Fate/Grand Order is a mobile game that launched in 2015; since then not only has it gone on to generate more than $3 billion worldwide, making Fate one of the highest grossing game franchises of all time, but has also now overtaken the original Fate/Stay Night visual novel as its best selling in the series, and was apparently the most tweeted game of 2018, surpassing Fortnite. None of this success, however, has made the game become available in the UK. As of the time of writing it’s available in many English-speaking countries such as the U.S. and Canada but British Fate fans have been sorely ignored. Luckily, as a result of Fate/Grand Order’s success, there have been multiple adaptations that have made their way over to our shores. Last year we got the anime film released by MVM, and now we have its manga adaptation, with Volume 1 available through Kodansha Comics.
The Chaldea Security Organization has one mission: to protect the future and sustainability of the human race with the power of Chaldeas which shows the status of the Earth, and the Masters and Servants’ magecraft used outside of the Holy Grail War. However, a glitch has happened in the past, with the future of the human race now in the balance and a group of magi have been called to travel back into the past to find out what happened and stop it. After a freak accident, only one Master – Ritsuka – and Servant – Mash – survive the explosion and are sent back to save everyone. Do they have the will and skill to succeed?
Despite the manga’s subtitle of ‘mortalis: stella’, this isn’t a spin-off or new story from the Fate/Grand Order game, it’s a straight re-telling of the story in manga form, or, to make it clearer, it is an adaptation of the prologue, which is what the anime film First Order also did. If you’ve seen the anime and were thinking about diving into the manga series to continue the story where it left off, you can do so right after this volume. The first volume covers the entirety of the prologue from the introduction of the main characters to the end of the conflict in Fuyuki City, so if you want to skip re-experiencing the movie, you can skip this volume. Even if you did want to refresh your memory on what happened, I highly recommend you just re-watch the movie as this adaptation is as rushed and bare-boned as they come.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it was an executive decision to try and cram the entire prologue into one book so they could just crack on with the rest of the story, but it’s the wrong call as it suffers for various reasons. One of which is that it shares similar pacing and script problems as the movie but more so; we get rushed-out, unnaturally delivered exposition with Holy Grail terms hastily explained (so it completely reveals itself as not-beginner friendly at all) and not a single moment of action or character beat is given a moment to breathe or develop before rapidly moving onto the next plot point. Secondly, despite Shiramine’s efforts in the art department, the action scenes look flashy but are overall boring, with Saber pretty much giving up in the final battle, and the cool chain attacks Lancer performed in the movie are never seen. Not to mention that the relationship between the two leads, which is meant to be very compelling and touching, is rushed and leaves the reader feeling hollow, as clichéed lines are used to try and bridge a gap in chemistry that just isn’t there in the pages.
Shiramine has no credits outside of another game manga adaption, Tales of Zestiria, but they do a great job at maintaining a consistent art style throughout the book and capturing the unique character designs of all the characters. The recognisable faces of Saber and Caster are represented well, and the new characters introduced in this story are distinct too, despite the little development they have here. Backgrounds could use a bit more personality but considering how fast the plot goes, and how we barely get time to appreciate the moment-to-moment beats, it’s more the pacing’s fault rather than the artist.
Fate/Grand Order -mortalis: stella- is what you’d expect from a soulless manga adaptation of a video game, with pacing too fast to tell a good story, dull action scenes and thinly developed characters. Since we in the UK can’t experience the game first-hand, you’re probably better off re-watching the anime film again, which you can get on home media, or (at the time of writing) watch on Netflix.