Emiya Kiritsugu is one of the most intriguing characters in all of anime and Japanese media. The protagonist of the series Fate/Zero, he is a ruthless mercenary who will do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. That’s not all there is to the character though. He has a certain level of hidden depth beneath his cold and lifeless eyes. There is so much more to him than meets the eye. Despite his brutal methods, which he has become notorious for in the magic community, he has a certain amount of compassion to him and his goals are noble. This makes the character even more fascinating, and the most interesting and complex character in all of anime.
Kiritsugu came from humble beginnings. He was the son of a Magus that studied time and immortality, trying to find the answer to reach the root of all magic. He was an innocent child who wanted to become a Hero of Justice. He lived on a small island and had many friends. He was compassionate. But on a fateful day, his best friend and love interest, Shirley, took his father’s experiment and drank it. It turned her into a blood thirsty monster. She begged Kiritsugu to kill her but he couldn’t. Soon the entire island was wiped out, including the only person dear to him. Through that he met Natalia, a woman who eventually raised him. Because of what his father did, he picked up a gun and shot him without hesitation. Natalia recognized his talent. It was at this moment his eyes turned cold and lifeless and he decided that to save the many, you have eliminate the few. It was his mistake with Shirley that made him realize this.
Natalia raised Emiya Kiritsugu like a son. She taught him everything he knew about his magic and how to be an efficient assassin. He eventually killed her in order to save many lives. Kill one to save the many. This is the philosophy that defined Emiya Kiritsugu. Eventually though, he became disillusioned with this idea. He met the Einzbern family and learned of the Holy Grail War. This was his salvation. In order to win, he used whatever means necessary. He killed the other masters in unconventional ways and without hesitation. He did all of this because he wanted to use the Holy Grail, an omnipotent wish granter, to save the world and make it free of bloodshed. He wanted to reclaim his place as a Hero of Justice. His hopes were crushed though when he discovered the true nature of the grail.
It was tainted. If he had used it to save the world, it would have killed the majority of the population. Kiritsugu couldn’t take that. Emiya Kiritsugu then killed the image of his wife and his child in order to save the world. The reason why Kiritsugu is the best character in anime is because he is complex and has so many different layers. He is a killer, but you want to root for him. You want to like him. But Fate/Zero is a story where there are no heroes or villains. There are killers. There are magus’s who want glory and recognition. There are those, like Kotomine Kirei, who don’t know what they seek. There is Tousaka who merely wants to reach to root, much like Kiritsugu’s father. Emiya Kiritsugu is the only one with a noble goal, but he takes such extreme measures to achieve it. He is willing to bear all the evil in the world in order to realize his goals.
Kiritsugu has a realization at the end of his journey during the Holy Grail War, which he passes on to his adopted son, Emiya Shirou. It is impossible to be a Hero of Justice because you can’t save one person without losing another. Emiya Kiritsugu is the greatest character to grace Japanese anime. He is layered, he has noble goals, but he is not a hero or a villain. He is a deeply flawed and an almost empty human being and represents so many sides of us all, which is why so many people love Fate/Zero and why Emiya Kiritsugu is such a beloved character. He resonates with us all, like all great characters do.