Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA 3rei!! #08: Are We the Baddies?

hisui_icon_4040_round I have seen several variants of the simple joke where a group of Nazis or Star Wars Stormtroopers are overlooking some atrocity and one of them turns to the other and simply asks, “Are we the bad guys?” By the end of the episode, everyone on Illya’s team has to ask themselves that question. As it turns out they might be the greedy bastards who damn millions just for their own selfish desires. Now, in this case, their selfish desires in not seeing their friend ritually sacrificed so it is not the standard villain motivation (unless you are the villains of Magic Knight Rayearth.)  They just have to sacrifice a whole world’s worth of people to save her.

Well, this is a magical girl show. They will find another way that requires neither the ritual murder of Miyu nor turning another dimension into the Upside Down. But they don’t KNOW that. They have to make the choice to potentially damn the world and hope MAYBE there is some chance that there is another way. They have to be villains with the desperate hope that eventually their actions will be redeemed. The Trolley problem in anime form.

It seems that Illya is hardly Chucky from Child’s Play in a doll body. Even a poorly controlled Rin and Luvia are giving her a run for her money. When Angelica enters the fray thing go from bad to worse. Even when Illya’s desperate gamble gets her back into her body she finds she is no match for the two mind controlled maids and their overseer. But that is not the killing blow. The real turn in the battle is when Angelica informs Illya of how the Ainsworth family is actually doing this to save the world.

This is essentially two one-legged men in an ass kicking contest. Illya’s doll body has the magical output of all the Dursley family all crammed into one little fluffy body. Her standard attacks bounce off people like Don Kanonji’s Golden Kan’onball and her slashing attack does more than to increase the Luvia fan service than doing any lasting damage. Technically if she could easily land a solid shot she could snap Rin and Luvia out of their brainwashing but her fluffy body hardly makes her the stuffed version of River Tam.

Thankfully for Illya, it seems that the two maids don’t have the best AI in control of their bodies. While they are not fighting like they usually do they mostly just charge ahead with minimal tactics. The more interesting thing is the generic one use noble phantasm cards they have. There are whole decks of unnamed weapons that dissipate after they are used for a single strike. Unlike Darius’ cards that have named powerful effects these seem to be more the faintest figments of the concepts of a weapon. Darius’ cards seem to be the embodiment of powerful concepts not linked to a specific hero. These seem to be extremely water downed shadows of the ideas of weapons. They are mere echoes of the Platonic ideals that Nobel Phantasms usually represent.

While Rin and Luvia are hardly kunoichis in maid outfits they are able to do a great deal of damage. In fact, they throw around their broken phantasms enough to smash through the floor and take the fight to Erika’s room. Her ever-faithful guardian Angelica immediately pops up to protect Erika and confront Illya even if she is hardly in her most dangerous form.

Angelica seems to have a genuine affection for Erika despite the fact that she seems so stoic and detached. When Erika is threatened Angelica is there before you can blink. Darius is not the type of person to appear himself if one of his underlings is nearby and it is almost impossible to imagine the selfish Beatrice to be that dedicated. Angelica also is always indulging the little girl even when it might be against her best interest. Fixing Erika’s dolls when Beatrice terrorizes them is kindly and time-consuming but hardly putting her neck on the line. But her helping Erika kidnap and body swap Illya for the Small Lady could easily make Darius reconsider breathing life into her.

If Illya has had problems with Rin and Luvia than fighting Angelica with the installed powers of Gilgamesh is like a level one Crono jumping ahead to fight Lavos at the start of the game. In fact, she only wins by playing a dangerous sacrifice play. She gambles that even if her doll body is ripped to shreds it will not kill her. This lets her sacrifice her body to get close enough to use a blast that lets her flashback in her body. It seems that you can’t just randomly hit anyplace on the body with Illya’s puny blasts. She needs to aim for the weak point of the spell like her body was a giant enemy crab.

Sadly for Illya, it seems that getting her body back only makes it that she stands a fighting chance against Angelica and her maid back up. Illya is like 10 levels under leveled for this fight. She might be able to do something against Angelica in a straight up fight but Rin and Luvia keep harassing her so she constantly has to be on the defensive. She can’t free Rin and Luvia because of any time she would focus on them Angelica is a threat. The fact that Angelica can use the Flash Air makes everything 10 times worse.

I am a little amused that they say that Flash Air is considered a low-level magic that hardly anyone learns. I’m fairly certain combat teleport, high-level soul swapping spirit magic, and general transmutation of properties are all considered fairly useful abilities. No one says that Tracer or Popinjay are low-level or underpowered characters. Also, those other skills are tapping into Master level magics in Mage: The Ascension. No one considers Fire magic weak because low levels of its application only let you create a match’s worth if fire. It seems odd that Flash Air would be in a magical ghetto just because it is not world shattering at lower levels. Maybe it is one of those cases where it is supposed to be an odd prejudice rather than a logical argument.

The end of the episode drops a bomb more powerful that anything Flash Air could do. Both sides of Team Illya get a shocking revelation. One side gets it from a stone-faced but self-righteous Angelica and the other from a rather amused Gilgamesh who seems to be enjoying a slice of schadenfreude. The Ainsworth family’s goal is not world domination, seeking the root, or a lust for power. This world and its strange weather are due to a massive loss of mana. They plan to summon the Holy Grail within Miyu to hopefully restore the natural magical energy of the planet before everything dies out cut off from the natural flow of mana. While it means that Miyu must die it will save the remaining billions of people who are in danger. Illya will damn all of them if she goes against Darius. Quite an awful trolley problem.

It is worth noting that much of what is happening here is also the backstory of the world in the Fate/Extra games. It too is a reality where the mana was running dry. It also had a huge number of deaths due to climate change. Eventually, the world stabilized in Fate/Extra and while everyone did not die magic is generally considered either dead or at least in hibernation. The little magic that is left can only be accessed via magical hacking which is powerful in the virtual world is barely able to do anything directly in the physical world.

It has never been revealed (as far as I know anyway) what caused the mana loss or what stabilized it after that. It very well could be that Primsa Illya is secretly going to reveal that is it the back story to the Fate/Extra universe. This Illya could be the creator of the Moon Cell. If my theory about Tanaka is correct is also might explain why Tamamo-no-Mae was a servant in the first Moon Cell Holy Grail War. I’m curious to see how much of this theory plays out.

This revelation is the next logical step in Illya’s progress. Before this point, her enemies were external threats. At first, it was increasing powerful monsters. They were mindless enemies so there was no moral dimension to defeating them.  It was just a matter of Illya getting the self-confidence to stand up to what initially seemed to be a more powerful but evil threat. Then came Chloe. While she is a dark reflection of Illya who started within her she became an external threat. Since Chloe was the aggressor with far less of the moral high ground she starts to touch upon the idea of ethics but still lets Illya have the righteous position in the conflict. It is worth noting that fighting in the end did little to solve the problem. It was conversation and Illya confronting her inner demons that was the ultimate solution.

Gilgamesh and Bazett were more of the first group of threats. A more powerful outside threat that tests Illya’s determination. This time, they were intelligent foes who had their own moral reasons for doing what they did. In the case of Bazett, it was a battle of one set of ethics and goals vs. another. Since Illya had no real moral conflict her will was far more easily found than in previous crises of faith. The fights might have been harder on a physical level but easier on a moral one.

At this point, any foe that comes out her with a purely physical or magical attack can eventually be beaten with no real effort. She will eventually find the power within herself in if she believes. The real crisis is now it seems Illya is on the wrong side of the moral argument from a purely utilitarian standpoint. At this point, she has to stand up for her beliefs when the rest of the world might tell her that she is not only wrong but a demon. Holding on to self-confidence when the world is against you is the ultimate test of her beliefs.

The next few episodes shall be her real crucible. Her final confrontation with Darius will have a magical element to it but when the series end next season it will be Illya clinging to her beliefs that defeats Darius. Anything else that happens is just window dressing.

– Alain

My reviews of previous episodes:

Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA 3rei!! #01: Tanaka-kun is Always Clueless
Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA 3rei!! #02: Tactical Espionage Action
Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA 3rei!! #03: The Bay of Pigs Invasion
Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA 3rei!! #04: Shonen Friendship and Softcore Porn
Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA 3rei!! #05: Dumb and Dumber
Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA 3rei!! #06: Attack of the Designer Knockoff Noble Phantasms
Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA 3rei!! #07: Illya Does a Fairly Good Beatrix Kiddo Impersonation


3 thoughts on “Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA ILLYA 3rei!! #08: Are We the Baddies?

  1. Mackus says:

    I don’t think Ainsworths are really doing it to save the world.

    Trolley problem is artificial problem. It doesn’t happen. The solution to trolley problem is to stop hanging out with guy who asked you such question. If you stay his friend, he’ll eventually do something really creepy, like kill your cat.

    Alternate version of trolley problem, about whether you’ll kill your dog to save train full of people. In theory, “moral” choice is to kill dog to save people. But in practice anyone willing to kill _his_ dog on such short notice to save some _strangers_ would have to be complete sociopath. Sane person would actually make selfish choice.

    That’s why when in HF, when Shirou saves Sakura at expense of people whose names he doesn’t know, he might be falling high (and insane) standard he set up for himself in honour of Kiritsugu, but he follows genuine, if selfish _humanity_.

    Another “dilemma” is whether to torture terrorist to make him give up location of bomb that is set to explode. But here’s a twist: You are the captured “terrorist”, and you are innocent. There is no bomb, cops just think there is one and you know where it is. Should they torture you? Of course not. Then how can they be sure there is a bomb and they have the right guy even in the version when there really is a bomb, and they do have the right guy?

    That’s why Ainsworths behaviour doesn’t compute, if you think about it carefully.

    Why someone so evil and deprived of basic humanity would be interested in saving world?
    “End justifies the means” but what justifies the end? Can Darius justify why world ought to be saved? I don’t think he could. Ironically, its those why try to stop could make this point for him.
    He has no motivation to do so, other than inertia of his ancestors doing it.

    In-story characters have no reason to trust him. Even if Nasu confirm Darius really wants to save the world from real danger, and that it _would_ work, Illya and her pals has NO reason to think they’re “the baddies”. When in doubt, do the right thing.

    Fiat iustitia, et pereat mundus.

    BTW. Love Webb and Mitchell. Watch “Auschwitz gift shop” if you hadn’t.

    • reversethieves says:

      OK! An actual discussion of the theming and more complex concepts that Prisma Illya brings up. It is hardly anything close to the smartest show of all time but we might as well dissect the meatiest ideas it tackles when it actually decides to tackle them. Fun!

      I always view ethical thought experiments as abstract ways of playing with more complex ideas in a simplified and safe manner. Considering it like the famous spherical cow or frictionless plane in physics. They are never situations you will actually encounter in real life. You construct them as a very simplified puzzle in hopes that you construct a moral code that helps you tackle the more complex problems you actually face in real life. There are lots of ways that such problems can be harmful if you don’t realize they are just constructs but (IMHO) it is better to play with these ideas and maybe not have a full understanding than not think about them at all.

      The problem with your trolley problem is that I don’t see it as black and white as you do. I think your choice says a lot about you.

      1. How much do you value human life in general? How much do you value animal life in general? Can they ever be equal?
      2. How much do you care about the loss of people other than yourself? Theoretically, all of those people have people they are connected to and maybe even love them. Sure you save your dog but you make 5+ people you don’t know suffer the loss of their loved ones. Is their suffering worth more or less than yours?
      3. What is your view of people in general?
      An optimist will assume at least one of those strangers is probably a very good person if not more than one. You are essentially killing at least one saint, beneficial scientist, or potential good friend. The dog is wonderful but it has less potential for good than at least one of the people.
      A pessimist would say that they know the dog is good but the chances that any of the strangers is worth more than their dog is fairly slim. Better to go with the good you know as opposed to the gamble on strangers.

      I am not so firm in my moral convictions to say that I know the right answer to any of those questions. I think everyone has to come to their own conclusions about them.

      All of that said, Prisma Illya is not THAT complex a show. Illya will be good and her adversities will be in the wrong. This is not a subtle shades of gray show. It is a heroic magical girl show. We always know that Illya will choose the right path and that the villains are mistaken in their worldview.

      The main point is not that Illya is committing to doing something bad. It is that she has to have a moral conflict. She has to wonder if she is wrong. She has to wonder if sacrificing the one, even if that one is previous to you if it means saving the many. They also make it a world’s worth of people. If it were 5 or maybe even 100 it would be easy to make the Chloe choice. But a world’s worth of people has to have dozen upon dozen of people who are just as good/valuable as Miyu if not more so.

      What is also important is that Illya has to make a choice. At this point they need a villain with a bit more complexity for Illya to go against otherwise the series just becomes DragonBall Z “NOW THIS ENEMY HAS, EVEN MORE, POWER.” This, on the other hand, builds on her quest while still letting her have the moral high ground. If anything I must applaud the series for letting the character build in the more nuanced this way when the much lazier path would be easily accepted.

      I get the “He who commits injustice is ever made more wretched than he who suffers it” but you could ask the question if you could save the world it could be argued that the injustice would be letting all those people die. It often is how you phrase the question as much as what your answer is. Such is the complexity of ethics. Or at least the potential complexity.

      – Alain

      PS The “Arbeit Macht Fries” was pretty damn funny.

  2. Mackus says:

    I agree that simple puzzles are useful way to start conversation on moral dilemmas.

    Precisely because they are simplified puzzles, I would always chose my dog when asked.
    Because people on the train are imaginary (at-most we’ll know their number), but my dog is not. I “kill” dozen imaginary people every time I play a video game. I’ve never killed my very real dog.

    Of course, if puzzle was more nuanced (maybe if we were told about victims having families who depend on them), answer could be different.

    Good example of answer for moral dilemma changing depending on complexity, would be prisoner dilemma.
    If faced with completely unknown, faceless person, you’ll almost always rat them out. You know nothing of them, have no reason (moral or emotional) to either like them or trust them to protect you.
    But if your interlocutor will specify that other prisoner is your long-term buddy, with whom you’ve done successful crimes before, you’ll generally chose to stay silent, because you both like them and trust them.

    I also agree that Illya will, after some drama, chose to save Miyu. Its that kind of show.

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