The Stories Behind Fate/Apocrypha's Servants of Blackby Gabriella Ekens,
Welcome to the first part of our Fate Fridays feature on the stories behind the heroic spirits of Fate/Apocrypha! After detailing the legends behind Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night last time, Fate/Apocrypha presented me with a double-stuffed Grail War that features sixteen different servants. So for the sake of convenience (as well as my sanity) we've split the whole thing up into two pieces, just like the two factions of the Great Holy Grail War. This first article will cover Team Black as well as Ruler Jeanne, who isn't aligned with these guys but nonetheless more convenient to discuss this week. Of course, this editorial will be filled with SPOILERS for Fate/Apocrypha's first twelve episodes.
This Black faction is led by Darnic Prestone Yggdmillenia, the leader of the Yggdmillennia clan. Darnic has been plotting this Grail War for nearly a century in order to get back at the Mages' Association for slighting him and his bloodline. He's accepted a ragtag group of reject mages into his family, and together they're prepared to flip off the entire wizarding world and take the Root for themselves. Since they're a bunch of alienated assholes with something to prove, these guys tended to summon servants who are also considered defective or alienated in some regard. Doubtful authenticity (aka being apocryphal) is a theme for this series, so I'll run down how each individual servant fits into this pattern. Most of Fate/Apocrypha's first half is aligned with the Black faction's POV, so it was the natural choice to discuss first and serve as a nice buffer for the more spoiler-heavy discussion of Team Red next week.
Siegfried is the main character of the Nibelungenlied, a German epic poem from the High Middle Ages (1050-1350 AD). It's important to note that he is not the same person as Sigurd, a character in the Icelandic Volsunga Saga. While roughly contemporary, these works are separate retellings of a much older Northern European legend, which is thought to date back to the 5th century and concern the Burgundian royal family. I bring this up because the widespread confusion of these two works – which were mixed-and-matched to create the most well-known version of this story today, Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) – is brought up within the Nasuverse. Sigurd's lover, Brynhildr (as opposed to the equivalent character in the Nibelungenlied, Brünhild, who is only Siegfried's sister-in-law) shows up in Fate/Grand Order and acknowledges Siegfried as a different person. The events related in the Volsunga Saga and the Nibelungenlied are close to identical, and Fate/Apocrypha's Siegfried is implied to originate from the German version of the story.
It's also worth mentioning that Siegfried's character in Fate/Apocrypha originates from parts of the Nibelungenlied that the story didn't really emphasize. For example, he's not even the story's protagonist – that would be Kriemhild, Siegfried's wife who isn't even mentioned in this anime. The Nibelungenlied concerns itself with the events of their courtship, Siegfried's assassination, and Kriemhild's years-long bloody vengeance quest to get back at the folks who killed her husband. Siegfried's previous feats of heroism, like slaying Fafnir, are all background material. So this version of the character integrates aspects from the other versions, expanding upon Sigurd/Siegfried's childhood more.
So Siegfried is the crown prince of a place called Xanten. He went on lots of adventures as a kid, and at one point even killed a dragon, Fafnir. He bathed in its blood, becoming immune to harm, Achilles-dipped-in-the-river-Styx style. (You'll hear more about that legend next week.) But like Achilles, he missed a spot, leaving him vulnerable on a specific part of his back. Eventually, Siegfried falls in love with Kriemhild, the sister of King Gunther. Gunther lets Siegfried marry his sister on the condition that he help him get with Brünhild, the crazy badass queen of a neighboring kingdom who won't marry anyone unless they can beat her in feats of strength. Gunther sucks so he can't do it himself, but Siegfried is awesome and helps the guy take down Brünhild with trickery. Everything works out, resulting in two weddings. Later on, however, Kriemhild and Brünhild get into a fight over whose husband is cooler. In order to win, Kriemhild tells Brünhild that Siegfried was actually the one who passed all those feats of strength and even deflowered her right after. (This last effort got rid of her super strength, apparently. A woman's power is stored in her hymen, and once that's gone, her limbs become rubbery noodles.) Brünhild is humiliated, and Gunther is pressured into exacting revenge on Siegfried for cuckolding him. Eventually, Kriemhild is tricked into marking her husband's weak spot, getting him speared in the back during a hunting trip. This makes Kriemhild extremely angry, so she spends the rest of the poem plotting and enacting an elaborate revenge against her brother and his men. It's pretty metal.
Fate/Apocrypha's version of Siegfried doesn't seem informed by many of that story's juicy details. The emphasis isn't on any of the revenge stuff, but rather on Siegfried's early adventures, which the Nibelungenlied didn't describe all that much. In that light, he's considered an ultra-capable guy who sees himself responsible for helping those less fortunate – and considering his superpowers, that's everyone. This makes him most similar to Team Red's Lancer, Karna, as well as Fate/stay night's Archer. While the original legends don't depict him as being overburdened with helping peasants, Siegfried may have done too much to help Gunther with the perhaps unwise task of seducing Brünhild, by our modern interpretations. He thus falls into a familiar mold for Fate characters: the guy who tried too hard and died because it's humanly impossible to try that hard.
At least he achieves a sort of reincarnation through his transformation into Sieg. The homunculus is given one task by the servants who rescue him: to live for his own sake, rather than for any purpose determined by others. In this way, he'll achieve what Siegfried couldn't in his life, as well as the right that was taken away from him at birth as an Yggdmillennia homunculus. It's an apt little arc for a guy who only gets four episodes of screentime.
LANCER: Vlad III
Easily one of the most infamous figures to participate in this Grail War, Vlad the Impaler hardly needs an introduction. Of the servants approaching him in prominence, he's one of the few who was an actual historical figure, which means that there's a lot of available info.
Vlad the III was the real-life ruler of Wallachia (an area in current-day Romania) during the 15th century. At the time, Hungary (an older kingdom) and the Ottoman Empire (a bunch of conquering upstarts) were warring over territories, including Wallachia. Vlad spent his adolescence in the Ottoman Empire as a hostage to ensure the loyalty of his father, Wallachia's king. When his dad died, however, Vlad took advantage of the succession crisis to try and seize power for himself. After several attempts, his reign finally stuck, and Vlad embarked on a bloody campaign to consolidate his rule. While purging your enemies is already pretty gnarly by nature, he didn't start using his famed method of execution – impalement – until a little later, during his conflicts with the Saxons and the Ottoman Empire. He began skewering Saxon villages en masse in a phenomenon that we now call “genocide.” At one point, the Sultan's invading army received quite a scare when they walked into a “forest of the impaled”, in which “about twenty thousand men, women, and children had been spitted.” (Allegedly, the Sultan was impressed by this, which says a lot about public leadership at the time.) In Fate/Apocrypha, this event becomes Vlad's Noble Phantasm, Kazikli Bey, which allows him to recreate his “forest” to subject his foe to the concept of impalement itself. It's pretty brutal.
Vlad stuck around for a few more years after that, until Hungary's leadership decided that he was too much of a freak and they locked him up. While he got out a few more times, he pretty much died in this compromised state. In Romania, he's now remembered as a founding hero. But throughout the rest of the world – who heard tell of his violent deeds via the medieval equivalent of tabloids – he's become inextricably associated with vampiric legend as Vlad Dracul, the little dragon. This is largely due to Bram Stoker's Dracula novel, which was partially inspired by the Wallachian king. As Lancer of Black, Vlad is mostly the historical figure, although his infamy as a bloodsucker does allow him to manifest those traits if he wants. The catch is that he really doesn't want to – Vlad hates that association and wants to erase it from history. He even threatens to kill his master should he try to force him into becoming Dracula. Of course, this causes problems when the two of them get pushed into a corner.
Vlad III's portrayal in Fate/Apocrypha is an optimistic take on the historical figure. He's made out as a dedicated king whose brutal actions were all in service of defending his nation. It's more likely that IRL Vlad was your run-of-the-mill power-hungry sadist, but those types don't make for great drama. As Lancer of Black, Vlad III has an interesting dynamic with his master, Darnic. It's easy to see why this guy summoned him – they're both sophisticated, authoritarian patriarchs who go to horrific lengths to protect what's “theirs,” be that territory or a lineage. Unfortunately for Darnic, his name is way less cool than “Vlad Dracul,” so I doubt his legend will spread all that far. “Once upon a time there was a guy named Darnic Prestone Yggdmillennia. His wizard coworkers told him that nobody would ever marry him because his name was too stupid – which was true – so he embarked on a century-long quest to show them up by reaching the root of all existence. He was one of the first to die in the war he started.”
One final thing to note about Vlad is that, since this Grail War takes place on his home turf of Romania, his powers get a major boost. A servant's skills increase in proximity to the site of their legend, and being at home base lets Vlad use his impalement powers over a mile-wide radius. That's the main reason he can go head-to-head with Karna, who's one of the most powerful servants you could possibly summon. As soon as Karna lures him onto enemy ground, Vlad's ensuing power downgrade leads to his untimely fate. Darn it, Darnic. You could have let him go out with dignity! And so Vlad, who was mistaken for a vampire in life, becomes a real vampire after his death due to the force of that reputation. Thems the breaks when you kill thousands and thousands of people.
So in Greek mythology, centaurs are a race of crazy rowdy assholes who exclusively follow their basest instincts, which means being huge jerks all the time. The exception to this was Chiron, the one good and pretty smart centaur. If there's an explanation for this, it's that Chiron is the product of the titan Cronus impregnating a lady while shapeshifted into a horse, while the other centaurs were born because some other dude porked a cloud. (It's really impossible to predict the outcome of putting your dick in something when you're a mythological being.)
Chiron was raised by Artemis and Apollo, who taught him everything from medicine to fighting to musical theater. After this, he dedicated himself to teaching, with many Greek heroes as his students. Most notably for our purposes, he taught Achilles, who happened to be summoned by the Red Faction in this Grail War. Due to their shared past experiences, Chiron is capable of countering this renowned hero in hand-to-hand combat. As master and pupil, the two of them were especially close, with Achilles being present at Chiron's death. Afterwards, Zeus turned the legendary teacher into the constellation Sagittarius, which depicts him wielding his bow. Chiron's Noble Phantasm, Antares Snipe, is a reference to this constellation and its role in the iconography of archery.
While Chiron was originally immortal, he gave up on eternal life after being poisoned with hydra blood. Herakles – another one of his students – had mistaken him for one of those bad centaurs and shot him with a poison arrow. Since this poison apparently hurts like hell (even if you don't die) Chiron chose to pass on. Thanks, Herakles.
Now that he's in the war, Chiron's wish is to regain his immortality – not out of any desire to live longer, but because he considers it to have been a gift from his parents. That's actually pretty sweet. It must be rough when your dad is the deposed king of the gods, and your mom turns into a tree out of disgust for having birthed a freaky horse baby (really). I'm sure the poor guy was lonely. Schoolyard bullying must be rough when you literally have a horse's ass.
Chiron's pedagogical experience informs his relationship with his master, Fiore. He mentors her, while she graciously accepts his teachings. It's probably the most harmonious master-servant relationship in the show, albeit not the most interesting. (Nothing against these two, but "pleasantly equal" is not the kind of master-servant dynamic that draws me to Fate. I prefer “wingman soulmates,” “belligerent sexual tension,” or “ready to murder each other at all times.”) Still, there are a few neat things about their bond. It's implied that Fiore harbors some feelings for Chiron, and they do have some romantic chemistry. Also, am I the only one to suspect that Fiore totally summoned Chiron with the intent of riding his horse body? Between them, they have the standard number of working legs for two people – it would have been perfect! I think we were all disappointed when he popped out of the summon portal with a regular old man bottom. I'm not normally one to scoff at the male ass, but you can't tell me that this setup wouldn't have been awesome:
Chiron ties into the theme of “fakes” by not having a horse butt. Seriously, you can't write mythology's most famous centaur into your story and leave out the horse butt. My Grail wish is to give Chiron back his horse butt so that Fiore can ride him (or ride him depending on what she's into) majestically across the plains.
And now for the show's true hero, the extremely affectionate and eternally helpful Astolfo! While Jeanne and (maybe) Mordred are Fate/Apocrypha's proper poster characters, I consider Astolfo the show's mascot. After all, if he hadn't surreptitiously decided to save a random homunculus, the central plot thread would never have started! He's just a great guy to help a bro out like that, even standing by his new friend when his bosses insist that he knock if off. He seems like the only servant who knows how to make proper use of the Grail War – it's a several week vacation where you fight in a conflict largely divorced from you that lets you fart around in the modern world during your time off. You probably won't win, but there won't be any consequences when you get sent back to the Grail in the end. Easy peasy.
Astolfo is one of the more obscure heroes to be summoned in this Grail War. In life, he was one of the twelve paladins of Charlemagne – the founder of the Carolingian Empire and ancestral French hero – as depicted in the fictional Carolingian Cycle. It's important to note that Astolfo isn't particularly prominent in these early medieval stories, which focus more on the traditionally “knightly” paladins, like Roland and Oliver. The spritely Astolfo that we know was mostly invented by Renaissance playwrights as comic relief for their own (sometimes comedic) adaptations of these legends. His feminine demeanor comes from one of these stories – at one point, Astolfo dresses as a woman in an attempt to draw his comrade Roland out of a fit of lovesick madness. In the Nasuverse, it turns out that he enjoyed dressing like this, so the look stuck. He's also said to have been the most handsome of Charlemagne's paladins, which is certainly evident from his appearance in-show, as well as his popularity within the fandom. Really, who could hate this face?
In other adventures, he enslaves a giant with his magic flute and flies a hippogriff to the moon. He also obtained his signature lance and a magical spell book from similar escapades. Now all these objects serve as his Noble Phantasms, which operates as a bag of tricks with varying options. Since he lacks fame, he isn't all that powerful in single combat, so he must rely on this sort of trickery to get ahead. Unfortunately, he's also kind of a ditz. But on the bright side, his unqualified kindness and good cheer – rare traits in this world of psychotic, ambitious mages – allow him to rack up unexpected allies. When everyone else is an asshole wizard in possession of five different ways of blowing up the earth, maybe all it takes to win people over to your side is having a decent personality.
While not a fake exactly, Astolfo can come off as a half-baked servant and paladin in comparison to his peers. Then again, this tenuous connection to the theme might be the point. If the overarching theme of this show is “fake, duplicated, or inadequate people trying to come to terms with their identities,” then Astolfo is a great example of someone who's comfortable with himself regardless of what other people think.
Solomon ibn Gabirol (romanized as Avicebron) was an 11th century Jewish philosopher from the south of Spain. While little is known about his life, he's thought to have been a sickly prodigy who composed most of his works during the first few decades of his life. The resulting meditations seem like a pretty straightforward bathroom read, as you can see from the following summary:
But really, Caster of Black isn't all that rooted in the historical Solomon ibn Gabirol. He's just seen as an important historical Jewish guy that can be used as a vehicle for bringing that flavor of mysticism into this syncretic free-for-all. He's credited with inventing Kabbalah in the Fate universe, which isn't at all true to my knowledge. While Kabbalah is just another magical system in Fate, it's actually considered a set of techniques for interpreting the Hebrew bible and using knowledge to become one with God in our world. (Or something like that. If you have a good two-sentence summary of Kabbalah, please inform me. I have never found one.)
The Nasuverse hasn't pursued Jewish mysticism all that often, but it's rife for integration into the franchise's highly systematized articulations of mumbo-jumbo. Otherwise, the show's usage of Kabbalah has some added resonance in that Darnic is implied to be Jewish. That's how the story justifies his brief alliance with the Nazis, since he was just using them for his own purposes (obtaining the Greater Grail) and screwed them over as soon as he got it. This is also meant to explain his taste in decor – there's a menorah in every single room of this dude's house. Maybe that's why he needs so many homunculi minding the place; someone needs to keep all these damn candles lit all the time.
My favorite thing about Caster of Black is how much his combat style emphasizes golems, (reflecting Avicebron's thematic role as a "maker of fakes" who sees them as more real and perfect than humanity.) Golems are some of my favorite mythological creatures, and they go tragically misrepresented by most of their modern portrayals. While they're now mostly used as cannon fodder in Dungeons and Dragons-style fantasies, they were originally conceived as benevolent creatures that Jewish people created in order to protect themselves from persecution. In one story, a Rabbi built a golem out of river mud to protect the Jewish people of Prague from either expulsion or execution. It worked, and according to legend, the golem's body is still kept in the attic of the synagogue where he lived. Unfortunately, Fate/Apocrypha's golems are just violent mooks, but golem-like themes do pop up around a number of other characters. There's the homunculus army, for example, but also another servant, Berserker of Black, whose own story may have been inspired by the Golem of Prague.
BERSERKER: Frankenstein's Monster
That's right, it's Frannie! In Fate/Apocrypha's most egregious gender-bend (Mordred's sex was already implied by her female father, while the Ripper's true identity remains unknown), Frankenstein's infamous monster was actually a lady in the Nasuverse. That's not so outlandish a concept if you're familiar with the past 80 years of pop culture. The film Bride of Frankenstein came out in 1935, ushering the female counterpart of the Victorian era's most iconic sin against nature into the popular imagination. All Fate does really is mash the Bride up with the original.
Remember that rule they had back in Fate/stay night, where servants had to be real people and not fictional characters? Yeah, that doesn't exist anymore. Although to be fair, Frankenstein was real in the Nasuverse – and not even all that exceptional. If her side of the fight uses tons of artificial humans as a battery source, what makes her so special? Well, she has super shock powers, granted to her by her still-unusual birth as an electrified patchwork of deceased human flesh. These abilities are pretty weak by servant standards, but they can still do a lot of damage under certain circumstances. Saber of Red learns this the hard way, when turning her back on the Berserker nearly gets her blasted back to Avalon.
The Fate version of Victor Frankenstein tried to recreate the biblical Eve by zapping a corpse back to life. It worked, but not like he wanted – instead of turning out the perfect woman, Frannie was born infantile, with no preexisting knowledge of human morality, emotion, or even communication. It's kind of what you'd expect from that situation, but Victor seems to have had a serious case of inflated expectations. He immediately starts freaking out over having created such a “hideous monster” and tries to get as far away from Frannie as possible. Our girl just can't understand why daddy won't love her. Lonely in life, she begs her creator for a male companion. When he refuses, Fran starts murdering everyone Victor knows in an attempt to coerce him. In the end, this pursuit drives them to the ends of the earth,
Aside from the gender swap, Frannie's backstory is largely accurate to Mary Shelley's 1818 novel. Idiot scientist tries to play god, makes a monster, is a jerk to the monster, and they both die horrible lonely deaths. The big difference is that OG Frankenstein actually learned to talk and became quite articulate. That wouldn't be as moe though, so Frannie is limited to grunts and monosyllables, which is admittedly pretty cute.
Honestly, after such a miserable (un)life, it's nice to see Frannie develop a real human connection with her master, Caules (named I assume for having no cow). Much like Fiore and Chiron, Frannie and Caules have some romantic chemistry between them. It doesn't amount to much – it couldn't, considering the situation they're in – but they do get a nice moment near the end. As Caules steels himself for Frannie's necessary sacrifice, he realizes just how much he's grown to care for her. Frannie, meanwhile, passes somewhat contentedly, having achieved her wish of being wanted by someone. Much like Siegfried, her death is significant, with ramifications that will lead up to the story's eventual conclusion. Poor Frannie. At least she got a proper dad in Fate/Grand Order: legendary criminal James Moriarty, who decides to help her during a summertime beach front drag race.
ASSASSIN: Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper is perhaps history's most infamous serial killer, notorious for the mystery behind their identity, which has never been solved. People are still poring over details to try and figure out who could've killed those women more than a century ago. While it's probably a futile effort by now, the legacy of this crime has resulted in plenty of interesting fiction over the years.
Here's the facts of the case: in 1888, six women were murdered around the Whitechapel district of London. They were all sex workers found in the same state, with their throats slit and abdomens mutilated. The media was swept into a frenzy by this heinous act – something that only intensified when the killer (or someone pretending to be them) began sending taunting letters to London newspapers. They likely cannibalized their victims, and one newspaper even received a half-eaten kidney alongside the perpetrator's missives. Coverage of the crime soon became a worldwide phenomenon, since its particulars – dead women, prostitutes, cannibalism, urban poverty, etc. – created a perfect storm for sensationalist notoriety. While the crime was never solved, it stuck hard in the public imagination. Now the Ripper is commonly employed whenever a work of art needs to evoke a kind of violence that's equal parts savage, salacious, and anonymous.
Jack the Ripper is complicated in Type-Moon, because there's more than one, and the different versions don't render each other illegitimate. In a situation similar to Fate/stay night's messed-up summoning of the possibly-fictional Sasaki Kojiro, the various Jacks are all approximations of who the actual Ripper might have been, according to various theories on the subject. This Jack in particular represents someone's idea that the murders were an act of revenge by the spirits of all the unwanted babies drowned in the river Thames by Victorian London's many prostitutes. Yeah, not all theories are winners, but at least that explains why she's a little girl. (It does not explain why she doesn't wear pants.)
Jack is the Black Faction's absentee servant, operating separately because her intended master totally botched the summoning. He tried to entice the Grail (praise be to gacha) into giving him Jack by murdering a prostitute, Reika Rikudo, as a catalyst. However, Jack instead responded to Reika's overwhelming will to live and took her on as a master instead. The two took an immediate liking to one another, killed that other guy, and went off to party/halfheartedly attempt to win the Grail War. Also, Reika bought Jack some actual clothes, which she unfortunately does not wear in combat.
These two fall into the Ryuunosuke/Gilles de Rais master-servant archetype established by Fate/Zero. While it's hard to top that hellish bromance, there is some charm to watching Jack live with a mommy who loves her, albeit for a rather short amount of time. The only problem is that since Reika can't provide Jack with enough magical energy on her own, Jack needs to go out and eat people's hearts to survive. That's not so bad, since she mostly targets mages, who are almost exclusively assholes and often lured by going after ladies walking on their own late at night. Under these circumstances, Jack is basically performing a public service. Really, the main reason to dislike these two is just how aggressively Jack DOES NOT WEAR PANTS. I do not want to see a little girl running around in a G-string. Sorry Chiron, that's my new wish for the Holy Grail: GIVE JACK SOME PANTS.
Jack's wish, of course, is to go back to the womb. That's why she cut up those ladies all those years ago – she was trying to find a way back into their abdomens. (Ew.) Now this manifests as her Noble Phantasm: Maria the Ripper, which allows her to instakill female targets on misty nights. She can summon mist (actually a recreation of 18th-century London's toxic smog) at will, which makes satisfying these requirements somewhat easier. She functions a little like Vlad in this way, since her Noble Phantasm is the very concept of her iconic crime. Now if only she were a little more like Vlad and WORE PANTS. (I will never let this go.)
As an aside, Fate's other Ripper – from Ryohgo Narita's Fate/strange Fake light novels – is pretty interesting in his own right. Representing the very concept of the mystery behind Jack the Ripper's identity, he can take on any form speculated to have been the killer. This goes to all the crazy places you might expect from the writer of Durarara!! and Baccano!. I look forward to the possibility of these books getting an anime adaptation someday, so I can write a piece on all those legends as well.
RULER: Jeanne D'Arc
Since Fate/Apocrypha's other Ruler is officially aligned with Team Red (I warned you about spoilers!), I'll be listing Jeanne as a member of Black. Like the last couple Servants on this list, she's basically famous enough not to need much introduction – a quality that will become less common when we switch over to Red. As part of this special master-less class in the war, she's subject to certain requirements, which I'll discuss later. For now, who exactly was Jeanne d'Arc?
Called “Joan of Arc” in English, Jeanne was a French hero and martyr during the Hundred Years' War. An ordinary peasant woman who believed that she had received instructions from God on how to defend her nation, her reputation was established when she correctly predicted the outcomes of various battles. Due to this, she was eventually granted an audience with King Charles VII, who agreed to let her march into battle. (This extremely unusual decision was probably a desperation move on his part, since England was thoroughly in control of the war, and all conventional tactics for turning the tide had long been exhausted.) She was sent to the city of Orléans – a crucial stopping point – to help with their failing siege. When the French side miraculously held out, it was attributed to her presence.
Jeanne's actual martial prowess is disputed by historians, but her actions are undoubtedly impressive for a random teenager with no education to speak of. While she didn't fight offensively, she displayed great bravery by charging into battles with her banner aloft, greatly inspiring her fellow troops. She was injured several times, and generals took her strategic advice, which is thought to have been quite sound. She's certainly a remarkable figure, not the least for being 17 years old when she accomplished her most notable feats. It's like if Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games had been a real person and also super into Jesus.
In the end, Jeanne was burned at the stake by her own countrymen. A pro-England faction of the clergy took power and wanted to get rid of her ASAP. They tried to frame her as a heretic, but they couldn't find anything blasphemous about her conduct. At first, they tried to convict her on charges of crossdressing – a practice she had taken up in order to avoid sexual assault. When that didn't wash, they tried to trick her into saying something bad according to the minutia of Church theology, but she swatted away all their pedantic traps. Remember: this was an illiterate peasant girl. Rather than being covered up, these incidents were documented, detailing an account where the entire court was left stupefied. It took many days of arguing and a tangled wad of loopholes for her accusers to ultimately justify putting her to death.
Jeanne was burnt at the stake in 1431, at 19 years of age. She was instantly martyred, and the Catholic Church overturned her original trial several decades later. She was eventually canonized as a Saint to become one of the most recognizable figures in history. In the centuries after her death, fictional portrayals of Jeanne D'Arc became common. Hundreds of plays, films, novels, and of course anime have been written about her. By these standards, Fate/Apocrypha Jeanne is a fairly typical depiction of the character – a kind and virtuous young woman who strictly follows the rules handed down to her (whether by the Grail or by God). The fact that she has no regrets about her life – and thus no wish for the Grail – makes her an ideal referee for a contest where the prize is having your deepest desire granted.
In battle, her abilities are mostly defensive. When she plants her battle standard, Luminosité Eternelle, on the ground, it creates an impenetrable barrier that protects the surrounding area. (She uses this to save Sieg and Astolfo when Berserker of Red explodes in the anime.) However, she also possesses an offensive Noble Phantasm – the sword La Pucelle – which unleashes the concept of her execution-by-fire upon a target. This skill is very powerful, but it comes at a significant cost. As of Fate/Apocrypha's midpoint, it has yet to be employed, although I'm sure that they're saving it for an important moment.
In terms of the show's overarching “fake” motif, as an absolutely genuine and irreproachable Saint, Jeanne serves as a standard of authenticity against which other characters will measure themselves. This will become more apparent when we compare her to the show's second Ruler, the Spoilers McSpoilerface who we'll deal with next week. Otherwise, Jeanne seems to be developing a rapport with Sieg. Despite everyone's best efforts, the newborn homunculus is insistent on remaining involved with the Grail War. The two of them have formed a sort of unofficial alliance, which will likely continue as the conflict progresses and the true villains are revealed.
That's it for the first half of Fate/Apocrypha's cast. Sixteen servants require a lot of writing, so I'll have to back off from this skirmish to recover my mana supply. I'll see you next week, when we'll be discussing heroes like Karna, Mordred, Achilles, Karna, Atalante, and have I mentioned Karna? I like Karna. But would he like me back? We'll find out next time!
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