The Cards Have It

As in previous years, there’s a common theme in some of the anime properties this season. This year it’s magical girls and cards. The three I’m thinking of are Fantasista Doll, Day Break Illusion, and Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya. In Fantasista Doll, the middle-school protagonist comes into possession of a smartphone that allows her to call forth five combat “dolls” that she can variously equip with a card app on said phone. In Day Break Illusion the high-school protagonist has inherited the power to transform and use the power of tarot cards to engage in battle with dark forces. In Prisma Illya, the elementary-school protagonist becomes the unexpected heroine through happenstance and has to use her newfound powers to stop the transdimentional manifestations of cards and collect them. All three have different intents, but all share high quality artwork, both in the character animation and background art.

Day Break Illusion (Gen’ei o Kakeru Taiyou) is the most serious of the three properties, and is the most stylized. If I had to compare it to something, it would be like Heat Guy J or Basquach!, where the character art is very individual to the property, and the setting and backstory are extremely detailed, immersive, and complete. The characters don’t look like anything else this season. They’ve got the big head/hands/feet and unnaturally lanky extremities that make even adult characters look like adolescents going through their awkward growth-spurt years, and there’s lots of weird hair to go around. This one has been compared to Puella Magi Madoka Magica a lot because of the initial “cutesiness”, but it isn’t as “dark for dark’s sake” and the adversaries are more completely realized and more importantly, properly animated. I don’t think they’re going to jack us around with the endless time loop anguish either. Although at cursory first glance at the promotional artwork, one might be led to believe it’s a kid’s show, it does become quickly apparent before the first episode concludes that it is not. This is definitely for an older viewer demographic. I’m sure we’ll get the expected “four girls with different personalities have to learn to work together”, “coming to terms with unwanted destiny”, “coming to terms with death/loss” and “accepting death/disappearance as the consequence for maintaining the greater good” themes in troves. Oh, and if you haven’t figured it out from the background art already, the setting is Nagasaki. Five episodes in and I’m impressed.  A.

Fantasista Doll is another property that at first glance seems to be a kiddy show with the overtly cute characters, overly detailed costumes, and heavy reliance on bright, heavily saturated primary and secondary colors. Watching the first episode alone is enough to clear up this as a misunderstanding, as the somewhat dumb and sugary story with purposely ambiguous setting sets this one up as a parody aimed at the geek/fanboy community. You could almost imagine Bandai/Tomy making dress-up dolls of the main characters, and a toy phone for the under-12 market, and that’s the point: That is the atmosphere they’re aiming for. This one is sort-of like Tantei Opera Milky Holmes where it outwardly appears to be for a young target demographic, but the content leads you to conclude otherwise. Just the fact that it is so heavily loaded with tropes, character archetypes, and visual clichés indicates that it is aimed at an audience who has seen all those properties going back to the 1980’s that they are parodying. The real strong points of this property are the action is done very well, and the characters are resolved well from all angles. The one negative thing I can think of is like Milky Holmes, the story is tedious and predictable. I almost think it might actually be better for the bright-color-loving under-12 crowd just because nothing unexpected really is going to happen. There’s also no fan service nor any really questionable content (like the incessant nipple references of Milky Holmes). The action is enough to keep me watching, so I guess I can suspend belief long enough each week to make it through this visual gem. I’ll watch it all the way thorough.  B+

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is simply a magical girl parody using characters from the Type-Moon universe. I’ve played Tsukihime all way through begrudgingly, and attempted to watch some of the previous serious anime adaptations of Type-Moon properties, and even the parody short Carnival Phantasm, but in all honesty, I really, really disliked them all. I didn’t like the characters, I didn’t like the visuals, and I didn’t like the stories. It therefore came as a total surprise even to myself that I liked Prisma Illya. I don’t think it’s because they ‘re poking fun at themselves so much as the story is so detached from their universe that the characters set free of the bonds that would otherwise burden them with obtuse, pointless backstory. This one again has been compared to Madoka, but in this instance it isn’t because of any dark, menacing, fatalistic tone, but the presence of “characters” (are magic wands characters?) who somewhat approximate the enabler, Kyubey. These characters however are not as detached and amoral. Although this show is the most lighthearted and fun, the level of fanservice would indicate that it isn’t for kids, even with the lack of any heavy darkness or scary stuff. Loli fans, your train has arrived. I’m 4 episodes in and liking it so far. As long as they don’t hit me on the head with any heavy Type-Moon dogma, I’ll probably keep on watching.   A-

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