After a final stretch of outstanding episodes. Fate/Apocrypha finally reaches its conclusion. A show that by all means should have been doomed by nature of the production issues that plagued it, yet one that continued to pull through by part of the incredible staff who were determined to burn their work into everyone’s memories. Let’s take one last look at what makes Apocrypha special, and why I’ve had so much fun following and covering it for the past half year.
Storyboard: Tetsuo Hirakawa, Shun Enokido
Episode Direction: Michiru Itabisashi
Chief Animation Direction: Tomoko Sudo
Animation Direction: Takehiro Miura, Satoshi Noma, Yusuke Kurinishi, Kazuma Tanaka, Kazuya Takahashi, Osamu Kobayashi, Yukitaka Kimura, Atsushi Aono, Rie Usui, Yuuki Hara, Yurie Hama
Action Animation Direction: Shun Enokido
Key Animation: Yoshitaka Sato, Naoki Yamauchi, Yuji Kikuta, Masaru Suzuki, Hiroe Suzuki, Koichi Takai, Shota Goshozono, Hiroyuki Takeuchi, Sayo Hisano, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Yoshiaki Tomita, Junji Uesugi, Ikuma Imayoshi, Takumi Onuki, Hiroaki Kanbe, Yuka Hasegawa, Takashi Irie
Takuro Naka, Yuki Akutagawa, Kazuya Takahashi, Toru Iwasawa, Kouta Sera, Kazuma Tanaka, Toshiyuki Sato, Soichiro Matsuda, Takashi Kojima, 土理庵, Shingo Yamashita, Shun Enokido
─ If you’ve been following our coverage of Apocrypha, you’ll have noticed how rare it is for me to address any part of the show as outright bad. Unfortunately this episode provides one of those rare instances through the frankly flat revelation of Jeanne’s feelings for Sieg, which is especially egregious as a follow up to one of the show’s most touching moments. I had high hopes for the inevitable Shakespeare induced flashback after what we’d seen all the way back in episode 9, but those hopes quickly came crashing down. Though I’ll at least give a shout-out to the presentation of Gilles and his gradual transition from the loyal ally Jeanne knew to the psychotic Caster we all know from Fate/Zero, standing out both visually and through his voicework.
─ With that out of the way, we can focus on the good part of the episode. I’d say I have nothing but sympathy for those tasked with following up on the accomplishment that was episode 22, but Apocrypha had already set a high standard for its action animation, so let’s not waste time making comparisons. This episode serves as Shun Enokido’s final outing as action supervisor, made all the more special as he was given the opportunity to directly storyboard the first half as well. Downright ridiculous scenes such as Mordred surfing on Clarent and riding Semiramis’ chains are further proof that he has a sense for exciting action that few others do, but if anything I’d like to draw attention to his ability to make full use of the scale of Semiramis’ throne room. One major complaint I have about other action focused shows is when they lose all sense of the scale and depth of wherever their clashes take place, but Enokido makes sure to keep it all in mind here and use it to his advantage rather than toss it all out the window. For someone whose instincts and influences naturally take him in the opposite direction, this is very commendable.
─ It wouldn’t be right not to give the pairing of Mordred and Shishigo one last mention considering the events that take place. Astolfo may have ended up as my favourite character, but watching these two throughout the show never ceased to be a joy, their camaraderie once again put in the limelight throughout the first half. Their final moments together are the undisputed highlight in my eyes, a moment so touching it helped me reaffirm just how much I’ve been enjoying this show, even with the somewhat corny imagery. Was it fun? You’re damn right it was.
Storyboard: Susumu Nishizawa
Episode Direction: Ryo Nakano
Chief Animation Direction: Hidekazu Ebina
Animation Direction: Sachiko Tsuji, Shunryo Nakamura, Toshiya Kouno, Kohei Yamazaki, Keisuke Hiroe, Hikaru Hosozawa, Takayuki Kikuchi, Chiaki Naruzumi, Satoshi Noma, Yuuki Hara, Rie Usui, Mami Hayakawa, Jiemon Futsuzawa, Yurie Hama
Action Animation Direction: Takahito Sakazume
Key Animation: Hirotaka Nii, Nagisa Takahashi, Kotetsu Aoki, Kei Sato, Yoshihara Fukushima, Yasushi Fukushima, Hideo Amemiya, Masami Goto, Yoshiaki Tomita, Masami Yamashita, Koichi Takai, Nanako Ninomiya, Hiroshi Oikawa, Takahiro Arai, Kohei Yamazaki, Tomoko Kitagawa, Satoru Kusuda, Ako Kagiyama, Fuyume Kawajiri, Toshihiko Masuda
Yuki Akutagawa, Hosozawa Hikaru, Takuro Naka, Takuma Funao, Yoshitake Nakakoji, Terahasu Ono, Takayuki Kikuchi, Keisuke Hiroe, Jirou Suzuki, Toru Iwasawa, Nozomu Abe, Shinjirou Egawa, Keiichirou Watanabe, Ryuuta Yanagi, Hidekazu Ebina, Shun Enokido, Takahito Sakazume
─ You would think the proverbial tank would be empty by this point, but the Apocrypha crew live by the motto of throwing away logic and kicking reason to the curb. Gilles earns his redemption by protecting and allowing Jeanne to offer up her prayer and switch to player 2 colours, an event meaningful enough that FX master Nozomu Abe was called in, delivering dense flames that almost have you sweating just by looking at them. This does unfortunately lead to another event that I found myself less than fond of, as despite the effort to follow through with Jeanne’s newly displayed abilities, she’s quickly wiped out without accomplishing much in order to have Sieg handle the rest. Don’t take that as a slight against Sieg, either. I actually don’t dislike him as a character, but this is one of those moments where I would have liked to see him and Jeanne fight side by side, making it feel like something of a missed opportunity on a personal level.
─ Personal gripes aside, though: wow. The pacing and intensity of Sieg and Shiro’s collision refuses to let up until the episode title drops, acting as a final testament towards their ability to deliver in situations where others simply just wouldn’t be able to. The lack of corrections no doubt plays a part in that, but allowing drawings to become warped and not obsessing over staying on-model during action sequences has proved to be a key asset in Apocrypha‘s arsenal, much more so with the presence of youngsters who see this is an ideal form of expressing their work. I spent half of the time praising Shun Enokido’s storyboard for the previous episode, but this time he deserves a mention for providing a significant chunk of key animation on top of his previous accolades. A workhorse if there ever was one! Also worth noting is that I absolutely love Sieg knocking a tile into the air and kicking it towards Shiro, as it conceptually reminded me of the Gon vs Hisoka fight from Hunter x Hunter.
─ The clear MVP for this episode was action supervisor Takahito Sakazume and his 15 second long cut, however. Land of the Lustrous recently sparked discussions on what is and isn’t possible in 2D productions vs 3D ones, and many seemed to have come to the conclusion that uninterrupted cuts featuring wild camerawork simply wasn’t possible in the former. Sakazume kindly went and proved that this was far from the truth, and that with the right person at the helm it’s possible to pull off even without a healthy schedule backing them up. It’s not even the first time this has been accomplished under such circumstances, as Sakazume himself highlighted that he felt inspired to go ahead with it while watching Masaaki Yuasa’s take on Ping Pong and seeing what Yasunori Miyazawa had pulled off during its finale. The potential for 2D animation — albeit often held back by production realities — is limitless, and this is just one such case of people pulling off feats that would otherwise be considered impossible!
─ The return of the wild lightning that was synonymous with Fran and her unhinged nature as a Berserker class servant that I addressed when talking about servant traits making its return after the revelation that she’d become a part of Sieg served as a genuine surprise. Sieg himself took on her characteristics from this moment on, from his expressions to his much more turbulent fighting style, making it clear that character expression and the attention to detail that we’d previously seen remained a priority right until the end. Props to all involved!
Storyboard: Yoshiyuki Asai
Episode Direction: Yoshiyuki Asai, Satoshi Saga
Chief Animation Direction: Yukei Yamada, Kiminori Ito
Animation Direction: Kazuma Tanaka, Tomoko Sudo, Hidekazu Ebina, Yurie Hama, Keisuke Hiroe, Chiaki Naruzumi, Jiemon Futsuzawa, Takehiro Miura, Kazuya Takahashi, Toshiya Kouno, Sachiko Tsuji, Yuuki Hara
Key Animation: Kyohei Yamamoto, Sayo Hisano, Oogi Eto, Hiroshi Kawaguchi, Midori Matsumoto, Arisa Kumagawa, Toshiko Hashimoto, Tomoyoshi Tsuchiya, Yoshitaka Kato, Kazuhiro Ono, Mariko Nishimura, Shoko Maruyama, Dai Oohara, Yutaka Arai
Yukina Kosaka, Yukitaka Kimura, Yurie Hama, Sakimoto Ise, Naoto Nakamura, Kouta Sera, Hidekazu Ebina, Yukei Yamada
─ A quiet finale, but one that feels earned after the intensity of the final stretch. Not just within the show itself, but on a production level as well. Apocrypha never should have had as many highlights as it did so late on when it seemed like it could fall apart at the seams at any moment, yet it continued to defy its fate thanks to the staff delivering above the bar against all odds. Their efforts are rewarded with an episode that, while still too tight for comfort in terms of scheduling, is far less demanding than what came previously, giving both them and the viewer time to reflect on everything that lead up to it before seeing the show off.
─ While the animation direction credits have been messy for the majority of the show’s duration, close inspection makes it apparent that there was always a set group of people entrusted with the task as opposed to just throwing it to anyone and everyone available. Not quite a rotation considering some would appear multiple episodes in a row, but it’s safe to say that this was a factor that allowed the show to keep its head above water right until the end. This is also the first episode where more than one chief AD was credited, shared between character designer Yukei Yamada and Kiminori Ito; it’s standard for the character designer to handle the final episode should supervision be a part of their role, but Ito being allowed to share that position with UK shows how much stock he’s built up for himself within this project ever since wow’ing practically everyone involved with his work on episode 2. Don’t be surprised if you see his career take a substantial boost following this project!
─ The romance angle between Sieg and Jeanne remains a low point that the show could have done without, but not one that could sour me on the experience as a whole even if their reunion felt like a much less moving take on Fate/stay night‘s Last Episode. More importantly, though: Astolfo! I’m not quite sure about the logic behind it, but it was a pleasant surprise to see him survive through the war after weeks of expecting a heroic sacrifice to send him off. The nicest, most pleasant character survives. I couldn’t ask for more!
I don’t think anyone will be surprised when I say that I’m sad to see Apocrypha go. It’s a show that could have been so much more had it not been suffocated with production constraints, yet one I consider special nonetheless thanks to all the people involved pouring their heart and soul into it. I can’t think of many other shows that would have been more appropriate for my first foray into weekly coverage, though it being two cours kinda makes it feel like I’ve been writing about the show for years. There’s been plenty of arguments over which Fate adaptations are better, but as a fan of the series as a whole I can say that I like both without reservation and move on. Most importantly though, I look forward to seeing what this crew has in store for them next after what they’ve pulled off here.
So long as it doesn’t involve a certain dark-tinted plant.
Full series coverage:
- Episodes 1-2
- Episode 3
- Episodes 4-5
- Episode 6
- Episodes 7-8
- Episode 9
- Episodes 10-12
- Episodes 13-14
- Episodes 15-18
- Episodes 19-21
- Episode 22