Fate /Apocrypha Part 2 (Episodes 13-25)(Cert 15)
2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 288 minutes approx.
After a hefty first half overflowing with characters, and half-baked plotlines, the second part of Fate/Apocrypha begins at a point where a few notable fatalities have trimmed the fat from the cast list, and a central antagonist has finally been established. Hopefully, things will be a bit easier to follow from hereon in. Hopefully…
The Black and Red Factions are still battling over the Holy Grail, though the stakes have been raised and the prize is now the Greater Grail, which can grant wishes on a higher (read: dangerous) scale. This means that this is no longer about one person reaching for the brass ring but stopping another from getting it – in other words, it really is war!
In this instance, the person who needs stopping is Shirou Kotomine, a less prominent, ambiguous character in the first volume, whose servant is Semiramis aka Assassin, a sexy but unhinged femme fatale. Shirou is a polite, charming priest in a similar role to Ruler Jeanne d’Arc in overseeing the battles, though he was appointed by the Holy Church, hence taking an opposing side.
But his benevolence is a mask, hiding his true motives for claiming the Greater Grail and giving the world salvation from sin and death. As altruistic as this sounds, the method Shirou plans on executing is tantamount to a form of mass genocide as he plans to turn the people of the world into beings of conscience only. Unsurprisingly, Jeanne and the Masters from the Black Faction realise the folly of this and unite to prevent Shirou obtaining the Grail, whilst Shiro has the support of the remaining Red Masters.
Fate/Apocrypha would be a less frustrating and considerably more enjoyable series had it established this plot direction within the first two episodes rather than leave it until past the halfway mark. Anyone who zoned out before then, probably did so because the story was going nowhere with characters who weren’t given any opportunity to connect with the audience before being killed off.
Part two has a little more luxury in that regard, delving into the backstories of some of the remaining cast though not everyone is afforded this, acting as a implicit spoiler as to who lives and who dies, but should be noted this isn’t the case every time. This new plot direction has also divided the two warring factions into definitive roles of Good vs. Evil, if you’ll forgive me being so reductive, something that was absent before.
Yet, there is a grey area added to the mix in the Black Faction not necessarily looking to vanquish the opposition completely, instead hoping they can reason with them to see Shirou’s plans aren’t as wholesome as they seem and join them in stopping him. Of course, this rarely, if ever works but the heat of battle can open one’s eyes to all sorts of stunning revelations and prompt a change of mind.
Remaining the wild card in this saga is Sieg, the Homunculi that developed his own conscience and escaped the Yggdmillenia family laboratory son finding himself caught up in the battles. Having been killed early in the first volume, Sieg was revived when Black servant Siegfried gave him his heart so he could live on, per Siegfried’s original wish had he won the grail.
This, along with his unusually high Magic Circuits has turned Sieg into a force to be reckoned with, making him able to make a pact with servant Astolfo and absorb the powers from other mages. Sieg can also transform into Siegfried in times of dire need though this takes its toll on his body. And if that wasn’t enough, he ends up being the love interest to one of the major female players too.
Much of the developments take a while to evolve and affect the story, bringing the pace to a standstill as strategies are discussed and moral dilemmas pondered, but one thing this series never forgets is its duty to deliver high-octane fantasy action. As a staple of the Fate franchise, any iteration would be remiss if there was an absence of hard hitting, bombastic fights sequences and we are well served here.
In fact, it is fair to say the battles are the highlight, often descending into the gory and graphic but never dull, with like-for-like servants facing off to create a nice balance in skill, to the use of creative Noble Phantasms, which given the unique cast list really gives the animators plenty of scope to create startling visuals not to mention conceptually bold set pieces.
For instance, Jack The Ripper’s phantasm transports the opponent into a foggy Victorian London street to be surrounded by the creepiest kids you’ll ever see, whilst Shakespeare can whisk his foe into a nightmarish world based on their own life story. Most of the time, however it is weapons at ten paces and a fight to the death in the most gruesome manner possible, which I’m sure fans of the saga wouldn’t have it any other way.
Once the dust settles and the show reaches its climax, one is left with the feeling that it needn’t have been so involved and drawn out as it was. It is easy to see why it was but that doesn’t mean it has to be so – for example, instead of having the two sides go at in a huge battle royale, why not make it a tournament and send them out one pairing at a time? That way each combatant’s back-story could have been shared and they get to show off their fighting skills without all the extraneous fuss.
This might simplify the story too much for some, but it would easier to follow and less of a slog to sit through and still be able to reach the same endgame. That said, volume two of Fate/Apocrypha is the stronger than the first and delivers everything hardcore fans of the Fate could ask for in spades.
English Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Disc 2 only:
Rating – ***
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