Review for Fate Grand Order: First Order
In recent years, I’ve trained myself not to instinctively retch when a TV show or a movie shows up based on a video game. We’re long past the age of Super Mario Bros, as video games have long since become more narrative and character based. With the prevalence of visual novels in the Japanese gaming scene, anime adaptations of the same have become things to look forward to. And then the check disc for Fate/Grand Order – First Order – arrives, and it’s based on a free to play mobile phone game. A mobile phone game!? I’m knee-jerking again, expecting the anime equivalent of Candy Crush, or Bejewelled Blitz. Then again, the Fate franchise is the Holy Grail of anime franchises (pun intended), yielding spin-off after spin-off, remakes and movies galore. It’s Type-Moon’s perennial cash cow, and MVM have been the UK purveyors of all things Fate related ever since they released the original anime series. Let’s see what the feature film adaptation of a mobile phone game looks like...
It’s the year 2017, the last era in which magecraft thrived. The Chaldea organisation has a mission to observe the future, to ensure humanity’s continued existence beyond the next 100 years. When that future is threatened, they recruit potential Masters, to preserve history. The last of these recruits is Ritsuka Fujimaru, who at the isolated installation makes friends with a quiet, introverted girl named Mash Kyrielight. But the mission is sabotaged, the complex destroyed, and Mash mortally wounded, with Ritsuka the last surviving master. The machinery activates and there is a flash of light...
Ritsuka, Mash, and the project director find themselves sent back to the past, to Fuyuki City in 2004, in the middle of a full-blown Grail War. Mash has joined with a mysterious servant to become a demi-servant in her own right, and she now has a contract with Ritsuka. The future has been destroyed, and if they are to prevent humanity’s extinction, they’ll need to find out what went wrong in the Grail War in Fuyuki City in 2004, and fix it. And something has gone seriously wrong, with the Masters having all vanished, and most of the remaining Servants suborned by some mysterious power. Fortunately they have the help of one Servant that has remained free of control, the charismatic Caster.
Fate/Grand Order is also available on Blu-ray, but I got the DVD check disc to review. There’s not a lot of movie on here to cause issues with the transfer, just 70 minutes. So even on this single layer disc, the image is clear and sharp, with strong consistent colours, and no signs of compression. Madman Entertainment authored the 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, and it is in native PAL format with the speed-up that implies. The characters are memorable and animated smoothly, while the world design is detailed, if not exactly varied. You either get the Chaldea complex, or the burning ruins of Fuyuki City.
You have the choice between DD 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese with optional translated subtitles. There is no signs track, and the end theme lyrics aren’t translated. The audio is fine; I was happy with the Japanese track, and what I sampled of the English dub sounded sweet. The action comes across well, and there are no problems with the audio, or the legibility of the subtitles, although this is another annoying title where the subtitles jump between the top and bottom of the screen at random.
The disc boots to a static menu, you have the English trailer and the Japanese trailer, both running to 1:22, but the biggest extra is the English Cast Interview, with ADR Director and voice of Caster, Tony Oliver, Erica Mendez (Mash), and Griffin Burns (Ritsuka). This lasts 18:03.
I don’t know about the game, or how faithful an adaptation this anime movie is, but it is rather dull and predictable. The biggest problems are the story just isn’t that interesting, travelling through time to save the future, and at just 70 minutes in length, it doesn’t really have the time to develop its characters. Apparently this adapts the first level of the game, and there are subsequent Fate/Grand Order anime in the pipeline adapting the rest of the game as well. It seems they’ll be leaping through history, from Grail War to Grail War, to collect the widgets that will help them save the world.
The Fate series to date have had 20-odd episodes apiece to develop their stories and characters, to throw in some twists and turns, to keep the viewer on their toes and entertained. This Fate/Grand Order feature effectively goes through the Grail War or rather a Grail War in its brief runtime, and pretty much everything extraneous is stripped out. The whole of the Chaldea organisation as presented at the start of the film is cut down to five people, plus a mascot animal in the space of a few minutes. When they get back to 2004 to find out what went wrong, they have to deal with three Servants, with the aid of one more that they meet there. And with no Masters there, it reduces the number of characters to develop down to the bare minimum. The film also only has room for one twist. And in the end, only one character grows in the story, Mash, from quiet introvert, to badass, shield wielding demi-Servant.
Fate/Grand Order – First Order – is watchable enough, and you can even eke some entertainment value out of its characterisations and action. Certainly Caster is a rare vibrant personality in the film, but there is no weight to this new venture into the Fate universe. It’s style without any substance, just what you should expect from an adaptation of a mobile phone game. Then again, we live in a world where they made a movie about emojis!