As part of Fate/Grand Order Fes. 2023, the most recent yearly Japanese convention celebrating all things Fate, we got our newest bit of Fate anime: the Fate/Grand Order – Memorial Movie 2023. Released both at the convention and on YouTube, this nearly four-minute anime music video tells not only a surprisingly emotional tale but adds to the overall Fate lore by showing what it’s like to be summoned from a servant’s point of view.
The basic plot of the short film follows Fate/Grand Order‘s main heroine, Mashu, as she reads the stories of King Arthur, Karna, Arjuna, Alexander the Great, the first Hassan-i-Sabbah, Merlin, Frankenstein, Joan of Arc and Qin Shi Huang.
Each tale starts hopeful—Altria with Merlin and the knights of the round table, Iskandar with his companions on their trail of conquest. But soon, things turn to violence (which some heroes enjoy) and eventually to death. While leaving their marks on the minds of humanity, none of these legendary characters managed to achieve their goals: Iskandar never reached the Pacific; Frankenstein never found the love she longed for; Qin Shi Huang never gained the immortality he sought.
The second half of the anime takes us into the deeper lore of Fate, namely the “Throne of Heroes.” When a person gains enough fame in life due to their heroic (or villainous) deeds, they are freed from the cycle of reincarnation, and their souls are placed in the Throne of Heroes. While this may be a reward for some, it is torture for the many heroes who failed to achieve their goals in life—souls never able to return to Earth and try again, even in a new body with a new personality. They are trapped alone with their regrets in an endless void.
Moreover, with the throne existing outside of time, they can do nothing but sit and watch as everything they knew and loved—everything they built and worked for—crumbles into dust over the centuries. (Even Merlin—who instead sits at his similar prison on the Reverse Side of the World instead of the Throne—is forced to experience the hell of watching the cycle of human brutality and violence repeat again and again.)
There is no escape for any of those in the Throne of Heroes. Their only purpose is to be summoned by the will of the world when the fate of the planet or humanity is at stake and returned the moment the danger has passed—and many may never be called upon at all.
And then comes an unexpected way to escape: Using the Third Magic, the materialization of the soul, heroes (or rather a copy of them) can be forcibly summoned from the Throne. This is most commonly seen in Fate‘s various Grail Wars. However, what we see in this anime is specifically the Chaldea FATE summoning system—which allows the summoning of a large number of servants for an indefinite length of time.
Being summoned by this system is shown as a hand reaching out to these suffering characters of myth and legend, pulling them out of the dark void and towards a giant light in the sky—as their forgotten hopes and dreams reform around them. You, humanity’s last Master, can save every servant from their eternal fate—to give them one more chance to attain their greatest wish and the happiness they had long given up on.
Is it any wonder that no matter how good or evil the servant is—no matter how divine or monstrous—they all befriend you in Fate/Grand Order? They are freed from their eternal prison—and all you ask is for a bit of help in saving the world. And heck, even if they fall in battle, they return to Chaldea instead of the Throne of Heroes. To these servants, Chaldea is heaven, and you are the friend who has brought them there. They have that second chance at life they never even dreamed of having.
With a story so emotional and visually stunning, Fate/Grand Order – Memorial Movie 2023 is a surprisingly solid entry into the Fate franchise. But more than that, it shows hardcore fans the other side of what it means to be summoned—something that adds context to every servant in every incarnation, the greater Fate story.
And with that, there’s only one thing left to do: go blow all your money on Fate/Grand Order‘s gacha summoning system. You wouldn’t want your favorite characters to be stuck in endless emotional pain, would you?