First and foremost, Prisma Illya is a parody. A parody of magical girl genres, card game shows, and Fate/Stay Night itself. It’s easy to remember this when the show does things like Illya calling Ruby out on teasing her by stating that “a magical girl’s greatest weapon is her cuteness,” or the way Illya stumbles about her first battle (and runs away). Or when they constantly call out events as typical tropes in magical girl shows, like battle poses or an unexpected transfer student. But wherever Type Moon goes, nothing is as expected. While the primary character designs of Prisma Illya verge on the overly-moe side, the rest of the colors and character designs tend toward something darker. The same goes for the music: while the opening and ending are cavity-inducing, the rest of the soundtrack has a distinctly creepy tone.
It’s obvious Kaleid Liner’s primary influence is Cardcaptor Sakura; the star wands, the flowing capes and petal skirts, and the use of magical cards with the staff are all callbacks to that classic. Even so, Kaleid Liner manages to set up a system that fits perfectly with how the Heroic Spirits exist and work in the original series while still paying homage to Cardcaptor Sakura and other magical girl classics.
Miyu, Illya’s rival and the aforementioned transfer student, is hilariously perfect at everything; she’s also silent and serious, a good foil for Illya’s exuberant, naive personality. This is used in both serious matters—Illya regarding collecting Class Cards as a game while Miyu protests and is clearly hiding a deeper reason—and humorous ones— Illya being able to fly simply because “all magical girls can fly, of course!” while Miyu is a grounded realist. While Illya knows how to fly from watching magical girl anime, Miyu can’t figure out how humans could possibly fly. She provides the intellectual breakdown that anyone familiar with overanalyzing anime would love. She and the guy who did his physics presentation on My Little Pony should get together and chat. They’re the classic duo of serious and lighthearted.
Overall, the show has a pretty good balance of completely ridiculous situations and a more realistic breakdown. For the most part, being a magical girl is handled as something fun, until the battles start coming in. In the battles, Type Moon shows their true colors, with crashes, blood, dark color palettes, a fast-paced soundtrack, and some really nice fight set-ups, boosted by smooth animation. The animators clearly know what they’re doing, and it really pays off.
So far, four of the seven Class Cards have been captured, but episode four ends with Saber Alter showing up in a flaming explosion, so we’ve more chaos to look forward to.