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The very first scene of the F/SN visual novel (even before the prologue from Rin's perspective) has Shirou experiencing the fire that occurred at the end of the Fourth Grail War, blacking out, and then waking up in a hospital with Kiritsugu by his side. There, Kiritsugu identifies himself to Shirou as a mahoutsukai; that is, one who uses mahou (魔法).

Depending on what translation you've seen, mahou is translated as "Sorcery", "Magic", or "True Magic", by contrast with the lesser majutsu, which is "Magic", "Thaumaturgy", or "Magecraft". The point here is that mahou is the greater of the two arts, available to beings like Zelretch, while majutsu is the lesser, and is what is used by "ordinary" people like Kiritsugu, Kotomine, and so forth.

Why does Kiritsugu call himself a mahoutsukai? As far as I know, Kiritsugu never actually attained the ability to perform mahou, what with the whole him destroying the Grail and all of that.

(I apologize for using Japanese terms here, but the utter inability of Nasuverse translators to be consistent with one another about terminology leaves me no choice.)

  • Shiro, as a child doesn't probably understand the distinction between the two (魔法使いと魔術師の違い), as few children his are very well acquainted with magic. It's probably meant as an ironic joke, given Shiro's condition when it was said (―――うん。初めに言っておくとね、僕は魔法使いなんだ) due Shiro's idealized view of Kiritsugu caused him to recall him more as a person he never was. – кяαzєя Apr 15 '14 at 4:22
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From what i remember of the Translation of the game Kiritsugu introduced himself as a Sorcerer. to be a Sorcerer recognized by the Magic Association one need to have wielded one of the True Magics.

In Tsukihime, Aoko introduces herself as a Sorceress which she is because she wielded the 5th, however at the time of the original Fate/Stay Night release the Nasuverse wasn't as defined as it was today. While the game explains Thaumaturgy, Magecraft and True Magic (including the difference between Medea's and Rin's Magic) a lot of the information and inner workings of the Nasuverse (along with terminology) comes from the Fate/Complete Works Books, so at the time a Sorcerer/Sorceress was probably just a term to make a Magus seem more important before a majority of the True Magics were defined.

Also, in the wiki on Magecraft it says:

However, modern Magecraft remains far inferior from that of the past, so much that someone like Medea, who comes from the Age of Gods when Magecraft was much more powerful, would seem like a sorcerer to the eyes of a modern magus, even though what she can do is not really Magic.

Taking that into example, Shirou, a child who knew nothing of Magecraft would see Kiritsugu, who does use it, in the same way a modem Magus would see a Magus from the the Age of Gods.

Also, rather than having to explain the difference between Magic and Magecraft later on Kiritsugu probably figured it be easier if he had just said he was a wizard, since both a sorcerer and a wizard are "users of magic" this probably in japanese would be mahoutsukai either way. This is another reason why Rin disliked how Kiritsugu trained Shirou (even though Kiritsugu didn't actually do anything), because Shirou doesn't know the difference.

Another reason for all of this however as stated by Krazer in the comments is that we see the scene of Shirou though Shirou remembering the events of when he met Kiritsugu (we can tell this though the use of descriptive text of how Shiro feels). Shiro's idealized concept of Kiritsugu may have influence the scene, this would ring true of Shiki in Tsukihime aswell when he first met Aoko and he "remembers" Aoko refer to herself as a Sorceress when they first met when he was a child (and in hospital much like Shirou) while in the Eclipse Ending Shiki makes no mention of Aoko being a Sorceress.

  • There is a distinction between 魔法 (magic) and 魔術 (magecraft), as with 魔法の使者 (magic user) and 魔術の師 (magecraft master). These two are mutually exclusive. What's more than likely is that Shiro's idealized concept of Kiritsugu caused him to recall it like this, by way of literary irony. – кяαzєя Apr 15 '14 at 4:36
  • @Krazer i haven't played the un-translated version so i'm not sure of what they use, so my last paragraph was based off the question where "one who uses mahou (magic)" is used. This would equate to "magic user" which would explain the English "Sorcerer" would be used, wizard or magican probably could have also been used but the translation was done by a third party. – Memor-X Apr 15 '14 at 5:48
  • however in the game at the scene we are in the role of Shiro remembering that day, Shiro's idealized concept of Kiritsugu may have distorted what Kiritsugu actully said, i'll add that to my answer – Memor-X Apr 15 '14 at 5:49
  • In the Nasuverse, the agreed upon lexicon is that 魔術師 are magus and 魔法使い are magicians. The former is practiced like a science, while the latter practices in miracles (like science vs. faith). Only 5 magicians exist in the modern storyline. Magic touches upon miracles, magecraft is an artificial means of reproducing miracles (there are laws that need to obeyed). They are as different a day and night. One who uses "mahou" refer to someone that uses miracle, one who uses "majutsu" refers to one who attempt to reproduce (i.e. copy) miracles. – кяαzєя Apr 15 '14 at 6:44
  • "Majutsu" AKA Magecraft/Thaumathurgy can't reproduce miracles, they can only reproduce feasible physical happenings. – paulnamida Sep 24 '17 at 5:13

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