Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya (2013)

Sometimes a different decision has an entirely different outcome.

Adapted from the manga series by Hiroshi Hiroyama — which was serialized in Kadokawa Shoten’s ‘Comp Ace’ magazine from 2007 to 2008 — Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is the 10-episode anime production of the same name. A spin-off the popular Fate/stay night visual novel by Type-Moon, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is directed by Shin Ōnuma, and takes place in Fuyuki City, in an alternate timeline to the Fate/stay night series, playing out as though the ‘Holy Grail War’ never occurred. It tells the story of Illyasviel von Einzbern, an ordinary fifth-grade student who becomes a magical girl after an enchanted wand, named Kaleidostick Ruby, deems ‘Illya’ a more suitable master than sorceress Rin Tohsaka, staking a new alliance with the innocent Illya. Instructed to collect seven Class Cards containing the Heroic Spirits from legend, Illya is guided by Rin, Ruby’s previous owner, to complete the task.

'Don't run away, I just want to play.'
‘Don’t run away, I just want to play.’

Illya isn’t the only person to fall prey to magic, however, as her classmate Miyu is bewitched by a different wand, Kaleidostick Sapphire, Ruby’s younger half, who similarly to Ruby, also rejected its original master, Rin’s rival, Luvia Edelfelt. As Illya and Miyu battle it out to gather Class Cards — containing malicious fragments of Heroic Spirits — the girl’s friendship blossoms, while the rivalry between Rin and Luvia continues, as the two are ordered to remain in Japan by request of the wizard Zelretch, creator of the wands.

Wonderfully animated, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is an entertaining blend between the Fate/stay night universe and the madness of the magical girl. Having the benefit of using the already well developed Nasuverse — a fan nickname referring to the shared setting of a number of Type-Moon works — Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya uses these existing elements and takes them in a different direction, generally shying away from explanation, focusing solely on its magical girl premise. In spite of this, those unfamiliar with the Nasuverse might find themselves scratching their head at various moments throughout the series. Thankfully, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is a rather straightforward magical girl account for the most part, with its cutesy protagonists and formulaic fluffy tone.

Blade Works?
Blade Works?

The anime picks up steam at around the mid-way point, when Illya is forced to pull off a heretofore-unimagined trick — one of the few moments where being familiar with the Nasuverse is rather valuable — shifting the show’s gear into bleaker territory after a jaw-dropping action sequence. From this point on, the anime switches in intensity, becoming more serious and dramatic in its latter half. Another nice touch within the series is the notion that Illya is a rather ‘competent’ magical girl due to her fondness of magical girl anime shows, which she is seen watching at the start of the series when at home with her older adopted brother, Shirou Emiya, and industrious household maids, Sella and Leysritt. While somewhat predictable, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya essentially explores themes of friendship, power, facing fears and accepting responsibility.

Given its lack of real exposition, character development and motivations are pretty thin particularly within the anime’s first few episodes, with Illya starting out as the incompetent heroine who later confronts her weaknesses whilst collecting McGuffins, whereas the Rin/Luvia conflict works as the show’s predominant source of comedy. Likewise, Illya’s school friends serve as a pleasant support group, but are only fleshed out in the show’s OVA episode, ‘Dance at the Sports Festival,’ where Illya and Miyu must learn to dance in order to win the sports festival, to ‘supposedly’ save their teacher’s chastity. Although ladled as a ‘light’ show — tentatively aimed towards young girls — Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya sports its fair share of loli fanservice — for better or worse — including the inevitable breast size jokes, lustful behavior and nude bathtub scenes typically associated with certain anime, let’s not forget about those questionable camera angles, either way, the series is never too sexualized or gratuitous, verging on soft-core for the most part.

College is useless ... aspire to become a magical girl instead.
College is useless … aspire to become a magical girl instead.

Production by Silver Link, Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts (2010), is top shelf, sporting clean lines, solid backgrounds, and neat effects amongst its lively, colorful setting. When the series slips into combat mode, one can clearly see where the studio’s time, effort, and money went, with its crisp, flashy animated fight sequences — effortlessly melding GCI together with hand drawn animation — incorporating magical rings, energy bursts, and explosions into the riveting battles, whilst the show’s magical girl transformations are bright, lively and fun.

Character designs are fairly run-of-the-mill for this type of series, nonetheless the girls are adorable and sweet, with Illya — who differs from her Fate/stay night counterpart in several ways — being the obvious highlight, whilst Miyu, who’s initially dismissive of her competitor’s abilities, provides a great contrast to Illya’s brightness, with her darker hair and purple costume. Rin Tohsaka, who sports a similar look to her Fate/stay night equivalent, is another visual standout with her cute pigtails and black-and-red attire; though, much like Illya, her history has been completely altered for this new take on the Nasuverse. From the Class Card ‘creature’ concepts — including a terrific, gigantic Berserker and the Saber Class Card taking the form of Saber Alter — to the bouncy designs of the vigorous Ruby and Sapphire wands, who possess a surprising amount of personality, the world of Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is a legitimately strong and faithful addition to the Nasuverse.

'You shall not pass!'
‘You shall not pass!’

Packaged in a deliciously cute fashion, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya boasts a charming opening, featuring the song ‘starlog’ by ChouCho, while the series score by Tatsuya Kato, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere (2011), successfully encompasses both, the anime’s lighter moments along with its heavier segments. A re-imagining of the Fate/ franchise, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is far from the ‘darkest’ anime around; be that as it may, the series should satisfy those who prefer a little more ‘oomph’ in their magical girl outings. Finishing off with a potential lead-in to a second season, it’s clear that more revelations will be made as the series continues. Even with its narrative shortcomings and a handful of cliché moments, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya, is a vibrant, heart-warming ride; such is the might of the magical girl.

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is released through Hanabee Entertainment