Rin Tohsaka has played many rolls through out the Fate series. A steadfast ally, a devious enemy, an aloof but loving sister, a generous lover, a pimp daddy, a bisexual, a miko, a proper maid, a magical girl, a woman with legs up to her neck, and even a sports star. But she has always had one job no matter what path of the game, adaption of the story, or spin-off material you experience. Rin Tohsaka is always an exposition machine with wonderful zettai ryouiki. Fate/kaleid is no exception to this rule.
Whenever magical mechanics need to be explained she is there. Whenever rule systems for deadly games are unclear to new participants she is there. Whenever ancient shadowy conspiracies need to be unmasked she is there. Rin Tohsaka is the Mr. Wizard of the Type-Moon universe.
OK. Illya is now a magical girl. But what exactly does that entail? Well in a post-Sailor Moon universe that means fighting monsters and collecting magical doodads. So after an info dump of magic in general the former Kaleido Ruby lays out the mission to collect rare and powerful arcane cards like a professional Magic: The Gathering player. (BTW Does that make the Saber Card the Black Lotus?) But another trope of the magical girl show appears at the end of first fight before she can finish squaring off with the Rider card.
The first half of the episode is Rin and Magical Ruby prepping Illya to go out and be a magical girl so they can capture all the cards as soon as possible. But they prep the heroine in the way that scanning the back of the box ofa video game acts as a tutorial for a video game. You might have the general premise of what to do and the story that leads up to the game play but the actual actions to accomplish your goals have to be learned trough trial and error while in a sink or swim environment. And that is hardly ideal.
Also if the first episode were not a clear enough indication Magical Ruby is sort of a wisenheimer that likes messing around with people this episode makes that crystal. Since Magical Rub is based on the Kaleidostick from Fate/Hollow Ataraxia that makes perfect sense. This once again makes the Kohaku connection even stronger. Just like Joji Nakata plays all the hardcore Type-Moon villains it seems Naoko Takano plays all the cheerful and “helpful” if somewhat sadistic and manipulative ladies. I guess Matsuki Miyu’s on track to be the eternal long-suffering sister was well.
But before we can get to the fight we see Illya’s school chums. They sort of remind me of Ichigo’s friends from Bleach. They are a colorful pack of characters that mostly exist to show a little about the main character and provide comic relief. But for the most part other that being pieces that can be put into peril and develop the protagonist they don’t do that much more.
Oh and they exist for things like this. But the less said about that the better.
In Rin’s flashback we get to see two characters who will be very familiar to old guard Type-Moon fans and a little surprising to newer fans. The first is Lord El-Melloi II and the other is Zelretch the Wizard Marshall.
You might not recognize Lord El-Melloi II at first but that is a grown up Waver Velvet from Fate/Zero. Lord El-Melloi II has actually been around as a character for a while and he even showed up in the Character Material art book and Fate/complete material III book. Waver Velvet seems to be popping up a lot lately. I assume if nothing else his due to Waver’s popularity in Fate/Zero has cased this to happen. He has small but significant cameos in both Fate/Strange Fake and Fate/Apocrypha.
Zelretch on the other hand is on of those characters that only hardcore Type-Moon fans care about. He is sort of a shadowy character that makes lots of minor background appearances like Aoko Aozaki before Mahou Tsukai no Yoru. He showed up very briefly in the Tsukihime and Fate/stay night. He is also one of those characters who shows up a lot in supplementary materials. He is a crazy powerful wizard that can jump dimensions and give the Tohsaka family blueprints for a Jeweled Sword that could only be used during Heaven’s Feel.
Oh poor rider Rider. I suppose it is better than Lancer and Archer who get defeated off camera but she is staying in her position of being prominent enough to always be around but never really ever the belle of the ball. Doing my themes of Fate/Stay Night panel made me realize how long she just spends be a shadowy villain with hints of something more in the visual novel before we get to see who she really is in Heaven’s Feel. I’m sure Shinji and Sakura being her master did not help her case.
The fight itself is mostly a learning lesson for Illya. She does not really get any real chances to shine in this fight. She mostly just gains the experience of being in the line of fire. She sees how her wand works, how she can do rapid fire beam spam, and how dangerous the Class Cards are. But most of all she sees that she is not really ready to face the enemy yet (or at least that Rin pushed her out in the battlefield far too early.) But at the same time Rider is not powerful enough to totally wipe the floor with Illya despite her inexperience.
Then Miyu arrives. Anyone who has seen enough magical girl shows or just anime in general knows this formula. She hero struggles and then a hot-shot with a little more experience and skill comes along and teaches them how its done. They start off as rivals but the plucky protagonist shows that they have heart, drive, and talent and either becomes an equal or better than the cocky upstart. Then the former rivals become boon companions after trials and tribulations bring them together.
Clearly with Miyu this trope is in full effect. Her being able to install cards and use their powers puts her on a completely different level. When she takes out Rider without saying a word the formula is complete.
But Illya’s time to shine will come but she will have to go through some hard knocks before she gets there. Plus she needs someone more her age to have animosity that turns into close friendship. Also she need someone to have vague sexual tension with. We know that the fans come for the magical girls fighting with beam attacks but they stay for the implied (and overt) yuri.