I respect Fate/stay night without necessarily liking it very much. It's taking itself super-seriously and it's quite thoughtful and interesting, but also dour and charmless. However I've got most of the Fate/stay night DVDs on my shelf and one day I'll sit down to watch them, partly because I'm head-over-heels crazy about Fate/Kaleid liner Prisma Illya. Given all this, I was actually quite enthusiastic about Fate/Apocrypha before I started watching.
I was soon cured of this mistake.
I couldn't take it. It bored me, again and again. I made it two-thirds of the way through, then gave up and fast-forwarded through the rest. I didn't have much more to go and I could have toughed it out, but I couldn't bring myself to make the effort. I'd long since concluded that the show was worthless.
That said, though, don't take me too seriously here because I'm about to rant about a series that I understand was pretty popular. It's full of action, fight scenes and wild characters. Lots of people were entertained. I don't know if I'm actually in a minority in disliking the show, but there's certainly a big fanbase who'd think I was talking garbage if they read this review.
Thus endeth the even-handedness. Time to say what I think. I'll start with the plot.
Fate/whatever is about Holy Grail Wars. These involve a battle royale between seven Masters (ordinary humans) and their seven Servants (supernatural embodiments of mythical heroes). The winning pair gets the Holy Grail, which grants wishes. Wahay! However the losers end up dead, so anyone who chose to participate was ignoring the one-in-seven survival odds and must be either insanely stupid or desperate.
Fate/Apocrypha, though, gives us a super-mega-war. Two teams will fight each other until one side's been completely wiped out, after which the survivors will turn on each other and keep killing until there's only one survivor. That's fourteen Masters, fourteen Servants and some additional bonus fighters for luck. How could anyone resist that? Almost guaranteed death! Utter pointlessness! Sign me up today! Amazingly, though, this new Grail War's organisers have somehow recruited the requisite number of window-lickers. The Black Faction is fighting the Red Faction! Do you care? Can you even tell the difference between them? (I couldn't.) It's just idiots fighting each other. Theoretically they're fighting for the Grail and hence the right to reshape reality, but in practice they're liable to have undramatic wishes like "to live as a hero" (which he's already doing), "to wield this spear of mine" (which he's already doing) and "for all children to be loved" (although surprisingly this ends up coming into play).
Then, later, the factions split into different factions, because the writers wanted to set up an official villain. You can tell he's the baddie because he wants to save mankind. The other faction unites to fight him even though they know that his motives are good, simply on the assumption that he'll try to attain his goals with wicked means.
In short, we're watching two indistinguishable factions that then split into other factions, in order to HAVE FIGHTS!!!! (And be macho.) If you think that sounds like a reason to watch this show, then in fairness you have plenty of company.
Did I care about the fights? Ahahahahaha, no. I wasn't even invested enough to care when someone died, even though theoretically I should have been celebrating. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and all that. The problem is that you don't even care enough to respond to their deaths, since it's going to take 25 episodes to kill everyone and even then the show doesn't finish the job. There will be survivors. Tch.
With a cast that big, though, even a show like this might manage to create a character or two that's worth watching. Some of the more noteworthy fighters include:
1. FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER, who's been gender-flipped to be female and adorable. (You may or may not believe that this undermines a key point of Mary Shelley's original novel.) This version of the monster is faithful to her Master and a growling mute with a horn growing out of her forehead. Personally I thought she was the best reason to watch any given episode.
2. SIEG, a homunculus. When he's a powerless nobody in the early episodes, he's quite interesting and the show's saving grace. Later on... uh, no.
3. JACK THE RIPPER, who of course is a little girl in a thong. Obviously. Just be grateful she doesn't also have huge boobs. She's as boring as everyone else, but her ep.18 origin is mental and interesting. (I slowed down in my fast-forwarding.) Among other things, this episode has a debate between two righteous characters on the morality of killing lots of children. Alan Moore fans might be interested to hear that that episode's title is "From Hell".
4. SHIROU KOTOMINE. You don't hate him because he's evil (he's not), but because he's an annoying git who smiles while being indestructible and picking fights with characters more likeable than he is. Oh, and he joins the fight to see if God approves of him.
There are some interesting ideas. The homunculus stuff is fairly horrifying. I disagree with how the show portrays Spartacus and Dracula, but I approve of the gender-flipping. (Heroes from antiquity do tend to be male, but it would have been the last straw for me had this show been male-only.) The show's also not always taking itself seriously enough, so for instance there's not nearly enough weight in a scene of a man being tortured and begging for death (ep.16), while the episode after that has a woman being shot bloodlessly through the chest with an arrow.
In short, I thought it was dire. I'm sure I read somewhere that this was a prototype version of Fate/night, written when the author was a teenager. I can't find the reference any more and I guess I must have been wrong, but that's exactly how the series feels to me. Apparently there's some extraordinary fight animation in the last few episodes, though, especially ep.22. Whoooh.