Tentacle-Free Anime: "Fate/Grand Order – First Order" (2016)
- by Kazekun, 17 January 2017
Happy New Year, everyone!
Well... 2016 surely was something, wasn't it? But that's all I'm going to say about that. Let's move steadily onward to a bold and brighter year with 2017! Beginning with my first review of one of the many entries in the large Fate/multiverse! Let's jam!
2017 is gearing up to be a big year for the Fate/ franchise, something I haven't covered on here before but consider myself a fan of. In this year alone we're slated to get three new anime based off of the ever expanding multiversal franchise: Fate/Extra: Last Encore, Fate/Apocrypha and Fate/Stay Night: Heaven's Feel – Movie 1 (of 3). Every one of which I will be watching, and will eventually review. But I bring them up not because they're what we're here to talk about, but because they were announced after the December 31, 2016 premiere of Fate/Grand Order – First Order – which is a movie that was meant to welcome the incoming new year, say goodbye to last year, and give us a peak into the wonderful year of Fate/ ahead.
So... why wasn't Grand Order very grand?
If that sounds convoluted as all hell it's because it is, and unfortunately the story just isn't strong enough to handle all of that and the added Holy Grail War storyline that's so well-known from this franchise. The Holy Grail War, if you're not familiar, sees seven mages and servants come together and fight in a secret battle every few generations in order to gain a single wish from the Holy Grail. Yes, that Holy Grail. It's pretty awesome actually.
This movie then follows Ritsuka Fujimaru and Mash Kyrielight (this movie commits the other cardinal sin: really stupid names. Mash, really?) as they then travel back in time to 2004's Fuyuki City in Japan where the anomaly is taking place and there they're thrust into that eras Holy Grail War and forced to fight their way through in order to save the day. That actually sounds pretty damn cool. Unfortunately this all only happens because of very convoluted, unnecessary narrative choices that include Ritsuka and Mash both being sent back in time because they were the only ones who survived and explosion that was meant to send back at least 50 people to that time and place. An explosion that for all intents and purposes should have completely destroyed the system our characters were using and kept them from traveling in the first place.
In the explosion Mash has her entire lower half crushed by a slab of rock and as she's dying the spirit of a servant bonds with her to create a demi-servant spirit/human hybrid and this somehow allows for Ritsuka to become her “master,” or one of the aforementioned mages I mentioned earlier. Not once throughout the film does Ritsuka do anything of note and even more pathetically he never casts a mage spell or gives a master's order. All throughout the Holy Grail arc Mash ends up picking up his slack and it almost gets her killed a few times. This never gets better, and it never gets fixed, leaving Ritsuka to be a hero unworthy of being the main character of his own story.
And since this is Fate/ we get many alternate versions of well-known characters in this movie. Such as Lancer, who's re-cast as Caster in this film. And Rider who in this universe is Lancer. However both Archer and Saber are really the same, only evil. Kind of sad we didn't get different versions of those characters, but what we did get were fun. Really though it's these different versions of characters I know and love that were the real highlights of the film as we get to see them literally type cast into different roles, and in the case of Lancer he really worked as a Caster in this film.
Also if none of those names ring a bell with you, I'll eventually be covering the original Fate/Stay Night anime. Don't worry.
All of this culminates in a rushed ending that makes little sense as the villain reveal ends up not only being predictable but also sees him maybe or maybe not(?) attacking different universes of the Fate/ franchise. I honestly can't tell you what the big bad's ultimate plan is because again so much of this film relies on you already being familiar with these elements from the game so it doesn't bother to dumb them down just enough so the any intelligent individual can at least piece together the narrative stitches.
One cool thing though is that in one of the final scenes, when we see various characters from other versions of the franchise we see both versions of Saber from the upcoming Apocrypha and Extra: Last Encore anime. Whether that means this series will be tied to them in some way or if it was just a neat Easter egg remains to be seen, but certainly hope for the latter.
Fate/Grand Order – First Order – had a lot of potential because it wasn't beholden to the old canon of any of the original series and was allowed to play in an infinite sandbox where they could make anything happen. But what did happen was ill explained and even less thought out.
What I did like about the movie were these things: The animation was great, the fight scenes were stunning as usual, I loved seeing the alternate reality versions of a lot of different characters I really like, and despite her silly name Mash was a really fun character. But then the rest of the movie happened and that I cannot forgive.
Final Score: 2 Time Displaced Protagonists out of 5
Have you checked out First Order, yet? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!