Why did I start watching it?
Because fate! I love the fate series and was super excited to see a part of it I didn't know much about.
What is it?
Fate, in a nutshell, is a series where heroes from the past are summoned by mages to battle royal until one is standing. Winner gets a wish from the holy grail. There are normally seven servants in total each fitting into a certain class.
Apocrypha's twist on this formula is that there are two sets of servants and a ruler to preside over the holy grail war.
What are the characters like?
There are some great characters in Apocrypha. There is a nice variety of servants who's identities range from household names like Skaespeare and Achilles to lesser-known ones that make you want to do some googling like Atalanta and Astolfo.
Masters are...minimal, which is something I understand from a writing point of view, at least. With 14 servants in the series that means 14 masters which makes a 28 character cast without counting the Rulers and any other characters that might be needed. I can see from a practical point of view why you would want to cut that down, however, it is disappointing and makes one side of the war interesting due to it being the main one to have servant-master relationships.
Anyone particularly cool?
There is a small list. Mordred and her master, Sisigou are the stars of the show. The show should have been about the man who could have summoned any of the knights of the round table but got Mordred of all people. It should have been about this man who is super tough but just wants a kid and the kid who is trying to figure out how she feels about her dad. I'm sad that these two didn't get the main role but loved every second they were on screen, they had such a great dynamic, great banter, they were fun to watch.
Then Achilles. I kept forgetting the Achilles was summoned as a Rider in this because he had a lance and the aloof chilled out attitude I tend to associate with a Lancer(Cu sets my Lancer standard). I really enjoyed Achilles, though I felt like we didn't get to see enough of him, or at least his relationship with Atalanta wasn't developed where it should have been in the end. Despite his lack of time he felt like a fuller character than most, especially compared to the other servants of red(excluding Saber). I feel like we got to see more sides of him, and that he had a bit more on his plate compared to the others who seemed to be purely motivated by personal grudges or promises. I admired him for finding his own motivations and fighting until the end for what he believed in.
What's the bad news?
Have you noticed that I haven't said much on the main character yet? Well, that's cause he's kind of the worst part of the series. It's sad because he gets a very interesting start. The main character is a homunculus, created to be a magic battery in preparation for the war. He starts out as basically a baby having, been in a tube for the first couple of episodes. I was pretty positive about him in the beginning. He was an interesting wild card in the series but later on, his involvement starts to feel a bit forced and his power-ups a little convenient, not to mention he doesn't really develop much of a personality.
He gets by with the help of another annoyance I have. Don't get me wrong, Astolfo was a great character, they were a cute and happy ray of sunshine but they're a bit too lucky...This isn't something that bothered me too much at that start of the series but Astolfo's luck stat is not A it is EX desu machina. They are constantly being saved by other servants happening to turn up at the right time, happening to be in the right spot to be inadvertently defended, happening to have someone around that can make a contract with them. I didn't want Astolfo to die or anything but I stopped being worried about them nearer the end. Their plot armour is too strong.
Also the animation of the last few fights went a bit weird. It suddenly looked unpolished, unfinished and strange compared to the rest of the series. It could have been argued as a style choice but simply because it seemed to come out of nowhere it was a little jarring and I'm more inclined to believe that the animators had to rush the action-heavy finally. I've seen a few videos naming one of the said fights and one of the best of 2017 which confuses me because the whole thing was style over substance, a huge spectacle of colour that was hard to follow and felt very out of place with the rest of the series. Not to mention the nobel phantasm spamming...*sigh* I'll stop there before I ruin it, trying to keep spoiler free.
Also, the timeline of this alternative fate universe is confusing...
Also, the Shiou troll to fate fans...
...I had more to rant about this than I thought...
And the good news?
As much as I just complained about one of the fights there is one before it that is great. A bare fist fight between two superhumans. It's amazingly choreographed, showing off the servants pure skill and strength. It didn't have the explosions or grand scale of other fights but it didn't need it. It reminded me of Kiritsugu vs Kirei from Fate/Zero.
Mordred and Sisigou need another mention in this section because they were awesome but other than that I'm struggling to find specific things I liked about this series which annoys me because I did enjoy watching it. I don't regret getting excited about this series.
I think the first half of the series was really good, it starts a bit slow with a lot of explaining but so does every fate series so far. The masters of Black, or at least Coules and Frankenstein are great to watch at the start. They don't have much time together but the friendship between the two is quickly established in cute and beautiful scenes. Fran herself is adorable too.
I also liked how the took a bit of time to explain bits about the servants. They didn't give the whole backstory but, they explained personal reasons well and sprinkled lesser known parts of their legend with a few flashbacks. Also as a fate fan, it's fun seeing cameos of other servants.
Would you recommend?
For a fan of the fate series, I recommend it. As much as I've pointed out some holes it's still a fun watch with some cool ideas, and some characters you won't want to miss out on.
Like reading about this? You might like reading about the Fate Mobile App: Fate/Grand Order! Now in English