One of the best parts of any Holy Grail War is seeing the different Servants fighting. It invokes all the craziest parts of any “which of these two historical characters would win in a fight” argument with a healthy dose of fantasy spectacle. A fight like this battle royal multiplies that excitement seven fold. Part of the entertainment is seeing what Servants throw down with each other. You can see everything from the seeming mismatches of a speedy hard-hitting lancer vs a low defense Caster or a more evenly matched battle of ranged combat between a Caster and Archer. Even when two Servants of the same class face off they can have fascinating permutations. Two Sabers with similar styles can be a pure battle of skill but it can also be a clash of wildly different styles and how they compare. It is also interesting to see which Servants pairs up, who goes it solo, and who jumps in to save (or betray) a fellow team member. Will fighters makes themselves a huge target to draw out the most powerful champions, will they strike from the shadows, and will they just sit on the sidelines and wait to see what happens? There are so many and exciting permutations so it is intoxicating to see which ones play out.
Fate/Apocrypha has turned into Dynasty Warriors as the Red and Black Factions wade through seas of grunts to face off against their equals. Vlad III leads the defense taking on several servants all on his own while the Red Servants all try to break through the castle’s formidable defenses. In the middle of the carnage, Sieg attempts to valiantly save a few of his fellow homunculi.
The foot soldiers here do a great job of letting the Servants on both sides show off their abilities. Even someone like Atalanta who does not do much against Vlad III looks damn impressive when she rains down Phoebus Catastrophe on a group of homunculi and golems. When it comes to actually fighting Vlad she takes a back seat to Karna but at least she has her time in the sun even if it is against cannon fodder. Then again Achilles looks really cool when he is tearing through the battlefield on top of his Troias Tragōidia but is stopped dead in his tracks the second Avicebron actually starts to take control of his golems as more than just automated pawns.
The battle of the Lancers is the first real battle of an Immovable Object vs. an Unstoppable Force in this war. If you have ever heard Type-Moon fans complain about Karna it is how they tend to nerf him in games. The thing about the Mahabharata heroes is they are all Epic level Dungeons & Dragons characters in a Monty haul campaign compared to the standard level characters of most other heroes. Mahabharata heroes usually are all immortals with dozens of weapons that can destroy worlds. So when a jobber like Gilles de Rais (Saber) is able to take out Karna they get a bit upset. That is not the case here.
They do a good job of showing how Vlad III would be insanely powerful in any situation but given the fact he is fighting in defense of his home country of what used to be Wallachia it makes him practically a god. So he can go toe to toe with someone like Karna even with the backup of Atalanta and still be on top. But the Sun Bro is not going to fall to the Impaler without a lengthy battle. Vlad could be seen as the Unstoppable Force and Karna as the Immovable Object but in truth, both of them have a few the aspects of either title. Both of them have an insanely high offense and defense. Atalanta feels more like a level 10 minion next to these level 25 demigods.
One of the major questions surrounding Chiron and Fiore is how ruthless can he be when push comes to shove. Both of them make a big deal that they can snuff out their kindness towards those they love and kill anyone to win the Grail. Fiore says she could kill her brother to win the Grail when she is first getting to know Chiron. Likewise, Chiron says he is willing to kill Achilles despite their friendship. But the question is how true is that in the end. While you get the obvious feeling that Achilles is in an obvious state of shock seeing that he has to fight his old teacher Chiron gives off a vibe that he is 100% Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.
But at the same time, he has known right off the bat what Achilles one and only weakness is when Achilles had no idea who his opponent was. If Chiron was really and completely cold-hearted he would have set up a trap to let him get a good shot at Achilles heels and dispatched him before Achilles recognized him. It might not have worked but it would have given him a great advantage right off the bat. Instead, Chiron leads Achilles to him with shots that he knows Achilles can dodge so they can have their face to face meeting. Chiron then gives a speech to Achilles which seems mean-spirited but with a step back it is to even the psychological playing field. Now Achilles will have a much easier time fighting his former mentor to the death. Chiron might be earnestly fighting for the grail but he is still a protective teacher of heroes.
Sieg’s role in this episode seems to be that of a medic. Considering most of the homunculi are on the painful end of some serious Noble Phantasms and named weapons they don’t really need a doctor as much as an undertaker. He is able to patch up a homunculus named Toole who only received a glancing blow. It seems that Sieg has gained a somewhat reluctant partner in his quest to save the other homunculi. It is not as if Toole is hesitant to join Sieg because she thinks his plan is foolish or wrong. It is more she can’t even really comprehend his basic idea.
Overall this is a fairly good step forward for Sieg’s character. He is making proactive decisions and moving the plot forward. He still has a distinctly dry toast light novel protagonist personality but it is a positive move forward none the less. The major problem for him is that while the security around the castle is not as much as it could be because of the fighting Avicebron is still in the castle and he is 100% aware of everything that goes on there whether Sieg knows it or not.
They have done it in the past but I felt like pointing out that they REALLY want you to think Shiro Kotomine and Shiro Emiya are the same people from different timelines. They even make sure they the give him the fairly iconic Shiro smiling shrug in this scene just in case you were unaware of Shiro Kotomine’s true identity. Sneaky.
Despite throwing out red herrings like that to mix things up they do drop quite a few hints about Shiro Kotomine ‘s true nature. While his conversation Semiramis neither of them ever say outright that Shiro is both a Servant and a Master but they like to imply in heavily. Shiro is also constantly mentioning how he has similar abilities to Jeanne d’Arc including her Revelations. He is also far more worried about her than he is anyone on the side of the Yggdmillennia. It seems like the Yggdmillennia are mere speed bumps on his way to his prize whereas he makes Jeanne feel like his real last boss.
What happens when you mix the innate driving skill of Artoria Pendragon with the wild recklessness of Irisviel von Einzbern? Kairi Sisigou, unfortunately, knows the answer to this question as you can tell from his Chiyo Mihama like face in this episode.
I’m mostly just amused that Mordred really wants in on this battle. As it stands she could have sat back and let everyone else fight it out and just taken care of the survivors but that is not her style.
Avicebron is clearly a really powerful support mage who is pretty defenseless when you get into close combat range. Medea also had this problem but at least she was an offensive spell slinger par excellence. In fact, Shakespeare has the same problem. Someone like Cú Chulainn Caster or Nero Caster could rip through them without a modicum of effort. That does mean if Sieg does get caught by Avicebron he actually has a fighting chance without having to invoke plot armor.
Astolfo has his more than enough on his plate without deliberately tying one of his hands behind his back. Attacking the Hanging Gardens of Babylon by himself is fairly ambitious but without his noble phantasm is sort of insanity. It will be interesting to see how much Semiramis actually throws directly into the fight as opposed to just unleashing the defense systems on the Gardens of Babylon. Since she is not in Grand Order yet I have no idea how she fights. You do get the feeling that if Astolfo could use his Nobel Phantasm this would be a very different story. But between a yandere Master and a refuse to drain homunculi for mana he can’t get the energy he needs to fire his ultimate griffin based attack.
Also, Celenike continues to be a Creepy McCreeperson. I wonder who is more of a danger to Sieg.? Her or Avicebron? Sieg would be in real trouble if they were to team up but thankfully for him, they don’t seem the type of people to do that.
It seems like Shiro is trying to trade up with Berserkers. While he has a magical sword he is wisely not trying to take down Frankenstein’s monster with brute force. He is instead trying to use his much more effective words. He was able to usurp five of his fellow masters (with Semiramis’ help) so if anyone actually has a chance to get a Servant to change sides it would be him. I don’t think it will work though. Frankenstein’s monster and Caules have actually bonded so she probably one of the few Yggdmillennia Servants who would stay loyal to her Master unless there is some supernatural element to the persuasion used on her.
Mordred is really going to mix things up in the next episode. Her and Sisigou really feel like wild cards in this battle. Everyone else seems to have a very set path but they seem like the two to tip the balance via sheer unpredictability. Even the rampaging Spartacus seems like someone who can be anticipated ironically enough. Spartacus will throw down with the first Servant he runs into. Mordred can be far more of the coin flip.
Sieg and Jeanne are also wild cards but they seem more reactive than active. They seem more like the type that will get attacked and have to defend themselves than attackers themselves. In fact, I see Sieg and Toole getting attacked and Jeanne coming in and saving them. Since the plot is eventually going to push them together this would be a good opportunity to do so.
But no matter what happens I am very curious to see how this fight progresses.
Previous Fate/Apocrypha posts:
Fate/Apocrypha #01: One Night in Trifas Makes a Hard Magus Humble
Fate/Apocrypha #02: Who Wears Short Shorts?
Fate/Apocrypha #03: Meet Your Real Main Character
Fate/Apocrypha #04: Sumanai
Fate/Apocrypha #05: Freedom! Horrible, Horrible Freedom!
Fate/Apocrypha #06: Who Am I?
Fate/Apocrypha #07: Castle Crashers