|Great action, got to the secret of Miyu, steps forward for the main characters, an ending that made sense||An ending that cause much controversy, too much slice of life, bit too much filler in the first half|
This is a difficult review I feel. Illya Herz is kind of a tale of two series compared to the previous seasons. The first half was very much slice of life oriented and kind of adding in original material to push back the battle against the 8th card until the second half of the 10 episode season. But that second half was completely outstanding in terms of giving some great action, some laughs, and some revelations about Miyu. It’s kind of hard to judge this show because it really did have two different tones to it. This 10 episode series had 2 EDs and for a very good reason. The first one was very light and fun which was fine in the first half. But the second half was very much more serious and more suited to the serious tone of the second half. In some ways I suppose the show should be praised for doing such a good job making sure both parts were good in their own way. The season focused on both the slice of life first half and the battle with the 8th card. These are the two main plot points of the season. Very much the cast has to recover after the showdown last season and preparing for the battle that serves as the climax for Herz.
Perhaps the most divisive aspect of this season though was the ending. I won’t be throwing out spoilers to help out those who are just reading the review before seeing the show, but it is a difficult issue to tackle. I can understand the complaints, but also why they used that ending. The third arc for this series will be happening, they announced that at the end of the last episode. The issue is whether you go for something that is accurate to the source material or not. They chose between a heavy cliffhanger that would be an awesome stopping point or one that wraps up the 2wei story neatly and leaves room to jump right into that cliffhanger material for the next arc. In the end they chose they chose the latter route.
I can get why some people were upset by that choice. The cliffhanger would have been very intense and entertaining for the manga readers who already know what is happening next. A kind of Empire Strikes Back kind of ending where things are not exactly good. The positives there are obvious. You stay right with the source material without deviation, you get some more action and it’s a shocking cliffhanger. Could enjoy the shocked reactions from anime-only watchers as well. But the downside is that this is a pretty large gap between seasons. Illya doesn’t just take a season off, it usually takes a few. So maybe the anime comes back next summer or spring at the earliest. That’s a long wait for a cliffhanger. Could argue that people can just jump into the manga, but they shouldn’t have to.
Going the other route has its pros and cons as well. The positive is that it is an easier cliffhanger for anime fans. They know the next arc is coming, they get some mystery, and they can look forward to it without losing their minds. It also allowed them to follow up on the themes and focus of 2wei overall. There was an issue about friendship and the epilogue here was a good chance to show the cast coming back down from that insane fight and also show Miyu’s growth as a character. A time to show just how precious this life she is living really is to her. It also doesn’t make it particularly difficult to adapt 3rei. Really they just have to change things a bit and they can smoothly transition. The tone that the cliffhanger brings can be introduced next season. The downside is that you are deviating and it’s nice to avoid that when possible, it also isn’t as powerful an ending as the massive cliffhanger would be. In the end…..I don’t give the show a negative on this choice. They made a decision about the best way to conclude 2wei. There are enough positives for this route that I’m ok with it.
Now…getting past the ending debate that I’m sure won’t be settled no matter what I say. The series itself XD. The first half was very much slice of life as I said. For those who liked the balance between that and the action portions or preferred the action….this will drag on for you. Honestly I think they gave it 2-3 too many episodes. There were episodes like the beach one that actually had plot, comedy, and a lot of value. That episode was very much necessary. The festival one…..not so much. They only needed to drop hints about Miyu, foreshadow, and have some fun and they used too many episodes for that. For those who enjoy slice of life the most when it comes to this show, well you should be ok then. For me it was too much though and that does hurt my overall value towards the season. 2wei’s first part was better paced plot wise and the issue here was that they didn’t have enough plot left for Herz outside of the 8th card battle.
Now that battle itself was freaking amazing. I’m sorry for the lack of relaxed typing, but honestly it was amazing. Once the plot got moving out of that slow section things got a lot better. The action especially in episode 7 was unbelievable. The pacing, the tone, the action, the suspense, they did an amazing job there. I’m not kidding when I say the Fate Kaleid series has some of the best action in the Fate-verse that has been animated. UBW is definitely a fair competitor, but that episode is a good reason why this series is in the discussion. There was still some comedy later in the arc, some exposition and world building, but it was all interesting and did help add to the season. And the final battle was a lot of fun in and of itself. We really get to see some great action and you can tell they had a lot of fun doing this one. The visuals were good, the animation was good, while others might complain I liked the CGI just fine, and they really did make it entertaining. The action is a strong element to the Fate Kaleid series and they continued that pattern just fine here.
There was some additions made to the cast. The second half has a character show up that will both be surprising and cool. Someone you might not have expected to see, but who makes the cast all the more interesting because of it. Also for anyone who did watch UBW….well it definitely makes for an ironic situation. But overall the series does stay pretty focused on the main cast, Illya’s friends, Bazett becomes much more prominent now (with a lot of comedy centered on her), and of course the surprise additions along the way. The best characters remain the main cast I feel with Illya, Kuro, and Miyu being a good trio for this show to be focused on.
The key point for Herz was Miyu and delving into the mystery that has surrounded her since the first season. This mysterious, but very talented girl who doesn’t seem to know the world all that well and is carrying a weighty secret. Finally that secret is revealed and while we don’t know everything about Miyu….it is clear she has had a very difficult life and has finally found a place where she can truly find herself as a person. Miyu’s story isn’t even close to being over yet, but this season was important in finally getting closer to the truth.
The main cast is the main cast. Illya does actually grow in the second half of this season once she is pushed to. She has a lot of highlight moments in this season and that is thanks to how darn creative she is with her magic in a fight. Losing her firepower hurt her a bit, but she’s probably a lot stronger because she has to work with less. Kuro remains pretty stable through this second half, but she had such an extreme first half of 2wei that it makes sense. She serves very much as a kind of Illya who is more honest and aggressive in her thinking. If she thinks something then she will generally make a push in order to get things moving. She also goes from someone who was very isolated to one who cares deeply about her friends. A very likable character overall.
Overall, the quality remains quite good when it comes to visuals, animation, and music. The show looks as good as ever and that’s a good thing. They had a couple EDs this season which was completely necessary since the tone shift between the first and second half was reflected in the EDs themselves. One much lighter and fun, while the other was much more serious in terms of the sound and visuals. I did like the second ED more myself, but maybe that is related to that tone issue XD. I would probably say that Herz is the weakest of the seasons so far. While it is a good series, they did have an issue balancing things out and dealing with the lack of material left in 2wei to animate. Still, it is very much worth watching since the story is advanced quite a bit in this season and things are set up for 3rei to take the show another step. I’m really glad and relieved that the third arc will be adapted. It isn’t completely done yet, but it is definitely the best arc of the season so far and much longer than 2wei or the original season. People should be hyped for what is coming next time. This show may have some extreme yuri fanservice, but it brings so much to the table. The slice of life is good in doses and the action and story is really much better than most would expect. For those who enjoyed the first two seasons this is an obvious watch. This season for me with the tricky balance of slice of life ended up a B. Still a good season, but I expect the next season will be better.
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