It's kind of mental. It's a Fate/ thing. It's good, though.
Whew. Time for Fate/explanations.
Type-Moon's Fate/ franchise was originally a computer game. Supernatural Servants and their human Masters fight to the death in a succession of Holy Grail Wars, traditionally with much richer storytelling than gameplay. It's a visual novel. As I understand it (possibly incorrectly), they're basically the modern equivalent of "Find Your Own Fate" books, with computer graphics and voice actors. That first Fate/ was massively successful and has since had other games, novels, manga, anime and incompatible continuities. Just considering anime, there's been:
- 1. Fate/stay night (1st game route) and Unlimited Blade Works (2nd game route),
- 2. Fate/Zero (prequel),
- 3. Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Ilya (magical girl parody alt-universe).
- 4. Fate/stay night: Heaven's Feel, an upcoming movie trilogy (3rd game route).
- 5. There's an official gag manga called Carnival Phantasm and I'm now quite interested in watching its anime.
Now, though, there's also Fate/Grand Order. This is like a sequel to Fate/stay night, but in an incarnation where the hero/villain boundary is even more fluid than Fate/-usual. Possibly. It's a bit vague. Instead of being about a Holy Grail War, its core protagonists belong to some kind of history/timeline/multiverse-watching organisation that monitors the entire planet and has seen all the Holy Grail Wars ever fought.
This franchise is basically an online RPG for the iOS and Android, with a mega-epic plot and a cast list so long that your head will explode. It has seven Holy Grail Wars across five millennia. It's also a reboot of the Fate/Apocrypha project that eventually grew a light novel series. Compared with all that, one 72-minute TV special is barely a boil on its bottom. On its own it feels big and universe-redefining, but you'd also assume that it was setting up an anime series for which I believe there are no current plans. I want to watch that anime! Congratulations, filmmakers. You did your job. However if I wanted to experience the rest of Fate/Grand Order, I'd have to buy a mobile phone.
(Oh, and spend a lot of time playing games on it, possibly in Japanese. But the real sticking point is buying a mobile phone.)
Anyway, the film. It starts by telling us that Chaldeas was created from a reproduction of the Earth's soul. A lot of people are looking alarmed on what may or may not be the bridge of a spaceship. Mankind is going to go extinct on December 2016. Yow.
This gets approximately explained. (Okay, that's mean. They actually put quite a lot of effort into exposition.) It looks as if the Chaldeas Security Organisation built a computer model of Earth and called it Chaldeas. It predicts the future, I think, or something like that. I was waiting to learn that everything I'd watched was really inside the computer simulation, but the scale of their operation sounds so huge and the laws of physics in this universe are so unclear that I'm not sure what difference that would make. The Chaldeas Security Organisation also has magic and time travel and they thought they'd already guaranteed humanity's existence through to the next century, until it turned out that singularities (?) had appeared in time.
Our hero is Ritsuka Fujimaru, an ordinary boy who's one of dozens of potential Master candidates. Like us, he's a bit confused. He meets an alien squirrel (Fou) and a pink-haired girl (Mash) who's too modest to say her name even when directly asked. They get on quite well, but Ritsuka manages to annoy the organisation's director and gets booted out of an induction lecture. (That director is one of the good guys and she wants more than anything to save the world, but one of the wrinkles in her characterisation is that she might be a snob. She prefers families with lineage and will get sniffy about relying on commoners.)
All this is likeable, with Ritsuka and Mash being charming together. It's also dealing in multiple realities/timezones that are slightly beyond comfortable info-dumping ability. That's not very urgent, but it soon becomes so with fire and explosions. Ritsuka goes to help Mash and on finding her trapped under a massive stone block, tries to lift it with his bare hands (absurd) and then just gives up and sits down beside her instead of looking for something to use as a lever. Admittedly there are multiple reasons why that probably also wouldn't have worked, but even so that's a brief story logic failure that drove me insane.
After that, the plot really gets going.
I won't discuss how the story continues after that, but it's pretty impressive. We cross over with the more familiar Fate/stay night universe in startling ways. Throwaway moments include an army of skeletons. There's death, including named characters from both this film and previous versions of the franchise. Eventually the finale heads off into... wait, what do you mean, there isn't a sequel series? (It still works, though. I quite like it as an ending.)
It's quite nifty. It's doing extra-dimensionally ambitious things with a fictional universe that had already been no slouch in that department. It has very likeable leads in Ritsuka and Mash, plus some horrible deaths. If they ever make that anime sequel, I'll watch it.