Type-Moon continues to expand the Fate series with the latest installment of the Holy Grail War presented as a Netflix original. In Fate/Apocrypha, 50 years have passed since the Holy Grail was stolen in the last Holy Grail war between the Mage Association and the rebellious Yggd-Millennia family. Fate/Apocrypha does not continue the timeline of Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night. Fate/Apocrypha is a parallel timeline occurring after the 3rd Holy Grail War. Zero and Stay Night are technically the 4th and 5th Holy Grail Wars and Fate/Apocrypha has no relation to that timeline.
With the activation of the Holy Grail 15 servants are summoned for an unprecedented Battle Royale and a new Holy Grail War. Traditionally, the Holy Grail War (as portrayed in Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night) has 7 servants linked to 7 mages. The mages use their magic abilities to power the servants and are able to compel their servants with the use of command seals. Sounds crazy, but if you’re a Fate fan then there’s no need for me to go further.
Fate/Apocrypha ups the ante by pairing red and black teams, the Mage Association (red) and the Yggd-Millenia (black), against each other. Therefore, there are 7 servants assigned to the Mage Association and 7 to the Yggd-Millennia. An additional heroic figure is designated as the Ruler.
In Fate/Apocrypha the Holy Grail War occurs in Europe and the heroic legendary figures chosen as servants are from European lore. The Bride of Frankenstein is the berserker for the black team while Spartacus is the berserker for the Mage Association. Additional European favorites include William Shakespeare, Joan of Arc, Vlad the Impaler, and Achilles. I’m sure you get where this is going!
Fate/Apocrypha tries to give a backstory to some of these heroic legendary characters to make them both familiar and mysterious. If you are familiar with Fate then there is really no need to explain the Holy Grail War and that is where this edition to the Fate series fails. It assumes that you are familiar.
Season 1 of Fate/Apocrypha is only 12 episodes on Netflix. Unlike Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night, the series ends without a conclusion of the Holy Grail War. If this was a traditional Hollywood release I would say they are going for a cash grab, but because it’s Netflix I’ll accept the premise that they are testing the market. Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works should be enough fan validation for a full season of Fate/Apocrypha!
Scour the internet and you will find that additional episodes of Apocrycha exist, but they are not on Netflix. I can only assume that they will be coming as Season 2.
Strip the magical story line from Fate, the series is about putting one core power or skill against another; archer v. sabre, sabre v. lancer, lancer v. caster, etc…. In that regard, Fate as an anime is the best adaptation of a video game that you will ever find! The action is superb! Fate never falls short of intense one on one battles. Nor does it hold back on extraordinary Noble Phantasms. The violence is worthy of the TV-MA rating.
The problem with Fate/Apocrypha is that by increasing the number of servants/mages from 7 to 15 it makes it difficult to follow. At times it is difficult to determine if a servant is black (Yggd-Millenia) or red (Mage Association). The assassin of red is literally dressed in all black! WTF!!!
Several episodes attempt to give a backstory to some of the heroic legendary figures, but the 12 Netflix episodes fails to identify a main character to appeal to the audience. Fate/Zero or Fate/Stay Night clearly identified Sabre as the protagonist. That’s not the case in Fate/Apocrypha. This 12 episode arc lacks focus. I guess you can pick which team you are rooting for, but the series does not guide you one way or another. Maybe that’s the point of this series, but you wouldn’t know from watching 12 episodes.
Overall, the choreographed action is on par with the previous Fate series and I think that is why we look forward to this franchise. The Noble Phantasms continue to be visually impressive. However, the Noble Phantasms seem to fail to deliver the final blow you would expect from such use of power.
I like this addition to the Holy Grail War, but feel like there is so much more to see in the battle between the Mage Association and Yggd-Millenia. Until the second half of this series is released on Netflix my rating is…
7 out of 10