I’m pretty sure many of you know about the Fate franchise. With well received shows like Fate/Zero, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, and the infamous visual novel itself, this franchise can’t seem to help but churn out money. So that brings the question of its spin-off series Fate/Kalied Liner Prism Illya. Is it any good, how does it stand up to its predecessors, and should this be something you look into? Partially the reason I’m bringing this up is because Fate/Illya is getting its fourth season this summer and probably a fifth season, so there is something to look into here about its feverish success. And as one who was on board of a magical version of Fate from the very first season I think its only fitting that I tackle this show myself.
Personally I’ve had a very complicated past with the Fate franchise. The Studio Deen adaptation of Fate/Stay Night was one of the first shows I watched that I genuinely didn’t like (and 14-year-old me liked almost everything). Back then of course I didn’t necessarily know why I didn’t like it, and now that I do I think my dislike has grown even more. But this isn’t a review of Fate/Stay Night so I won’t get into it. Fate/Zero on the other hand is a show I hold in the highest regards. One of my favorite Anime to date, I find it hard to criticize this show other than the plot points it has to have by being a Fate/Stay Night Prequel. Honestly I think if you’re going to watch anything Fate related, go with Fate/Zero it’s the best this franchise has to offer. I watched the first half of the Unlimited Blade Works TV series and couldn’t get through it, for some weird reason I prefer to movie adaptation (pretty embarrassing). I think I downloaded the Visual Novel twice but once I realized there weren’t voice overs I quit and never came back to it.
So with a whole Fate universe to explore I need to find out just where Fate/Illya fits in here. In short I’d say its pretty good. Not on the level of Fate/Zero, although few things are. I hold it in higher regards than any of the other fate adaptations, which may seem weird, especially if you have seen Fate/Illya and know what it’s about. I guess its time to stop beating around the bush and tell you why I love this stupid show so much.
Fate/Illya takes the characters from the Fate universe and puts them into a magical girl setting. This concept was originally in the VN but was only unlocked after beating all the routes and doing enormous amount of replay. Never-the-less the concept was created in the VN so I need to give credit where its due. In this new magical girl universe where the holy grail war that everyone suffers so much over doesn’t exist anymore. So magicians find other things to do with their time. Sealing heroic spirits inside trading cards sounds like a good way to spend it, and who else is better to be tasked with this than Rin Tohsaka. No wait Illyasviel Von Einzbern, yeah because the magical device didn’t like Rin and decides to turn Illya into a magical girl instead, out of spite. This happens with another set of characters, Rin’s partner Luvia is rejected as well and the magical device goes to a mysterious girl named Miyu. Oh and these devices are sentient, and sassy/annoying. Together Illya and Miyu use these magical devices to become magical girls and help Rin and Luvia hunt down the heroic spirits and turn them into trading cards.
The concept is very simple and the tasks that these girls have don’t require a lot of time thematically. Most of the show is spent focusing on Loli fan-service, Yuri/Loli fan-service, and Comedic Yuri/Loli fan-service. Which isn’t anything new to the magical girl genre. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, which this show shows heavy influences from, had similar loli fan-service, but it was much more subtle. Fate/Illya really tries to push the bar of just how lewd it can push some of its scenes for the sake of comedy or just parodying the magical girl genre all together. However I never felt gross since it’s all played off in a light-hearted way. Every Fate series has something that can be deemed out of poor taste and if you can’t handle loli fan-service comedy than Fate/Illya isn’t for you.
If you don’t mind it though, or even enjoy that, this show will be a fun time. I can’t lie there are times where I cringe that they’re suppose to be ten-year old girls, but it’s almost always accompanied in service of a punchline. Not really justifying it, but most of the time it’s for a reason. Would it be better if these girls weren’t so sexualized? maybe. But it makes up so many of the things that make the show entertaining and memorable.
Another thing is just taking all the cool concepts that exist exclusively to the Fate universe and taking a new approach on it. Mainly I think it’s putting Shiro Emiya in the position that I feel his character should exclusively be in (Shiro is the biggest reason I hate Fate/Stay Night). Other than that I like how they explore the magic world of Fate in a light-hearted and less Lovecraftian horror spin. There really isn’t any of the thoughtful themes that Fate/Stay Night tries to convey. And they always try to fit those themes into the fight scenes, making the focus split and sometimes anticlimactic. Fate/Illya for better or worse doesn’t have these problems in its fight scenes. We just get thrown into battles that last for quite a long time and always are entertaining in putting the focus on the fight. The colors and world they fight in all mesh well together and the art style lends itself to really cool character motions and flashy attacks. Sometimes it gets a little too dramatic but it transitions into it well enough it doesn’t seem disruptive of whats going on in the show at the time.
So if you like cute loli hijinks with intense fight scenes then this show is more than enough to get you adding it to your Crunchyroll queue. But there is also a lot of slice of life elements here so it goes without saying that you’ll have to like the characters to even be invested in these loli hijinks and fight scenes. Now before I get to the good characters there is a character who might ruin the show for you. Ilya’s sentient magical device Ruby is nothing short of the biggest reason to roll your eyes I’ve ever seen. She’s present to instigate most of the magical girl commentary and loli fan-service. But there’s something about her voice and her inability to have any other mood than perverted that at most times ruins whats going on. Its like someone adding too much of a certain ingredient to a dish and then it tastes like shit.
Other than that all of the other characters are cool and interesting. Illya is cute and secretly perverted but is shy of it as a ten-year old should be. In contrast she has a twin sister Kuro who is over sexual and loves getting sexy with their older brother and the other girls. Miyu is the personification of cool and confident along with being mysterious enough to want to see her story play out. And if you have any prior Fate experience just think of those characters but in a more silly light-hearted way and that’s the rest of the cast. Theres enough diversity and clashing characters to make the wacky scenes wacky, and enough chemistry to make the endearing scenes endearing. Unless Ruby jumps in to ruin the fun. It’s all very basic though, so don’t go into this expecting great any deep characterization (If you want that go watch Fate/Zero). Everything is serviceable in what it tries to convey. But if it did more I don’t think it would work as well at what it’s trying to do.
In short I love this show because it’s a funny magical girl parody that looks really cool at times. One of the main girls is a dark skin sex maniac that I would totally be on board with if only she were of age. All of the events are entertaining and has easy to understand motivation towards whats going on. I wouldn’t say its any more than “popcorn” entertainment, but it does “popcorn” in the most entertaining way. It never tries to be something other than entertaining. Sometimes those entertaining elements might not jell with you but that’s okay. If you are into that there’s three seasons currently streaming on Crunchyroll with a fourth season coming out this summer. Personally I don’t think you need any Fate prerequisite to enjoy this show, so don’t be opposed by its seemingly meta barrier of entry. Fate/Kalied Liner Prism Illya is nothing more than a good time tied together in an interesting package that is good enough to be great for some people and just not for some other people.