Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front – Babylonia – 01 – Humanity’s Last Hope

Six times Master Fujimaru Ritsuka and Demi-Servant Mash Kyrielight have Rayshifted to humanity-threatening singularities throughout history and corrected them. In light of their accomplishments, they have every right to be confident, but it’s clear this isn’t just another day at the office.

The seventh and final singularity is all the way back in 2600 BC, the time of the first king, Gilgamesh, and the beginning of the end of the Gods’ rule over humanity. It’s only fitting that in order to secure the future of civilization, Ritsuka and Mash must return to its cradle.

Employing no small amount of of clinical wizardry, Dr. Romani and da Vinci Rayshift the Ritsuka and Mash to the distant past, but the pair are unexpectedly diverted from their geographic target of the city of Uruk by a bounded field, and instead materialize several thousand feet in mid-air.

Fortunately, Mash has the powers of Sir Galahad at her disposal, and uses a shield to cushion their fall near some ruins. Ritsuka ends up on top of Mash, and lingers there clinging to her just a little longer than she expected, demonstrating at least a modicum of sexual tension between the two.

It’s not long before their presence is detected by numerous demonic beasts in the form of saber-toothed lions, just like a random encounter during a JRPG overworld stroll. Again Mash proves her worth as a Demi-Servant, dispatching the beasts with ease and panache.

But beasts aren’t all the pair attract: a scantily clad woman falls from the sky right on top of Ritsuka, then admonishes him for touching her without her leave. This woman looks a lot like Tohsaka Rin (surely no accident) but when she demonstrates her combat ability, it’s clear that here she plays the role of Archer, though she doesn’t reveal her name to them.

The Archer-esque servant withdraws, quite rightly arguing that if the pair can’t handle a few beasts, they have no chance of saving humanity. The beasts surround Ritsuka and Mash, but they are saved once again, this time by Enkidu, historically Gilgamesh’s BFF and apparently Lancer in this particular scenario.

Enkidu has also been expecting Ritsuka and Mash, and gives them the skinny: the civilization of Mesopotamia is currently on the brink thanks to the Three Goddess Alliance. But he takes the two up a mountain to show them humanity’s hope: the titular Absolute Demonic Front, Babylonia.

Was the Rin-like Archer one of the three goddesses plotting humanity’s destruction? Can Enkidu be trusted? Will Ritsuka and Mash be able to get the job done and get home? All good questions I’ll ponder as I eagerly await the next episode.

Until then, this was a very steady, solid introduction that established most of the main players, and set some very high stakes while remaining grounded and keeping the heroes honest. Cloverworks’ work here is no ufotable, but it’s nonetheless very good.

Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 06 – Mage Girls Trip

Six episodes in, were you ready for the titular Rail Zeppelin arc to begin in earnest? Well you may have been and I may have been, but apparently the show wasn’t, so instead we get a bottle episode. Gray asks Reines about the Holy Grail War and her mentor’s role in it, and Reines agrees to tell her, but only if she gets to take Gray shopping at Carnac, London’s largest and most extravagant store.

After dressing Gray up in a number of fetching ensembles, they are joined by Luviagelita Edelfelt, Carnac’s newly-installed owner, and she joins their “girls’ party.” She’s also responsible for the décor—for which the word gaudy doesn’t do justice—which is magically formulated to stimulate customers’ desire to spend. A slideshow of cute moments among the trio ensues.

While resting in the owner’s room, Reines finally tells Gray about Iskandar, though can’t speak to what precisely the former Mr. Velvet went through. Then, in an instant, all of the color leaves their surroundings, and the three of them are the only people in the entire store. More strangely, there is no way to exit without returning where you started.

Breaking the Bechdel Test, the three ask “What Would Lord El-Melloi II Do?” and with the whydunit not making sense, conclude this isn’t an incident perpetrated by anyone, but an accident brought about by the excessively ornate renovations, both physical and magical. Luvia elects to clean up her own mess, utilizing her extensive pro wrestling(!) skills to neutralize the automated security force.

After that, Reines has Trim smash the central relic controlling the store’s magecraft, which shatters the bounded field and returns the three to the normal world. Reines later deduces that the spell wouldn’t let fortune escape, implying the three ladies were treasures not to be taken outside. When Gray protests that unlike Reines and Luvia she’s “not that special,” Reines reminds her of the noble phantasm she carries…then encourages her to deliver the gift she bought for Lord El-Melloi.

She’s unable to do so, but primarily due to the Lord’s mood when she returns. He’s in a mood because the Mantle of Iskandar was stolen from him, replaced by a note inviting him to—you guessed it—the Rail Zeppelin. El-Melloi then invites Gray to join him on that infamous train that buys and sells mystic eyes.

While not particularly essential viewing, this week’s Case Files was adequately diverting, featuring a rare combo of all-female characters (though El-Melloi was a frequent topic of conversation) and taking place in one huge, intriguing, isolated space. Gray also got to learn a little more about her mentor, and got a slight boost to her severely deficient self-esteem. In all, far from a waste of time.