This is a post that I’ve been thinking about for a while. Halfway through the first cour of Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia, I really wanted to write this piece already. Don’t expect me to write out the complete title again in this post, ok? It’s way too long for me to do that continually. Anyway, Even if I had that drive and energy to do it, I wanted to wait until all the series was out for me to have the fun context. My main observation I first noticed was that there was something different to this Gilgamesh in Babylonia. Having been a fate fan for a long time, there is a singular version of Gilgamesh that I’ve always seen on screen. I’ve thought about this a little bit and I think I have enough material in my head to write an article about him.
If you followed me for a while, I did a similar post to this about Frieza from Dragon Ball Super. Yeah, that was a thing that happened. You can check this post out here. You can call this post somewhat of a sequel to that one because I’m going into a different direction. From roaming servants to individual leadership. Frieza’s arc was so much different then the. Either way, these two posts examine when a character have everything they want and free will vs when all of that is taken away. Let’s jump into this, shall we?
Ok, there is no way to go in release order or chronological order because the Fate franchise is a little bit of a mess in terms of continuity. You can’t talk about these shows in release order because of the Studio Deen Fate/Stay Night adaptation and Unlimited Blade Works film from the late 2000’s. You also can’t go chronologically, because Babylonia takes place technically in another time line thousands of years before Fate/Zero. Fun times, right? Welcome to the Fate Franchise. Hope you enjoy your stay.
I’m just going Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night together then Babylonia, ok? I bet there are thousands of other Gilgamesh version out there. It’s fate, why wouldn’t there be? People love Gilgamesh and want to create their alternate versions of him. These are the two-ish version I’m sticking with.
Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night
When we first meet Gilgamesh, he couldn’t be unhappier with appearing in front of Tokiyomi Tohsaka in Fate/Zero. Yes, Fate/Zero is really mean in the way it puts its servants together with masters who don’t click at all. It’s an easy way to build characters, cause character drama, and so many other things before the Holy Grail war even starts. Possibly why it’s still my favorite version of Fate so far because there is a lot of masterful writing in it. We will see how that holds up when I get around to watching the last Heaven’s Feel film. You know, when it’s not delayed.
But anyway, Gilgamesh and Tokiyomi. I can’t help but think about how Gilgamesh resented being picked by an almighty force higher than him in authority to pick a master for him he didn’t get to choose. If you’ve seen how he wears golden armor, stands higher then everyone on his flying chariot, and just pushes his ego on people as much as he wants. As much as Tokiyomi submits to Gilgamesh in order to make Gilgamesh happy, it never feels enough to him. He had no control over his life at all.
In an act of rebellion, that’s when he starts seducing Kirei. (Yes, it’s seducing.) Kirei is a guy with infinite potential, but can’t see it. The guy who could have it all, but has lived enough of a screwed up life where he doesn’t feel see himself doing anything else and was only used by Tokiyomi as a pawn for his own needs. Gilgamesh pushed and pushed and eventually, Kirei went along with everything Gil was selling. He killed Tokiyomi Tohsaka, took Gilgamesh for himself, and even used the power of the church to cheat however he wanted in the Throne. Gilgamesh did it. Kirei was wild and free to do as he wanted. That leads to the end of Zero and ten years into the future with Fate/Stay Night.
I can’t help but think that Fate/Stay Night is the result of Gilgamesh stuck on Earth for ten long years in a world he hates and Kirei slowly gaining more power over Gilgamesh. You know, depending on which route you read/watch/whatever. Whatever you watch changes some things. For instance, in Unlimited Blade Works and the Fate Route, Gilgamesh was angry enough to use his Noble Phantom, Ea. Something he never used in Zero. It’s obviously that his mind state has changed a lot because he was forced into being a shut in in order to walk around the world with power. The difference to me is Kirei and Gilgamesh were still friends in UBW I think? It’s hard to tell. Heaven’s Feel is possibly different because there isn’t enough screen time before he gets offed. Who knows how he was actually like.
Gilgamesh in Babylonia
The Gilgamesh we see in Babylonia seemed like the same character at first. He senses the appearances of the Chaldeans Ritsuka Fujiwara and Mash and knew that our two main characters were after a holy grail. One he has in his possession and another that is somewhere outside his City State of Uruk. The crazy part is during the first part of this anime, this is how he acts. He pushes Fujiwara and Mash down, forces them to work at his city, and then afterwards actually sends them on important missions. They are told that Gilgamesh likes them and I can’t didn’t feel this was genuine until he actually gives them attention.
I’m completely serious about this by the way. Gilgamesh actually spends time with the two adventurers and learns their stories. In Fate/Zero, he does this to Kirei because he wants to manipulate him to do his bidding. I suppose there isn’t that much difference in this case except Gilgamesh is a king and he wants to know whose working for him. He already holds power, why does he have to manipulate people more then sending them on missions? A lot of Babylonia’s entertainment comes from how Fujiwara and Mash perform after they are assigned a job. They achieve their missions in ways Gilgamesh never expected. It’s pretty powerful stuff.
Let’s talk about some stakes here too because this always plays into how Gilgamesh is different. In Babylonia, the stakes are so much higher than in a normal fate series. The usual stakes in a holy grail war involves fighting over a holy grail in order to gain whatever wish you want in the entire world. Not a small thing, but I think fighting over the right for humanity to live is a little larger than that? Just the fact the series takes place in the time of the ancients where gods and monsters beyond modern human understanding exist by themselves is enough to show how serious the threat is here. Normal servants that we know are supernaturally strong can barely do anything against them. The stakes are dire.
It’s so interesting to see Gilgamesh under pressure in this situation compared to when he was under pressure in Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night situations. He never gets angry and always stays focus on what he has to do and where to lead people. Gil just exudes the confidence that you would expect from a leader and he carries that weight well. You can see why an entire city comes to him for guidance and wisdom. What’s even stranger? He never yells at Fujiwara and Mash when they bring home failures and Uruk gets closer to dying. He instead pushes them to succeed better next time because he knows they can do it. The only one who gets tasked with punishment is Ishtar and she’s had a running thing with Gilgamesh so that makes sense in context.
I suppose we could also talk about the fact that Gilgamesh has a friendship/relationship with Enkidu/Kingu, one of our villains, too. You know, depending on how you read that situation at hand and Gilgamesh staring longingly into the distance missing him. I would usually associate that with love myself. Either way, it’s a complicated one that plays a little into what occurs in the anime’s story. I’m not going to tell you specifically though. I’ve been spoiling enough as it is honestly. I’m just going to say, Gilgamesh had a life and a relationship between we met him in the anime and it’s just so fascinating to think about and learn about. I honestly feel like he’s a more complete person here then he ever was in UBW/Zero/Whatever. I know it’s bold to say here, but I think it’s true.
Comparing Frieza and Gilgamesh was never an idea that came to mind until recently, but it’s interesting to see how a person in different states of power changes. These are only two examples of them even if this is a little bit lofty considering the canonicity and differences between the characters. Frieza with and without power is still very different from Gilgamesh with or without power. Maybe it has something to do with how we’ve seen them first? Either way, they almost seem like completely opposite characters in what they want to do and achieve in different situations. I mean, they are fighting over wish granting elements, right? Not that much different. Either way, this was something fun to think about.