Final Score: 6
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is a 2004 anime spin-off of Triangle Heart 3 (an adult game) and is pretty much a magical girl classic at this point. I first heard of Nanoha about 10 years ago when I stumbled upon it and watched the first episode. However with no way of continuing or the urge to keep up with it, I’ve left it alone all this time. However many people consider the Nanoha franchise to be a fantastic series and with a magical girl project going on I figured I had to finally check out this franchise.
Nanoha Takamichi is an average 9 year old until the day she finds an injured ferret in a nearby park. Of course since this is anime, this isn’t a normal ferret. The ferret is actually a young mage named Yuno Scrya. Yuno works as an archeologist who came to Earth after the Jewel Seeds he uncovered were lost and scattered across Nanoha’s town. Yuno, injured and forced to take the form of a ferret, enlists Nanoha’s help to collect the Jewel Seeds and gives her access to a magic wand known as Raising Heart. Nanoha now sets out on a very average magical girl quest to gather the Jewel Seeds before the cause havoc in her town.
Surprising everyone (and no person watching the show) Nanoha has a strong aptitude for magic, is definitely stronger than Yuno himself, and is easily able to master using Raising Heart. However as Nanoha is working earnestly to collect the Jewel Seeds to help out Yuno, another mage shows up with the same goal and deems Nanoha an enemy to her cause. This mysterious girl, known only as Fate, is an equally skilled mage who pushes Nanoha to her limits.
I won’t go into anymore of the story though because that will ruin any surprises the show will have. I will say that Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha does have a rather interesting second half in the story department but it’s nothing particularly spectacular. I’m not sure the few new surprises the show manages are worth all the praise I’ve seen thrown at it but I do have to say that it gives hope that the other installments in the franchise will be more fascinating. Still this is a show that routinely puts 9 year-olds in positions of power and expects them to be impartial judges so I’m not sure what I’m really in for.
Personally my biggest problem with the show is the characterization. I just don’t like how they handle the characters. Fate had some decent characterization surrounding her personal life but I don’t feel like the show did a good job explaining the connection between Nanoha and Fate. By the end of the series Nanoha has an extreme interest in Fate based around the fact that her eyes are both kind and sad, she seems lonely but also interesting. Fate on the other hand is either ignoring Nanoha outright or violently attacking her. Yet suddenly at the end wants to be friends with her? It was just too convenient for me.
Animation wise it’s pretty average for something that came out in 2004. Back in the day it probably looked great, but now you can see its age in almost every aspect. One thing that especially stands out is the giant, over-the-head bangs every character is blessed with. The few that don’t have this feature are worthless and don’t deserve to be in this pure 2000’s show.
Jokes aside once you compare the art/animation of this season to any other or especially the recap movie they made in 2010, it’s hard to give it any credit. Everything else just looks so good. But I will be fair this was the first TV show that Seven Arcs produced (they’re only other credits at the time were 2 OVAs). Plus I have definitely seen worse. I just want you to be prepared for some less than stellar art and animation if you end up watching Nanoha.
The soundtrack is also pretty ‘meh.’ The opening theme is good but the ending was plain and boring. I actually skipped it most of the time (which is pretty rare for me). As for the rest of the soundtrack other than a few stand out songs you aren’t going to notice it. I am going to give credit to the songs that were good namely: “Namae wo Yonde,” “Raising Heart, Set up,” “Chi no Bakukusari,” and “Kizuna, Shinjite.” If you look those songs up you’ll notice a little pattern here. Three of the four songs I mentioned were serious songs often used during battle or serious moments with Fate. The only other song is Nanoha’s transformation piece which is probably the most memorable piece from the series.
While we’re talking about sound I want to bring a small mention to the voices of Raising Heart and Bardiche. These are the magic wands used by Nanoha and Fate respectively. They also have voices. Completely English voices. The best part about this arrangement is that they’re voiced by native English speakers. This is pretty rare for an anime, especially one so old, to have an English speaker doing English lines. Interestingly enough the woman responsible for voicing Raising Heart (my favorite of the two), Donna Burke, is from Australia but moved to Japan and has done several voice jobs and even released music. Her career is actually really interesting. I know this is completely random, but I really liked Raising Heart’s voice so stumbling upon her while researching Nanoha was really fun for me.
At the end of the day was Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha really worth watching? I’m not sure. The story was pretty average with a few stand out points, the characters weren’t really original or even entertaining most of the time, and the art/sound are nothing to write home about. But Nanoha isn’t bad either. In the end it’s just really average and if the other seasons are as good as I’ve heard, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is just a barrier one must pass for the good stuff.
But of course we’ll see if that’s true soon enough.
And by that I mean I intend to watch A’s very soon. Also there are very few images online for the first season of this show. Who’d have thought?
Man, I really meant to have this out weeks ago. If you saw my recent Month In Review post you’ll know why but it really just boiled down to my computer restarting while editing and then I forgot I didn’t hit the post button. Oops.
But I do have one final little tidbit for this review. I want to know what shows you guys think I need to cover if I talk about Magical Girl shows. Things you must mention if you’re going to bring them up. I want to try and hit on both popular and hidden gems in the genre but I honestly feel like I’m more inclined to hidden gems like Anymal Tantei Kiruminzoo and Jewel Pet Twinkle than I’ve watched classics. So let me know down below what shows I really need to cover since I’m talking magical girls.