「太陽の神殿」 (Taiyou no Shinden)
“Temple of the Sun”
It’s at this point in Babylonia that I thought, ‘I wish we had a mecha’.
Like many adventure visual novels, Fate/Grand Order occasionally offered up dialogue choices for the player to pick. However, F/GO wasn’t really an adventure visual novel, at least not the kind with branching routes based on choices and all that, so much of the time dialogue choices were entirely inconsequential. Indeed, both choices were often basically the same thing or it’s implied both choices are spoken by the protagonist regardless of which one is chosen.
Nasu is of the visual novel tradition, though, and perhaps wanted choices to be actual choices, so the Babylonia chapter actually had dialogue choices that did something. And this was not just in gameplay consequences or in bloating Nasu’s word count. This was also in giving characterisation to a blank-slate protagonist.
Have any of you played Persona 3? Have you played the PSP version? The one where you can choose the gender of the protagonist? Well, the thing about Persona 3 is that it, like F/GO, features a mostly silent, self-insert protagonist defined largely by dialogue choices. You’d be forgiven if you think that it wouldn’t make much sense, then, to say that the male and female protagonists actually felt rather different to play. Surely, two self-inserts who are supposed to be the same person, in the same shoes, following the same plot would be the same. But Persona 3 Portable nudged the player towards picking specific kinds of dialogue choices by anchoring differently (more extreme choices in one direction or another) and by the way other characters reacted to you. A role-playing game inviting the player to role-play? Madness.
My point is that you can actually do a lot with little. And, one has black hair, one has orange hair, you can see it, right?
Anyways, this part of Babylonia was supposed to be Ritsuka’s moment. This is where the blank-slate protagonist came into their own. In the game, the player had a choice: either to pick dialogue choices that cement the protagonist as a passive, hapless player who just get dragged along by the flow, or have them fully embrace and celebrate the craziness of hurling oneself from the sky to enact a wrestling move on a Mesoamerican god-turned-goddess to demonstrate the courage of humanity. Don’t just do it, do it with style! Do it while shouting a war cry from the top of your exploding lungs! Choose to be badass! If Seki Tomokazu wasn’t busy voicing Gilgamesh I would totally have been on board with him doing Ritsuka, just so he can SHINING FINGER!!! it up for just this scene. Nothing less than a hot-blooded mecha pilot can do humanity’s spirit justice.
The anime almost goes there. I appreciate how they gave Ritsuka more agency, giving him the choice to take the to skies and then plummet face-first suicidally. I just wish that they had lingered on that scene more, given it more impact — maybe simply by showing the impact. I can understand why they cut it — the storyboard probably flat gave up on explaining how Ritsuka could possibly survive his stunt — but I wanted more oomph when our protagonist is finally acting properly shounen hero. The Babylonia anime has been rather consistently over-attached to sanity when the plot had abandoned it episodes ago.
Speaking of suicidal insanity, Gilgamesh is dead! Kono hito de nashi! So that’s what it takes to get him to show his silly side: actual death. Over his dead body, haha! Perhaps a bit sudden, but I assure you that this was as much a non-sequitur in the game as it it in the anime. If anything the anime has been better at scattering about hints and context clues to fuel the foreshadowing. I mean, all the Dr Romani stuff is actually outside the scope of this adaptation but they’re setting it up all the same (of course they’re going to adapt more F/GO. Who doesn’t like money?). In the short term, though, the puzzle is largely complete. We basically have all the pieces necessary to figure out who Blonde Thighs is so I expect a payoff in the next arc.
Wait, next week is a recap, isn’t it? Bah.