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So! Speaking as a really big fan of the source material, this adaptation of the final pre-final-boss story arc has got many problems as a show, and is a bad adaptation in terms of feel, but the plot's mostly intact and if you either don't want to subject yourself to a gacha-driven mobile game or hate the visual novel format of the original story, it's worth seeing I guess.
May as well start with the relatively slim list of stuff I like. First, props to the cast, both English and Japanese, who turn in energetic performances and help buoy up the famously-wordy Nasu script with strong work. Second, while the actual animation can sometimes be a bit... off, the detail and designs are generally quite strong, when they aren't resorting to cheap nasty CGI for some of the bigger 'uns. Third, again, the original story is largely intact, they picked a good story arc to adapt, and they clearly had the right idea about how to expand stuff that was unclear or poorly-explained, even if they bungled the execution. And fourth, I appreciated that they took the time to flesh out Ushiwakamaru's character and make we Westerners in the audience unfamiliar with her legend a bit more sympathetic towards her.
Now, on to the complaining! And, happily, many of its problems as a show are also problems as an adaptation, so I don't even need to split off my whining about one from my whining about the other!
The scenic staging is confused and sloppy, for one. Fan favorite moments are either cut entirely, as with the First Hassan's dramatic entrance to the underworld by severing Tiamat's wings, fast-forwarded through like the show needed to pee real bad and had to get through as soon as possible, as with the dramatic confrontation with Gorgon-Tiamat, or just hacked to ribbons, as with the battle with Quetzalcoatl, which was originally two fairly-serious and heartfelt scenes bookending one of the funniest moments in the entire game is now instead two comedic scenes awkwardly sandwiched around an inherently ridiculous moment played entirely straight, ruining it completely. Benkei in particular suffers the most from this, with every point on his original character arc suffering at least one of the three, while never explaining the core crux of his character's angst any better than the game itself did.
Characterization is a bit weaker. Ritsuka gets to be a bit angstier, but in the process they took a character who seemed like a cipher at first blush but gradually revealed their qualities as a person of nearly-unbreakable will and surprisingly self-aware and funny about their situation, and made them a bland stock protagonist. This also resulted in deuterotagonist Mash getting less character development and more fight scenes, with mixed results. Quetzalcoatl gets to show off her power, courage, and infectious sense of energy, and Jaguar Warrior her sense of humor, but neither really gets the sorts of occasional moments of deeper wisdom their originals did. At least Ereshkigal and Gilgamesh are extremely well-done, as is the complex character of Kingu.
Also, the animation makes odd and/or bad choices throughout. It'd be one thing if, say, budget were an issue (and even with double the usual anime budget I get wanting to keep costs down), but making Ishtar walk instead of float everywhere actually costs more money, while being less creative and fun! Ugly CGI is used for many characters, and damn it, I know people in real life who get angry with me for complaining about it but it looks like trash every single time! And everyone who mocked the head-in-the-pants style of having every single female character get filmed from the waist down with their posterior thrust into the camera was right. It's a weirdly horny show, and not just when it would be funny or appropriate.
Finally, the well-intentioned attempts to flesh out weak spots in the original narrative go nowhere. Digging deeper into Ana and Gorgon's connection and its ultimate outcome was a good idea that never lived up to its potential. Ritsuka's encounter with Tiamat in her mindscape, enabling actual communication, is poorly-handled and doesn't dig into any of the themes Nasu has discussed in extra-game materials, robbing it of any of the dramatic power it should've had and any apologetics for the countless other scenes leading up to it that were sliced to make room for it. And they cut the few scenes that did hint at it anyway! Foreshadowing towards Goetia's true motivations in the final chapter also got the axe, as did explanations about who and what, exactly, Quetzalcoatl is and why she's a woman. And I had people who knew I was a fan of the game coming up to me to ask whether the game is any clearer about where exactly Gulgalanna went.
Now, the faithfully adapted scenes, like trying to invoke the Bull of Heaven to hilarious results, or the dramatic first encounter with Gorgon-Tiamat, do work fairly well, and let older Servants with cheaper animation in the game show off what they can really do. And it's, again, ultimately a relatively-faithful adaptation of one of the best story arcs in the game's original run. I won't pretend it's awful, or that it's not worth seeing if you have no interest in the game and don't want to just read the script or watch videos on the Internet. But... it's not good either, and it's problems spring from a lack of creativity rather than effort.
And this is me restraining my fanboy urge to rant about personal bugbears like wasting First Hassan, the swordsman who overpowered a sun-blessed Gawain at the height of his powers with trivial ease using nothing but pure skill, being wasted in a boring, pointless boss fight against a bland enemy that wasn't even in the original game, and being disarmed and having to use his teeth to finish the job. It's like watching Hulk Hogan or the Rock or someone taken to the limit by a $50 job guy at a house show, to descend into wrestling gibberish!
...Yeah, I really need to either write shorter reviews or go away for a while, come back, and do an editing pass every time I\'m thinking about posting one.
Try wordcounter.net, which easily helps you see whether you're in compliance with the character limit. This review, at 5,929 characters, clearly isn't.
I know. But the problem is the temptation to indiscipline.
I wish the site would bring back the feature that won\'t let you publish reviews unless you\'re within the character limit. It would make it easier for people who want to edit their reviews down later, and prevent others from flouting the rule.
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