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Fate Grand Order Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia – 09 »« Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia – 07

Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia – 08

「魔獣母神」 (Majuu Bojin)
“The Mother of Demonic Beasts”

To continue our Hobbit analogy from a few episodes back, Merlin is the Gandalf character. Obviously. He’s the wizard who advises our hero. He manipulates events to nudge the plot along. He has the staff/sword dual-wield combo. But Merlin is not going to slay a balrog. Could he win a purple laser duel against a monster god? Eh, maybe not (though in the game, totally. Mechanics, yo). Whether he can or not, though, there’s no way they’re going to allow Merlin to be useful two episodes in a row. It’s never good to over-rely on the Gandalf character. There’s a reason why Gandalf was expressly forbidden from intervening too directly in Middle Earth; from a metafictional perspective, a magical person can trivialise the plot. Those who’ve only watched the Hobbit movies will not know this, but in the novel the ‘Necromancer’ that Gandalf had to split from the party to deal with was not originally intended to be Sauron. He readily admitted it was just a plot device to get Gandalf out of the way, so that the adventure will have actual obstacles instead of it all being solved by a literal wizard.

This problem is compounded in Fate/Grand Order because its rosters of characters are all heroes from history and mythology who are all supposed to all be capable of impressive feats. Even if you only know of heroes like Ushiwakamaru and Leonidas by reputation, it’s easy to appreciate that they are protagonists of their own tales and their presence looms large in F/GO. But they aren’t the protagonist, so their looming presence is actually a hindrance to storytelling, upstaging the main characters. What do you even do with a bunch of superpowered badasses just hanging around in the supporting cast? Often, they become overly convenient plot resolvers as the deus ex machina (again, wizards). Or, the story leans in the other direction and they become the Worf.

Even casual fans of Star Trek should know Worf. He’s the Klingon crew member of the Enterprise, and the resident expert in violence. The problem with having a violence expert in the cast is that for every plot obstacle that arises, the implicit question is, why not solve it with violence? Violence is very simple for an audience to understand and even simpler to apply, but it’s not going to make for very engaging television to have the tough guy punch the plot into submission week after week. And so the obstacle has to be tougher than the Worf, and to demonstrate that, Worf has to get beaten up. That’s basically the purpose of Ushiwakamaru and Leonidas in this episode. Sure, they get some pretty impressive action scenes (did Ushiwakamaru dancing around amidst all the chopped up Gorgon bits remind anybody else of a Shaft fight? And Gorgon has Laputa-robot lasers). But they’re there to be defeated. We know Ushiwakamaru and Leonidas are historical badasses who live up to their hype. But this Gorgon!Tiamat thrashes them both! Back to back! This must be a very impressive antagonist indeed!

Crushing our resident violence experts also demonstrates that this antagonist isn’t one that can be defeated via conventional means. It justifies the existence and worth of our protagonist, who may not be a violence expert at all (if, say, he was a bald British thespian). There’d be no incentive to think outside the box otherwise. Problem is, Ritsuka is of incredibly little worth in general. Other than indirectly inspiring Ushiwakamaru and throwing the most pathetic punch in the history of anime he does nothing this episode but stand and gawk. In fact, I’d say there is a bit too much standing and gawking in Babylonia as a whole. Didn’t Merlin use a rather effective buff last episode? Couldn’t it have helped here? But, no, we’re all just going to stand around and let our champions be defeated one at a time. Shape up, peoples. You can’t always rely on being saved by arbitrary villain deadlines.

November 24, 2019 at 12:34 am
24 comments »
  • November 24, 2019 at 2:10 amLelo

    While their defeats certainly helped building up Gorgon as a great threat, I think considering that moment as the sole reason for Leonidas and Ushiwaka being in the show is way too much reductive.
    They aren’t simply badasses that need to die to show how dangerous the antagonist is: they also contributed heavily in the characterization of the cast, they gave inspirational speeches, they taught some lessons to the other characters, and we can be sure those will play a role in the future (I mean, Leonidas’ spirit already helped in this episode, maintaining the morale of both Fujimaru and the soldiers even after his death).
    And let’s not forget Benkei, who, maybe more than all the others, was shaken to the core and decided to leave. This is not the end of him.
    So yes, Ushiwaka and Leonidas are badasses and Gorgon taking them out shows us how dangerous she is, but that’s not it at all. First of all, they were already “removed” from the main action, in a sense, since they were holding the front. So there was already a metafictional reason for them not interfering much with Fujimaru’s other missions, their deaths weren’t needed in that sense. Secondly, as a Master Fujimaru need to rely on Servants, he can’t do much on his own, so their presence wouldn’t have been a burden on the story at all. Most of the time in the game, Fujimaru is almost a Watson-like presence, watching and interfering just a little while the heroes fight and struggle.
    And third, as I said, all of this will have more consequences than the simple “showing off the danger”. They didn’t die just to die and be cut off from the story, it is a mobage but FGO doesn’t have that poor storytelling.

    Regarding Merlin not doing much, he said the reason in the episode. I mean, it’s not a throwaway line just to make him step aside. Babylonia as a whole as a lot of small details and hints that make sense when the whole picture is shown. I can’t even say that that’s only a well-explained excuse to make him step aside, sinceShow Spoiler ▼

    .

    I agree a bit on Fujimaru standing basically still, but I think it’s more an effect of the directing that him being just there. If we consider the chain of events, all of those amazing battles and Leonidas’ last stand happen very quickly, with little time in-between for Fujimaru to move or do something. But it could’ve been shown a bit better, the problem is that the focus was so much on the other characters that, each time the camera goes back to Fujimaru, he looks like he hasn’t moved for ten or so minutes.

    • November 24, 2019 at 3:55 amPasserby

      I suppose my argument, which may have been phrased poorly, isn’t too be reductionist about Ushi and Leo. Rather, I would say that their roles were, potentially, too big. They were big damn heroes with all this mythology behind them and a big role holding off the demon army. They were kept off screen because to dwell on them at any length at all would suck up too much story oxygen, if only because the protagonist can’t compete at all on presence.

      You’re right that Fujimaru Ritsuka has something of a Watson role. But here’s the thing–Watson wasn’t the protagonist. He was allowed to be more passive, especially in the novels where’s he’s allowed to ‘hide’ more because he’s the first-person narrator (in the same way the F/GO protagonist also gets to hide because they’re our first-person PoV as well). You may notice that when Sherlock Holmes is adapted for the screen Watson’s role is often changed drastically, by making him comic relief or making him fight more.

      I know why Merlin backed down in this episode, but that shouldn’t stop him from throwing off a buff like he did for Ana, even if he’s going to sit behind Mash’s shield. My main quibble isn’t that he’s useless—I know why he’s useless, both narratively and meta-narratively. I should note though, that the Gandalf character isn’t supposed to be useless (Gandalf wasn’t), but that they can’t feel too useful because then the protagonist wouldn’t have opportunities to grow (since he wouldn’t need to if he can rely on the Gandalf to just drop in and outwit some trolls or slay the goblins or whistle up some eagles).

      My actual quibble, really, is that the show doesn’t really know what to do with its side characters in any given scene. The blocking isn’t very good when there are uninvolved characters and mostly they’re just forgotten and sit around waiting for the camera to find them. In the game this was sort of fine because it’s just text and sprites, but in a direct medium like anime it’s much more noticeable.

      • November 24, 2019 at 4:22 amMistic

        My actual quibble, really, is that the show doesn’t really know what to do with its side characters in any given scene. The blocking isn’t very good when there are uninvolved characters and mostly they’re just forgotten and sit around waiting for the camera to find them. In the game this was sort of fine because it’s just text and sprites, but in a direct medium like anime it’s much more noticeable.

        I agree, and it’s even more noticeable because, in hindsight, there are obvious and easy ways to fix those issues.

        Take the showdown with Tiamat at the walls, for example. There’s absolutely nothing that prevents the characters from ganging up on Gorgon while Leonidas and/or Ushiwakamaru fight, even if it’s just some background effects of arrows, cannons and magic being fired at her. Or if you really don’t want to add more things to the scene, have Gorgon push Ritsuka and company aside, throw some boulders at them or do something to keep them occupied while Leonidas steals the spotlight. In turn, it would justify his sacrifice as a way to distract her from her targets.

        There wasn’t the same problem with Ushiwakamaru’s first one on one fight against Gorgon because she was buying time for the army to flee. Ritsuka and friends were doing something, even if it was running away.

  • November 24, 2019 at 2:51 amworldwidedepp

    i try to understand the last Pictures here.. I think i know what these fingers of him trying to do, also her face (without the pain) somehow give it away. what his goal is…

    so.. i do hope this is not that what i thinking it is…

    • November 24, 2019 at 9:29 amGuile

      There are gonna be a lot of Ushi doujinshi after this. There was some talk of birthing demon beasts with her flesh before Enkidu decided to just toss her in the Chaos Tide and see what monster comes out.

  • November 24, 2019 at 3:01 amIncognito

    https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20Grand%20Order/Fate%20Grand%20Order%20Zettai%20Majuu%20Sensen%20Babylonia%20-%2008%20-%20Large%2005.jpg
    Confession: I immediately had a lewd imagine spot (the “Mana Transfer” kind) once Ritsuka asked Mash to use his Magical Energy (not helped by Ritsuka being directly behind her). Perverted joke aside…

    https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20Grand%20Order/Fate%20Grand%20Order%20Zettai%20Majuu%20Sensen%20Babylonia%20-%2008%20-%20Large%2016.jpg
    “HA-OOH! HA-OOH! HA-OOH!”

    NGL, seeing Leonidas summon the spirits of his fellow 300 Spartans (which also reminded me of Broskander’s own Ionioi Hetairoi) and stand up to the mother of all monsters was one of two best parts of this episode–and it even ended in a “beautiful death,” to make the 300 reference more obvious. And on a somewhat related note, I wonder if any F/GO players here have both Broskander and Leonidas and sortie them together? (The classic Greek “Hammer and Anvil” combination.) I’d imagine those two would have an interesting conversation about the evolution of warfare in Ancient Greece.

    https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20Grand%20Order/Fate%20Grand%20Order%20Zettai%20Majuu%20Sensen%20Babylonia%20-%2008%20-%20Large%2024.jpg
    Ushiwakamaru being a big damn heroine (with her chest protectors magically glued to her bare…umm, chest) was the other best part. Though I dread what’s going to happen to her after being captured. (And I’d imagine there’s already a Rule 34 version of that scenario…)

    With all that said, with one Heroic Spirit defeated, another parting ways with the main cast and another captured, Ritsuka faces a daunting uphill battle. Though with the reveal that Gorgon!Tiamat and Not!Enkidu plan to depose of the other members of the Three Goddess Alliance once Uruk is destroyed, I’m sensing a possible contender (or contenders?) for a heel-face turn.

    I just hope the anime manages to show off more of what made the storytelling in this arc so good (or so I read).

    • November 24, 2019 at 4:15 amPasserby

      I should note that Babylonia is quite good by smartphone game standards, but it does have a lot of storytelling flaws that may have stemmed from its medium. But the way it comes together is something to behold and it does have some incredible moments that only F/GO could produce. I would describe it as Nasu using the F/GO setting and conceit to its fullest.

      • November 24, 2019 at 5:43 amIncognito

        OK, I’m curious: what storytelling flaws did the mobile game version have? (Might as well start with what’s been animated so far. If other storytelling flaws from the mobile game can’t be discussed yet without avoiding spoilers, I do hope it gets discussed in later episodes.)

      • November 24, 2019 at 6:10 amRuneGrey

        The VN / Mobile Game format does have limitations, and this episode didn’t quite translate over perfectly despite being amazing visually. For context in the game, each of the Gorgon encounters is actually a fight against q boss with millions of hp z each one is an endurance fight where you are straining to survive as you get raked by Gorgon’s beams turn after turn.

        Ushiwakamaru and Leonidas’ sacrifices come after clearing these battles, with them jumping in to give you time to retreat after you’ve been hammered by Gorgon and her noble phantasm. Leonidas is even worse in that you’ve just gotten to the expected safety of the wall when Gorgon catches up to you, and Leonidas jumps out to take the petrifying attack for you.

        I think the proximity of that could have been a bit better established in the anime, but it was still amazing overall.

      • November 24, 2019 at 2:26 pmPasserby

        @Incognito
        I’ll note one big one here inherent to the choice of the medium: in the game, the story of Babylonia is told entirely through dialogue (like most of F/GO). Entirely. This means all the exposition (‘look, we’ve arrived at the place where we were supposed to be going!’) to all the action (‘look, some person just kicked another person in a painful way!’). Not only does this sound awkward in general, but it also eats a lot of the room for actual dialogue, so much of the time dialogue is not particularly sharp. Have you noticed that this anime has spent a lot of time sitting and talking, standing and talking, or montage-ing and talking? This is an artefact from the game; when the game wants to have a meaningful session of dialogue it has to basically stop everything because it literally can’t do action and meaningful dialogue at the same time (at least, not without one constantly interrupting the other, which is why it often just does not try).

      • November 24, 2019 at 8:19 pmIncognito

        So basically, the anime adaptation still can’t shake off being one long, dialogue-heavy visual novel. (Never mind that the “visuals” in the game are taken up by actual gameplay and VN-like cutscenes.)

        That being said, it did make me interested enough to find out more about the differences between the anime and the game’s scenes–stopping short of actually playing the mobile game, of course. :P So gaming/anime YouTuber KeiKollections (first result when I searched “Absolute Demonic Front anime and game comparisons”) to the rescue. It was only through his video that I found out that some scenes in this episode were unique to the anime:

        - Leonidas throwing his spear at Gorgon!Tiamat and actually damaging it. (Bonus points for being another shout-out to the scene in 300 where Leonidas throws a spear at Xerxes’ face and injures the so-called “God-King”.)
        - Ushiwakamaru pulling off Levi-esque moves on the same titanic monster.

        I do appreciate the anime giving expanded scenes to Leonidas and Ushiwakamaru (and means that Ritsuka should man up for the spotlight in upcoming episodes). Though at the same time, hearing that some scenes from the game were cut out due to time constraints (see spoiler below for an example) is somewhat disappointing, but not surprising.
        Show Spoiler ▼

        Anyway, thanks for the insights. o7

      • November 25, 2019 at 8:00 amtheirs

        What a curious choice to have everything explained through dialogue.

        The F/SN VN did a good job describing the action. You’d think they’d be quite good at it. Even games with 3D action sequences sometimes put in descriptive text. So that shouldn’t be a problem.

  • November 24, 2019 at 3:54 amMistic

    Other than indirectly inspiring Ushiwakamaru and throwing the most pathetic punch in the history of anime he does nothing this episode but stand and gawk. In fact, I’d say there is a bit too much standing and gawking in Babylonia as a whole. Didn’t Merlin use a rather effective buff last episode? Couldn’t it have helped here? But, no, we’re all just going to stand around and let our champions be defeated one at a time.

    While I haven’t played through the Bbaylonia campaign (yet), I suspect this might be one of those cases where the original nature of the story clashes with the anime medium. In F/GO, only a limited number of characters can appear in the Visual Novel screen at the same time. They take turns to talk, to act and to fight. There, it’s unavoidable. But in an animated series, it looks like a rare heroic example of mook chivalry (trope!).

    But Leonidas’ last stand served another purpose: as a Greek hero, it was appropriate that he would unmask “Tiamat” and tell us she’s actually Gorgon.

    It’s quite an interesting mess, isn’t it? Gorgon is pretending to be Tiamat, Benkei is not Benkei, and Not!Enkidu is actually Kingu, Tiamat’s right-hand man in the Enuma Elish. He, who was her son, general and lover, shouldn’t he know that Gorgon isn’t Tiamat? And why was he recreated as Enkidu’s copy, possibly with Enkidu’s memories too?

    However, I’m more interested in another part of the plot that is being foreshadowed at different points throughout the series: the Goddess Alliance is temporary. The moment their common enemy falls, they’ll turn against each other. We’ve already been shown that Ishtar is far, far friendlier than Not!Tiamat and isn’t interested in the annihilation of humanity, even suggesting that Siduri surrender the city peacefully when Gilgamesh is defeated. Following narrative conventions, I predict that, sooner or later, deities will side with humanity too.

    • November 24, 2019 at 3:55 amMistic

      Sigh, everything appeared in a single quote. This site definitely needs an “edit comment” button :(

      (Editor’s note: fixed the thing!

    • November 24, 2019 at 4:00 amPasserby

      It’s hard to comment on anything here without spoilers but, er, it’s complicated. Nasu and all. I’m sure you understand.

      • November 24, 2019 at 4:13 amMistic

        Ha, ha, yes, I understand perfectly. Also, thanks for fixing my previous comment.

    • November 24, 2019 at 9:34 amGuile

      “After Uruk falls, the Goddess Alliance shall fall apart! We must save our forces for that day.”
      *Rishtar in the background, blowing up demon beasts for human gold already* “Waaaaay ahead of you~”

  • November 24, 2019 at 4:20 amiRawrzz

    I gotta prepare my heart when Ushi’s out again after her Show Spoiler ▼

  • November 24, 2019 at 5:34 pmGreed

    https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20Grand%20Order/Fate%20Grand%20Order%20Zettai%20Majuu%20Sensen%20Babylonia%20-%2008%20-%20Large%2034.jpg
    I am sorry, who is that behind the real Benkei? He has our Female Rider’s Armor, but he clearly doesn’t look like our sexy female rider.

    https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20Grand%20Order/Fate%20Grand%20Order%20Zettai%20Majuu%20Sensen%20Babylonia%20-%2008%20-%20Large%2024.jpg
    Are those illusionary clones or physical “shadow clones”?
    Anyway, while our Samurai is a Rider, a part of me is sad she did not bring her horse, or whatever mount she rides on, cause I expect all Riders to lose in battle while riding on their mount. Amazed in how she fought Gorgan so well who has a higher “mystery.” I still don’t get why Gorgan is pretending to be Tiamat.

    • November 24, 2019 at 7:35 pmBloodHunter

      Well, not all Riders servants have a mount. For example, a certain Goddess Rider onee-san doesn’t have one or the shut-in pharaoh who throws an entire pyramid on you! Unless, the sphinx is considered as his mount?

      I agree that it’s a pity that Ushi doesn’t have mount. I mean, in the game OP, she is seen riding one!

      • November 25, 2019 at 1:56 amSuicuneSol

        If you’re referring to Show Spoiler ▼

        , she does have a mount! See her extra animation.

      • November 25, 2019 at 5:36 amBloodHunter

        @SuicuneSol Oh really? I have a few friends who had her but I rarely used her. Gotta go try that out.

  • November 25, 2019 at 7:53 amYanDaMan

    If Ushiwaka doesnt skyrocket in fan numbers after this episode, nothing else will do it.

    Now I wish she wasnt a mere 3* servant in the actual game.

    • November 25, 2019 at 4:42 pmiRawrzz

      She did get an upgrade to 4* as an Assassin.

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