What’s it about? Ritsuka Fujimura and Mash Kyrielight are facing the seventh and final singularity, and they have a tough job ahead of them. They travel through time to Uruk in the time of Babylon, in order to stop King Gilgamesh and recover the Holy Grail. Things seem a little off, however, when they arrive in a ruined small town, and then even more off when a scantily clad young woman crash-lands on Ritsuka, gets mad, beats up a bunch of demon beasts, and takes off again. Yep, they sure have their work cut out for them this time.
Hoo boy. As a casual fan of some entries to the Fate franchise, married to a slightly-more-invested-but-still-casual fan, I have a baseline understanding of who some of these characters are, but I’m still scratching my head at other parts.
Let’s be real, though. No Fate series is going to win any Feminism Awards. It has some good female characters but also some serious issues as well, especially in the character design department.
I may love Nero to death, but it doesn’t change the fact that her battle costume literally has her butt hanging out. Whenever I scroll through Fate/Grand Order’s character roster on my husband’s phone, it inevitably leads to me yelling about how many of the designs are of scantily clad girls who look about twelve.
But still, I’ve been excited for Babylonia. Why?
Because of this magnificent asshole:
I love Gilgamesh. I know, he’s terrible. He’s awful in general, but especially to women. He treats any woman he sets his sights on as his rightful possession, regardless of how they feel on the matter. He’s vain, arrogant, and selfish, and I still plan to name my hypothetical future cat after him.
Not that we get to see much of him in this episode! Rather, most of the action is focused on the less-familiar faces of Ritsuka and Mash. They seem… fine. Ritsuka, as far as gacha game potato protagonists go, isn’t a bad sort, just kind of boring.
Mash seems okay, too, but the animation around her really highlights one of the main issues with the franchise’s presentation of women. By which I mean, there’s a ton of highly detailed, glossy crotch shots of her labia in tight shorts. Meanwhile, a goddess who bears a suspicious resemblance to the ever-popular tsundere Rin Tohsaka, both physically and personality-wise, is running around in her skivvies.
I’m focusing a lot on how the female characters are dressed because, well, there’s not a whole lot else to go on in just this first episode. The pacing feels pretty off, revealing its origins as a mobile game when the characters have to pause their confused murmuring and expository dialogue to fight a bunch of CG “demon beasts,” then get right back to their conversation.
Eventually they run into Enkidu. According to the original legend of Gilgamesh, Enkidu was fashioned out of clay to defeat the too-powerful king, but instead became Gilgamesh’s close friend and possibly lover before crumbling back to dust.
Ah yes, enemies-to-friends-to-lovers. Ancient Babylonia loved its fanfiction tropes, apparently.
Also, does it count as “bury your gays” if (a) one of the parties is genderless and (b) it’s a thousands-year-old epic?
Kidding aside, Fate/Grand Order is a big story, and part of an even bigger franchise. I can’t dismiss the possibility for affirmative exploration of gender and presentation.
In this universe, historical figures can choose their appearances when they manifest in modern times. If Leonardo da Vinci chooses to take on the appearance of the Mona Lisa, does that make her a trans woman? If Enkidu is intentionally androgynous and genderless, is that agender representation? Being cis, I sincerely don’t have the answers, but I do hope non-cis folks will weigh in in the comments.
If I were coming into Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia completely fresh, I don’t know if I’d want to continue after this. But I do, because I want to see a different side to Gilgamesh. I’m excited to see Gilgamesh with someone he cares about, in his own element, never having been soaked the nihilism of the modern age.
So, I’m in. Are you?