Yeah I completely agree, this is actually really interesting. I’ll try to respond but some of this might not get across. I’ll try to keep my thoughts more concise but I have a lot on my mind about this topic, so forgive me if my words seem sporadic.
I didn’t get this feeling of a looming backstab from any character outside of like two, really. I suppose I’m not taking the myriad bad endings into account when I say this, but I didn’t really have trouble reading the intentions of characters. I gained a great appreciation for many of the characters through subtext in the story. Considering the ancient and somewhat poor translation, this can be harder to recognize. Not that it’d change your view one way or the other. Unfortunately I can’t say much for the love interests, Fate was often really bad with slice of life, with most of it ultimately feeling like a poor use of time within the story. But I still find a lot to like in them, they’re just less interesting to me than the core conflicts and involved characters.
Pointless was more harsh of a language choice than I was aiming for in hindsight, I was thinking that within the context of the original story this is not a story that matters. Anyways, I enjoy flawed characters, hell I said Shirou is one of my favorite parts of Fate. The part I can’t say I enjoyed was how lacking in self awareness it felt. It felt to me like there was less introspective writing and the goal was simply to make you fall into an emotional cycle. Characters strong motivation is revealed, character struggles against opposing character in a battle where there ideals inform their decisions, character is killed and discarded usually with minimal fanfare. Multiple scenes, especially Lancer being forced to kill himself, made me laugh instead of anything else. I think of Zero as a retread of some of Gen’s previous works like Madoka, and just like that show I think it focuses too much on negative emotional manipulation instead of trying to tell a good story. You could say the Zero’s strength lies in it’s characters but I unfortunately couldn’t connect with them. But it’s funny I say all this, cause I still think Zero is good. Just nothing special. I can definitely see why others enjoy this part of the story, for clarity’s sake.
There’s a negative stigma attached to monologues especially in anime, but to say they suck in general seems pretty dismissive and odd to me. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them, and whether you like them or not they’re a big part of F/SN’s character writing.
I like it a whole lot too! But in relation to that point…
Both of us have the power of hindsight when watching the Ufotable adaptation, though I’m not gonna argue over whether it really is subtle. Shirou’s arc in the anime is vesy similar to the VN, but a lot of the subtext seemed misunderstood or changed in the adaptation, which is ultimately my only gripe with the anime. It gives off a different overall idea than the VN. Sorry if that’s vague. I’d also like to say, as I am now I would never avail myself of the argument that somebody is “too dumb” to get something. Holding others to my own standards of understanding or intelligence is not something I’d want to do to argue seriously. Such a thing goes against my views on fiction in general.
Overall, I find connecting with Shirou’s character of wanting to be a hero to be one of my favorite parts op the series. It makes the argument over his intelligence a non-issue to me, he’s simple and that’s perfectly fine. There are a lot of characters people love who behave just like Shirou when it comes to heroism, the main difference really is that this story portrays this as an act of insanity most of the time. In my opinion, Shirou is complained about where others are seen in a more positive light simply because his acts result in miserable failure. It’s also worth noting that the only true ending with a really negative context for our protagonists is the Fate route. If the three routes are Shirou Embracing, questioning and Discarding his ideals, embracing it is the most tragic result for him.
You don’t have to respond to all of this but I hope you also find this interesting.