Back in January I talked about Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, an anime from Seven Arcs. The second anime series in the franchise, A’s, aired in 2005. Exactly a year after the first. Let’s recap the first, shall we? Young Takamachi Nanoha gained magical powers to help Yuuno, a boy transformed into a ferret, find artifacts called Jewel Seeds. While doing so she came into conflict with the young mage Fate Testarossa. Nanoha was immediately drawn to Fate, wanting to become friends and more than friends with her. After a climactic battle with Fate’s abusive mother, Nanoha returned triumphant and Fate was taken away to face judgment for the things she did for her mom. Nanoha was allowed to see her before she left which naturally resulted in her and Fate calling each others names, holding hands and gazing lovingly into each others eyes. Which brings us to the situation at the opening of this series. Will the two meet again? Will more yurirrific content happen? Can Nanoha and Fate possibly be more adorable? Will the transformation sequences still be super uncomfortable to watch? Let’s watch Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A’s and answer those questions.
We open with a young girl in a wheelchair at hospital. She returns to her empty home and reads in bed. She’s about to sleep when a book on her shelf shines with an unearthly light and things start happening. We cut to Nanoha before we can learn what happens with the girl. It’s been months since the events of the first series and she’s been maintaining a long distance relationship with Fate and they’ve been exchanging video letters as part of that. We see her look at her most recent one and blush because of course she does. We find out that Fate is returning very soon and Nanoha can’t wait to see her. We then find out that mages are being attacked and their linker cores, the internal mechanism that allows them to use magic, are getting drained in order to fill a strange tome called the book of darkness. Nanoha senses some strange magic and finds herself under attack by a red-haired girl wielding a massive hammer.
Honestly, the only complaint I have with the story is that the pacing does border on the hectic. The first series managed to be fast-paced while still having plenty of breathing room and slow moments. A’s tries to do something similar, but it isn’t as effective at it. To its credit, it’s never an egregious problem so the narrative isn’t difficult to follow nor are you liable to miss anything but there are certainly moments where the shift from one big moment to the next are too sudden. On the positive side, the story is very compelling and there are a lot of interesting moments within it. A’s is really good at introducing mysterious elements, using them to build tension while hinting at the answer and giving the answers at a natural point. It’s also good about establishing its plot devices and how they work early enough on that when they come into play during the climax it really works. There’s nothing that feels forced or contrived.
The characters remain a strong point of the franchise. Nanoha, Fate and the other characters from the first series remain fleshed out and they develop naturally over the course of the series. The minor characters don’t get as much development but they are three-dimensional and have verisimilitude. The antagonists are really interesting as well. They have developed motivations and back stories. You get the sense right away that they have something that they’re fighting for and the reveal of what exactly that is is really superb. They are very much sympathetic villains. The character interactions are also really good. Fate’s developing familial relationship with Lindy and Chrono is very well done. As is her budding romance with Nanoha. The antagonistic group also gets a lot of really good moments.
The artwork is much the same as the first series. The animation is good as are the action sequences, character designs and various bits of magical technology. The biggest problem with the series is still the transformation sequences. We get to see nine year olds in their undergarments and starkers in a way that is just detailed enough to be really uncomfortable but not so explicit that they can’t air it. I will give A’s some credit for barely using the transformation sequences, but they’re still horrible when they do show up.
The vocal cast remains an amazing aspect of the series. Mizuki Nana and Tamura Yukari make spectacular leads and really convey the chemistry between Nanoha and Fate. For the antagonists in this one we’ve got Yuzuki Ryouka, Shimizu Kaori, Asami Sanada, Ueda Kana and Ichijo Kazuya. They all deliver spectacularly in their roles too. The music is really damn good.
There’s a lot here. Since they aren’t on opposing sides in this one, the relationship between Nanoha and Fate is able to grow even more romantic with a lot more shared moments and they are incessantly adorable. They even set up the ending theme as a love song going from Nanoha to Fate. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they adopt a child together when they’re adults. There’s also a bit between Hayate and Vita. It’s less of a focus but they certainly seem to have chemistry.
Mahou Shoujo Lyrical A’s is every bit as strong as the first series. It has a compelling, well crafted story, interesting characters and an excellent vocal cast. It’s biggest issue is the transformation sequences, which really isn’t that bad especially when you factor in how little they’re used and there are some things that it could have done better. In the end my final rating is a 9/10. Next week, I’ll look at Love Live series 1.