I admit this seems like a very simple question but for some reason, I have not only seen this question being asked multiple places but I have personally been asked it multiple times. The question usually is, “I have not played Grand/Order but can I still watch this new Grand Order anime?” The snarky answer is, ” You are your own boss so I cannot and should not force you to do anything.” But that sort of answer rightfully gets you marked as a snarky bastard. The actual answer to the actual question asked is most probably no. If you are asking the question then you probably won’t get the most you could out of watching Babylonia.
I not trying to be a gatekeeper here. I love Type-Moon and honestly have enjoyed the recent explosion in popularity. I have complained that the Type-Moon fandom can be toxic and aggravating but it was toxic and aggravating before the big boom of popularity so I can’t say that there was any change for the worse. Now there are just more of everything Type-Moon related.
It is just that there are so many better places to either experience the Type-Moon universe for the first time or to be your next stop after you tried a previous entry. With titles like Fate/Zero, Unlimited Blade Works, or Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family you have so many directions to go in if you just want more Fate stuff. I would argue that even Carnival Phantasm would be a better next step. I have really enjoyed Babylonia from what I have watched but I have also been playing the game since the first day it came out. If you have not experienced a good deal of the first story arc of Grand Order you’re going to be missing some important context that makes all the difference.
For a little context to explain why you need that context I have to explain the history of Grand Order and how it lead to the first TV series being about the 7th chapter of a game. Mobile games are not usually known for their complex and compelling story. In fact, anything beyond a bare-bones story is usually a big win. Grand Order actually came out of the game fairly strong in comparison to a lot of what was on the market. It had a decent amount of lore, character, and plot. The prologue chapter was a good start. Then there were the first five chapters of the game.
Now the first five were not horrible but they were also not up to the standards of what you would expect from Type-Moon. Orleans was a very standard plot with some moment so brilliance. Septem is often considered the weakest chapter of the game and really goes out of its way to “Mary Sue” Nero. Okeanos, London, and E Pluribus Unum are distinct improvements but still felt thin compared to even some of the lesser Type-Moon games. So while the game was raking in the cash hand over fist the fans were grumbling that oddly enough the silly Holiday events were better written than the main story. And that is when Nasu started taking a much more active role in writing the games.
Camelot was the first chapter was Nasu did a lot of heavy lifting on the story. He did not write everything but you can see his fingerprints directly on the work as opposed to just some touch-ups on key scenes. That chapter blew away most people and showed that Grand Order could provoke the same thought and emotion that any other Fate series could. Then Babylonia came and topped Camelot.
So if you look at what has come out of Grand Order the difference is very obvious. There are some mid-tier manga based on Grand Order from the start but all the stage shows, anime, and merchandise either ignores or minimizes the first five chapters. Camelot and Babylonia were the chapters people loved and they are what gets the lion share of attention.
Now as it stands each chapter can be seen as an individual story with a bigger plot happening at the same time. Every story has a few key helper characters for the protagonist as well as an antagonist with their own plots and goals. So TECHNICALLY one could see each chapter as its own story. That would be very incorrect but it is easy to see why you could think that. The main problem is the matter of context I mentioned before.
Even if they were weaker there is a good deal of buildup of tension, stakes, and information in the previous chapters that lend a good deal of impact to what happens in the later chapters. While Camelot and Babylonia are impressive they are far more impressive because of what they use as a foundation. They have hinted at it but overall it means so much less if you have not experienced it. It is clear they decided to cut the filler and dig in on the killer. But in doing so they sort of made this a Grand Order players only anime.
Now there is nothing stopping you from jumping in here. It would just be like jumping into the Cell Saga of Dragonball Z without seeing anything of Dragonball before that point. You could do it but you are going to scratch your head about a lot of things and certain events that should be more meaningful have a chance to bounce right off of you. I know that people due to various circumstances have started long-running shonen shows in the middle and still become fans. The thing is no one would actively suggest you start that way with most series. Other than some strange corner cases most people would say you should start at the beginning and then move forward.
Theoretically, you could do a bunch of supplemental research watching lets plays, reading the manga, reading summaries of the plot, or playing the game to get the proper context but at that point, it is clear that you are hell-bent on watching this so there is no talking you of this. For everyone else, if you have not experienced Grand Order before this point just move on. If these do really well maybe they will go back and animate the first five chapters. Until then there is so much more Fate than does not require that much on-boarding.