When I was just a little larva my favorite subject in sea-school was history. Learning about the great heroes of the land dwellers. Mythology fascinated me even more, so in a way my history teacher, the horse-punching-seahorse, was responsible for turning me into a weeb!
You see when I started with anime I started with Bleach and Naruto like a near normie.
However my school-buddies where so much further in those series I caught many spoilers.
It was cool but it did not complete my transition to the geek-side. Then after receiving a major spoiler for Bleach, I looked up something new in my frustration. A series called Fate/Stay Night. Back then it blew me away! And the rest is history!
Always bet on Black?
The word Apocrypha means works of unknown and/or doubtful origin. Usually used for biblical tales the protestants classify some works as apocrypha while the catholics do not. Though there are subtle differences the best modern word to describe apocrypha is non-canon. It is a good way to describe the setting of this series as it steers away from any events so far in the entire fate series. In fact the fourth grail war never happened. Gilgamesh and Arthur never battled as during the third Grail War the famous relic went missing.
Now we jump back to the early 2000’s. The time of the fifth grail war in the original series. The world has changed a lot due to the lack of grail wars. The Mage’s association has lost quite a bit of power and some major families have separated from their ranks.Yggdmillennia being the most prominent ones to do so, start their own faction now known as the black faction, as more and more families join their ranks.
As it turns out this family are the current owners of the grail, but to decide where the grail truely belongs a Great Grail war begins. Now the black faction faces of against the mage’s association’s red faction in an all out battle. Both sides get to summon all servant classes. So this time the grail war we get to witness is seven versus seven. As I haven’t read the light novel I am going into this series blank. From the get go this show starts off strong, introducing us to both sides and their heroes.
With people like Vlad the impaler on the side of Black, we instantly get a villainous feeling from their side. With the son/daughter (it’s a FATE thing) of Arthur Pendragon being on the Red side we strongly get heroic vibes from that. However in the following episodes that faith is shaken. With an alternate Shiro (sure he has a different last name but the white hair and tanned skin but at least its a strong refference) on the Red side, who might very well become the main villain and with some of the kindest heroes and more fleshed out masters on the black side, this great Grail War is anybody’s game.
Adding a potential protagonist that is on neither side and a major deviation in the story compared to the opening we saw, I have no clue where the story will take us and that is a very good thing. I am eager to see who will win.
Less is More?
This series is faced with the gargantuan task of introducing us to a monster cast. After all double the heroes means doubles the cast.
The older FATE series where so good because of the master and servant relationships and the tale behind all of them. With 15 heroes, 14 masters and a homunculus, Apocrypha has to introduce us to 30 character that play a major role in this series. This is an impossible task and luckily the series knows this and doesn’t strive to do so. The red faction only shows us two masters which already saves them from fleshing out too much, their heroes are (for now) less highlighted as well.
The black faction suffers a loss of a master very early and the perspective seems to focus on their Rider. The Red faction shows us the story surrounding a necromancer and his servant Saber and the neutral faction introduces us a ‘new’ servant class in the form of Ruler. A innocent boy make his appearance as a fourth focus and on occasion we see Shiro make his moves.
By following these characters we get a surprising amount of backstories for everyone and with some smart character choices it does feel like a complete and well rounded cast, without their being to many redundancies. Sure there are some characters that feel less important , like caster and lancer from the red faction, but it’s not that bothersome. I am slightly concerned about the pacing though.
With 25 episodes planned the show has about a many episodes as Fate/Zero and Ultimate Bladeworks but twice as many heroes to kill off. Meaning that at least every two episodes or so a hero needs to die. With the death’s I’ve seen so far I felt less engaged compared to the deaths in the other FATE series. There I arguably one exit stage left, that can bring about some feels but it feels a bit limited still. Sure it’s only been a few episodes but Tengen Toppa showed us you can kill off characters early and still have it matter. This feels a lot thinner than that. Perhaps it’s because I am not rooting for anyone yet..well there is one character I really like but I would not be able to point a finger to the main protagonist, though if I’d have to now it would be the innocent boy , later named Sieg.
This is a bit of a double edged sword, as it sort of decreases that “LET’S DO IT MC” feeling you get from series like Dragonball , Tengen Toppa and Kill la Kill, yet at the same time keeps you on your toes as that certainty that your beloved character will make it to the end is swept away from you.
The Game Of Thrones feeling gives this rendition of the Fate/world a whole new vibe. So all in all I would have to say it gets away with its overly large cast.
War what is it good for?
This series has a different feeling as it’s bigger sisters, the war that is going on now doesn’t only apply to the mages but we can see the red faction actually laying siege and planning, while black has golems and homunculi as an army. This adds some grandeur to the anime and really lets it feel like it’s own thing. It allows the show to be a bit darker, with less or no focus at romance this time. In that respect it is closer to Fate/Zero then Fate/Stay (both versions) and I like it. Though there is potential for a romance at least right now it doesn’t seem to be a focal point , which I felt dragged down the Stays a bit. This is a show that is about the action, politics and dirty tactics that are behind a war. As a setting I find it more immersive the whole romance thing.
The heroes chosen seem to reflect this a lot as well, most of them commanded armies or fought in great wars. I do find myself being endeared by the more whimsical heroes though. I love Berserker and Rider of Black most. On the red side Saber is okay but a tad vanilla. Ruler is a great servant but slightly too much of a historical female trope in anime series to really love her.
Though I like the look of the series some of the heroes have a very very generic design. Caster from Red I found horrible he’s not even a hero!
Though the same can be said of Berserker of black that just works! This doesn’t. I won’t spoil many name of heroes as I find finding their identities part of the charm of this show. F/A is rather obvious with the names though, I think after episode two or three you know them all which is a bit of a shame yet with the full roster a wise call nonetheless.
Visually the show can’t measure op to the other Fate/series. Noble phantasms (so far) are not as epic and magic happens less visually, this time it’s just shooting a fireball instead of casting it. Which again given the war theme makes sense but still is noticeable.
The voice acting is nicely done and diverse but it never achieves excellence. Though I love how expressive the mute is with just some grunts. The opening has one of the worst musical scores I have seen in an opening so far, it just feels so busy and vocals and music do not seem to match up very well. The vocals aren’t impressive either. As for music in general it so far lacks a bit of power, then again we haven’t seen many epic battles yet so it’s hard to judge.
In conclusion I would say this is a fine anime to watch, but it’s a diamond in the rough. A diamond that isn’t as shiny as the other fate/diamonds , that gets put on this really ornate ring to distract from it’s flaws, yet that same ring will also distract a bit from its rough beauty.