I came away from the first half of Fate/Prisma Illya with hope, but reservations. The series seemed to capture some of the light-hearted fun and emotional connection of a good magical girl series, but now and then, it started sliding into a generic Type-Moon series, complete with all the quirks and weaknesses implied. So which one ended up winning?
Truth be told, there was never quite a winner. In the end, Fate/Prisma Illya ended up feeling like anime by committee, a show without any clear leadership guiding it. That doesn’t mean that it was all bad. There were aspects of it that felt very true to the magical girl feel that it was working toward. There were moments of genuine fun and humor and the fighting scenes actually improved as the show went on. Someone on the committee had a strong vision and was trying to create a very genuine show.
But then there were the other members of the team. There was the one who was determined to follow the Type-Moon formula to the letter. Overwrought explanations, gigantic explosions, you know the drill. Then there’s the one (the guy, let’s be honest) who was focused on “appealing to the fanbase.” This is a nice way to say fan-service and pandering to the lowest common denominator. Unfortunately, his greasy fingerprints end up all over this series and it really gets worse as you go. This goes well beyond pushing the envelope of standard magical girl fare to just flat-out sexual humor. I just about threw in the towel at the maid episode. I’m sure that there are those who considered this funny, but I came away feeling queasy. Even the non-sexual humor tended to just be too over the top, turning characters into caricatures for the sake of questionably funny jokes.
It’s really, REALLY too bad. There’s a solid core here and if the time spent being gratuitous was instead spent on real character development and a plot twist or two, this series could have been a winner. For all the drawn out explanations, the plot itself never really grows beyond what you hear in episode 1. I also never got the character answers I was really wanting regarding Miyu and her background. If anything pulls me into the second season, it will be wanting to know more about what makes her tick. While the story is largely self-contained, there’s an obvious hook in place for the recently-green-lit sequel at the end.
Characters: 7 – I liked Illya and Miyu. Rin and Luvia’s quarreling could get tiresome, but toward the end, this was rare enough that it was actually amusing again. The rest of the characters seemed to largely be window dressing. A certain character’s late introduction really seemed unneeded, given that Illya already had three family members that were basically unused.
Story: 5 – Functional, but pretty thin, even for only ten episodes. Go, fight, collect the cards. This is no Cardcaptor Sakura.
Visuals: 5 – Fan-service aside, it looked like it was trying too hard to seem girly. Really shiny glare off skin make me wonder who is waxing these characters. Shirou just looked weird.
Music: 8 – I found myself quite fond of both the OP and ED. They’re nothing groundbreaking, really, but they captured the feel of the better parts of the series.
Fun Factor: 3 – There was certainly some good to this series, but by the end the magic was pretty much gone.
Overall: 5 – All in all, I’m calling this one a draw. There’s some good, there’s some meh, and there’s some truly cringe-worthy moments. I’ll probably try the next season, but I can’t say that I’m really looking forward to it.