What They Say:
Beyond each of their wishes is where the “Apocrypha” is woven. “Miracle Child” Amakusa Shirou Tokisada — Shirou Kotomine, wishes for the salvation of all humanity using the Greater Grail. “Holy Maiden” Jeanne d’Arc – as Ruler, seeks harmony within the Great Holy Grail War. Sieg — an unknown boy, who picks up the sword for the sake of his own wishes after harboring the power of the “Dragonslayer” within him.
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 thirteen episodes are spread evenly across the three discs here with the first disc getting an extra one. 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 red 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 red 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 and then pages of character designs before looking at the soundtrack list as the second Blu-ray case holds that second 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 – with the second season preview and the home video release promos. We also get the clean opening and closing sequences for this season along with the special web previews for the thirteen-episode run told from a certain point of view included.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While a lot of shows do the split season thing, providing something of a break between in order to ensure the quality of the show, Fate/Apocrypha was a continuous two-cour series that didn’t have any quality problems to it. At least in terms of animation. While it may not be as strong and rich as some of the other Fate properties, it is one that worked well overall and is consistent in its animation quality. Story quality, however, is a whole other thing. I had little knowledge going into the first half of the season and I found it somewhat inaccessible even with what I did know of the larger Fate stories. What made it more difficult, however, was that I didn’t find any of the characters interesting or accessible. There was no central figure to really rally around and understand the show through, to see through their eyes.
With the back half of the series, this is still an issue and it’s compounded more because it’s riding off what was established in the first half as its foundation. Its focus is more on the action itself, throwing a few philosophical issues into the mix, and barreling through events to provide for something that feels complete. Enough so that the last episode really feels like an epilogue piece and even after watching the run over two days I found myself had pressed to really find anything that actually mattered with it. And that’s incredibly frustrating because even prior weak Fate stories had a lot going for them and things that you could connect to, as side stories or alternate tellings of the familiar tale. Here, everything is so separate and unto itself in most ways but with the expectation of connection built in that if you come into it with little knowledge, it doesn’t take long to feel lost.
There’s a lot going on early on in this set about who has what command seals, the status of the servants and those that they’re contracted with, and the confusion over the sudden deaths and other recent events. And that kind of turmoil sends things into more uncertainty as the various sides look to the next stages of their plans – and those that are homunculi worry about how appetizing they are to those that hunt them. It deals with the recent events well enough and begins to move forward as the Grail War gets more fully underway and those involved now really understand their position in it all. It’s a familiar refrain where those brought into it are wary and get lightly involved until things suddenly become real. Sieg in particular really needed to do this sooner so that Jeanne will work with him but even with it at this late date there’s still that level of uncertainty on her part, which carries on for a while.
The series really just goes into a whole range of different fights in different configurations from there and it lost me the more it went on. It’s that kind of show where you’re sitting there watching it and you realize that it’s just not clicking, it’s washing over you and you really have no engagement with the characters and what they’re trying to accomplish. But it is done very well in terms of animation because the fight sequences, the locations, the color design work alone, really is striking and engaging. It’s got a really grand feeling during much of it with the use of the score in the way that it gives it all quite the epic feeling. And that can sustain a series more than it should sometimes, which made it easy to just lean back a bit and enjoy it for the spectacle. There’s just so much going on here with so many different fights underway that are mostly self-contained in each episode with a few that spill over into the next that it’s just a delight to watch as the kinds of attacks and characters play out against each other. In the end, it’s a wonderful little exercise in “what if” without any greater impact, but that also is what undercuts it.
I was really intrigued by the start of this series with its concept of what if a pivotal event didn’t happen, or happened differently, and how that would change everything. It’s a familiar storytelling device and one that leads to some great imagination and twists. Shifting the story to Romania and using an all-new cast, for the most part, wasn’t a bad idea, because we’ve seen variations on the theme with the core cast already, but what it failed to do for me was to provide characters that I could connect with in it and see the story through. It’s overstuffed and lacks that strong narrative throughline to work like it has in the other properties. As with the first set, Aniplex USA did great by the release with a strong visual presentation, a great dub, and a solid package for the fans. In the end, it just didn’t click for me.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, PV & CM Collection (includes English subtitles), Textless Opening and Ending
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: February 12th, 2019
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.