The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha the Movie 1st

Title: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha the Movie 1st aka Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha the Movie 1st
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Seven Arcs
Format: Movie; 130 minutes
Dates: 23 Jan 2010

Synopsis: Takamachi Nanoha is a typical eight year old girl with good friends and a loving family. After another normal day at school, Nanoha hears a mysterious voice in her head which eventually leads her to a talking ferret who gives her a gem that introduces her into the world of magic.  In order to help the ferret, she becomes a magical girl who fights various monsters for their jewel seeds. However, she is not the only one looking for these powerful seeds.  In the distance stands Fate Testarossa, another magical girl willing to acquire these objects at any cost.

The Highlights
Directing: Certainly not a Shinbo Akiyuki production.
Action: Boring beam spams sprinkled with the occasional interesting scene.
Drama: A dagger in the heart in the movie.
Fanservice: Make sure you do not go through customs with this movie on you.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is a popular television show about an eight year old magical girl, Nanoha, and her epic rivalry with another child, Fate.  The series has been so successful that it has spawned two sequels and a movie remake, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha the Movie 1st. Now, I believe it’s a rare gift for a story to have an opportunity to have two takes in the exact same medium.  It’s a chance to rectify any past mistakes and perhaps evolve the narrative to beyond its original boundaries.  Sadly, these two concepts prove to be foreign ideas to the creative staff of the Nanoha Movie as they condense the movie into something nearly unwatchable to anyone save the most ardent Nanoha fan.

While I am not the strongest proponent of the original Nanoha, the television series is quite watchable in small doses. The absurdities, the less than compelling characters and the sickening cuteness seem less daunting in 20 minute booster shots.  In comparison, the movie is a 2 hour 10 minute injection with the biggest needle you’ve ever seen.  The whole experience will leave you feeling beleaguered and violated, and no amount of pretty fight scenes will ease the pain of the new orfice you received.

The biggest problem with the movie is that it is extremely difficult to care about the drama between Nanoha and Fate.  Neither are particularly compelling characters; Nanoha borders a third grade Mary Sue and Fate has such an indistinct personality that it incredibly difficult to get a read on her.  The movie tries to make Fate an object of sympathy by showing her warm, love filled childhood before taking a hammer to that memory, and to a certain degree it succeeds, but it really fails to add any significant weight to the many, many fight scenes between the two.  This basically reduces the majority of the movie to a massive cluster of fight scenes that lack any meaingful context or emotional weight.

Visually, Nanoha the Movie feels plastic. Though the art has been significantly improved and the animation is exceptionally fluid, the movie lacks the visual flair of the television series.  From the timings of the dramatic pauses to choices of camera angles, the anime doesn’t look or feel like a movie; it comes across as just a television series created with large budget. Clearly, losing Shinbo Akiyuki as a director has not been kind to the project.  Any sparks of innovation from the poorly drawn but motion rich fight scenes and dynamic magical circles from the original have been snubbed out to conform to a single, consistent standard.  The only things that really pops to the eyes are the magical transformation scenes which has an incredible range of motion, background effects and enough highly-detailed, curvaceous , eight year old nudity that makes sure that the movie will never see the light of day in the West in any legal form.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha the Movie 1st will likely push the right buttons of fans who are already emotionally invested in the conflict between Nanoha and Fate, but it’s as cut and dry as any Cliff’s Notes interpretation of a book, so don’t watch this unless you enjoy nothing but mindless beam spamming.

The Rating: 4

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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