Akari Taiyou is an apprentice fortune teller living with her aunt, uncle, and their daughter Fuyuna. Having lost her mother at a young age, the only thing Akari has left of her is a deck of tarot cards and a dream to follow in her footsteps as a fortune teller.
One night, Akari has a dream of being attacked by a plant monster and witnesses a stronger version of herself defeat it. When she awakens, she discovers to her horror that the monster was actually Fuyuna. But mysteriously, Akari and her relatives soon forget Fuyuna ever existed. After another close encounter with a similar monster, she is rescued by three magical girls: Ginka Shirokane, Seira Hoshikawa, and Luna Tsukuyomi. They explain that they are from the Sefiro Fiore organization, which uses Elemental Tarot power to fight the evil creatures known as "Daemonia."
Akari discovers she too is a magical girl and has inherited her mother's power of The Sun card. However, she comes to realize Daemonia are actually people who have been possessed, and she must decide whether to try to save what is left of their humanity or to wipe them from existence. As Akari comes to terms with her grim duty of protecting the world from Daemonia, the bonds of the organization and that of their team will soon be strained when they deal with grave threats from the outside and from within.
Alright, let's face it. After the ever famous and successful "Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica," a want and increase in demand for dark magical girl shows have been prevalent in the anime community. Now, I'm not going to be comparing this show to Madoka 24/7, because trust me, this show is bad on it's own, but I will be using Madoka as a basis for what a dark magical girl show should try to succeed, and what it shouldn't.
Day Break Illusion is, absolutely, what it shouldn't.
If the promotional art and the opening wasn't a dead giveaway, it should be well-known that this show is going to
be pretty dark. And well, it definitely is. The story pretty much revolves on young tarot card users who fight against "Daemonia" - demons created when humans contract with them and eventually succumb into despair after the daemonia pretty much takes over their mind. The Daemonia causes what appears to be natural disasters around it, and its up to the tarot card girls to fight against it.
You know, I wouldn't mind the story. I wouldn't mind it even if it was almost an exact replica of what Madoka did. Here's the thing though -- the story is insanely try-hard. By try-hard, I mean it does so, SO much to try to remind you of how dark it is, of how grim and bloody things get. Let's take how we're flashed back with Akari's dead cousins' bloody corpse at least 5 times throughout the show. Or how when a painter girl becomes jealous that another painter criticized her, she made sure that both her and the boy that the critic liked were KILLED. Or turning the twelve (yes, twelve) year old girl into a wolf demon. Yes, a wolf demon.
I wouldn't mind these story elements either that much if they were, gee, I dunno, foreshadowed? The sudden and grimdark death of Akari's cousin happens within 10 minutes of the first episode. 10 minutes. You hardly know anything about the cousin or why she dies. A revelation that occurs later on that almost guarantees death of major characters just.. happens. Why? To make the plot get gritter and darker. Nothing is ever at least foreshadowed a little bit, not even once. There were no hints whatsoever that a tarot card user could combine with a Daemonia and create some weird demon, nothing.
Basically, the show does whatever it can and goes out of its way to remind you of how dark and edgy and grim it is. You know, I have people that complain about Madoka being dark and edgy, but at least Madoka foreshadowed it. Maybe it had issues with shock value, but just so you know, shock value isn't just tricking the audience. Shock value can be randomly killing off a character in a gorey way in the first episode. Shock value can be deciding at the end of an episode to change one of the characters into a demon wolf. It doesn't matter if the show is already proclaimed as dark, if it happens without foreshadowing, it's shock value.
Now you're probably wondering, well, do the characters at least save the show? Oh, I wish. I really, really wish. Hopeful protagonist, cold girl with dark past, sisterly lesbian, and energetic one. That's really what they all are, and honestly.. they're not that good. Namely our protagonist, Akari. I get it -- I get that she's only twelve years old and couldn't kill things that easily. But you know what? When I see another character go up and kill someone she knew personally and loved to free him out of his misery, I'm going to be annoyed at her actions.
The characters range from cliche to boring to downright DISGUSTING. The main villain, who we know almost nothing about, decides late in the series that he wants to mate (he literally says mate) with Akari. Akari is twelve. Twelve years old. He basically does this sick shit in order to completely destroy her mind and heart so she doesnt care about silly things like consent anymore and, I quote, "becomes a mother."
Playing the rape/sexual card in a story is NEVER a good sign, unless it's absolutely relevant to the plot or was foreshadowed/absolutely needed. But you know what? These girls are twelve/thirteen. We have one girl walk around evil and demonic with her tits literally bouncing out of her chest. We have another one being nearly forced to give into consent with pretty much a demon. Do you see the issue here? I hope so, because none of this is mature, or deep, or good. It's honestly really sick and unnecessary.
In terms of the art.. it's... ehh... I mean, the animation honestly is pretty good. The fight scenes, attacks, all of that look pretty nice. But the show is very obviously lolicon-ish. The girl, all of them, look so stick thin and skinny and tiny that when these terrible things happen to them, it feels so out of place and awkward. It feels honestly awkward seeing a scrawny 12 year old girls' eyes turn into tiny dots and scream at the top of her lungs. It looks awkward, and the artstyle makes it feel awkward too. It really feels like it's trying hard to appeal to the lolicons with its artstyle.
Not only that, but the artstyle and character designs in general aren't all that good. The eyes are all really huge, they're usually misplaced too or sliding off the characters face. The bodies in general look really unproportional and just weird, and the hair seems really choppy and cheaply made. Not really an appealing design, at least for me.
If one thing can be said good about Day Break Illusion, it's the soundtrack. I have to admit, aside from Akari's seiyuu, the voices are pretty good and solid. Not to mention the OP and ED themes are pretty great and catchy too. The OST isn't honestly all that stand out, but I can definitely say that the sound is a really concrete part about the show.
And here's where I talk about dark magical girl shows in general. You can skip the next three paragraphs if you don't wanna hear it, I just feel it's kind of needed.
Look, what I believe made Madoka successful in it's darkness wasn't that a girl got her head chopped off or another had to watch her friends die again and again. That's not where I saw success. I saw success in how the show dealt with the psychological breakdown of the things that happened to these characters, and even how their issues could be applied to real life. I feel, personally, that it did an excellent job with showing many different character archetypes in these situations and pretty much breaking them down, showing the affects that it has on them. But that's for another day.
I feel like studios seem to think that if they just add in some death and gore, that it'll be a success. But that's not how it works. It really isn't. I hate to break it to you, but just showing characters die doesn't guarantee success! It really, really doesn't. A solid story, solid characters, good foreshadowing and writing, and a good breakdown of these things are what make it so great. I don't think the show being open about its dark nature is what makes it unpopular either. There are plenty of shows that were shown to be dark from the very beginning that were successful. (Psycho-Pass, Attack on Titan) I'm not calling these objectively good, but they were overall well-received. Essentially, the fault for Day Break Illusion of not being a big hit despite having cute girls in grim situations isn't really because it was already dark from the beginning, but it just does a very bad job at doing what it tries to do, which is, again, be dark.
I guess I enjoy this anime, I mean, it doesn't bore me or put me to sleep like other shows, but the enjoyment is really just mediocre for me. It's enjoyable to watch weekly I guess, but not something that I can say I actually "like" watching, you know? I guess it can be fun for people who like watching anorexic lolis kill things and get killed though.
Overall, Day Break Illusion is a prime example, in my opinion, of how people SHOULDN'T be trying to make dark magical girl shows. Go ahead, make more! It's what people want! But making them so grimdark, adding in things like wanting a 12 year old to give birth to pretty much a demon child, killing off side characters like there's no tomorrow -- that's not what we want. A good story, a solid one with good character that happens to have a darker or more serious twist on the genre, is what would be good, really. But this? Not this, please no this.
Magical girls are about cute girls doing cute magical things, not awkward lolis being slaughtered in blood.
Many people consider this to be an almost blatant rip off of Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica.
Which, lets be honest here, it's easy to see; there's malevolent animal beings that seem to not give a rats ass about the people who they work with, physically or emotionally. Lapalace and Kyubey seem really similar in that sense.
There's 4 girls who turn into stronger versions of themselves and fight in an interdimensional space against evil beings, one nice one, one bad ass one, one that's more set in their own goals, etc.
However a few things set them apart.
1: The main character
Akari Taiyou willingly accepts her powers, although she seems to be upset by what her actions entail (killing people who've turned into Daemonia - the enemy who takes over people's hearts). Madoka was horribly indecisive about becoming a magical girl until the very end. Not saying either route is a bad one, but it's a good difference.
2: The so far "end goal" of Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou is also unique. Instead of saving the entire world and everyone, which is (honestly) played out a bit. Sure, the end goal of Genei/Taiyou is awful, but it's unique and the way the artists play out facial features among other emotional cues is incredible and adds depth to it.
With that out of the way, I'll go on to say why I like this anime.
1: The story is neat. Tarot cards being the basis of their powers is a neat new theme i've personally not run into so far. I also like how violent some of the fights are, even though its between monsters and 12 year olds. The only thing I don't like too much is simply how easily Akari accepts her new role, which may seem hypocritical after I've stated the similarities between this and Madoka Magica, but nevertheless. This show is -almost- as good of an emotional rollercoaster as MM, but it falls just short of greatness as there's no -extremely- sad moments. (yet)
2: The art style. I didn't care for it at first and lets be honest, Seira looks like she was beaten with the ugly stick by a mean daemonia, but it grew on me. I think Akari is adorable, which adds even more emotion to the current horrible setting. Luna and Ginka are relatively unique, I've never seen a power like Ginka's in an anime. And again, the battles are very well animated.
3: The characters are a tad basic but they do their job well. There's the determined bad ass one who simply wants to exterminate, the caring supporter, the defensive character who's always around to help cheer up the group, and the protagonist who seems to be flawless in her love for her friends and family. The enemies/daemonia are very uniquely drawn out, and some of them are the epitome of evil. I've never hated an antagonist as much as Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou's.
4: I can't say too much about the sound. The background music helps to pump up the action during the fight scenes, the characters voices are done well, I find it funny that some of the voice actors also worked on Kodomo no Jikan together. Overall I feel the characters were voiced perfectly.
Overall. I really like this anime and can't wait for the next episode. It truly has me on the edge of my seat.
I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys magical girl genre, action genre, or just looking for a good anime with cute girls fighting evil.
At first, I was skeptical about this anime. It received mixed ratings. Some were 9, while others were 4. The ones who rated this anime to be low were mostly those that kept comparing it to Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. Critique the show, not compare! It's not a perfect anime, but it doesn't mean it cannot be enjoyable.
Story: The first episode took me by surprise,with me thinking that it escalated pretty quickly with very little background to the story. It made me prepare myself for the upcoming episodes, as there were more grim. The tarot cards were a cool component of this anime; I
just wished that they described them in more detail, especially with the cards that the 4 girls have. They don't really explain the organization that they work for either.. The battle scenes were nice, they show struggle through pain and blood. Towards the end, I felt like the story sidetracked from there.
Art: The physical appearance of the girls bothered me at first. They're skinny as twigs and some have pretty big breasts for their age. They magically grow long, bushy hair and go from kawaii-eyes to serious, bad-ass eyes. All of the older people look scary to me. The battle scene backgrounds are plain, but at least the battle moves were pretty cool and somewhat unique. The daemonias look creepy and gross, and some of them, I was not sure why they look like that, based on why they suffered.
Sound: The opening and ending are nice. You hear a lot of screaming in this anime, mostly screams of fear or battle cries. They set the mood pretty well as a potential daemonia appears with ominous music.
Character: I feel the category for this anime was the reason why the viewers rated it low. The fortune tellers that Akari knew seemed somewhat irrelevant; the transvestite and big-breasted lady didn't have to exist. I thought the main antagonist was the sidekick, because he was following orders from someone else. What was the point of this!? When he reveals his intentions at the every end, I thought it was a bit silly. The cat and raven are useless talking messengers. Luna annoyed me the most, being overly attached to Akari. The past between her and her sister was cloudy. Basically, most of the characters had cloudy backgrounds; besides Ginka and Seira. I feel like some didn't fulfill their roles either.
Enjoyment: Although it may seem like I'm contradicting myself while negatively criticizing this anime and giving it a high score, I still like it. It could have been something better, but it just lacked things like depth. Despite missing some important components, I still enjoyed it to the point where I wanted to keep watching the next episode. I came to like most characters, enjoyed the battle scenes, and feel for the girls, as they experienced hardships together.
Give the first few episodes a try and see what you think.
Two years ago studio SHAFT gave to the anime watching world Puella Magi Madoka Magica, a show which cleverly blended the conventions of magical girl anime with dark horror themes, subversive storytelling and striking visual style to create one of the most perfect and memorable anime that I've certainly ever seen. Madoka Magica was a game changer and achieved acclaim and popularity that has proven persistent. Given all that, it's really no surprise at all that other anime studios would want to try and repeat that success. So it is anime studio AIC has decided to present us with an original dark magical girl series
that copies quite liberally from the Madoka book. However, while the inspiration is quite evident, having followed this anime, Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou, I can safely say that it transcends simple imitation and stands as something good on its own.
A huge part of Madoka's strength was in its art and animation. The characters were incredibly well designed and the imagery for their enemies was perhaps even more striking. The animation meanwhile was top rate, with over the top exhilarating action that never failed to satisfy. It would be hard for Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou to reach the bar Madoka did on that end, and yeah, it doesn't quite. The character designs are a little weak; not terrible, mind you. The characters are plenty cute as they should be, but the art style has a somewhat more super deformed look than I personally care for and the characters designs aren't immediately distinctive. The designs for their enemies, the Daemonia, fare better, most of them looking really cool and disturbing; still maybe not as memorable as Madoka's witches, but quite good and effective. The animation is great too; fight scenes are visceral and appealingly flashy. It's all pretty solid.
There isn't really as much to say about sound. The voice actors are convincing and do a pretty good job of defining their roles. The music is appropriate and good at setting the tone. Opening and ending themes are fine though nothing overwhelming. Madoka's themes weren't the most memorable part of it either though.
The story is the important thing, and Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou does a pretty good job with it. It follows Akari, a girl who is pulled into an enigmatic organization of magical girls fighting against Daemonia terrible monsters born from humans afflicted with negative emotions. She is put on a team with three other girls who she comes to know and bond with as they struggle against the Daemonia and the conflicted emotions that the battle against them provokes. It's a solid setup and I'd wager it still has plenty of twists and turns to lay on us still at this point. The story is delivered well, doing a good job of setting its atmosphere. It really helps highlight why Madoka worked so well. With its cuteness and sincerity, the magical girl genre really does mesh beautifully with dark elements and horror; the contrast just works really well, and Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou does nothing if not capitalize on it just as Madoka did.
Characters are key to the formula working though. Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou does pretty good on that front. Again, their not as immediate as Madoka's cast, but the magical girl team here are a likable bunch who are developed quite well. Akari herself is about what you'd expect from a main character in a magical girl anime; she's sweet, friendly, earnest and a little naive, but with a lot of resolve. Nothing too groundbreaking, but she works. Seira is strict, distant one that could maybe be described as the Homura analogue; her and Akari come from very different mindsets when it comes to the Daemonia problem which puts them at odds. Luna is a shy magical girl who is quickest to befriend Akari; she's likable and nice, but seems conflicted and self-conscious. Ginka rounds out the team with a lot of exuberance and is probably my favorite character. She's smartly developed and just a lot of fun. So far each of the main characters had at least one really good character building episode. There are other magical girls too in the organization, some of which get some screen time. Most of these supporting characters have interesting designs and seem fun.
All the elements work pretty well here. Nothing is quite as perfect as it was in Madoka Magica, but I'd say the sum is greater than the parts here. I'm sure some might sneer and say it's derivative or Madoka lite, but I don't think that's giving the show quite the credit it deserves. Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou is a smart show that knows what it's doing and has a lot of heart. Definitely recommended.
Update: as a short addendum having now completed the anime, ultimately Genei wo Kakeru Taiyou is a somewhat more uneven anime than I would have hoped. There are a lot of very obvious threads left hanging at the close--a number of elements introduced are not fully explored and there are characters who feel kind of extraneous. That said, in its best episodes in the second half (particularly the stuff with Luna), the character development on the core cast becomes incredibly effective and got me pretty invested in all of them. What we end up with is a plot that's more emotionally coherent and compelling than it is actually complete. Also, while I had some hang ups about the art style at the time of my review, it grew on me over the second half and the animation remained slick and impressive throughout. Ultimately it left me kind of scratching my head still wanting it to come together somehow, and I hope there's a second season or something to give the answers, but it also left me smiling and satisfied. I probably just have a weakness for this kind of show; I don't know. Whatever it is, despite the apparent faults, my score stays what it is.
Who's that girl, the quiet one avoiding everyone and looking straight ahead? That girl who loves music? That weird girl who loves tech? What was her name again? Until you remember lets just say she is one fabulous anime girl with headphones.