Yuri Anime: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Season 1 Box Set (English)

January 25th, 2009

I’m just as likely to retcon my opinions as the next person. Only, I tend to go the opposite way from most. Instead of remembering the first thing as the best ever, never to be repeated or surpassed, I tend to like the newest and latest, and avoid going back to the orginal. When I first watched this series I was not impressed but, as the series went on, as the second and finally third season built up the characters and the situations, I began to like it more. By the time I finshed watching StrikerS, it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. So, it was with some trepidation that I stepped back more than four years to watch the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha season box set. Would I hate it? Like it? Well….

The story begins with typical 3rd-grader Takamachi Nanoha who finds herself embroiled in the typical magical girl setup of a magical creature who gives her both the power and imprimatur to collect a number of magical items. If left unchecked, these items will inhabit various organic beings and inorganic objects and cause havoc. Also quite typically, she is opposed in this task by an equally magical rival of the same age, in this case, the “girl with the gentle eyes,” Fate Testarossa.

Nanoha becomes more interested in hearing Fate’s story and trying to work with her than anything else – and Fate’s story, when we learn it, is orders of trauma above the typical magical girl series. Her mother, insane from the loss of a child, is driven by a hopeless obsession. Precia’s emotional and physical torture of Fate is extremely distressing, making us root for Nanoha to break through the wall that separates her and Fate just that much harder.

Of course, Nanoha does break through that wall, saving both the world as we know it, and Fate herself, by beating Fate down. Thus she sets up the precident of herself as the “White Devil,” and the also-typical “Dragonball Phenomenon” wherein all former enemies, once defeated, become allies. It’s all so comforting. ^_^ (This is a good point to note that the “White Devil”s particular form of “befriending” shows up right in the middle of the opening song, when the lyrics say something like “I will touch you with a love so soft,” as Nanoha is bring Raging Heart down on Fate’s head hard enough to crack her skull open. ^_^)

There are two things of note that set this series apart from the usual and typical. One is, of course, the intense interest Nanoha shows in Fate and the (obvious to Yuri fans) feelings Fate has for Nanoha. And I am still convinced that Suzuka and Arisa are also a couple, for no particular reason except that I’m a Yuri fan too. ^_^

The second is the sudden appearance of a completely different anime in the middle of the story. The Time Space Administration Bureau’s appearance and absorption of the story takes it to a completely different place and plot – and sets up the tale for the next two series. There is no doubt in my mind that Nanoha was originally conceived of as a seinen version of the popular mahou shoujo series Card Captor Sakura. The wife, who had never seen any of this series, walked in on an early episode and immediately commented on the similarities. Watching this series now, knowing what I know, I found this to be a welcome mid-stream change for the anime. I was actually *happy* when the staff of the Asura join the fight and shift the setting.

In a nutshell, because of my particular form of retconning, I enjoyed this series much more this time, than I did the first time around. ^_^ (If you read Okazu regularly, this won’t surprise you too much. I’ve done it before…I’m sure I’ll do it again.)

There were a number of technical problems, however. Some were clearly because Funimation rescued this title from the Geneon pit. Others were original. The art, for instance. The art was inconsistent and in many places, plain old *bad.* Bad enough that I had a hard time looking at the screen. There were about 5 different groups working on this series, with styles that were so different that they really clashed. The “carnival head” group got the uber-moe scenes. The group that put in too much detail and made everyone move so much that they all looked like they had Parkinson’s disease, got all the “unnecessary service” scenes. I was glad when we switched away from either of those two groups, back to the three or so groups that kept the animation to boring standards of “you audience – hey you out there – you do the work.” ^_^

The translation started off pretty consistent and, to my joy, used “Raging Heart” for Nanoha’s device. Midway it switches to “Raising Heart.” (The editing/adapting went out the door about a third of the way through the series, as well. That, I assume, was the Geneon/Funimation switchover.

And there were some technical issues with the subtitles, like lines through the words. And surprisingly, the timing was *bad*. I never notice that kind of thing, really. If I noticed it – it was really, really bad.

Extras can be counted on one finger – double-sided covers for the DVD cases. Credits and adverts just don’t count as “extras” to me.

The only other thing I had an issue with was that I am still not happy with the nudity. I never will be. If there was version of this anime the had none, I’d be that much more pleased with it. It’s just not needed and the people it serves are not me. Thankfully, by about halfway through the series, that too is cast off for the new, shiny, magical dimension kick-ass fighting story.

Despite the problems, I was really enjoyed rewatching this series. It made me want to watch A’s right away, which I did, and I’m about to start on a marathon of StrikerS today. Nanoha is a series that bears watching, sticking with and repeating. I’m not sure I could use this series to turn a non-fan into a fan, but if you already like magical girl stories, it’s probably a shoo-in for something you’ll grow to like.

Ratings:

Art – At best 6 at worst 3
Story – Starts at 5 and ends up at 8
Characters – 8
Yuri – 3
Sevice – 8

Overall – 7

Paeans of praise and thanks to the sponsor of today’s feast, newly awarded Okazu Superhero Brent A! Brent – email me to get your new badge – with thanks for all the support you’ve shown for Okazu over the years!

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6 Responses

  1. Eric P. says:

    Do technical issues also include playback problems, such as it freezing up at a certain point? That’s the problem I’m having with the 4th volume of When They Cry.

  2. That certainly is a technical problem. Not one I had for this series, but I’ve had it for others. So much depends on the equipment you use and the encoding they use…

  3. Ramiya1980 says:

    Wow, I agree on all those points (although I was sold on the Time-Space Admninistration Bureau from day one, I was kind of hoping Yuuno’s mention of his “ship” and background would lead to a pleasant surprise story-wise). I remember actually when Raging Heart became Raising Heart in the fansubs, the reason given was that there was a page on the creator’s blog that specifically asked him on the spelling, and he said it was always supposed to be Raising, not Raging (boo…but I saw the page myself, so I can’t argue even if I don’t like it either).

    What baffles me though is why the commercial subs would follow the fansubs this way, were they copying the fansubs themselves rather than doing their own translation? Was it the change in staff? Did history just repeat itself? Pretty weird…

  4. Katherine says:

    “Raging Heart” does sound so much better…

  5. Arca_Jeth says:

    Thanks for the review! I was shocked at the abrupt shift in the story. However, since I’d just finished watching Card Captor Sakura with my niece (she loves that show) it was a nice change of pace. (one can only take so much cuteness)

    While I’m sad to read about the disc problems, I’ll still give this one a buy. One thing I love about the Nanoha series is the sense of consequences for actions. Every magical action they take has very a physical effect on their world and their bodies. It injects a bit of responsibility into the story and characters.

    Here’s hoping the releases continue through StrikerS.

    ::HUGS::

    Arca Jeth

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