Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya – The Complete First Season
Studio: Silver Link
Publisher: Hanabee Entertainment
Format: DVD (reviewed), Blu-ray
Release Date: December 3, 2014
Price: $59.99 – Available Here
The magical girl genre is something that many anime fans are familiar with, and anime fans who grew up in the 1990’s in particular will almost definitely have seen at least one certain influential magical girl series. Even so, recent series in the genre do not garner the same amount of attention as they used to. Some manage to become mainstream viewing in western society, but others remain obscure and known only to the more dedicated anime fans. Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya is interesting in that it is a magical girl series and therefore less likely to become as popular as a a shounen series, but at the same time it is a spin-off of the increasingly popular Fate/Stay Night series. Does this magical girl series have enough going for it to warrant a purchase, or is this series best left as a title for only dedicated fans of the Fate series to collect?
Illyasviel von Einzbern is a normal fifth-grader who wonders about what it would be like to be a magical girl. Somehow hearing her talk about this, the magical Kaleidostick Ruby becomes interested in her and eventually convinces Illya to become her master after leaving the mage Rin Tousaka. Illya agrees to help Rin find the five Class Cards they have left to find after some inappropriate name calling, and soon afterwards the Kaleidostick Sapphire shows up with Miyu as her master after leaving the mage Luviagelita Edelfelt. Miyu then transfers into Illya’s class at school and just happens to move into a mansion that suddenly appeared across from Illya’s house. Some viewers will note the anime cliches used here, and Ruby makes sure to point them out for those who are not as knowledgeable about such things.
This series is not exactly original. The anime market is flooded with unoriginal shows, so fundamental to the success of them is exactly what they do with the overused stereotypes, cliches and archetypes. This series manages to pull it off through its depiction of a group of fifth-grade students who, despite some knowledge of sexual themes and Illya’s inappropriate lust for her brother, are innocent and perfectly embodying of the sweet, adorable nature that children in real life have. There is also a lot of clean humour present in scenes set in the classroom, with any scene involving Illya’s friend Tatsuko being nonsensical yet absolutely hilarious. However, class 5-1 teacher Taiga has some very clear anger management issues, an aspect played up in the dub.
Illya’s cuteness not only serves as a way of showing her innocent nature but as a perfect foil to Miyu’s shy and seemingly cold nature. Miyu’s past is not discussed much in this season, and only towards the end of it are even the smallest of details about her actually mentioned, but what is revealed about her is that she had no place to stay, suggesting that something happened to her parents in the past. Losing their parents would cause any child to feel lonely and find it difficult to open up to anyone, but Illya’s kind-hearted nature helps Miyu become close to her and that is one of the many things this series does well – it shows the true power of friendship without feeling contrived for dramatic purposes.
Silver Link has clearly put a great deal of effort into the animation of this series. Character designs are unique and easy to distinguish, and many scenes are beautifully animated and perfect at showing off the cuteness of the characters. Backgrounds are not much better than average, however the designs for the mirror world are effective at evoking a sense of darkness and danger, a sense that Illya so clearly feels as the series progresses.
Thankfully, there is not much fan-service present except for a few scenes where Illya is shown naked, albeit with hair and a bath toy acting as censorship. Some such scenes occur in the bath, however at one point, she takes her top off and jumps on Miyu in her bedroom for no good reason. This scene could be interpreted in two different ways. It may simply be a representation of a child’s innocence who would hopefully completely lack knowledge of ‘adult’ stuff, or it may be a deliberately perverted act by someone who watches and is influenced a lot of anime and is therefore intended as fan-service by the original author.
The subtitles in this release are mostly fine, but viewers with at least a basic knowledge of the Japanese language will spot a spelling error with the romaji transcription of the lyrics of the ending theme song. Another issue with this release that may bother some viewers is the lack of English credits that would be expected to follow after each episode of any series distributed by Sentai Filmworks in North America.
The audio of this season is absolutely superb. Every last piece of background music composed by Tatsuya Katou is fantastic and perfectly suited to the series, making this soundtrack one worth owning if it has been released on CD. The opening song, ‘Starlog’ by ChouCho, is one of the best anime songs in recent years, as is the insert song from episode nine, ‘Kagami’ (‘Mirror’), also by ChouCho. Both the ending theme song ‘Prism Sympathy’ and ‘Tsunagu Kizuna – Tsutsumu Kodoku’ by StylipS are average pop songs, which unfortunately do not stand out.
The English dubbed version is almost perfect, a pleasant surprise given the amount of terrible or average English dubs out there. Cynthia Martinez gives a standout performance as Illya, managing to capture her innocence, cuteness, sweetness and fear perfectly. Brittney Karbowski also puts a lot of energy and effort into her performance as Illya’s classmate Tatsuko, an adorable and hyperactive girl who spouts random nonsense whenever she appears. As is typical with English dubs, Japanese names are consistently mispronounced. However, all other names, including the long names that some characters have, are pronounced without any apparent issues.
This release comes with a few on-disc extras worth checking out. As well as the textless opening animation and the three textless closing animations, the OVA episode ‘Sports Day’ is included. As is expected with OVAs, this episode does not exist for plot purposes but simply for allowing viewers to see the characters they like having a good time doing something mostly harmless, with emphasis on ‘mostly’ as discussed below.
The episode follows Illya and her friends as they prepare for the upcoming sports day, and in particular as they train for the dancing component of it. Unfortunately, more of the series’ disturbing humour returns here as Illya’s friends discuss the sexual connotations of the word ‘meat’. The innocence of the fifth-graders is one of the greatest elements of this series, making their knowledge of such a thing seem unrealistic and clearly contrived by a person with a perverted sense of humour. Thankfully, the majority of the episode does portray that cuteness and innocence that made the characters so interesting and entertaining, and fans of the hyperactive Tatsuko in particular will enjoy the slightly increased screen-time she receives in this OVA.
Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya is a fantastic series about a sweet, innocent and adorable child who wants to be a magical girl, only to discover that being one requires an immense amount of energy, focus, bravery and resolve. It delivers important messages about what friendship means and how one should treat their friends and portrays a level of innocence rarely seen in anime. The series’ one downfall is the sexual themes and the inappropriate sexual nature of Illya most prominently featured in episodes one, seven and ten, but overall, this is an entertaining albeit occasionally silly series. In the end, if you can overlook the presence of sexual themes and lolicon-esque scenes, give this series a go. If you cannot overlook those issues, that is perfectly reasonable and understandable.
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