Reviewby Theron Martin,
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 3rei!!
In the wake of the battle against the Heroic Spirit of the 8th Class Card, things seem to be going well until the mountain that was heavily damaged in the battle inexplicably returns to normal. Upon investigating, Illya and crew discover two exceedingly powerful individuals who Miyu recognizes and fears, for they have come from their world to collect her. Illya and crew are collectively unable to thwart them, but Illya's last effort results in her also being transported to the alternate world – where part of the city is blasted and the season is winter instead of summer. There she meets a girl named Tanaka who cannot remember anything except that she opposes the Ainsworths, the magical family that rules here and commands the two powerful girls who took Miyu. Initially isolated from her normal allies and even from the aid of Ruby or Sapphire, Illya must find a way to stop the Ainsworth patriarch from using Miyu as his Holy Grail.
At 12 episodes, the fourth installment of the Fate/kaleid liner franchise is its longest to date. It's apparently not the last installment in the franchise either, given the recent advertisement for an upcoming movie. That's good because, while the final episode of this series does wrap up a major plot arc, it also just ends without any ceremony right as a big reveal about the alternate world is about to start. It's an infuriating way to close a season from a viewer standpoint, but if the producers wanted to assure that viewers will come back for the movie (assuming that it is a continuation), then it was a smart play on their part.
Unlike the previous season, this season features meaty plot development and considerable action from the beginning; by the halfway point of the first episode, a significant battle has already been fought, and Ilya has already been shunted off into the alternate world. The latter in particular gives this season a big boost, as it forces away any prospect of the slice-of-life shenanigans that made the first half of last season a chore. (That's not to say those shenanigans had no entertainment value, but they're clearly not where the strength of the franchise lies.) Having Illya figure out things on her own made for an interesting twist, and the initial allies she collects in this world make for a very different but still entertaining personality dynamic.
Once things settle down, the plot becomes a fairly standard “rescue the captive girl who's set to be used for nefarious purposes by the male villain” scenario. The only major twist this time is that the rescuer is also a girl, though that doesn't have much effect on the overall story dynamic. The main enemy combatants are also a common set: one mean-tempered wild child and one more mature and analytical individual. Naturally, to keep the power curve going, they can install Heroic Spirits too! On the more interesting side, one of the villains installs a spirit who makes for some lively dynamics when combating one of Illya's new allies, and the other installs a spirit who greatly expands the scope of how the Heroic Spirits can even be used.
Of course, this franchise being what it is, Illya's long-standing allies are not going to be out of the picture forever, and another familiar face can definitely be expected to get involved late in the game. Exactly how Illya progresses through the scenario also generates some bizarre quirks, which might seem out-of-nowhere without the odd sense of humor this branch of the franchise employs. For instance, one of the villains has a secret obsession that would be unsettling if you just look at her personality, but seems entirely normal for a girl of her apparent age. Illya also goes through a transformation at one point which would be stupidly ridiculous for just about anyone else but it weirdly makes perfect sense for her; honestly, the episode where she has to figure out how to deal with it is easily the season's most fun one, and some of her reactions are priceless. The way the series maintains its internal logic about how magical girls work in this scenario is also a neat touch. Sadly, one of the big twists toward the end regarding the villain's identity doesn't carry much impact, though it does open up some fresh mysteries about what is really going on.
The action and power usage components are spread much more evenly than last season, with the biggest concentration in the final couple of episodes. No individual action scene is on the level of the best scenes from previous seasons – the action overall falls short of the lofty standards that the franchise normally achieves – but the battle animation standards set by previous seasons remain, and the sparing use of CG in these scenes is well-integrated. General artistic standards set by previous seasons are also maintained, both for better and for worse, but at least there are no inconsistencies. Mercifully, the loli fan service component has been toned down, with very little of such content carrying over.
The musical score is mostly a repeat of themes used in previous seasons, with a few new low-key piano numbers thrown into the mix. The soundtrack still zings in action scenes but can be very pedestrian in quieter moments. “Pedestrian” would also be a good label for the new opener, but new closer “Whimsical Wayward Wish” is a pleasant number whose title suits its sound quite well. On the vocal front, Mai Kadowaki (Satomi in the Negima! franchise) continues to shine as Illya, though Misato Fukuen (Cure Happy, Golden Darkness in the To Love-Ru franchise) also gives a fun performance as idiot amnesiac Tanaka.
Some claims have been made that the world switch and introduction of several new characters makes this series a good jumping-on point for newcomers to the franchise. I didn't agree with this sentiment at the start of the season, and having seen the whole season only reinforced that belief. Even though this season abruptly cuts off at the end and adds some new unresolved mysteries (don't expect an explanation on who Tanaka is), it still builds very directly on what has been established before. Those who jump in here may be able to follow events, but they'll be missing a lot even if they are familiar with other parts of the franchise. For long-established viewers though, this is a welcome though not spectacular extension of the established storyline, which explains a lot of things about where Miyu has been coming from all this time.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Meatier story development, mostly sheds loli fanservice elements, good balance of action, fun, and serious content
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