Type-Moon's incredible Fate franchise continues in the Grand Order manga, subtitled Mortalis: Stella. Featuring the very popular Mash: Kyrielight as a young recruit to the Chaldea Security Organisation, she works alongside the seemingly hopeless "filler" recruit Ritsuka Fujimaru to protect humanity.
The Chaldea Security Organisation protects the human race by utilising a device that can see 100 years into the future and guarantee our survival, which it does by utilising a new and stable form of time travel to correct any anomalies that arise in our past. The organisation uses "Masters", magi that can summon great spirits to use as servants in their battles, and now we face our greatest challenge - to obtain the Holy Grail and secure the future!
Based on the popular mobile game of the same name, which has also received an anime adaptation available in the UK courtesy of MVM, the book does an excellent job of setting the stage early on. Using new recruits obviously allows for a lot of in-context explanations and world-building, and we're learning along with Ritsuka as Mash takes him through the challenges facing our world. The pace is brisk and the action comes early on with a mysterious altercation with a Rider-class servant (my favourite!) With a little help the pair overcome the battle and their partnership is set going forward.
The book cheats a little, with events in the timestream occurring outside of the regular timeline - this means any interactions in previous Holy Grail Wars will have no impact on their outcome. The anomalies are defeated and the timeline is reset; this allows for complete freedom to use and abuse fan favourite characters without the risk of messing anything up. However it also means that even Fate novices can enjoy the book, as it's a real jumping on point.
One of the great pleasures of any Type-Moon project is the gorgeous design-work that's now baked-in. Mash is one of my favourite Type-Moon designs, I have numerous figures/figma of her, but that's not to say the rest of the cast play second fiddle. Some of Type-Moon's very best work is in here, with Jeanne D'Arc in particular looking absolutely stunning. Artist Shimane does a wonderful job of capturing the sharp lines and allure of the characters, with clear page layouts and action that's (mostly) easy to follow.
By the end of the book, the scope of the threat is revealed, one major character is brutally killed off and the stage is set for a last ditch attempt to save humanity. It all feels rather epic in scope, and the mix of tragedy, hope and resilience are the hallmarks of a great Fate story. Come for the character design, stay for the drama.