I know that I talked about the first half of Fate Apocrypha before on this post, but the second half finally appeared on Netflix a few weeks ago. It’s time to talk fate once again and with high chances on the forecast for me talking about fate again later this year. I know that I am a Fate casual because all I know about fate comes from the large variety of anime adaptions that is attached to this franchise. I have never played the original visual novels or read any of the other forms of source material that had adaptions and things, but I can’t help but find some love for this franchise anyway. I will say this right now, you at least must have watched one holy grail war before this to understand how insane this one is compared to a normal one where all the usual insanity breaks loose. This is not babies first holy grail war. Watch Fate/Zero or some edition of Fate/Stay Night before you jump into this one. I say this partially because Apocrypha doesn’t spend any time explaining itself in terms of plot, partially because this series skips out on a lot of details from its source material apparently, and partially because there are a lot of characters to cover in 25 episodes. The result is a big and loveable mess that isn’t fate baby friendly.
Before I jump into this, do you guys know what a holy grail war is? No, it’s not one of those crusades, anything with King Arthur, or an Indiana Jones movie. It’s a seven-part free for all battle game in which each part is filled up with a master, that is a powerful mage, and a servant that is a magically powerful servant from a part of history and/or mythology. The mage can be categorized in D&D like classes like berserker, assassin, rider, etc. They all fight to become the one master who gets the holy grail and get whatever wish they want granted. Now that you know how insane a holy grail war is, imagine if you have twice the number of masters and servants involved in the conflict. No, this isn’t a free for all yet. First, two teams of seven fight against each other for possession of the holy grail. After the team battle stuff comes the individual combat. That’s right, the supposed winning side must fight amongst themselves for the holy grail. Craziness across the land. That is Fate Apocrypha. Now you understand the insanity behind it all.
I’m going to be honest here, Fate Apocrypha is a little light when it comes to characters. I am not saying that there aren’t some strong characters with strong personalities to them, but this series is only surface leveled with each of them. That means that you might get a sense of how they are and maybe what drives them, but the show never digs deep enough into their psyche to develop them, but I wish they were more than just surface leveled characters. Even if they are conceptually great characters, they don’t really have any bite to them, if you know what I mean. Part of that is because a lot more backstory histories play a better bigger role then actual development. Another part is because there are too many damn characters in this anime and it’s hard to fully develop twenty-eight plus characters in an anime that only has 25 episodes. I don’t think that I want to spend this post talking about all of them, but I will talk about some favorites.
First there is the red master necromancer Shisighou Kiari and his servant Mordred, King Arthur’s son. I wish these two had more time devoted to them, because their father and angry teenager dynamic was something that felt completely natural. Even if they are usually tossed to the side, the two of them are a fun group that bounce off each other very well. Then there is Astolfo, rider of black, one of the knights of Charlemagne. She/he isn’t the toughest or strongest servants out there, but Atsolfo more than makes up for it with his/her incredibly fun personality. Believe me, almost every second on screen is just so much gold. Then there are more neutral characters until later in the story, Sieg the homunculus that goes beyond the normal realms of his kind. He is kind of bland, but how else would you have a character that started out as a nothing be? Those kinds always gain personality on the go. Lastly, there is the ruler class servant that is supposed to be neutral, Joan of Arc. She could have grown more, but her arc centered around learning to love Sieg was kind of interesting. Especially for somebody as pure as her who never tries to get emotionally attached to anyone. Now just remember, these are only five out of many. The insanity is real.
Ok, the visual aspects of this show are definitely worth talking about. Especially about the ending portion when all hell broke loose and all sorts of restraints were let go from an animation stand point. First, I would definitely say that the basic scenery and art style is very good. I mean, they are still the typical Type Moon sorts of character designs, so you know that they are attached to this Fate franchise insanity. Though this is A-1 Pictures and not Ufotable. That means the animation for most of the series doesn’t really compare to the usual Fate stuff and has some cg attached to it from time to time. I mean this show is one fight scene with some minor talking and development followed by even more action kind of series. These animators need some rest eventually. Then episode 22 happens. All the restraint is let go and everything becomes loosey goosey. The animation is incredibly fluid and very expressive, which is needed when animating some of the servant’s maximum power, but you lose a sense of reality, grounding, and character model when it happens. I would give episode 22 and on a plus for what it achieved, but some refinement would be nice.
I should also talk about each half in detail. The first half felt so different from the second half. Netflix did release each part quite a distance from each other, but that has nothing to do with it. Each half is paced so differently from each other. The first half had a good balance of action, intrigue, character stuff, exposition, which is why it flowed better for me. Everything was touched on lightly, which is why I could easily binge watch through it easily. This is so different from the second half which was more clunky. The first half of part two was a sludge fest to go through, because it was more exposition and table setting for the second half. This was of course rewarded with the other whelming spectacle in the action scenes of part 2. I just wish it was a balanced and fun ride all the way through like part one, but what can you do? You can’t always have everything…
Fate Apocrypha is a fun romp of a show. I have the same feelings towards this show that I also have toward most of the second season of Code Geass. It’s a fun ride with a large cast of characters that have enough development to carry to the show through its mess of plot and action. It’s pure anime junk food for me, which is why I can’t help but feel fondly toward it. Fate Apocrypha does try to be more and reach for the stars by attempting to add some moral grayness to the whole affair, but it never fully achieves it because both sides of the conflict are never completely developed to create the atmosphere that Fate Apocrypha wanted to. Still, I can’t stop saying how much fun I had watching this thing. It’s probably the definition of a fun average show.