OP: 「Phantom Joke」 by UNISON SQUARE GARDEN
「城塞都市ウルク」 (Jousai Toshi Uruku)
“Fortress City Uruk”
After the carousel of characters we had in last week’s pilot, it seems that this week two new members have permanently joined the party! First we have Merlin (Sakurai Takahiro). I’m sure you’ve heard of him. I’m actually quite fond of Merlin and personally consider him one of the more interesting characters in Babylonia. Discussing him, though, will require a bunch of spoilers so let’s stick a bookmark in it and save it for later. As for Ana (Asakawa Yuu)… she’s just a cutiepie, isn’t she? Maybe I’m just a sucker for stoic girls and big ribbons. I must say, though, she’s a lot smaller than I thought she was. That’s one of the things an anime adaptation does; as a direct medium it gives a visual clarity that a limited smartphone game cannot. Still, it’s not just me, right? She really is small, right? I mean, she’s 60% thighs. I guess Babylonia knows what the fans want.
Anyways, this is our 2nd episode which for anime is traditionally the exposition episode. The first episode spends a lot of time just trying to hook the audience, and the second one needs to slow down a bit and actually explain itself. And boy, is there a lot to explain. Here we get to another hurdle for new viewers: mechanics. MECHANICS. I’ll probably need to write a separate post dedicated to this idea, but the Fate universe (or indeed the greater ‘Nasuverse’, as writer Nasu Kinoko’s fictional universe is called) is a setting based on bollocks. This isn’t a criticism per se, it’s just the handy for Nasu to have a world with highly complex yet thoroughly fuzzy fantasy mechanics so that he can accommodate whatever plot twist or alternate reality adventure he needs to tell the kind of story his whims takes him to any given month. It does mean, though, that over the years a huge amount of bollocks has aggregated. Game players would have had the opportunity to gradually acclimate themselves to multi-layered bollocks tsunami that is Fate/Grand Order, but for new views of this anime, you’ll just have to go with the flow. I mean, does it really matter to the story we’re telling right now whether Merlin is a ‘Servant’, why exactly he can’t be a Servant, and how he actually is a Servant? I’m going to say no. How about we just smile and nod and pretend to understand, and we move on? But it wouldn’t be Fate without the details I guess, so we’re going to have to throw in a hand wave. This is on top of all the usual exposition stories need to do so we’re in for a lot of walking and talking, lengthy tirades, and Merlin story time. At least this means the animators have a lot of free time so… here’s some ants! And of course they get to show off more of that gorgeous background art. Take a gander at the ED. In the now established Fate anime tradition it’s just a slide show of pretty pictures but they sure are pretty. I actually prefer it to the action OP — if only because it’s easier on the screen capping.
But we can’t just be talking and gawking forever. As if to remind us this is a game adaptation, Gilgamesh shows up and suddenly, ‘We meet so we fight!’. This is the part where somebody reminded Nasu that he wasn’t actually writing a visual novel and they needed some gameplay in there. For us anime viewers, though, it’s a promise of at least some more action early next episode, as if to apologise for all the exposition we had to digest in this one. What I’m looking forward to most of all, though, is worldbuilding. These later chapters of F/GO is where Nasu spends the most effort on basic fantasy foundations like worldbuilding. Uruk is the city that’s under attack and we the audience need to care about its defence, so it’d help if we cared about the actual city. So, there will be time to ingratiate ourselves with its people and get a look at how they live. That’s not something we usually get with Fate/anything (since they’re usually urban fantasy), so I look forward to the change of pace Grand Order will bring to the franchise.
Spoiler policy: If it’s not been brought up in the anime, please use spoiler tags. Ta.
ED: 「星が降るユメ」(Hoshi ga Furu Yume) by Eir