Reviewby Kim Morrissy,
Fate/Grand Order The Movie Divine Realm of the Round Table: Camelot
Ritsuka Fujimaru and Mash are Rayshifted to Jerusalem in 1273 AD, where they discover that the Holy City of Camelot has manifested in the middle of the desert. There, they find that the Knights of the Round Table, led by Artoria Pendragon, has been carrying out ghastly executions in their efforts to save the chosen few. Ritsuka and Mash team up with the knight Bedivere, along with other colorful Servants along the way, in order to restore the era to its rightful state.
At this point, Fate/Grand Order has had multiple animated versions, all of them produced by different companies and looking markedly different from each other. If you're an anime-only viewer looking for consistency in visuals or even the storytelling, you won't find that here. This latest film is probably the least approachable of the FGO anime adaptations because it's set midway through the overarching story and makes hefty cuts to the arc it's covering. I liked it, for what it's worth, but I can't deny that it's a very flawed effort.
Generally speaking, the story of Fate/Grand Order isn't that hard to follow. The player character and their companion Mash are tasked with traveling across various points in human history in order to correct "Singularities" which threaten the continuation of the human race. Because of its road trip narrative structure, each "Singularity" tells a standalone story with its own cast of characters. If you're familiar with the base premise of Fate/Grand Order, then you can, theoretically, jump straight into this.
However, unlike the Babylonia TV anime, which takes the time to faithfully adapt the story and develop the characters, this first Camelot film rushes through the events of the game significantly. Within minutes, our heroes get through the desert and reach the Holy City of Camelot, where the plot immediately kicks into gear. From there, the viewers get introduced to characters one after another, to the point where it would be difficult to keep track of them if you weren't already familiar with them.
Still, I'm quite fond of the core of Camelot's story, mainly because I'm a sucker for dashing knights who angst about their failed ideals, and this film was filled with all of that good stuff. By setting the story in Jerusalem during the era of the Crusades, FGO's Camelot arc was in a prime position to portray the darker side of the so-called "holy" knights. The Knights of the Round Table are the primary antagonists of this story; they are led by the female King Arthur, who was always portrayed as a likable and heroic character in previous iterations of Fate. But instead of fighting for the good of the people, they selectively save the "virtuous souls" while violently exterminating the rest. Only Bedivere, the knight who was originally faithful to King Arthur even to their final moments, opposes the Round Table in their ghastly crusade, and he spends the entire film tortured about what he must do.
I'm also a fan of the colorful side characters featured here, like the adorable Nitocris and the good-natured Arash. In the end, the appeal of Fate/Grand Order is in its charismatic characters, so as long as you have attachment to them there's an inherent joy in seeing them move around in animation. The big thing this film needed to achieve was do justice to Arash's majestic moment in the climax, and it accomplished that with aplomb. So I came out of this film feeling satisfied with it.
That said... it's not a particularly good film in its own right. Even though the appeal of the film is in seeing the characters brought to life, the harsh cuts to the script mean that some characters don't even make an appearance at all. Even if you weren't a fan of those particular characters or if you're an anime-only viewer, there's a distinct feeling that the film rushes through events. From my perspective, the worst thing it does is reduce the horrors of civilian casualties to a minor blip in the narrative train. There is no longer a major plot thread about finding the basic necessities of survival for the refugees. By diminishing their presence so drastically, a great deal of the narrative weight simply goes away.
The production values are also not particularly noteworthy by recent anime film standards. I frankly can't help but think that the character art looks unpolished compared to Babylonia. Even though the character designing process was similar between the two projects – lead character designer Takashi Takeuchi would redraw the original mobile game designs in his style, and then the animation character designer(s) would adapt them for animation – I think that Camelot may have suffered by having three anime character designers instead of one like Babylonia did. These characters just don't feel as fun or as vibrant to look at, even before they start moving around on screen. Babylonia was an exceptionally blessed TV anime production so perhaps it's unfair to compare the two too much, but I did expect more from Camelot as a film.
One thing I did like about this film, though, was the staging in its setpieces. The opening scene of Bedivere struggling alone through the desert makes for some compelling imagery, as does the picture book-esque sequences that tell his backstory. I also really enjoyed how Arash's Noble Phantasm was visually portrayed, a tiny beam of blue taking on an overwhelming pillar of light, depicted from the far distance. Even if the action scenes themselves tended to be brief, these little touches kept the film looking interesting.
It says something about the quality of Fate anime lately that this film feels like a weaker adaptation, because by no means was this a bad showing. Being what it is, though, I can't recommend this to anyone but hardcore fans, who I'm sure will have the biggest complaints among anyone. If you keep your expectations in check, however, this first Camelot film is a good time.
Overall : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Story's core is strong, likable characters, good use of staging
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