An offshoot from Type Moon’s popular Fate franchise, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya takes place in an alternate universe where all the nasty Holy Grail malarkey, that plagued the cast of Fate/Zero, never took place. As a result Illyasviel von Einzbern (known simply as Illya to her friends) grew up to become a normal adolescent girl. Well… relatively normal. With Illya’s parents regularly away on business, the teenage anime fanatic has been raised by a pair of albino maids and she also cohobates with her adoptive brother Shiro (who she has the hots for because incest is all the rage in Japan.) One fateful night Illya’s relatively peaceful existence comes to an end when a sentient wand bestows her with the powers of a magical girl.
The series begins with Rin Tosaka and Luvia Edelfelt arriving in Japan. The magicians in training have been tasked with retrieving seven mystical cards that are guarded by powerful heroic spirits. To aid them in their quest the aspiring mages have been granted the use of magical wands that enhance their powers… and most importantly of all transform them into smexy cat girls! Unfortunately for the budding sorceresses the aforementioned wands (named Ruby and Sapphire) have a free will of their own and have grown weary of Rin and Luvia’s constant bickering. They ditch their current owners and seek out less fiery masters to accomplish their card-collecting goal. Ruby picks Illya to become her new wielder whilst Sapphire comes into the possession of a homeless girl named Miyu.
Illya is initially hesitant to risk her life for some glorified Yu-Gi-Oh cards, but eventually comes around to the idea after it is revealed that brandishing Ruby transforms her into a magical girl (the type of heroine featured in her favourite cartoons.) At first Illya doesn’t fare well against the apparitions protecting the cards she seeks, but under the mentorship of Rin she eventually becomes a capable magical girl… and even manages to make the embarrassing pink outfit look good. On the flip side Miyu is more gifted when it comes to tackling supernatural entities – although she struggles to reach her full potential, as her logical mind cannot grasp the physics defying abilities she has been granted. Luvia adopts Miyu, coaching her in the ways of magic in addition to employing her as her own personal maid.
Despite a shaky start, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya ended up being a show I really enjoyed. The first episode is a little corny, making me fear that this would be another cheesy spin-off cashing in on a popular property (i.e. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki) but thankfully it improved after that. Once the cast were established and the action began to flow I was hooked on the series. Silver Link (the studio that adapted Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and Watamote) has done a superb job animating the action sequences. Don’t let the cutesy character designs deceive you – the duel between Illya and Saber blows most shounen animes out of the water and isn’t far below what Ufotable has achieved with the other flashy Fate shows.
Fate Illya’s only real weakness is it’s shallow “monster of the week” structure, although the lack of depth isn’t particularly noticeable given that the first season only spans across ten episodes. Binding the whole thing together is the friendship between Illya and Miyu. They start off as rivals, but as the series progresses their relationship becomes borderline yuri. As a fan of the Fate series it was fun seeing the cast appear in a more light-hearted show. Viewers who aren’t fond of the Fate franchise, due to the tragic storylines that haunt the series, can safely watch this season, as it is free of grim elements. Kaleid is pretty much a jovial magical girl show and the whole thing is set in an alternate timeline so you don’t need to be acquainted with the mainline Fate series to follow what is going on. Fate fans may chastise me for this, but after watching this anime I am looking forward to the other Illya seasons more than Unlimited Blade Works.
FINAL RATING: FOUR STARS