Fate/Grand Order from a Fate First-Timer
If you couldn’t tell from my very eloquent alliteration in the title, I know next to nothing about the Fate series. You remember the one. The series that’s been around for almost two decades. Amassed a ton of dedicated fans and has complicated lore, from what I’ve heard.
Yeah, that one. Wait, you still don’t know? Ok, the one where people die when they are killed. Now you got it! Yeah, I think just about every anime watcher knows that iconic line, for better or worse. That’s how I first knew of the series.
So, what knowledge do I have exactly? That line that, um, Shiro said about mortality. I might have had to look up his name. That the twin tail girl is Rin, and she’s a tsundere, maybe? That there’s some blonde knight called Saber, and the series has like a bunch of different spin-off type stuff. It’s a big series, and that happens.
It’s a series I’ve wanted to get into for a long time but have been too intimidated to. It’s a long series that has been around for an equally long amount of time. While it may not have the same amount of episodes as other long-running series, it can still be hard to get into, and nobody really seems to agree how. But I decided no more and conquered that fear.
That might have you asking why I jumped into Grand Order and not – I don’t know – the original Fate/Stay Night. I’ve always mentioned that my watching habits are odd, but this one makes sense, I promise.
I’m doing a series soon where I talk about specific anime studios and all the series they’ve produced. The first is on CloverWorks. Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia has one hell of a name and was also made by CloverWorks. So, I had to watch it.
This anime is interesting for quite a few reasons, actually. Grand Order is an adaptation of a gacha mobile game of all things. A very popular one at that. One that has made billions (yes, not millions) of dollars since its release in 2015.
People loved the game, but more than that, they loved tossing their bank accounts at it. So, I suppose it was only a matter of time until an anime adaptation was made. That finally happened in 2019 with Babylonia.
I want to discuss two things today. Whether it was good, and whether or not my inexperienced brain could even process what was happening on screen.
The plot is as followed: Chaldea, some secret organization whose goal is to protect humanity’s future, senses that something’s not quite right. Humanity seems to go extinct by the end of 2016. The reason appears to be tied to an event called the Fifth Holy Grail War that led to the destruction of a city called Fuyuki in 2004. What happened in the other four wars, I couldn’t tell you.
To prevent the eradication of humanity, Chaldea sends Ritsuka Fujimaru, a new recruit, and Mash Kyrielight, a young girl fused with the soul of one of the knights of the round table, back to different points in the past to find (apparently) important things called holy grails that are causing the disturbances.
Hold on, let me backtrack a bit there. Yes, Mash is fused with a famous knight. She is a demi-servent, which is a type of servent where the heroic spirit – oh, that’s basically a famous person from the past – fuses themselves with the vassal rather than just taking the place of the vassal. Did that make sense? Yeah, I don’t get it either, but I’m trying. Just know that servents are important and powerful, Mash is a special one, and Fujimaru is a master that commands them, kinda like a Pokemon trainer.
Apparently, Fate is all about these heroic sprites, masters, and servants, and that’s why Babylonia has an anime girl Leonardo Da Vinci. No, it doesn’t get any less weird with time. Because of this, that makes Fate a perfect series for a gacha game, really. Just like how famous warships were perfect for one. Ok, that may have taken more imagination, I admit.
It sounds like a pretty neat plot. We can travel all through time and see different points in history. It’s cool! But there’s one thing I didn’t mention. The anime doesn’t focus on that at all. Like, seriously. The anime is called Babylonia, not…whatever other place they go-onia.
The anime skips right to pretty much the end. It skips to the Babylonia story arc, which is the one before the end of the game’s story. This decision was made, I guess, because it was a fan favorite arc. In a way, that’s pretty cool. I like that they chose to adapt what people wanted to see. On the other hand, it leaves a ton of the story out.
An episode 0 was made to show what happened at the beginning, but it didn’t do a great job. It told us about Mash, but not much else. In fact, Fujimaru is only shown right at the end. There’s some other stuff, but not enough. I only understood the story because I decided to play the game to get a bit more insight. The anime doesn’t help much. It leaves out a lot. Yet, the creators were adamant about the fact that you could still enjoy the anime if you didn’t play the game.
And I’ll be honest, they’re not wrong. The Babylonia arc is a great setting. Fujimaru and Mash travel thousands of years into the past during the Age of Gods in ancient Mesopotamia when humans and gods walked the earth together.
A large part of the story centers around the Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is in the anime quite a lot, actually, just looking far more anime and handsome than he probably was. And there’s the thing about wielding magic. So, if you’re familiar with the tale, you’ll recognize other characters as well. And Merlin. Because why not?
The gods and goddesses are a bit of a mixed bag, having deities from all kinds of mythos, like Ishtar, Tiamat, Ereshkigal, and even the Aztec Quetzalcoatl, but for the most part, they’re focused on religions present in Mesopotamia, which is fitting.
As you might expect, liberties are taken during Babylonia, but it does loosely follow mythos. Fujimaru and Mash’s goal is to find the holy grail, but that’s more or less an excuse for them to do time traveler things and make sure the past goes the way it’s supposed to. Think of it like the fairy tales where one of the characters goes rogue and rewrites it. Like that. It’s up to both of them to keep history on the right track and deal with any irregularities that occur.
While not the most original concept ever, the setting of Mesopotamia is. That’s just not a time period you see often depicted. One kind of upsetting thing is that most of the story takes place in the city of Uruk or around the wilderness. It makes sense since Gilgamesh is the king, but I would have liked to explore Mesopotamia a bit more because it’s such a unique location.
This might be contributed to the fact that the mobile game doesn’t have any emphasis on exploration, with all of the areas being glorified map icons. So it may have been hard to make locations up for what only appears as a generic city. Still, it’s a missed opportunity for sure.
As the game is a gacha game, the emphasis is on the battles you train these characters up to take part in. That’s where a vast majority of your playtime is, not running around to different locations. And thankfully, I have some great news about that.
Babylonia has some fantastic battles! One thing I loved, especially after playing the game, is how well animated the characters are. Much of the cast (I’m looking at you, Mash) fights in fairly unique ways. Your typical swords, lances, that kind of stuff isn’t seen often.
Instead, you have magic chains from heaven, magic chains from hell(?), girl who rules hell and does hell things, crazy fist fighters, and a frail girl with a 7ft tall shield. There’s a lot of variety, and that makes for interesting characters. I think the in-game animations are pretty cool. They flow well and make use of the crazy weapons.
But each character only has a few animations based on what attack you use in what order. So for the anime, they had to animate full battles instead of little snippets like in the game. I think they did a great job not making Mash and the others look awkward and kept faithful to the game. Good job all around!
The sound effects are also really good. They have meat to them. I can feel it when a character gets punched. Someone blasts magic, and it sounds like a nuke goes off out my window. Those sounds mixed with the animation make for fun battles, which is good since one happens pretty much every episode.
It’s a very action-packed 21 episodes. If nothing else, it was very exciting to watch, something that doesn’t change whether you have any prior knowledge or not. Still, that excitement is dampened a bit by just how predictable the story is.
I love the setting. I’ve said that once. I’ll say it a hundred times. But the actual plot is very predictable. Let me tell you a bit about Fujimaru, and I think you’ll get what I’m saying. He’s incredibly kind. Loved by pretty much everyone. All the girls (be them goddess or mortal) fall for him. He has the ability to get anyone on his side. Do you get it?
This is very much a power of friendship kind of story. Enemies start as such, but none can resist the power of Fujimaru, despite the fact he’s not strong at all. They just can’t get enough of his kindness.
While I don’t mind this trope, the second half of the show is nothing but. That three goddess alliance thing threatening to destroy humanity. Oh, Fuji charms each of them to his side. Even the final big baddy trying to destroy humanity, he doesn’t really kill. He defeats her and shares a touching moment before she backs off. This man literally gets a pantheon of goddesses in his harem, including the ruler of the underworld, I might add, despite having about as much personality as one of the rocks down there in Kur.
Ok, I’m being a little harsh. In the game, Fujimaru isn’t a defined character, let alone one that has a name. The “master” you play the game as can either be male or female, depending on your preference. The personality you push on them comes from dialogue choices you make. Meaning Fujimaru had to be built from the ground up.
I agree with making him male. Female would have been really cool, but there’s some obvious romantic tension with Mash. I may not know what’s she’s into, but I doubt they would have let it go down that route were Fujimaru female. The downside is that rather than giving him a personality like in the Persona 4 anime, for instance, they made him the generic nice guy.
Again, from a gacha game perspective, having all the characters eventually join your team makes sense, and Fujimaru was a good way to go about it. It just makes for a predictable story that doesn’t have much tension. You know that no matter what happens, the characters will always come around at the end.
If anything, I think this anime is an interesting example of some of the unique problems a gacha adaptation could face. Now it’s about time we get that Dragalia Lost adaptation, right Nintendo? Right? Please…
Still, for all the anime may do right or wrong, there’s one thing I have to give it credit for above all else. It’s just a really, really good adaptation. Full disclosure, I have not made it to the Babylonia arc in the game, but I have made it through the first two “worlds,” I guess you could call them.
I have enough of an understanding of how the game progresses and would progress to tell you that. The story is there, but it moves at a very awkward pace because it is a mobile game. It’s broken up into small visual novel story segments before a battle interrupts you. This means the pace is kind of all over the place.
It makes sense for a game, but you don’t want to be distracted from the story to fight zombies and werewolves every three minutes. It kills the immersion and can lead to you forgetting what’s going on half the time. Trying to piece together a coherent, action-packed story from that progression would be a challenge, yet Babylonia does it nearly perfectly, I would say. It has a perfect mix of action and story. It’s pretty impressive, actually.
I might even go as far as to say it’s the best anime adaptation of a game I’ve seen. My biggest problem is usually that the anime is either rushed or just does what the game does, just worse. Babylonia has neither of these problems.
The anime takes it sweet time, having 21 episodes for just one arc of the game, and really fleshes everything out far more than I imagine the game does. It’s faithful to what it’s adapting and really goes above and beyond to improve it.
Babylonia is far from perfect, but I was very impressed with how solid it actually was, and even more so once I played the game and saw what CloverWorks had to work with. I really get the feeling that they wanted to do this game justice, and rightfully so. Grand Order is one of the highest-grossing mobile games of all time. They better do it right. There’s no excuse not to.
So to answer the question. Can you enjoy Babylonia with no prior Fate experience? Yes, yes, you can. Do I feel like I learned a lot about the series? Not really. I just kind of got the gist of it, but there’s still a ton I didn’t understand. Do I feel more comfortable about jumping into the series? Yes, I do.
Babylonia is still an entertaining watch regardless of if you understand every detail. But I would recommend playing the game or having some knowledge of what it comes from. Because ultimately, you won’t be able to appreciate what it does right. That it’s a great adaptation above all else.
Thank you very much for reading
Where would you recommend someone start with the fate series, and why do you think it shouldn’t be Grand Order? I would listen, but it’s a little too late for me now, isn’t it?