A Heart Matter: Fate/Zero’s Grail and Prometheus’ Black Ooze

For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

–   Genesis 3:5

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Prometheus and Fate/Zero (through episode 24)

Even if you’re like me and knew little of the context heading into Fate/Zero, it was portended right from the beginning of the series that the Holy Grail was going to come with strings attached.  And what a string it is – Angra Mainyu, the “destructive spirit,” is contained within the grail.

In episode 24, Kiritsugu, coming to understand the rules of the Grail as well as the evil spirit lying within, chooses to reject it.  In trying to bring peace to the world, he would instead bring destruction to it.

Fate/Zero Holy Grail
Tainted Grail (art by ちご)

The analogy between the Grail and another sacred symbol, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, must be made.  Eve took of the tree and shared with her husband, the two eating from it to become like gods.  Kiritsugu, too, seeks that power – to know the way and create a way to do something godly.

However, as with the tree, all was not as it seemed.  Taking of the fruit cursed Adam and Eve and their ancestors; meanwhile, Kiritsugu would have cursed humanity as well, although in Fate/Zero’s case, the vessel was tainted, rather than actions of individuals.

Sharing this theme and largely similar in both tone and artistry is the recent Ridley Scott release, Prometheus.  While I disliked much of the movie (mostly due to what I saw as script problems), I also really enjoyed a lot of it, including the mystery of the black ooze that pervades the piece.

At the movie’s onset, the ooze destroys one of the Engineers, but it also leads to the creation of life.  Later on, it does a number of other troubling things, including mutating one of its victims.

Bloggers and writers across the Internet have hypothesized about the chemical, and one theory seems to fit.  The substance effects life forms different ways, depending, it seems, on their hearts.  Thus, evil humanity has no shot when touched by it (Note: there’s also some strange and interesting theory about the crucifixion of Christ having a role in the Engineer’s decision to destroy humanity).

Prometheus black substance
Image from Virtual Borderland

The humans seek to know the questions of life and, given the chance, the scientists aboard the Prometheus would certainly have experimented with black liquid (after all, they had no qualms about exploding an alien head).  They are Adam and Eve, reaching out to become gods and instead, cursing themselves and, as the Alien movies demonstrate, other humans as well.

Though less dramatic than what’s portrayed in Fate/Zero and Prometheus, our situation is no less problematic.  If you believe as I do, that humans are sinful beings in need of redemption, than the scenes in Fate/Zero episode 24 and the whole of Prometheus take on that additional layer of meaning.  In doing what was never intended, we have taken a curse upon ourselves.

Of course, Kiritsugu makes a decision to love others (and though we don’t know yet, I believe that his frame of mind has changed permanently).  We’re not in his position, to choose how the story begins, but we don’t need to.  What these two pieces lacks in comparison to our story is completion.

For us, the nightmare is over.

No tree.
No Grail.
No ooze.

All is forgotten.  Through Christ, we are redeemed.


4 thoughts on “A Heart Matter: Fate/Zero’s Grail and Prometheus’ Black Ooze

  1. Notably, the grail in Fate was originally a perfectly genuine wish-granting device until the Einzbern messed up in the third war and summoned “all the evil in this world” and polluted it (they were hoping for a Gilgamesh-level servant, didn’t work out).

    But what I find more interesting is that the tree/ooze are just things. In the Bible, Satan is evil, the tree… is not. You could imagine Adam and Eve rejecting Satan, ignoring the tree and living happily ever after.

    Conversely, the grail in Fate is alive and has a will of its own. In its unborn form, you can think of it as of a fetus. So to prevent it from granting somebody’s wish, you have no choice but to kill it. Which makes things much more complicated in a moral sense – imagine Eve having the choice to either a) eat the fruit or b) don’t eat the fruit and kill Adam. Of course, most would argue off-hand that the life of a demonic something doesn’t compare in value to the lives of countless people, but that’s just getting back to Kiritsugu’s ‘arithmetic morality’ thing.

    But anyway, I am deeply saddened by how the anime failed to portray Kirei’s goals, dilemmas and psyche throughout its run. When Kiritsugu has Kirei with a gun pointed at his back and Kirei pleads for the life of the demonic something instead of his own, I wonder how many viewers actually understood why he even cares.

    1. Thanks for all the context and the interesting analysis.

      I agree with you that the series doesn’t give us enough information. For instance, the info about the grail in my post and in your comment were ideas I had to look up separately. And certainly, I was confused by Kirei’s pleas.

      Unfortunately, I think that’s just the cost of animating such a story – there just wasn’t enough time for everything.

  2. Hey! Just wanna say that your site is a blessing for me as a Christian Otaku.xD

    Anyways, just wanna share something I’ve learned from Kotomine Kirei: At the start, he was a zealous priest who was willing to do what must be done for the church that denied his nature.
    The sad part was that through circumstances, he fell hard and succumbed. The evil within him festered and grew, twisting him into the the man he was in Fate/Stay Night.

    The lesson I learned was people don’t crumble in a day; that without God’ guidance even the most pious Christians fall.

    1. That is an excellent point, and would make a great blog post! Hehe. 🙂

      Thank you for sharing, and thank you for the kind words!

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