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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E1: Apocrypha: The Great Holy Grail War

Episode 1
Apocrypha: The Great Holy Grail War.

Full disclosure: I've never watched a Fate series before. While I flirted with watching Fate/stay night and Fate/Zero, I actually never got more than a single episode into either, and to date my biggest engagement with the franchise has been watching some of Project Mouthwash's Abridged version. Thus, while I'm familiar with the broad strokes of the series -- magicians summoning historical figures to fight in battles over a Holy Grail -- I come to this ongoing as almost a complete stranger, which makes me decidedly not the target audience.

But an ability to draw in new fans is important for any series, so I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, especially since, if this series impresses me, I might well end up branching out to the other parts of the franchise.

So, Fate/Apocrypha: Does it manage to create a strong and good impression with its first episode?

Well, sort of.


Set in a world where there hasn't been a Holy Grail War for years, this series sees a magical conflict brewing between the forces of the Clock Tower, a branch of the international and self-governing Mages Association, and the loose alliance of Yggdmillennia, which seeks to claim their independence. With war on the verge of breaking out, each side selects seven Masters to summon seven Servants, with the action in this episode predominantly following Kairi Sisigou, a necromancer who summons Mordred, a Saber-class servant.

So, a lot of this episode is actually just set-up for the rest of the series: We're told about the brewing conflict; find out that the Black Faction (Yggdmillennia) is reducing the strain on their Masters by using homunculi, and that the principal Servant of Black is more interested in creating a particular and special golem; and we see Sisigou summoning his Servant, Mordred, acting as something of a shadow archetype to the Arthur that usually shows up in Fate.

Faux military uniforms in white and gold is never a good sign.

All of which means it's a lot of exposition and not a lot of much else. The only other thing we really get is the battle at the beginning, where people are dying and two Sabers are facing off -- but sans any context, it's pretty but ultimately meaningless, more a promise of what's going to happen and a striking visual than an actually impactful moment.

In spite of all this, I am pretty interested -- in the series as a whole, at least. Exposition-heavy episodes are never to my tastes, but I'm not expecting every episode to be like this -- in fact, I would imagine we'll start getting some heavier shenanigans basically as soon as the next episode starts -- and I can understand that it's a somewhat complicated situation that has to be set up to the satisfaction of both longstanding fans and new viewers.

It does, however, leave me without very much to say about this episode.

I think Mordred is going to be a lot of fun, though.

Technically speaking, the episode is all right, by and large. It's A-1 Pictures, which is never encouraging, but it's very much one of A-1 Pictures' better works (at the moment, at least, although they seem to be half-trying to imitate Ufotable). It's pleasing enough to the eye, at least, even if it's never exactly groundbreaking or interesting.

The anime is slated for twenty-five episodes, so it's got a lot of time to make a stronger impression on me (especially as, having committed to this ongoing, I'm now bound to watch the entire thing) and show me exactly why people adore this franchise so much, but it's at least off to a middlingly promising start. I've seen better first episodes, but by the same token, I've also seen worse -- hell, I've seen worse this season, since I watched the first episode of Knights & Magic.

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