In the topsy turvy domain that is anime, most anyone can save the world. From slackers, to former villains, to the ever popular high schooler. But, it takes a select few who can save the world and look cute doing it. Enter the Magical Girl. Because why fight for justice in anything other than a brightly coloured skirt/frill collaboration? That being said, not all of these maidens of justice assume the role willingly. Sometimes there are forces at work that spread far beyond the confines of daily life…or any kind of life.
Meet Illyasviel von Einzbern, your typical high school girl with your typically atypical anime heroine name. Spending her days studying, watching anime (ironically of the magical girl genre, though we’ll come to that later) and quietly pining after her brother…who is adopted, so it’s…ok? I don’t know, it’s anime, we just have to deal. Anyway, after a brief introduction to her daily schedule, Illya’s life is thrown for an absolute loop when a magic wand plummets towards her house. Said wand, dubbed Kaleidostick Ruby , accepts/forces Illya to become her new master, having cast aside her previous master, she’s fine though so no need to worry. In fact, said former master tracks Ruby down and, through a combination of duty and stubbornness, decides to aid Illya in her Magical Girl training.
Due to her pre-existing knowledge of the Magical Girl way, via her anime habits that I mentioned earlier, Illya takes to certain aspects of her new position rather easily. Namely, she finds flight a simple task, despite it’s apparent difficulty, because Magical Girls all fly in anime. Simple reasoning, but effective. Said attitude also serves as a foil to her counterpart Miyu, wielder of Kaleidostick Sapphire, whose intellectual nature blocks her from utilising the reality defying powers of magic to their fullest extent. Though her main issue seems to be with the impossibility of human flight, not the fact that she can fire laser beams out of a talking stick, seems a tad contradictory if you ask me. Regardless, it serves as a nice little differentiation between the two girls and shows that their powers can be personal, despite both originating from the same source. Taking this idea even further, a showcase of the Kaleidostick’s previous wielders Rin and Luvia’s techniques, shows the difference that practice can make.
As I have now mentioned twice, Illya is a fan of anime and as a result is more than aware of the classic tropes. Thus she is rather quick to call attention to the similarities that arise between her new life and her favourite shows. This provides the series with a meta aspect that openly investigates the formulaic nature of the Magical Girl genre, or at least certain cliché events. Said terminology is used exactly when Miyu transfers into Illya’s class, even the Miyu’s proficiency calls forth similarities to the quick establishment of a protagonist’s rival. Although they end up working things out…which is also pretty common in these types of series.
As one might expect of an anime centred on Magical Girls, Illya and Miyu are presented in a decidedly cute fashion. Namely, they are noticeably smaller than their Magical Girl trainers. Sure the same can be said for their similarly aged friends, but you really don’t see them too much…and they’re not magic. Not to be outdone however, Rin and Luvia’s Magical Girl transformations come with added animal ears and tails, though even they note how embarrassing this is. This contrast is only strengthened by the vocal performances, which really sell the brash, snobby thing Rin and Luvia have going respectively. Conversely, Illya and Miyu voices only serve to bolster their cutesy demeanour, despite being so different from each other. The same can also be said for the Kaleidostick sisters, who possess a surprising amount of personality, both vocally and physically, for magic wands. With all that said about characters, the animation truly shines when it comes to the Magical Girls’ attacks. Beam attacks are rendered with great fluidity, whilst fiery auras can seem almost too real at times. Not in a bad way, just in a noticeable one.
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is a series about Magical Girls, yet it is not one that is entirely a Magical Girl series. What I mean by that is that, despite its cute and chirpy protagonist, it is not long before the situation takes a turn for the serious. Though it is far from the darkest anime around, it has no compunction about emotionally scarring its lead characters. Though it is merely played off for laughs, the entire opening of the series is pretty harsh when you think about it. I mean, imagine being rejected by the weapon bestowed upon you, poor Rin and Luvia are pretty strong to be able to adapt to loss so fast. But, when all is said and done, the series is about Illya and Miyu and the transformation they undergo both physically and mentally. With personalities that set them on a path as rivals, the two managed to overcome their weaknesses through tough trials and become friends. Yes its cliché, yes its saccharine, but that doesn’t make it any less heartwarming. Such is the power of Magical Girls.
Can you feel the magic? Fly on over to Hanabee and test your skills