Image Source: プリズマ☆イリヤ公式アカウント‏‏ on Twitter

Fate/kaleid liner is best known as the Fate franchise’s cute magical girl spinoff, but new film Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya: Oath Under the Snow is neither about magical girls nor is it light in tone. Instead, it is a dark tale of one man who loses everything and must choose between his sister’s life and the fate of the world.

[This article contains spoilers for Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya: Oath Under the Snow as well as the various Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya and Fate/Stay Night TV anime.]

Image Source: プリズマ☆イリヤ公式アカウント‏‏ on Twitter

Oath Under the Snow is set in a world parallel to that of the main Fate/Stay Night timeline. Some things are the same: Emiya was rescued and adopted by Kiritsugu, he still wants to be a hero of justice, and he and Sakura are still friends at school. Other things, on the other hand, are vastly different. There is no Tohsaka family to be seen—and thus no Rin—nor is there an Eizenbern family—and thus no Illya.

Likewise, in this world, while the Holy Grail War exists, it’s in a different form from that of the main timeline. Rather than summoning legendary heroes from across time to fight for you, you instead summon said hero into your own body, using their powers as your own.

Image Source: プリズマ☆イリヤ公式アカウント‏‏ on Twitter

The movie follows the Emiya of this world. One day while traveling with Kiritsugu as a boy, the pair come upon an odd magical disaster in Fuyuki City. In the ruins, they find Miyu, a young girl who, until the age of seven, is rumored to be able to grant wishes. While Kiritsugu hopes to use her powers to save the world, he dies before being able to do so.

Image Source: プリズマ☆イリヤ公式アカウント‏‏ on Twitter

Unable to treat the young girl as a tool, Emiya decides to take care of Miyu—eventually taking on the role of her brother as years pass by. Unfortunately, it is then that Julian, the heir to the Ainsworth family (and Emiya’s best friend), discovers Miyu’s identity and kidnaps her to use as the vessel for the Holy Grail—an act that will kill her.

Image Source: プリズマ☆イリヤ公式アカウント‏‏ on Twitter

Of course, then comes the twist. The Ainsworth’s wish is to save the world—which is slowly dying due to a shift in the planetary axis and a continuing loss of magical energy. They have spent hundreds of years working to prevent the end of human life on Earth and with Miyu, they can finally do it. They are, from an objective standpoint, the good guys in this story. But more than that, they are the ideal “champions of justice” that Emiya so wants to be.

After all logically, the “just” choice is obvious: Sacrifice one girl to save the entire human race.

Image Source: ufotable‏‏ on Twitter

Throughout all three routes of Fate/Stay Night, Emiya battles with his need to become a “champion of justice.” In the Fate route, he stays true to his ideals—constantly putting himself in harm’s way for what he perceives to be the greater good. No sacrifice is too large or too small for this Emiya.

In the Unlimited Blade Works route, Emiya, through his battles with his alternate future counterpart, Archer, learns to see the problems of his self-sacrificing ideals. After all, Archer lived those ideas to their logical end, eventually becoming a tool to perform the dirty work of “justice”—losing everything he ever cared about bit by bit in the process. In the end, the UBW Emiya decided to still try and save everyone all while knowing it is an impossible goal to achieve—granting the character some hope for a happy future.

The Heaven’s Feel Emiya discards his hopelessly romanticized version of justice in order to protect and save Sakura when he realizes that in order to “save everyone” it could very well mean losing her.

Image Source: プリズマ☆イリヤ公式アカウント‏‏ on Twitter

But for the Emiya in Oath Under the Snow, it’s so much worse. Over the course of the story, Emiya loses everything he holds dear: Kiritsugu, Sakura, his friendship with Julian, his normal life, and even his sister’s love. He, like Archer before him, has nothing left—not even hope. All that is left is his ideals—and those ideals say the right thing to do is leave his sister to be killed at the end of a brutal holy grail war.

And so Emiya makes the choice—not to be a hero but to be a true brother to the young girl he saved. He will win the holy grail war and use his wish to save one innocent child, to give her a chance at happiness even if that chance comes at the cost of the world.

Image Source: ufotable‏‏ on Twitter

On top of that, the servant he bonds with and manifests within his own body is Archer, his own alternate future self. Archer is a man who gave himself up to the Counter Force—a natural force that strives for the preservation of humanity and the planet. His powers, and the very fact that he is a possible summonable servant is because he is meant to be used as a tool to save humanity when its very existence is in danger.

But Emiya takes this power and uses it for the exact opposite intent: He uses the power meant to save all to instead save one single person—and doom the remaining people to a slow extinction.

Image Source: プリズマ☆イリヤ公式アカウント‏‏ on Twitter

He knows he is the villain—that, from the outside and from his former ideals, he is evil. But while villain he may be, his plight and his choice are both incredibly human.

Moreover, when he discards his ideals and accepts all that his choice to save Miyu means, he saves his own soul as well. There is now hope to be found. Nowhere is this better shown than in the spell for this Emiya’s Unlimited Blade Works.

Image Source: プリズマ☆イリヤ公式アカウント‏‏ on Twitter

In the original Archer version, the second to last line in Japanese is “Thus, my life has no meaning”—showing the spell overall to be a lament of despair.

The Unlimited Blade Works Emiya’s spell replaces that line with “Thus, my life needs no meaning”—showing his acceptance of the flawed nature of his ideals.

The Oath Under the Snow Emiya’s states instead “But this life is not yet over.”

Emiya has experienced feelings of loss and personal futility like the other two—especially Archer. But unlike them, he does not see his past losses as the inescapable, defining part of his journey. He has hope that there is one thing he can do that will bring meaning to his existence—even as he fights among all he has lost, signified by a graveyard of infinite swords.

And, as those who have watched Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya already know, hope can drive a man to do the impossible.

Image Source: プリズマ☆イリヤ公式アカウント‏‏ on Twitter

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya: Oath Under the Snow was released in Japanese theaters on August 26, 2017. There is currently no word on an official release.

Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.

Comments (21)
  1. Did you read the original Visual Novel? I mean the complete story. Prisma Illya movie is not a dark reimagining of Fate/stay Night, it’s just a more caricaturized and fanserviced version of the themes and the story that are already present in the last route of the original work, Heaven’s Feel.

    • i Think he means, the dark reimagining of this alternate timeline(miyuverse) to the main kaleid timeline(illyaverse)

    • I was speaking more in general concept that it’s a dark reimagining of Fate/Stay Night (the game entire game, not the specific route). The magic of the world, the characters, and heroic spirits, the grail—things like that.
      But, yes, the most similar route in the original would be Heaven’s Feel but I feel than this one stands apart for the reasons I state in the article.

    • >it’s just a more caricaturized and fanserviced version of the themes and the story that are already present in the last route of the original work, Heaven’s Feel

      I do believe that Prisma Illya can stand by itself. The whole thing of Prisma Illya was to make a Magical Girls spinoff of Fate/stay night, and it succeeded on that. Treating Prisma Illya as a joke just because it isn’t strictly “stay night” is a wrong perception many people have because: 1) they don’t think a mahou shoujo show can be entertaining and serious, and 2) they measure with a bar that was never intended for the show.

      What I’m trying to say is that Prisma Illya can “go anywhere” and it can succeed like it already did with the movie, it doesn’t need to be “edgy” or “dark” like many people expect every “Fate/” series to be because they began with Zero. Many misconceptions about the “Fate/” franchise can be traced to people starting with Zero. Always start with stay night, always branch from there and see how the themes expand and evolve, like what Prisma Illya did.

      Going back to Shirou, the great thing here is that in every iteration, he’s basically the same individual with the same original goal: to become an ally of justice. From there he can have many outcomes, but the choices he makes are always true to the original Emiya Shirou. For people that read the VN, you know that Shirou realises that at the heart of his ideal, his wish is to save people he holds dear first and more than anything.

      • Prisma Illya CAN’T stand on it’s own. It’s whole thing is about taking established characters and basically rewriting them while taking their core personalities from the original series.

        The universe, the rules, the references, the way the arcs happen(first one is fate, 2wei is UBW and 3rei is HF), everything is a nod to F/SN.

        So no, if there’s something that can’t be said about Prisma Illya is that it can stand on it’s own when it borrows so much from SN. Very much like a fanfic

  2. Thanks. I might have automatically skipped it because it’s Kaleid.

  3. I always have a love/hate relationship with articles like this.

    It’s exciting for someone to finally find a way to latch onto Shirou as a character, but it’s simultaneously frustrating that people take so long to do it.

    He’s a fascinating figure who was well suited to his role as protagonist of Fate/Stay Night and has some fantastic characterization and arcs.

    • Well suited to his role? 100% agree. Like the character? Not at all. But I think that’s kind of the point. He’s a well-made character but not one I can personally root for because our ideals class so strongly. That said, each route in the main game is about him reaffirming or challenging those ideals, so it’s vital he be the kind of character he is.

  4. Shirou has been utterly unlikable in the original and UBW routes (and I’m 100% sure the same will be the case in the HF trilogy), so I’m actually interested in this movie.

    • Yeah, no. You can’t be “100% sure” of anything if you don’t know about HF. If you hated Shirou’s character in the Fate and UBW routes, then I’m pretty sure you’ll like his character in the HF trilogy. He’ll be a completely different person than you’ve seen so far from the 2nd movie on. And this Prisma Illya Shirou is very similar to HF Shirou (not going to go any further because of potential spoilers, though.)

  5. Miyuverse shirou is a shitty version of HF shirou but with Gary stue power up and unlimited mana, and this is the reason he was able to save Miyu in the first place when in FSN he need to struggle

    >But for the Emiya in Oath Under the Snow, it’s so much worse. Over the course of the story, Emiya loses everything he holds dear: Kiritsugu, Sakura, his friendship with Julian, his normal life

    ? it’s the same in the FSN , but FSN had it worse because he lost everything in the Grail fire , he has PSD, guilty and survior complex, he never enjoyed something, was just a tool for others unlike this shirou who actually enjoyed his childhood because of Miyu

    Prisma Shirou never gonna be a deep character like FSN shirou

    @indra099 except shirou is a popular character in Japan

    • One scene that I always remember is the VN is when Kirei asks Shirou if he wants to redo everything, and he monologues something like “of course. After I was adopted, I went to the place my home used to be, opened the door it didn’t exist anymore, and greeted my mom who I would never see again.” This guy went through some shit, and maybe Miyu’s brother went through something similar, but we don’t know that.

      As I said in another post, I just love these other facets to the same character, because at the heart of it they all are the very same Emiya Shirou.

    • Make no mistake, Oath Under the Snow Emiya has all the baggage of his FSN counterpart. Family dead in fire, survivors guilt, etc. However, this story is basically, “What if Emiya rescued someone like Kiritsugu rescued him?”

      This Emiya basically feels like his life is a lie. That he is a fake. A fake brother with a fake family, fake friends, and fake set of ideals. But he wants something real. So he make steps to turn his fake relationship with Miyu into a real sibling one. But that is when she is kidnapped. Shortly after he loses even the “fake” aspects of his life as well—showing just how fake they had been. His decision to win the grail war and save Miyu is his last attempt to be “real” as it were—to be the brother to Miyu she dreams of him being.

      …Now all that said. Yes, a 2 hour movie can never have the depth of several 26 episode series/movies/visual novels. But that’s not to say it doesn’t do a damn fine job with the time it has.

      • > Family dead in fire, survivors guilt, etc

        Was this added in the movie? Because the manga only showed Shirou buried under (his?) collapsed house when Kiritsugu saved him, no fire or anything.

        > I lost my parents due to an accident when I was small, and gave up hope beneath the scrap and debris, waiting for my cold eventual death. (quote from the manga)

        He also doesn’t seem to have survivor’s guilt. Not only do I not see a hint of survivor’s guilt in his thoughts and actions, it’s never even mentioned whether anyone besides his parents died, so there’s not even a reason for survivor’s guilt. If someone else died, he doesn’t seem aware of it.

        Did they add/retcon something in the movie, or was it just insufficiently / misleadingly explained?

    • More like a better version of HF shirou.
      And what do you mean by deep? lol
      “>” ? This is not 4chan.

      • “>” is a common thing from before you started using the internet.

        It’s a command, so that you can understand. It has nothing to do with 4chan.

  6. “In the Stay Night route[…]”

    There is no such thing as a “Stay Night route.”

    I hear about it from people who have no idea what they’re talking about and trying to act like they do all the time, however. A curious thing, it is.

    • Gah, you’re right. It’s the “Fate” route, of course. Egg on my face. The typo has been fixed.

  7. I honestly enjoy Prisma Illya because it’s fun, but I can’t say any of it’s characters are the best anything because it’s like saying that character from a fanfic can be cooler than the original since I gave him all the powers and cool shit I wanted. Similar thing that happens with Saint Seiya and The Lost Canvas, in LC characters are different people but look the same and have the same abilities but they’re super powerful and cool and have no flaws which might make them cooler to some people but feels like wank to me(though I don’t think Prisma has THAT much wank, just putting an example).

    It’s easy for this Shirou or Illya to black their claims in Prillya or do stuff in general because Prillya is a magical girl story, so when Illya says “I will save Miyu and the world!” you know she will because she has the power of friendship and things like that. Shirou is able to power up so much because of the universe he’s in.
    This is not a bad thing don’t get me wrong, it’s just that it’s easier for Luffy to scream he’s going to be the king of pirates than Kamille Bidan(or Uso Ewin) to say he will be a superhero and save everyone and end all wars, F/SN has a different tone than Prisma Illya just like One Piece has a different tone than Gundam.

    And don’t think that i’m a rabid F/SN fanboy, my favorite TM work is still Tsukihime, just saying that changing the setting makes you able to do whatever you want with a pre-established character

  8. While most of people adore this part of Prillya series, I’m despise it. I’m despise lazy writer, that just made a Heaven’s feel rip-off with some changes. I’m despise weak story — that twist is so boring and obvious, because otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to show “struggle” of Prillya’ Shiro. Writer trying to make it a “dark” story, but compare to other Type-Moon works, like kara no kyoukai, tsukihime or Heaven’s Feel route it looks stupid, as if it was written by kid, that adore Nasu writing and want to make something similar.

  9. Did they say in the movie that saving humanity required Miyu to die? I know from the manga it’s implied, but I don’t remember anyone with sufficient knowledge on the matter explicitly saying it.

    Sure, the Einzbern vessel has to forfeit their life to grant a wish, but that’s because they are merely a vessel for the grail. Miyu is a girl with the wish-granting properties of the grail, a living grail. Her body is made to grant wishes, and she passively unconditionally grants wishes throughout her life, which is why the Sakatsuki locked her away. To prevent abuse of that power.

    Without having to give up her life, Miyu is capable of wishes on the level of true magic (beyond the third, obviously). She also was the sole reason why Shirou was able to win the war. She supplied him with infinite magical power even during the final battle, and was the entire reason he was able to sustain UBW.

    The Ainsworth’s official goal is to transform humanity into something that can survive in a world filled with Grain. That sounds like something thaumaturgy could achieve, but is now too weak for. Even if they need to change the concept of humanity to do it, it still shouldn’t be harder than true magic. I can’t imagine any reason for why she would have to sacrifice herself, given her feats thus far.

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