For awhile it seemed like I was doing an episodic review of some Type-Moon property every season with Fate/Zero, Unlimited Blade Works, and Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya leapfrogging between each other to make sure I was always writing about one series or another. But then there was a lull. The Heaven’s Feel movies are currently being worked on by Ufotable and considering the minor train wreck that was the God Eater I don’t mind waiting. Fate/Extra Last Encore was announced by Shaft but that does not come out until 2017. I have heard rumors about a possible Fate/Apocrypha or Fate/Grand Order animation but that is nothing more than rumors. But Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA is back in full swing so it feels good to be writing about Type-Moon shows again.
The Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA anime has never been a one to one reproduction of the manga. They have added material, removed various elements, combined events, and quite often moved whole scenes around to fit the schedule of the season or the differences between the media. Most of the time it has never been anything egregious and mostly things that would only annoy strict purists. Bu the last season was a bit different. The Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei! manga lead directly into Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA 3rei!! without even a second for the story to catch its breath. The anime on the other hand very clearly hits the breaks after they defeat Gilgamesh only hinting at the next story line with its antagonists as part of the stinger. So if nothing else I was a bit curious to see how quickly and seamlessly could they swing back into the main plot line after the break.
After the epic clash with the 8th card is seemed as if Illya finally had the peaceful life she so desperately wanted. But much like the regular ending of Persona, there were still some small but nagging questions. Why did Gilgamesh call Miyu a princess from another world? Where did the 8th card go? Who has been behind the renewal of the Holy Grail War after it clearly should have been gone forever? All of the questions so have the emissaries of their answers hit Illya and the others with the force of a Semi-truck.
When investigating the seemingly undamaged scene of their last battle they find two mysterious warriors with the power of Servants but no wands. They make short work of everyone and take Miyu back to their world with the rest of the group as unwelcome tagalongs.
Illya begins to search for Miyu in the snowy ghost town version of her home but all she can find is a mysterious girl in gym uniform who seems even more clueless than her. As Miyu, and the girl she dubs Tanaka, look for shelter they run into the hammer-wielding goth loli from before who is out for blood.
The episode begins in medias res with Illya regaining consciousness in a snowy field. She clearly has been separated from everyone else but is most concerned about Miyu. The empty town that seems to be within the end phase of Ragnarök would normally be bleak but for Ilya, it has an extra level of significance and an added amount of pathos. The wintry plains of Einzbern Castle are always a symbol of loss, separation, and bitterness for Illya in any iteration of the Fate franchise. So the world with that theme as its essence is quite possibly the worst possible world for her .
With the mood set for this new chapter of Magical Girl Illya all set up the opening serves as a transition to the past so the audience can see what led to this tragedy.
It is interesting. I think the new opening and closing are not as catchy as the previous openings but they are far more thematically appropriate. I don;t have a distinct problem with “Asterism” by ChouCho. In fact, I would praise it for being better at invoking a unified mood of the show. Before this point the songs seemed very upbeat and bubblegum which captures a distinct flavor of the show but ignores the other moods the show would highlight as well. Now that many of the dark themes of the show are being paid off in the narrative so we see the opening and endings are synchronizing with that increasing gravity as well.
The opening starts with scenes of Illya and Miyu’s everyday peaceful life but with a shift both of their scenes move towards the dying world of the Ainsworths. Miyu’s shift brings up images of her imprisonment and the more robot aspects of herself. Illya’s shift briefly look as if it might be brighter with the appearance of Tanaka but quickly makes it clear that Tanaka alone can not unfreeze this cold land. We see a group shot of all the major combatants and it is notable that Miyu is not part of the team but Gilgamesh is. Other than one important scene the rest of the opening is just setting up the major fights of the first half of the arc. The last scene reinforces the idea that the end goal is for Illya to save Miyu as that will be the catalyst to restore these broken worlds to their proper order.
I picked this image specifically for the opening because it is one of the most information-dense pictures. At first if just seems like a simple line-up of the four main villains of the arc but the eyes in the background will eventually take on much more significance as the story goes on. Normally a shadowy figure behind the scenes is such a standard trope this almost seems silly to bring up. But the fact of the matter is Darius Ainsworth is so boldly put forward as the main antagonist most people would quickly give up trying to see if there was a man behind the man. The opening gives the audience a clue of the truth that will make much more sense after the reveal takes places especially if they fell into the trap laid before them.
It is briefly worth noting that both of ChouCho’s openings for Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya have had celestial themes. Starlog clearly invokes the sidereal heavens but it might not be as clear that an asterism is a pattern of stars. Given the star themed motif of Illya and Miyu’s outfits, this makes perfect sense but I thought it was still worth pointing out.
The story proper begins with the school crew being their regular goof-a-doof selves. We see them trying to study but mostly just playing around Chole is still an aloof but charismatic observer who swoops into sow some chaos whenever it suits her mood. Tatsuko is still an overenthusiastic moron. Nanaki is nowhere as bad as Tatsuko but she can get swept up in a mood. Mimi is still the closet lesbian shipper. Suzuka still knows more than she lets on but decides to be quiet for the good of her sanity.
.The most important point is Miyu is no longer either an outsider or just a girl who clings to Illya and ignores everyone else. She is a functioning part of the group who has genuine relationships with everyone. She might not be as tight with any of them as she is with Illya but she has planted some roots with these people. They are more than somewhat familiar faces in the impersonal crowd of life.
While in the show the main purpose of Magical Ruby’s antics is mostly as a refresher to who these characters are there is a very important secondary task. That is getting people used to the new voice of Magical Sapphire. Since Miyu Matsuki tragically passed away last year they had to replace her with Yumi Kakazu. The main problem with Yumi Kakazu is at points she feels like she is doing a Miyu Matsuki impression more than anything else. She does a very good job at replicating Miyu Matsuki’s work. The problem is at times Yumi seems a little too dedicated to catching the flavor of her predecessor than acting. Hopeful that is just a function of stepping into someone else’s shoes and Yumi will make the role her own while keeping true to the original as the season goes on.
While they were very briefly seen last season Angelica and Beatrice Flowerchild were shown as part of the teaser for the new season but now they properly step on the stage. They seem to be able to install Class Cards without the aid of a wand like Chloe. We see Angelica get the power of Gilgamesh’s Archer card but theoretically, Beatrice’s card is unknown. The fact that she has a huge hammer that can change a size and has thunder and lightning power in this post-Avenger’s world makes it pretty clear which Heroic Spirit she has fused with. In fact, at this point, it would be a subversion of expectations if she did not have the power of Thor.
In the manga the reason for this battle being such a blowout is different. In the manga, Illya’s crew has just fought Gilgamesh and they just put 100% into that battle. So when Angelica and Beatrice Flowerchild appear at full strength they make short work of Illya’s little group. As it turns out these new enemies can give Team Illya a run for their money (and even beat them) when everyone involved is fully rested but this fight in the anime makes that clear from the start.
After the shift to Miyu’s home universe, the change in tone is very clear. The loneliness of this frozen Fuyuki City has seeped into every part of the soul of the region. Some major disaster took place here but unlike the fire, at the end of Fate/Zero this either killed everyone or forced them to flee. No one has rebuilt anything and everything was simply left behind to rot.
As much as Illya has grown through the course of the show she still tries to live in the delusion of normalcy. She desperately runs through the city trying to get home despite the fact that she has known no one will be there when she gets there. Her heart breaks when she gets to where her house should have been and she find nothing but deep down she always knew it was the only outcome.
The series is now at the point where I stop knowing all the answers ahead of time. One of the biggest questions the manga still has not answered is who is Tanaka. It is clear that she is very powerful but has not unlocked anything close to her full potential. She is constantly hot and probably has some sun and/or fire-related power but her exact identity is still a mystery.
My roommate had a good theory: She is one of the nine tails of Tamamo-no-Mae. It makes sense. It would explain the heat powers as well as her ridiculous power if she is an aspect of Amaterasu. In fact, she might even be Tamamo Aria aka, the “strange one. They even look similar. Whatever happened to make her lose her memory might be the reason she does not have her distinctive ears and tail.
The main counter argument is that so far all of the tails of Tamamo-no-Mae have been voiced by Chiwa Saito but Tanaka is voiced by Misato Fukuen. There is no rule that states that every tail will be voiced by Chiwa Saito but it is a strong strike against the theory.
The ending “WHIMSICAL WAYWARD WISH” by TECHNOBOYS PULCRAFT GREEN-FUND featuring Yumeha Kōda really feels like something ripped from Mawaru Penguindrum. The mechanical melancholy mixes the upbeat aspects of the song with the underlying sorrow in a very particular manner. While the snow motif is unmistakable the fact that Illya appears in her von Einzbern Holy Grail War Master outfit is the real seal on the deal for the theme. The whole ending really encapsulates the hopelessness of this snowy new world with hints that Illya can turn this around but that it will not be easy.
After the ending, there is a little stinger with two very important points.
The first is that as blank as Tanaka’s memories may at first seem to be somewhere down deep she has most if not all of the answers. She clearly at one point knew who Miyu, the Ainsworth family, and the nature of parallel worlds but for some reason, she can only drudge up those memories at random moments ,with certain key phrases, and when there is no pressure. Despite the fact, she is a wellspring of information she is not anything close to a reliable one.
The second is that Beatrice Flowerchild has found this odd couple and has is very keen on turning their bad situation into a far worse one.
The preview for the next episode if filled with nothing but good stuff. The fight between Tanaka and Beatrice should give a better look at what both of them can do. Also, it is clear that a far less homicidal kid Gilgamesh will appear to aid them. And most importantly will finally meet the older brother of Miyu who very clearly is this world’s Shiro.
This season is off to a very good start. The transition for this season from the last was rather seamless. While I saw what they did to put everything on pause between seasons I think most people who did not read that manga would have assumed this was the natural flow of the series. In fact, the integration of Miyu into the group before she is whisked away actually helps raise the stakes a little more than in the manga. Since we see Miyu has really begun to settle in with Illya and her pace it is all the more jarring when her new-found happiness was taken from her. Also, the continued use of the bracelets from the filler episodes works as a simple visual metaphor for the bond between Illya, Chloe, and Miyu.
Once again the anime shows that it is a strong take on the manga which often wisely knows when to copy its predecessor and when to go off on its own. It does not always do the right thing when it wanders but the number of successes makes it worth watching alongside the original.