Nov 08

Anime Review – Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha the Movie 1st

Since we didn’t get to see this at Anicom here’s my thoughts on it. This anime movie is a retelling of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, a thirteen episode Anime series started in 2004. It centres on Nanoha Takamachi as she is drawn into interdimensional emergency and must help stop her home town from being destroyed. What makes this a different sort of Magical Girl series is that it is written for 10 year old boys rather than girls. It has more of an action adventure feel with a bigger scope on the devastating fight scenes between magic users. The franchise had three series, various Manga’s, video games, novels, radio dramas, and two movies.

The main plot of the series is that twenty-one dangerous artefacts known as “Jewel Seeds” have been scattered on Earth by accident. They possess things and animals, turning them into monsters that attack randomly. Yuno, a young mage who discovered the Seeds, feels responsible and comes to Earth to seal them before they can hurt anyone. However he’s not that powerful and his efforts to seal a single Seed gets him turned into a ferret in order to recover. He is found by nine-year old Nanoha and she agrees to help him seal all of the Seeds before they all activate and reek havoc on her hometown.

That may sound like a standard Magical Girl Anime plot but where it differs is in its setting and its complex characterisation. Their take on magic is also quite interesting and different in that it’s technology rather than magic. As Arthur C. Clarke third law states, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” with the main characters magic staffs, known as Devices, requiring admin rights and passwords to activate. The way they’re put together and move resemble technology more than anything mystical. Part way through we’re introduced to the interdimensional police called the “Time-Space Administration Bureau” and their spaceships. While words like “magic” and “spells” are thrown around its quite clear it’s all advanced technology.

The plot is not the standard Magical Girl “find the magic item” but the Jewel Seeds are used as the back drop to the main conflict. Which is centring on Fate, a mage who’s Nanoha’s age, and is also after the Seeds for her mother and she is a lot more aggressive in this than Nanoha. In the beginning Fate is mainly a silent aggressive rival, singularly focused on finding the Seeds, while being sorry the actions she has to take. When we do find out more about her it’s a punch to the gut and what distinguished it from others in the genre for me. The reason for Fate and her mother’s actions are filled with tragedy and make for some rather compelling villains.

Where the movie differs from the series is that unlike other Anime movies that compile a season together, like Gurren Lagann, where they just take episodes and edit them together with minimal new animation, Nanoha is fully reanimated. All of it is new animation with new character designs that fix some of the rather annoying design quirks of the show. The show was very good when it got going, but it dragged at the beginning as the creators were finding their feet and figuring things out. The movie cuts out a lot of the fat, as it were, and takes the central conflict, the one between Nanoha and Fate, and removes the padding that was around that in the series.

Nanoha’s story is that of a young girl trying to figure out her future and what she wants to do with her life. Which is to protect people by shooting giant lasers at them. Fate’s is that of self discovery, finding out who she is and the truth behind her family. While Nanoha is reluctant to fight Fate at first she quickly decides the best way to stop her and become friends is to fight. By shooting her in the face with “magical” beams powerful enough to level a city!

The actions scenes are incredible. Wonderfully directed and storyboarded, with excellent thought put into every detail. We really feel the destructive power these girls wield as they fight in a ruined city, destroying buildings trying to hit each other with giant energy blasts. In fights tactics and skill is emphasised more than explosions and attacking for massive damage. You can see the director has planned out these scenes to be as effective as possible, especially with how Nanoha is a long distance shooter and Fate is a mêlée fighter.

On the negative side there are some pacing problems with the third act which comes with the expanded backstory for Fate. While it was nice to get to see that backstory instead of being told it like in the show, it did grind the main plot to a halt to show us it. While the animation is great, sometimes they use cgi backgrounds for some of the running or flying sequences. They’re not used that much, but when they are it’s a bit jarring. There’s also the rather awkward transformation sequences of both girls, who are nine years old. Thankfully there’s only one for each of them throughout the entire movie and the rest of the time they do it off screen or their clothes change in flashes of light. Nanoha does however get a rather epic orbital drop transformation

Overall the movie is great and recommended if you’re a fan of the Magical Girl genre. Even if you’re not I’d give it a look because of how different it is from most of the genre. While it is based on a TV series I would recommend watching the movie instead of the first TV series due to how much it fixes the problems of the show without detracting from everything that was good about the show. The movie is only available in sub with no dub at this time and a second movie based on the second TV series will be available at some point soon. So if you’re so inclined check out Sufficiently Advanced Technology Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha the Movie 1st.