What They Say:
The Black Faction seized the Greater Grail for the sake of the clan’s most earnest wish to symbolize its independence from the Mage’s Association. The Mage’s Association gathers the Red Faction in order to thwart such ambitions. Taking place in Trifas, Romania, the Great Holy Grail War that takes place between 14 Heroic Spirits summoned by the two factions transforms thanks to Shirou Kotomine, one of the Masters of the Red, who is also the Overseer for this Great War.
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo alongside the English language dub produced for it, both of which are done up using the uncompressed PCM form. The series is one that works a good balance of action and dialogue as we’ve seen with past projects within the franchise and that’s pretty much true here. The dialogue ranges well with what it does so that the quiet scenes have the right menace when needed while the bigger scenes in battle with yelling and more come across sharp and clear. The action component is just as well-handled with lots of movement across the forward soundstage and a good sense of placement and depth, as well as a nice little bit of bass here and there. Both tracks sound good from what we sampled of them and they come across clean and clear throughout as we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread evenly across the four discs here with plenty of space to work with. Animated by A-1 Pictures, it has a lot of the same kind of detail and design work we’ve seen from other projects in the franchise but enough differences that it feels not quite the same. Which works for the story being told. The encoding here is pretty much perfect as we get a tight and problem-free encoding where colors are solid throughout, detail is visible easily in a lot of the very dark sequences, and there’s some real vibrancy to a lot of scenes. Fluid motions are beautiful to watch here and it’s both the action and the quieter material through the detail of the design of it all that helps to really draw you into this world.
The packaging for this limited edition set is pretty nice as we get a heavy chipboard box done all up in white that gives it a great pristine feeling to it. The front panel has the sigil in gray with the logo on top of it with the set name and numbering, giving it a really classic kind of importance in how it feels. The other side goes for a big key visual illustration piece of lots of the main cast in their form here which has a great sense of power to it and some really dark tones as well. Inside the box we get to clear Blu-ray cases where they’re both done with gray sleeves that focus on the sigils in black while the logo is on white on top of it. It’s simple but effective in what it does but it’s almost too simple as the reverse side is just more dark grey while the discs contrast it with a lot of vibrancy and white backgrounds that has character artwork on it. The other piece included is a really nice full-color booklet that has a couple of pages of interview material with original creator Yuichiro Higashide and then pages of character designs before looking at the soundtrack list as the second Blu-ray case holds that first soundtrack to it.
The menu design for the release is pretty solid overall and fits in nicely with the franchise as a whole. The menu works a series of good clips moving in and out of the field throughout it with lots of bold colors to help define it. It works with some good quiet moments just in what the characters are doing but also some action ones to ramp up the intensity. The navigation along the bottom keeps it simple with standard selections that are quick to access both as the main menu and the pop-up menu where it has a kind of chained effect to it. Language selection is a breeze and navigating the copious extras works very well.
The extras for this release are pretty good as we get several promos and commercials – which are welcome in that they’re subtitled – as well as the clean opening and closing sequences. We also get the special web previews for the full twelve episode run told from a certain point of view included.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series of the same name, Fate/Apocrypha is a twenty-five episode TV anime series that aired in the summer and fall of 2017. This set has the first twelve episodes for it as it covers the setup and the first really big fight with a lot of the players. The novel series from Yuichiro Higashide, who wrote the series composition for this, ran for five volumes between 2012 and 2014 and saw a five-volume manga spinoff as well. Yoshiyuki Asai directed this and it was also a different project simply because A-1 Pictures animated it instead ufotable behind most of the projects so far in the last several years.
As I’ve talked about with some other Fate properties recently, it’s getting a bit overwhelming on the casual viewership side of it because there are so many projects. With Fate/Apocrypha we get something that does sort of sidestep the main issue because it’s an alternate world storyline that isn’t tied to all that we’ve had before. This one makes its big change decades before the events we know in Fuyuki City as the world war has the hunt for the Grail as a part of it and has a significant change in that the Einzbern summoned a Ruler. And they went so far as to remove the Holy Grail to Romania, which eliminates the events of several other series since Fuyuki City isn’t involved. That’s a big change that removes pretty much all of the usual human characters that we deal with and the way in which the Servants are drawn and act as we get to the present day and the latest Holy Grail War.
This time, we get two main factions that are going against each other and it’s playing out like a game of chess to some degree. The Red faction works with the Mage’s Association while the Black faction is a local group in Romania that’s known as Yggdmillennia. There’s a lot of history to both sides and they’re organizing their factions with a good range of masters and servants which is fleshed out quickly. While we had cut our teeth on Stay Night where it did a slow build of adding characters, this one works us through a large cast quickly with both sides getting introduced and a lot of their backstories done in short or focusing on the connection between master and servant. Honestly, this really frustrated me because while the Rule this time around is the central focus for it I never really felt like there were any accessible characters. It’s a big ensemble cast where we don’t have a good anchor through which to understand the story. It all, quite frankly, becomes overwhelming (especially when marathoned).
This half of the series is all about the introductions and the locale change from what we know from the main continuity and it goes hard and fast into the actual action itself. I don’t think there’s much in the way of engaging story here because the characters never get enough time to really connect with, though Sieg as the “homunculus” pretty much gets the thrust of attention. There are some interesting characters used in this one, such as Frankenstein’s monster and Jack the Ripper and I was definitely amused to see Shakespeare as a Caster for one of the factions. What I really liked was seeing the last few episodes where get the reveal of who the Lancer of Black is and how Darnic as a master on the black side uses the truth of who he is in a creative way to play an incredibly potentially long game when it comes to the Holy Grail.
I really like the Fate franchise as a whole but the push for so many projects in the last few years has been frustrating. I get it in that there are so many routes within the game and this project in particular was designed as an alt-world game that didn’t make it into reality. There’s a lot of appeal in the opening episode with the setup that we get for this world and why things are so radically different but it did not give me any characters that I really could connect with and engage with the story through. There are simply too many characters between the two factions with master and servants introduced too quickly that it just becomes a mess. It’s filled with fantastic action with so many great fight scenes that helps to salvage is grade more than it probably should but I just love the look of it, the creativity of it all, but found myself wishing that it was probably twice as long at minimum in order to really introduce the world and its cast in a better way. Aniplex USA did great by the release with a strong visual presentation, a great dub, and a solid package for the fans.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, PV & CM Collection (includes English subtitles), Textless Opening and Ending
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: November 20th, 2018
Running Time: 280 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.