There’s never enough content to satisfy fans of Type-moon’s Fate Franchise. They’re always hungry for more. And the wait between now and the Heaven’s Feel movies and Extella anime are hard to bear with after you’ve gone through everything else already.
However, in 2015, they decided to use that insatiable hunger to tap into the Mobile Game market with an Online F2P RPG called Fate/Grand Order. Part 1 has just finished up, and Part 2 is on the way. So to make sure that everyone knows it, they’ve released this 70+ minute film known as Fate Grand Order: First Order.
Now, my personal feelings with Fate Grand Order are a bit complicated. It plays havoc with the continuity despite being set in what has to be an alternate universe and because Nasu constantly keeps retconning his explanations or making things more complicated than they need to be, writing a fanfic around the setting with an unforgiving fanbase causes no end of problems. But I will be reviewing this as unbiasedly as I can… for the most part.
Also, since I’ve done an extensive guide on the Fate Franchise during my time at My Anime List, I’d advise reading that if you want more details on everything else.
The basic premise of the story that the organization known as Chaldea has been constructed to monitor the progression of human history and the future to ensure that there are no little hiccups that threaten it. I won’t get into the details of how that works since it involves creating a replica of the Planet’s soul and monitoring the lights on it, but in short they’re supposed to prevent things like the Bad End of most Holy Grail Wars that result in humans going extinct before the Planet does. Naturally, something has gone wrong and the human race is looking at facing extinction in December of 2016 due to said Bad End coming around during the Holy Grail War (and it wasn’t Shirou’s fault this time).
So to prevent this, and because its the Fate Franchise, they have chosen Masters undergo a process called Rayshifting that takes the opposite approach of most magus in the series and combine both magic and science to give the middle-finger to Time Travel being a True Magic in order to correct issues in the timeline using Servants.
During one of these missions, something goes horribly wrong and our main protagonists are left in a distorted version of Fuyuki City during the Holy Grail War we’re all familiar with. Saber has basically gone evil and killed all the other Servants barring Caster and then resurrected them as dark shadow versions of themselves (as seen above with Lancer killing Shinji). Now it’s up to them to solve the singularity and sort history out so humanity can survive.
The setting is basically the same as the others in the Fate Franchise, the contemporary era with a strong leaning in the genres of Alternate History and Urban Fantasy. At first you’re introduced to the hi-tech Chaldea Organization, which could actually pass as one of the generic future magitek High Schools you see so often these days like in An Irregular Student in Magic High School or Asterisk War. Then they get shunted to Fuyuki after the Holy Grail War goes off the rails and it turns into a near apocalyptic setting (as pictured above).
I wasn’t a fan of when it was set at Chaldea because of said aforementioned anime striking too close to home. The whole transfer student vibe thing, the quirky teachers, and so on has been done to death in the last few years and it doesn’t belong in the Fate Franchise. But when they moved it to ruined Fuyuki, I found myself enjoying the scenery and loved it.
The main protagonists are Ritsuka Fujimaru, a clueless boy who has recently arrive at Chaldea and had just undergone the Spiriton Drive simulation that left him unconscious on the ground until he’s found by a creature that looks crossed between a squirrel and white-rabbit called Fou, seen to by a seemingly shy girl named Mashu Kyrielight, the genius Professor Leff, the strict director Olga Marie Animusphere, and the lazy and light-hearted Dr. Roman.
Since Fou is basically a mascot animal (and for those of you who read this and know the truth from the source materials, don’t spoil it), and the rest of the Human characters get fridged like 15 minutes into it without having their names given, only the others matter.
I’m not going to lie, the human characters are… well, they’re weak. Really weak.
If there’s one thing the Fate Franchise is known for, it’s that things get real dark real fast and the characters have great depth. Yet in the first fifteen minutes we have a shy girl who hasn’t had human contact in some time and a bumbler who falls asleep during a meeting with the strict director just so that he gets excused from the mission and ends up falling into the role of the Chosen One by being the last remaining survivor capable of being a Master. That sounds like something out of a generic wish-fulfillment anime, not Fate.
Ritsuka is a horrible character for this kind of series. Making him the main Master in this forces me to compare him to Emiya Shirou or any of the other protagonists of the Fate Franchise, and it makes him come out of the gate looking even weaker and clueless than Shirou did. He’s not dedicated to a cause, he just came to Chaldea because someone said to and fell in love at first sight with Mashu, so he runs back into the danger-zone and get branded as a Master. At least Emiya Shirou jumped on the bandwagon for his own beliefs and could last a few seconds against Lancer… the second time they met, anyway.
Mashu just reads as a typical shy girl who likes the first guy who gives her attention within her age range. Of course, once she becomes the Demi-Servant Shielder she takes all kinds of levels in badass. But her personality largely remains the same and she needs a confidence boost from everyone else to get things done against other Servants.
Olga just rubs me the wrong way out of the gate. She acts haughty due to her position and prowess, but the moment she ends up in trouble she calls out for help and curls up in a fetal position. She chides Ritsuka when she doesn’t even have the potential to be a Master and calls him a commoner like a stuck-up rich girl. The one saving grace that she has is when she orders the other Masters put into cryopreservation so that they aren’t all dead, but then it goes against the character she’d been putting on by saying they were all tools to be used to save humanity.
Her character is likely meant to fill in the role that Rin had, a magus with history that wasn’t nearly as cold-blooded as she appeared, but if she can’t take a few deaths as being acceptable then that’s a knock against her having such a position. And when she does seem like she’s turning over a new leaf she gets screwed over by Leff, who turns out to be the main villain, and dies screaming about never being praised.
Dr. Roman is basically the token good authority figure and takes things easy, but is suddenly forced into a position where he’s the only one capable of operating at the head of it all. Like Ritsuka, he was saved by being away from the testing site and lucked into his position. Unlike Ritsuka, he knows what he’s doing.
As for Leff, strictly speaking, he gives me Kotomine vibes in how he was the mentor to the main magus in charge and then betrayed them utterly and seeks to basically end the human race. Only this dude is far more bombastic and hams it up when it reaches the limit, and apparently successful.
The Servants are pretty one-note as well, but they have an excuse due to the plot. Getting offed by Dark Saber has basically turned them into villains without any real redeeming features, which is pretty on-point for this franchise. The exception is Caster, who is my favorite character now (if you couldn’t tell by the picture above).
Ireland’s Child of Light is straight-forward, confident, knowledgeable, and backs up everything he says. He goes toe-to-toe with Lancer and Archer and manages to eek out a win, but remains humble that it was because he borrowed help that he managed before taking out Dark Saber. He’s as awesome as his character was in UBW and I’d love to see more of him.
Animation & Sound
One of the benefits of being an Movie (or an extended OVA in my opinion) from the Fate Franchise is that the animation remains as gorgeous as it did during the Unlimited Blade Works anime, despite being a different studio. Especially during the fights. It’s fluid, vivid, and your eyes won’t want to leave the screen. The CG looks pretty as well, so I can’t help but praise their limited use of it.
As for the music, it was pretty good too. If you enjoyed tracks from UBW then these will remind of them during the action vibes. The one knock I’ll give it here is that there was no Emiya Theme. That’s a necessity.
Ultimately, this was nothing more than a glorified commercial for Fate Grand Order. It’s a beautiful commercial, mind you, and I want more of it. But it doesn’t really have any depth on its own and relies solely on being a fan of the Fate Franchise to even understand the concepts beyond going to the past to save the future. The characters are hamstrung from the moment of its creation because they can’t dedicate any depth to them and the only one who really stands out is Caster.
If it had more time, it could be great. But let’s not kid ourselves, if you’re a Fate fan or like action scenes, you’ll eat this right up. In fact, just skip to the 21-minute mark to get to the Fuyuki section and watch as the Holy Grail War plays out quicker and Caster shows up to steal the show.