Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

One of the biggest appeals of the Fate franchise is the use of historical and mythological figures. Knowing about a character’s backstory makes that character all the more interesting. So let’s take a look at the backstory of the characters in this season’s Fate series, Fate/Apocrypha.

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[Note: This article contains potential major spoilers for Fate/Apocrypha.]

In Fate/Apocrypha, the standard rules of the Fate series’ Holy Grail War have been turned sideways. As a countermeasure for the possibility that all seven Masters should work together on the same team, seven more Masters and Servants are brought into play for a massive seven vs seven Holy Grail War—appropriately called the “Great Holy Grail War.”

Divided into the Red faction and the Black faction with seven Master/Servant pairs on each side—as well as an extra Servant who has appeared as an arbitrator over the War—there are fifteen heroic spirits summoned for this battle and one more who has been revealed as a surviving Servant from the previous full-fledged Holy Grail War 60 years ago. Here’s a brief summary of who each one of them is.


The Black Faction

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Saber: Siegfried

The dragon-slaying hero from Norse, German, and Scandinavian mythology. In the German epic poem, the Nibelungenlied, the character is known as Siegfried. In the poem, Siegfried is introduced as a heroic prince who, among his exploits, has slain a dragon. By bathing in the dragon’s blood, Siegfried becomes invulnerable. However, a leaf is stuck to his back when he does this, which prevents a leaf-shaped spot on his back from coming into contact with the dragon’s blood and is the one spot where he can be harmed. This weakness is eventually exploited when Siegfried’s wife is tricked into marking the spot on his back with a cross under the pretense that it is for protection. The cross is used as a target and Siegfried is killed on a hunting trip when an enemy stabs him in the back with a spear while Siegfried was drinking from a stream.

Siegfried wielded the legendary sword, Balmung. He also owned a magical cloak of invisibility.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Lancer: Vlad III

Better known as Vlad the Impaler, he was the ruler of what is now Romania. Over his lifetime, Vlad ruled over Wallachia, a region that is now modern Romania, three times. Vlad was known as a ruthless and cruel man by his enemies. One notable method of execution was to impale prisoners or enemies on spikes, an act that earned him the name “Vlad the Impaler.” Despite any factual or exaggerated cruelty, Vlad III is regarded as a national hero in Romania who committed necessary acts of violence and cruelty to maintain order and control while fighting for his country’s freedom.

In addition to the name, Vlad the Impaler, Vlad also had the nickname, Vlad Dracula, meaning “Vlad, son of the dragon” which stemmed from his father, Vlad II who had his own nickname, Vlad Dracul, meaning “Vlad the dragon.” This name was the inspiration for the name of the famous vampire, Count Dracula. Note: In Fate/Apocrypha, Vlad abhors this association vehemently.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Archer: Chiron

One of the most famous centaurs from Greek mythology. The son of the Titan, Cronus, Chiron was a wise centaur who served as a teacher to numerous heroes—including Hercules, Jason, Ajax, Theseus, Perseus, and Achilles. Chiron’s death was caused by a wound from an arrow of Hercules’ that was dipped in the blood of the legendary serpent, Hydra. Chiron sacrificed his own immortality to save the titan, Prometheus, who had given humanity the gift of fire.

Chiron’s physical appearance apparently differed from the typical centaurs of legend. Where traditional centaurs have the lower body of a horse with four horse legs, depending on the legend, Chiron’s front legs were apparently human, distinguishing him from other centaurs.

After his death, Chiron passed to the stars, where he remains as one of the constellations perpetually aiming his arrow at the constellation, Scorpio.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Caster: Solomon ibn Gabirol

A Jewish poet and philosopher from the 11th century. He is best known for his philosophical doctrine of Universal Hylomorphism, which states that all things are composed of matter and form, including soul and intellect as well as his emphasis on Divine Will. As a poet, his poetry spread his philosophical ideas through the Jewish community.

Solomon ibn Gabirol was said to have suffered from illness from a young age. It is said that he created either one or multiple golems to act as servants while he lived in isolation.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Rider: Astolfo

Astolfo is the twelfth Paladin of Charlemagne from the Matter of France. He—yes, “he“—is said to have partaken in numerous adventures through French and Italian literature. He was said to have various magical items that he used. A lance that would knock opponents from their horses, a grimoire of spells, a flute, and a horn that causes enemies to flee before him. Astolfo also rode various steeds including a griffin, a hoppogriff, and a horse made of hurricane and flame. Many of Astolfo’s appearances in Italian Renaissance romance epics are generally humorous in nature. It’s likely that this is the reason behind the character’s light-hearted and carefree nature in Fate/Apocrypha.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Assassin: Jack the Ripper

England’s most famous serial killer. Thought to be involved in at least five and up to eleven brutal murders between 1888 to 1891 in London, in what were investigated as the “Whitechapel murders.” Jack the Ripper’s targets were primarily prostitutes whose throats were cut and whose corpses were subsequently mutilated. The fact that some of the numerous murders in the area were potentially connected led to widespread speculation, as to just how many victims there were and to the nature of the murderer. The true identity of Jack the Ripper has never been officially uncovered and multiple theories have led to numerous works of fiction both directly and indirectly about the murders and murderer.

In Fate/Apocrypha, the character is depicted as a psychotic young girl—because it’s Fate—obsessed with returning to the womb of her mother.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Berseker: Frankenstein’s Monster

Often referred to simply as “Frankenstein,” Frankenstein’s Monster was a nameless creature brought to life using the power of lightning to reanimate corpses that had been stitched together. The name “Frankenstein” comes from the monster’s creator, the fictional scientist Victor Frankenstein, in what is considered the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein by the author Mary Shelly.

Though Frankenstein’s attempt to create life were successful, he is horrified at the resulting creature, running away from it. The monster wanders aimlessly but is shunned by nearly everyone it meets, eventually leading it to seek revenge on its creator. Eventually the monster confronts its creator asking Frankenstein to build it a mate so that it can live together in peace. Frankenstein initially agrees, but instead destroys the experiment, leading the monster to seek revenge by destroying everything Frankenstein loves, eventually hounding the scientist to his death. After learning of its maker’s demise, the monster disappears, seeking to destroy itself.

The story of Frankenstein’s monster has appeared in numerous forms throughout history. Perhaps most iconic is the actor Boris Karlooff’s 1931 portrayal in the movie, Frankenstein. In Fate/Apocrypha, the monster is depicted as female instead of male—because it’s Fate.


The Red Faction

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Saber: Mordred

One of the knights of the round table of Arthurian legend and the betrayer who brought about the downfall of King Arthur. According to legends, Mordred was the nephew or illegitimate son of Arthur who claimed the throne in Arthur’s absence, leading to a battle that claimed both Mordred and Arthur’s lives. Mordred’s name has become synonymous with betrayal in almost all subsequent uses throughout history.

Because the Fate version of King Arthur is female, the Fate/Apocrypha version of Mordred is also female. Where most depiction of the character depict him as a villainous backstabber of Arthur, the Fate/Apocrypha version bears a twisted devotion to her king, with her betrayal shown as an attempt to seek acceptance rather than a treacherous grab for power.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Archer: Atalanta

Atalanta is a princess from Greek mythology. The daughter of king Iasus, as a child, Atalanta was abandoned by her father. Atalanta was raised in the wilderness and grew to be a skilled hunter. After being reunited with her father, Atalanta agreed to be wed under the condition that her future husband must be able to outrun her. She is eventually beaten by Hippomenes who uses three golden apples given to him by the goddess Aphrodite to distract Atalanta during their race, allowing him to win. On their way to Hippomenes’ home, the two rested in a temple and made love, an act that angered the god of that temple—accounts vary on whose temple it was—and the two were turned into lions as punishment. Supposedly lions were believed to be unable to mate with each other but with leopards instead, meaning that Atalanta and Hippomenes could no longer be together.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Lancer: Karna

A character from the Hindu epic, Mahābhārata. Karna is the half-brother and rival of the character Arjuna. Karna was the son of a mortal woman and the sun god Surya, however, as his mother was unwed at the time, Karna was abandoned as a child, set afloat in a basket on a river where he was later found and adopted. Karna owned a set of golden armor and a pair of earrings that made him invincible in battle. However, Karna was also a selfless being, knowingly and willingly giving these gifts away to Indra, king of the gods. In return, he was granted the Vasavi Shakti, an extremely powerful magical dart that would kill its target no matter who or what it may be.

Throughout his life, Karna was cursed multiple times. Despite being nearly invincible as the son of a deity, Karna was killed by his rival Arjuna when the effect of multiple curses acted simultaneously, leaving him helpless.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Caster: Shakespeare

The Bard, himself. The playwright, William Shakespeare, is credited with some of the greatest plays in the English language. What else is there to say? Seriously, go read a book.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Rider: Achilles

The legendary Greek hero Achilles. According to legend, as a child, Achilles’ mother, the nymph Thetis burned the mortality out of Achilles’ body by holding him over a fire, making him invulnerable. However, Thetis was unable to burn all of the mortality out of her son’s body, as the flames never touched the heel that she held him by, leaving his heel the only place on his body where he could be hurt.

Achilles is most famous for his participation in the Trojan War during which he defeated the Tojan hero Hector, and his subsequent death where the Tojan prince, Paris, shot Achilles in the heel, killing him. The legend of Achilles has led to the common usage of the term “Achilles’ Heel,” meaning a singular point of mortal weakness.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Assassin: Semiramis

The queen of Assyria. Legends describe her as the daughter of a mermaid goddess and a human man, who became a queen. Different accounts describe her as a sorceress and/or seductress. There is also a belief that Semiramis was a person in Mesopotamia who invented polytheism and goddess worship and was a consort of Nimrod, the builder of the Tower of Babel. Another legend says that Semiramis married the Assyrian king, Ninus. After Ninus was killed, Semiramis supposedly pretended to be their son and convinced their army to follow, ruling for decades and conquering much of Asia. Semiramis is also said to have restored ancient Babylon.

Historically, Semiramis is said to have been the wife of an ancient king of Assyria who ruled after her husband’s death for half a decade until her son claimed the throne.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Berserker: Spartacus

I am Spartacus. Spartacus was a gladiator who is famous for rebelling against the Roman Republic that oppressed him and his fellow gladiators. Spatacus is described as being a Thracian who served in the Roman army as a soldier, but deserted and became a slave. His strength and skill made him fit to serve as a gladiator who would fight for the entertainment of his masters. Spartacus was among roughly 70 slaves who escaped and used their gladiatorial training to defeat their pursuers. Spartacus became one of the leaders of the freed gladiators and led in battles against Roman forces sent to quell the rebels. Spartacus was known for not only being an able warrior, but a cunning tactician as well.

Spartacus attempted to travel to Sicily to strengthen his forces but was instead abandoned by the pirates he had hired to take him and his men there. Spartacus was forced to retreat and slowly overwhelmed by the pursuing forces. It is said that Spartacus died in battle.

Spartacus’ legacy of rising against oppression has become an inspiration for numerous incidents, both real and fictitious, of uprising of individuals or groups.


Arbitrator

Image source: アニプレックス on YouTube

Ruler: Joan of Arc/Jeanne d’Arc

Known as “The Maid of Orléans,” she fought for France during the Hundred Years’ War and was later canonized as a Roman Catholic saint. Joan fought for France in support of Charles VII because of a divine vision she is said to have received. Her performance at the Siege of Orléans and subsequent victories earned Charles VII the crown after which Joan was ambushed and captured. She was later handed over to the English and put on trial in a heavily politically motivated trial. She was found guilty of heresy and sentenced to death. Joan was executed in 1431 by burning at the stake. She was 19 years old.

According to legend, Joan preferred her banner to a sword and carried her banner into battle, never actually killing anyone. Nobles who commanded the army stated that Joan’s words of advice seem to be divinely inspired and her presence caused an increase in morale. Joan’s sentence was overturned in a posthumous retrial after the Hundred Years’ War in 1456. Joan was canonized as a saint in 1920.


Other

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Ruler: Amakusa Shirō

Revealed as the true identity of the character Shirou Kotomine in episode twelve. Amakusa Shirō was a charismatic leader who led against the Shogunate army in the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637.

The son of a Christian daimyō, Amakusa Shirō was born in what is now Amakusa City. Much about his life is unknown, but it is said he was charismatic from birth. Because of his noble birth, he was well educated. It is said he was viewed as a messiah among the Japanese Catholic Christians, rumored to cause miracles like curing a blind girl with his touch and walking on water.

Thanks to his natural charisma and popularity, he became the leader of the rebellion against the Shogunate in what became the Shimabara Rebellion. It is said he carried a cross while he led, though historians suspect that he served more as a figurehead for morale—much like Joan of Arc—while the ronin and village leaders actually controlled the army.

The rebel army fortified the abandoned Hara Castle and fought for three months, but eventually ran out of food and ammunition and were wiped out by the Shogunate army. Amakusa Shirō was supposedly captured and beheaded. He was apparently 16 years old.


The Great Holy Grail War is still ongoing and already there have been casualties on both sides. Even with all the dramatic plot developments and intense action, my favorite part of any Fate series has always been the exploration of the heroic spirits, focusing on their deeds and more importantly, how they actually felt. Obviously, Fate/Apocrypha is taking a little bit—or quite a bit, depending on the character—of creative license in its depiction of these characters, but by doing so, in a way, it makes them more real. It’s easy to read about a legend or historical account of an individual, but to be shown the possible emotional impact of and the thoughts that governed whatever choices they made humanizes them and makes them far more interesting as characters.

Fate/Apocrypha will be streaming internationally on Netflix from November 7, 2017.

Comments (1)
  1. One big thing that you missed about karana…. He is basically an Archer not a lancer.
    And the thing that he lost is because he was so generous that he gave up his invulnerable armor when the enemy begged for it.
    And still dies dies due to several curves came all together at the same time…

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