This show wasn't great and it wasn't horrible. It was forgettably average, which is a shame because a lot of the plot elements were interesting and deserved further exploration.
- Things I liked -
The four main character
Each of the four girls had her own backstory and personal motivations. We had a chance to get to know each of them and understand what makes them tick. They got genuine character development, learning from their experiences and reevaluating their beliefs as they were presented with new information. None of them were above realizing their own flaws and weakness and they all worked to rise above them. Akari and her friends were also fun to watch interact with each other once they resolved their differences. I particularly enjoyed the episode of the group hanging out and having a good time together.
The "tarot" aspect
While the use of cards in anime is certainly not original, the use of tarot card in this show didn't feel old or stale. Little things, like Akari's ability to unconsciously make plants grow because of her affinity with the Sun card, were nice touches.
Luna's confession about her lesbian crush
Always nice to see characters who can admit their feelings for a person of the same gender without protesting or making a lame statement about the other person being the same gender. I'm so tired of hearing it that I feel like Luna's honesty about how she really feels deserves recognition.
- Things I disliked -
Cerebrum and the corrupt politician were simply not interesting. Being one-note characters, their actions were hardly surprising and there was nothing to them other than doing some random evil thing most of the time. By the time Cerebrum decides to "go big" toward the end of the series, I had long since stopped giving a crap about him.
Unfortunately, the series crammed too many plot elements into 12 episodes, leaving viewers with a lot of unanswered questions because there wasn't enough air time to wrap everything up. We learn, for example, that one character has a twin sister who went missing years ago. The show does absolutely nothing with this information, which feels to me like a waste. The girl is not found, nor is she even searched for during the show. We never even learn why exactly she went missing in the first place. Another example: a person in the show randomly comes back from the dead. If they are able to do this, is it possible to help others who have died under similar circumstances? Yet another thing I wanted to know was why Etia and Laplace have "restrictions" placed on their abilities. The unanswered questions go on and on, leading me to believe this would have been better as a two-cour show instead of just one. There was certainly plenty of material to work with.
Inappropriate remarks and fanservice involving the pre-teen characters
When a twelve year-old character is transformed into a demonic wolf-girl, her bare breasts and crotch are exposed. The only clothing on her body is a sort of corset on her stomach, and as a result, she spends a few episodes looking like a prostitute roleplaying for a client. I really didn't think this was appropriate given the age of the character. Someone also tells a different twelve year-old that he "wants to mate with her" which was a total cringe factor for me. She's twelve years old, freak. Go away.
- Final Comments -
Something I strongly I disagree with is the number of people calling this show "a Madoka Magica rip-off". The only things I think Daybreak actually has in common with the show is being in the same "dark magical girl" genre and a few minor story elements that are found in multiple anime franchises. It seems to me that Day Break Illusion and later members of its ilk (such as "Yuuna Yuuna Is A Hero" and "Magical Girl Raising Project") all suffer from constantly being compared to what is currently the most popular show of its genre, which drives people away from even giving it a chance. Does it mean I think these shows are amazing? No. Each had its own unique strengths and weaknesses. But anime that is merely average (or even plain mediocre) can resonate with the right viewers if they are willing to try them. This current cycle reminds me of a similar pattern around fifteen to twenty year ago, when every new magical girl series that came out was immediately compared to Sailor Moon - often called a rip-off by people who hadn't even watched the show! And those that did would find very generic elements to point to as a reason for this comparison, such as "They both have magical girls!" or "They both fight new monsters every week!" A weak argument at best, and while Sailor Moon was certainly a global phenomenon, it is certainly not the FIRST magical girl show ever created. Nor was Madoka Magica the first "dark" magical show ever created.
In the end, if you like dark magical girl shows you may want to give Day Break Illusion a chance. If you don't enjoy this particular genre, however, then don't bother- this isn't the right show for you.