Title: Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia / Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front – Babylonia
Length: 21 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Action, supernatural, harem
Year of release: 2019
Fate/Grand Order’s Babylonia anime is almost a very good anime, yet falls so far short. It has very good episodes, like the cutting, personal character study of humanities first hero, Gilgamesh, in its fifth episode, or Quetzalcoatl’s awe-inspiring asteroid-level impact in eighteen. But throughout, there is no cohesive vision, and any success the anime finds is due to the impassioned work of its episode directors and choice cuts indulging in fantastic animation.
Most blatant of all of its problems is Ritsuka Fujimaru, a character that cannot be believed to have priorly travelled to six ‘singularities’ (key moments in human history that define the future) and saved them from collapse in the previous six chapters of the (unanimated) mobile game. Most brazenly, Nobunaga Shimazaki’s interpretation of the character jars; the timbre is desperate, consistently shouted, and lacking in nuance. His dialogue is simply far too loud barks at the surrounding cast who should, by all means, be cringing. Look deeper, and his personality is pulled and stretched to fit the mould of whichever independent vision is working on the current episode, with no consistent characterisation found. He is serious at times the rest of the cast are goofy, dumb when the rest of the cast are searching, and lost for words at key moments, and yet somehow is consistently praised as the saviour of the grand battle against Gods and Goddesses attempting to destroy the dynasty of 2600 BC Uruk and the future of humanity. Only so much leeway can be given to the fact that Ritsuka is an audience-insert, and I wish more creative control was given to really flesh out his persona, because the series’ believability shatters around him and his awful line delivery.
While Ishtar is given a solid enough foundation as a greedy yet carefree Goddess, or Gilgamesh’s character is quite thoroughly analysed to give the show the only sense of theme it finds, the rest of the cast struggles to find any solid footing. Quetzalcoatl is a ‘foreign’ (Mesoamerican) Goddess, recruited by the owner of the All Powerful Holy Grail to help destroy humanity in this timezone, and her exaggerated voice and dopey antics, such as asking to marry Ritsuka (!) when he stands up to her, border on offensive, while her serious side is hard to take seriously. Ereshkigal, the ruler of Kur (Mesopatamia’s Underworld), is given more shallow waifu characteristics than any true sub-villain traits, and blushes her way through every encounter with Ritsuka, and is likewise hard to take seriously. Mash, who has travelled with Ritsuka in all the previous journeys, is barely given any screentime other than the occasional use of her shield’s blunt side or getting jealous over the other women’s interactions with Ritsuka. The show attempts seriousness and struggles to find it, and with characters like the animal-onesie-suited Jaguar Man make this creative decision all the more bizarre. The funny moments jar; the serious moments are glossed over – there is a struggle to find a tone and cement it.
The lion’s share of the story is Uruk’s defence, with a series of fetch-quests for the team to find key powers to defeat the Goddess Alliance that is trying to destroy humanity. Much like the exposition’s vague usage of Proper Nouns, this is merely window dressing to take the team between regular battles and some world building. Though credit is due to finding an exciting and typically elegantly choreographed battle sequence for each and every single episode, it feels extremely video gamey. This works in the show’s favour from time-to-time because it is shallowly exciting, but it is only shallow, and the finale’s consistent attempts to one-up itself fail to utilise tension’s reprieve and exhaust more than excite.
Still, any fan of the game will find joy in the recreation’s faithfulness (despite selecting a male main character over the much more popular female character) of key battles, even if some of the most amusing moments were cut in an attempt to give the show levity (#Justice4JusticeBomb). Barring some weak CGI, particularly for the final Goddess’ titanic form, the rest of the animation is frequently jaw-dropping and some of the finest television sakuga of recent years. The heroes’ ultimate attacks, Noble Phantasm’s, are frickin’ awesome to watch, and consistently dynamic action scenes are so damn cool.
Because, fundamentally, this is just fanservice for fans of the game. While Gilgamesh’s story is juxtaposed to give the series a theme of humanity’s survival in the face of inevitably, it doesn’t successfully juxtapose to the adrenaline-pumping action. The characters don’t successfully exist in the vacuum of this anime and feel dirtied, with female characters almost fully stripped of their coolness in exchange for waifu-bait traits and the male characters failing to capitalise on the comic situations available. There’s something here and it’s almost great, but the vision to put it all together is way too mixed.