Saturday, September 2, 2017

Fate/Feminism

Fate/Stay Night, like other Visual Novels/Animes with Harem aspects, has a male main character and so the extent to which the story seemingly revolves around him can be seen as undermining what Feminist potential could come from having such a large cast of female characters.

However I think there is a lot of Feminist potential in the Fate/ franchise, maybe not always intentional from the original creators, but it’s there.


Spoiler Warning here, since I can’t really talk about any of this without spoiling stuff.


One of the reasons I don’t mind the supposed spoilers that come from watching Fate/Zero first is because I really see no downside to knowing Sakura and Rin are sisters from the start.  I watched Unlimited Blade Works not knowing and just wondered why Sakura got so much attention early on only to be mostly forgotten.  (I also didn’t really know the whole it’s only one route of the Visual Novel aspect.)

I think it majorly helps to watch Unlimited Blade Works Episode 0 knowing about Rin and Sakura, because then you fully get that the reason Rin saved Shirou is for Sakura.  The love one woman has for her sister is why the male MC is even alive.

And that’s just one of a few reasons that Shirou’s importance to the story is seemingly only because he happens to have connections to all these important women.  While in a more typical Fantasy/Harem hybrid it’s more like the women only matter because the super special Jesus-Kun main character likes them.  Indeed you’ll notice in Fate/Zero that all four major Waifus of Fate/Stay Night were part of the Holy Grail War story well before Shirou was, they are all in the first episode of Fate/Zero while we don’t meet Shirou till the last one.

Outside of the main four, I find it interesting that the other two female servants, Rider and Caster, are both women from Greek mythology who have been the subject of a lot of Feminist criticism.  Their stories are pretty clearly originally based on Misogynist archetypes, but women have sought to reclaim them.  A YouTube channel specializing in Nasuverse Lore videos has done videos on Medusa and Medea.  I feel like Fate’s takes on them definitely draws on the Feminist analysis of them.  I can’t comment much on Medusa yet having not gotten to see a version of Heaven’s Feel.  But Medea in Unlimited Blade Works is pretty interesting, calling her a Witch seems to be her Berserk button, and in her flashback episodes she laments being again passed around, vilified and discarded by men.

Fate/Prototype is a short OVA that is based on what the original idea for Fate/Stay Night was before it evolved (makes me think it’d be cool to see some Cartoons based on the abandoned versions of Star Wars).  It’s notable that it had a female lead and a male Saber.  This female lead seems more like a proto-Rin then a female Shirou.  But it’s definitely interesting that that is where the idea for Fate/ started.

I have praised Fate/Zero a lot, including calling it the best entry point into Fate/ for potential new fans.  But my one issue with it is it’s not as good at it’s handling of female characters.  It’s cast is overall much more masculine, with Saber herself being the only female Servant this time.  And worst of all there is a lot of fridging, the worst of it being how we’re supposed to sympathize with Karia after he strangles the woman he claims he loves.

But Saber/Artoria is still great, and I love Irisviel.  And I also like Maya, and I like that Irisviel is okay with Maya and Kiritsugu's relationship.  And I think you could definitely see a Feminist commentary in Caster’s obsession with Jeanne d’Arc.

The currently airing Fate/Apocrypha is difficult to comment on, I think I’ll understand it better once I can watch it Dubbed.  

I don’t know a lot about Grand Order, I’ll be seeing the OVA when it’s Dub drops.  What I do want to comment on briefly is that I heard it has Chevalier d’Eon, and depicts them as Non-Binary.  I would prefer d’Eon be a Trans-Woman as she was historically, but that is definitely better than what the Le Chevalier d’Eon anime did, pretty much removing the Queerness altogether.

I really like Fate/Khalied Liner Prisma Illya.  I know it’s very fanservicey and trashy (I hear there was less Lewdness in the Manga).  But it’s still a Magical Girl show and does what we western Feminists like best about Magical Girl shows.  I’m going to quote a comment from that Dark Magical Girl article on AnimeFeminist, left by a user named GreyLurker.

"Fate/Kalieid liner is one of my favorite series in part because it has it's feet set in both sides of the issue. As part of the Fate universe it's naturaly stuck with a lot of dark elements but the Magical Girl elements directly oppose that. For a lot of things Illya can achieve the impossible because she believes in the ideals of a Magical Girl. She flies because Magical Girls fly. It's just obvious to her even if other characters tell her it's not possible.

Confronted with morality choices like "You can save your friend or you can save the world. Which will you choose" She essentially says "Screw that, I'm a Magical Girl so obviously I'm gonna save both and get the happy ending" She will save everyone because that is what Magical Girls Do.

and that faith lets her achieve the impossible."

Prisma Illy is also predictably subject to the most Yuri Shipping of any Fate/ show, because Magical Girls and Yuri naturally go together.  But in the original VN Saber/Rin is technically canon thanks to the Threesome Ending.  And there is a solid basis for shipping Rider and Sakura.  And in Fate/Zero many have shipped Saber/Irisviel.

Other Nasuverse franchises like Tsukihime, Kara no Kyoukai and Canaan are also worth discussing.  But that would make this post way too long.

So, the Fate/ franchise has it’s issues.  But there is definitely a lot of value in it.

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