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Fate/Grand Order First Order Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Fate Grand Order Blu-ray CoverFix the past to save the future!

What They Say:
The year AD 2017.

The last era in which magecraft still thrived.

The Chaldea Security Organization was founded to ensure the continuation of human history. They survey a world which magecraft couldn’t observe and science couldn’t measure all to prevent the certain extinction of humanity. But one day, the future that Chaldea continued to observe disappears and humanity’s extinction in 2019 becomes clear. Rather, it had already happened. The cause seems to be related to Fuyuki, a provincial town in Japan, in the year AD 2004. There, an “unobservable region” that had not existed before appears.

Based on the assumption that Fuyuki is the reason for humanity’s extinction, Chaldea issues an order to explore, investigate, and possibly destroy this singularity – a quest for the Holy Grail, the Grand Order.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and a new English language dub, both of which are in stereo and done up using the uncompressed PCM format. The show has some good moments where the mix stands out more with the impact of some of the fight moments and explosions but it also handles the dialogue well with some placement and depth with the way scenes are arranged. Neither is anything that stands out in a significantly big way but it accomplishes what it needs to and gives the show a bit of an extra boost. The action moves across the forward soundstage well for the limited amount that we get of it and the dialogue side is very clean and clear whether it’s normal dialogue or something that has to step up in a louder way. The film may not stand tall against the theatrical film side of the franchise but it serves the material well and is free of problems here.

Originally airing on New Year’s Eve 2016, the transfer for this TV film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Clocking in at just about seventy minutes, there’s more than enough space for it on this release. Animated by Lay-duce, the show has a clean and appealing look that comes across as a little glossier than past works in the overall franchise but that also makes it distinctive in its own way. There’s a lot of good detail in the backgrounds and the character designs step up at various phases as well where needed, though they do try to keep the leads a bit simpler overall with costume design. The result is a show that definitely feels like it’s leaning to what we expect from the franchise but also trying to stand a bit to the side with its own design and approach to color thanks to the setting. The encoding is what I expect from Aniplex USA in that it’s crisp and clean with no problems in the source and a smooth playback experience with great colors and rendition of detail.

The packaging for this release is of my least favorite type as we get a digipak inside a clear thin slipcover to hold it all in place. Digipaks have never been a favorite overall, though they’ve had their place, and doing it for a single release like this makes sense as you’re trying to get it to stand out. I just don’t care for the packaging type as everything feels like it’s going to fall out easily and that just makes me nervous. The clear slipcover works nicely to give us just the logo along the front while the artwork behind it utilizes the metallic side well to give us a great visual of Mash while Ritsuka takes up the back cover. It’s simple and effective but makes me wish for it to be done on a heavy chipboard box that would look good alongside other Fate releases. The inside of the digipak just goes for a royal blue background under the discs that keeps things simple. We get an insert regarding the game itself as well as a brief booklet that showcases the usual kinds of things with character artwork, some setting material, some really nice image boards, and a track list for the included soundtrack with the release.

After seeing so many releases recently that work with just static screens it feels really nice to get an animated piece again. What we get here uses the character artwork and clips from the show in a good way with it mixing in various symbols from the show all while glossing it up and moving it around in slick ways to feel high end and surprisingly shiny. It’s a good looking piece of material that rotates while loaded up and it’s worth watching just for that for a bit compared to a number of other menus that are entirely forgettable. The navigation along the bottom works the familiar design layout with the selections in small form but easy to navigate both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback. Everything is functional but it has a nice bit of style about it as well that makes it a welcome opening experience.

The extras for this release fills out a section nicely simply because there’s a lot of short material in the mix. This comes through the various character trailers that makes up the bulk of it which are easy to navigate, it’s just that there are a lot. We get the various trailers for the game and the show and the game opening as well. But we also get some fun things with the dub promo for the special and a good nineteen minute interview with the three English cast leads answering the usual array of questions about the show and their connection with it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a popular online mobile game that kicked off as part of the overall Fate franchise back in the summer of 2015, and got overseas distribution as well, you knew it was only a matter of time before some anime was made for it. It’s just leaving money on the table otherwise. The TV film landed as part of a New Year’s Eve project at the end of 2016 and it’s one that leans into the past pretty nicely but mostly serves as a setup for the game, essentially animating in large form the prologue to the game. I’ve not played the game but I’ve seen just about all the Fate anime released over the years, out of order and with overlap, so my mind is pretty much mush when it comes to this franchise because I enjoy the heck out of it in the moment but I don’t try to dig deep into the mythology because it’s just not that huge of a property for me. So with a new mini project like this I was definitely keen to see what the team would do.

The premise for this gives us a setting that feels more science fiction than anything else as a group known as the Chaldea Security Organization is working to save humanity from extinction. With a proper use of sorcery they can tell how things are going for humanity over the next hundred years but have discovered that events in 2016 will be an extinction level event thanks to a singularity issue that happens in 2004 in Fuyuki City, a place that kind of exists out of normal space due to various events there, namely the Grail War. In order to deal with this they’ve put together 48 candidates for masters to figure out how to ease things and correct that singularity so that in the grand scheme of things humanity will survive. It’s a solid enough plan that involves the obvious element of time travel and all but it ties nicely to the past of the franchise while opening it up to new elements.

The focus with it all is on the recently arrived 48th member of the cadet group with Ritsuka, a kind of blank space young man who isn’t quite sure where he is at first and takes the role of the “player” dropped into the middle of things. He ends up connecting with Mash, one of those that can be bonded as a servant to help deal with what’s to come. The exposition through her is decently placed and we get to move through a few other new characters that make up the larger structure of the game world and how events are set up for what the players will deal with. What kicks it all off is when Ritsuka ends up booted from a meeting just before the whole slew of cadets end up being taken out in a massive explosion while they were prepping for the next phase. That has Ritsuka being in the wrong place at the wrong time even more so afterward as he and Mash are caught in the Rayshift that sends them both back to the past, along with their commander, Olga.

It’s a fun piece to see the trio in 2004 just as we learn how a corruption of sorts has occurred with the servants of this era that has Saber taking control in what will lead to the extinction event. Meeting up with a few others along the way gives us a nice touch upon other familiar names and designs but the it really does largely stick with Ritsuka and Mash with a nice nod toward Olga and her place in the story as it progresses. Shifting Mash into a position of a demi-servant and pushing Ritsuka into the master phase with command symbols on his hand, it makes it clear how the game world operates for the player but it works well enough for the viewer here as well, and I can see how many could easily transition from watching this as part of a special event to grabbing the game and feeling more invested in it because of it as this is basically “level one” of the game in a sense to set the stage.

In Summary:
Though it won’t get me to play the game, Fate/Grand Order is a fun TV film that provides a new angle through which to exploit the Fate franchise that works well for me. I like the concept behind it and I could easily see a full TV series to really explore it and have some fun because it tackles the familiar in the right ways while corrupting ti as well. There’s some wonkiness to the opening premise but it’s the kind of thing you gloss over for the big picture spect of it and just run with it as an extinction level event that must be stopped. I liked the designs that felt like it was stepping to the side of the usual design elements and it introduced enough new material and ideas to it that I wanted to know more even as it plays retread to some degree going back to the 2004 time period. Aniplex’s release is definitely solidly done with a good dub, a great encode, and the inclusion of a soundtrack. But it just had to be a digipak that would drag down my opinion of it overall. I can see this as being divisive among some fans, especially in the “It’s just a commercial for a game!” mindset, but it works well as a launching point for ideas and engagement in my mind, making it worthwhile.

Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Fate/Grand Order Game Opening, Fate/Grand Order Announcement Trailer, Fate/Grand Order Gameplay Trailer, Fate/Grand Order Character Trailers, Fate/Grand Order -First Order- Dub PV, Fate/Grand Order -First Order- Cast Interview

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: October 24th, 2017
MSRP: $89.98
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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