For ages now, kings have dominated our history and culture. In stories, kings are often characters with great ambitions. They’re influential leaders who hold power over their people’s interests, idealism, and stories. However, just because a person has high or low sense of morals in life, doesn’t mean they’d make a good leader. Kings could be renowned characters of past corruptions or martyrs of heroism, and they’d still reign about the same as the other. Fate/Zero (2011) offers the best example of this idea over all other anime shows.
While it’s easy for anyone to view their favorite characters as king, we need to understand that having an interesting personality alone won’t make them a good leader. Fate/Zero highlights all the potential flaws of a character’s reign based on their actions and worldviews. The series shows us that even a person with the greatest ideals for the world won’t always make the best choices for it. So how do we spot a “good” king in fiction?
It’s true that in today’s world, most of us no longer follow a monarchical system; however, kings continue to influence our lives regardless of this. They’re never truly “gone” from our world as they continue to exist through newer concepts. These days, blood relations and power no longer interest us as much as having the person we follow work within our viewpoints. In the end, a successful king in fiction is someone who shares and accomplishes the ambitions of their followers.
What Is Fate/Zero?
Fate/Zero is the prequel to the Fate/Stay Night (2006) series. And just like its predecessor, this anime is one of Type-Moon‘s many adapted visual novels. Fate/Zero is the origin story to many of the characters from the first series. The series offers fans a newer view of the clan wars, the heroic classes, and the characters’ reasons for obtaining the holy grail. Because of this, we see a lot of characters “returning” from the original story and are also introduced to several new ones.
For the most part, Fate/Zero plays out like a very loose anime-version of The Hunger Games (2008). The series takes a group of randomly selected characters and has them kill each other for their own agenda. Basically, once every 60 years, the “Holy Church” selects a few mages from each of the world’s oldest clans and makes them candidates for the Holy Grail War. The war is a ritual that summons the holy grail — an omnipotent wishing device — to grant a miracle to the surviving candidate. What these miracles entail often depends on the survivor’s desire for the world.
This anime takes all of our world’s past and future legends and gathers them as sacrifices for the battle. These “legends” are often famous heroes summoned by the candidates as their “familiars” for the duration of the war. The characters remain partnered together until circumstances cause them to break ties with each other or either of them dies. This often brings in notable characters like King Arthur and Bluebeard into the series. They also give viewers an opportunity to learn more about a hero’s legacy, and their personal interests in the grail.
The Characteristics Of A Good King
So what makes someone a good king? Historically, King Arthur (the character this anime builds upon) is considered one of our world’s greatest kings. He’s famous for his noble nature and penchant for helping out commoners. Many tend to favor this kind of humanism in kings as his flawed traits are conceivable to the mass majority.
Because of this, his character has been altered over the years to cater to several types of audiences, be it good or bad. In which case, a lot of creators like to model their fictional kings after him. His fictional persona has become a popular representation of what the world imagines as a great king.
Keeping that in mind, this brings us to the “Characteristics of a Good Leader 🙂.” The author lists five characteristics that make Arthur a good king to the people. The author notes that all good leaders must be: honest, intelligent, courageous, imaginative, and inspiring. These are all traits that uplift others in some form. If we apply these characteristics to the Fate/Zero kings, it can help us identify the best leader in the series.
How This Ties Into Fate/Zero
When it comes to “fine” leadership qualities, we see these traits in the numerous characters of Fate/Zero. Particularly, we see these traits within the characters Rider (Alexander the Great), Saber (King Arthur), and Archer (Gilgamesh); who are all renowned kings in our stories. However, just what kind of kings are they? In order for us to properly analyze these characters as kings, we should also examine them based on historical context as well. Their historical counterparts give us better insight into how they treat their followers.
Tyrants As Kings
Gilgamesh is known as the tyrant of his people. If we look into Jon Roland’s “Principles of Tyranny,” the author describes a tyrant as someone who oppresses others to secure their own rule. If they feel that another threatens their position, they will work to eliminate the other party regardless of their relations. We see this oppression of power unfold in the anime. (Spoilers) After learning that he’ll be “sacrificed” to the grail, Gilgamesh manipulates Kotomine into becoming his new partner.
He also schemes to murder his previous “master” the moment he discovers that his life is at risk. Gilgamesh does this because he knows that the other party is a lesser threat. Kotomine makes a “perfect” target for Gilgamesh to manipulate as the character lacks any real interest in power. Instead, Kotomine only seeks purpose. In an extract from Aristotle’s Politics, this behavior is a common tactic that tyrants use for self-preservation. The author states that a tyrant will plant “distrust among his subjects” to prevent threats from rising in power.
While these actions are considerably intelligent for a person, they’re also deceptive and cowardly. Not to mention, it’s also incredibly self-serving. By replacing his master with someone who’s more subservient and entertaining, Gilgamesh shows that he doesn’t tolerate those who overpower him. He fails as a king because he uses chaos to keep others in check.
Why Tyrants Make Terrible Kings
Tyrants make terrible leaders because they only work for their own interests. When the city is attacked by a monster, Gilgamesh ignores everyone’s pleas for help in favor of watching the disaster play out. He’d rather spend his time for himself instead of helping others achieve a greater goal. Furthermore, his reasons for seeking the Holy Grail is simply out of feelings of ownership. He believes that because something extravagant exists within his “territory,” the object is therefore his. He ultimately cares more about himself than those relying on him.
We see this occur several times in the anime as he willingly spares those who impress him, while also killing those who disappoint him. One of the major turning points from The Epic of Gilgamesh is that his friendship with Enkidu helps him develop empathy for others over time. Enkidu serves as Gilgamesh’s catalyst for becoming a better king. However, this character doesn’t appear in this series. He remains a terrible king as his “moral conscious” isn’t present in their world.
Martyrs As Kings
Historically, martyrs are figures who sacrifice themselves for their faith. What their faith is in, however, can be anything from their idealism to moral values. If we look at the term non-religiously, martyrs are virtually those who suffer for the sake of others. This often makes their “objectives” appear noble and saintly towards those around them; as no one would go through the same lengths as a martyr.
Fate/Zero‘s interpretation of Arthur as a monarch is that of a tragic figure. Saber puts everything on the line to save her country from the brink of destruction. This includes hiding her gender and giving up her dreams for the sake of others. Several characters in the anime also take note of Saber’s potential childhood hardships because of her identity.
Especially since she carried a lofty title and responsibility at a young age. They believed that she must have sacrificed a lot to obtain her position. While society favors these selfless deeds in heroes of modern stories, we just can’t imagine them in characters we deem kings. Saber’s actions aren’t all that “inspiring” to us as they don’t bring her joy. Instead, she’s lowering herself to serve other people.
Why Martyrs Fail As King
Saber’s martyrism for her country undermines her capabilities as a leader. She virtually lacks “real” ambition. She has no sense of direction on where to lead her people as she only lives to serve them. Ambition is the reason why people choose to follow those in power, regardless of their moral stance. In the anime, Rider tells Saber that no one “envies” a person who lives for the sake of others.
People look to kings as inspirational figures who drench themselves in fame, wealth, and power. And, as a result of this, they swear their loyalty to them in hopes of obtaining the same kind of success in their lives. A martyr cannot lead their people as no one wants to follow someone who burdens themselves with the weight of the world. Instead, all their effort leads to is momentary motivation.
Inspiration Versus Motivation
In our world, inspiration and motivation are two separate terms with promises of similar outcomes. However, there are different meanings to each word depending on how someone views them. This distinction is clarified in a passage from “Inspiration vs. Motivation” by Paid to Exist. The writer notes, “Inspiration isn’t something you get, it comes from within, it comes from your core.”
In other words, you can’t push others to be inspired by your actions. This is true in the same way that you can’t take another person’s dreams with the same expectations for success. Inspiration only comes to people on their own terms. People must believe in their ambitions in order for their drive to last.
The Problems With Motivation
Motivation occurs when you’re only partially interested in what you’re doing. This isn’t always a positive thing for us as motivated desires are often fleeting. Once we lose the urge to finish these tasks, we never fully reclaim it. The article states:
Motivation. . . usually has a lot to do with fake growth. You think you should be doing something (without thinking about why) and it often leads in the direction of something that doesn’t really matter. It’s what you’re “supposed” to be doing. It’s just a good idea, not a passionate, burning desire that emanates from the core of your being.
Paid to Exist. “Inspiration vs. Motivation.” Paid To Exist. website: http://paidtoexist.com/inspiration-vs-motivation/
Motivated tasks are not activities everyone enjoys doing all the time. In fact, many are normally only interested in the concept of the idea rather than the experience. This is similar to how we treat finishing our work on time and healthy exercising. We only fulfill these tasks when we feel it “needs” to be done. These activities rarely bring us joy, but we rely on the urgency to keep going. Because of this, few rarely succeed in finishing their plans once the desire’s gone.
Conquerors As Kings
Alexander the Great was a ruler who conquered not only several lands across the world but also the hearts of all his followers. He’s adored by his people and has a talent for inspiring loyalty among those from different cultures. Rider brings up these feats in the anime to express his idealism on a ruler’s characteristics. He states:
The king must be greedier than any other… He must exemplify the extreme of all things, good and evil. That is why his retainers envy and adore him… A king must live a life more vivid than any other and be figure for all to admire! The king is the one who collects the envy of all his heroes and stands as their guide! Therefore, the king is not alone! For his will equals that of all his followers combined!
Ranker Anime. “The Best Rider Quotes From Fate/Zero.” Ranker. website: https://www.ranker.com/list/best-rider-quotes/ranker-anime
Rider believes that a true king must be neither too good nor evil, but instead balance them both out to maximum capacity. This means that they should not only live for their people but they should also live for themselves. He also points out that the king is never “alone.” A “true” king must evoke envy and inspiration among their people to ensure loyalty; so they can aspire to become their equals. Kings must never put themselves too above or below anyone, and instead treat everyone as “humans.” It should be their actions that win people over, not their status or power.
Why Conquering Works For Kings
Conquerors, for the most part, are “inspirational” kings. They live life to the “fullest” as they’re always expanding on new things. They’re charismatic figures who know how to win people over. Rarely do these kings resort to manipulative or callous actions as their loyalty to others are real. This makes them genuine in what they’re doing, as they have faith in their own ambitions.
Rider is the only character in the series who exercises all five traits of good leadership. In spite of his early death, his accomplishments and friendships last past his lifetime and follow him through the war over the Holy Grail. What differentiates Rider from the kings is that he allows others the freedom to follow him. His people aren’t tied to moral obligations or underhanded tactics. Instead of rallying others to systematically work within his ideals, he inspires them to approach his ideals however they see fit.
Who’s The King Of Fate/Zero?
In terms of monarchy, inspirational kings are adored by their followers regardless of their actions. Motivational kings, however, can only “rally” their troops when circumstances call for it. In order for a kingdom to last, a monarch must inspire those around them to incite their country’s progression. Their dreams must stick with their people past their reign so their legacy can succeed. Anything else becomes a string of empty promises for the people, as they’re left unfulfilled by their monarch’s decisions.
This is where the difference between Saber and Rider’s positions as kings comes to play. As king, Saber is unable to inspire her followers with her tragic actions. She also seems to only care about her goals because they’re her responsibilities as king. This isolates her from her people as she carries her burdens alone. None of her followers share her sentiments, and many end up despising her rule in their afterlife. Furthermore, her reign brings her regret as she already lost Britain’s war before she was summoned.
Rider’s goal of uniting the land, on the other hand, has won him many followers. His inspiration lasts to the point where his people come to his aid in the afterlife. Although their interests may differ, they all want to see their king’s dream fulfilled. This arguably makes him the best leader as his legacy continues post-death. Because, even though he never accomplished all his ambitions in life, his dreams survive within his people. Unlike Saber, Rider shows no regret in dying.
Why You Should Watch Fate/Zero
While they’re not perfect, shows from the Fate franchise can surprise you in different ways. If you’re already a fan of this series, you should show this anime to those who have yet to watch it. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. Unlike a lot of Type/Moon’s other anime in the Fate series, this one takes on a darker approach to the usual story.
The prequel’s more compelling to watch as it forgoes a lot of the fan service we normally see in the franchise. (This is mainly because the protagonist this time around is an adult and not the usual adolescent beau.) In this case, there are plenty more underhanded tactics at play and it’s fun to watch.