A troubled project
Fate / Extra and the projects attached to it are just one of the numerous works produced in parallel in reference to Fate, a branching of products unrelated to both the main work and to each other which, over time, has led to the clear perception of a confusing structure of the franchise, making its clear and linear fruition complex.
Among the works initially planned after hollow ataraxia, in collaboration with an unknown development studio, Nasu announced the intention to publish a Fate-themed MMO in which the players, in the role of Master, would have to compare their Servant with that of the Masters rivals creating a world that, even if online game, would have had a complete and changeable history depending on the relationships between the Masters and Servants in play.
However, the project was unable to get out of the initial design phase and was abandoned to be re-proposed, as announced in 2011, in written form through a series of Light Novels written by Yuichiro Higashide and illustrated by Ototsugu Konoe.
The concept behind the MMO originally scheduled would have remained unchanged, but the story would have had a broad review to accommodate the new communication medium chosen for its publication, giving life to a total of five volumes released to the public starting from the end of the 2012, ending the edition over the next two years.
The work, appropriately titled Fate / Apocrypha, will stage a new form of conflict that will be the fulcrum of the whole affair.
As we are now accustomed to seeing in the transversal products of the Nasuverse, Fate / Apocrypha also places in its premises a chronological divergence from its original product: the Third War of the Holy Grail of Fuyuki, which occurred during the early stages of the Second World War, ends in bankruptcy due to the destruction of the Grail Minore, while the Grail Maggiore is stolen.
Weakened by the Holy Grail War, the members of the Three Families, the nobles who oversee the conflict over the chalice, fail to recover the Grail, now in the hands of Nazi Germany.
Shortly thereafter, however, the traces of the Holy Grail are completely lost, leaving its fate subject to speculation.
This event marked the end of the conflicts of Fuyuki and, above all, of the Three Families: the Tohsaka have given up on the Grail, the Matou have presumably fallen completely while the Einzbern have attempted to build a new Grail. In the meantime, details and information on the ritual of the Holy Grail end up inadvertently spread to the magical world, making the process behind the system of the Holy Grail War, which the Association of Magicians had mostly ignored when the phenomenon was isolated in Fuyuki, a common practice in the late twentieth century.
Most of the conflicts were however on a small scale, with a maximum of five Servants deployed, an insufficient number to complete the ritual and be able to fulfill a wish, giving life to several small inconclusive battles.
It is around the early twenty-first century, in the same years in which the Fifth War of the Holy Grail of Fuyuki would take place, that the Yggdmillenia, an unusual family of the Association of Magicians that collects unfortunate wizards considered inferior by acting as an ideological dome rather that based on the blood link and its presumed nobility, declare their secession from the Association and establish themselves as a magical society independent of Clock Tower.
On this occasion, the family declares its role in the theft of the Holy Grail of Fuyuki, revealing the possession and evocation of Servant as a preventive response to any conflicts, thus protecting their declared new independence.
Located in the fictitious city of Trifas in Transylvania, the Yggdmillenia are attacked by an array of fifty wizards in order to recover the stolen artifact although almost all are easily wiped out by Lancer, Servant of Darnic Prestone Yggdmillenia, family leader.
This event, however, allows the activation of the Major Grail emergency system, which guarantees the presence of a conflict to decree a worthy Grail winner in the event that the seven selected Masters should ally, allowing the Association of Magicians to select an array of seven Masters who, with their Servants, can deal equally with the Masters under the wing of the Yggdmillenia.
The conflict resulting from this new system, which sees the bloody war between fourteen Masters and their Servants, will be called the Great War of the Holy Grail, fought between the Red and Black faction, represented respectively by the veterans chosen by Clock Tower as the avant-garde for the 'Association of Magicians and members of the Yggdmillenia family and the homunculi created to assist them.
Among these will be Sieg, an anomalous homunculus who has started to develop his own personality, to star in the story.
Probably for its videogame origin, Fate / Apocrypha stands out from the other works of the franchise for its accentuation of the action and the fighting between the various Servants and Masters more than any other pecedent Fate, usually more focused on the relationships between the characters, on the mysteries and conspiracies behind the events.
This is obviously possible due to the numerous presence of Heroic Spirits in the narrative, which acts as a strength but, at the same time, as a weak point for the story.
If in fact the high amount of characters involved allows a more direct and lively conflict than the binomial Zero-stay night, on the other hand the high number of Masters involved makes the story insipid: the characters lack a strong motivation that defines in their presence in the war, and even where there are interesting characters, the choice not to tell the conflict as a choral cast story but rather the events of a specific protagonist inevitably puts them in the background in favor of a protagonist. whose main character trait, especially in the early stages, is to be a puppet with no personality.
Form vs Substance in Fate / Apocrypha
This does not mean that Apocrypha does not present positive ideas: for the first time in the franchise, the cast of heroes presented is completely new, different dynamics allow the deepening of various universal facets of Fate, Nasuverse and some of its characters, but often these narrative cues are dominated by superfluous romance, inconsistencies with the predetermined lore in Fate and a general decline in the strategic and logistical aspect of the war in favor of more theatrical and linear approaches.
In this sense Apocrypha is an overall average work, which suffers from a greater number of characters than it is able to manage and which often asks questions that have no answer, favoring the more immediate and light fruition of a story theme Fate but without the "meat on fire" and the concrete content behind the stories that made the success of the franchise.
Fate / Apocrypha obtained a manga adaptation started in 2016 by Akira Ishida in Kadokawa Shoten's Comp Ace magazine, while in 2017 A-1 Pictures produced an animated adaptation directed by Yoshiyuki Asai, with the soundtrack of Masaru Yokoyama and edited in Italy by Netflix.
The latter adaptation offers a faithful display of the spectacular effects of the battles between Servant expressed in the original work, however, due to its episodic structure and limited time, it suffers from some problems in the narrative rhythm and the inevitable cutting of some details .
Fate / Apocrypha is the last of the projects connected to Fate to be effectively concluded: the projects currently underway are in fact shortly after its publication and involve the last four years of Type-Moon's activity.