「原初の星、見上げる空」 (Gensho no Hoshi, Miageru Sora)
“Star of the Beginning, We Look Up at the Sky”
This episode sure was awesome. Pure, blood-pumping shounen goodness. I mean, it’s not quite United States of Smash, but still. Goosebumps.
Well, half of it anyway.
Did anyone get deja vu this episode? Like we’ve been here before? Multiple times? This is, what, the third ‘final battle’ we’ve had now? I’m down for all of those, because rolling climaxes is what makes for an epic feeling story, but they do expose Nasu as being unsuitable for writing for anime (if Fate/Extra: Last Encore didn’t already). To be precise, it’s not the final battles themselves, but the ‘night before the final battle’ scenes, which have been an all too regular feature in Babylonia. It’s to do with how Nasu writes his dialogue. He’s not ‘bad’ at dialogue, per se, but he generally conforms to two modes: when he’s writing lighter dialogue he veers towards full-on comedic sketches, and when he’s writing heavier dialogue he puts characters on soapboxes and have them make a speech. This is fine in text — a fast reader can blast through huge amounts of dialogue in a short time — but it doesn’t really play well on TV. TV wants banter, snappy exchanges that be slapped on top of an action set without needing to section off a segment of the show for dedicated talking time. Not that these character chats we have been getting are not meaningful moments, but there’s only 20 minutes or so per episode and having to sit down and flap our gums drags down the pacing.
The pay-off, though. Babylonia has definitely felt slow at many times. But all the set-up was definitely for something meaningful. I had almost forgotten about Benkei, who stepped off stage left one day and the rest of the cast could hardly bring themselves to care. But his bits of back-story and his character moments with Ushiwakamaru were not for nought; Babylonia cashes in on them with interest. This goes too for all the exposition dumps about Quetzalcoatl’s mythology and about Tiamat’s power level being over 9000 — they were setting up for a titanic showdown between two demiurges from two separate mythologies; a showdown that had needed a great deal of time establishing the Fate/Grand Order just to make plausible. And in hindsight it was definitely worth it. While the Babylonia anime hasn’t always been the best at adapting the dialogue sections of the game to a visual medium (though it certainly tried quite hard), it certainly knew what to do with the action. The limited visuals of the game could never have delivered an aerial battle on top of dinosaurs in all its ridiculous chaos. And not even the most powerful smartphone could have rendered Quetzalcoatl’s nuclear axekick better than three minutes of hand-drawn animation.
I’ve compared Babylonia in a mecha anime before, and it has never been more apt. A mecha anime, in particular the old-school super robot anime, spends all this time giving its protagonist a giant mecha, setting it up against monstrous kaiju to fight, and maybe even introduces a bunch of rival giant mecha if they have a toy line to sell. And kids (and we young-at-heart) sit through all of that because there’s just one thing we want. The giant mecha has a special attack. It’s powered by adrenaline, willpower, and iron vocal chords. For some reason it never uses this attack before the end of the episode. But we wait for it. And when the music plays, and the attack is used, and the monster is defeated, we jump off the couch and cheer.
What I’m saying is, I watch anime so I can be 7 again.