Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front – Babylonia – 06 – Though Our Battlefields Differ

Other episodes of F/GO have presented bigger earth-(and history)-shattering events, but this was the first one I felt best brought all of the series’ myriad elements together. All the adventure, history, action, comedy, and romance levels were set just right so that they complemented each other rather then got in each others’ way.

This was also the episode in which I most felt the humanity of the characters. It’s apropos the cold open should feature the origin of the current Ishtar. It also had the most one-on-one interaction between Ritsuka and Ushiwakamaru. She’d always seemed drawn to him, and I should have known it was because they’re both Japanese.

Among the many servants with whom he interacts, Ushiwakamaru is the only one Ritsuka sang songs of as a kid, something that both astounds and flatters her. He was a real person, after all, and his story is an amazing one. One of the low-key great things about Fate is that it nudges you to learn more about these historical and legendary figures.

As such, wonderful to see these two countrymen assert their bond of friendship as people, not any Master-Servant contract. Ushiwakamaru also sports one of the more awesome costumes in a show positively bursting with them. Like this episode, it’s a satisfying balance of elements—a little cute, a little sexy, all bad-ass. Not to mention Hayami Saori is perfectly cast as Ushi’s voice—warm, caring, and determined.

Another thing I’m enjoying about F/GO is that while there is a larger overarching story arc, it doesn’t get in the way of smaller, more self-contained episodic stories. Last week felt like a road trip with Gilgamesh; this felt more like a good old-fashioned fantasy quest. Their mission couldn’t be simpler: go to the city of Kutha and recover the Tablet of Destinies.

(In a well-placed moment of comedy, Ritsuka asks why Gilgamesh doesn’t remember what he himself wrote on said tablet; Gilgamesh response is Pure Gilgamesh: “Why do I have to retain in my memory a clairvoyant premonition I wrote in a dream?” #DemigodProblems)

Sadly Ushiwakamaru can’t join them, but the party of Ritsuka, Mash, Merlin and Ana is more than adequate. On the way to the city, whose entire population seemingly died peacefully in their sleep, the party encounters the collateral damage caused by Ishtar’s Cautious Hero-style demonic beast extermination, and she’s been making off with the gems of those she “saved.”

The night before they enter the city, Ritsuka has a nice chat with Merlin about how even though he’s just an ordinary human, he has to do what he can to the best of his ability, which means a strict workout routine to stay in shape. From her tent, Mash seems disappointed Ritsuka thinks she only chose him because he was virtually “the last man on earth.”

Once in Kutha, the party splits up to look for the tablet…simple enough, though Mash was weary of Ritsuka going off with only Fou for protection. Turns out her intuition was correct: Ritsuka suddenly strays into the Underworld, which in this age is a very real place people stray into all the time (and in Gilgamesh’s case, even went on a quest there).

The hostile undead who surround Ritsuka are eventually dismissed by a man Ritsuka seems to recognized named Ziusu-dra, who castigates Rituska for entering the Underworld while still alive; a big no-no. Still, he sees Ritsuka is a nice guy and so lets him off this time, sending him back to Kutha.

He awakes to find Mash shedding tears of joy and relief after she shed tears of panic and worry for his safety; going back to what he said to Merlin last night, Ritsuka may well not quite grasp just how much Mash cares for him, and is not merely resigned to serving him. And what do you know, the Tablet of Destinies is in his hands. Looks like he was meant to stray into the Underworld, if only briefly.

Of course, the mission was never going to be quite that simple: Ishtar suddenly arrives like a fighter jet; Chaldea only warns the party four seconds before she attacks. She’s there to “save” them just like she saved the ranchers whose lands she ravaged and pockets she picked, and intends to collect payment in the form of the tablet.

Ritsuka’s not about to fail Gilgamesh, so they must fight. And what a fight. From Ishtar’s concussive kicks to Mash’s shield and her graceful gliding through the sky, to Ana’s decisive chain-assisted counterattack, we’re treated to a beautiful, deadly dance. My only complaint is that it’s over too fast, but I’m also glad it didn’t go on too long.

Going back to the cold open, we learn Ishtar was summoned using ahuman girl as a vessel. Despite nearly all Mesopotamian gods being blonde as a rule, Ishtar retained her vessel’s black hair, since the human girl’s will merged with Ishtar. That goes a ways towards explaining her peculiar behavior that both saves and hurts humans.

It may also explain why she’s willing to cooperate when she wakes up finding herself tied up, surrounded by Ritsuka’s party demanding answers. She explains that the other two goddesses were drawn there by Gilgamesh’s Holy Grail. The three of them decided to enter a competition whereby the first to defeat Gilgamesh and claim the Grail shall rule his lands. They also entered a three-way non-aggression pact, so Ishtar won’t go so far as to tell Ritsuka the true names of the others.

The party fails to connect the ease with which Ritsuka entered the Underworld to Kutha’s status as a place where undead congregate and dwell…until they’re surrounded by massive horde of skeletons. With the tablet in hand they make a run for it, but not before Ritsuka frees Ishtar from her binds. Having been treated so kindly despite her hostility (and perhaps motivated by her human half), Ishtar returns the favor by obliterating all of the skeletons with a single all-out arrow burst, sparing the party a tough battle.

When Ritsuka earnestly thanks her before turning back to Uruk, the blonde goddess half of Ishtar wonders if perhaps he’s “a sacrifice too good for the other goddesses.” I enjoyed the ambiguity of that line, just I enjoyed the entirety of this splendidly balanced episode.

Carole & Tuesday – 05 – The Trees in the Wind Will Lead the Way

After burning down a famous DJ’s house and getting taken in by a scambot, the C&T Dream Team needs a win desperately…not to mention some scratch to keep the lights on! So Gus and Roddy set out to meet with their connections in order to arrange the duo’s first gig.

On the Angela front not visited last week, Mama comes to her daughters defense, accusing Tao of treating her like a lab rat due to his background in neuroscience. Tao’s rejoinder is to bring up Mama’s assault charges…and her apparent “androgynous” status.

Finally, Tuesday’s brother has arrived in Alba City, determined to find his sister and bring her home as per their Mama’s orders.

Upon trying to meet with his old pal Hofner without an appontment, Gus is met by stubborn guardbots, whom Hofner himself orders to stand down, after which Gus is able to voice his intent to do business.

Tao takes Angela to Schwarz, an investor at Intergalactic, and asks her to sing an a capella song she learned during the car ride to convince Schwarz to invest 12 million Woolong.

Roddy meets his friend Beth, who owns one of the last independent clubs, and asks her for a slot for C&T. The overarching theme here is, in order to make it big, you’ve got to put in the legwork, and connections are key.

C&T’s only connections are people with connections, who happen to have faith in their talent and charisma. As for Angela, she sings well (though I’m not a fan of the lyrics) and gets the 12 mil…but like us is still unclear exactly what Tao has in store for her.

Tuesday’s brother finds Carole’s landlord utterly unhelpful in positively identifying his sister, who gets a job as a poster girl for a food truck while Carole unsuccessfully walks AI pets. On the bright side (literally) the lights come back on and Carole’s AI suitcase finally makes it back to her.

Finally, there’s C&T’s first gig where they knew they were being watched. Despite the somewhat dingy digs and just ten people in the audience including him, Roddy considers this a seminal moment, the genesis of what will become a great musical duo, where those ten people will be able to say “I was there.”

Mind you, Roddy is pretty much in love with C&T at this point, so he might be biased. I for one found the song perfectly inoffensive but the lyrics were trite and cloying. It’s hard not to be harsh on the pedestrian nature of their tunes when the entire premise is that the duo are some kind of rare and monumental talents that will literally change the world with their music.

But if those in the world of the show say they’re really good, that’s I guess all that really matters. Watching Tuesday perform is enough for her brother to seemingly give up his search and let her be, despite the blowback he’ll get from Mom. I just wish their songs were amazing full stop, not just “amazing” in the context of the show.