So close, and yet so far.
Illya was a normal elementary school girl until a talking wand falls from the sky and into her bathroom. The wand, called Ruby, tricks Illya into becoming a magical girl. Under the guidance of Rin, the last person to wield Ruby, Illya is tasked with collecting magic cards that are loose throughout the city. She fights each card in an alternate dimension alongside her new classmate, Miyu. But Illya soon discovers than being a magical girl isn't as easy as it looks on TV.
Truth be told, my thoughts on this anime haven't changed much from the first episode, I was worried that it wouldn't be enough for this show to piggy-back off the larger Fate universe, yet that ended up as one of the more enjoyable aspects of the show. It also has some success with its parody elements and the animation is gorgeous at points--there are visual cues borrowed from Fate/Zero despite this show being animated by Silver Link and not ufotable. The fight against Saber Alter that takes up more than a few episodes in the middle of its run had some of the best build up and resolution that I saw all season, which is impressive. If you're not really interested in the show but would like to see the highlights, that's definitely the best point.
However, everything else that didn't have to do with magical girl tropes or fighting corrupted servants felt cliched and really showed its doujinshi roots. I am convinced that the creator(s?) of this series have never spoken to an elementary school girl in their entire lives, since this is not how they act. Illya sounded more than twice her age at points, and a shoehorned in maid fetish along with heavily implied yuri (although when it came to the maid scene, "implied" goes out the window) made it clear what kind of audience this series was originally meant for. That's fine for a doujinshi, but in a show that appeared to want to be taken seriously as a magical girl spinoff at best it felt out of place and at worst just straight-up creepy.
Since the show was never able to break away from the culture of its source material, I find it a bit hard to recommend. Personally, I don't think that it would work well as someone's introduction to the Fate universe, since the show does assume that you're there for the crossover battles, and it does get more interesting if you're aware of what it's referencing. That said, despite its hiccups in character portrayal and adherence to a specific otaku checklist, it does deliver on some truly interesting magical girl battles and does pull off the alternate universe feeling in the end. With the second season already announced, it's possible that the show might grow into something that's more confident in itself, but we'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I'd recommend this show mainly to Fate universe fans for an alternate take on an interesting character.
Images from Crunchyroll.com.