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  • Joined May 1, 2015
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Oct 4, 2017

Episode 1-12 Review

I've never liked people who submit reviews for an anime before it's finished airing, yet here I am, reporting in after the first cour. Bear with me.

I'm tired of in medias res intros. Opening episode one with a segment of the most exciting scene from the first cour comes across as more of a shallow business card from A-1 Pictures than anything else, a sort of plea to the audience of, "Look, we're gonna be dark and serious and flashy just like Ufotable!" It does not speak well for the quality of the writing you are about to present when your opening hook is the climactic duel.

All this does is set us up for inevitable disappointment. We start the series proper in the Clock Tower, with some characters we don't know talking us through the world building and premise-setting for a bit. We're introduced to a very large cast at lightning speed over the first two episodes, with the brunt of the limited initial characterization going to Shishigou. The first couple action sequences are nice, but lack depth and impact. We're already desensitized thanks to the opening scene, and A-1 Pictures has killed off the notion of gradually building intensity. Two Servants trading blows and then retreating doesn't cut it when you know we're building up to a massive clash of mob armies while glowing heroes fire off Noble Phantasms. Which I mean, yes, this is Fate so to some extent we're expecting the story to go that route, but the difference here is that we've already seen it.

Speaking of Shishigou, who exactly is the protagonist of this story? Shishigou is almost relegated to a side character after episode two. How about Mordred, who just glares and yells once every couple scenes? Maybe Jeanne, whose purpose is to gaze into the distance while muttering platitudes? Sieg, who's literally Shirou but without the backstory or harem (or airtime)? Kotomine, who just sits there smiling? It's certainly nobody from the Yggdmillenia side. Like, Darnic? Please.

None of this is a spoiler, by the way. Despite AP's best attempts to disguise the characters behind their nebulous Servant titles of "Saber of Red" and the like, the writers kindly shotgun through everyone's "secret" identities in episode two. So, like, remember when even Studio Deen kept up some suspense by treating Shirou as the viewer surrogate, cloaking Excalibur in invisibility magic and using Servant identities as semi-climactic reveals? That's gone. The biggest question I'm tasked with answering is whether or not Shakespeare being unable to fight is good writing (and I argue it's not, as his abilities are poorly explained and he serves more as a Doraemon-style supplier of mystery tools than anything else). Either that or who the heck Semiramis is and why I should care, considering we're all so culturally hyped about ancient Assyria.

(Or more like, in a well written story this may have been the writer's chance to pull us in with a creative portrayal of the extremely uncommon topics of ancient Assyrian history and folklore. Not this time, though.)

With no protagonist, the story is driven by broad events rather than individual actions or motivations. Team X, consisting of a dozen weakly characterized individuals, faces off against a similarly comprised Team Y. The story itself is written with the reduced importance of each character as an individual. Even when we find one that breaks the mold a bit, their actions really lack any discernable impact on the narrative as a whole. This might work if the scale was large enough, but we're still only focusing on around 20 characters within a single small city. One character scouts for no reason, and with no plot impact. Another launches an attack, for no reason, and with basically no plot impact. A lone wolf kills a couple of nameless people, for no reason, and with no plot impact. One side has a significant portion of its screen time taken up by constant infighting...for no reason, and with little plot impact. The other side does literally nothing, presumably for no reason, and definitely with no plot impact. See a pattern? 

It's dull, and there's no feeling of weight the actions any character takes. I might have been more interested had the story not begun, once again, in media res. But since it did, I know in advance that most of what happens is insubstantive fluff building to a pitched battle between the entirety of each team.

I think the most compelling character in the first arc was actually probably Frankenstein. She (thanks for the genderswap again, Nasuverse) actually gets substantive character interaction, which is already more than can be said for most of the cast. She's treated to a backstory via scattered flashback scenes, and there are quirks to her social interactions. What's impressive is that the writers managed to give a fairly complex personality to a Berserker-class Servant. Even while portraying an accurate Berserker lore-wise, she's one of the few characters to demonstrate an independent worldview built on her life experiences. More impressive is that the writers were able to convey these nuances through the grunts, yells and gestures intrinsic to the Berserker class. As a Fate fan, this seemed like a pretty big deal to me.

As long as I'm complaining about the writing in general, however, let's talk superpowers. There's a commonality to long-running franchises where throughout the first couple of arcs characters have special abilities like flying, or healing, or seeing through objects, or summoning fire. Then by episode 700 new characters proudly spend half an arc describing how their ability allows then to alter a different law of physics depending on the current phase of the moon, manipulate the fate of every main character across multiple parallel universes, and fall back on shooting massive lasers if the writer is feeling particularly tired that day. The same dynamic is seen in this newest incarnation of Fate. I'm not sure even a single character (other than Frankenstein) is given a thorough exploration and explanation of their abilities. Like, Berserker of Red gets stronger the more he gets hurt. That sort of power made sense when it was quantifyable, such as when Hercules could "die" nine times or when Rho Aias had four petals, but now all we have is a poorly explained ability without knowable limits. Kiritsugu's Origin Bullets and Time Alter had somewhat complex but clearly defined rules, while Shishigou just shoots magic homing finger shotguns (of unknown ability) and throws weird organic gas grenades (of unknown ability).

Another problem is consistency. Once upon a time Servants had invisible stats, magic resistances and ranks of Noble Phantasms. A C-rank offensive spell would never hurt a Servant with B+ magic resistance, no matter if you hit them two times or two thousand times. An A-rank Noble Phantasm would defeat a B-rank in a shootout every time, especially if their wielders (and the artists) set aside their respective gimmicks and reduced the fight sequences to firing light cannons at one another. And a Servant with B-rank strength would always win a fistfight against a Servant with C+ strength. Now there are no rules. Mordred can take a direct hit from the cataclysmic explosion of a Noble Phantasm and emerge with only some cracked armor, but a noncombatant can pick up a sword and wound her with a surprise poke from behind? One moment golems are blocking weapon attacks from Servants, the next they're being destroyed by blunt non-magical objects? This is only a couple of examples, but it demonstrates the writer's willingness to make sacrifices of the tone and the lore in favor of flashy action and random little twists.

Deen had substance. Ufotable had style and substance. A-1 Pictures has style over substance.

To summarize my gripes: Fate/Apocrypha is an exaggeration and caricature of the classic Fate style without any driving force to push the insubstantive narrative. At least it's pretty.

5/10 story
8/10 animation
7/10 sound
5/10 characters
6/10 overall

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Mewser Oct 12, 2017

You know, I really have to say i agrre with you mate. I did enjoy many of the dramatic sceans but all of them you were able to guess exactly whats gonna happen so nothing really came as a shock. And they plan to carry it for a full 24 episodes


I imagine a lot of people are going to grow bored with the lack of logic the show now has.