This is an anime I have been waiting to watch. I am a sucker for the magical girl concept, particularly now with writers putting new twists into storylines and the idea of the mahou shoujo genre having a darker underbelly. Having just watched the first episode, here are my impressions:
Firstly, I am sure I’m not alone in thinking that Day Break Illusion has a very similar air to Puella Magic Madoka Magica – innocent girls protecting the world from an evil darkness, with the gritty and eerie undertones that show that being a magical girl is not just rainbows and sparkles. Having established that, however, it moves on to incorporate themes then begin to differentiate it. For example, the elemental powers, the use of tarot cards as the source of varying magics, and that they attend a specific training academy masquerading as a school.
I felt that the first episode was a little slow to start. I appreciate that this type of storyline needs a little bit of explanation before launching into a good battle, and this would be fine it I was actually supplied with any elaboration. What I mean by this was that there were lots of questions set up for future episodes, which is good for the long-term, but things became so extreme that I felt disengaged by the lack of information. What was going on? What happened to her cousin? Which part of this actually happened? However, this only cemented my decision to watch the next episode, rather than give it up for a mass of confusion and colour.
On a related point, it takes a certain level of style and storytelling to have something so bright and vivid visually to seem quite dark and sinister in places, but Day Break Illusion succeeds rather well here. It is another similar link to Madoka where not only the storyline, but also the artwork, reminds me of this other anime. There is a certain stark simplicity to the characters that works well in darker moments of foreshadowing, but reverts to a more cheerful feel by just changing the scene, which makes for very versatile viewing. The beginning and ending soundtrack were very good, and are what usually let me know early on if I am going to enjoy a particular anime. Also included are a certain amount of information provided about the tarot every episode, which I will continue to look forward to. I like the idea of card representation, which is also represented in Cardcaptor Sakura, Amnesia, and in Shin Megami Tensei – it is an interesting theme.
What I am unsure of is which way Day Break Illusion will run with the foundations it has set down. We know virtually nothing about any of the characters (apart from a vague guess of what character archetype they may be), and very little about what constitutes for the main antagonist. Will the plot line try to meet all the usual expectations of the magical girl genre, or will their be a new insight or approach that will leave us reeling like Madoka? Is it aiming to appeal to Madoka fans or is it using this familiar angle to gain momentum for something ultimately different? I will definitely be watching (and hoping) that Day Break Illusion comes into its own.