Fate/Grand Order: First Order

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“Who are you callin’ a foo?”
What do we have here? A Fate/stay night spin-off involving a time-travelling, future-saving organization. The first fifteen minutes are full of interminably dull introductions and info-dumping, including those of the supposed two leads, Fujimaru and Mash, who are also dull.

There’s also Fou, a weird white squirrel thingy that wears clothes, makes awful high-pitched sounds, and generally doesn’t need to exist, and Director Olga Aminusphere, who aside from having an obnoxious name, seems like a low-rent Tousaka Rin.

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When the doctor’s the highest-ranked officer left in your compound, time to start worrying
First Order essentially blows up that dull beginning by putting Fujimaru and Mash in an emergency situation that has them travelling back to 2004 where the outcome of a standard Fate-style Holy Grail War has ended up suspended for some reason.

Mash becomes a demi-servant prior to dying, with the inexperienced “commoner” Fujimaru becoming her master, to the chagrin of the aristocratic Olga.

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Dark Saber – Almost worth the price of admission
The two dull protagonists must, with the limited help of Olga and a lot of help from a particularly helpful (and badass) Caster, take out the remaining “dark” versions of Archer and Saber, in order to end the Holy Grail War and correct the singularity that is dooming humanity’s future.

If that sounds a bit vague, it is. And while there’s a bit of a thrill seeing the heroic spirits back in action, albeit on different sides, it’s all a bit bloodless. No, not literally; there’s plenty of blood, but the dead, empty city isn’t the most exciting stage for otherwise cool-looking battles.

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“Look Mash, I’m helping!”
Mash’s transformation into demi-servant may have been a sign of her inner courage and toughness, and her new dominatrixy outfit is pretty boss, but neither she nor Fujimaru manage to ever make me care all that much about them or their sudden newfound friendship, as they’re less actual characters and more combinations of character traits. Takahashi Rie and Shimazaki Nobunaga try their best, but simply don’t have enough to work with here.

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And aside from a few nice images and some competent action, the most striking thing about this Fate spin-off is its lack of the same distinct visual sumptuousness of Unlimited Blade Works (to date the only other Fate property I’ve watched), due to this not being a ufotable series, and clearly having a smaller budget to work with.

Placing the fate of humanity’s future on the shoulders of two barely-there, uninspiring characters we barely got to know in over an hour-long special just doesn’t provide the gravity or stakes it should. As we’re between seasons, I had time to check this out, so I did. And it was…okay. In all, it feels like a superfluous wade into the shallow end of the Fate franchise pool, rather than a deep or meaningful dive.

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2016 In Review – Our Favorites, Biggest Disappointments, and Guilty Pleasures

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Braverade

Favorite Show: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans Season 1

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Best Episode: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 16

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Biggest Disappointment: GATE 2

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Guilty Pleasure: Qualidea Code

I ended up reviewing the fewest shows among my comrades, but Gundam was so good (and so, well, long) that it made up for the lack of shows I was really interested in. I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed in both the last cour of Durarara!! and with Macross Delta in general, which I, perhaps misguidedly, believed would at least be as good as Frontier was.

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sesameacrylic

Favorite Show: ReLIFE

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Best Episode: Orange – 03

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Biggest Disappointment: WWW.Working!!

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Guilty Pleasure: Momokuri / Hundred

Both of my GPs offered good bang for the buck; there’s not much to either of them, but I was always excited to watch both; Momokuri to see how much farther the couple would progress that week, and Hundred to see what stupid thing they’d do (or fail to animate) next. WWW.Working!!, on the other hand, I just couldn’t get through.

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MagicalChurlSukui

Favorite Show: Hai to Gensou no Grimgar

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Best Episode: Re:Zero – 15

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Biggest Disappointment: Mayoiga

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Guilty Pleasure: Sousei no Onmyouji

Well, SnO was my GP until I realized it wasn’t really going anywhere and wasn’t really good enough to keep around once I fell behind due to other obligations. In a way, it replaced Ushio to Tora as my GP, and I really didn’t need two such shows back-to-back. SnO’s 50 episodes proved too many. As for Mayoiga, woof.

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Oigakkosan

Favorite Show: Boku dake ga Inai Machi

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Best Episode: Re:Zero – 01

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Biggest Disappointment: Mob Psycho 100

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Guilty Pleasure: Haikyuu!! Season 3

If not for the super unpleasant mid-point and throwaway section introducing the battle for the throne, I would gladly have given my top slot to Re:Zero, which was surprisingly unique in a year filled with ‘in another world’ AND ‘time travel mystery’ shows. Regardless, the opening episode flew me high and caught me by surprise with its dark twist and sealed my favorite single seating for the year. ReLife and Flying Witch both deserve honorable mentions too.