Why Saber?

One of the things that has confounded me for years now, ever since I first watched Fate/Stay Night and now revived during Fate/Zero, was why there’s so much love for Saber. Is it the moe factor?

saber
Hai-ya!

Now to be fair, I don’t know much about the Fate/Zero, Fate/Stay Night VN universe. I know it’s pretty intense and labyrinth. I’ve also heard it’s much darker. So it’s possible a lot of the love for Saber comes from her VN character which could be more dynamic, nuanced and interesting than what we’ve seen from anime Saber. But having only experienced Saber through anime, the first couple words that come to mind when I think of her are: stoic and martyr. I suppose there’s a bit of a role reversal thing going on, because those are typically characteristics you’d see in male characters. But unfortunately, what’s missing is: interestingness. There’s nothing about Saber that’s particularly interesting to me. She’s single-minded. There’s no dynamicism to her, nor any sense of personality or attitude. She seems to be the one heroic spirit that exists simply to achieve the grail. Every spirit has something else going for them. Rider and his father-like wisdom. Gilgamesh’s arrogance and disdain for anyone else around him. Berserker’s torment. Lancer’s philandering past demons. Caster’s psychoticness. Meanwhile, Saber seems like a blank slate, simply doing her master’s bidding. Is that why she’s so popular? Because she’s tough yet submissive to some degree? I don’t know, but I would love to know.

Although I know who wins this grail war, here’s who I’d like to see win (of the remaining) [SPOILERS BELOW]:

  1. Rider – honestly, you could probably call the 2nd season of Fate/Zero the Kiritsugu and Rider show, because I think we’ve learned most about these two characters. What’s not to like about him? Having been king, he’s arrogant, but not condescending. Loyal and likeable. I’ve completely forgotten what Waver’s motivation for winning the Grail was, but there’s no one else I’d rather see win than Rider. Plus, his Noble Phantasm is probably the most epic of Phantasms.
  2. Gilgamesh – sure his winning would mean a horrendous future for the human world, not to mention, literal backstabber Kotomine Kirei is the least likeable of all the remaining masters, but Gilgamesh’s immense arrogance is just too entertaining.  His Noble Phantasm is pretty rad too.
  3. Berserker – it would’ve been nice to learn more about him, but I suppose the mystery factor works to his advantage. Somehow I was spoiled of his true identity, so because of that I’d really love to know how winning the Grail would impact him. Too bad is Phantasm is fairly blasé.
  4. Saber – Kiritsugu’s motives are probably the best among the remaining masters, but Saber is boring. Plus, when you’re the key character of the sequel, there’s something not very entertaining about having to sit through the inevitability of her victory. Plus, if she doesn’t win, they can rewrite Fate/Stay Night, and we don’t have to put up with Emiya.

17 Replies to “Why Saber?”

  1. I think that perhaps much of her popularity is due to a reverse gar factor, particularly when it comes to stay night. Her character design is also very attractive – she looks cool, she looks like a fighter, and she looks elegant – it fits her character perfectly.

    And for me, she doesn’t have to do a whole lot on the screen for me to know who she is and what she’s all about. The legends of King Arthur precedes her and conveys who she is, before she even says a word. Those of us who have an affinity for the legends immediately connect to her, with the gender swap making her all the more interesting.

    1. That’s a good point. I hadn’t really thought about how the King Arthur legends might impact perceptions of her.

      Reverse strong-but-silent Gar? Maybe my expectations for her are just too high. But I think a key component of strong-but-silent is having enough charisma or mysteriousness, otherwise being silent is akin to being a non-entity. And I just haven’t seen enough from Saber. Maybe part of this is because so much attention was been paid to developing Kiritsugu/Irisviel vs. Saber.

  2. While I don’t understand the obsession with Saber compared to so many other anime characters (I mean just look at how many figures she has).

    In terms of her popularity compared to the other Servants I can understand why she is well liked.

    Now I have only experienced Fate Zero. I know nothing about FSN except the basic plot so I am going with that but if I rank the servants Saber might not be my absolute favorite (that would be Rider) but she is still up there. And personally I rank her way higher than Assasin, Berserker, or Caster (all of who I found very boring personally).

    As for Saber, I find her contrast with Kiritsugu very interesting. And she does want the grail because she does have a goal.

    However just like her Master (who wants world peace) we wonder if either he or Saber or right. I find both Saber & Kiritsugu have nice ideals but they are still very flawed characters and that makes them at least interesting to me, even if I wouldn’t say either were favorite characters. Although I do like Saber more than her master.

    1. I would put Saber above Assassin (who I barely consider a presence) and Caster (who was delightfully villainous if a bit one-note). I suppose I also wouldn’t mind her above Berserker, I just want to see a little more about him. I thought Berserker and Kariya were a bit neglected.

      Good point about the contrast between Saber and Kiritsugu. They’re almost total opposites in how they go about things, Saber who I believe tried not to sacrifice her people in trying to accomplish her goals, while Kiritsugu seems to be willing to employ any means to get to his ends. F/Z definitely could’ve used a bit more interaction between the two. We’ve barely seen them together.

  3. She’s definitely a more interesting character in the Fate/stay night VN. The F/SN anime was horrible, as was the UBW movie, as any fan of the F/SN VN will likely tell you. Granted, she wasn’t all THAT much better in the VN, but more developed and dynamic, yes. Furthermore, you are very wrong when you say she has no goals/personality beyond winning the grail for her Master;s sake. Her character arc is that she is filled with regret over failing her Kingdom. In Fate/Zero she wishes to go back in time and save it. After the events of F/Z crush her soul a bit more, though, she begins to doubt she has what it takes to be a King at all, and in F/SN she desires to go back and make it so she never took the sword from the stone. Granted, I agree with you she is the least interesting of pretty much all the characters and she gets annoying sometimes, but she’s more than you make her out to be.

    Also, I think you have the ending to F/SN wrong. I also think you have the personalities and desires of some characters wrong. Kotomine/Gilgamesh win, technically. Kiritsugu wins first but rejects the Grail, and it goes to Kotomine next. This isn’t even a major F/Z spoiler, we learn that in Fate/stay night.

    1. When we first learned Saber’s motivations, there was a lot of joking in the online forums I frequent that Waver (who is British) ought to tell her that England is doing just fine.

      “Oh yeah Arturia, seriously, over the long haul we have a pretty good run of it. Had our moment in the sun with a globe-spanning empire, and today we’re a first world nation. Yes, really if you’re contemplating going back and tinkering with history then thanks but no thanks.”

  4. Yeah, TWWK just about nailed it.

    Character designs, fighting style, Arthurian Legends – That feeds in a lot to Saber’s popularity.

    Plus, unlike most of the other servants, she has carry-over popularity from Fate/Stay Night, where she was clearly the main protagonist amongst the servants (that’s less clear in Fate/Zero I’d argue).

    So she had a comforting familiarity to her for Fate/Zero viewers that saw Fate/Stay Night before. She’s probably the best character for “linking” those two shows together.

  5. In the VN of F/SN her character is actually very developed. Personally I think most fanboys are still oggling over her two H Scenes in the VN. I for one, found saber to be interesting in her route in F/SN, but not much anywhere else.

  6. It’s because Saber has a tremendous amount of character, things like honesty, trust, respect, responsibility, leadership, loyalty, courage and so on.

    And a person with tremendous character but not too much personality vs. someone with tremendous personality but not too much character, the former is always infinitely more valuable. So the the character traits, paired with the sort of forbidden love and physical attractiveness Saber has is what makes the character alluring, despite not having a flashy personality.

    In real life, the most important trait a person can have is good character. Too bad so few actually do.

    1. To expand, the forbidden love aspect probably plays a big part too, nothing is more sad than distance between mutual love, whether in time or space. Add royalty into the mix and it adds fuel to the imagination.

      And the more flawed a character is, the more interesting they are. Saber is extremely flawed, obnoxiously flawed, whether the viewer understands that deeply or not. She would have done good, most people would do good actually, to read something like Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, the importance of keeping your humanity, particularly in the stressess of absolute leadership. Marcus Aurelius as a Roman Emperor is a real life example which is the opposite to Saber’s ideals, and that dude as far as historical records show him to be incredibly human, compassionate, intellectually and spiritually profound, AND a good leader, despite being a Roman Emperor.

      “Every man’s life lies within the present; for the past is spent and done with, and the future is uncertain.” – Marcus Aurelius

      Saber is has great character, but stupidly foolish. That with everything else strikes a deep emotional chord.

      1. Lol, I am having too much fun thinking about this, so I’ll leave some quotes for you anime enthusiasts by the seemingly mindfulness-like King of Kings, Marcus Aurelius:

        “Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honored. Dying…or busy with other assignments. Because dying, too, is one of our assignments in life. There as well: “To do what needs doing.” Look inward. Don’t let the true nature of anything elude you. Before long, all existing things will be transformed, to rise like smoke (assuming all things become one), or be dispersed in fragments…to move from one unselfish act to another with God in mind. Only there, delight and stillness…when jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better grasp of the harmony if you keep going back to it.”

        “Regain your senses, call yourself back, and once again wake up. Now that you realize that only dreams were troubling you, view this ‘reality’ as you view your dreams.”

        “Observe always that everything is the result of change, and get used to thinking that there is nothing Nature loves so well as to change existing forms and make new ones like them.”

        “Unhappy am I because this has happened to me.- Not so, but happy am I, though this has happened to me, because I continue free from pain, neither crushed by the present nor fearing the future.”

        “No one can lose either the past or the future – how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess? … It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if this is all he has, he cannot lose what he does not have.”

        “So you know how things stand. Now forget what they think of you. Be satisfied if you can live the rest of your life, however short, as your nature demands. Focus on that, and don’t let anything distract you. You’ve wandered all over and finally realized that you never found what you were after: how to live. Not in syllogisms, not in money, or fame, or self-indulgence. Nowhere

        ———–

        All these quotes from arguably the greatest stoic philosopher. It sounds like mindfulness if you are fortunate to know what that is.

  7. I may have another reason to explain why and how saber become the most loved character in this anime.

    Sry in advance for my bad english btw

    Saber is a woman totally dedicated to his function (she is king of brittany) and will never forget her duties over her kingdom. She is the archetype of the rightful character.
    She is also a very powerful warrior, who always fight with honor,and her artefacts are so cool.
    This way you have 1- a powerful warrior woman (pretty badass = likeable)
    2-a charismatic, rightful, and kingdom-dedicated woman
    And what do we get with this mix? Saber become the most unreachable woman of Fate and this is this fact who make her so attractive.
    She embodies the freedom (beyond all her belief and supposed duties) at a point that everyone (giglamesh, bluebeard, shiro) want to have her like a bird in a box, which will remain impossible, until the all lend.

    Finally i think it is the gap between what she represent, as a free-powerful-rightful woman, and the impossibility to reach her which make her so attractive, and thats why she is the most loved character of fate ( and why she is my favorite)

    PS: We might do a same analyze on Erza from fairy tail,. to be continued

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.