Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 14 of
Fate/Grand Order -Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia- ?
The first half of this week's installment of Babylonia returns to the kind of quiet moodiness I've really enjoyed seeing from this adaptation. I do enjoy flashy action scenes, but in my heart of hearts, I long for those wry, bittersweet moments shared between close friends. The shadows most prominently stand out to me as a manifestation of this mood, as the episode's palette shifts from the glow of twilight to the dark hues of night. And this is a case where aesthetics match the text, because the impending fight with Gorgon means it's time for some goodbyes to be said and some goodbyes to be left unsaid. This is, ostensibly, the final battle for the fate of Uruk, and one of the final battles for the fate of humanity writ large.
How one defines “humanity” is a trickier thing when there are demigods and half-incubi walking around, and it's a topic Babylonia has broached previously. Ritsuka follows up on this train of thought with Merlin. He's understandably curious why a half-human mage would team up with another half-human king in order to preserve humanity's future, but Ritsuka actually already knows this answer. In fact, he seems to ask it in order to get Merlin to admit it himself, since he's quick to shoot down Merlin's claim that neither he nor Gilgamesh feel much of a kinship with humanity. The storyboard cleverly pairs this statement with a shot of Siduri, who Gil very clearly has respect and affection for beneath his pompous exterior. Merlin too can smirk and shrug all he likes, but only somebody who truly loves humans would be content sitting in their tower until the end of time watching all the tribulations and victories that humanity has in store. To take things a step further, it could also be argued that affection for humanity is itself evidence of one's own humanity. Gil and Merlin are exceptional in their own ways, but at their core, they're people.
The same applies to Ana, who gets quite a bit of focus in the buildup to battle. Her arc with the old flower lady is finally brought to the foreground, and it's a simple but sweet story about one person's kindness being enough to open another person's heart. The game spreads this out a bit more, but honestly Ana's character arc is a strange one no matter how you slice it. The main problem is that her hatred of humans and self-consciousness don't really make sense unless you know her actual identity, which you wouldn't know except for the fact that if you're playing FGO, you probably know who she looks like. It's a weird quirk of this heavily intertextual franchise, with FGO being the densest in this intertextuality by design. So while we're never explicitly told that Ana is Medusa from her youth (prior to becoming a monster), we're expected to intuit it from the get-go. Put in different terms, Ana is Gorgon's humanity—the humanity she sealed away when she became an avatar of vengeance.
Gorgon has a bevy of very good reasons to hate the world she was born into, while Ana's experiences with familial love in Uruk reinforce this world and its people as things she wants to defend. Both, essentially, are correct. You can't paint humanity with a broad brush. There's light and shadow. Thus, it's only right that this confrontation should come down to the two of them fighting each other. They're two halves of a whole, and they're only ever going to be able to move on in either direction by moving together.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Babylonia review if I didn't get to talk about the action, which continues to be a treat. This week's centerpiece is a short but impressive bout between Quetzalcoatl and Kingu, and it's neat to compare and contrast this against how Quetz's previous battle with Ritsuka's crew was animated. Episode 11 had her free-form and flailing. Here, both the tempo and the character arc feel more controlled. Personally, I like there to be little more roughness, but there's nothing wrong with polish, and the more important point is how cool it is that we get to see so many different styles of virtuosic animation in a single show. And Quetz steals the show, hands down, between her midair wrestling moves and her taking an axe 100 times her own size and tossing it like a very sharp Frisbee. FGO is most fun when it leans into its inherent ridiculousness, and sometimes that means an Arthurian wizard transparently lying and costing a Mesoamerican goddess half of her divine power levels.
Babylonia's climactic conflict is just warming up, but before we get entirely swept up in the pyrotechnics, the series once again exhibits its keen eye for finding the pathos in its characters' circumstances. With uncertainty on the horizon, I'm glad Ritsuka, Mash, and the others took some time to stop and appreciate all of Uruk's citizens, from the most magical to the most mundane. That is, after all, what they're fighting to defend in the first place.
Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia is currently streaming on Funimation.
Steve loves two things: writing about anime and retweeting good Fate GO fanart on his Twitter.
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