「今は旧き辺獄の底 プレテリトゥス・リンブス・ヴォラーゴ」 (Ima wa Furuki Hengoku no Soko -Pureteritusu Rinbusu Voraago-)
“The Present Lies in the Depths of the Past -Praeteritus Limbus Vorago-“
The original Fate/Extra for the PSP was Type Moon’s first foray into the role-playing game spinoff, created in partnership with Marvelous Entertainment. And I hate to say it, but it was not the kind of videogame that I would necessarily call, er, ‘good’. No no, it was a worthy addition to the all-consuming Fate/ franchise, but it was a very flawed game. It was developed at a time when ATLUS was doing very well with Persona 3 and Persona 4, so there was this industry pressure to make JRPGs with high schoolers crawling through dungeons without really understanding what made Persona successful. So, out popped Fate/Extra, which did all the story-centric, visual novel stuff that Type Moon was familiar with well enough, but choked on the gameplay. Dungeons were basically just mazes with textures, enemy design was minimalistic outside of boss fights, and the combat system failed to be interesting for all but one of the three playable characters. Type Moon’s head writer Nasu Kinoko still wrote a fairly good story with some fairly neat characters for Fate/Extra, but the gameplay could not reach the same heights and ultimately dragged it down a peg.
For a videogame, this is crippling. For an anime adaptation, though, this is actually rather promising.
In the preview I mentioned that Nasu is personally writing this anime, and even if you haven’t played the source game you may have heard that Nasu is going to be rewriting. I suspect that Nasu is doing this not just because he changes his canon more than he changes his socks, but also because Fate/Extra the game fundamentally does not work as an anime. The gameplay is too artificial, too abstract and really not that interesting to watch even if converted to anime form. So, it needs to be excised, and I guess Nasu will just write over any holes that may be left from the surgery. This is actually a good way to do things; it’s very difficult to translate game mechanics to a non-interactive medium like anime, and the most successful videogame adaptations prefer to strip out the mechanics entirely, take only the fluff, and build on that from scratch. Keep the spirit of the source, and use it to create something new.
The end result for Last Encore is that it may well be as unfamiliar to those who have played the original game as it is to those who are only encountering the Fate/ franchise for the first time. For those familiar with the franchise and its motifs, there are many familiar faces, but there is something off with them and nothing is quite right. For those joining us for the first time, this entire pilot is off. This is not the usual high school setting. This setting does not conform to the reality we’re familiar with (and nobody knows how to play the chess we’re familiar with). And the fact that all of the characters take the madness in stride just makes everything all the more uncanny. It’s obvious now why SHAFT was the studio chosen to adapt Fate/Extra; the surrealist style of Madoka Magica and the Monogatari Series is a perfect fit for this world. And they may be a surprisingly good fit for Nasu’s writing style, too. If you’ve read any of Nasu’s works, you know it: he totally wrote this episode. The heavy-handed internal monologues, the exposition cut with strong doses of cryptic nonsense, the tortuous use of language that drive translators insane — these are his hallmarks. But if there’s one crew that can turn Nasu’s twisted prose into something visual, it’s the veteran staff of SHAFT.
I’ve played the game and can mostly tell what’s going on, but I still found this pilot to be a welcomed fresh take on the Fate/ formula. I’d love to hear how anime-only viewers found the artillery barrage of weirdness they were bombarded with this episode. Either way, though, this is an interesting start to any anime. The mystery is thick here, and nothing hooks viewers like mystery. Yet, they still managed to squeeze in the boy meets girl angle in the tail end for those who need something more traditional to anchor the narrative. It’s definitely not a show that should be judged with a single episode. And that’s the best case that a pilot can ever make.
Standard warning, folks: tag your spoilers. Thanks.
ED (but actually the OP): 「Bright Burning Shout」 by 西川貴教 (Nishikawa Takanori)