I truly wonder if Fate anime will come out ad infinitive just to force me out of retirement. Look I know full well that the reading audience of this blog likely hold little to zero interest in this movie and I truly don’t blame them for doing so. Even I, Fate fanatic that I am, held off on watching this for over a month and can express a degree of ambivalence towards it. As such I might as well admit that this isn’t so much a review but rather a diatribe I was inspired to write after sitting down to push myself though this movie through obligation. But I put my plea to the blogging court, is there truly anyone looking for a review of this movie? It’s a conclusion to a story which 5/7s of which is unadapted to anime and holds appeal mainly for those who spent two years playing a mobile gacha game or those that powered through 160 hours of writing. I can only really assume you are reading this out of some odd fascination with my drivel or an equal interest in this franchise of glorious highs and head to wall bashing lows. But with all things considered I at least need to make an effort to give some sort of opinion on this odd movie.
I might as well start with an explanation of Soloman in general as this is the great finale of the first story Arc of the Fate/Grand Order mobile game. If you played the game you might be wondering just how they could even adapt Soloman into a hour and a half movie as the in game event itself can be summarized as a boss raid. There were seven bosses and all the players in the game would keep fighting them until a HP bar was depleted to zero. Once seven bosses were defeated they would go to fight the final boss and experience the ending. So despite the massive amount of convoluted exposition in this movie, the actual plot is so simple as to be laughable. Our heroes are going to the last boss to defeat him and beat the game. There are of course various deus ex machina and heroic speeches to be made but that’s really all there is to it. The main reasons people remember Soloman is for the Avengers Endgame moment of having every servant in the game come to your aid and a few key moments in the finale. Helped along with two years of emotional catharsis at completing a game after so much investment. So I can certainly say I held little hope that an animation could produce the same emotional investment having cut out most of the story and needing to portray a battle of ludicrous scale.
I don’t put the blame on the animation studio for not living up to that but I will say that seeing as this is the Babylonia team they will need to fix this problem they have with allocating the most effort to the story beats that need it least. It is always strange to see the least important scene be treated with loving care while the biggest most important moments hit with the impact of a wet sack. The entrance of the servants, Mashs Sacrifice, Ars Nova just feel flat and even putting Fou’s part to a credits image montage is a decision I cannot fathom. Yet you have big action scenes for servants that don’t really play much of a role and some which take away from the points that should have been the main focus. I will give credit to how they took the gameplay aspect of Fate GO and incorporated it into a mystic code for Risuka to wear as I do think that was a smart inclusion.(Even with the Dead Space health bar) Though it does hold the implication of Risuka using Servants’ lives like disposable pawns which is rather morbid in context if true to gameplay. Though this was somewhat offset by the anime just not giving much life to these servants at all as they have barely any speaking lines and stand like figurines to display for the fans to gush over. Even if effective at points it does feel shallow in implementation which would bring me to my main point, just why does this exist at all?
Indeed I know the obvious answer, money. We have a gacha game that makes obscene amounts of money so it’s logical to make an anime to introduce more to said game in hopes of trapping them into it to make even more obscene amounts of money. But let us put aside the easy answer for a moment and ponder on other factors. I have a personal pet theory that perhaps Cloverworks intends to adapt even more of the Fate Grand Order storyline and in making this movie they have essentially put a cap on the main plotline of Arc 1. Adapting any more of Arc 1 is really not a worthwhile endeavor as the story of early chapters was merely a means to get the player from battle to battle with little care to detail. Things improved over time but to turn those chapters into an interesting anime would require rewrites so drastic that they would be better to go full anime original with it. This brings me to the two other arc’s of Fate GO which is Epic of Remnant and Cosmos in the LostBelt. Epic of Remnant is more a series of episodic chapters with focus on cleaning up some loose ends of Arc 1 so it doesn’t hold any real story significance and can be easily skipped. It’s not even classified as Arc 2 but instead Arc 1.5. Then there is the Lostbelts and this is prime anime material as it acts as a full restart with new more interesting antagonists and far better written chapters. I could even argue it could make for a decent starting point with how little carries over from Arc 1.
I would say you will encounter the same troubles that Babylonia had in explaining the transitions between locations and the massive weakness of having two boring characters like Ritsuka and Mash as your lead characters. I once complained of Fate/Apocrypha’s focus on boring leads but Seig at least had some semblance of a character arc. The Lostbelts do open up potential to dig out some tiny level of good character development for Ritsuka but there would need to be serious legwork for the writers to make him an interesting character being the soulless self insert he is. With Mash well…she’s always been the milktoast girl of little defining value outside of main character adoration. She is inoffensive but engineered for simple mass appeal which gives her little character outside of vague catch alls like innocent, cute, determined…well I do like that she’s fond of Sherlock Holmes stories. No matter how strong the writing of the Lostbelts is, it’s going to take quite an effort to translate that to animation without gameplay and player interaction doing heavy lifting. But if they want to try it could prove to be an interesting effort. But could these efforts be better directed at more fulfilling projects rather than an anime adaptation of a gacha game? Perhaps but there’s no guarantee that they wouldn’t be used for another gacha game adaption. It’s sad for all this work to make something which equates to fanservice. Which seems to be the current trend of media at the moment as video game properties are converted to lesser streaming tv to pander to an existing fanbase and creating more streaming service content. But on the bright side for every hundred dozen Assasins Creeds and Uncharteds you are bound to get at least get one Arcane.
Fate/Grand Order has remained both a blessing and a curse for the franchise as a whole, a fruitful monkey’s paw providing endless Fate content of dubious quality. The game in itself is almost an example of the franchises best and worst qualities with the stories that stand out in a field of soul sucking time sinks while holding the most grievous greedy gacha mechanics of the entire genre. It provides funds for various new projects but it is certainly easy to say those funds are provided by fan exploitation. It provides interest in history but also exploits it for fanservice as it puts out more premium waifus for it’s slot machine. It’s funny to have a villain who claims for humanity to have been a mistake and the very game he’s a part of being an example to prove him right. Well perhaps I am being melodramatic as well you can enjoy the game without putting in a dime provided you aren’t an idiot who puts down large amounts of money for a chance to obtain a rare jpg.(Speaking as said idiot, but hey between this and alcohol this would be the more healthy option…right? Please argee.) As a fan of this franchise I think a time is fast approaching where we can say that we have had enough. With the end of the Lostbelt arc this game will lose the main writer of the Fate series, Nasu. And with that I can’t help but predict a decline in this game’s popularity as the story is without a doubt what keeps players coming back despite it’s lacking SQL features and tired gameplay. It’s a wonder what would happen to Fate as a whole when it’s biggest moneymaker stops pulling in the numbers it used to but at this point it may be just too big to actually fall. But as this movie so puts it, some things just have to die in order for their lives to hold meaning.