Fate/stay night and a Diary of an Anime Lived

by eternal on January 9, 2010

From the moment Digitalboy announced his Diary of an Anime Lived project, I was interested. True, it’s usually not a good idea for an anime blogger to talk more about themselves than about anime, but there are times when personal posts add an extra level of realism to an invisible writer and their opinions. It’s also intriguing to see how fiction can impact lives, intentionally or not.

However, when the project was announced and posts started surfacing, I quickly realized that anime hasn’t impacted me as much as I thought it had. Sure, my life is different today because of anime – but it’s the fandom that changed me, not any particular work of fiction. I could have rambled on about Honey and Clover and shoujo manga and unrequited love, but that’s not quite what the project is about. H&C might be my favourite anime, but it didn’t make me rethink anything. It’s my Bible, and it made me want to cry for every Takemoto and Morita and Hagu, every Ayumi and Rika and Mayama, but it didn’t make me rethink anything.

My prospects were looking bleak for a while: I’m from an ordinary, functional family, I attended reasonably safe and healthy schools, and I don’t suffer from any psychological problems. There isn’t much in my life that I can ramble on about, no tear-jerking awakenings spawned by a heroic struggle in anime.

Towards the end of the year, though, I realized something. I found a connection in a character who couldn’t be more different from me: Emiya Shirou.

Shirou is a naive, irrational kid who is selfless to a fault. His self-esteem is low enough that it makes me wonder just how tragic the events of the previous Holy Grail War were to him. As you might have guessed, I’m almost the exact opposite: I try to look at things rationally, and for better or worse, I’m not as interested in the well-being of the human race as a lot of people. Given the choice, I would not become Archer, and I would not sacrifice my life to become a hero. It just isn’t worth spending your one life on something you’ll never benefit from.

That said, when the second route rolled around, there was something that caught my eye. Shirou has a certain trait that I have, and if you take it out of context, his quest disturbingly similar to my own.

Let’s backtrack for a bit. Shirou, being “reborn” into a world of death and knowing that he was only saved by chance, decided to dedicate his life to others. Above all else, he vowed to become someone who could save everyone, so that a tragedy like that could never be repeated.

In a completely different way, I was born into a fairly ordinary society that hides its fangs beneath the surface. No, I’m not complaining – it’s a simple truth. As anime fans, virtually all of us have experienced some sort of exclusion in society, be it at school or work  or even with our own peers. I was never a victim of bullying and I never felt discriminated against, if that’s the right word to use, but the “fangs” of society were there. They’re still there. And yet, is it only the “abnormal” people in society who are pushed away from the “normal” ones? Nerd culture has grown tremendously, and some levels of geekdom are considered normal, or even respectable in the rest of the world. And as we all know, just as an anime nerd would get torn apart on a football team, jocks and playboys get flamed to death on 4chan. It’s happened.

Anyway, what does that have to do with me, you ask? Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up with any open hostility to anime, but I never felt the “geek shame” that so many people talk about. For every jock that makes a snide comment about Japanese cartoon porn and competitive gaming, I make a snide comment about the amount of skill required to toss a ball into a hoop and the intelligence required to rebuke every argument with “your mom.”

(Yes, competitive sports are as meaningful as competitive gaming, but that’s not the point)

At any rate, it was experiences like those in my early teens that made me proud of anime as a counter-culture trend. Even today, I don’t try to hide the fact that I’m an anime fan, although I often avoid conversation on the matter for fear of the inevitable “Gundam Seed is sooooo awesome!”.

Of course, none of this adds up to Shirou yet. You’d think that growing up as a “rebellious” nerd who denounces pop culture doesn’t have much to do with a would-be hero’s naive idealism. When you factor in my competitive personality, though, it does.

I might not be argumentative by nature, but I’m certainly competitive. I’m competitive in the sense that I vowed to become a pro gamer by the end of high school; in the sense that I’m trying to finish every translated visual novel before the next school year. I don’t try to pick fights, but I genuinely enjoy raising the bar and challenging myself to learn new things. When you add that to my “nerd pride” viewpoint and the fact that countless nerds abandon their fandom as a mistake of youth before they can do anything meaningful with it, it should come as no surprise that my dream was – and still is – to learn all there is to know about nerd culture.

In a nutshell, it’s just a dream. It’s totally different from Shirou’s dream of becoming a superhero and saving everyone, but it’s still a dream. The question is, is it an impossible dream?

Becoming a hero doesn’t sound that hard. Practically speaking, I suppose you’d have to start a charity and give public presentations, or maybe join the army if you’re into the old-fashioned stuff. Unfortunately, those steps toward aiding the world are equivalent to most accounts drifting around on MAL: they’re a step in the right direction, and they satisfy the owner’s needs, but they’re eventually abandoned. A single soldier usually doesn’t change the world, and if they’re lucky, they’ll retire happily without worrying about the lives that will continue to be lost. Likewise, most anime fans conclude their hobby with no tangible benefit, as a sort of shameful high school pastime that got them through their teenage years. At the end of the day, everyone gets a job and gets married, and everyone forgets about the day they lost their first video game tournament and swore to grow stronger.

When I started to make this connection, I quickly realized that Fate/stay night would not conclude the way I wanted it to. I already had a vague idea of the story’s progression: Shirou begins the game as the child and ends it as an adult. Unsurprisingly, as I’m only a year or two older than him, his teenage self in Unlimited Blade Works represents my own beliefs flawlessly. Yes, I do realize that sacrifices have to be made in the name of fulfilling a dream; I realize that happiness is exchanged for success. But does it matter? Isn’t it wrong to turn your back on everything you believe in…?

At the end of UBW, Archer’s epilogue that revisited his fight against Shirou instantly became my favourite scene in the game. My heart was pounding, my finger was eagerly clicking, and the words were already dancing in my head, impatiently awaiting their chance to be poured out onto the keyboard. His final statement of “even so, I was not wrong” was the one ending that I wanted. I can’t deny that Shirou’s path leads to self-destruction, I can’t deny that the price of fulfilling his childhood dream is his own death… but even so, he can’t be wrong. If he didn’t pursue his dream, he would end up living a lie.

Those are kind of words you’d expect from a student who hasn’t worked a day in his life, right? I realize that – and Shirou realized that too. UBW is filled with doubt and uncertainty. Neither the viewer nor the protagonist knows if his dream is truly attainable, but it’s impossible to play the game without your fingers crossed, praying against the inevitable.

In that sense, Heavens Feel was like a view of the future for me. Certainly, it’s easy to vow to accomplish your goals when you have nothing on the line but yourself, but what about when someone else is relying on you? Love is the easiest example, but it can be anything. When you have people who are more important to you than anything else, wouldn’t that eclipse your desire to fulfill your dreams? It’s always one or the other. For Shirou, that was literally the case, but it’s not too different in the real world. The time and responsibility required to find happiness for yourself in life, to get married and settle down, always consumes the effort needed to accomplish your dream. In the end, the dream is compromised and ultimately fails… but you leave the stage more happily than you would have through any other path.

A convenient visualization of Shirou’s compromise

As you can see, there are a lot of contradictions in here, much like in F/SN itself. Which was the correct answer, UBW or HF? Was Archer’s final acceptance of his younger self’s determination a sign that dreams can be fulfilled even if the price is great, or was Shirou’s decision to sacrifice innocents to protect his loved one an admittance to the truth that happiness and success are mutually exclusive? Some people might have the answers to these questions, and some might think they do, but I don’t – and that’s precisely why Fate/stay night earned a Diary post. It’s my first and last: it’s the one time an anime made me think about my own life, beyond the usual emotional rollercoaster of love and the blissful healing of good shoujo manga.

At the end of the day, I have no way of knowing if Shirou’s dilemma really can work as an allegory for life, and if his eventual conclusion is the same as everyone else’s. However, I do know that I’m right in the middle of Unlimited Blade Works right now, and until Real Life pulls a Heavens Feel, I’m going to keep fighting Archer and repeating those four magic words.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

moritheil January 10, 2010 at 12:14 am

I think all you need to have a hero’s mindset is to respond to wrong by saying, “It shouldn’t have to be like this.” And if the injustice you face is the soft tyranny of condescension based on personality, rather than open persecution based on race or gender, that doesn’t necessarily make it less heroic to face it.


digitalboy January 10, 2010 at 12:24 am

Very nice post, my man. I know how you feel, and I think everyone will go through this conflict. Some of us will do it in our teen years, and some won’t have it hit them until their ‘midlife crisis’, but everyone will have to one time ask themselves whether or not they are satisfied with how things came out. If you allow yourself to be content, you’ll ask yourself ‘was it worth settling for less?’ and if you follow your dreams until your death, you’ll always ask yourself ‘was it worth throwing away my happiness for my dreams?’

Neither path is wrong, because the truth is that no matter what, you are going to fucking DIE. And then it’s OVER. Happiness lasts until you die. Your dreams last until you die. If you can die without disappointment, then that is all that really matters. If you can be proud of your happiness or proud of your struggle, then you are still ‘doin it right.’

I’m in some kind of limbo, myself. I am so sedated in life that I’m afraid of throwing things away in the name of my dreams, but I am also too afraid of settling for less than my ultimate ambition. Who knows if I’ll ever select a single path – all that matters to me is that I am proud and I know that if I die, I will die without regret.


ghostlightning January 10, 2010 at 12:39 am

LOL I still haven’t finished UBW and the computer it’s on crashed so I think I’ve pretty much lost the game… so I skipped some spoileriffic parts.

I do relate with that I never really was ostracized or excluded because of my interests. As an adult I don’t chat up colleagues or business partners about anime, but it’s more about them being clueless about it than any shame about it. I don’t necessarily bring up tennis to those who aren’t into it either.

So I see why I really don’t share the stigma of ‘otaku’ and perhaps shouldn’t attempt to identify myself as such, provided that the definition requires such exclusion and perhaps bitterness and/or pride for such ‘otherness.’ I share this because I felt good about you sharing yourself as someone similar somehow.

As for being a hero, I really don’t know. I have personal heroes, but I wouldn’t know how to become one myself.


Aorii January 10, 2010 at 3:03 am

Contradictory definitely applies to this post lol, but then that’s psychology and philosophy in general…

Although, one can also look at it from a different way, that both UBW and HF is about accepting yourself. In UBW, it’s the Shirou’s dreams. In HF, it’s Shirou’s feelings and desires. Real life is rarely as extreme as drama and rarely do our dreams and wishes perfectly contradict one another. Frankly, I doubt the average person will ever fully grow out of the UBW phase. As my dad once told me: “my dreams evolved with life”. Why does changing the planned trajectory necessarily mean the abandonment of the previous goal? That’s definitely a form of half-empty thinking if I’d say.

On that note, I’ll take HF over UBW anydays, but probably cause my sense of morality is messed up and I hate it when the world is painted in Black & White: UBW cracked but failed to break that barrier.


UltraEternalBlackout January 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Similarity in usernames and an awesome Diary of an Anime Lived submission mean I’ll be following you from here on out. :D


Samukun January 13, 2010 at 9:13 pm

I’m probably going to regret ever doing this, but your post has inspired me to write my own Diary of an Anime Lived. Considering that I used Clannad After Story, which I remember you enjoyed a lot more than me, I thought I should link it here.



ETERNAL January 13, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Thanks. I read the post and left a comment.

Incidentally, if anyone is reading this and wants to know what I would have rambled on about had I chosen H&C instead of F/SN, it’s pretty much this.


ETERNAL January 13, 2010 at 10:47 pm

@ digitalboy: Spoken like a true shounen hero. I have a habit of over-thinking things, but I’ll have to keep that simple truth in mind whenever I need to break myself out of a night of cyclical debate with myself.

@ Aorii: That’s probably the rational, realistic answer. There aren’t too many extremes in life, so it’s unlikely for a person to have to completely sacrifice their dream to attain happiness, or vice versa. Of course, it’s one of those things that ultimately remains a mystery until you experience it for yourself.

@ UltraEternalBlackout: Thank you! I know you’re sorta working with digiboy now, so be sure to let us know if you start your own blog or join Twitter or something. I’m glad you enjoyed the post ^^


UltraEternalBlackout January 14, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Yeah, I’m driving him crazy with chaotic posts over at his side blog, Suspended Animation Dreams. xD And I’ll be sure to let you and everyone else know. It shouldn’t be long…


Robby June 19, 2015 at 11:29 pm

What’s up, all the time i used to check blog posts here early
in the dawn, for the reason that i enjoy to learn more and more.


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