|Good visuals, action delivers, a cast with a lot of personality
|Second OP wasn't good, some adaptation choices will bother people, didn't like some CG usage
There are some shows you just hope live up to your expectations for them. I knew mostly what to expect when the Babylonia arc in Fate/Grand Order was chosen to be adapted into an anime. And I did basically get everything I expected from it. Of course I also expected like any adaptation there would be changes and it wouldn’t be a 1:1 thing. Whether you are looking at a light novel, manga, or game adaptation they are going to add some things and take some away. There are times I can’t stand the choices made and times I’m less concerned. Luckily this was the latter. Considering the original story played out mostly in a visual novel style with combat sprinkled around it didn’t bother me when they made some changes. One of those things though that might bother people that played it.
The story is a bit of a tricky one in this case. It is picking up well into an established story. You can somewhat take the “First Order” OVA as a prologue and then the episode 0 this show had in order to setup the arc. But a person jumping into this fresh will need to kind of keep an open mind and take in the information presented. The key thing for this season is that it is near the end of a long journey for the main characters. A situation has developed where the stakes are about as high as they get. They are trying to stop the incarnation of humanity…across all of history. This isn’t about just saving the world of today. It’s about saving humanity from the dawn of human history into the future. If they fail that’s the end for every human that has ever existed.
The story is a pretty good one in general. It does hit a point in the second half where the pacing does feel rushed at points. The anime while having a decent episode count doesn’t have a 24+ episode number to work with. And they did require a fair amount of breaks while airing to keep up with their visuals. But overall I had a good time with the story. They kept a long journey going from the main cast arriving in that setting, going on several adventures, meeting a lot of people, and wrapping things up with a confirmation for more anime down the road.
I can’t say for sure how the story does in helping people get comfortable that have zero Fate knowledge. But for me I think they did a solid job giving a basic explanation of the situation while letting people just get absorbed into the story that was being told. Others may have had more issues with story decisions made, but I think looking at the show overall the choices worked out fine for a solid story.
This is a tough one since the cast is honestly pretty sizable. So I’ll try to just stick to the core characters as much as possible and talk in more generalities. I think the character that needs the most specific discussion is Fujimura Ritsuka. The main character is one that clearly has been polarizing for some. In the game this character is pretty well a blank slate that only contributes player selected responses on a rare occasion. That wouldn’t really work out for the anime so like many other adaptations in a similar position…it gave him more of a personality and active role. In some ways it is like the Persona anime adaptations. You have to give the main character more to do and that will undoubtedly have him steal the spotlight a bit.
That didn’t bother me though. It only seemed appropriate for the main character to be the main character. Different mediums required different handling of the character. In the end he wasn’t too much for me. He stepped up at points that made sense and he was involved with different characters in a variety of ways. Ritsuka just felt like a person to me. He’s tasked with being this Last Master and having the fate of humanity on his shoulders. So I didn’t think he’d end up being a passive character in the story.
There are a lot of characters though. Mash Kyrielight being one that is there throughout. She does have a tough spot in the story being surrounded by a lot of powerful personalities. It is hard to stand out when you have Gilgamesh, Ishtar, Merlin, etc all being very active. But I did appreciate that they tried to give her focus in the opening episodes and a variety of flashbacks to her experiences in different arcs that weren’t animated. She’s been on a journey like Ritsuka and been rather changed by her experiences. This is a story that is more about reflecting who she is now than really taking her on further character changing experiences. I would have liked more focus on Mash. And I do think the series gave her less than it could have. But overall I still like her character in this.
The rest of the cast is pretty great. This is easily the best version of Gilgamesh we’ve seen animated. And trust me, this is from someone that straight up hates him in most Fate stories we see him in. Merlin was a blast in a variety of ways. I honestly didn’t like him that much early on. His personality not being the type that worked for me. But by the end I did honestly like the guy. Ana was adorable and a character I grew to like even more than I did while playing the game. And the list just goes on from Ishtar to a variety of characters that appeared. But too many of them would honestly be spoiling things so I won’t go into detail. The show had a really good supporting cast. The only downside is that some of them got fewer chances to shine than others.
Visually I think the show was really strong. They had to take several breaks to make that happen, but the results speak for themselves. From start to finish we got some pretty wild visuals. I thought the action sequences were excellent and some of the big attacks near the end of the show were kind of jaw dropping. Some may have disliked some visual choices for those action sequences, but overall I think this show is one of the best looking ones of the year thus far. From the character designs to the backgrounds I think they did a great job bringing this story to life. The visuals are one of the reasons I really think this anime was worth making.
Now I did think the use of CG near the end was a bit questionable. I could be convinced that it had a proper place in terms of artistic reasons. But it was a bit jarring at points. Beyond that though I don’t really have any visual complaints to make.
Audio wise I have one major complaint. The second OP was really bad. I did not like the vocal choices. Not that the singing itself was poor. But how they chose to sing the song and arrange the vocals just bothered me. I liked the first opening and both endings. But I had to eventually start skipping the opening in the second half.
Beyond that I don’t have major complaints really. The cast was full of great voice talents and the music was pretty strong. They had plenty to pull from when it came to the game and added to that where they needed to.
I honestly had a really good time with this anime. The story was one that I knew mostly what to expect. But the additions honestly were things I really enjoyed since they were pleasant surprises most of the time. For a show that was adapting a story without having the previous arcs animated, it did a really nice job. I liked the main characters, the action worked for me, and each week it remained one of the shows I wanted to watch the most.
It certainly isn’t perfect. The second half did have some pacing issues and I think they would have been served with a few more episodes. But it is a balancing act between the budget, animation, storytelling, etc. The overall balance worked out better than it did poorly for me. When this show was announced I was less hyped than I was concerned about trying to adapt something in the middle of a story. But, overall I think they handled it well. Is it the best Fate anime ever? That’s a tough one, but I honestly think it could be put into the conversation.
For me it settles in at the A level. Babylonia was a show that did a lot of things well. A few small things hurt it, but it is a show I can definitely recommend. If you have played the game just be ready to for adaptation changes and if you haven’t…well just keep your eyes open and take in the background the show tries to explain.
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