By the way, your main character is the recently escaped homunculi and not Astolfo. I wanted to make that clear before I got anyone’s hopes up.
At this point, I only pop in on fandom discussions but I already see there is a very distinct and vocal faction of people who HATE this guy. When it comes to Type-Moon properties the main male protagonists tend to either be ignored or hated. Up until this point, Shirou Emiya was the fandom’s lightning rod of hate. He was so hated that I think he helped draw away anger from other characters. Soujuurou Shizuki and Mikiya Kokutou play second fiddle to their much more prominent heroines to the point that they barely register enough to get hate. I’m not sure I can’t even remember anyone having a strong opinion on Soujuurou. I’m sure people have opinions on him but I have never seen them. Shiki Tohno is pretty much the exception that created the rule. Fans liked his style of the protagonist so much they have not really taken to any other sort of main male character. Then in comes the character who eventually is known as Sieg.
As I have stated before I only know the broad strokes of the stories and characters of Fate/Apocrypha, therefore, I am a little hesitant to make judgments on any characters unless I am familiar with them from other Type-Moon stories. As an example at this point, I really know Mordred from other material but I can’t really tell you anything about Achilles more than you would get from reading his historical Wikipedia page. It does not help that most of the time people merely state that they really just hate Sieg. I’m sure they have a significant beef with the character I’m just not sure what it is. He is mostly a mystery with a vague cloud of resentment around him.
What I’m basically saying is that I’m going to try to go in and judge him as fairly as possible. I’m going to avoid mindlessly jumping on the hate train as much as I avoid defending him just because he is a target. If you hate the guy that is cool as long as you came to that conclusion on your own. Heck after watching this series I might be one of you. But if you really like the dude you might also take this as a bit of advice to avoid saying that publicly unless you are spoiling for an online argument.
All Holy Grail Wars starts with the initial pokes and prods as all the Masters try to gauge who they are up against. The Great Holy Grail War is no exception. On one front Siegfried and Karna spar a bit before the sun rises with Jeanne d’Arc as a neutral observer despite the assassination attempt on her life. At the same time, Spartacus is making a wild charge on the fortified castle of the Black Faction.
While this is all going on one of Avicebron’s homunculi has gained consciousness and broken free from just being a mana battery. He is fortunate that Astolfo finds him and hides him away before he can be caught by the Yggdmillennia security. What will this unfortunate artificial human do with his newfound consciousness?
Is this going to happen every episode? I like scantily clad ladies as much as the next heterosexual male but I can go an episode or two not seeing Celenike essentially have the PG-13 version of a dead fuck with Astolfo. If you want to have a scene like this one of every few episodes that make sense. It shows you what sort of character Celenike is while providing a little fan service. But while repetition reinforces an idea I can’t help but feel this is more pandering than thematic.
Up until this point, the homunculi have had three roles for the Black Faction. They are batteries so the Yggdmillennia Masters could use their Noble Phantasms with less restraint, they are disposable warriors to act as the support for Yggdmillennia Servants in battle, and they are potential cores for Avicebron’s super golem. But one of them seems to have broken free of its simple automaton like existence. It was clear that this homunculus was different because the camera lingered on him every time. Now we find out why.
Besides placing formally placing Sieg in the main cast the most important part of this scene is to actually give Astolfo and Chiron some chances to show who they are before the fights really start. Given they two of the more obscure Servants historically in the Black Faction, this is an extra value for them.
Astolfo is whimsy personified. Astolfo acts without thinking and is not really someone who does things for grand reasons. While not a Berserker per say Astolfo is definitely a free spirit who dances to the tune of their inner chaos by default. Astolfo tends towards acts of kindness, generosity, and honor so think chaotic good but the emphasis is on the chaotic.
Chiron is the ultimate sensei. He is both a teacher, a doctor, and a bit of a monk. He acts as a physician when he diagnosis and treats Sieg. He acts like a mentor to Astolfo who acted without thinking and needed someone who is more of a scholarly mind. He also acts like a monk when he gives Sieg a philosophical road map when he is told he has a very limited time to live. Chiron seems like a good guy but he seems the sort who will help those who ask him but does not seek out those who need his help. He is the mentor to heroes more than a brave adventurer.
We meet the Red Faction’s sleeping slaves of fate. If you were wondering why you had not seen the other Red Masters this scene shows you why. Shirou Kotomine is controlling all the others Masters besides Kairi who slipped through his fingers. While Shirou could kill them they are much more valuable as mana batteries the faction’s Servants. If they were dead he would have to support five more Servants. If he was Kirei Kotomine he would get a bunch of orphans, chop off their limbs, and use them as magical Duracells but I guess there are differences between the two of them despite the shared surname.
Shirou most probably lets Kairi leave because it was clear that with Mordred at his side he would be too much trouble to babysit like the other Masters and would actually have to kill him. At that point, Mordred is not the type to happily or even begrudgingly follow a new Master. Better to have those two running around as a thorn in the Black Faction’s side even if that means they are mostly a friendly third faction past this point. It might be a bad move if they make it to the end but it would definitely be a bad choice to betray them right out of the gate.
This first real fight between Servants reminds me of the fight between Archer and Cú Chulainn in the original Fate/Stay Night. Two heroes on the top of their game testing each other while they are still fresh. They are both looking for a weakness in the other one’s style while holding back any aces they might have up their sleeves. They tease that they might start bringing out the big guns but you have to save that for later on. For fight now, this is mostly a preview that lets the characters show off without giving away anything big.
If nothing else it does let the audience see two characters animated that have only been seen in games. Siegfried has only ever been in Fate/Grand Order and since he is one of the first Servants out of the gate his animations are very generic. Karna has a larger resume under his belt as he was not only in Fate/Grand Order but also Fate/Extra CCC, Fate/Extella, and Fate/Extra CCC Foxtail so his fighting style is far more established. Even then this fight gives a little more sense of style and weight to what Karna can do even when he is holding back. I can’t wait to see more when they go all out.
Siegfried’s back story seems like a mixture of Archers and Akio Ohtori’s. It just so happens that is also his back story in legend as well. The average person watching this will see the parallels between EMIYA and Siegfried almost immediately. They were both heroes of justice who were working themselves to death only to be betrayed by powerful leaders for petty personal reasons. But it also reminds me of Prince Dios from Utena. A noble selfless hero that the people cannot help but slowly deplete his essence. The more he proves himself an incorruptible hero, the more the people begin to rely on him like a drug, and then slowly but surely they begin to eat away at his very being since he is not an infinite wellspring.
In the case of Dio and EMIYA, the death of the hero transforms them into someone who regrets their former self and lives selfishly in their new life. Siegfried is nowhere near that corrupted but he is wondering what it could mean to live a little more for himself.
Sadly there is less than a 1% chance that Siegfried will die, become evil, and the seduce everyone while doing car based acrobatics. You will have to look towards fan fiction to fill that need.
Gordes is one of those guys who thinks they are a Chessmaster 9000 because they are able to trounce the rank amateurs in their local scene but learn a hard truth when they go up to the state level and get creamed. Gordes clearly thinks he is going to be a Super Master who comes in and defeats Karna therefore winning the support of Ruler making him not only the supreme general but a master politician. You can see his frustration increasing when not only is Siegfried not able to just knock out Karna with a single blow but Jeanne wants nothing to do with him despite the fact that he jumped in when Karna attacked her. He already had a massive chip on his shoulder but this has only exasperated matters. You can feel his frustration grow as what he saw as a flawless plan fails to accomplish any of his goals. You get the feeling he is only going to be more insufferable from now on.
Gordes truly is the Shinji Matou of this series.
Right now it is a little hard to tell how Sieg is going to play into the story. While he is currently Astolfo’s pet project that hardly translates into a direct jump to main character status. Being made as a living mana battery gives him some potential to do more but as it stands he barely stands (on his own two feet.) There is clearly more going on with him. There has to be something special about him to allow him to break free like he did. But for now, he is more of a curiosity than anything else. If I did not know better I would assume his role was more to become Astolfo’s sidekick than the main character so it will be interesting to see what his path is.
I do feel that his path from zero to hero might be the reason why people so dislike him.
With any gender swapped character the first question is always how much has changed from what you normally know about the character because of the switch and how much has stayed the same. So while this is a bit of blatant exposition it is helpful since it gives a brief overview of the Type-Moon story of Frankenstein’s Monster. (As opposed to the XKCD version.) Other than the gender switch, it seems fairly close to the story in Mary Shelley’s novel.
While they got off to a rocky start Caules and Frankenstein’s Monster seem to make some breakthroughs in this episode. They sort of feel like two nerds on their second date. While it hardly goes perfectly it goes well enough that they actually get to know each other a little find they might actually be able to work together. At the same time, it is also very clear this is hardly a flawless masterwork of a partnership. Caules also seems like the sort of guy who has a chronic case of foot in mouth disease and could easily say just the wrong thing at the wrong time to set off his volatile partner.
My roommate and I were talking and we were joking that it feels like Fiore and Chiron almost seem destined to lose precisely because they seem to have the most reasons to win. First and foremost they have a good working relationship. Of all the Masters and Servants they seem to have the easiest bond as they seem cordial, respectful, and amenable to each other’s goals and generally are in sync. They seem fairly sane and generally like good people but have the potential to do what needs to be done if push comes to shove. While they have flaws neither of them seems to have some crippling vice or hang up. In fact, if you look at them from a distance you might mistake them as a pair that would be the main characters.
In a way that is what makes them such prime candidates to be defeated in the most horrific manner possible. They just feel like the two who are going to be betrayed by another jealous team member, fall into a horrible trap that preys on their strengths, or die saving someone else. Since they are not the main characters they seem like the perfect examples of what could go wrong in a Holy Grail war.
Since they got so much attention in the first two episodes it only makes sense that Kairi and Modred get a far shorter amount of screen time. That said they still do some important bits of character building.
Of all the Masters Kairi has had the least amount of time to prepare but he seems to be making up for lost time really well. Since he is a necromancer he has fortified himself in a mausoleum which makes perfect sense. It makes his defensive magic far more potent while also giving him a small fortune’s worth of components for an offense. While they might not be able to stand up against a whole faction they are certainly prepared to defend off a Servant or two all by themselves.
Also, it seems that they are not 100% their own faction. Kotomine and Kairi still have some means of communication so they have not completely cut ties. They have more than a nonaggression pact but less of a bond than full allies.
Spartacus is still charging forward. It seems that Achilles and Atalanta (aka the Greek Hero Duo) will have to wait until the next episode to really appear as more than characters in the shadows. The Yggdmillennia faction doesn’t seem that worried. In fact, they actually seem to think this is a great opportunity. Not only can they test their defenses but they seem to have something in place to sway Spartacus to their side. Starting off the Holy Grail War with a bonus Servant would certainly be a major coup.
While some major strides were made this episode it does feel like there are still major portions of the cast that have only gotten lip service at this point. The Red Faction Servants seem less fleshed out than the Yggdmillennia Servants and peripheral characters like Lord El-Melloi II have appeared more than Jack the Ripper. It would be a little too soon to kill off any characters so they have to do more with the time they give characters. Hopefully, the next two episodes will give the Red Faction Servants who are not members of the Round Table a little more time to breathe.
Previous Fate/Apocrypha posts:
Fate/Apocrypha #01: One Night in Trifas Makes a Hard Magus Humble
Fate/Apocrypha #02: Who Wears Short Shorts?