This Week in Anime
How Does Fate/Apocrypha Compare to Other Grail Wars?

by Jacob Chapman & Steve Jones,

The first half of Fate/Apocrypha has finally landed on Netflix! This week in anime, Jacob and Steve break down the best and worst of everything this series has to offer compared to its predecessors so far.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.


@Lossthief

@Liuwdere

@ANNJakeH

@vestenet


You can read our review of Fate/Apocrypha's first half here!

Jacob
STEVE, STEVE, DID YOU HEAR THE NEWS?

it just arrived by skelegram

Steve
oh i love that new service, no bones about it

Fate Apocrypha is finally on Netflix! I FEEL LIKE WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR SIXTY YEARS.

At least this guy has anyway

And his extremely stupid name should tell you most of what you need to know about this new Grail War.

Now I know the Fate series has many ardent fans, and I want to do this conversation justice, so in the interest of journalistic transparency and integrity, I whipped up this simple chart to show how I approach any given Type Moon show.


As such, I enjoyed Apocrypha quite a bit!

The userbase for Fate/Grand Order would seem to agree with your assessment there.

Oh yeah, on that subject, my Fate GO AP will max out in about an hour and a half so we're on the clock.

While it is only half over, Apocrypha would seem to fall more on the We Must Let Them Fight side than the Stroking My Chin About What Makes A True Hero side of the Fate equation. But that's bound to happen when you replace King Arthur with uh

this little murderbeast

Can't say murder without it sounding sorta like Mordred!

The difference between Arthur and Mordred (king torn apart by her complex ideals vs. pissy usurper who enjoys tearing other people apart) is a pretty nice summation of the difference between Nasu/Urobuchi-flavored Fate and this spinoff novel, which is more concerned with taking Fate's premise—

(which need we remind anyone at this point is this)

—and blowing it up to its grandest possible extent, starting with a Jewish mage fucking over the Nazis, stealing the Grail, and forcing the Clock Tower to crowdsource mages and double their usual master/servant ratio for a big fat fourteen-fighter free-for-all.

And I love that. The nitty gritty of Fate lore, of which I've only scratched the surface, can get so impenetrable that I respect Apocrypha for basically going "fuck that" and doing everything in the interest of creating the grandest, stupidest, most entertaining battle royale possible.


"Oh you thought seven Servants was too many? Well now there's 14 Servants, how about that? jk, there's 15, because there's a new Ruler class now. jk, there's 15 and half, because this homunculus is now sort of a Servant? jk, now's there's 16 because w h o c a r e s i t ' s
a w e s o m e."

Of course, all this hyperbole makes it sound like the story is just stupid spectacle, and it's not. The show cares very much about all its characters and relationships, and there are definitely still long scenes of exposition between stern mages with staunch personal philosophies. It's still Fate, after all.

Somewhat regrettably, since the ballooning Master/Servant count certainly doesn't do the show any favors in regards to developing every character.

Not exactly, but I think it does enough to keep the story compelling. I honestly like Fate's digressions into philosophy, because they make the story memorable and fun to discuss when it could have just been Chuunibyou Custom D&D Fantasy #4,627. But there's something to be said for taking that premise and paring it back to simpler expressions of the same basic ideas, made by lovable heroes who just have nice simple takes on things.


I like the philosophical digressions when they're handled by a strong writer, for sure! That's why I ended up enjoying Fate/Zero a lot (thanks Urobuchi), and Fate/Stay Night not so much (no thanks Nasu). And it's why I like Apocrypha for not dwelling on that aspect too much and instead focusing on its strengths (one of which is certainly Astolfo).


That reminds me, I really like Apocrypha's take on the hapless everyguy, which is one place I think it shines in being smart even if it's not trying to be as heady as its big brothers. Because every Fate (and every otaku-aimed anime really) needs a sad lil normalboy at the center, Apocrypha gives us one, but not in the form I'm used to from these stories. Instead of being the son of a great mage or some chode with a twisted dark destiny, "Sieg" as he's later named for INCREDIBLY SPOILERY REASONS is basically just a human battery who happened to have enough strength to fight back. And thanks to a little support from Astolfo and J'eanne, he just never stopped fighting. He's not contemplating his exact place in the world or which girl in his harem is the cutest, he just wants to live. It's kind of Apocrypha's answer to the usually lofty questions posed by Fate, that this kid who was literally created for one extremely limited purpose breaks away from it to find that he has no reason to live anymore, but that the desire to just BE is reason enough, which could make him heroic to a completely different kind of audience. And I think that's charming.


I'll grant that Sieg's backstory is more interesting than your average protagonist. But as a character, I found him not much better than a nonentity. My eyes ended up glazing over or involuntarily glancing over to Twitter every time he ended up as the focus of a scene. I get what they were trying to do, but in execution his story just slows down the proceedings around him. I wish that time had been spent fleshing out other more interesting characters and relationships. But like you said, he's GOTTA be there. And even though he's ostensibly the protagonist, at least he takes a backseat to everything else that happens this season.

Fair enough. And yeah, I found him more compelling because unlike with Shirou, we only spend like five minutes with Sieg at a time, which is like the optimal amount of everyman for me before we switch over to more of whatever the hell this is

why yes, that is Jack the Ripper, obviously

Why wouldn't Jack the Ripper be a loli in a thong, thank you Fate Apocrypha. Definitely nothing wrong with that.

I hope her wish for the Holy Grail is a decent pair of pants.

GOD WILLING

Like two minutes is more than enough Jack the Ripper for me thank you. But it really is like two minutes and then we're off to the races with some other character's subplot! All around, it's never a boring show.

Okay, not...never. It is almost never a boring show. For all that talking-up of spectacle we've done, honestly the most bored I ever got? Was during the climactic battle. Sacrilege I know but it's true.

Mordred knows how I feel.

What, are you implying that spending the last third of your first arc's runtime on just one battle is perhaps suboptimal pacing?

Well, I'm saying that it proves the characters really do form a major core of the series' entertainment value. The fight animation/choreography isn't ufotable, but it is pretty good.

Regardless, when the battles start to go on and on, I remember that I'd rather be learning about these precious murder-babies.

or badass buddy cops

Interestingly enough, with the major exception of Mordred and Kairi (who are the only pair to opt out of an alliance with the rest) most of the "hey fuck this and fuck you" characters are on the ostensibly "good" Red side, while the show quickly endears us to more of the underdogs on the "bad" Black side, another clever touch that forces us to think about who we really value as "heroes." There's a theme of "real vs. fake" going on here, where the Black side is being lambasted especially because they're an unofficial mage association of weird misfits disowned by the Clock Tower. And of course, many of the servants summoned are wannabes or imitations of some kind, with wishes to correct this part of their past.

The FATE PHILOSOPHY stuff is there, it's just nested subtextually between a lot of dumb shit like mages in Doc Ock combat-wheelchairs getting hit by cars.

LITERALLY the Doc Ock arms tho, it's so good

Oh yeah, I cannot take credit for that joke. The show makes it for you. And this one, especially in the dub.

It is delivered in exactly the way you are imagining right now.

Thank you Bang Zoom!, I missed 2006.

So if you're not a fan of Sieg, who are your problematic faves in this cast-of-too-many?

Well I went into the show expecting Astolfo to be my favorite character, and while he's definitely up there, the greatest joy I derived from Apocrypha came anytime Mordred and Kairi were onscreen together.

Yeah, Kairi's a weird reclusive necromancer that other mages are creeped out by, so he gets Mordred's feelings of isolation and wants to help her achieve her dreams. He doesn't look down on her for being the weird bastard clone-son of Arthur and having kind of a shitty attitude. They have by far the strongest bond of all the master-servant pairs cuz they just get each other man.

They have the best rapport out of all of the Master/Servant relationships. They're both tough guys who love a good fight, and they quip back and forth like a father and his bratty child. It's all too good.

And on a simpler level, Mordred just makes infodumps more fun to watch.

Also, after a certain Twitter post, I couldn't unsee this, and it made the show 100 times better.

OH MY GOD

FATE APOCRYPHA IS ABOUT DRIL AND HIS DISRESPECTUL TEEN SON

IF THE CLOCK TOWER BANS ME FOR HOLLERING AT SABER I WILL FACE GOD AND WALK BACKWARDS INTO HELL

Mordred's awful one-liners are also super endearing


Yeah that diss needs another pass, Arthur Jr.

They both feel like action heroes from a completely different anime series, like this season's Garo, and I wish the show let us spend more time with them and their hot-blooded antics.

Well, I'm glad we get to spend more time with some other favorites too, like this delicate flower

She only wants to be LOVED :'(

I did not expect to like moe Frankenstein this much!

I also like Archer of Black a lot, but there are some fairly OBVIOUS ways he could be improved that I am disappointed were not implemented.

I mean, his Master is wheelchair-bound, YOU KNOW what she was thinkin when she volunteered to summon the horse-boy.

GIVE US THE MONSTER BOYS. it's only fair.

Can we agree that the Black team is absolutely better than the Red team and Mordred should just swap sides so they can all flip off the Clock Tower and have an after-party together?

It helps that the Black team has Masters who are distinct characters with relationships and shared histories, whereas Team Red is just @dril (great, admittedly) and this extremely cursed image.

"My name is Doujin McFanFic."

But this time the arbiter is supposed to be TOTALLY on the good side. They said it in the first episode so it can't be wrong, I mean how could you distrust this face?

But Black Team did seem to get the lion's share of hot Servants. Like I'm also very into Vlad's tired yet distinguished wine dad aesthetic.

The gradient hair is the cherry on top.

Like many blondes who dye their hair green, Vlad begins to feel the sting of regret within a few washes.

shame about the whole vampire thing tho

Look, Fate/Apocrypha's first half climaxes with the phrase "We have to stop that vampire from reaching the Holy Grail." If that doesn't do it for you, I just don't know what will.

How about Astolfo's magic battle sousaphone?

TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT

LMAO, I actually forgot about that, and I just watched the show! I think on rewatches, I'm going to discover that Fate/Apocrypha, for all its shameless blockbuster silliness, does have a surprising amount of nuance smushed into its nooks and crannies. So I'm looking forward to doing that once Netflix finally gives us that second half.

Yeah, if you were looking for closure at the end of these 12 episodes, I hope you're fine waiting another several months! But thankfully most of the Servants and Masters are still in play, so the second half should treat us to plenty more battles, plenty more philosophical arguments, and plenty more shots of Mordred's midriff.


Until those confusingly sexual feelings for old literary usurpers return, I'll just leave you with the moment that absolutely slayed me most in this series, just two lines that sum up Apocrypha's whole attitude toward Grail War-ing.



AMEN

So SMILE DARN YA SMILE, Fate fans!


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