I’ve returned from Anime Expo, which means it’s finally time to begin coverage of the newest addition to the ranks of Fate anime! For those not familiar with the staff and why this adaptation is as notable as it is, I made sure to detail all of that during our season preview, so let’s skip the pleasantries and dig right in!
Key Animation: Hitomi Ochiai, Miwa Yoshida, Hiroko Watanabe, Shinobu Okouchi, Aiko Komamoto, Haruka Sanefuji, Kei Anjiki, Yukitaka Kimura, Yoji Minaharu
Takahito Sakazume, Shun Enokido, Hidekazu Ebina, Takayuki Kikuchi, Toshiya Kawano, Sachiko Tsuji, Takuro Naka
— Staff comment first and foremost: Yukei UK Yamada didn’t get to supervise the first episode’s animation all by himself. Instead the workload was split between Tomoko Sudo (sub-character designer) and Hidekazu Ebina (monster designer). I’m not quite sure to how to interpret this, but it may be a sign that things are already in a tricky spot production-wise, especially now that we know the show will be a full two cour with no split between.
— In a wonderful twist of irony, the show with all eyes on its action pedigree kicks off with a display of delicate motion. Those who criticise the webgen movement, as if it was a monolithic foe, tend to cite a lack of diversity in their arsenal, but Takahito Sakazume effortlessly proved just how untrue this can be. As an aside, director Yoshiyuki Asai’s touch is all over this intro sequence; it’s the sort of material he tends to shine with most, which he’d already displayed previously even within Charlotte. The rest of the episode is much more standard in comparison, but hopefully he’ll have the opportunity to take us down this avenue more often once we’re done with all the introductions.
— What follows is one huge set piece that finally allows the Holy Grail War – or rather, the Great Holy Grail War – to earn its name. I’m fond of the small-scale, personal clashes present in regular Fate, but Apocrypha is very intent on doing things differently, and I certainly won’t be complaining. There’s something to be said about all the nameless participants showing off their own personal fighting styles as opposed to mindlessly rushing in and slashing away as you would normally see with battles on this sort of scale. A testament to Shun Enokido’s prowess and understanding of what makes action exciting to watch in the first place, if nothing else.
— Wild effects immediately separate both Sabers from the pack during their clash, making it evident that they’re playing on a league of their own. Kutsuna Lightning has already become synonymous with Mordred, which is appropriate considering the large focus on her use of overwhelming speed to dominate Siegfried. The use of impact frames to signal the activation of a Noble Phatasm is also a very neat touch, and one that they’ll hopefully play about with in the future.
— On a more disappointing note, digital effects drowning out Sakazume’s own effects for Mordred’s Clarent Blood Arthur is almost heartbreaking.
— Back to positive things! It’s no secret that Enokido is immensely skilled, but his evolution as of late is downright scary. The staging of Jeanne’s square off with…err, this massive alien golemn fellow may remind you of the work of a certain animation superstar, and for good reason; it’s noticeable in the choreography of the fight itself, the timing of those dynamic movements, the sense of impact imbued within…. He’s incorporated all of that into his own style, but I feel there’s a major difference worth addressing: as spectacular as it is, Yutapon‘s more recent work (starting from Blood Blockade Battlefront perhaps) can be rather messy and hard to follow, with the progression in certain sequences making little to no sense. Even his latest appearance on My Hero Academia, which I actually liked quite a bit, features that somewhat awkward cut of Deku flying over Todoroki’s ice without any real attention paid to the size of the arena this is all taking place in. In contrast, Enokido’s work never overwhelms the viewer even with the multiple elements that require attention within each cut. Cool action is good, but having it all make sense on top of that is the quickest way to win me over, personally, and I absolutely can’t wait to see what else he pulls off throughout this show’s run.
— Things get less exciting here, as it’s time for exposition. This is where people begin to complain, though I question why one would watch a Type-Moon property when fully aware that their work and endless exposition go hand in hand. Don’t tell anyone, but I tend to like it more often than not! Unfortunately they didn’t take a page out of Fate/Zero and Unlimited Blade Works‘ books when it comes the explanation of the Great Grail War – doing so without walking in circles just doesn’t feel right anymore. There were some nice layouts over at Clock Tower, but nothing too major. Chances are this’ll be the standard for moments like this, but one can always hope we’ll have some interesting storyboard artists spice things up along the way. For the record, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood / Scorching Ping Pong Girls‘ Yasuhiro Irie has already confirmed he handled one episode!
— He’s abandoned Magecraft and learned the art of the Sakuga Flick.
— Fun tidbit: I watched this episode with a bunch of friends while at Anime Expo, and absolutely every single one of us burst out laughing at Rocco’s claim that the Church – the overseer specifically – was on their side this time around. This franchise knows how see-through it is, and is willing to go all the way with it. God bless.
— The camera rotation during the summoning ritual for four of the black side’s Servants felt reminiscent of Rin’s summoning of Archer in the TV version of Unlimited Blade Works, though it wasn’t quite as effectively executed. I did like the little details during Shishigo’s summoning sequence though, such as the gusts of wind colliding with the slab his artifact sat on.
— Mordred’s Iron Man-esque suit of armour is outrageous and most likely a nightmare to work with, but I love it regardless. While there isn’t particular staff overlap between the two, A-1 in general seems to be cursed with drawing impossibly intricate armour.
Storyboard: Yoshiyuki Asai
Episode Direction: Hiroki Hirano
Chief Animation Director: Yukei Yamada
Animation Direction: Kouhei Tokuoka, Kiminori Ito
Action Animation Direction: Shun Enokido, Takahito Sakazume
Key Animation: Satoshi Noma, Yorihisa Koyada, Tatsuya Urano, Shunryo Yamamura, Akiko Nakano, Kazumi Kasai, Norie Kanekubo, Kouta Sugawa, Noriyuki Fukuda, Rie Usui, Atsushi Aono, Rina Nagai, Yurie Hama, Hidekichi Furuhata, Kazunori Ozawa, Yoshitaka Sato, Junji Uesugi
Yuki Akutagawa, Toru Iwasawa, Kouta Sera, Kiminori Ito
— Definitely a more low-calorie episode than the previous, though there’s still some noteworthy elements. Enokido and Sakazume being credited for action animation direction makes sense considering their position: when they’re not drawing key animation themselves like in the spectacular intro, then their role is to oversee the output of other artists working on the action setpieces they helped conceptualize, ensuring it’s all in line with their vision. How this affects their workload, and whether they’ll manage to juggle direct animation work with supervision duties, remains to be seen. It’s entirely possible they’ll focus their efforts more on corrections, while saving their own animation for the most climactic scenes. Nothing but speculation for now though, as it’s too early to notice trends!
— Kiminori Ito’s presence as animation director for the second half of the episode, where he did some key animation as well, is noticeable. More folds and creases on clothing, with Shishigo’s attire getting some special treatment whether in still form or in motion. and he even added in some random background animation that’s barely visible, explicitly for no reason other than he wanted to.
— Pleasantly surprised by the volume of subdued acting in this episode. Astolfo’s character lends itself towards spirited mannerisms, but moments like Shishigo leaving the church and Mordred’s joyful little spin after getting some new clothes were a genuine, and most certainly pleasant, surprise.
— Anyone who mentions the virgin killer sweater will be named and shamed.
— Impact frames return as Frankenstein triggers the final stage of her Noble Phantasm. I think it’s safe to say that this will definitely be a trend, especially so with Enokido onboard.
— My absolute favourite part of this episode is the portrayal of Mordred’s speed when she wipes out the golems. Emphasis had already been placed on it during the first episode, but I feel that Toru Iwasawa’s take on her inhumane agility is completely spot-on. Lightning spewing everywhere as she darts around the field while progressively equipping her armour, leaving an afterimage behind as she mows two more down, followed by that second-to-last cut of her dealing the final blow. I haven’t popped off that hard to a piece of action animation in a long time, and it’s proof that bringing in Enokido and Sakazume as action directors rather than simply recurring animators was genius. Allowing others to work directly under them and incorporate their own take on things is a surefire way to ensure that we not only see exhilarating work more consistently, but in the case of youngsters, it also allows them to gain the kind of experience that’ll raise future monsters within the industry.
That’s it for this week! I wanted to talk about the OP and ED as well, but this is already long enough as it is. Instead I’ll leave it for the next post, which could quite possibly be next week considering Sakazume has been hyping up episode 3 as an absolute must-see. Considering how well it’s treating me so far, I can only imagine what we’ve got in store!