There’s been a bit of buzz surrounding il sole penetra le illusioni ~ Day Break Illusion in the magical girl community. From the promotional videos, it seemed to be another dark magical girl anime; and not a covert one like Puella Magi Madoka Magica either. Previews suggested a lot of angst and personal woe for this cast of heroines. I for one was curious how far il sole penetra le illusioni would stray from the conventions the mahou shoujo genre is so well known for and how successful it would actually be.
Akari Taiyou is a bubbly, happy young girl despite her circumstances. Her mother, a fortune teller, passed away sometime before the start of the series- but Akari clings to her memory in part by using her mother’s tarot card deck to tell fortunes at the same establishment her mother once did. The resident team of fortune tellers have welcomed her in like family. Meanwhile, she lives with her aunt, uncle, and bookish cousin Fuyuna.
On the way home from school one day, Akari meets a stranger in the street dressed in unusual clothes. The stranger, unbeknownst to Akari, seemed to have planned their brief meeting and is keeping an eye on Akari for some reason.
As the days pass, Akari and Fuyuna’s relationship begins to deteriorate. Though Akari doesn’t realize it, Fuyuna is extremely jealous of all the attention Akari receives from being a tarot card reader. Her negative feelings all come to a head on the anniversary of Akari’s mother’s death. Akari dreams that she’s being attacked by a monster and watches as a mysterious girl that looks a lot like her strikes the monster down with a sword of flame.
When she wakes up in her own room, Akari is relieved- until she sees Fuyuna’s corpse on her bedroom floor.
The next day plays out exactly like the previous day did- Akari wakes up and goes with her aunt and uncle to her mother’s grave. In fact, it’s the exact same day, but with one major difference: Fuyuna isn’t there. In fact, no one seems to remember she ever existed. Akari goes that evening to visit the mansion where her fortune telling friends live, no doubt to reminisce about her mother. But the place is in flames when she arrives.
Hearing that the residents are still inside, she rushes in and finds a seemingly possessed former client of the fortune tellers’ inside. Before her very eyes the man turns into a large demon not unlike the one she had faced the night before. Mysteriously, Akari transforms into the girl she saw the previous night and slays the beast with the help of three other girls that appeared beside her.
At the end of the episode, a collapsed Akari is carried out of the burning building by the same girl she met in the street near the start of the episode.
il sole penetra le illusioni isn’t exactly what I was expecting. And while I don’t want to compare this show to Madoka Magica, I can’t help but put the two side-by-side in my head. It feels like il sole penetra le illusioni is trying to do what Madoka Magica did so well: set up a baseline of normalcy for both the cast and the viewers watching at home, then completely break it down using characters we’ve come to know and believable drama.
But where Madoka Magica took its time setting up the overall tone and theme of the show and establishing its cast, il sole penetra le illusioni throws it all out there in the first episode. Unfortunately, it feels extremely heavy handed. I see where the show is trying to go, but I don’t think it quite gets there, and it certainly doesn’t do it gracefully.
The thing that failed the most were the characters. Akari doesn’t really do anything in this episode- in fact, none of the characters do. Everyone seems to be simply reacting to things around them rather than choosing to do absolutely anything of their own volition. From a storytelling perspective, this is bound to create both weak, uninteresting characters and a slow plot. Everyone is just sort of… drifting around.
Then there’s Fuyumi, a girl overcome with jealously for her popular cousin. This is going to sound terrible, but I didn’t feel anything when she died. Why? We never got to know Fuyumi. We didn’t get to see her go about her day or interact with anyone or participate in anything she liked. She was just… sort of there. And then she wasn’t, and literally nothing changed at all.
This is something that can be said of every character in this first episode. None of them feel fleshed out or interesting. Even when they were in danger, I just felt mostly bored. The “danger” in this first episode pops in suddenly with little foreshadowing or apparent meaning. There’s no dramatic tension. Even when we know something off is going on with Fuyumi, it just happens so quickly we barely have time to feel apprehensive about it.
il sole penetra le illusioni ~ Day Break Illusion was a big disappointment. Now, I love me some magical girl anime. It’s one of my favorite genres. But this show failed to engage me in any aspect of it whatsoever. Characters? Paper thin. Plot? Boring. And the worst part is how the first episode tried so hard to be edgy and different and dark and unique- when really, it just felt like it was trying to be another Madoka Magica without actually being Madoka Magica. il sole penetra le illusioni just fell completely flat. I don’t think there’s an episode 2 of this one in my future.