Anime’s approach to fantasy is unique among other mediums. The Fate series itself is singularly unique among the fantasy genre in anime. I’ve reviewed previous Fate anime, so I do not feel it is necessary to go over the whole Fate oeuvre here. While I don’t think the mythological or historical aspects of the characters in the series impressed me with how they treated them in the story, I have always enjoyed the action and some of the dramatic facets they put into it.
I have always had a strange relationship with the Fate series. It’s like how I was with the Harry Potter series: I liked watching the movies, but they never made me want to grab the source material to see whatever minutiae I may have missed that the films didn’t show. The mobile game Fate Grand Order is all the rage nowadays in that it’s the game with the most amount of lewd fan art posted every week. Now, this could be me not wanting to touch a mobile game with a ten-foot pole because I have no interest in trying the source material. But this was my same reaction to the visual novel Fate Stay Night. Even though I don’t play visual novels that much, I still can get around to it here and there. This whole spiel is to get you to know what mindset I’m in going into this show.
I can say with certainty that Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia, or for the sake of shortness Fate Babylonia, shows that you can adapt a mobile game that everyone can enjoy. Granted, I have not watched every mobile game anime adaptation. However, that’s because the ones I have seen have been either terrible or dull to unwatchable. There is a multitude of reasons why this is the case. Either they do not adapt the source material well, which will piss off the game’s fans and confuse the non-fans because of how warped the narrative is, or they try to come up with a generic story for the games that had a little story, to begin with.
The story of the previous Fate anime series has always been a little simplistic but positive. There was not much in terms of complexity or high-brow political intrigue you see in many fantasy fiction. While I wouldn’t say Babylonia is too complicated with its story, I think that what is there is enough for it to be more distinct from Fate Zero or Fate Stay Night. It still has the same compelling character drama we have come to know in the past and the comedic nature to help balance the story’s darker aspects to make it more of an enjoyable hero’s journey.
While a few characters in the story have appeared in previous seasons, there are some new ones for us to get experience with fresh eyes. Honestly, it is a mixed bag. Our main hero Ritsuka is what I would call the prototypical bland protagonist you could find in any mediocre JRPG. He fits into that category of not being terrible or great; he’s there to provide an essential guide to drive the plot along. Still, nothing about his personality made him memorable in any way. He does have a handful of good and even funny moments, but he sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the other characters. For instance, his servant Mash has all the personality you would need for a character to be exciting yet can still present herself as intangible to the main story. If all of these problems were alleviated, I think he would’ve been at least close to being as great as Shirou. Then again, it would be hard to do that feat.
While you could argue that she is Rin from the previous entries, Ishtar is my favorite. Not only from her physical design, mind you. Her hilarious tsundere personality that we’ve come to know from Rin and her interactions with the other characters gave the show some life whenever she was on-screen. Ana has her fair share of funny and cute moments; her role is strictly for comic relief or action sequences. Enkidu was probably the one with the most intriguing back story out of all of the characters. Yet I feel like it could’ve been explored further, but due to the typical process of adaptations, they had to cut some of it; I’m assuming it was for cutting downtime as is usually the case. This problem persists in most characters with fascinating backstories that we don’t get to see further. I could see this alleviated with a 2nd season, as it is almost guaranteed this will be the case. Oh, Gilgamesh is a king now and is just as awesome as before.
It’s always essential to critique the animation and art department in a Fate anime ever since ufotable took over production in Fate Zero and Fate Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works. Except with Fate Babylonia, ufotable is no longer fulfilling the role. Instead, we get CloverWorks, responsible for Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai, Yakusoku no Neverland, and Persona 5 the Animation. While they are pretty good in animation quality, ufotable still reigns supreme in that department. In comparison to the previous Fate series, Babylonia does not come close to that level of quality. However, I think CloverWorks did a pretty good job keeping the action looking slick as always; the character designs look great. The CGI, however, does look messy in parts, mainly in the last three episodes involving the final battle. It isn’t the worst CGI I’ve seen in anime, but it should’ve been touched up more before airing on TV.
There is so much to like about Fate Babylonia despite some issues relating to the sub-par CGI, lack of character development, and the main protagonist is boring. I would love to say Ishtar and her luscious body made all of those cons illegitimate, but I can’t be that shrewd even though I want to. It’s always a fun ride whenever I watch a Fate anime adaptation, even if it isn’t great. There will always be some things to talk about, both the bad and the good.