As someone who plays Fate/Grand Order, the polarizing mobile game based on the Fate universe, my main concern for their decision to jump six chapters ahead of the tutorial chapter was how they would fill in the blanks. The first few chapters existed mostly to introduce us to the whole “finding servants across history” shtick and has the initial growing pains of most mobile games, but there are quite a few important characters that come and go between Fuyuki and Camelot. However, Episode 0 helps circumvent some of these concerns by explaining how Dr. Roman and Mash Kyrielight had come together to kick off the events leading up to the main storyline of the mobile game.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the episode itself, allow me to give you a run-through of what happens in the plot between the first chapter and Babylonia. After the Fifth Holy Grail War of the FGO universe, the world is sent in disarray. The Chaldea Security Organization is established as a result to scan history for irregularities that could create cataclysmic time paradoxes. To fight against any irregularities, servants summoned by Chaldea (through gacha jail) are sent in to get the job done and further allow humanity to live another day. Along the way, scientists were brought in to experiment with demi-servants, or servants that are fused with human subjects; one of which being the Shielder demi-servant Mash Kyrielight. Dr. Roman has the background to make in-depth situation reports on what’s going on throughout the singularities and the world-renowned Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo DaVinci is an expert at enhancing the servants that you summon and researching the servants themselves. With the help of the player character, a male or female Master known as Fujimaru Ritsuka, you fight through one singularity after another to find the truth behind the death clock that is placed on humanity’s existence and Mash’s lifespan, which is eventually settled around the same point in time depending on which region you’re playing on.
The first stage is Fuyuki, an alternate depiction of the Stay/Night setting where everything is on fire. Lev betrays you very quickly and starts causing chaos until two chapters afterward. Then, you reach France when you join Jeanne D’Arc in going after her alternate self alongside Marie Antoinette and Amadeus Mozart. The stage after is Septum, where the player is reminded of Nero Claudius’ greatness as Rome swoons with every “umu” and “padoru” that escapes her mouth. Okeanos is a fun pirate adventure through Greece as Francis Drake takes us on a swashbuckling adventure alongside Medea and Euryale. London is a murder mystery where we follow Mordred through Victorian England where she eventually fights Lancer Artoria Alter. While these chapters range between decent diversions to down-right unbearable, the quality in writing boosts heavily with the America chapter, where you join Florence Nightengale in having to deal with a war between Thomas Edison, who has suddenly become the U.S. President, and legends from Irish folklore. My personal favorite is the chapter afterward, Camelot, which will be adapted into a film later this year. That one’s an interesting AU where the Knights of the Round Table become corrupted and are housed in the middle of ancient Jerusalem. Between American and Camelot, we learn more about Mash Kyrielight, the rapid progression of her illness, and the true nature behind her identity. Because this is the segue to the chapter at the end of Camelot, we are left off on the note of that chapter’s conclusion where Mash’s health is at her lowest point so far and Chaldea starts reaching a point where it is under the threat of forces far more harrowing than irregularities in history. With the end of humanity and Mash’s lifespan at stake, Babylonia will eventually meet us at the crossroads where these elements of the FGO plot are further set-up for future encounters.
Now that all of the exposition is gotten out of the way, let’s talk about Episode 0. It glosses through the first batch of chapters up to the end of Camelot in a clip show, commercial-esque format at the very end of the episode. It skims through the chapters in a way that will throw off viewers new to the game, but offers some appealing fanservice to those who have cleared through them. Indeed it is nice to see Director Olga, Drake, Boudica, the Assassins, and other side characters in the previous singularities. However, where it excels the most is how it acts as a helpful start to the world of FGO. The prologue episode elaborates on how Dr. Roman comes to associate himself with Chaldea and how Mash Kyrielight was raised after being experimented on to become a demi-servant. It explains how Mash’s gradual understanding of how humans function is what lends to how she determines who has the warmth and positive values of humanity to be considered her senpai. But whereas it was intriguing to get a more valuable text-free glimpse of how Mash’s childhood was like up until the events of the game, it was more fascinating to see Dr. Roman’s background story of what he was up to while he was studying and traveling around the world. Similarly, it was neat to see the dynamic between him and Marisbury Animusphere as Episode 0 delves further into Marisbury’s life after he used the Grail to create Chaldea. What was touching as well was seeing just how much of a father figure that Dr. Roman tried to be around Mash as he tried to get to know her and keep her educated about how the world around her used to be. It’s genuinely interesting how much background we get on the events that happen behind-the-scenes that would not only help new viewers understand FGO, but give older players a nice refresher on what unfolded within the first part of the FGO story.
Episode 0 also gives us a hopeful perspective on how the animation will look given how visually stylish the action was. There are relatively impressive fight sequences with sleek animation to show off the brute strength and agility that is instilled into Mash after her experiment. Additionally, there’s a lush color palette that the prologue episode has in giving some bright, pastel polish to the characters. It might just be something they do for the prologue given that it will be a few more months until the TV anime comes out, but the production value that we’ve seen so far has been prospective in its scale. It’ll be thrilling to see if the remainder of the series will be able to use this episode as the benchmark it’ll use towards the production quality and in-depth detail behind the backstories and developments that our protagonists face.