I’ve talked about Seven Arcs’ Nanoha franchise twice before. Today, I’ll be looking at the third series, StrikerS. First, let’s do a quick recap. In the original series our heroine, Takamachi Nanoha, gained powers and used them to help her ferret friend, Yuuno, find artefacts called Jewel Seeds. Her rival in this endeavour was a young lady named Testarossa Fate. The two experienced their first feelings of romantic love and Nanoha was eventually able to help Fate escape her abusive mother. In the end, they weren’t able to stay together as Fate had to face trial over her part in her mother’s scheme. The second series saw the pair reunited under less than ideal circumstances. Yagami Hayate, no relation to Light, found a magic book that unleashed four guardian spirits who were stealing magic power from mages to fill the book in a desperate bid to save their beloved Hayate’s life. The two were able to find the truth of the book, save Hayate, redeem her knights and, in the process, Nanoha and Fate fell even harder for one another. But maybe I’m over-stating it. It’s not like they’ve adopted a child together or something. Let’s look at Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS and see what comes next for the pair and their friends.
A decade after the events of A’s, Hayate forms an experimental unit, Section Six, supposedly to deal with relics. She’s joined by Nanoha and Fate as well as a group of four promising recruits, Subaru, Teana, Erio and Caro. Nanoha begins training the troops with the help of Vita, but their time is limited and the unit is quickly dragged into a mess involving a high level criminal named Jail Scaglietti and his maniacal machines. After a slight altercation they find a young abandoned girl named Vivio, whom Nanoha and Fate adopt. Canon relationship status achieved. The main narrative deals with the threat posed by Scaglietti and his minions.
I don’t really have anything negative to say about the story. It’s strongly paced, using slower character moments and faster-paced, dynamic action moments really effectively. It also has some great moments of heart-warming, particularly when it comes to Vivio. The series is also really good at keeping sources of tension and producing high stakes with credible threats to our heroines and it’s good at using that to keep the audience invested. The build up for the various plot points is quite effective, being vague enough to keep you guessing but also concrete enough that you can trace where the hints were once something’s been revealed.
The characters in this are really compelling and complex. With the time skip, Nanoha, Fate, Hayate and the others have change from the last series, but it’s done in a way that’s believable and you can see how the girls they were became the women they are. Similarly, you can fully understand how their relationships developed into what they are. The new major characters all get their own story arc, which informs and develops their characters. Vivio is adorable, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t normally find children remotely cute. The character interactions are really good too. The villains are well crafted characters as well, albeit less sympathetic than the ones the franchise has previously provided. Particularly Scaglietti who basically comes across as a crazy person. Although, I will give them credit, he’s not unrealistically or exaggeratedly crazy. He’s the sort of nutter who has verisimilitude.
The art has a lot of good qualities to it. The character designs are really well done and there’s a lot of attention to detail for the backgrounds. The action sequences flow really nicely and have a high level of intensity, in spite of the occasional slower, larger special attack. The big flaw with the art is the same one we’ve had with this franchise, the transformation sequence. Unlike most magical girl series where the characters’ genuine shapes are obscured by whatever sparkly effect they’re using, the Nanoha franchise lovingly details the bosoms so that you can pretty vividly tell what they look like. At least in this one most of the girls are grown women so it isn’t quite as gross on that level, but they also make sure that the undergarments are really detailed for both Nanoha and Fate so that we can see what they’re taking off of one another later. Seven Arcs, we don’t need to know what kind of panties they wear. Even the sort of people who draw pornographic doujin have seen enough women’s underwear that they can pick a design for their work. Okay, maybe they haven’t, but I would still argue that those aren’t the types who should be catered to.
The vocal cast in this is stellar. Mizuki Nana, Tamura Yukari, Ueda Kana, Yuzuki Ryouka, Shimizu Kaori, Ichijo Kazuya and Sanada Asami reprise their roles. They all give strong performances. In addition to them, Nakahara Mai, Inoue Marina, Saito Chiwa Takahashi Mikako and Mizuhashi Kaori all deliver their own strong performances. Narita Ken makes a good villain too. Really, the entire cast from primary to secondary characters is superb. The music is fantastic as well.
This has a lot of les-yay, even for the Nanoha franchise. In addition to Nanoha and Fate sharing a bed, going on vacations together and adopting a daughter, as wives are wont to do, you have some really strong les-yay between Subaru and Teana. There’s a little bit between Vita and Hayate as well, although not as much as there was in A’s since they’re less of a focus in this one.
Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, is a really strong series. While there are some things it could have done better, and it’s transformation sequences are just awful, it presents a compelling story, strong characters, a stupendous cast, excellent music and great artwork aside from the transformations. My final rating on this one is going to be a solid 9/10. Next week I’ll look at Wooser no Sono Higurashi.