Fate/Zero – Fairness, Justice and the Messianic Complex

For those of you who may not know, the messianic complex, or simply the messiah complex, is a state of mind where one believes that he/she is, or is destined to be, a savior, and all other notions not completely agreeing to his/her ideals are wrong. People with this way of thinking are usually very idealistic in nature – a perfect example would be the Nazi Germany Fuhrer Adolf Hitler. Most often, the beliefs of people who have messianic complex are unshakable, making them very dangerous if they have significant influence in a community and/or have considerable destructive abilities.

Kiritsugu’s twisted sense of justice reflects his own brand of messianic complex. Look at this situation I thought up:

There are three very large rooms. One room contains a thousand people, and none of them are related to you in any way. The second room contains six hundred people and includes all of your best friends. The last room has four hundred people, including all your family members – your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend, your kids, and any other relatives you may have. All of the rooms are rigged with a death machine that gives everyone in a single room the iron maiden treatment.

The contents of each room are visible to you through reinforced glass walls, so that you can see everything that happens inside, but are soundproof to prevent communication. In front of you are three buttons, and pressing a single button triggers the death machine in the corresponding room. You are to press one of the three buttons, and all survivors will be set free after the experiment.

If you do not want to do it this way, you can opt for three alternative methods: press all the buttons at the same time for a 20% chance (via a random number generator) to disable all the machines, the remaining 80% is the chance to trigger all of them, you can press two buttons for a 10% chance of disabling the death machines, or press the one for the 1000 people, for a 5% chance.

Failure to take a valid course of action within six hours, or attempting suicide would result in everyone becoming Swiss cheese. Once you have pressed the button/s, a loudspeaker would go online to broadcast the screams of agony of the people in the rooms.

If you were in this situation, what would you do? Putting aside my obviously demented sense of entertainment, some people would choose not to take responsibility and just let everyone die, while others would choose to kill off people that have no value to them. Some would rely on the very slight ray of hope and take their chances on saving everyone. Kiritsugu would instantly choose to press the button for the room with four hundred people, simply because he would save more people that way. He would not rely on chances or let his personal feelings affect his judgment. This is Kiritsugu Emiya’s brand of messianic complex, and it really shows how “broken” he really is.

You can argue that this situation is very unfair or unjust, but I would just say to you that life is not “fair”, nor is it “just”. There are children born into excessively poor families, or in places where war is going on. It’s not the choice of these children to be put in these dire situations, but they are anyway, while other people grow up in rich families, not once experiencing the harsh living conditions of the people outside the mansion fence. People are not born equal, as much as religion or society wants you to think we are.

Justice… what the hell is justice anyway? Lots of criminals get away with their crimes every day, sometimes having innocent people to take the blame for them. We have corrupt governments and legal systems driven by people who have the means to twist it according to their personal agenda.

The same could be said about this thought experiment, and the situation Kiritsugu got himself into. He saw that the world isn’t as black and white as most people think it is, and he has the guts to take the course of action that he believes is right. Hypocrisy or not, he was actually took action based on cold logic. Now if that is not the mark of an admirable (or pitiable) man, I don’t know what is.

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About Lucas Magnus

Trying to change for the better.
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7 Responses to Fate/Zero – Fairness, Justice and the Messianic Complex

  1. Aelysium says:

    I don’t think Kuritsugu has a Messiah complex at all. He doesn’t think is is destined, chosen, special or anything like that, its easily arguable he doesn’t believe in such things. He just thinks the world is rotten and someone needs to sort it out, why not him? He doesn’t think he is moral, he openly admits he commits the worst evils and laments his own decisions. He just believes it will, in the end, be worth it to prevent more atrociousness like the ones he has to commit. He is just a realistic pessimist – seeing the world already too far gone.

    On a side, I’ve been commenting here a lot the last couple days. Odd.

    • @fkeroge says:

      While Kiritsugu is certainly different from a typical person with a messianic complex, it’s still a fact that his commitment to his ideals can be considered messianic. He insults Saber’s chivalry for example, among other things. The basic essence of the messianic complex is the belief that one needs to be a savior. The other things like believing in destiny or dismissing other ideals are not really necessary.

      “He doesn’t think he is moral, he openly admits he commits the worst evils and laments his own decisions.”

      It has nothing to do with morality, actually. What you are describing would be a god complex, a different problem altogether. A messiah is, in the very basic essence of the word, a savior. It is never really a requirement to be a white knight or zealot to have this complex.

      But yeah, I see Kiritsugu as a “disillusioned idealist”. Clearly, he has his own ideals, but since he faced a harsh reality, he tried to adapt his beliefs to fit the situation. He still wants to save people, but he realized that he could not save everyone, so he just kills few to save many.

      • Aelysium says:

        That’s my point exactly, he doesn’t actually think he needs to be a saviour. He just thinks someone has to sort this mess out. He doesn’t think he is anything Messianic, if anything, he considers his methods to be the crudest and probably worst way to get the mess sorted out. I think you’re mixing up determination with messiah.

        Well, morality has nothing to do with a God complex. A God complex is simply a need to to take control and be in control of yourself and others. Again, as you said, a messianic complex requires the idea that you are saving people. Kiritsugu doesn’t actually think he is saving anyone, he just thinks he is doing the lesser of two evils.

        That’s exactly Kiritsugu’s point though – he can’t save everyone, so all he can do is save whoever he can. He hasn’t adapted his view as he was never the budding optimist- he killed his father. Kiritsugu has never had a messiah complex because he has never thought he was saving anyone. He knows everything he does only causes others and himself more pain, he just does it because he thinks it may at least in the long run, cut some of that down which in his opinion, is better than nothing and worth the atrocities he commits. But, I’ll leave it.

        • Carillus says:

          ‘Saviour’ is defined as ‘one who saves another’, i.e. even if you save just one other person, you can technically be defined as a saviour. A messiah complex is thus to believe that you are one who has the ability to save another.

          If you’ll refer to Fate/Stay Night (yes, that original source material that Fate/Zero was derived off of, and where Kiritsugu entrusted his true ideals to Shirou), Kiritsugu wanted to save people. If anything, he wanted to be a person who could save anyone. But real life wouldn’t allow him that, so he adapted.

          Kiritsugu definitely believes he is a savior – he doesn’t think of himself as a person who can save everybody, but he thinks that if he can kill off the few, he can save the many – the most cold-hearted and logical form of utilitarianism (though I’m not sure if this can be applied in this context; people dying usually doesn’t make others happy). It causes him pain, but because he believes it saves people, he does it. I believe this is actually mentioned in the novels as well.

          So I do believe that Kiritsugu actually does possess a messianic complex (note the lack of capital M, because there’s actually a difference between a messiah and a Messiah). It’s just a really twisted kind.

  2. Shance says:

    There’s a fine line that separates a person with a Messiah Complex from a person who wants to be an Ally of Justice: The former is a case wherein a person thinks that the liberation of each human being is possible without eliminating strife (as with the case with the most prominent Messiah, Jesus Christ), while the latter is a case where liberation is only possible by eliminating strife from its very source (in this case, rogue Magi). Of course, strife comes in all forms and colors, including death and suffering of the innocent people. While a Messianic person thinks that such strife is not necessary, he or she accepts the fact that it must be there because it’s a natural law of the world. A person wanting to be a hero cannot accept this fact, and strives to eliminate strife in order to establish his or her own peace of mind that strife will never again exist in a world without its source.

    I think it’s safe to say that Kiritsugu’s case is the latter.

  3. Nopy says:

    The last two episodes of Fate/Zero really reminded me of the train dilemma that a friend once told me about. Imagine you are at the switch for a train track. One track has 5 workers fixing it, while the other has your best buddy working on it. All of a sudden you hear an out-of-control train heading your way. There isn’t enough time to warn anyone and they’re all wearing hearing protection so they don’t notice the train. All you can do is pull the switch and move the track towards your buddy or leave it directed at the 5 workers. What do you do?

    Kiritsugu makes the same decisions I would’ve made, which is why I like him so much.

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