Saturday, May 05 2007

Weekend Anime Review: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha Striker S

The always interesting Jeff Lawson is back with a bunch of quick reviews of current series.  I was struck by his quick take on the new installment of a series I've quite enjoyed, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha Striker S (I'll refer to the overall series as 'Nanoha' from this point forward).  His take on the series, unfortunately, matches my current impressions almost perfectly:

As much a fan of this franchise as I am, I’m having a difficult time getting into the third installment. I don’t necessarily want to go so far as to say the magic from the first two seasons is gone, but it sure feels that way at times.

Warning: This post contains mild spoilers for the following anime:
Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha
Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A's
Mild spoilers generally do not contain information about secrets in the plot of the anime, but may contain information about general overall plot threads and character development.

First, the general nature of the plot seems to have shifted from the original two series.  The original series was a retake on the general Magical Girl anime series, one that maintained its originality by doing a new take on the conventions of the series.  In general, a magical girl series should have one or more schoolgirls, who after an encounter with a mysterious talking cute and fuzzy animal, are given the power to save the world from the forces of darkness.  This power is embodied by a trinket, which turns into a magical item of power capable of destroying the darkness, and provides the hero with a more impressive outfit and other useful abilities.  In order to save the world, however, the magical girl must use their own inner goodness to defeat the enemy as well as the power they have been given.  The magical girl must also balance their responsibilities as magical girl with their normal school life and friends as these two facets of the hero's life will be forced into conflict by the plot, and it is this conflict as much as the struggle against darkness that provides the heart of the series. 

Nanoha follows this formula right down the line, only the forms taken are almost never what would be expected and are often thought out more than one would expect.  Nanoha A's generally follows the same script, right down to providing Fate with her own cute and fuzzy talking animal, although the big picture is starting to take form as more details of the way the setting is constructed emerges.  Nanoha StrikerS drops most of the genre concepts.  The characters are full-time members of a public, quasi-military organization, and are basically a hero team backed by massive amounts of support.  Their magic items have been essentially reduced to mere technological toys.

Additionally, the series has too many major characters.  This was unavoidable, given the exponential growth of major characters between the series.  The first series started with two protagonists, Nanoha supported by Yunno, and introduced a balanced pair of antagonists, Fate supported by Arf.  The second series, Nanoha A's, had two major protagonists, Nanoha and Fate, with Yunno and Arf in support.  They faced off against two major antagonists, Signum and Vita, who were supported by Schmal and Zafira.  When I first heard a third Nanoha series was in the works, I was afraid it would turn out to be Nanoha, Fate, Signum, Vita, Hayate, and support against a balanced team of antagonists.  Instead, all the characters in StrikerS seem to be loaded into the good guys from the start, so we have Nanoha and company from the first two series and four additional new characters at the start of the series, for 12 major characters in all.

Finally, we have the antagonists of the series.  Nanoha started with the cliche monster of the week enemy while the setting was established, but the meat of the story begins when Fate is introduced as the main antagonist.  We are presented with two magical girls with comparable powers facing off against each other.  We quickly find out that Fate has a developed if very quiet personality, her motivations are complex, and that while opposed to the heroes, she is presented in such a way that the audience feels for her.  In Nanoha A's, we are quickly introduced to a pair of magical girls, Signum and Vita, as the main antagonists for Nanoha and Fate.  Again, they have interesting personalities, their motivations are complex, and they are presented in a way that the audience feels some sympathy for them as well.  So far, the enemies in Nanoha StrikerS have been machines, with no personality, no motivations as such, and no need for any empathy from the audience.

Posted by: Civilis at 08: 41 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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