The King of Conquerors

One of the neat thing about Fate universe is its historical fiction aspect. Unfortunately, like most Japanese take on actual western things, it doesn’t quite match with what I have in mind when I think about Alexander the Great. In fact when the first promo for Fate/Zero came out, it left me sort of worried. The Iskander/Waver story is one of the best parts of Zero, after all, and I was hoping, if anything, that the adaptation would retain the Waver/Rider story’s charisma.

I mean, in my mind, Alexander the Great is this guy who died in his prime. Granted people back then don’t live very long on average, but he died when he was just 33 years old. (And from what I can tell, while that is higher than the average life expectancy for the period/location, once we take away the impact of child mortality anyone older than 15 should live to on average over 40 years.) Maybe that qualified you as “old” by anime standards, but it doesn’t mesh with the popular depiction of Alexander the Great in the west. I mean he’s middle-eastern, sure, but more to the tones of a pretty Greek dude and less of a crafty mountain bandit image. It would be weird once he starts playing video games!

Second, Alexander the Great is a great general. I think one of the most fabled thing about him is reportedly not losing a single battle. It also makes him one of probably the best military general ever lived on earth, given his exploits. At least in a top-5 list for sure. I’m not sure if the anime actually got this right when describing his background.

Third, and perhaps the most important one, is that it is with his sheer charisma that Alexander the Great was able to unite the large territories he conquered. The anime seems to build the Iskander Rider character out of this notion, and his semi-foolish claims of taking over the world (and had the means to at least made the joke seemingly less funny). That part is fine by me, at least in the sense that Fate Zero can also be a primer to history and bringing to life a historical marvel. At least, as long as you don’t think Alexander the Great is actually like this, or King Arthur is actually a person. I mean Arthur could be a girl for all we know.

There is a lot to be said about Waver too. I think in the book Waver was more appealing as someone who had ideals about meritocracy but failed to look within and see the flaws that tarnished his capabilities. Besides instilling a spine into the lad, Iskander is a mentor, a friend, and someone who is simply just better than Waver and inspires Waver to become a better person despite the Grail War circumstances making things difficult. The anime captures the interpersonal dynamics pretty well, but I think of Waver more a tsundere than the semi-dere little critter that he seems to be in the anime. By painting Waver as this green-behind-the-ears grasshopper slash bumbling academic, the overall dynamics will work. I just think he is probably a little too soft-boiled. I mean even Azaka Kokutou would’ve schooled the boy, and I always thought just by being a Mage at the Tower at one point, Waver was already better than that. Well, that’s just me.

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I just want to note that I was in the last round of close beta for Sword Girls, which is this online collectable card game featuring pixiv-style moe girl visuals. It is a pretty fun game as far as a free-to-play online doohicky goes. The CCG mechanics lend themselves more to that style of play than actually decking it out and counting cards and what not like M:tG or whatever. Sure, you can do that in the game too, but it all feels too fancy and more about getting redraws to fish for combo cards. I guess what I’m trying to say is that some moe card games are solidly built on proven mechanics, others are more interesting and fancy than proven. Still I can see myself playing it from time to time. Top image is from said game.


28 Responses to “The King of Conquerors”

  • 21stcenturydigitalboy

    I hadn’t caught on that Iskandar was Alexander the Great, I guess because indeed he looks nothing like any representation of the figure in the West. Or even in anime (see: Reign the Conqueror). I’d thought he was supposed to be some ancient mesopotamian king or something.

  • schneider

    Thanks for bringing this up. I couldn’t recognize Rider even despite his true name (“Iskander? Who’s that?”), and I had to look it up explicitly. I’m pretty okay with his look, I think it suits him better in his role in the story than being a pretty Greek.

    I hear a lot of good things about Waver, but my only real contact with Fate/Zero is the anime, and he’s been scared and pretty ineffectual since summoning Rider. Even still, I genuinely root for him because he’s the odd one out of the bunch.

  • omo

    There’s a bigger problem that I didn’t really put out there in terms of characterizing Alexander the Great: unlike King Arthur and other minor lords of lore from Fate/Stay night, Alex is well chronicled and very famous! And uh, REAL! We know how he’s like, we know he studied under Aristotle, we know his dad was also a badass and in fact much of his entire back family catalog are of kings and heroes of yore. That context is mostly missing from Alexander. I mean he did not have a rough (relatively) upbringing, and is well-mannered fit for a (well) king AND a diplomat. Because kings had manners back in those days, at least, and he was as diplomatic as kings come. He is probably more Gil than Gil is Gil, to put it in perspective.

    I don’t remember anything from Reign (probably a good thing) but yes, that is closer to who those Greek lords are.

  • 21stcenturydigitalboy

    All I remember about Reign is it was horribly, horribly gay.

  • feal87

    Well, the historical basis is just a setting in the end. All the characters have then their own fictional personality…:P

  • omo

    The liberty is better suited when we realize the gap between truth and what could have been. It’s just that there’s this funnily anachronistic thing about Saber’s gender which could be applied to every character that gets summoned.

  • ToastCrust

    Well, Gen did pretty much straight up admit he didn’t scrutinize any historical/mythological documents and just took the glance of the figures’ tales and achievements and built from there.

    He definitely focused on the fact that this was a man that was ambitious enough to try and conquer the known world, spending most of his energies towards just that. He’s also outside of the feudal context, so he’s quite free from all that chivalry/honor stuff, which is probably another point of focus.

    They probably overdid making him crude but I feel it does a great job of how one can be charismatic, personable and a good leader outside of the context of knights and modern diplomats (many of these aesthetics being born of the aristocrats that rose after Alexanders time, in a totally different region).

    I mean, he doesn’t possess Saber’s sense of procedure or propriety, but he’s certainly a forthwright and honest person with a sense for fairplay.

    Contrast with Gilgamesh, who certainly acts like a person that has power of people, but you can tell he’s not someone people would follow because they like him or anything, but simply because it seems like the best course of action. Whereas Zero Iskander definitely is the sort you’d see people willingly die for, etc. He’s just too self absorbed to have that sort of charisma.

    But all that aside, Iskander’s identity as a General was definitely emphasized on far more than his political position as a king. A guy with no time for pleasantries and just wants results, etc. A guy who’ll treat those in his care like a friend, so when the time comes to use them, they’ll be doubly motivated. That sort of feel.

  • omo

    I probably should have prefaced my post with “I am no history buff but…”

    The problem isn’t historical accuracy, the problem is that it doesn’t match what popular notion of who Alex is. I mean, sure, I’ll buy that King Arthur is a man and not a girl (or that he actually existed as a person), but if you tell me Alexander the Great had a full head of red hair and beard and is like 7 feet tall I would be skeptical, because it does not relate to what commonly is known of these Spartan types. I guess Urobuchi didn’t even watch 300?

    I mean, sheesh, at least give him CURLY hair!

  • 21stcenturydigitalboy

    Aside from Alexander not being a Spartan, you know in 300, Leonidas had a beard and short, straight hair, albeit black.

  • omo

    Genetically Spartans are identical to rest of Greece. But also Leonidas is not what you think Alexander to be.

  • Author

    Wait a moment, you actually went back and fixed all Authors for Arthurs?!

  • omo

    I fixed it almost immediately. well, maybe an hour or two gap?

  • Author

    I was certain that you meant to do it.

  • omo

    It would seem that way wouldn’t it.

  • super rats

    It’s kind of funny what we get hung up on. I’d probably take less notice of a gender change. I never really had a solid mental image of Alexander the Great, but Rider feels more like a buffoon than Alexander the Great (I’ve only seen up to ep4 at this point and not seen him in action).

  • omo

    Exactly. Rider feels like a buffoon. The character development goes in a direction that is expected, let me just say without spoiling too much, but it feels just kind of off to me.

  • moridin84

    Wait… he was supposed to be Alexander the Great?

    Huh.

    Err, well maybe the author was trying to making a point at how history can get things wrong.

    e.g.
    King Arthur was actually girl
    Alexander the Great was an idiot
    Medusa is quite friendly
    Heracles is rather un-heroic

    I mean, it’s a bit stupid to try an portray a famous Greek general like that otherwise right?

  • omo

    Well, 3 out of 4 of those things probably didn’t really exist. So I’m not sure if it says anything about history lol.

  • Vendredi

    “He is probably more Gil than Gil is Gil, to put it in perspective.”

    I do agree; if you swapped their names and backgrounds, Fate’s take on Gilgamesh is pretty much a dead-ringer for Alexander. I think this, more than anything really affects Iskandar’s depiction in Fate/Zero – the designers are limited by what has come before. And as iconic as Takeuchi’s work is to pretty much all Type-Moon stuff, Fate was definitely one of his earlier professional debuts and the Servant designs are all a little weak in terms of accuracy or aesthetics. Fate/Zero’s Servants are just a whole level better while still managing to keep a consistent look.

    On the point of Alexander’s apparent idiocy – To be absolutely fair to Alexander, it’s very hard to lose when your army is absolutely dedicated to you, as well as equipped and trained out of the income of the extensive gold mines of Macedonia. The disciplined phalanxes of Macedonia were every bit as important to his victories as was his generalship – and his brilliance lay not so much in the fact that he won every battle but that he was able to organize the tremendous logistical effort.

    He’s a bit of a ham, but he comes across as a character that actually probably has considerably depth to his understanding. Little touches – like how he extensively researched past history from Waver’s room – shows that he has a pretty keen intellect, and he’s sensitive enough to immediately grasp the heart of Waver’s concerns. To be honest he’s a character that really comes across as very intelligent but also very compassionate.

  • omo

    The trope Iskander is built on is the “smart bandit” thing where the appearance only hints at some of his inner characteristics and beguiles an inaccurate first impression. It all makes sense once the story progresses between him and Waver.

    @Vendredi
    Your point on designs that are already “taken” by others is pretty good. I suppose the only other direction he could be is the loli-shota angle, and that would have been a distraction and a detraction to the mood of the show.

  • 21stcenturydigitalboy

    Why is the phrase idiot suddenly getting tossed around these comments I always thought Iskander was really intelligent? If anything his watching all those VHS tapes shows more forethought than any of the other warriors. It’s like thinking “lol he’s standing on a bridge for a vantage point” when actually it makes perfect sense?

  • moridin84

    @omo

    “Well, 3 out of 4 of those things probably didn’t really exist. So I’m not sure if it says anything about history lol.”

    Well peoples ‘perception’ of history rather then history itself..

    @21stcenturydigitalboy

    Omo used ‘buffon’ to describe him, that probably fits him better then ‘idiot’.

    I couldn’t use it after he did because then I’d just be copying him so I just used idiot. Which can be interpreted in the wrong way.

  • omo

    Folklore legends and stuff get changed over time, all the time, sure. But while Alexander the Great is “legendary” in the all the dictionary senses of the term, he is a real historic figure. There are historical documents and what not depicting who he was. So it is not exactly something that tend to have a perception based on shifting times. It isn’t immune to that, sure, but it is quite different than the wear and tear of time on, say, the legend of King Arthur.

  • moridin84

    Yeah, that’s actually a good point.

    I guess there is another reason why the author is made his “Alexander” different from normal. I honestly can’t think of a decent one though.

  • 21stcenturydigitalboy

    BTW I’m sure I’m not the only one who when I think King Arthur, immediately think Monty Python, amirite?

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