It’s no secret at this point that I’m a big fan of the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha franchise, except for Triangle Heart but that barely counts as connected to the rest. And since Nanoha and Fate are one of my favourite anime couples, it seems like an ideal time to look at one of the films. We’ll start with the oddly named Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha: The Movie 1st.
The film basically gives an abridged account of the first Nanoha series. As such, I’m not going to worry about giving spoilers since I’ve already reviewed multiple series of Vivid and anyone who’s read my reviews regularly knows basically how the first series ends. But for those of you who don’t and don’t want spoilers, consider that your warning.
We open with Yuuno escaping a jewel seed created monster, turning into his ferret form and being found by our gayby heroine, Takamachi Nanoha. She quickly learns how to transform, beats the monster that was chasing him and decides to hunt for the jewel seeds before their power can hurt anyone. This leads her into conflict with Fate Testarossa, another mage who’s also after the seeds.
Like I said, same story as the first series. About the only big difference is the in depth background scenes of Precia and Fate’s magic teacher, Linith. Linith wasn’t in the original series at all and the events surrounding Precia’s descent weren’t nearly as thoroughly covered.
To be fair, these scenes do add some nice background and they flesh Precia out as a character beyond what the original series did. The main series kind of relies on the knowledge of her situation and brief glimpses into who she was before the accident to demonstrate what happened to make her the way she is. Which does work in its own right, but this does strengthen that.
The worst thing I can say about this film is that it’s kind of unnecessary. If you’ve seen the series, you’ve seen all the big scenes, twists and all the cute, hugely homo-erotic scenes. There are also some scenes that feel rushed in this because it is an abridged account and there’s not nearly as much time to devote to pacing.
The major characters are still strongly written. Nanoha, Fate, Arf and Precia especially. Like I stated earlier, Precia actually benefits from having her back story detailed more strongly. She still comes across as a villainous person who mistreats her daughter when all Fate wants is her love, kindness and acceptance of her future marriage to the Takamachi girl.
A lot of the side characters aren’t so well handled. Nanoha’s family is barely present in this Her friends, Alisa and Suzuka, have a decent sense of character but it’s not nearly as strong as it was in the anime proper but, to be fair, they’re condensing the events of the anime into a two hour film.
The artwork still looks really good with the same exception as the series proper. The transformation sequences, though we don’t see them a lot of times, are pretty horrendous. I don’t know who the asshole at Seven Arcs was who decided the franchise needed fan-servicey transformation sequences for third grade girls, but they belong on some kind of watch list.
Mizuki Nana, Tamura Yukari, Igarashi Rei, Mizuhashi Kaori & Kuwatani Natsuko are all really strong in their roles. Really, all the performances are well done. The music is excellent as well. There are two ending themes sung by our leads, Mizuki Nana & Tamura Yukari. They’re both superb songs and Tamura’s seems designed as a NanoFate love song with the way it’s used. Rather like Spiritual Garden was in A’s.
There’s a lot. For everything they do abridge, they seem determined to keep in as much NanoFate as possible. Which I vehemently approve of.
Areas of Improvement:
- Rework it a little more so it doesn’t feel so much like a re-telling. I’m not saying the aesthetic needs to change or that there should be less NanoFate, but since this is supposed to be an alternative version, it would be nice to see some substantial changes. Maybe Precia could be less terrible and get saved in the end. Maybe Fate could openly rebel without being tossed aside first. There are plenty of options.
- Lose the fan-servicey aspects to the transformation sequences. They are still decidedly not cool.
- Lose a few scenes with side characters who don’t do anything for better pacing. As much as I appreciate all the side characters in the franchise, you clearly need to make some sacrifices to turn a thirteen episode series into a two hour film and I think that stuff is the most expendable.
The big question on my mind is a simple one. Is this film worth watching? Because it does come so close to being an abridged retread of the series proper and the few new scenes don’t add all that much. And I would say, it’s worth watching if you’re a huge Nanoha fan or if you’ve never watched the anime and you’d like an idea of what it’s like before committing to watching it. If you don’t like Nanoha or you’re a more casual fan who liked it fine but isn’t all that interested in re-watching it, you’re probably not the audience for the film. For myself, I’m giving it a 7/10. Because even if it is largely a retread, this story is still entertaining and the characters are still endearing.