Welcome to the second post in our series on character comparisons in Fate Apocrypha and how they are key when analyzing anything Fate. A topic I’ve written on before has reappeared in this series, how we all naturally become like whatever we set on our highest altar and how this principle demonstrates the importance of headship. The gospel‘s signature offense is its insistence that only one of those two headship options is able to save. It’s all or nothing, either/or. To agree with God that the person of Jesus is the only way to truth and life is to agree, by default, that persisting in any other way but God’s is a form of insanity. Hence the offense. These are rather large claims and a bit heavy handed for an anime article introduction, so why don’t we let the series do the talking for a better idea of why scripture’s claim on headship is so important to the accomplishment of justice.
Due to the historical inspiration of the Berserker class, those heroic spirits summoned as Berserkers typically display an unrestrained madness. This is true whether
that madness comes in fits of rage, like those of Frankenstein’s Monster, or whether the madness is merely associated with the character’s past, like Heracles in Fate Stay Night. But, the difference between those Berserkers and the Berserker of Red is that Spartacus is actually and enduringly insane.
In his book Legislating Immorality, Dr. George Grant profiles what he calls the “revolutionary spirit”: a consuming desire to facilitate change toward a perception of justice that is based on undefined yearnings of the flesh instead of the defined principles of a transcendent justice. And since there is no precise standard of justice, but rather the ever-hungering, never contented flesh in the driver’s seat, the revolutionary spirit is more like a forest fire than holy discontentment. Such a concept might seem particularly timely to you, especially if you are a present-day American, hearing a multitude of angry voices calling for change in a hundred different directions, with more fervor than well-reasoned solutions. That same spirit is what Fate Apocrypha identifies as the heart of Spartacus’ madness.
Spartacus desires to strike down all “oppressors,” while never stopping to define who does or does not qualify as an oppressor. Which is why, unsurprisingly, he shows no real
allegiance to anyone, eventually turning against his own faction in the war because it allows him to remain alive and oppose the ill-defined “oppressor” (1.8 “The War Begins”). And yet, he shows no qualm using his Noble Phantasm, Crying Warmonger, even though it is little more than a nuclear-scale suicide bomb. His desire for a life in revolt is counteracted by his self-destructive means, and he doesn’t perceive that as an issue.
But where Crying Warmonger fails to accomplish Spartacus’ goal, it perfectly illustrates his character. Spartacus’ Noble Phantasm is to be, in effect, the antithesis of the body of Christ (Rom. 12:4-8). He has not one body, proportional and acting in congress, but multiple heads with multiple gnashing mouths, disproportionate arms and legs, and abnormal growths with only faint resemblance to an actual body. His growth, though clearly substantial, is fueled by retribution as it is proportional to the pain and damage he suffers in battle. His body grows without any discernible organization or purpose and will ultimately explode in an overflow of self-righteous hatred. There is no unity of mind making “members one of another” because the mind itself is absent or simply refusing to define what it’s about.
This lack of specificity as to whom it is he opposes also carries over to a failure in defining for whom he so tirelessly fights. While the cover photo above does make it seem as though Spartacus might have once shared a certain camaraderie and pride with his fellow revolutionaries, fighting a just war against oppression, his behavior in the Great Holy Grail War is less than lofty. Because his goal is so poorly defined to begin with, once he puts it into practice, it reduces to bloodlust. He isn’t nearly as eager to see justice done as he is excited to have an excuse for throwing punches. Other than that, there isn’t much else said about Spartacus in the series. He might be its least developed character, but the example of madness he provides helps us understand other characters in the series.
For example, looking back at my previous post, part of Mordred’s internal conflict is over behavior which makes her resemble Spartacus. She is leading her own violent rebellion against Artoria because she considers her to be a corrupt king. But Mordred hasn’t defined what makes a “good king,” much like Spartacus’s undefined “oppressor.” However, Mordred has Sisigou, her master, and takes joy in him as a father figure, which is ultimately what keeps her from further imitating Spartacus’ mad rebellion. Sisigou prompts her realization of what and whom she is fighting for. This gives her purpose and redoubles her passion by giving her clarity of conviction instead of relishing in blood-blind confusion.
Atalanta is another character to imitate Berserker with means that counteract her stated goal. She insists on saving Jack the Ripper and the other children of White Chapel, London from a denial of their humanity (2.18 “From Hell”), despite the fact that she has no way of accomplishing that goal, and sacrifices her own humanity toward that purpose (2.22 “Reunion and Separation”).
Her Noble Phantasm, Agrius Metamorphosis, gives her the frenetic strength and speed of a wild boar but, in return, reduces her to an animalistic state of rage (essentially that of a Berserker). Jeanne d’Arc is the one to point out the problem in this while confronting Atalanta:
A world in which every child is loved and given affection; at face value, your wish is not a mistake whatsoever. And yet, to achieve that wish, you are willing to condone any form of evil. For you to go about it that way is unacceptable. (2.22 “Reunion and Separation”)
My point to all of this may seem rather simplistic, something like “don’t be a Spartacus.” But I think it gets more complicated when we actually try applying it, especially in our own modern moments of madness. You are justified in feeling passionately, compelled, and disturbed by blatant injustice. But acting against that injustice, to administer the justice deserved, is a different thing altogether. Because justice is a part of God’s character and name, we don’t want to don it lightly or flail it about. But we also don’t want to leave injustices unanswered if we can help it. So where should we start?
We can start by learning to fear what’s worth fearing, and by trusting what’s worth trusting. We should be sure to define what it is we are fighting against and for whom we are fighting. We should learn to distinguish between revolutions and reformations. If time allows, we should inspect our impulses and consider what they say about the state of our hearts compared to the facts of the situation. All things easier said than done, I know. But more simply, “don’t be a Spartacus.”