Light Novels: Gen Urobuchi with illustrations by Takashi Takeuchi, 2006-2007. Translations written by Baka-Tsuki
Anime. Aniplex, 2013.
I’ve withheld myself from reviewing some of the Master/Servant partnerships until now for the very simple reason of them being fairly uninteresting (my opinion, not others) or not really relevant in my conversation/analysis of gender. However, the Masters and Servant I’ve chosen to analyze today are probably a great deal of the crux of any analysis of the series, not just because of their roles in the series (and beyond) but because of their interesting personalities and traits.
Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald, Sola-Ui Nuaba-Re Sophia-Ri and Lancer (Diarmuid of the love spot)
The power struggle between these three is a tragedy in the making. Though Kayneth is the original Master of Lancer, because of Lancer’s identity as Diarmuid, he is cursed to cause Sola-Ui to become infatuated with him against his will (Episode 9). This becomes the crux of the two Masters and Servant’s relationship: Though Kayneth and Sola-Ui were betrothed to be married as a matter of political use, Kayneth honestly cares for his fiance (8) while Sola Ui is indifferent towards him as anything but a political tool. It is interesting to notice that while Kayneth holds the power over Lancer, Lancer’s curse holds sway over the very thing that Kayneth cannot control, that being Sola-Ui’s affections (9).
One could easily dismiss the power struggle for Lancer between the pair to be that of Magi jealousy, however, for Kayneth, having Lancer as a Servant demonstrates his role as a powerful, dual-natured Magician, a power which he hopes will cement his role as a leader in the community, and win Sola-Ui’s heart (8). Sola-Ui is indifferent to his machinations in terms of her affection; having been brought up with the understanding of her being used as a bargaining chip, she is only interested in gaining personal satisfaction. Though she may be aware on some level of Lancer’s curse, to her the reason for her affection is meaningless; her fulfillment is the only goal (9). Never has she had a choice before in her life; handling everything passively is how she was able to survive in the masculine realm of Magecraft (9). Having both sexual and magical dominance over Lancer fulfills her wishes as both a woman and a mage; unfortunately, she ignores Lancer’s wishes in all of this.
Though this can be easily understood as part of his role as a Servant, Lancer’s relationship between Kayneth and Sola-Ui takes on the familiar appearance of his tale involving the princess Gráinne (from The Pursuit of Díarmait and Gráinne) in which he is an unwitting cuckold to the leader Fionn Mac Cumhaill. Despite being a man, who during his time would be in the dominant position of the relationship, he is reduced to the least powerful. This is even more demeaning when one realizes that Lancer’s status in his native Ireland would be tremendous due to his own warring skills, which are undermined even further in the present time when he is unable to protect Sola-Ui from being dismembered by Maiya (16). Cuckolding, as with most relationship themes presented in literature in Middle English, both misplaces and re-assigns power in ways that would entertain a farce. However, as they play out in the middle of a championship in order to acquire the Grail is deadly. Lancer does not want to serve Sola-Ui, but has no choice when Kayneth transfers the command seals (9). He furthermore attempts to refuse to serve Sola-Ui, only resigning himself to his fate out of respect to Kayneth as the original Master.
In the end, all three are destroyed by pride – Sola-Ui’s by believing her power and beauty enough to entrap Lancer, Kayneth’s as being a strong enough Mage to win Sola-Ui’s, and Lancer in having faith in Kayneth’s judgement. Because of all their flaws, one could argue that it was Sola-Ui who ends up holding all the social power, but misuses it. The farce becomes a tragedy, her “strength” shown to be based on obsessiveness rather than real power, and all three die at the hands of a competitor better suited to understanding human nature.