The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha

Title: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha aka Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Seven Arcs
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 3 Oct 2004 – 26 Dec 2004

Synopsis: Takamachi Nanoha is as normal an eight year old girl as one can find. Surrounded by a loving family and caring friends, Nanoha is content with life. However, one day she hears a voice in her head which leads her to an injured ferret guarding a red gem. After rescuing the ferret, named Yuuno Scrya, he gives her the gem and awakens Nanoha’s magical powers, asking that she use them to fight alongside him.

The Highlights
Relationships: Chemistry between Fate and Nanoha presented with crystal clarity.
Beginning: Disguises itself as a throwaway mahou shoujo series.
Directing: Frequently unconventional and well executed.
Fanservice: May be awkward for some viewers at times.
Moé-factor: Through the roof.

Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of the mahou shoujo genre. Like many of the other dominant genres in anime, it has its own set of well-established staples, but it seems to be less inclined to produce titles that break or, at the very least, put an original spin on its stalwart properties. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is an anime that manages to twist many of the conventions of the mahou shoujo genre, but at the end of the day its story isn’t likely one you haven’t seen elsewhere.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha starts in a rather misleading fashion. After the first few episodes, it’s easy to dismiss the series as yet another by-the-numbers mahou shoujo series, with the focus being on the episodic adventures of a cute loli coming to terms with her newly acquired magical powers by defeating monsters and collecting magical jewels. Add in the old genre clichés, from a very risqué transformation sequence (about which, the less said, the better) to a talking magical staff and mascot ferret and you have yourself all the markers of an anime to forget.

However, it’s with the introduction of Fate that Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha becomes interesting. The rivalry relationship between the two lead mages is presented extremely well; both characters are explored fairly thoroughly and the chemistry between them is allowed to shine through thanks to some marvelous directing. On the topic of directing, I have nothing but admiration for Shinbo Akiyuki (Le Portrait de Petit Cossette, Moon Phase); his lack of inhibitions about swaying from convention and willingness to bombard his audience with irregular, almost avant-garde effects and techniques with almost immaculate success gives me reason to consider him among anime’s most underrated directors. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha also features the coolest looking magic circles I have ever seen, bar none.

However, all things considered, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is hardly a remarkable anime. It doesn’t have any particularly significant flaws, but rather a number of minor ones combined with a general lack of ambition for brilliance. While background on its major characters is always welcome, at the end of the day it’s not hard to categorize them; the protagonists are victims-of-victims and the antagonists are victims-of-circumstance. The dramatic build up towards the end of the series is dampened by the cute character designs, and can be difficult to take seriously with this unintentional juxtaposition. And, as much as I hate to bring this up, if you’re even remotely offended by loli fanservice, you probably should avoid this series: it’s full of it.

While there is a lot to like about Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, in particular the way it strays from the norms of the mahou shoujo genre, it never completely strays away from the norms of action anime in general. Technically there’s not a great deal wrong with Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, but it simply never feels as if it’s inspired to try to be truly great. At the very least, though, it is an enjoyable series, one that is surprising after considering the way it starts.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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