「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.

11 Comments

  1. As epic as it was, I think there is a real problem with rolling climaxes in a TV show. First few times was great, but after getting used to it, feels a slight disappointment after one is over. Especially when knowing there are quite a few episodes left. Really feel it would do better in movie form. The hype is still there after each one and it’s hard to tell when the finale comes.

    https://randomc.net/image/Fate%20Grand%20Order/Fate%20Grand%20Order%20Zettai%20Majuu%20Sensen%20Babylonia%20-%2018%20-%2009.jpg
    When Siduri showed up before that scene it really made it feel rather melancholic. Sure things are better than being alone. But all the ones close to him are already gone. (Not really sure what the relation with the original Enkidu was like though).

    theirs
    1. It’s definitely true that it’s tough to adapt Babylonia to a weekly episodic format. They certainly try — it’s why there’s the Gorgon cliffhanger, I suspect, to tide us over two weeks — but the weakness you raise is certainly there.

      As for Gil & Enkidu, we’re told they were supposed to be besties in life. I think if we consider mythological character arc, how he didn’t learn about making friends until Enkidu and now he’s alone again at the end of the world as we know it, it goes a way to explain his actions regarding Kingu.

  2. Oh, yeah, the action of the series has reached Dragon Ball Z levels of explosiveness. Like super mecha, that’s what it reminds me of: fights between divine beings, super techniques, characters that change sides, big explosions, and, of course, “this isn’t my final form”. It’s getting bigger and better with each episode, and there are still three more to go.

    That said, I also see the weak points you mention.

    The dialogue could indeed be better. And I don’t just blame the source material (regardless of Nasu’s qualities as a writer, FGO’s design of levels and scenes doesn’t always translate very well to a more audiviosual medium, even for a VN); as with the action, the anime had the opportunity to tweak that too. It’s not as if they haven’t taken some important liberties already in that regard.

    We see it with the protagonist: Fujimaru is given more lines in the series, and sometimes he gets lines that go against what the game shows. Possibly the most famous example is the “JUSTICE BOMB” scene. Now that I’ve been able to play it, I understand the disappointment. They gave Fujimaru a generic shonen hero speech instead of choosing any of the options given by the game, either by embracing the silliness or chewing out Ishtar. That may be another reason the dialogues are not as interesting: it’s easy to make banter between the likes of Ishtar and Gilgamesh entertaining, but Fujimaru is a blander conservationalist.

    Mistic
        1. Have you guys considered just implementing Discus instead of this default WordPress comment module? Many other sites use it nowaday plus its convenient for users and mods.

          YanDaMan263
  3. NGL, Caster Gil’s rousing/”Do not go gentle” speech to the citizens of Uruk felt just as hot-blooded as G Gundam‘s Domon Kasshu. (Seiyuu joke intentional, as well as a compliment to Tomokazu Seki’s performance.)

    Jeez, Ushiwakamaru Alter’s still alive? Welp, should have seen that coming with her Tomie-like regeneration from a single cell, but one hopes that Benkei’s final play and Quetzalcoatl’s (very explosive) ultimate managed to take care of Ushi Alter (and clones). As for whether that slowed Tiamat down…

    Tiamat can fly now?

    And with Gorgon returning, next episode might become a classic case of “double the cataclysmic trouble.”

    Incognito

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