FGO Babylonia Review

FGO Babylonia or Fate Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front Babylonia had it’s long awaited conclusion last weekend. By long awaited it was definitely a much longer away than originally anticipated. Capping in at only 21 episodes instead of the full 24 or 25, it more than overstayed its welcome with constant delays and a myriad of other challenges.

To start off this review I want to take a look back at the beginning of the series and restate that I believed Fate Grand Order Babylonia was going to be the best non-Ufotable work to exist. The past tense being the key identifier. Turns out, the excitement I had quickly turned to ash as my hopes for the series were brutally crushed with the lackluster and awful work put in by the studio, Cloverworks. Everything that could go wrong went wrong and then some.

When the series first started out it was fairly high quality with well put together animations and the Ushiwakamaru vs Gorgon fight being the defining moment of the anime as well as its peak. After that amazing display of animation that was absolutely mind-blowing, everything else just deteriorated like the singularity.

I recall writing a previous piece several months ago when the anime started hyping the series up and selling it as an amazing adaptation. I truly believed it was going to be something spectacular since its source material was one of the best stories from the game. I was absolutely blindsided by the show’s downward spiral from spectacular to good to average and then to trash.

One of the issues I saw with the series that constantly happened was that its episodes kept being delayed by one or two weeks. Sure, the two week break around Christmas was more understanding due to the holiday but even then, two weeks felt a bit excessive especially when they had recap, “filler” episodes that aired during that week. At the time the series only had roughly 12 episodes released so it was really difficult to understand why such a small series needed two recap episodes back to back. Granted, in recaps they reuse assets and don’t do much new in terms of animation but someone still had to edit the episode and splice things together. Such an egregious display of wasted budget to produce episodes that did not need to be made was definitely was the first red flag.

Shortly thereafter when the series returned in 2020, the next set of red flags also cropped up. The biggest difference between the second half of the series and the first half was the dip in quality, mostly the lack of budget applied to each episode. Typically, when shows take a small hiatus the following episodes usually return with greater quality as the studio takes the time to put in those extra few hours of polish without the stress of needing to produce an episode on a weekly basis. But, with Babylonia, the opposite was true.

Every time the series returned from an oddly timed hiatus, the quality continued to the dip. With now lackluster animation, the series also suffered greatly from being poorly adapted with intense moments in the story taking place in the beginning or middle of episodes and for the ending to leave off on a weak moment that nulls any impact the beginning would have had.

What worked for a visual novel/mobile game narrative doesn’t translate over very well to an anime unless adapted by an efficient team. Every critical moment lacked impact with the pacing and organization of each episode coupled with the lackluster animation and sound design being muted and low-quality.

What originally started off as a really strong series continued to crumble as it progressed each week through its second half. The animation during fight scenes was especially quick and sloppy with the sound effects and combat coming across like smacking pool noodles instead of actual weapons. Explosions lacked depth and at the very end of the series when Gilgamesh used Enuma Elish the sound effect sounded like it was ripped from a G-mod shitpost rather than being the asset used in Fate UBW or Zero.

There was just a lot of missed potential that kept the series from living up to its potential. It was discouraging to see Cloverworks use a C-team for this insanely popular series instead of their A-team that we saw in series like Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai. The team behind the series lacked passion for the series and was guided under poor direction for each episode.

Most of the budget seemed to be allocated to the least important moments such as dialogue heavy moments that provide very little advancement to the plot and scenes devoid of action. The end of the series was especially atrocious with the final battle not having the same level of budget as Ushi vs Gorgon in the first half despite it being the critical, defining moment of the entire story. The final episode though had a lot of polish and high quality animation to it. But that last episode was purely epilogue to wrap everything up in a nice little bow. The action was already settled and the conflict resolved so the entirety of the final episode was just characters talking and not much else. It was definitely a strong ending but due to the inconsistencies present through the entire series, it didn’t feel rewarded.

It would be one thing if the entire series was animated as beautifully as the final episode but that wasn’t the case and to make matters worse with how sloppily thrown together the final fight was, the same studio has been put in charge of the upcoming Solomon anime. The final battle in the entire first arc of the game. The defining moment above all others and seeing as how Cloverwork’s work is anything but decent it sets an alarming precedent of what to expect in the future of the Fate Grand Order animation.

Even the Camelot movie originally was supposed to be better with the first promotional video and then when the second one came out just a few days ago. The character designs had changed and for the worse. What was originally beautiful and unique was now mediocre and generic with a new studio put in place. Replacing great work with terrible work definitely brings to question, where does the fault lie? On one hand Cloverworks did an awful job with the Babylonia anime but the decisions for the franchise as a whole makes me wonder if all of the mistakes made where due to the company behind the game.

Camelot first promotional video (top), second PV (bottom).

Overall, this series became a major letdown for me and has made me concerned for the future of Fate Grand Order animation projects. The Babylonia anime alone could have been made better by allowing the full story to play out rather than cutting climatic moments short and focusing too much screen time on less important moments. I strongly believe the series could have excelled if placed in competent hands of Cloverwork’s A-team and saddled with a better director. Babylonia could have also been better as a full 24 episode series rather than intentionally being an odd 21 episodes total.

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