Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Joan may be a Saint, but that doesn’t mean she’s the good guy.

The Great Holy Grail War has essentially fallen apart. Where it used to be the Red faction against the Black faction, now the warring two sides are a mish-mash of formerly opposing Servants being led by individuals with specific agendas. But who’s really the “bad guy” here? The one fighting to save humanity? Or the one fighting for the Grail?

[Note: This article contains major spoilers for up to episode 17 of Fate/Apocrypha.]

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

Currently in Fate/Apocrypha, both Factions have suffered losses and fractured, resulting in Servants switching sides and much fewer players on the battlefield. Currently the remains of the Red Faction lies under the control of Shirou Kotomine, who has revealed himself as the surviving Servant from the Third Holy Grail War, Amakusa Shirou. He currently commands five Servants (not including himself).

Meanwhile, the Black Faction has lost much of its power. Currently they command only three Servants (Rider of Black, Archer of Black, and Saber of Red) with the homunculus Sieg able to transform into a fourth in a pinch. They are also aided by the Ruler Servant, Joan of Arc. As it stands, the Great Holy Grail War has essentially become a conflict with Joan of Arc, Mordred, and the Yggdmillennia family remnants facing off against Amakusa Shirou—with the Assassin of Black being a loose end targeted by both sides for elimination.

Interestingly, however, the two main opposing leaders in this war may not be entirely as different as they may appear. Both Joan of Arc and Amakusa Shirou are Ruler class Servants. The qualification for being summoned as a Ruler is to have no desire for the grail (which neither did when originally summoned). Most of the time this means that the individual was a Saint or close equivalent. Both Joan and Shirou were touted as miraculous holy leaders in life—although some accounts regard them as political figureheads. Both were captured by their enemies and executed, their deaths being highly publicized. Both justifiably have every reason to hate humanity for what happened to them, and yet, by their own accounts within the series, do not.

This makes the dynamic between the two rather interesting. Amakusa Shirou has stated that his intentions for using the Greater Grail are for all of humanity’s salvation. Considering that unlike in the Fate/stay night timeline, the Greater Grail of Fate/Apocrypha has not been corrupted means that Shirou’s wish could possibly be granted properly. His motives that, if true, could even be commendable by Joan.

However, as a representative of the will of the Grail, Joan is fighting against Shirou. Shirou has overstepped his boundaries and is breaking an unspoken rule of the Holy Grail War; that the dead cannot lead the living. Shirou has also been preparing things for 60 years since the Third Holy Grail War, hiding his identity and keeping himself alive somehow—if Gilgamesh from Fate/stay night is any indication, Shirou’s methods for this were probably not exactly on the up and up. Likewise, Shirou has proven himself to be highly manipulative and untrustworthy, stealing the command seals from five of the other Red Faction Masters for himself.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

And yet, taking a step back from all the slimy machinations, if you look at Joan of Arc, you realize she isn’t exactly the shining beacon of hope she seems to be.

As a Ruler, Joan was summoned by the Greater Grail itself to be an arbiter over the Great Holy Grail War. She exists to exact the will of the Grail. Her opposition to Shirou is not because he is a threat to humanity, but because, as previously stated, he is breaking the rules. She may care for the people around her, like Sieg, but at the end of the day, she’s fighting for the Grail itself. If, for example, one of the Yggdmillennia masters wins the Great Grail War and wishes to kill half the planet, she cannot stop them.

This takes us back to the Great Grail War itself. The rules state that the Red and Black factions exist due to a failsafe within the Greater Grail itself to prevent all Masters from working together. Once the alliance is over, i.e. once one side is eliminated, the remaining side must fight in a proper Grail War manner and kill each other. Basically, what this means is even if Shirou is defeated, the remaining masters still have to kill each other to decide who will get the Grail. And Joan won’t stop them. She may not like it on a personal level, but again, she isn’t on anyone’s side but that of the Grail itself. There is only one person in the Great Grail War who purports to be acting on behalf of humanity. And he’s the antagonist.

Image source: Fate/Apocrypha on Twitter

We have yet to see the full extent of Amakusa Shirou’s plans. As has been well established through the series, he is manipulative and quite willing to take extreme measures for his own ends. That said, it cannot be forgotten that the Great Grail War is built on the foundation of a standard Holy Grail War, and we’ve see how those can go. In fact, of all the characters, only Kairi Sisigou and the Saber of Red seem acutely aware of that.

At the end of the day, Joan of Arc is and agent of the Grail itself and must act in its interests. While she may be working with Sieg and the Ygddmillennia remnants, it is only because Shirou is breaking the rules of the Grail War, and while she may seem like their friend, she isn’t.

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

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