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Monday, 6 November 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E18: From Hell

Episode 18
From Hell

Rather than ramble over-long about the episode itself, this week, it being a pretty boring episode that tries and fails to tug on the audience's heartstrings and ultimately builds to a fairly dull ending in which people ramble about war and god as Jeanne peacefully exorcises the spirits that make up Jack (which I suppose means she can never be summoned again, so small mercies), I'm going to lean a little out of my wheelhouse and talk about Fate/Apocrypha's animation and how and why it's distractingly bad.

Fate/Apocrypha is animated by A-1 Pictures, who have, by now, something of a reputation for being lackluster animators: They coast by putting in the minimum amount of effort to end up with animation that is passable, gets the job done, but isn't really remotely memorable. To say A-1 Pictures are bad animators wouldn't necessarily be true, any more than to say that they're good animators would be: They are just animators. They get the job done and tell the story and there is really nothing interesting to say about their work besides that. Nobody really remembers the animation of Sword Art Online, Aldnoah.Zero, Blue Exorcist, or Persona 4, because all of those series have wholly unremarkable animation.

Fate/Apocrypha's animation absolutely will be remembered, even years from now. Its animation really is remarkable. Because Fate/Apocrypha is ugly as sin. 

There is an overriding messiness to the animation that works against it at all times: A-1 Picture's signature low effort style might not usually be noticeable, but when you combine it with animation this noisy and messy, which cuts this many corners, it becomes something that instantly throws you out of what you're watching. Characters look less like they're in a work of professional animation, and more like they were transposed directly from the sketchpad of a fifteen year old fan artist to the screen.

The animation is grainy, simultaneously has too many lines and not enough details, and characters are off-model more often than they're on model.

But the shortcomings of the animation are obvious nowhere more than in the battle scenes, and it's these battle scenes that reveal to us the viewers a large part of why the animation is so messy and horrendous -- it's trying to mimic Ufotable.

Opinions vary on the quality of Ufotable's work, but one thing that is true is that they take significantly fewer projects than A-1 Pictures and put a lot more effort into their work. Moreover, the previous two Fate adaptations: Fate/Zero, which catapulted the franchise to wholly unwarranted popularity, and Fate/stay night Unlimited Blades Works, were both animated by Ufotable, to the point where Ufotable's distinctive style of animation, that emphasises smoothness; rapid and clean animation especially in fight scenes; and the use of particle effects, CGI, and colour to mask flaws in the animation, is practically synonymous with Fate in people's minds.

All of which puts A-1 Pictures in a difficult situation: They're never going to be able to measure up to Ufotable, but god damn it all they're going to try.

What that seems to have resulted in is animation time and budget taken away from the fundamentals of the show and put into the fight scenes, which try to emulate the hallmarks of Ufotable's fight scenes -- rapid movement, sharp colour changes, use of lighting and particle effects to create 'dazzle,' -- and fail utterly, resulting in fight scenes that are messy, confusing, and actually kind of annoying to watch.

Don't believe me? Here's Siegfried vs Karna.

So ugly.

In conclusion, I'm bored of this show and the animation is hideous, catch you all next week.

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