Fate/Apocrypha is a battle royal anime illustrated by Ototsugu Konoe. It is directed and written by Yoshiyuki Asai and Yūichirō Higashide, respectively. As of the writing of this review (2, 2, 2018), it is licensed by Netflix. Fate/Apocrypha expands on the Fate universe, but it is set in a parallel universe to the original Fate/Zero and Stay Night.
Fate/Apocrypha is set in Romania, rather than Japan. Therefore, since it’s set in a unique timeline, Apocrypha nullifies the events of Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Zero. Apocrypha has similar rules to it predecessors, but it deviates from the original formula by introducing a Ruler class, which is summoned by the Holy Grail to serve as the mediator of the Holy Grail War. The battle royal is now composed of two factions, the black team and the red team with both teams having seven mages and seven servants. It contrasts against the traditional free for all formula between seven mages in the Fate/Zero series. The black faction are members of a Romanian magi group called Yggdmillennia, and the red faction are a group of magi associated with the Clock Tower of Mage’s Association (a familiar location to the series which is based in London).
Apocrypha is not the best the Fate universe has to offer, yet it is entertaining to watch because of its interesting cast of servants. It’s fun watching personages like Jack the Ripper, Dracula, Frankenstein, Mordred, William Shakespeare, Achilles, and Jeanne D’arc on screen. They have interesting character designs and personalities. However, the anime does not juggle the screen time between the servants and their masters smoothly. While the motivation of some of the characters have been expressed, most of these characters aren’t fully fleshed out.
The animation is beautiful. All of the characters look good on screen, and they all have unique visual traits that makes them memorable. My favorite characters are Jeanne d’Arc and Frankenstein. Jeanne d’Arc look natural, albeit, too similar to saber in Fate/Zero. Frankenstein, however, stands out to me because he is a she in the anime, and all she does is grunt. She is a vulnerable character, and I just can’t help but like her.
The action sequences are perhaps the best spectacles the anime has to offer. The action is smooth and entertaining to watch. Apocrypha cranks all the action up to ten. The smallest attack is a spectacle of lights. A basic attack in Apocrypha is a noble phantasm in the Fate/Zero and Stay Night.
However, Fate/Apocrypha has some substantial flaws. I can easily binge watch Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night in order. Zero and Stay Night are deeply character driven with likable personages, but Apocrypha, unfortunately, feels disjointed because of the sheer amount of characters it has to shuffle through. Despite their character designs, most of the heroes fall flat because they are all the same cookie cut version of each other. They are all noble warriors who want peace and love. All of the magi however seem to have some type of neurotic dysfunction.
I can’t identify who the main character is, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
All of the personages are also too friendly to each other, with very little tension between them. They come together more often than they need to. Spartacus and Jack the Ripper are the only character that are somewhat close to being evil characters, but they get very little screen time.
The biggest problem I have with Apocrypha is Ruler. She is supposed to be a spectator who makes sure the rules of the war are kept, but she often interferes in conflicts she shouldn’t. She doesn’t just sit back and watch the characters fight each other to the death. She chooses sides and helps certain individuals win. Her reason for interfering are weak, which is why I get frustrated every time I watch her decide to step into a battle to give a certain character cheap plot armor. I like her character design, but she is the weakest part of the anime.
Fate/Apocrypha is an entertaining anime to watch, but it’s not as strong as Fate/Zero and Stay Night. It is not the weakest entry in the universe. The title of the weakest entry goes to Fate/Grand Order. Fate/Apocrypha is not a good starting point for a newcomer. Fate/Zero is a better starting point. Apocrypha might confuse newcomers because it relies on viewers knowing what it stems from. I guess it is just okay.