「絶対魔獣戦線バビロニア」 (Zettai Majuu Sensen Babironia)
“Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia”
Another iteration of the Fate franchise? Another iteration of the Fate franchise. I know there are those of you out there who are sick of them and for that you can blame Fate/Grand Order. It has a disproportionately massive fanbase masochistically willing to devote themselves to a clunky smart phone RPG all to wade through the myriad layers of lore Type Moon writer Nasu Kinoko has built up over the years that allow him to tell whatever story he pleases. More importantly, this fanbase seems willing to spend on obscene amount of amount of money on the game, and they make Sony a lot of profit. Its subsidiary Aniplex is supposed to mostly be an anime production company but the sheer gross revenue of F/GO has made them a video game company as well. So Fate has become a very profitable franchise for them and you can be sure the people they’ve gotten to make this anime adaptation know that. A hefty amount of talent, budget, and effort has been diverted to Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia to ensure that it is good, which is great news for us anime consumers who are just looking for a solid 20 minutes of entertainment every week.
It’s a good thing that so much sweat and treasure has been committed to what is essentially a fanservice production, for both fans and non-fans alike. Fans respond well to quality and passion, just like everybody else. And there appears to be real passion here, amplified by the pervasiveness of F/GO in Japanese subculture. There’s a good bet that a lot of the production staff are F/GO fans as well (leading to tragicomedy in promotional streams as seiyuu reflect on spending their F/GO paycheque on F/GO). If you’re afraid that this adaptation is just going to be a cynical cashgrab, I would say that there’s probably enough passion going into the project to allay those apprehensions. Indeed, it certainly looks good enough, with this pilot very eagre to show off its action with plenty of tracking shots, which are hell for a screencapper like me but look smoother than the bunches of cuts we’re used to from manga adaptations (though, why didn’t we get a prolonged shot of Enkidu’s butt? This is discrimination!).
But too much passion is not necessarily a good thing either. Fanbase pressure can be suffocating; we all probably know at least one adaptation that was bogged down by following their source line by line for fear of angering the rabid otaku. And the more a work caters to established fans (and the more fans cater to themselves) the more exclusionary it is. After watching this first episode I’m going to go out on a limb and tell fresh viewers that Babylonia is probably not for them. Not that you shouldn’t watch it — you can probably follow along if you’ve watched the First Order feature and episode 0, but this anime evidently was not designed with your ease in mind. As you may know, Babylonia is actually near the end of the first story arc of F/GO, which is getting an anime now because it’s a fan favourite. Babylonia makes a mention of the other chapters but simply assumes you know what happened in them or does not care if you do. In fact, it will casually drop spoilers even for the movie coming out in May that is nonetheless supposed to chronologically precede Babylonia. There is a lot of prior knowledge you have to bring into Babylonia for the optimal viewing experience. If you’re new Fate/Grand Order you probably won’t be as invested into this great save-the-world mission that is supposed to have been going on for some time. If you’re new to the Fate franchise in general you won’t recognise some jargon and common motifs, like this face. And if you’re new to history and mythology you won’t even know who this Enkidu/Gilgamesh combo is supposed to be and why they’re sad and wet. Wasn’t Gilgamesh the guy with eight arms who was searching for the Excalibur? Yeah, things are going to get confusing real fast.
The good news is Babylonia is at least taking things relatively slowly. Not that much actually happens in this episode other than a rotating door of character introductions, some random encounters, and messing around with the magical mystery mammal. And in the visual novel tradition, the story is going to take some time to ramp up anyway. So there should be plenty of time for you to acclimate yourself. And it’ll may well be worth the trying. Fate/Grand Order is such a big deal in Japan that you probably owe it to yourself as an anime fan to find out what all the fuss is. And if you end up managing to catch a good show, then all the better.