’s connection to Irsiviel and her being connected to the grail she’s able to see these visions, and its so bad it happened. Essentially, the twisted, tainted version of her mother says her father betrayed her, his goals, and abandoned Illya, and never loved her. It appears again to say how he’s died, very gladly, and set her o take on Shirou. It breaks her innocence, her feeling she can trust anyone or care about anything. That and the cold, sterile growth environment of the Einzbern mansion makes her easily snap and become so much more cold and twisted.
One thing that doesn’t help matters is how she’s cut open to make her the “perfect master”, giving her all of the magical circuits she needs and adjusting her command seals. The Einzberns do everything to insure her success, but, as Ilya finds out, they don’ even really care anymore if they win. She sees many version o her maids dying and being replaced, expendable. The homunculi, and by extension, her, are all meant as part of an experiment, and if they fail the Einzberns will be like “well, we tried our best.” They’re not treated as people, only parts of an experiment, something Illya despises, and it only makes her more cold, jaded, and unwilling to connect o anything.
This part of the episode I find…interesting but also perplexing. Normally, the servant is summoned with the contract already made, the command seals linked up. So, I’m unsure if the Einzberns found a way to summon berserker before they were connected, or if the link they are meaning is something, more, some supped up command seals to make sure their wild beast of a servant is under control. However, the problem of having such a giant, hulking mad beast is, despot your best efforts you can’ t hope to control it. Luckily, Ilya doesn’t have to.
As part of her final test, Ilya’s sent into the middle of the woods and has to find her way back…unfortunately, there are wolves here. Now, if you’ve seen Beauty and the Beast, you’ll know where this is heading, but quite surprisingly, Ilya does get hurt and attacked before he gets there. But when he does, she realizes, he’s not fighting for her and protecting her because he has to, but because he wants to, because he cares about her. Its so fascinating because we never get any dialogue from Berserker, so we have to decide on his actions what his thoughts and motivations are. Perhaps he simply cares for her, perhaps because he ended up destroying everyone he loved, he wanted more than anything to protect her. It can be any reason, but its really touching seeing this huge brutal monster showing he has so much more to him than the madness.
When we cut back to the battle, Gil’s managed to get Berserker onto his final life, and decides, as a coup-degrace, to pull out one of his trump cards. For those who saw Fate/Zero, its the chain he used to stop Rider just as he was about to cut him, and if not, Gil himself explains it. The chain, Enkidu, restrains those of high divinity ranking, and the higher the rank, the more indestructible the chains are. Despite his comments on how much he looked down on Berserker, he clearly had some respect for him to use one of his favorite toys, even if its in a “you son of a bitch mongrel can you just sit still and die now” way.
Once Berserker is finished, Gil goes about the next part of his goal at leisure, but oddly without his trademark smirk. Possibly because even he thinks its low to beat up a little girl. But, still he does so, first slashing Ilya’s eyes and then stabbing her through, leaving her blind, dying, and crawling on the ground, as Shirou and Rin are forced to watch (well, Shirou moreso because Rin is physically restraining him.)
Despite all she’s done…and all she could have done, Ilya remains just so sad this way, looking for Berserker, the one person she could trust, the one person she felt could make her safe. Even now, at her dying moments, all she wants is to be by the one person who was always by her side, and never betrayed her. She manages to touch him and find peace, and comfort still.
This then leads to one of the most awesome things ever. Berserker comes back, breaks out of the DIVINE UNBREAKABLE CHAINS, and goes to take on Gil, who, for the first time, is actually scared crapless at nearly having his skull crushed like a grape.
Look at this, look a this shit right here. Gilgamesh, king of heroes, stunned utterly as Berserker, in one last motion, goes for him. If he had been a split-second off, he’d have been killed. That’s it, no smart remarks, no quips, he’d be freaking dead. This is one of the most awesome things ever. Even while dead, he comes back for one more attack, and makes Gil piss his kingly pants. Yeah, he still dies, but he shows just why he’s considered the strongest there is. This is touching, sad, awesome and badass. Its just a glorious moment, amazing beyond all measure.
Then we go back to the sad things as Ilya, now truly dying, but she does so with a smile, because she feels Berserker as part of her, and knows he’s always protected her, and been there for her. While we’ve seen Shirou and Saber and their bond, and the love between Caster and Kuzuki, the truly closest relationship is Heracles and Ilya.
This was a fantastic episode for the series, and did so much. While some characters really only get an episode or two of development, the series does its best to give as much as possible and this is no exception. Strictly speaking, Ilya was barely in the series, but she got enough alongside Berserker to make this all so meaningful and deep and awesome. Its an extreme highlight for the series, and truly just wonderful to watch. Definitely one of my favorites here. I’m excited for what we got for the future, with Shirou and Rin stumbling into Gil’s clutches, and everything else. Who knows, maybe Berserker’s FUCKING ASHES WILL COME BACK TO KILL GIL!!!
There’s always the hope.