A deliciously dark re-imagining with magical girls.
What They Say:
Illyasviel von Einzbern’s normal life is suddenly halted by the Kaleidostick Ruby, a magical wand on the run from her former master who instantly decides that little Illya has all the right stuff to become the next great magical girl. However, Ruby’s previous owner Rin Tohsaka isn’t exactly thrilled to be de-wanded, especially since she’s just accepted an assignment to collect the seven legendary Class Cards. It seems the only solution is for Illya to take up the task and learn the ropes under Rin’s supervision.
Meanwhile, a girl named Miyu has been chosen by the Kaleidostick Sapphire as HER new master, much to the irritation of Sapphire’s previous master, Rin’s arch rival Luviagelita Edelfelt! Exactly what kind of plan are the wands conjuring up? Find out as the Fate/stay night universe “kaleids” with a healthy dose of magical girl mayhem!
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid as we get the original Japanese language in stereo as well as the new English language adaptation, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that works the forward soundstage well as there’s a good mix of dialogue, music and action to keep it lively in most episodes. There’s a good design to it overall as we get the characters interacting in both action and general school conversation to allow it to flow well as it moves about. The action steps things up nicely as there’s a lot of impact to many scenes with the way the action unfolds and that has some nice bass in a few sequences to ramp it up more. It’s similar to other shows in this particular franchise as there’s a good mix of what it wants to do and they don’t skimp with it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The ten episode TV series and OVA are spread across two discs with eight on the first and three on the second. Animated by Silver Link, the series has a really strong look here throughout with some excellent use of colors and shading in many designs to give it more pop and there’s some wonderful detail to all of it in both character and background. It doesn’t go for the photorealistic backgrounds but it gives them a good bit of life that comes across well. The animation has some really good fluidity to it in the action scenes but generally looks great across the board. The colors are rich and solid throughout and the numerous night action sequences across the darkened cloudy skies stands out well against the brightly colored magical girls and what they’re fighting against.
The packaging for this release is presented in a standard sized Blu-ray case where the two discs are held against the interior walls. The front cover has a very appealing piece as we get the four main girls together with serious looks to their faces while using a deep blue star filled background for it. The character artwork is interesting as the two ostensible leads of Illya and Miyu are more muted than you’d expect – Illya is only a headshot really – while Rin and Luvia get most of the space. It works and it’s appealing since it’s trying to show it’s a bit of a darker show than a cutsie show, but I would have liked more Illya on it. The back cover goes for a brighter and lighter angle with bright blue skies for part of it, some nice pink aspects and a good bit of runes softly in the background to tie it together. THere’s some nice shots from the show and a good illustration image of Rin and Livia together as well. The episodes and extras are clearly listed and the premise covers things well with what the series is about. The remainder is given over to the usual production credits and technical grid that breaks everything down cleanly and clearly.
The menu design for this release definitely works well to show off the character artwork but it’s also a bit of a change in how Sentai does their menus. The layout has a full static image with the first disc showing off Illya and Miyu in their transformed modes with some great color and detail to it that really sets the tone well. The logo is kept to the right while the navigation is kept to the lower right corner. While most menus from Sentai breaks out the episodes by number and title on the main screen, this one has us going into a submenu to see them. It’s smooth and flawless to be sure, but it’s an extra step that isn’t on their other releases. Submenus load quickly and everything is quick and easy to get around on.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the multiple manga series that kicked off in 2007 by Hiroshi Hiroyama, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is an alternate universe storyline from the Fate/stay night universe. I’ve been into the whole thing since the original Fate/stay night anime came out about a decade ago here, but it’s not something that I got fanatical about. The last couple of years has been a great revival for the property with Fate/Zero coming out and then this series, which has a second season currently airing, and with Fate/stay night getting a reboot with a new path used in the coming season. Suffice to say, for fans of these characters and properties, it’s a golden age of enjoyment. With this series, we get an alternate universe story and there’s a lot to like with that since it gets to be a bit more playful while still adhering to the seriousness of what the Fate universe is about.
This alternate setting is an interesting one as we once again get to see Fuyuki City, a place where lots of things continue to happen. Within this setting, there are seven distortions that are covering it in magical energy that are generated by Class Cards that exist. The Grandmaster of magic and other sorcerers have explored the city to understand what’s going on and what they decided on was to send two students to go there to work together in capturing the cards and easing the magical distortions that exist there. Luvia and Rin would gain a lot by doing this as they’d train under the Grandmaster himself and that’s definitely incentive. With each of them taking a Kaleidostick to work with, one named Sapphire and one named Ruby, they transform into magical girls and battle to gain back the Class Cards after defeating them.
Unfortunately, the girls can’t get along in the slightest and fight with each other more than achieving their goals. For Rin, she hates the costumes and she hates working with Luvia while Luvia keeps going on about Rin’s lack of style. It’s an amusing setup, but I liked that the Kaleidosticks get so frustrated with the two of them that they end the contracts that they’re engaged in with them and leave them to their own devices. They’re not too bad off as they do know some magic, but this kills their chances of working with the Grandmaster, so they know they have to get them back. Unfortunately for both of them, more so for Rin, the Kaleidosticks have opted to go their own way and forge new contracts with more interesting and friendly people in order to achieve the mission.
That separately brings us into contact with Illya and Miyu, two middle school students. Illya is living in Japan with a guardian and Shiro and as much as she refuses to admit it, she has a dream of being a magical girl and having that experience. When the opportunity arises as Ruby establishes the contract and shows her what she can do with it, Illya is very much not wanting to do this. She’s drawn into it though, but there’s a reticence to her at times that makes it enjoyable to watch even if it is a familiar aspect with some magical girl shows. For Illya, she’s pretty good at being a magical girl, practically born to it in a way, and she’s even able to transcend it in a way with what she can reach in the world beyond with all the weapons of Gilgamesh that we’ve seen in other shows. That makes for some exciting moments.
Miyu on the other hand is a different girl to be sure. Miyu ends up as a kind of servant for Luvia in order to have a place to go since she has nothing, but she’s highly skilled in many things. When she transfers to the same school Illya is at, she essentially blows away everyone with her abilities and that sets her apart from everyone. Illya is her bridge though and her main friend, though she does gain others that are mildly interesting support characters. What Miyu brings to the table is someone who is definitely gifted at being a magical girl with the powers they have and the kinds of fights they have to deal with. The various Class Cards allow the various heroes to inhabit them lightly and take on those abilities. It’s interesting to see some of the types there are that are used of the seven, and we see how captured cards are able to be linked to the Kaleidosticks so that Miyu and Illya can utilize those abilities. There’s some good world building going on with how all of this works and both girls approach it from different ways to expand on the whole.
The ten episodes of the main TV series plays in a fairly straightforward way as you can imagine with young girl gaining powers, questioning herself and her abilities, finding friendship in her ally and doing what it takes to fight against the Class Cards to save the town. There’s an up and down aspect to it as the strain of fighting against such opponents takes its toll, and rightly so as some of them are pretty intense as it goes on. Both Miyu and Illya are well explored, but it’s Illya’s show so she gets more and that works very well. She’s not a deep character, but there’s a lot of tantalizing aspects to her when it comes to her situation alone in how she’s in Japan as part of the Einzbern family. The familiar aspect to it all isn’t a surprise, but it’s the execution that allows it to work well. The trappings that are used here helps to raise it to the next level as well since we get an understanding of a lot of aspects from the other series. It’s fun to see the Class Cards and what they’re turned into here as well as the other alternate takes on the various other characters that are living normal lives.
Being accessible is the hard thing here with a show like this because it can spend too much of its time playing things as if you know some of what’s going on. Thankfully, the show is fully realized on its own so there are no real issues there. You’ll get more out of it the more you know of the original properties and the more invested in those that you are, but you can also go in cold and just enjoy a series that gives you magical girls with conflicting issues, dangerous situations and some of the proper elements of such shows in terms of friendship and bonds between girls. These are commonalities with most magical girl shows, but they take it a little further here, a little darker and a little more realistic in understanding what Illya is going through, the danger involved and how her choices impact Miyu and her own survival.
The whole Fate universe is one that has a lot going for it as there are lots of good stories to tell with intriguing characters, situations, politics and danger. With the Prisma Illya series, it may sound cute and fun by throwing a magical girl aspect to it, but in a lot of ways it plays just as serious as Fate/Zero. And that works in its favor as they do find a decent balance to work with when it comes to that. The characters are engaging and fun to watch as they interact, the magic aspect is definitely well done and the whole Class Cards is a good reworking of the main storyline in a new way. With alternate universe storylines, it’s easy to be dismissive of them and what they do since a lot are corny. With this one, they find a really good approach to use and work it in a fantastic way. There’s a lot to like here and it has me hugely enthused for the second season while hoping for more beyond that.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 2nd, 2014
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.