Archive for the Nanoha Category


Artbook: Higa Yukari’s Mahou Senki Lyrical Nanoha Force Collection (緋賀ゆかり 魔法戦記リリカルなのはForce画集)

August 6th, 2014

forceartbookThe most truly interesting thing about this book, Higa Yukari’s Mahou Senki Lyrical Nanoha Force Collection (緋賀ゆかり 魔法戦記リリカルなのはForce画集) is the paralyzing crisis of conscience it gave me. ^_^;

I’m in Japan  in October 2013 and I see it on the shelf of Animate and I say “Ooh!” and reach for it. Then I pull my hand back, because I know the audience of the Nanoha franchise is not me and I’ve been reading Mahou Senki Lyrical Nanoha Force and I know what the art in Nyantype (the magazine in which Force runs) is like. This book is bound to be a disappointment, I know this.

And then we go to another bookstore and I see it on the shelf and I say “Ooh!” and reach for it. Then I pull my hand back, and I go through the whole conversation with myself again.

The fourth or fifth time I went through this charade my wife was giving me the old “Just BUY it already” but I’m shaking my head and explaining that I know the audience of the Nanoha franchise is not me and…

The last time I went through this process, I actually had the book in my hand and was on line to buy it, but talked myself out of it. I knew what would be in there…pictures that made me sad. Sigh. I put it back on the shelf and left Japan.  When I came home I put this artbook into my shopping cart on Amazon JP and there it has sat, for order after order after order, going  through the same monologue every time.

So, finally, I bought it. And, as expected, the audience of the Nanoha franchise is not me and it is all very Nyantype. Plenty of naked or nearly naked girls for thems as like that, and lots of group shots for the covers of Mahou Senki Lyrical Nanoha volumes.

In a nutshell, the big negative negative is that there just isn’t a great Fate/Nanoha shot in this book. There are a few side-by-sides and back-to-backs, some bath shots, but nothing that fills the gaping hole where one really fabulous Fate x Nanoha picture should live. (There’s been a few over the years, I don’t see why we shouldn’t get one from Force.)

On the positive side Higa Yukari’s art is **fantastic.** I mean, “wow, that’s an awesome picture” fantastic. Barrier jackets and weapons look better than they ever have before. The book is super thick, so if you like the group shots (and are interested in the specific composition of those pieces, and the devices, this has got a lot to look at. If you like drawings of fictitious naked girls, you’ll be well served, as well. Also some really service-y drawings of Toma,  which struck me as more silly than sexy. The sexiest thing in this book is Raising Heart in her grazillion forms.

Ratings:

Overall – 7

I don’t regret it, but I stare at it wistfully, wishing it just had one really excellent NanoFate picture.

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Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 2nd A’s Anime (魔法少女リリカルなのは The MOVIE 2nd A’s)

April 24th, 2013

It’s Guest Post Wednesday! Today we are very pleased to have a new Guest Poster, so please welcome Jst for this review of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 2nd A’s (魔法少女リリカルなのは The MOVIE 2nd A’s)! /applause/ 

I have to begin here by publicly thanking Erica not for this opportunity, but rather for introducing me (and I must assume so many others) to stories like Nanoha’s. Until I read about Nanoha on Okazu, I had no idea such a series existed and in fairly short order it became one of my favorites. If that were the only occasion that this blog has steered me so well it would be worthy of thanks but given just how many of my favorites I’ve been introduced to directly thanks to Erica and Okazu, I cannot even fathom how to properly express my thanks. So I will simply continue to thank her in every opportunity I see. Thank you, Erica.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha movie the 2nd A’s as the title indicates is a sequel to 2010’s similarly titled Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The MOVIE 1st. Despite the odd phrasing these titles are actually quite informative. As is specified this is the second movie and it covers the “A’s” storyline of the second season of the MGLN TV series.

As with the original version, the movie picks up with Nanoha Takamachi looking forward to the return of the friends she’d made on her first magical adventure – only to find herself conveniently caught up in a new one shortly after we rejoin her. This time Nanoha and the girl with the beautiful, sad eyes from the first movie, Fate Testarossa, join forces to solve the mystery of a series of attacks which leave their victims drained of almost all of their magic.

As you might imagine, as a remake of a sequel, this story isn’t exactly an ideal place to jump in to the MGLN series. A fan that had seen the first series but not the first movie would likely be able to pick up right at the 2nd without too much trouble. However, since the movie and series continuity are considered to be completely separate with different permutations, for both the brevity and effect of cinematic experience.

Overall, the decisions which differentiate the A’s movie from the A’s series are smart and well executed. The fact that some of my favorite scenes from the series are removed outright should have been much more noticeable but the cuts and streamlining are smart enough to capture the essence of the original story without dragging out the story. Which is something I wouldn’t necessarily have accused the 13 episode series of doing without having seen it done such justice within the space of a movie.

The A’s storyline is as much about the antagonists as Nanoha and her friends from the first movie. The old axiom that the best villain is the hero of his or her own story is played out so well that we may find ourselves not only sympathizing with their plight but, also perhaps, hoping that something would be done to snap these “villains” out of their single-minded pursuit and that reason might be able to find another way. Fortunately the antagonists have Nanoha Takamachi as a foil, whose fan-perpetuated philosophy is “Befriending by maximum firepower”. The clashes continue even after we, the audience, know just what is at stake and those stakes continue to rise until a suitably explosive climax.

The movie disc contains one alternate audio commentary voiced in character by Subaru Nakajima and Teana Lanster, as was the case with the first movie, although neither characters has been introduced in either the series or film continuity by the end of A’s. This track does not contain any subtitles. The feature’s English subtitles remain quite serviceable. The names remain a bit all over the place with standard spelling for some but a few very noticeable departures. Particularly glaring was what was done to poor Amy’s name, similarly the TSAB remains DAB in these subs and Arf has gone from Alf to Alph in the course of two movies. However the video and audio quality are as excellent as should be expected of an animated movie Blu-ray.

While a Japanese import is a significant investment due to different media costs in Japan, the fact that both Nanoha series seem to be out of print it appears likely that an import will be the only chance to own either of the two existing movies any time soon in NA. Fortunately with the inclusion of competent English subtitles and an excellent BD product overall we do at least have the option.

(Please note that English subtitles are on the feature only so the various special editions with extra discs and booklets would be of limited value to non-Japanese speakers.)

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 8
Yuri – 5

Extras Yuri – 10 As Okazu reader B pointed out one of the extras has Fate’s Voice Actress (and huge Nano/Fate fan) Nana Mizuki in a character swapping game going off-script as Nanoha by asking Fate to marry her.

Service – 8 Transformation scenes are limited but just as disappointing as the first movie, and likely a reason for the film’s financial success in Japan. *Sigh*.

Overall – 8

Thank you again, Jst, for your comments over the years and for this great review! My copy of Blu-Ray arrived yesterday morning and you can bet I’m dying to watching it now! ^_^

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The Concept of Family in the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha-verse

March 11th, 2012

At the beginning of Volume 4 of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha Vivid and the end of Mahou Senki Lyrical Nanoha Force, it’s hard to avoid the obvious – group shots of all the characters smiling happily, not in portrait fashion, but as if we, the readers, are allowed to see them in a candid, relaxed moment. And it’s hard to miss the subtext here – these people, people who were our enemy for reasons that were beyond their control – are now our friends, our family.

It’s not uncommon to see this absorption of enemy to friend, especially in shounen series where it has long been known as the Dragonball Phenomenon. Enemies that have been beaten by the hero become allies – it’s easy enough to recognize this pattern in One Piece, Yu Yu Hakusho and other Shounen Jump titles – it’s not too hard to see it in Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura, as well.  Because the hero/ine’s motives are pure, when the enemy is released from their bondage, of course they will become an ally.

But, as I read these two manga serially, I couldn’t help but notice that the Nanoha-verse takes this another step. These former enemies don’t just become friends – they become family. In fact, the concept of an alternative family structure is embedded deeply in Nanoha, far more deeply than just about any manga/anime mythos than I can think of.

It seems a bit ironic to start from the beginning and remember that in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Nanoha and her best friends on Earth all have traditional families, with two parents, siblings, pets. In the first series, Nanoha frees Fate from her ties to her manipulative and insane mother. This act of beating the hell out of the bad guys is affectionately known to fans of the series as “Befriending.” ^_^ At the end of that series, it’s pretty obvious that Fate and Nanoha consider themselves closely bound by friendship  – and many of us see their relationship as more. This is borne out in the second series, Nanoha As, where they now live together. Fate, freed now to create her life on her own, is adopted by a powerful and high-ranking member of the Time-Space Administration Bureau (TSAB). This gives her both status and protection when she is released from jail. More importantly, it gives her a family to turn to, something she has never had before. With Nanoha as her partner, Fate is now ready to live a fulfilling life with purpose, family and community.

In a parallel alternative family, Hayate is surrounded by loving, yet wholly unreal, avatars. Signum, Shahal and Vita make a great family for Hayate, but the four are also enthralled to an evil entity. Together Fate and Nanoha “Befriend” Hayate and her alternative family, freeing them from evil influence – allowing Hayate’s Knights to manifest fully as real humans and bringing them all into Fate and Nanoha’s “family.”

In StrikerS, we skip forward a few years. Fate and Nanoha are clearly partners both in life and work. Additionally, Fate has adopted two wards of her own – Caro and Erio, both of whom have experienced ostracization much like her own past. The kindness shown to her by Admiral Harlaown is now passed on and doubled. Added to this extended family are trainees Subaru and Teana, each of whom is taken under the wing on of one of the main characters. Proteges are naturally, “family” – the Japanese characters for “deshi” (pupil, protege) are 弟子, “younger brother” and “child.” Proteges are all but adopted children (and even today in Japan, some are actually adopted into the family.)

Complicating matters in StrikerS, it turns out that there are a host of enemies enslaved to an evil mind. When it becomes known that these enemies – the Numbers, as they are referred to by fans – are related to Subaru by genetic material, there is no question that they will be, as far as possible, “Befriended.” And so they are, as several of the Numbers are integrated into the Takamachi/Testarossa-Harlaown family. More critically, Nanoha adopts Vivio, and so now has a child of her own. She and Fate raise Vivio as their daughter, presenting the image of a happy nuclear family to the world.

This brings us to Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vivid, and its expanded cast. The Numbers now live with Subaru and her sister Ginga or have become part of the Church, as the now suddenly huge Nakajima family. Nove, particularly, functions as Vivio’s big sister/mentor, training her in martial skills and the use of her Device. When Nanoha and Fate decide to send out invitations to a offsite training session, it becomes instantly apparent exactly how *large* this family has become. Hayate and her Knights, Caro, Erio, Letitia and her “mother” all join Fate, Nanoha, the remaining Numbers, Subaru, Teana, Alf and Zafira, Vivio, her friends Rio and Corona and…and here’s where it all sort of settles into place and you get that “ahah” moment – a character that *Vivio* “Befriended”, yet another reborn ancient king, like Vivio herself – Einhart Stratos. Along with family/friends from the TSAB.

But wait, we’re not done, because while Vivio strives to increase her combat and magical skills in Vivid, Fate and Nanoha are facing down a new enemy in Force. While the crew of the Huckbein are the “bad guys,” the tools they are using are a young man named Toma, the girl he rescues, Lily, and a traveling companion they meet, Isis. The three of them are drawn into a battle that they did not desire, for power they do not want. Once again, as the story draws to a close, we see Fate and Nanoha, Subaru and Teana, the TSAB members closest to them (including Hayate’s Knights) gathered around Toma, Lily and Isis. Clearly, they too have been drawn into this family circle.

In conclusion, more than any other story I have ever encountered, the Nanoha-verse is the story of creating one’s family for one’s self. This is a theme that strongly resonates with LGBTQ folks, as so many feel alienated from the communties they are born into. Like Caro and Erio, those communities simply may have no place for them, or are frightened of them. Like Subaru, the Numbers, Vivio and Einhart, they may feel as if they simply never belong, not because of what they have done, but simply because of who they are. The idea of gathering one’s family as one moves through life is something that is far less uncommon now than it was in the past, and to many of us who have existence on the fringes of society, it’s a dream that holds a lot of power.

In Vivid, Fate and Nanoha are presented, not as powerful mages, but as Vivio’s mothers. As children, we tend to not see our parents as individuals with their own lives, but as extensions of our lives. In Vivid, we see Fate and Nanoha less in their uniforms and barrier jackets and more in aprons, as they cook and clean for the family. In this way, Fate and Nanoha are not portrayed as lovers, but as loving, supportive parents to their daughter. It’s a take that adds a level of complexity and stability to their relationship. Again – it’s the idea of family that is pre-eminent.

The girl with a typical family and the girl with none. They gather around them friends, family, enemies and allies to make what is arguably the largest family unit in all of manga and anime.

Note: If anyone has a link to a picture of the entire family unit, please let me know. I’d love to add one here.

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Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 1st Blu-Ray (English) Guest Review by Richard B.

December 8th, 2010

 Today is Wednesday and you know what that means – a special guest review treat! Richard B. has been a commenter here several times and, as I will not get to see this BD until the new year, I thought I’d let him give us his two Canadian cents before I have a go at it. Take it away, Miwa!

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha the Movie 1st is a retelling of the events of the first Nanoha TV series. While this may not seem like a good thing, it does pay to remember that back in 2004 the first Nanoha TV season was a scattered mess. As a spinoff from the Triangle Hearts adult game series the first few episodes were nothing more than a bad Card Captor Sakura clone. With a few unsavoury elements left over from its source material.

It wasn’t until later on in the series when Fate was introduced, that the things became interesting. She was a dark, mysterious magical girl with a troubled past, fighting our main character. So the first thing fandom did was pair them together as a couple. Add in the fact the battles in the final few episodes were done in more of a shounen giant robot style (complete with giant beam attacks) and the series took a complete 180-degree turn.

With all that and seeing how the later series were more popular and sold better in Japan, you could see why the makers wanted to redo the original material. And, for the most part, Nanoha the Movie is a superior retelling of the 1st chapter in the Nanoha universe.

The movie creators know what the fans in the series want – action and Nanoha/Fate. Luckily we get both fairly quickly into the movie. Fate is introduced much sooner in this version, and set up as the central conflict of the movie (with the Jewel seeds relegated to being a plot McGuffin). The movie handles the two becoming friends through fighting better than the TV series, both with better action scenes and better introspection. The pacing is tighter than original season, which dragged on at the beginning until pace picked up in the last 4 episodes.

The action is more like the later episode of the series, and here is where the movie shows off its big animation budget. The final battle between Fate and Nanoha in particular is well done and I had a big smile on my face while watching it.

There are some new original scenes, including some nice bits showing Fate’s past and training. But the character most benefiting from the new material is Precia, whose motivations are  given more detail as is the accident she had her in past. It fleshes her out greatly and makes for a much better character over all.

Most of the more unsavoury stuff from the original is gone, too. Except for the transformation scenes which were pretty ick. Thankfully, they only appear once for each of the leads.

The Blu-Ray version of the movie comes with an English subtitle track that is fairly well done. Except for a few nits (Arf is called Alf and the TSAB is called the DAB) it’s well written and easy to understand. The subtitle font is middle of the road, readable but I would have rather had either a bigger black outline or a non-white font color. The picture and sound quality is amazing though, as colors stand out and the animation quality never dips for the battle scenes, showing what BluRay can do for animation.

Nanoha the Movie fixes a lot of the problems I had with the first season, keeps the elements I liked and adds even more of what I wanted. It reminded me why Nanoha/Fate became the first Yuri couple I really liked. I hope we see the same budget and care given to StrikerS when it gets a movie. Highly recommended to Nanoha fans.

Art – 8
Story – 7 (Better than the TV but still the weaker of the 3 series)
Characters – 8
Yuri – 7 (Alot more than the first TV series)
Service – 8 –

Overall – 8

I’m told that the 2nd movie has been greenlit (presumably because this movie is doing well in DVD/BD sales, so good!) Next up is As, where we’ll be treated to the reimagined Knights and Hayate. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it’s as good a reboot as this appears to be!

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Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Force and Vivid Manga

May 2nd, 2010

Despite the failure of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha to be profitable here in the west, in Japan it’s a thriving franchise. With the first full-length feature film Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The First out this past winter and not one but two new manga series, Nanoha is starting to show some serious staying power as a franchise. And it’s generating some of the seriously hottest figurines I’ve ever seen. If you recall, I had a crisis of conscience over a Signum figurine at Hobby Japan in Akihabara last month.

In both manga series Fate and Nanoha have reached the venerable old age of 25 and have, therefore, moved completely out of the fandom’s interest. And right into mine. The fact that this *still* makes me a creepy old lady is not lost on me. ^_^

In Magical War Chronicle Lyrical Nanoha Force, Kidou Rouka has been disbanded and Fate, Nanoha and Hayate have moved on with their careers. As we saw in the epilogue to StrikerS, all of Hayate’s Knights still serve in the niches they have carved within Michilda’s forces, and Teana, Subaru, Erio and Caro have also moved up in their chosen fields. Everyone is a productive member of adult society. So, clearly, it’s time to introduce new characters. Therefore we meet Thomas, an independent soul on walkabout for his own reasons, the naked magical girl he rescues, Lili, and seamstress and comedic relief, Isis. The three are each searching for something and are already misunderstood by a trail of people. Alongside of their story, all the major players from StrikerS have been reintroduced in their new capacities. We can anticipate that they will all encounter one another as the story progresses.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vivid follows Vivio, Fate and Nanoha’s adopted daughter, in her quest to become a powerful mage like her mothers. We are reacquainted with several of the Number clones from StrikerS (the ones that went “good” on us), as well as the rest of the cast in a series of unlikely cameos. Vivio has become rather good friends with Nove, Wendy, Duici and the others, and has a few school friends to drag along. The complicating factor (i.e., new character) in her story is an unwilling clone of the ancient Emperor Ingvald, a girl with the awkward name of Einhart Stratos. It doesn’t make any sense to me either – just go with it. Einhart’s existence gives Vivio a chance to transform into her more grown-up fightin’ form as often as possible. There’s no real “conflict” here yet, but there will be. And, no doubt, there’ll be a chance to watch Vivio take after Nanoha-mama and “befriend” more than just Einhart.

In Force, Fate and Nanoha are presented at top of their form. Experienced veterans, leaders, commanders. We have yet to see them having an quality time together, but to be fair the series has a lot of stuff going on and there really isn’t room for it.

In Vivid, we see Fate and Nanoha as devoted partners and mothers to Vivio, but again, the story doesn’t quite have room for Fate and Nanoha to have time together. So, in both cases, the Yuri is there only insofar as you feel like making it up in your head.

Sadly this is not true for other fetishes. But aside from the apparently unavoidable (and in Japan, at least, profitable) fetishes favored by Nanoha fandom, both manga have good stories and are festooned with good characters.

Force Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri – 0
Service – 6

Overall – 7

Vivid Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – 8
Characters – 8
Yuri – 0
Service – 7

Overall – 7

Like Ikkitousen, I know what I’m getting into with Nanoha, so I am not complaining, just a little wistful for what might have been if the stories were written more for me. ^_^

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