We’re still pacing our way through the show’s introduction, judging by how most of this episode was setup for things to come. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to talk about, however! The state of the production itself is becoming increasingly clear, not to mention the appearance of a surprise star!
Storyboard, Episode Direction: Mitsutaka Noshitani
Chief Animation Direction: Tomoko Sudo
Animation Direction: Go Sudo, Sachiko Tsuji
Assistant Animation Director: Takayuki Kikuchi, Chie Saito, Asuka Hayashi
Action Animation Direction: Shun Enokido
Key Animation: Erina Kojima, Tatsuya Yoshihara, Yuichi Yoshida, Hikaru Hosozawa, Hiromi Maesawa, Keiko Nagamine, Hiroko Shigekuni, Maki Sawai, Takashi Murai, Ayako Kanemaru, Sachiko Miyamoto, Daisuke Sato, Hisashi Samejima, Yuka Hasegawa
Kazuma Tanaka, Keisuke Hiroe, Takuro Naka, Yukitaka Kimura, Yuki Akutagawa, Sachiko Tsuji, Takayuki Kikuchi
— Another low-key episode, barring the brief clash between Karna and Siegfried. Let’s use this as an opportunity for some insight into the production as a whole. Character designer Yukei UK Yamada isn’t credited as chief animation director for the entire series as one might have expected. In fact, he even mentioned that he won’t touch the next few episodes on Twitter before promptly deleting the tweet. This isn’t too unusual, considering we’ve seen the likes of Yoshimichi Kameda opt to turn down the position altogether, in favour of directly supervising specific episodes on their respective shows (Mob Psycho 100 in his particular case). There seems to be a more immediate concern in relation to this decision here, though – the project’s questionable schedule. Sub-character designer Tomoko Sudo stepping in for the position this week, not to mention three assistant animation directors coming in for a quiet episode, feels like a clear sign that it’s less a case of artistic intent and more of an attempt to keep the production afloat; since having a single person as chief animation director for a project with rushed drawings creates a bottleneck, many modern disasters choose to employ many of them. If Apocrypha manages to maintain a somehow regular rotation with only two of them it’ll be well within normality, but for a while all signs about the production have been a bit worrying. Judging by what we’ve seen so far, I would assume that Sudo will handle episode 4 as well before passing the baton to someone else for a few episodes. We’ll see.
— Tatsuya Yoshihara’s involvement in this episode came as a very pleasant surprise. I would have assumed that the recently appointed director of Black Clover would have his hands full over there, but a pact between brothers made back in May made him come to action director Takahito Sakazume’s aid. A deal that was sealed by Yoshihara simply saying “Sure. :)” in response to Sakazume’s request, but that’s all you need between dear acquaintances. The young mind behind modest digital animation landmarks like Muromi-san, Yatterman Night and even Monster Musume is one I’ve touched upon briefly before, but his background and ties to the webgen movement can’t be understated. We tend to talk about things coming full circle when it comes to friends helping one another out on their respective shows, and this is just one such case; when examining Shun Enokido and Sakazume’s career, you’ll quickly notice that both played major parts in Yoshihara’s directional endeavours ever since Muromi-san. Sakazume himself was a major player on both Muromi-san and Monster Musume, while Enokido’s work became synonymous with Yatterman Night‘s most stunning moments. In that regard, it only makes sense that Yoshihara would return the favour and come along to help them out on their own big project.
— Unfortunately though, his work ended up being the part that suffered most due to ghosting on part of the TV broadcast. The fact that he wasted no time in posting up the genga of his scene might be a sign of how upset he was over his sequence getting butchered like that. Not something one can blame him for, really.
— Let’s not forget that Keisuke Hiroe and Takayuki Kikuchi also worked on this fight, according to Enokido himself. Unfortunately I’m not familiar enough with either to identify which parts they handled, but the flat shapes as Siegfried plummets while being bombarded by Karna feels like peak webgen aesthetic. The raw drawings of Siegfried being roasted within the flames caused by said bombardment before the eventual explosion (highlighted by impact frames, of course) is a neat touch, too. The ghosting did take its toll here as well, so I look forward to seeing how this looks on the blu-ray release.
— Production-related matters aside, Mordred and Shishigo’s interactions may well be one of my favourite parts of the show so far. The former’s attitude over being stuck in a tomb followed by her reaction to being called King show just how full of character she is. Shishigo continues to prove he’s not the walking cool old man archetype one would expect him to be, either.
Key Animation: Kiminori Ito, Hidekazu Ebina, Endo Masaaki, Onoda Takayuki, Youhei Kozuru, Aika Kawasaki, Takayuki Kikuchi, Atsushi Saito, Kouta Sera, Kazuma Tanaka, Noriyuki Fukuda, Kosuke Iwanaga, Takuro Naka, Kotaro Nakamori, Masakazu Yamazaki
— For an opening directed and storyboarded by Tomohiko Ito of Sword Art Online and ERASED fame, I’m honestly a bit let down considering his memorable previous work in this regard. The tempo of the song itself had me curious about how the sequence would be built around it, but very little of it is noteworthy. Even the action sequences feel standard at best, which is a shame for a series that prides itself on its spectacular fights.
— That being said, one touch I really like is the shots of each master superimposed over silhouettes of their Servants. It ties neatly into what I assume will be the eventual reveal that Shiro somehow has control over all but one of the red faction’s Servants considering we only see him and Shishigo there. Not so much a hunch as they outright tell us moments after.
Key Animation: Hiroko Watabe
— Simple, yet I like this one a lot! The focus on Jeanne herself, as well as the parallels between her and her host Leticia, serve as a reminder that this isn’t just a story about the Great Grail War. Rather than the ones that clumsily try to encapsulate an entire series in less than two minutes, the most inspired OP and EDs tend to be the ones with a clear focus, even if they aren’t particularly fancy about it. This may be my favourite GARNiDELiA song, too, so that helps.