「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.

45 Comments

  1. 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.

    Then I’m in luck! While I’m not familiar with Fate/Grand Order (in fact, I’m lost among so many Fates that I thought this one was related to Apocrypha or Extra), I am familiar with (parts of) the original VN, and Mesopotamian history has always been a favourite subject of mine, so I didn’t get lost here.

    I think the storytelling choices also help.

    While the whole setting may be overwhelming, I like that they went for a “less is more” approach here. Make it simple: two main characters (plus their pet and their mission support) travel in time to save the day in Grial-related events that would change history as we know it and bring about the end of the world if left unchecked. You don’t need to know more. The setting they’re travelling to is simple too. It’s the last days of the Era of the Gods and humanity is not doing great. Uruk is (seemingly) the last city standing and Gilgamesh rules it. For now, it’s easy to follow.

    If anything, the most confusing part is the appearance of Not!Rin, who is there for obvious fanservice rasons (in more ways than one). I have absorbed enough things through pop cultural osmosis to know what her name is… but that opens another can of confusing worms. Well, that and the fact that Da Vinci is a woman here, but after Saber’s backstory, that’s almost to be expected of this franchise.

    In any case, the episode was gorgeous. Passion, time and money well-spent. Even if it might be a glorified ad for the game, this is no cheap cash-grab.

    Mistic
    1. Definitely isn’t no cash-grab here. While it is sticking to the main story parts, it has already avoided a few things game wise. As we go right into the travel to Uruk, whereas if I recall (as an FGO player), we spent a bit in that city before trying to find our way to Uruk.

      I think it isn’t going to be hard for viewers to enjoy Babylonia. They will be overwhelmed if the game were to bring up things from past singularities. However, each singularity (or even events) is almost a self contained story, so that this won’t happen.

      The story of FGO is quite fun and Babylonia is where it finally hits its stride, so I’m hoping that translates over to the anime. So far, so good.

      Dorian S.
      1. Yeah, if previous Singularities don’t affect the plot, the anime’s best choice would be to ignore them completely, minus the occasional reference to please the loyal gamers. The (so far) limited main cast also helps at this point (compare it to Azur Lane’s initial roster in the very first episode).

        Mistic
      2. @Mistic
        Unfortunately, the previous do affect the plot in ways. For example, the big bad was technically revealed in an earlier chapter, and some characters introduced in earlier chapters will play a significant role in this one. This is not to mention the development for the main cast. Hopefully Babylonia will come up with a way to massage those details.

      1. After her little cameo I was sure her fighting style (and the camera angles that went with it) reminded me of something, so I checked and found that this show has the same animation editor as Strike Witches.

        Angelus
  2. I’m not certain how to go about this. On one hand I have next to no interest in mobile games and have paid zero attention to anything related to Grand Order; which I’ve read multiple times this adaptation isn’t geared for. On the other hand I’ve seen all the other Fate adaptations so far and didn’t have much of an issue following this.

    Arche
    1. You should be good reading something from the wiki. Keep in mind that most of the previous chapters are NOT MEANT TO BE SEEN. That’s right, the game started as a generic mobage with terrible story, crappy graphics etc. However it was an unexpected hit and soon Kinoko Nasu (who wrote only the concept and left to Delight Works all the development since he didn’t care about mobile games) give it a go to see how the game was shaping up. It wasn’t a pretty sight and started demanding radical changes, ending up writing two entire chapters and involving Urobuchi in various roles. That’s the reason why they started animating seriously Babylonia and Camelot. I am more a fan of the latter (in my opinion Nasu was in top form when he wrote that chapter) but Babylonia is extremely good too. Don’t take the first episode as an indication of the general tone of the story because it shift dramatically in tone later on.

      AceAttacker
      1. While I agree that the parts Nasu wrote himself were definitely superior, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the previous chapters are not meant to be seen. Nasu was still the story director and oversaw the chapters he didn’t write in that capacity. Each one, while mostly self contained, had parts that built on the overarching narrative of F/GO. The chapters we’re getting adaptations for are simply the most popular two (and rightly so).

      2. Generally speaking the turning point was after the negative reaction to the Septem chapter. Things got so heated that the writer apologized on twitter for the low quality of the story. Nasu was nominally a director of the previous chapter, mostly because he didn’t even had a smartphone at the time (he said that influenced negatively his productivity) and considered mobile games charitably as “games for those who don’t have gaming machine”. From the practical standpoint FGO was destined to be a profitable, but not exactly loved, stepchild to the franchise, but it became successful beyond the initial forecast and shifted in priority. Honestly i never saw a mobile game (or any online game of that matter) undergo a massive metamorphosis as FGO, not only for the massive improvement in the writing (from the american chapter it seems a totally different game) but also from a technical standpoint, with free characters entirely redrawn and constantly updated.

        AceAttacker
      3. @Henrietta
        Urobochi did the Fate/Accel Order Event, which was basically FGO’s Fate/Zero event. Most recently, he wrote Lostbelt 3 scenario for FGO. We’re not going to see that in English for another year though.

        Babylonia was penned by Nasu, so Gen has nothing to do with it.

        SuicuneSol
  3. Didn’t the creator said this anime will be watchable even for newcomers?
    Bullshit, they adoped some arc from the game and didn’t told us a thing aside from that OVA they’ve released few years ago and that prequal which was a total BS as well

    Noted
  4. To be fair, Fate Grand Order is essentially Harem building mixed in with eternal grinding and unfair gacha rates. Though unlike the more hated harem animes, the main characters effect of drawing in servants isn’t based on bravado or unmatched power or skills, but on something far more simple(no spoilers here). But beyond the more dredful aspects of Grand Order, at least the story developers do their best to make every event and main story chapter have depth and weight to it, or at the very least make the players have some fun in between the more serious parts. While the gacha and limited actions per day piss me off to know end (my wallet has been decidedly hurt this year by it), the heart and soul of the game, the characters and their interractions in the game, make it worth some of the heartache.

    Zer01
  5. https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20Grand%20Order/Fate%20Grand%20Order%20Zettai%20Majuu%20Sensen%20Babylonia%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2010.jpg
    A part of me wants to see the lovely chest of the king. Was her chest always that big?

    https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20Grand%20Order/Fate%20Grand%20Order%20Zettai%20Majuu%20Sensen%20Babylonia%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2022.jpg
    wow, face already was hit hard with something nice, a “fallen angel.” Popular way to meet important girls, wait for them to fall from the sky. How many anime displayed that?

    Greed
    1. This is an alternate version of her where she chose the lance as her main weapon instead of the sword, meaning a certain weapon’s immortality didnt apply to her and she aged normally, along with her chest apparently.

      YanDaMan
  6. As someone who plays FGO, they did do a decent job at introducing the Babylonia arc in anime format, but it would be difficult for newcomers to follow along. Past singularities starting at America set the scene towards the whole “Final Singularity” plotline of Babylonia and Mashu’s abilities in general are spoilery. As much as I love the characters in this arc, it does feel like this arc was chosen less because for its coherence towards newcomers and more because its the arc where most of the bankable characters from Stay Night appears.

    But again, it was impressive that the fights in the first episode didn’t feel too unnatural as it gave us a great introduction to “Rin” and Enkidu. My only complaint as a fan is that the characters faces don’t emote as well with this artstyle. With goofier moments like Rayshifting out of the sky once again and the cushion scene, Gudao and Mashu’s expressions are pretty blank. But nonetheless, it was great to see the Babylonia singularity in action. Da Vinci and “Rin” were great to see in the ep, and it was a treat to get short glances at Tamamo no Mae, Jeanne Alter, Drake, Kintoki, Nightingale, and Artoria from past singularities. Looking forward to how they adapt later parts of the singularity and how they pull off the Camelot movie.

    Choya
  7. This was very awkward storytelling. Admittedly, I’ve never played the games, but have watched the OVA, and the other FATE entries, but it was still hard to get invested. Everyone just felt bored, and the whole thing felt bor-ing as a result.

    I’m still keen on the concept, but they’ll need to start kicking it up on the story to keep me invested, otherwise this may be more for game fans than any others.

    hjerry2000
  8. https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20Grand%20Order/Fate%20Grand%20Order%20Zettai%20Majuu%20Sensen%20Babylonia%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2001.jpg
    Seeing this makes me hope the writers will tell us when will Fate/Strange fake be animated.

    https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20Grand%20Order/Fate%20Grand%20Order%20Zettai%20Majuu%20Sensen%20Babylonia%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2036.jpg
    I still don’t get how those two are there. Why is someone so small and the other one, who has a white hood, outside of his cage?

    Greed
  9. The main problem with Grand Order’s story is Ritsuka is just a terrible, awful main character, the most generic and blandest non-entity you’ll ever meet. There’s no real reason why all Servants look up at him (or her if you choose the purely cosmetic female version) other than because the plot says so and because he has the token anime basic courage/kindness of any bargain bin harem lead.

    He’s got no background, no driving force beyond ‘helping people because’ without the character exploration Shirou, Kiritsugu, Ayaka, or even Hakuno and Sieg had. Which is bad because he’s the epicenter of the whole story, but there’s no reason why most Servants would give him the time of the day. He’s brave? Well, yeah, so is everyone else in the game other than Scheherezade, it should take more than that to earn a Heroic Spirit’s respect. He’s just a cardboard cutout characters will stick to just because he’s the most general player avatar intended for people who can’t identify with anyone with character traits of their own, that is, the most socially stunted of otakus.

    OverMaster
    1. You hit the nail on the head. But it’s tough to make Ritsuka more interesting because the story isn’t about him. It’s about his adventures. And that is the unfortunate weakness of an adaptation that stars a player character. I’m not sure it can be fixed short of changing the plot.

      It’s a plot that totally works in the game, but as an anime, it’s going to be tough going.

      SuicuneSol
  10. 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.

    Actually, I blame Fate/Stay Night. It blew up big and suddenly there are sequels and prequels and interquals and spinoffs and reimaginings and alternate world versions and crap that isn’t even vaguely related but which is tagged as Fate anyway and the whole damn mess.

    Wanderer
  11. Welp, finally managed to watch this.

    https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20Grand%20Order/Fate%20Grand%20Order%20Zettai%20Majuu%20Sensen%20Babylonia%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2022.jpg
    To paraphrase Bunny Girl Senpai‘s Sakuta Azusagawa: “I want her legs to sandwich me…along with her Grade-S zettai ryouiki.”

    https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20Grand%20Order/Fate%20Grand%20Order%20Zettai%20Majuu%20Sensen%20Babylonia%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2035.jpg
    “Roll credits…” *ding*

    https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20Grand%20Order/Fate%20Grand%20Order%20Zettai%20Majuu%20Sensen%20Babylonia%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2036.jpg
    The one on the left… Is that the legendary trap himself? (Astolfo?)

    With all the splendid visuals, I could have sworn this was done by ufotable–until I remembered they’re still busy with the Heaven’s Feel movie trilogy. While F/GO: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia hasn’t convinced me to pick up the F/GO mobile game (and I probably never will), I’m interested enough to check on the show occasionally. (I did manage to watch the First Order movie and Episode 00 at least, so I have some vague idea of what it’s about.)

    Incognito
  12. Those damn beasts gave me nightmare with their stupid critical charge. I’m pretty happy with the pacing although Mash’s NP origin is revealed in Camelot arc but boy, am I happy to see the quick preview of all the previous Singularity.

    BloodHunter
  13. There’s a lot more people at Chaldea than I thought there would be. I thought they were all supposed to be cryogenically frozen. Did they thaw them out at some point? I only made it halfway through the American part and quit.

    sealouse
  14. Episode 0 was so much better than 1 it’s not even funny. It truly shows the director change and how good was the other one that was able to seamlessly knit many temporal jumps with almost flawless skill while this one made a super awkward and boring transition, resembling the worst of Orleans in storytelling flow. I hope she directs more in the future.

    Mellys

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