Tag Archives: Mahou Shoujo lyrical Nanoha

Ktulu’s Third Annual Anime Awards & Shaming Ceremony

This year, I thought I’d try something a bit different with these. First off, I’m not going to bother with nominees. It occurs to me that having different nominees is only really helpful if I announce those in advance. Secondly, I’ll be hosting a “reader’s choice” awards. I’ll list every single anime I’ve reviewed this year, sorted alphabetically, in the comments section leave your own choices for the various awards. For those of you who are regular readers from AFT, I’ll be posting a special thread for you to use. You can vote for however many categories you want. They can be anything that actually relates to the award in question, regardless of whether or not I liked/disliked them. To give a few examples, Futari Wa Precure: Max Heart  won’t be eligible for the various film reviews & Corpse Party isn’t eligible for the comedic awards, because it has to be deliberately funny to be in the running for those. For your convenience, I’ve labelled all of the film reviews.

So, here’s our list of anime reviewed:

3×3 Eyes Seima Densetsu, Akuma no Riddle, All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku: Dash, Ankoku Cat, Appleseed (film), Cardcaptor Sakura: the movie (film), Choujigen Game Neptune: The Animation, Choujuu Densetsu Gestalt, Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch, Conqueror of Shamballa (film), Corpse Party: Tortured Souls, Death Parade, Divergence Eve, Dragonball Z: Fusion Reborn (film), Exlorer Woman Ray, Futari wa Precure: Max Heart, Gankutsuou, Ginga Ojou-sama Densetsu Yuna, Gintama, Glass no Kamen, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka, Hetalia: Paint it White (film), Hoshi wo ou Kodomo (film), Ice, Kannazuki no Miko, Kara no Kyoukai 6 (film), Kara no Kyoukai 7 (film), Kekkai Sensen, Kigurumikku V3, Kyattou Ninden Teyandee, Love Hina, Love Hina Again, Love Live, Love Live 2, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha As, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha Vivid, Mars of Destruction, Miyamoto Musashi: Souken ni Haseru Yume (film), Mushishi, Natsu no Arashi 2, Night Walker: Mayonaka no Tantei, Overlord, Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom, Sengoku Otome: Momoiro Paradox, Shigofumi, Shinrei Tantei Yakumo, Solty Rei, Spirited Away (film), Strike Witches, Sunabouzu, Uchuu Kyoudai, Whisper of the Heart (Film), Wooser no Sono Higurashi, X-men, Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru, Yuru Yuri 2, Yuru Yuri San Hai 

Now that that’s taken care of, let’s go over my personal choices for this year’s awards.

The Moffat Award for unbearably awful writing within a supposedly mostly serious series or OVA. Previous winners: Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge & Neon Genesis Evangelion

This year’s Moffat award winner is, from Madhouse, X-men. 

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You’re probably thinking, “really, Ktulu? You’ve reviewed Mars of Destruction, Ice & Corpse Party: Tortured Souls this year, but X-men stands out as the worst?” Yes, yes it does. Don’t get me wrong, all of these are terrible in their own right, but there are two things that makes X-men worse than those other three, for me. The first is that it’s the longest. Which gives it more time for its stupidity. The second is that I have a bigger attachment to X-men than I do those other series. I’ve never played the games that Corpse Party & Mars of Destruction are based on nor have I read the novel that Ice is based on. Maybe they’re good and the anime versions butchered them, maybe they’re just as bad. What I have read are a lot of X-men issues. As written by Chris Claremont, this is easily one of my favourite super hero teams. Which makes seeing them written as badly as they are in this series particularly infuriating.

The Simone Award for writing excellence is a mostly serious series or OVA. Our previous winners were Psycho Pass & Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. 

This year the Simone award goes to Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS.

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This one was tough to decide with StrikerS, Mushishi & Death Parade all in the running, but, in the end, StrikerS is the one I have the most fondness for by a very slight margin.

The Abrams Award for Horrendous film writing. Our previous winners were End of Evangelion & Metropolis.

This year the Abrams Award goes to Hetalia: Paint it White.

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As fond as I am of the series itself, the film was a lazy drudge with recycled gags and basically nothing good that was actually original for the franchise.

The Miyazaki Award for stellar film writing. Our previous winners were Nausicaa & Kara no Kyoukai 4. 

This year’s Miyazaki award goes to Spirited Away. 

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An excellent film from Studio Ghibli and the best I’ve watched this year.

The Macfarlane award for most failed comedy. Our prior winners were OreImo & Kill la Kill. 

This year, the Macfarlane award goes to Sunabouzu.

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A series that treated rape as uproariously funny and consistently found new ways to defy good taste and be genuinely one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.

The Pratchett award for comedic excellence. Our previous winners were Bottle Fairy & Doki Doki Precure.

This year’s Pratchett award goes to Yuru Yuri San Hai.

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It was difficult to choose between this and the second series of Love Live but, ultimately, San Hai came out on top by the slightest of margins.

The Meyer award for worst written romance. Our previous winners were OreImo & Mawaru Penguindrum.

This year’s Meyer award goes to Love Hina Again.

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Have you ever wanted to see a love triangle with a guy, his sister and the girl who abuses him? If you answered in the affirmative, I question your mental health. But that’s what Love Hina Again provides.

Next up we have the Kanemaki award for greatest romance. The previous winners of this one were Btooom & Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha.

This year, the Kanemaki award goes to Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS.

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They had a fantastic budding romance in the first series. In StrikerS, they have a stellar mature romance. Nanoha and Fate are a spectacular couple.

The Anno award for flattest, most uninteresting cast. Previous winners were End of Evangelion & Neon Genesis Evangelion.

This year it goes to Love Hina Again. 

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The only reason that Sunabouzu didn’t take this one is that its characters are supposed to be unlikable. That’s the joke. Love Hina gives us a bunch of characters we’re supposed to like, because… they’re one-dimensional and obnoxious and Love Hina Again lowers the bar by adding in the incestuous sister character.

The Moore award for best cast. Our previous winners were Sailor Moon & Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin.

This year’s Moore award goes to Death Parade.

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Death Parade gives us a  group of characters who are highly endearing and have a lot to them. Both in terms of major characters and in terms of one episode characters.

The Bendis award for worst major conflict. The previous winners were From up on Poppy Hill & Sword Art Online.

This year’s Bendis award goes to Ice.

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Ice is a series where the main conflict really doesn’t work even in concept. We have a future with only women. we have two major factions. One wants to save humanity, but not with the tested, functional methods we have to let two women reproduce with one another. They want to use some convoluted nonsense. We also have another group that hates science because it’s a man’s field (Nothing insulting to all the female scientists out there at all) and just wants to let everything end while they indulge in hedonism. Both of these groups are insufferably stupid and it makes their conflict really uninteresting.

The Claremont award for most compelling conflict. Our previous winners for this one are Psycho Pass & Shingeki no Kyojin.

This year’s Claremont award goes to Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A’s.

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What makes this conflict so good is that the antagonists are really endearing and have an incredibly sympathetic motivation. You want to see Nanoha & Fate pull through, but you also want the guardian knights to come out okay. You’re legitimately torn between the groups and it makes the conflict really compelling.

The Liefeld award for visual ineptitude. Our previous winners were Aku no Hana & Amada anime Series: Super Mario Brothers.

This year, we’re doing something a bit different and giving two out. One for the film category and the other for the series/OVA category. Our winners are Dragonball Z: Fusion Reborn & Corpse Party: Tortured Souls.

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In the case of Fusion Reborn, the big artistic failing is that the action sequences are weak, which is pretty sad when you have something as action-oriented as Dragonball. In Tortured Souls the big issue is that it looks goofy. The gore effects are overblown to the point of absurd and the monsters just look silly. The artwork takes scenes that are supposed to be intense and makes them unintentionally hilarious.

Next we have the Urbino award for visual excellence. Our previous winners were Nausicaa & Tokyo Godfathers. 

This year, there will be two. One for the film category & one for the series/OVA category. Our winners are Spirited Away & Mushishi.

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Both of these works are really well detailed with some stellar nature scenes and they just look really superb.

The Spencer award for acting incompetence. Our previous winners were the English dub of Sailor Moon & Neon Genesis Evangelion.

This year, the Spencer award goes to Ice.

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Ultimately, Ice suffers from casting several girls who can’t act in major roles and from Ishida Akira’s worst performance. In spite of him being a genuinely good actor.

The Sir Stewart award for impeccable acting. Our previous winners were Black Rock Shooter (OVA) & Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha.

This year’s Sir Stewart award goes to Glass no Kamen.

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What makes this series stand out are the multiple performances from Kobayashi Sanae & Yajima Akiko as their characters don different asks for the stage. They have to play their own characters, plus the characters their characters are playing and they have to do all of it really well for the series to work. Which they do, brilliantly.

The Perry award for ear-splitting awful music. Our previous winners were the English dub of Sailor Moon & Street Fighter II.

This year’s Perry award winner is Mars of Destruction.

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As much as I love classical music, Mars of Destruction uses it in a very shoddy way, not bothering to match the music to what’s happening on screen. That, in addition to the crappy sound mixing, makes it the worst.

Our final award is the Kloss award for loveliest music. The previous winners were Slayers Perfect & K-on: The Movie. 

This year’s Kloss award goes to Love Live series 2.

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The music in this series really is spectacular and the way the actresses harmonise is superb.

So, those are my choices this year. Feel free to leave a comment with your choices from the list or you can e-mail me at ktuluthedarkone@hotmail.com. Thanks for following me this year and I hope you’ll continue to do so in the following year, even when our tastes are very different. In two weeks I’ll post the reader’s choice winners. Have a happy Valentine’s all.

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How romance with young characters can work

just recently, I reviewed the bland film, Whisper of the Heart. My biggest issue with it was the overblown, zero chemistry, romance between Shizuku and Seiji. That whole thing got me thinking, what exactly makes a romance with younger characters work? For comparison purposes, let’s compare their weak romance to the really strong romance between Nanoha and Fate, specifically in the first two series when they’re still pre-pubescent.

After giving it some thought, I’ve come up with three significant factors that make Nanoha and Fate’s relationship work that aren’t present in Shizuku and Seij’s. The first of those is that they have obstacles to overcome together. In Whisper of the Heart, the two both have their own obstacles. Shizuku has to find her calling and immerse herself in it while Seiji has to deal with his parent’s objections to his learning how to make violins. The two go off on their own ways. As such, there’s no opportunity for them to develop their bonds.

In the first Nanoha series, Nanoha struggles to save Fate from her abusive mother, eventually culminating in the two of them working together to stop her plans. In the second, the two work together to stop the book of darkness. In sharing a conflict and aiding one another, we get to see their relationship strengthen and develop.

The second major factor is that the early Nanoha series don’t focus on their relationship as a “serious” romance. Rather, they put the emphasis on it as an innocent, blossoming love. There’s no talk of marriage nor does the series act like this is totally a grown up and adult relationship between two kids who just met. You can tell that Nanoha and Fate are attracted to each other and that they have a lot of chemistry, but you can also tell that their feelings are a bit naive and they don’t know what to do with them yet. Which gives them a much stronger and more believable relationship. You can buy that the two of them might eventually come together as a couple, adopt a child and have a lasting relationship. Once they’re older and they’re ready.

In contrast, Whisper of the Heart tries to persuade us that this is already a serious relationship and, ironically, that makes it seem more trivial since you just shake your head and think “whatever, Kids. You just met and you’ve barely started puberty. I’m sure that you completely understand what a serious romantic relationship is.”

The third major aspect that works in Nanoha and Fate’s favour is that they develop as friends first. Sure, even when they’re becoming friends you can tell that they’re completely smitten, but the fact that they start as friends and build from there seems natural and it lets the first two series focus on building their relationship without stressing the romantic chemistry but, rather, illustrate their strong relationship as a friendship with strong potential for more. We get an arc for the two of them that goes from first crush and fast friends to close friends with a strong attraction to, when they’re actually adults, a couple with an adopted daughter.

Obviously, Whisper of the Heart doesn’t have multiple series to do that much. So, let’s look at the arc we do get for Shizuku and Seiji. They meet, she thinks he’s a jerk and then… couple. Somehow. The point here is, we never really get to see them as friends, which only reinforces the idea that they’re a pair of dumb kids who will be broken up in a couple months at most.

So, there you have it. Three things that can make a young romance actually work. If you have anything to add, feel that I was too harsh on Whisper of the Heart or just have something to say feel free to post a comment.

Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha Vivid: NanoFated Daughter’s Training

It’s time to look at Seven Arcs’ incredibly Sapphic Nanoha franchise once more. Although, this one was handed over to A-1 Pictures. Which isn’t that odd when you consider that Seven Arcs is more into the business end of animation these days and less into actually animating. Let’s start with a quick recap of the prior series. In Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, our young heroine gained magical powers and developed a serious crush on young Fate. Their budding relationship was adorable. In Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A’s, the two teamed up against a sympathetic threat. In the process their first love started blossoming into a deeper and more meaningful relationship, which was adorable. In Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, the two were fully grown, living as a couple and adopted a child together. Eventually rescuing their young daughter from the machinations of a nutter and his elite force of female cyborgs. Their relationship continued to be adorable. If there are two things I can predict based on the other series they’re that Nanoha and Fate will have an adorable relationship and the transformation sequences are going to be awful. Let’s see if those patterns continue to hold up with Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha Vivid.

Nanoha Vivid

Story:

Vivid takes place four years after Strikers and follows ten year old Vivio as she practices her martial arts under the tutelage of Nove, one of the reformed cyborgs, alongside her two best friends, Corona and Rio. The three are quickly joined by a fourth student, Einhald Stratos, whom Nove invites in order to guide. Vivio is instantly enamoured with Einhald in a way that’s somewhat reminiscent of how her moms were when they met. The four participate in a mock battle with most of the main cast from Strikers, minus Hayate and her guardian knights. Lutecia and Nove use the opportunity to tell Einhald about the Inter-Middle tournament for young mages. She agrees to enter, encouraged by Vivio. The rest of the series is about Vivio, Corona, Rio and Einhald preparing themselves for and facing the first few rounds of the tournament.

The biggest issue with this one is that it has no real stakes. In the prior three series, there was something major and important that the characters were fighting for. Including Vivio’s life in the last series. In this one, we’re primarily following four kids who are competing in a tournament. Even if they lose they can compete again next year and lose nothing important. There’s no real tension from the plot as a result. About the most tension we get is over whether or not Vivio will confess her feelings to Einhald. The plot itself is also one we’ve seen before, a lot, usually as part of a bigger work but sometimes by itself like this. At this point, it’s quite a banal spectacle. The series also suffers from some gratuitous fan-service scenes because when your main characters are ten you really need those. Way to keep it classy, A-1 and/or manga writer Tsuzuki Masaki.

That being said, the story does flow from one narrative point to another really effectively and, even though it is a standard plot, it’s well told. There are lots of good slice of life moments. Both with the Takamachi family and with Vivio and her friends and it is interesting to see what became of the reformed combat cyborgs. I also appreciate that they didn’t try to force a more serious situation and have Nanoha and Fate inexplicably absent or beaten in order to let Vivio take the lead.

Characters:

The characters are still a strength of the series. We don’t see as much of a focus on Nanoha, Fate and their comrades but they’re still strong characters. The new characters we get are fleshed out well and get some development. Even their major opponents in the tournament have enough to them to give them a good level of verisimilitude. The interactions are Vivid’s biggest strength. The dynamics amongst these characters are really well done whether the mentor relationship between Nove and the girls, the familial stuff between Vivio and her moms, the sapphic tension or just the friendly relationships. They’re all really good.

Art:

Well, I was right about the transformation sequences. They’re still terrible, lovingly outlining all the contours. The artwork also suffers from gratuitous fan-service, some of which involves ten year old girls. Even some of the designs suffer from being fan-service based. Like Sister Chantez and her battle habit complete with under-boob. She’s fourteen, by the way. Far too young to be showing under-boob. Seriously

That being said, most of the character designs are really good and don’t do that. The action scenes are almost really good, except that the crass fan-service rears its ugly head and a lot of the action sequences result in the girls getting their clothes torn in a way that’s supposed to be sexy. Remember last series where they fought for their lives and, somehow, kept their clothes largely intact? Why exactly is it that they can’t manage that when having sparring matches? I get the feeling that the answer involves despicable art direction.

Sound:

The performances remain stellar. Saito Chiwa gives a really strong one as Nove, also as Subaru but Subaru has less of a role in this series. Mizuhashi Kaori, Noto Mamiko, Fukuen Misato and Kitamura Eri all do excellent vocal work as our main four. The music is also really good, suiting the series perfectly.

Ho-yay:

There’s a lot. In addition to our NanoFate moments, Subaru and Teana still appear to be an item but the main focus is on Vivio and Einhald. The two of them aren’t really as adorable as Nanoha and Fate were in prior series, but they get a lot of good moments and their blossoming love is really cute. There’s also an episode where Sein does something that’s completely uncool, but still homo-erotic.Nanoha Vivid2

Final Thoughts:

Vivid is the weakest instalment in this franchise yet. That isn’t to say it’s bad, it has a lot of strong moments, excellent characters and great sound, but the narrative itself is a lot weaker than prior instalments and it really suffers from the crass and gratuitous fan-service. So, while still a good series, it’s not a superb one. My final rating is going to be a 7/10. Next week I’ll end the year with a look at Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru.

Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS: NanoFated Adoption

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.

Story:

 

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.

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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.

Characters:

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.

Art:

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.

Sound:

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.

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Ho-yay:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A’s: NanoFated Reunion

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.

Story:

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.

Characters:

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.

Art:

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.

Sound:

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.

Ho-yay:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha: NanoFated first love

Welcome to the new year, everyone. It’s time for magical girl anime month and let’s open with a look at Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha. Nanoha is the first TV production of Seven Arcs. The same studio that did Sekirei & Inukami, both exceedingly stupid. So, how did their first foray into tv anime go?

Story:

Our tale opens with our protagonist, 3rd grader Takamachi Nanoha, getting a psychic message in a dream asking for her help. The next morning she finds an injured ferret on her way to school, hearing a call for help that leads her to it. She and her friends take it to a vet. The three discuss what they should do with it, eventually deciding that Nanoha should ask her family if they can keep it, at least until it recovers. The discussion goes well but when she’s about to go to bed she hears a voice in her head crying desperately for help. She runs back to the vet finding a shadowy monster attacking the ferret. He tells her that his name is Yuuno and that he came to her world searching for ancient relics called jewel seeds. He begs for her help, giving her a red jewel called the Raising Heart that enables her to transform and use magic. Using its power, she dispatches the shadowy assailant and claims the first jewel seed. At first, things are going fairly well but then a second mage appears, a girl Nanoha’s age who she describes as having beautiful and kind eyes. A girl who wants the jewel seeds for her own purposes, leading to a conflict between the two.

The narrative is really good at setting up tension and at pacing. The story moves fairly quickly, but still manages to find time for breathing room and slower character moments. The short running time is used very effectively with good mix of character moments, action sequences and plot advancing scenes. Every element that goes into the final conflict and climax is introduced in an organic way before it’s used there, which makes everything hold together very strongly. The only complaint I can really make about the story itself is that it does waste a little time with transformation sequences, which is admittedly an incredibly petty complaint especially when you consider that it uses that particular element less than most magical girl works. Frequently skipping it altogether.

Characters:

Sometimes a solid story can be diminished by weak characters. This is not one of those cases. The character building in Nanoha is really superb with every single character, including the minor ones, having verisimilitude except for in one scene but I’ll discuss that a bit later. The relationship between Nanoha and Fate is especially good, with Nanoha’s attraction being established instantly and Fate going from being somewhat apprehensive to liking Nanoha back more and more. Which culminates in four really excellent scenes near the end of the series. I also like that the main antagonist has a very well explained, very human motivation behind what she’s doing. She does terrible things, but once you understand why you actually start to feel kind of sorry for her. It doesn’t excuse her behaviour but it does make her surprisingly sympathetic. Which is really hard to pull off but it’s done really well in this.

Now, let’s go to my one issue with the characters. As I said, most of the time the characters have verisimilitude. The exception being when Nanoha basically tells her mother that she’s going off into danger, without explaining anything about magic, and her mother just readily goes along with it because letting a nine year old go into danger is fine if it’s what the nine year old wants. The basic idea could have worked, but they’d have had to have Nanoha show off her power a bit or have her mother see her in action at some point prior for it to work. As is it just makes her mom seem like a highly irresponsible parent which is not supposed to be the case.

Art:

Most of the animation is well done. The action sequences are intense. The character designs are interesting and the various bits of magical technology have a unique aesthetic. However, this is also where my biggest issue with the series comes in. Nanoha’s transformation sequence is awful. I’m not talking about them having a transformation sequence, I’m talking about the actual visuals for it. They show her in her underwear and then starkers in a way that’s not explicit but is pretty damn uncomfortable especially when you consider that she’s nine. No sane person wants to see a nine year old starkers and I seriously question why they would show the audience so much of her body during it.

Sound:

They got a really amazing cast for this series. Mizuki Nana, Tamura Yukari, Kuwatani Natsuko & Mizuhashi Kaori make for spectacular leads and Igarashi Rei makes for a great villain. The music is really great as well.

Ho-yay:

There’s certainly a strong element of les-yay, even more so than with most magical girl works. Nanoha develops a crush on Fate as soon as they meet and the two of them have a lot of really cute moments as their relationship develops. They’re still young but it makes for a spectacular first love story. But maybe I’m over-stating it. It’s not like they’re going to adopt a child together when they get older or something else that moves it definitively into the realm of canon. But even early on it is a very strong element to the series so the ho-yay factor is going to be a 6/10 for this one.

Final Thoughts:

Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha is an excellent series. The story is compelling and well constructed. The characters are really superbly done, save for one scene. The acting and music are both amazing. Really, its biggest flaw is the way they do the transformation sequence which is just gross and disturbing. Still, it’s not a huge problem. Check out the series and just look away when the transformation sequence is going. My final rating is going to be a 9/10. Next week magical girl month continues with Magic Knight Rayearth.