Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya Review: The Struggles of a Magical Girl and Accepting a New Life
Since I was planning to complete the rest of the Fate/stay night visual novel (which I’ve long since finished and can hopefully write about soon), I figured it would be a good idea to jump into some of the other Fate material beforehand. As such, one of the installments I ended up watching was the Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya anime, which turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Prisma☆Illya definitely feels like the magical girl series it seems to be, though that’s not to say it is a completely lighthearted story. While it may not be as dark as, say, Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica, it can definitely be a serious story when necessary and gets pretty intense at times. I’m no expert on magical girl stories so I can’t say whether Prisma☆Illya is lighter or darker than most other stories of its kind, but it’s definitely a fun watch even for people not accustomed to magical girl series and as a Fate fan I’d say Prisma☆Illya is very much worth watching.
Prisma☆Illya focuses on Illyasviel von Einzbern, who, unlike her character in the regular Fate series, is an ordinary middle school girl living a typical middle school life. The ordinary pace of Illya’s life is broken when she meets Ruby, a Kaleidostick that can grant magical powers to its user. Ruby and her sister, Sapphire, have broken off their contracts with their original users, Rin Tohsaka and Luvia Edelfelt, due to the constant bickering of the two and thus seek new masters to fulfill their mission: to collect the seven Class Cards, each of which contains a heroic spirit. Rin comes across Ruby as this takes place and attempts to stop her, though she ultimately finds that Ruby will not change her mind and decides to assist Illya in gathering the cards instead. Likewise, Luvia finds a girl named Miyu to take her place. Illya and Miyu must work together to collect the cards, though the two are very different and face many obstacles throughout their journeys as magical girls.
Prisma☆Illya has a pretty simple plot and definitely strikes me as being something to expect from a magical girl series. Prisma☆Illya has a nice balance between the lighthearted, relaxing moments and more intense battle scenes. While the anime definitely has a lot of silly moments with obvious moe and the expected magical girl humor, it can definitely get pretty dark and powerful when the stakes get higher and the danger increases. Illya jumps into the role of magical girl with excitement and enjoyment, but quite a bit of the story involves her discoveries about the true nature of that role and how she responds to the situations she encounters as a magical girl. At the end of the day, however, Prisma☆Illya’s plotline is focused on collecting the Class Cards and the struggles Illya and Miyu face in attempting to complete this task, so it’s a lot more about the journey than the destination. The fights are well animated and the more intense ones were very gripping watches for me. If you can’t get into the lighthearted school segments or the battle sequences, however, your enjoyment will be quite limited. Even though I say that, however, Prisma☆Illya is a stronger series than it may seem, and while it is largely a magical girl story with a Fate spin on it, it does prove to be an entertaining watch with some developments and isn’t just a mindless spin-off. It may not be as dark or complex a story as Fate installments are generally known to be, but it does have a solid and serious story to provide and is a pretty competent tale for the most part.
The characters are pretty likable overall, and Fate fans in particular will quite appreciate the cast overall. Illya feels like a relatively typical protagonist for a story of this nature, but her character benefits a great deal from the sheer contrast to her regular counterpart from the main Fate/stay night series. I found it quite intriguing seeing Illya in a role very different from the one she played in the original story, and she develops in a very different way because of the nature of Prisma☆Illya. Illya develops a great deal throughout the anime as she not only substantially improves her skills but also comes to terms with her role as a magical girl and accepts the responsibilities it requires. Miyu serves as a distinct character foil to Illya and while she lacks a counterpart from the original Fate story, she quickly proves to be just as likable. Miyu is a quick learner that seems to have everything under control and takes her status as a magical girl very seriously. Unlike the bubbly and outgoing Illya, however, Miyu struggles with communication and opens up to Illya more as they work together and begin to trust each other. As a huge fan of Rin, I was very happy to see that she plays a very important role in Prisma☆Illya, and she plays a very similar role to her status as a mentor and ally in the original Fate/stay night, though in this anime her rivalry with Luvia is emphasized and is a major part of her character. Luvia is presented as being the haughty rich girl character and also proves to be a competent mentor and supporter to Miyu when she’s not too busy squabbling with Rin. It’s interesting to note that I hadn’t seen Luvia in any Fate installments prior to watching this anime, though she does have a brief amount of screentime at the very end of the Fate/stay night visual novel and I found that interesting, particularly because I hadn’t initially realized it was her as her voice actress in the VN was different from her voice actress in the anime. It should also be mentioned that the Class Cards are, as some of you may have guessed, the Heroic Spirits of the original Fate/stay night story, and I quite enjoyed seeing the new versions of those characters as enemies for Illya and Miyu to face. Characters like Shirou, Taiga, and Irisviel also make brief appearances in the anime, though (as of this season, at least) they aren’t of great importance to the plot. Prisma☆Illya has a pretty likable cast overall and Illya and Miyu in particular definitely develop, though it can only go so far with 10 episodes and I’m hoping the series will expand more on the characters with the next season.
Like I mentioned before, one of the most important components of development in this anime involves how Illya responds to her role as a magical girl. While the connections and cameos to the Fate series definitely caught my eye and were the main motivation for picking up this anime, it’s definitely the magical girl developments that create most of the anime’s substance. Illya, perhaps like many other girls in her situation, finds that she quite enjoys being a magical girl and is excited about having powers and being able to fight evil like an anime character. Of course, while being a magical girl provides neat abilities and experiences a regular life couldn’t provide, Illya doesn’t initially grasp the danger of battles or the potential danger she can cause in the event that she can’t control her powers. Illya’s realization of these facts catches her off guard and heavily discourages her from continuing on as a magical girl, and her awkward interactions with Miyu don’t help this either. However, as one might expect from a magical girl series, Illya finds that she can’t stop fighting knowing that Miyu is continuing on for her sake, and the two resolve to support each other as the friends they are. While this progression may seem a bit corny and might just be typical magical girl fare (which I can’t confirm given my general lack of knowledge on magical girl anime), it’s very refreshing seeing how Illya and Miyu develop, and even if it’s far from being revolutionary or new, there’s definite growth for both of them and I hope there can be more to expect from their characters in future installments.
Prisma☆Illya was a very fun watch for me and offered more than I expected. It may not have the most depth and is probably far from being the most original of magical girl tales, but it is still a very enjoyable experience with a nice balance of cute interactions and darker developments. For the most part, fans of the Fate series will find something to appreciate from this spinoff and even those who may not be familiar with Fate but enjoy magical girl stories can enjoy this, though I feel those that are familiar with Fate have the most to gain from watching this. Ultimately I would give Prisma☆Illya a 7/10, though the enjoyment factor makes that more like a 7.5/10. In just a few weeks, Prisma☆Illya 2wei will begin and the season after that, the ufotable adaptation of Fate/stay night will start, so there’s a lot for Fate fans to look forward to and I’m very excited about the seasons ahead.