This one definitely had to wait quite a while since it’s been months since I finished it up. Apocrypha is an interesting Fate title in that it adapts the Holy Grail War as usual but then throws a lot of wrinkles into the mix. The whole format is different as a result. I would have liked to have seen a little more done with the concept and I had some issues with this one but ultimately it’s a good title. It certainly has the kind of high tier production values you would have come to expect here.
The show starts off with a group known as Yggdmillennia deciding to steal the Holy Grail War for their own nefarious purposes. They intend to start a Grail War with the Clock Tower. The new element here is that it will be a 7 on 7 battle instead of the usual 7 masters all duking it out to be the one true champion. The Clock Tower has to quickly assemble its own fighters in order to combat this thread. As always every master and servant has their own agenda here but this time they will actually have to team up a little which will be difficult for them. Which side will end up winning it all?
Pretty much the whole series is about the war which is impressive. There isn’t really time for anything else but because the war is so vast that does mean the characters aren’t constantly involved in battle. They still have time to strategize for a while and at one point even do some sight seeing around the village to lure someone out. Everything is done with strategy in mind though. Of course there are also a whole lot of subplots going on here so you’ll want to eye every character closely. It’s really a great premise.
Each servant gets his or her hype as well. Nobody here is extremely weak compared to the others although some are definitely what I would consider to be top tiers. This does come with a weakness though which is that the show cops out of almost every fight until we get to the climax. Fights constantly end in a tie over and over again to a degree I haven’t seen since Sengoku Basara. My main issue with the second stage of Basara (The Hideyoshi arc) was that almost every fight wasn’t conclusive. One guy might win but he would spare the opponent for some random reason and walk away. It was hard to recognize the battles as being in the middle of war because they would get up to fight again, over and over again.
Apocrypha fixes that towards the end but because of that you could skip most of the fights in the early half and not really miss much. The fights still look good though so you wouldn’t want to miss them. While the animation isn’t quite up to Grand Order or any of the Ufotable productions I would still say that it is quite solid. The battles have good choreography and the climax battles really get intense. The best battles typically would feature Saber of Red or Achilles but everyone brought something to the table.
For the soundtrack, I thought the two openings were really the highlight here. They have a very ominous feel to them and really set up the war. The cool 7 on 7 montage in the first opening especially feels epic and I can imagine how cool t would be to have something like that used for any crossover title or another big Fate epic. The chessboard is a good analogy to the players on the battlefield so I just like it for a lot of reasons. The tracks within the show are surprisingly not super memorable but they’re definitely good enough. They still have the grand feel that is associated with Fate.
After all, no matter what Fate product you watch, the servants are always supposed to feel very regal and majestic. They’re all famous heroes in their respective cultures and countries after all so you would expect nothing less. Now it’s time to start talking about the 6 masters and 6 servants across each faction. There are quite a lot of characters to get at here so lets dive into this. With so many combatants on both sides it also means that it can be hard to know exactly which side to root for. To an extent they both seem shady at best and evil at worst. Not to mention that everyone has their own agendas so you really have to be careful about who wins the Grail. (I mean it does feel like a bit of a gag that nobody ever gets the grail for good but you still have to be careful.) For the record, I was on Team Red on this one. At least they aren’t running human experiments and such.
Before the two sides lets talk about the two main characters who are officially neutral even if they feel like extra members of Team Red by the end. First off is Sieg who is one of many mass produced clones that Team Black made. He was able to escape his ultimate fate and met up with Jeanne who helped him forge a life for himself. Sieg is unable to abandon his fellow clones though and goes back into the war. He even ends up getting a servant’s heart so he is able to transform into the mighty Siegfried. That definitely worked out really well for him.
Sieg is a classic hero who wants to help everyone out that he possibly can. He may not be quite as ambitious as Shirou in that regard but Sieg gets the job done. It was definitely fortunate that he got the servant form though because in his normal mode he really would have had a hard time leaving much of an impact at all. It’s hard to defend justice if you aren’t able to fight for it but this helped. While Sieg is the main character he still has to share screen time with a bunch of others.
Then you have Jeanne d’Arc who was summoned as the impartial ruler in the war. This means she was granted an exclusive ability to stop any servant as if she was a living command seal. It’s a really good ability to have and while it won’t protect her from cheap shots, it does mean that no servant can beat her in a head to head fight right now. It was wise of the Grail to give her this ability because otherwise the servants would have definitely tried to get rid of her. As it is, they were close to trying that right out of the gate.
Jeanne has a very strong honor code similar to Saber so she really doesn’t care for a lot of the dubious plans that all of the characters are launching. At the same time it’s hard for her to have to go in and take on a bunch of fighters because at that point it would be as if she was an active participant. So she’s in a rather tough spot and perseveres as much as she can. Jeanne’s also seen a whole lot and isn’t easily rattled although I would say it sometimes comes at the price of making the right move.
There was one such moment when Jack the Ripper was close to being defeated. We find out that every kid he murdered is a part of him now and so the option came to get rid of all of them or spare them but it means Jack would continue. Archer of Red did her best to protect them but Jeanne decided they were a lost cause and ended it. In this one I disagreed with Jeanne. In a world of magic like this I feel like there has to have been a way to save them and it would have been worth it for her to have at least kept on trying. By completely abandoning the kids like this, it just didn’t feel particularly heroic.
By the end Jeanne was certainly jaded enough where nothing could phase her to the point where she told one of the villains: “Is this the part where you murder some kids in front of me?” because it felt like bad things would follow her everywhere. The Fate titles can definitely get rather dark and this one’s no exception. Fortunately it uses artistic license of having puppets and dolls be destroyed instead of showing us the kids like in Fate/Zero so things didn’t go completely out of control.
If you’re going to tackle something like this then using a proxy is the right move. I still could have done without some of the grit though but that seems to usually follow the Fate series around. I don’t think we need to know about the kids dying and there’s no way you can buy into Caster having any kind of redemption arc after going so far. It’s just way too much there. Then you also have some of the usual creeps around like Rider’s master in this case who was rather twisted. I guess the Holy Grail War tends to bring out the real twisted characters here.
Okay so now lets get on to the teams. On Team Black the first servant is Siegfried and he’s definitely a heroic kind of guy. If he got to appear more then I think he could have worked well as a leadership figure. Definitely not the top ranking guy but someone that the others would listen to and respect because of how adapt he is in battle. The guy is strong and gets a lot of good moments to be sure. While I wouldn’t say he stood out as the MVP or anything, he was one of my favorite members on this team.
Next is Chiron and I would say he was the best member here. While his abilities aren’t as flashy as some of the others, his archery skills are quite good to the point where he could even tag Achilles. He makes up for not being as physically powerful as the others by being the best strategist. He has a very solid character arc from start to finish and is one of the guys that you can root for. A shame that he’s on the more villainous team even if I use that term relatively since Red aren’t saints either.
Then there’s Vlad III, aka Dracula. It was pretty cool to see this guy get involved in the mix. His abilities are also really broken and if he was fighting anyone other than a warrior of the Sun then he may have won. His whole domain ability is just such a good long range option and those spikes come at you instantly. I think if the team had planned things out just a little better then he could have won it all for them. Even by the end of the series I felt like he was one of the strongest fighters.
Astolfo is next and he’s one of the weakest fighters. The rider class truly is cursed to never be super powerful huh? Fate/Zero’s rep seems to be the only exception to this. Well, he’s a nice guy and at least Astolfo does have a hero’s sense of justice within him. It’s why it’s always so tragic to be summoned to an evil master because there’s not a whole lot that you can do. He still resists as best he can though.
Frankenstein’s Monster is one of the servants here which is interesting. I mean I wouldn’t consider this beast to be a hero but if you can have reverse heroes (aka villains) like Jack the Ripper here then why not right? Either way she also looks very weak and really would not have done very well paired against almost any servant. Berserkers are at a disadvantage since they have a hard time thinking but Lancelot and Hercules were far more impressive.
Avicebron is the Caster of the group and he’s not really my style either. Casters are always rather shady fellows who can’t fight on their own and tend to sacrifice their allies to get ahead. Avicebron is no exception and while he’s not super bad or anything, he’s just not my kind of character. Likewise, Jack the Ripper is definitely not my style either. It’s interesting to see Jack as a little kid here. I suppose it helps with the disturbing factor as she goes around murdering everyone. It is impressive that she caused enough of a stir to temporarily prolong the war as both sides had to go and try to finish her off though. She certainly didn’t abide by the Grail War rule of not targeting civilians.
Now lets go into the Red faction’s servants. First you have Mordred who is similar to Saber in terms of moveset and design but their personalities are quite different. Mordred is always eager for battle and trying to prove herself worthy of being the King. Her battle style is less about elegance and efficiency but rather going for savagery and sheer power. She will just overpower any opponent in her way and this strategy works rather well.
At one point Mordred is in a gauntlet where she fights several opponents in a row and just keeps on winning. That takes enormous amounts of stamina and she made it look easy. I would like to see the others try and pull that off. Ultimately she is a fighter who always perseveres and was easily my favorite character in the Red faction. Her scenes were always just a lot of fun.
Next up is Atalanta and while she doesn’t get as much to do as the others, she does have her big fight at the end and gets a grudge with Jeanne over the issue of the kids I mentioned earlier. The whole thing is pretty sad for her because she just wanted to help the kids and feels guilty about not being strong enough. This ultimately causes her to lose her mind and gain great strength but at a huge cost. I liked her though and I can’t fault her for wanting to save everybody. It was certainly a noble vision even if it didn’t end up coming to fruition.
Karna is next and he’s the only character I really knew before starting the series. That guy always got a lot of hype and ended up being rather popular. He was even a big player in the Exstella game. I’d say this is deserved as he looks really impressive here. He’s got an honor code so he isn’t just going around beating everyone up and his sun abilities are fantastic. I don’t see almost any of the servants being able to defeat him here. He’s right up with Mordred and Achilles as the top 3 servants in the whole series. Only Vlad III has an argument for being included among that number of top tiers. (So Team Red has 3 of the top 4 fighters in the war. That’s pretty good) An honor code goes a long way in a character so you can see why I liked this guy.
Then we have Achilles who is another all star here. The guy has a ton of confidence and why shouldn’t he? The guy is virtually invincible except for his ankle which is really hard to hit as it is. It’s just his bad luck that he had to meet up with Chiron who was familiar with his fighting style. The two had a history together and that’s the only reason that he could keep up. Otherwise Achilles would absolutely be wrecking everyone in combat. He’s just that good and ultimately he does his best to help the others out as well. I definitely had a lot of fun with him.
The next fighter is Sparticus and I can’t say that I liked him much either. The guy doesn’t know how to stay back and do any planning. He runs into battle and it often costs him a lot. He lets his team down and if you’re a berserker that can’t resist mind control then you’re in for a world of trouble. He would just end up annoying me the whole time as he put his team in trouble and never really made up for it. Definitely one of my least favorite services here.
Nearing the end is Shakespeare who really isn’t all that strong although you might have guessed that. He’s more of a planner, someone who jumps in as needed with illusions but doesn’t do much beyond that. His illusions can certainly be twisted and he is effective at using them but I’ll never be able to put someone with a non offensive skillset over the power players. He just can’t fight much even if his life depends on it and that’s a rough state to be in. Imagine if he was summoned for a 1 on 1 war like most? HIs master would be absolutely doomed.
Finally you have Semiramis who is really solid. Certainly she’s much stronger than the team’s actual caster at using magic and that’s a bit ironic. Of course the way the summoning goes, you have to play into your role even if it’s not the strongest like how we saw Lancer summoned as a Caster in Grand Order. Apparently every servant can use all of the roles but naturally they just won’t be as strong. So you can only imagine how powerful Semiramis would have been if she was summoned as a Caster.
Either way she is very impressive though and is really the most pivotal member of Red’s team as a result. Without her summoning the large airship and manning the cannons then the team would have had far less opportunity to carry out their plans. She was absolutely necessary to everything playing out as the leader wanted it and she always gave the task her all.
Now which side do I think was stronger overall? Lets put them side by side and I’ll show you who wins every fight.
Siegfried vs Mordred : Winner Mordred
Chiron vs Atalanta: Winner Chiron
Vlad III vs Karna : Winner Karna
Astolfo vs Achilles : Winner Achilles
Frankenstein’s Monster vs Sparticus : Winner Sparticus
Avicebron vs Shakespeare : Winner Avicebron
Jack the Ripper vs Semiramis : Winner Semiramis
Red wins 5/7 rounds and easily clears the deck after that. The teams are still well balanced overall since it’s not like these fights are stomps but Red is just better around the board. Their heroes are more impressive and better suited to win each of the rounds. The only reason it didn’t play out like that is because Team Red would rarely be on the same page and lost some pieces early due to people doing their own thing or getting wrecked.
Time to talk about the masters. While most of them aren’t fighting on the front lines along with their master, some of them do get good roles. Most of Red’s masters are nonfactors though as they get bumped off real quick. It was a little sad since it would have been nice to see what they were all thinking but at the same time maybe it would have been too difficult to show all of them. So Red only has 2 real masters. First is Shirou and yes this is not the same Shirou from the main series but that would have certainly been interesting.
Shirou’s very much the mastermind kind of character here who is manipulating everyone to his own purposes. He can even fight to an extent which is impressive. Perhaps not well enough to beat most servants but he can defend himself and probably beat some of the weaker ones. As a result parts of his fight with Sieg are impossible to buy since he should be winning that one easily but the main character will usually need some plot armor at the end. Beyond that the fights tended to make sense so at least it was rare.
His wish is the classic villain wish of creating a Utopia. This time he would make everyone immortal to fulfill that goal and in theory if nobody can die and they’re all perfectly happy then bad things will never happen to people again. It’s one of those things that always sounds good at first but then you realize that this would completely remove free will as a concept and so that sours the whole thing. It does always make for a solid villain motivation though and that’s no exception here.
The other master is Shishigou who controls Mordred. I like that he’s not someone who blindly follows orders. He still intends to win the War with only Mordred as his partner. He can also fight on his own with his array of guns, grenades, and other anti-servant weaponry. It takes a lot of guts to get out there to fight opponents who could end you in an instant so that’s impressive. He mostly just does well against other humans but being out there at all to fight is a testament to his bravery. I also thought he and Mordred had the best dynamic as they would trust each other to fight their battles.
On the Black side we had a few more notable masters since all 7 got to do something. First was Reika who completely allowed Jack to murder people and even encouraged it. Naturally she’s one of the biggest psychos here and the fact that she always acted as a really kind person right through the end was certainly something. To her this was all just natural and shows how messed up she was.
Roche is a bit younger and definitely very naïve. He figured Caster won’t betray him but that’s just how the ball bounces sometimes. I never liked him personally. Gordes is another cruel master (Man this team really is mean huh?) who was helping with the clone project and doesn’t treat them as real people. He gets a character arc where he starts to get nice by the end but it’s a little late for that so I still wasn’t buying into it. This guy really went down a dark path with no remorse until after he was knocked out of the war.
Celenike is also master that makes it easy to root for Team Red to win and take control of the world. She likes beating up on her servant for no reason at all and just comes across as another twisted psycho. Her weird obsession with Astolfo doesn’t help her case either and the sooner she’s taken out the better. Any scene with her is definitely annoying and given that she doesn’t help the team in any meaningful way, the bosses should have picked a more capable member from the millenia group.
Fiore and Caules have their own servants and are immediately the two most reasonable members of the group. Fiora wants to do her duty to bring honor to the family name and plays things by the book. She’s one of the few masters who doesn’t lose her cool and just does her best to win each fight one at a time. Her main weakness is that she’s a little too nice so she has a hard time taking people out which is tricky in a war. Then you have Caules who is mainly fighting to protect Fiore and gradually starts to take mores responsibility within the family. It’s a hard road but he starts to pull through it.
Darnic is the final master and the guy at least has some leadership experience. He actually won the Grail war once before even if it was a long time ago. He’s a master manipulator but I would say his weakness was in not choosing better teammates. Either way he gets the job done and lasts for a long while. He almost won in the end but just got a bit too greedy and sped things up too much. I wouldn’t say he was great but he was memorable and played a good role in keeping team black in the running.
So that’s pretty much all of the characters. There are a few more here and there but that’s the majority at least. The cast really is quite big so it takes a while to introduce them all but I’d say the show did well with the development. Just about everyone gets something to do and then the fights are more emotional since you’ve seen both sides. As long as you like seeing a lot of action then you should definitely have a good time here.
Overall, Fate/Apocrypha is a good show. It can get a little extra gritty at times and I think more of the early fights should have had real winners but the show jumps up during the second half as we get the big climax battles. The animators went all out with those and the series does have a conclusive ending. It’s always nice to see the Holy Grail Wars and having a completely different cast with this one works pretty well. I don’t think these servants would beat the FSN ones in a straight fight but some of the top tiers like Karna and Mordred would absolutely go very far. Maybe we’ll see some of these guys pop up in Grand Order soon. Either way if you haven’t checked this one out yet and want to explore more of the Fate verse, it’s a good option.