Fate/Zero is a series that tackles a multitude of broad psychological and philosophical themes through its characters and their respective conflicts. These articles will be spoiler filled, and if you haven’t seen Fate/Zero yet then I recommend that you read my review and watch it before continuing. This week, I delve into the philosophies of Kariya Matou and Tokiomi Tohsaka regarding the proper way to treat family and what qualifies as success.
Tokiomi Tohsaka is a character who was given relatively little screen time, particularly given how important his role was to Rin, Kirei and the plot of Fate/Zero as a whole. The commonly overlooked episode 10: Rin’s Adventure does a perhaps the best job at summarising what sort of man Tokiomi is as a father, a mage and a husband. He’s an archetypal Type-Moon mage, calm and focused on increasing his family’s wealth above all else, though unlike Kayneth he doesn’t cheat to win; instead, he skews the odds in his favour, acting within the boundaries of the rules and viewing everyone, with a few exceptions, as tools or stepping stones. However, this rigid perspective hampers him considerably during the war, because beyond having a considerable pool of resources and connections, his poor adaptability and inability to see people beyond their pre-defined roles doesn’t enable him to view his opponents on an individual level. He singles out Irisviel as a major threat because of her family position, keeps relatively distant tabs on Kayneth, whom he assumes will play be the rules to retain his social position, and doesn’t consider Waver a major player in the war at all (besides his servant, of course). However, when it came to Caster’ child massacring and Kariya personal attacks on him and interference with family affairs, not even mentioning Gilgamesh’s unexpected sass, he was completely floored.
His treatment of his family is similar in some ways. He puts them second to being a mage (or maybe third to his goatee maintenance) though he still knows his wife and Rin on an individual level, albeit somewhat basically. As his confrontation with Kariya reveals, Tokiomi is considerably different from Kirei in terms of how he does genuinely love his wife and children, but evaluates their success with a different criteria. He encourages Rin to learn magic and, though he also wants her to be happy, he considers her emotions secondary to her arcane prowess and connections. In summation, Tokiomi is an outspoken pragmatist in both career and parenting, evaluating the success of his wife and colleagues by their loyalty to him and his daughters by how well uphold the family name. When the dilemma is broken down to its essence, Tokiomi simply gave Sakura to the family whom he believed would give her the best chance at success. From his point of view, he did what was right for her, despite it hurting him to make the decision, though his rival was more focused on Sakura’s safety and emotional (not to mention physical) well-being. Given how so much pressure is placed on Japanese students to succeed and all the calligraphy, English, sports and music lessons that many school children get, Tokiomi’s pragmatism may be viewed as an extreme example of that. Given the widely renowned, yet simultaneously criticised, nature of the Japanese education system, this may even be some light criticism.
Much like Tokiomi, Kariya believed that he was “saving” Sakura with his actions, though in his case that plan was scant on details and deliberation. He was an idealist, fixated on the idea of undoing what Tokiomi’s perceived neglect had caused, though he didn’t really consider the context of her plight nor her deeper feelings towards her predicament. He did care for her, and Aoi Tohsaka even more so, though his idealistic approach to saving Sakura didn’t take into account how they might feel about the strong possibility that he and Tokiomi, as fellow competitors, would fight each other. Kariya wanted to make Aoi happy, though perhaps his lack of meaningful interactions with her (or selective listening) may have caused him to skim over how Aoi may well have been willing to lay down her life for any of her family, and that includes her husband. This bares some resemblance to Sayaka from Urobuchi’s preceeding work, Madoka Magica, another character who clothed (at least partially) selfish wishes to be appreciated and held dear by those they have a crush on with pretenses of righteousness. In both cases, the failure to understand the nature of those they were “saving”, and (to a degree) subconscious focus on the “reward” (among other things) ultimately led to their sanity crumbling away.
This comparison is cemented by a similar violent reaction after having their hard work not met with the reward they had hoped for. Kariya’s poor thought process led him to be at Tokiomi’s side following his death and hence earning Aoi’s eternal hatred, for she believed that it was he who killed her husband. This was a nightmarish collapse of Kariya’s idealistic views, exposing them as petty acts of trying to look and feel like the father figure Sakura should have had and the caring husband Tokiomi should have been. Even if these rewards Kariya had hoped for were brought to the forefront of his mind by brain damage, stress and Berserker’s torture, they would have doubtlessly been a driving factor in his actions from the very beginning.
However, as Tokiomi expressed at the battle of a Mion River, when he referred to his wife as “good livestock” and his children as stepping stones on the way to discovering the root, he is a result of his own conformance to his upbringing, and doesn’t see family as just two or three generations, but rather a never ending bloodline. In his mind’s eye, family members have positions to fill and Kariya has no right to destroy what Tokimo’s ancestors, and presumed descendants, devote their entire lives to. Though from Kariya’s perspective, family are immediate and should be protected to the best of the parents’ abilities. Aoi may be partially to blame for the tragic events which transpired; odds are that Tokiomi would not be happy for her to give out family details so frivolously, which paints Aoi as someone not entirely pragmatic. Unlike Tokiomi, she desired Sakura to be safe in the short term, though beyond her expression of despair she wasn’t prepared to do anything. Nonetheless, she wasn’t intending anyone to come to harm, so she isn’t particularly deserving of blame.
Like with the conflict in Part 1, nihilism is ultimately that winner. Tokiomi’s pragmatism led to him overlooking Kirei as an individual and the prioritisation of Sakura’s hypothetical future over her rights to grow up with a caring family. Meanwhile, Kariya’s idealism and myopic grasp of the situation prevented him from seeing the danger of siding with Kirei and focusing squarely on killing Tokiomi.
It’s difficult to not simultaneously despite and sympathise with both of these father figures. Tokiomi was content to let Sakura suffer, as he believed that success as a mage outweighs the importance of happiness and that the context was irrelevant, but the alternative of having her fight Rin may be rationally viewed as a fair judgement. Kariya wanted to save Sakura, though he didn’t consider the entirety of the circumstances and, beyond his idealistic attitude and firm belief that he had the moral high ground, he clearly wanted Aoi as a reward. Both men have an intrinsic desire to protect the girls, though ironically the pragmatist may have done more for their success; the Tokiomi wanted someone to carry on the blood line, while Kariya, though seemingly genuinely caring for Sakura, at least subconsciously wanted Aoi to come to his side as a reward.