Fate/Apocrypha #02: Who Wears Short Shorts?

hisui_icon_4040_round Does anyone know if Fate/Apocrypha is going to be two parts or one? As far as I know, while a single 25 episode season has been announced it seems like the pace of the show is more geared towards two 25 episode seasons much like Fate/Zero. On top of that, both series were also four books long so it only makes sense they would be of equal length. 

Even at the end of this episode of Fate/Apocrypha, we find that Jeanne d’Arc has only just been formally introduced and Sieg has only been panned over by the camera in a way that clearly shows he will be significant but could easily be mistaken for a mere MacGuffin as opposed to a significant character. I know there have been some minor edits like Kairi Sisigo and Rocco Belfaban do some haggling over the preserved juvenile hydra in the novels and manga but that is hardly earth-shattering. Considering they are eight percent of the way through the story and they have only introduced one of the main characters it makes me assume they are not doing that much to pick up the pace in the anime.

If this is going to be two seasons the pace makes perfect sense. If it is only going to be one season I am a little worried. An artful editor could condense the story and miss some important and exciting parts but still make an anime true to the original. The only problem is a messy Studio Deen Fate/Stay Night styled mishmash is much more probable.

I totally forgot to mention that those small golems first the first episode look exactly like stone versions of the B1 battle droids from the Trade Federation Droid Army. In a way the small golems severe the same role in a magical army so it makes sense but I just wanted to point it out.

While the Black Faction is mainly unified and dug in at the same time the last remaining Red Faction Master and his Servant have yet to check in with their compatriots. After meeting Shirou Kotomine the duo of Kairi Sisigou and Mordred decide they fare a better chance if they strike out on their own. Considering the fact that Kotomine puts out a hit on Jeanne d’Arc they probably made the right choice.

The longer Fate/Apocrypha goes without introducing either of its main characters the odder it is. While you can’t ignore the secondary characters with a big ensemble cast like this you should at least pay lip service to your leads unless you deliberately want them to be the blank slate point of view characters. To correct that the intro puts some much need work on the Saint of Orleans.

Jeanne d’Arc much like King Arthur is a historical/mythological figure where it would be more surprised if you did not know them than if you did. While Paracelsus Van Hohenheim is well known in certain historical and arcane circles (or people who do deep dives on Full Metal Alchemist characters) he is far from a household name. In fact, Jeanne d’Arc is so well known that a common guess for the original Saber’s identity when Fate/Stay Night first came out was Jeanne d’Arc. After being teased as a Servant in Fate/Zero it only makes sense that one of the various Fate spin-offs would incorporate her. Her focus in the France chapter of Fate/Grand Order and her utility in the first leg of the game only boosted the popularity of her character. Add in Jeanne d’Arc Alter and JDASL and her fandom is a firestorm.

Just in case you are part of the minority of people who were unaware of Jeanne d’Arc they give a quick refresher of how she died. Actually, the scene is mostly here to reinforce her role as a selfless martyr as well as being a brief history lesson for people who don’t know that Shake the Spear and Space Truckers dudes are. Also, the timeline of the Type-Moon universe is different enough that a little reassurance that things happened like they did in real life is sometimes a helpful bit of a check.

I am a little surprised that they did not go into greater details with the whole Laeticia deal. In Fate/Apocrypha due to some shenanigans by various characters, the already off kilter Holy Grail War is more unbalanced than it should be. Therefore Jeanne d’Arc does not manifest like a normal Servant with a wholly spiritual body and instead possess a French girl named Laeticia. Unless they plan to utterly skirt around that it seems odd that did not mention it more than a thin implication via her unusual starting location and a bizarre trip that only she needs to take from France to Transylvania to be the officiator of the Holy Grail War. Since she has no Master it is doubly odd she did not just appear in the middle of a church in Trifas. I’m guessing that they are just waiting to bring it up a little more organically through dialog down the line but right now it might leave some people scratching their heads.

I mainly think the opening is serviceable. I don’t have any major problems with the animation but at the same time, it also does not grab me as much as most Fate openings have. The opening by EGOIST did its job but was not as exciting as much as their work on Psycho-Pass or Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. The visuals are equally middle of the road. The part where they go through the Masters and Servants sums up quite a bit of my feelings. They have each of the main Masters with their Servants in profile over them. In is not utterly unstylistic but on the other hand, it seems rather pedestrian.

Since they were merely teased it would be somewhat mean not to see the Fab Four of Black Faction Servants that were summoned in the previous episode. Astolfo basically acts as the audience surrogate character asking about everyone in a little meet and greet. Since this is a Holy Grail War everyone is naturally hesitant to give away their identity even to people who should otherwise be their allies. Gordes flips out before Siegfried can tell everyone who he is. In a way it makes sense. If the Black Faction wins the remaining Servants still have to fight to get a single winner of the War. Today’s ally could very easily be tomorrow’s opponent. Other than Achilles there a few Servants that have a more easily exploited and well known weak point. On the other hand, it also makes deeper and smarter coordination difficult since not everyone knows what their allies can and cannot do. There is a price to pay for playing your cards so close to your chest.

It is a clear sign that this is not a super happy and trusting clan and Gordes exemplifies this ten fold.

I want to get this right out-of-the-way. Astolfo is a troublesome character mostly through no fault of the character. As a beautiful and deliberately gender ambiguous character, the fandom around Astolfo can be extremely toxic. I don’t have a problem with transgender and androgynous characters being in anime. The problem is Astolfo was made to appeal to people who are into “Traps.” If you have a fetish for a type of person that is your prerogative and there should be no shame in that. It becomes a problem if your preference disregards or disrespects the basic humanity of the people you are attracted to. The name Trap itself just tips the hat towards the fact that anyone who uses the term does not really respect anyone placed in that category. If you have ever seen fans talk about Astolfo you probably wish some sort of Men in Black Neuralyzer would remove the memory of the commentary.

In summary, Astolfo is a fine character. Astolfo fandom is like 80% human garbage fires. You have been warned.

Mordred along with Sisigo take the spotlight away from all the other characters. Without a doubt, the best interactions in the episode are between Mordred and Sisigo. Mordred is distinctly an apple that has fallen a bit of distance away from the Artoria tree. Despite the fact that they look almost identical minus the hairstyle the two women could not be more dissimilar.

The most interesting part of Mordred comes through crystal clear here: Her extremely conflicted and contradictory feelings towards Artoria. Her lines alternate between frantic pride and utter disgust for her Chichiue. She beams with pride being the child of the King of Knights and clearly desperately wants Artoria’s approval while at the same time cursing the Round Table and all it stands for. Her whole wish of wanting to have a shot of drawing Caliburn out of the stone is a mixture of bitterness and longing. The series captures the fact that Mordred has Father listed as a grand love and hate on her profile perfectly.

Sisigo for his part navigates the tricky waters of dealing with his volatile Servant. While he comes very close to losing his head several times you get the feeling he is one of the few people who would do so well.

If anything everything in this scene also informs Mordred’s profile from Grand Order:

Dealing with Mordred is simple. Do not badmouth King Arthur. Do not praise King Arthur. Do not treat her like a woman. Also do not bluntly treat her like a man. Do not behave in stiff manner. Do not become infatuated with other Servants. Properly hear her opinions. Simple, yes?

Although Mordred should be forewarned that she might not actually have the qualifications of a King.

While they were introduced in the last episode some time needs to be taken to get to know the Black Faction Servants and Masters. While you might have gotten a glimpse of who they were from the summoning scene and the meet and greet this is the first time any of duos get a chance to shine individually. Since these four pairs are going to be doing most of the fighting it is important to get to know them. Since Master and Servants are often similar it is a good chance to see why each Servant was summoned by their particular Master.

This part could just be called Frankenstein’s moe-nester.

Caules and Frankenstein’s Monster are both extremely awkward, meek but surprisingly dangerous when pushed, and both have a chip on their shoulder due to a family member. Caules feels like the also-ran in his family when compared to his sister and Frankenstein’s Monster has a classic grudge against her creator. The fact that she gets worked up whenever his name is mentioned and would rather be called Berserker says volumes.

Both of them seem like people who would be extraordinary in normal circumstances but feel like the worst of the best in their present company.  The fact that they let their pasts tie them down does not help. They seem like the pair whose success and failure is directly tied to how much they can understand and help each other. Their failure to deal with their baggage will probably be their downfall.

Fiore and Chiron both give off an air of kindness, wisdom, and competence. While the other pairs are all full of Sturm und Drang these two are casually discussing their plans for the Holy Grail War over tea. It is worth noting that when Chiron asks Fiore about her brother she makes it clear she is willing to kill him to win the Grail if the time comes. While they both seem gentle and sweet, which I think they are, they can do dark deeds if the circumstances dictate it needs to be done.

This seems like the team that people overlook because both of them seem so unassuming. They don’t feel so weak that everyone attacks them first but they don’t seem so strong that they are a priority target either. But when everyone least expects it they show that they have always had a greater power.

Oh boy. This is all pretty much an uncomfortable movement. You get the feeling that Celenike has a bookmark for a whole lot of non-con fan fiction in her web browser if you know what I mean.

Celenike and Astolfo are actually more alike than they first appear. You would assume that they are as different as night and day. And they are very different to be sure.  But they are both someone others would consider deviant, they definitely march to the beat of their own drummer, they have a highly sexual component to them, and they both have a bit of violent madness in them. The thing is Astolfo is bright, happy, and giving. Celenike is none of those things. It is clearly a case where the Servant was summoned exactly because they were the opposite of their Master. Celenike would never want a Servant exactly like her. She wants someone to own that is like Astolfo.

They are a pair that is going to be torn down by the fact that they are not really compatible. Celenike got exactly what she wanted which maybe have been the worst case scenario for her.

Apparently, every iteration of Fate needs a Shinji Matou type character and this time Gordes is just the asshat to fill that role. I’m not sure how in the hell Gordes and Siegfried are a pair that goes together. Siegfried is the personification of the humble and heroic knight. He is grace, gentleness, and strength personified.  Gordes is best summed up by the fact that he is the sort of dude who still sports a Toothbrush mustache. Unless Gordes has some crazy hidden unseen depth I have nothing that links these two. I would assume a Book of the False Attendant deal was going on if we had not seen Gordes during the summoning.

Poor Sumanai. He just can’t win.

If it were not obvious Darnic and Vlad III super compatible then this scene should clear away any doubts. These two are stern leaders who rule with a mixture of brains and power. The embodiment of an iron hand in a velvet glove. They are both men who have achieved great rank through some very dubious methods. They also have a very tainted legacy that proves they paid a high price with pieces of their soul for their accomplishments. They make for ideal leaders if your only goal is a victory. You have a good chance of winning but it will not be a moral victory.

It is time for Jack the Stripper. If you needed to pick the most controversial Servant in the story then your eyes immediately turn to Jack. While the identity of Jack the Ripper is still one of the great mysteries of history I can’t think of any major theories that pick a little girl as the serial killer’s identity. While she has her fans it is much easier to find people who hate her.

These two are not given much screen time but it is clear they both have no compulsions about murder. If anything it seems like a hobby much more than a job to them.

The interesting point I found was that while we see the corpse of Hyouma Sagara it is not explained who he is. I find that odd because the first bit of Fate/Apocrypha that was ever written was the story about how Jack was summoned and a bit of her time with Reika Rikudou. This was modified when the full series was released but so far none of this team’s backstory has been shown to the anime audience. Considering that Yuichiro Higashide really likes these two characters I assume they will just give us the details of their meeting down the line.

If there is a guide for people who get thrown into the Type-Moon universe from our world one of the top rules in that book would be “If you meet anyone named Kotomine RUN in the opposite direction as soon as you can. Try and use fire to dissuade pursuit if you can.”

Sisigo and Mordred were already not super keen on working with others but meeting Kotomine and Semiramis convince them that they would both do better on their own. While both sides feel each other out during their conversation it is clear by the end that there are now three factions. The Black Faction, Most of the Red Faction, and then Sisigo and Mordred as their own little group.

As a side note, this whole scene makes me think that we have never seen Morgan le Fay with a full character design in a Type-Moon work. She was technically in the Fate/Stay Night manga but I hardly count that as anything close to canonical. I’m sure she will make her way into Fate/Grand Order if nothing else.

Shakespeare seems to be a troublesome friend. While he is surely very useful to have on your side he also seems like the type to stir the pot whenever he is bored. It is fairly obvious that he set up Spartacus to make trouble. Both sides seemed extremely content to sit back and wait for the other to make the first move. The Black Faction has spent decades slowly burrowing themselves into a defensible position in Trifas so they are utterly content to wait for the war to come to them. Kotomine seems an equally slow and deliberate plotter. A Berserker, on the other hand, is a living Molotov cocktail that makes thing happen.

I did enjoy that they make Spartacus look and feel like a monster from Attack on Titan when he scares that hunter. Beyond a bit of humor, the main point of this scene is to set up an intro to the remaining Red Faction Servants. While the Black Faction Servants have all gotten a bit of introduction there are still some major question marks on the Red side. This gives Achilles and Atalanta a chance to show off as the backup the wild child that is Spartacus.

While this is the definition of a Curb-Stomp Battle it lets Sisigo and Mordred a chance to finally break loose. These poor golems and homunculi never had a chance. The ambush was less of a concerted effort for the Black Faction to kill off Sisigo and Mordred and more of a recon mission to gauge exactly how powerful they are.

Mordred is definitely a blunt instrument. While she is amazingly fast she lacks the elegant grace of Artoria but makes up for it with insane strength and an Anything Goes Martial Arts style. While Artoria’s grace makes her battles almost a dance Mordred fights like she is in the middle of a drunken bar brawl. Also, it is clear that Mordred is not going to pass any test on the rules of chivalric combat.

Sisigo much like Kiritsugu mixes modern weapons with deadly magic. He had hand grenades made of human hearts and a shotgun that fires cursed fingers. He has all the ease and convenience of modern weaponry alongside the power and versatility of necromancy. This armory also seems much more ramshackle street thug than Kiritsugu’s professional mercenary sensibilities.

Together they make a very complimentary team. It also helps that Mordred is a melee specialist and Sisigo is all about ranged fighting. If anything their greatest weakness is they might be too similar. If someone is very effective at fighting one of the team they have a good chance of having an advantage against both of them.

Stay Good Karna. Stay Good. You can tell Kotomine is evil because he gets the Hero of Charity to go out and try and kill La Pucelle. Well, Jeanne will hit the ground running when she enters the Holy Grail War.

I enjoyed the ending much more than the opening. It does a good job of portraying the dual nature of Laeticia and Jeanne. They are very similar which is why Jeanne was able to possess Laeticia but they are still two very different people. Of course, they also have to have a nude scene with Laeticia and Jeanne because that is what happens you you make Saber with big boobs.

My biggest complaint is these first two episodes really make it seem like this series is about Sisigo and Mordred. It really seems they are the center of the story and everyone else are just part of the large supporting cast. I have a feeling that there is going to be some gatcha level salt as Jeanne and Sieg begin to eclipse them. I was distinctly made aware of how much people hate Sieg when the idea of him being the free Servant for the Fate/Apocrypha event in Grand Order came up. People are going to feel like they fell for the worst kind of bait and switch.

It is going to be rough.

Previous Fate/Apocrypha posts:

Fate/Apocrypha #01: One Night in Trifas Makes a Hard Magus Humble


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