You know, I don’t even know why I bothered with 3rei!! given how disappointed I was with 2wei! Herz. But this is a decent return to form for the Prisma Illya franchise, even if I was kinda disappointed it didn’t take the risks I had hoped a series with the name Fate in it would take.
As usual, spoilers are ahead.
Firstly, kudos for dropping all that nonsensical filler stuff that dragged 2wei! out into two seasons instead of compacting it into one. Diving straight into the plot, the story for 3rei!! doesn’t really stop, only taking some minor breathers as characters get to grips with the unfolding plot and get the relevant exposition.
The pacing was also much better this time, which makes 3rei!! imminently more watchable than 2wei! and the worst offender of the lot, 2wei! Herz. I could do with more self-aware comedy too, akin to the very first season instead of the mostly poorly timed and somewhat cheap humour. It’s what made me think Prisma Illya was a good series in the first place, despite the blatant fanservice that really shouldn’t exist in this show.
There was a lot more combat, a lot more use of the Cards, and a lot less convoluted attempts at character development. I mean, the rooftop scene between Illya and Kuro was illogical, and the fanservice was just wrong, but it’s still just one scene. They tried to do more development with the whole plot twist, but that turned out all wrong in my opinion.
Frankly, they wasted a lot of potential with the plot here. Given that now the tables have turned and the protagonists are ostensibly the ‘villains’ in this parallel world, maybe DON’T make the enemy look like and do things that only typical villains do? That undermines the idea of them ‘fighting for justice’. If you want to do that, then be braver and delve into the concepts of whether the end justifies the means, whether morality has a place when the world is at stake, and so on.
Also, while I totally expected this, but Illya was written as Shirou from the main series where she proclaims she’s going to save everyone. I was hoping for some real character development, to have Illya struggle and choose Miyu over the parallel world. Kuro had no compunctions doing so, which is in character, but it feels like a huge wasted opportunity that Illya went the way of Shirou of the main series. I’ve always been annoyed by Shirou for his stupid heroism, and this annoyance bled over here. Kiritsugu was a much better protagonist, and Fate/zero the superior show IMO.
Erica is also basically a rehashed version of Illya from the actual Fate series, and this just makes me feel a little less content. Throwbacks are fine, but this doesn’t feel fresh or original like the first season did. The black goo thing was also reminiscent of Fate/zero and the stuff the Holy Grail spewed out, which then feels a little overdone and boring.
The battles were animated well, I suppose, but then it’s all a bit par for the course, especially since there are plenty of anime that also get their animation right. What really bothered me was the sheer amount of deus ex machinas in combat. Out of nowhere, the protagonists get saved over and over when they get into sticky situations. Shirou saved people twice with Rho Aias, Tanaka popped up out of nowhere to give Illya a weapon to destroy the goo, and there’s always some character diving into the action to save someone from getting killed. None of the characters seem able to get out of any jam on their own. It’s a little dispiriting. I get enough of that from Fairy Tail every week.
Also, Tanaka. Zero explanation. Just hints that she’s probably some sort of weapon created specifically to counter Julian Ainsworth’s ‘artificial Noble Phantasms’. I thought there was going to be some crazy link between Tanaka and the Ainsworths, but nothing was said. The ending was pretty hit-and-miss too, with everyone just going to the Emiya household, and the time was spent showing Miyu acting cute to Shirou and…nothing more. No exposition, no attempts to go back to their own world, no dilemmas for Miyu on whether she should drag her brother to Illya’s world, etc.
I guess maybe they’ll cover all of that in the movie, including all the other unknowns of which there are many. The whole world hopping thing, Julian and his powers, if Erica is a homunculus/Holy Grail, Tanaka, how Sakura got dragged into the series, and so on. Fate is pretty heavy on exposition given the complexity of the world, and most shonen stories love explaining crap to readers, so it’s a surprise nothing much was explained. I mean, too much exposition is bad, but not knowing anything when the season ends can be even more annoying.
So there was a lot of potential for character development and the plot to go in ways that don’t conform to usual shonen standards, but I guess not every magical girl series can be Madoka, even if it’s named Fate.