As I return from my trip and Kelloggs prepares to head off on his to the Gates of Mordor Arizona, it is time for me to actually create some content for this blog and address the anime that is Fate/kalied liner Prisma☆Illya.
You may remember my previous first impression post on F/klPI, where I extolled the virtues of amazing animation, sassy sidekicks and Tohsaka Rin.
And now, seven episodes in, it is time for us to reexamine these praises and see if the series stood firm by them. First, we look at the animation. In this respect, the show delivered everything I expected of them and more. We got our typical stand-and-shoot-beams magical girl fights, fast-paced, swords-sparking duels, as well as a healthy amalgamation of both in one particular scene, and in all these fight scenes SILVER LINK outdid themselves. The style of animation that they are unique for – traditional animation overlaid with sparkling CG, reminiscent of but in every way less obnoxious than purikura – complements the magical girl genre like no other style could, so much that it makes one wonder why it took them so long to make one.
As for the humour of the series, it continues to effortlessly amuse me. By taking an otherwise bog standard magical girl show and adding very genre-aware and fourth-wall-breaking lampshades, you end up with simple but brilliant jokes. Much of it, however, is very much dependent on the viewer being familiar with the staple two-girl magical girl shows such as Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha and the original Pretty Cure; they will do a nearly identical copy of a scene from Nanoha or Precure then lampshade or defy it much in the way an abridged series or, eh-hem, a blogger might.
Take, for example, their explanation of why Illya is can so naturally fly as a magical girl while her hard working, cold, logical and otherwise superior partner could not. While normal magical girls have their immense powers attributed to innate talent or hours upon hours of off-screen practice, Illya explains it as below:
With a simple humorous hand wave that does not conflict with in-universe logic, it did away with all the barely believable pseudoscientific explanations or ten-minutes-of-screen-time representation of back-breaking practice that other shows rely on. Obviously, for truly groundbreaking pioneer series, this is not an option, but when the studio aims to make a new show of a well-established and almost obsolescent subgenre, I can think of no better way of handling this trope.
It is here, on the subject of flight and this particular episode, that I must regrettably inform you the reader that we will be taking a “short” detour from my analysis of a wholesome show to revisit and reaffirm my arguments in another blog post, namely, the one in which I bashed the portrayal of the intelligence stereotype, in Free(!)fall.
[WARNING: This following rant by SerendipitouslySane is known by the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. Do not listen to SerendipitouslySane’s rant if you are pregnant, nursing or taking anti-depressants. Consult your local anime club president before use if you are taking oral contraceptives or any other medication. Limit exposure to sun and other sources of ultraviolet light. If erection lasts for more than 4 hours, please seek immediate medical assistance.]
You may remember how I relentlessly bashed KyoAni’s representation of an overly-logical character for its lack of scientific accuracy and the laziness of its writers for not looking up a few formulas on Wikipedia before writing the turgid dross that was the third episode of Free! (And possibly every episode after that, but that is a story for another day.) An abridged version is reproduced here:
Not the least amount of selective bias was seen in the above picture
In the aforementioned Prisma Illya episode, in which Illya demonstrates her impressive ability of flight by standing on the fourth wall, her partner Miyu immense felt shame and pressure for being unable to replicate the same feat, even after Illya broke out her favourite anime box set to offer inspiration:
For reference, the equation she referred to is technically the lift coefficient on a thin airfoil, which is dependent on planform area, lift coefficient, airspeed, and air density, as she correctly identified. And while a simple equilibrium of forces diagram would be more efficient in demonstrating magical flight:
The technobabble was sufficiently complex, accurate, fast paced and relatable to the subject at hand that both the humour and the scene presented flowed far more smoothly than the corresponding one in Free!
Not to mention that this particular discussion in Prisma Illya amounts to no more than a throwaway, humorous scene of no narrative significance, while Bishie Glasses’ (I still have not learnt his name and nor do I plan to) pole vault was a character establishing shot, which was revisited later that episode multiple times to represent trial and character development. For a highly anticipated, supposedly top-of-the-season series to be outdone and out-written by a run-of-the-mill show proves that Free! is anything but.
Now that we have put that aside (or rather, thrown aside with great force), we can return to complimenting the dark horse that is Prisma Illya.
My third and final praise for the show during my first impression of it was, of course, the presence of Her Majesty Tohsaka Rin, by the Grace of Moe, of Twintails, Kneesocks and the Fetish Dominions beyond the Seas, Queen and Defender of the Tsundere.
And while her repeated appearance and important role failed to disappoint, I find myself drawn more to the show not just by her sole presence, but by the interactions of the four main characters. Rather than the typical mildly lesbianic four girl ensemble, or magical girl staple of two polar opposite but inexplicably friendly and intensively lesbianic girls, this series features a two-by-two dynamic, with two pairs of two (abbr.) intensely lesbianic girls, who work together, but is relationally linked more with their own girlfr-…uh, partner.
This concurrent development creates a number of unique scenarios in an otherwise mass-produced setting. This is particularly prominent in fights, where the two pairs created engaging displays of teamwork sequentially which helped add flavour to a long (albeit well-animated) battle arc. One particular fight scene with [Spoiler] Evil Saber featured the younger pair passing the literal baton to the more experienced duo by throwing their magical sticks Ruby and Luvia to them, which is a nifty turn of events that no other show can execute.
[WARNING: The following paragraph contain heavy spoilers which this writer would rather that you experience yourself by watching the show. Please proceed with caution. It also causes cancer etc.]
In addition to my previous three points of praise, the show also features cameos from various elements of the Nasuverse, including class cards, various monsters of the week who take the guise of Servants, Saber who appeared to be possessed by the Fate/Zero Berserker, and most importantly, Illya cosplaying as midriff-baring Archer in one particularly beautiful fight. These elements not only add flavour for us who have watched other shows of the Fate franchise, but also turn scantily foreshadowed Dei ex Machinis for which magical girl shows are prone to into more significant and rational outcome.
Of course, that is not to say that the show is not without its own issues: some noticeable pacing issues during the fight scenes, which dragged on a little too long, a few characters who were too forgettable either completely forgotten (as Emiya Shirou was, after episode one) (K: Oh come on, nobody cares about him) or introduced too late to make an impression, then only reappearing for humour’s convenience (as in the case of Illya’s quirky classmates). The flaw that leaves the biggest impression, however, is the overly cookie-cutter adherence with magical girl archetypes when they were present. The show follows so many tropes to the letter that it starts to become distracting, and while I admit that originality in stylisation may detract from the parodic humour that I have so praised, I can’t but feel that Prisma Illya has erred too far towards rigidity for their own good, and that they could have easily followed the formula with more flair and still achieved the same effect.
Now, I hope that fairly in-depth and technical examination of Fate/kalied liner Prisma☆Illya, a show worthy of more than faint praise which I presume to be fairly overlooked, has made up for my recent lack of proper activity. One sincerely desires that this monstrous twelve-page post of questionable quality and convoluted priorities has convinced you to give Prisma Illya the chance it more than deserves.