For a long time I avoided the mahou shoujo genre of anime like the plague, until a friend recommended the series Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha. After that, my perception of "magical girls" changed completely, and for the first time I realised the potential of the genre. Nanoha was like no other anime of its type, combining shounen action with a rather dark storyline, all packaged in a "cute" anime (complete with small fluffy sidekick).
It's unfortunate then, that the stereotypical mahou shoujo anime still reigns supreme.
The rather strangely titled Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha The MOVIE 1st (simply calling it Nanoha: The Movie would have sufficed as
there's only one Nanoha in anime as far as I'm aware - feel free to correct me on this point though), is, as many anime fans may already know, about 9 year old Takamichi Nanoha, who answers a ferret's cry for help, obtains an intelligent device named Raising Heart (or Raging Heart, I'm still not sure which is correct), and becomes a magical girl tasked with finding "Jewel Seeds".
Cue the twinkly effects and soppy romance? Hell no! This is Nanoha, and she'd kick Sailor Moon's arse from here to the next dimension.
As far as the story goes, the movie is nothing more than a condensed retelling of the first series. Now some have tried to claim that the movie is a parallel history rather than a straightforward rehash (I'm looking at you Tsuzuki Masaki), however the differences between the two are very small indeed. While the movie takes liberties in an effort to condense information, the content is still pretty much the same (the major points anyway), so it puzzles me how anyone could consider this an alternative take on the original series.
Which brings me to a major problem I had with the movie. The plot flows rather nicely throughout the film, and the story has been compacted to a pretty good degree, however sacrifices have been made in order to accomodate the shortening of a 13 episode series into just over 2 hours. The biggest problem with the movie is that it has lost much of the charm the original series had, something which affects the characters in a big way. Granted there's more focus on the action, but one of the reasons why the whole Nanoha franchise works is because we see her grow from being a young, naive girl into the Ace of Aces, and much of that growth is missing from the movie.
Here's what I mean. Part of what I liked about the original Nanoha series was seeing how she came to terms with her new role and how it affected her relationship with her family and friends. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't have the time to go into this kind of detail so much of this is missing, and the upshot of this is that many of Nanoha's later actions, her fights with Fate and such, don't really have the same level of justification that they did in the series. The movie is nothing more than action for the sake of action, and the whole "alternate history" concept is only really noticable in a few small scenes..
But it's still enjoyable nonetheless :)
As for the effect of the shortened plot on the other characters, while the original series made some effort to round out certain individuals, the movie does nothing of the sort. Granted this is because of time constraints, however one can't help but wonder how fans of the series will take this distinct lack of characterisation and development, although in fairness to the movie, the viewer does get a good idea of Fate's motivations.
One thing that I did like is the fact that the cast from the original series and it's sequels have reprised their roles here, and their familiarity with the characters is telling as the performances are very good throughout. The only real downside to the acting is that there aren't too many opportunities for the seiyuu to display their talents because of the nature of the movie (i.e. it's far more action oriented), which limits their performances to a degree. As for the sound, the effects are exceptional throughout, especially during the combat sequences, while the music is very good not only in the scope of tracks, but also in their choregraphy.
In terms of looks, the movie is very clearly a reflection of the first series, and the characters and settings will be very familiar to those who have watched the original. The only real differences between the movie and the series are that the animation is, on the whole, better in the new version, and the action sequences are much more exciting now than they were before. Granted there are some minor visual alterations between the two, however these are nothing more than cosmetic changes to facilitate the belief that this is an "alternate history".
Now, did I enjoy the movie? Damn right I did. While I may not be a diehard fan of the franchise, Nanoha really did change my opinion of mahou shoujo, and while I may seem critical of the flaws in the film, that doesn't mean I didn't like it. The movie is very much an action based affair, and while this is an enjoyable romp in the realm of Nanoha, in all honesty I would much prefer to watch the original series. While the movie is a great way to while away a couple of hours, there is a distinct lack of character interaction that was part of the charm of the original series.
I doubt whether fans of the Nanoha franchise will find this a bad film as it enompasses a good deal of the plot from the original series. That said, while I enjoyed the movie a lot, there really is no competition as I much prefer the series. This isn't a bad film, not at all. It simply lacks some of the things that I liked about the original, and the fact that this is being pushed as an "alternate history" doesn't help matters.
In truth, while Nanoha: The Movie (see how much easier that is?), may be good, it's not the re-envisioning I expected or hoped for. The film could have been so much more if writer Tsuzuki Masaki, and director Kusakawa Keizou, had decided to follow one route only - either a complete alternate history, or a condensed retelling of the original series.
That said, this is a good action movie that suitably pays homage to the original, and while it can't really compare to the series in terms of depth, it will serve as a great introduction for new viewers who, like me, simply haven't realised just how good a mahou shoujo anime can be if done right.
Having just came back from watching Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha The MOVIE 1st at a movie theater and feeling very inspired, I felt like writing a review for it.
First off, as any Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha fan can tell by the title alone, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha The MOVIE 1st is basically a recap of the first season. Things like reused elements to keep the whole feel of the series coherent, summarized version of the story to stay on track with the original, and on occasions seemingly reused portions from the original series... all of these are to be expected I guess. I'm pretty sure
the creator(s) were aware of this, so in order to make such a recap interesting, they would have to make slight alternations and focuses to the storyline, put emphasis on the highlights or important parts from the original, subtract what is not extremely beneficial to give the intended feel or express the intended message, and add some stuff unavailable in the original series. Of course, I think keeping on track with the original is very important, yet it's easy to make it feel repetitive. So, the challenge for the creator(s) was how to make the movie feel different while still remaining loyal to the original. That said, I think the creator(s) did a pretty good job with most of it.
STORY - 9/10
A smooth flow from beginning to end, even though it was a combination of seemingly reused scenes accompanied with new stuff. The basic structure of the beginning and ending is pretty much the same as the original series, with Nanoha encountering Yuuno and becoming a Mahou Shoujo in the process, eventually leading to the emotional and inspiring scene at the end with Fate. However, the middle portion of the story was altered somewhat. In the original series, you get to see more of Nanoha and her life, while in the movie you get more emphasis on explaining Fate and Precia's situation which leads to a deeper understanding of the overall story if you have watched the original series before. I felt that the different perspective was definitely a nice touch, because in the original series it was easy to "get the logic" but not necessarily the "understanding", whereas in the movie it was easier to "understand" because you just get to know a lot more about Precia and Fate's past, with a few touch-ups like how Fate became the skilled Mahou Shoujo that she is and how Precia became the woman that she is because of loving her daughter so much.
Along with more of Fate's side of the story, there were also a lot more (or in a sense, an abundance of) showdowns between Nanoha and Fate. This was one thing that I didn't mind but was also questioning. With intense battles, I think it's also a good thing to have some "quiet times", such that the audience can refresh instead of possibly starting to falter from being overloaded by the intensiveness thus possibly degrading the quality of a few of the battles. Thus I wondered if any of the battles can be taken out, and my conclusion was that ever single battle felt necessary. Through each battle, Nanoha gets her message to Fate little by little. You can't just have Nanoha finally realizing Fate's situation in a mere 2~3 battles. I think the amount of battles put into the movie was probably the ideal solution, but I suppose the fact that everything felt a little too compacted is inevitable in a movie that tries to compress a 13 episode series into a mere 2 hours, especially if more new scenes are added to it. The creator(s) did a very good job in my opinion, but the challenge was probably just too difficult to overcome completely.
ART - 10/10
I don't think there was anything to complain about the art. My view of the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha series is that it's a cute series in general, and I think the character design, background, color choice, etc... all reflected that very well. It remained pretty much the same as the original series anyways. The magic battles were also magnificent, being very flashy and elegant, as well as powerful both visually and in the impressionistic sense; The shaking of the screen, details of the spinning magic circles, detailed animation of the weapon assembling and form changes, they were all well done, perhaps a slight level up compared to the original series. If you pay enough attention, you will also notice that both Raging Heart and Bardiche was slightly redesigned to make them both look a little more epic but still look very much like Raging Heart and Bardiche. There were redesigns with Nanoha's and Fate's battle costumes as well, though it might not be so obvious to notice for Fate if you've never studied her costume design (not like the difference of Nanoha's costume is that easy to spot either). Again, nothing to complain about, and the extra touches didn't feel out of place.
SOUND - 10/10
I never disliked any of the Theme Songs or OSTs used in any of the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha series, so there was nothing to complain about this either. I'm sure some people might want to hear at least a few new soundtracks (unfortunately I couldn't tell if there were because there were some retarded anime fans that liked to yell or make idiotic comments while I was watching the movie), but I think more so than that, it's important to make sure every piece fills the puzzle nicely. I would of course actually be glad to hear some new soundtracks as well, but in a sense I'm just plentifully happy with refreshing my memory of the series with the usual soundtracks. The only specific flaw for me was when Arf marched towards Precia with a rage. The sound effect made it appear as though Arf was wearing iron boots. o_0 But, it was so minor I just decided to overlook it.
CHARACTER - 9/10
There's nothing new on Nanoha's side, but as said before there's a lot more emphasis, therefore character development, on Fate's side of the story. In a sense I was happy about this, yet in a sense I was somewhat disappointed. Nanoha is obviously the main character, so logically speaking it would be best to give her the most depth in the story. However, like said before it's probably a better idea to change the focus of the movie to make it not look just like a total recap of the original series. I suppose for people who have watched the original series before, the shift in emphasis would be beneficial. On the flip side, for people watching the movie for the first time, they might feel Nanoha a bit lacking in quality when compared to Fate, asides from Nanoha living up to her reputation of a "Magical Cannon Girl" as named by fans of the series. Nonetheless, I think character development on Fate's side was well done. You get a few more flashbacks of her or Precia's memories as new pieces of information to enhance the story. Characters were introduced as necessary, everyone felt like a necessarily component of the story, and every character was likable in their own way(s). At least, I found every character to be interesting. Even if they're are just minor characters, you can still get a general sense of their personality and their importance to glue the story together.
OVERALL - 9/10
I was more focused on the creator(s) decisions or evident differences of the movie when compared to the original series since I didn't expect much in terms of a different story, so that's probably why I'm giving Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha The MOVIE 1st such a high score. Basically, I enjoyed noticing and studying the differences, which in return I was amused by the amount of decision making put forth to making this movie. I guess another reason I gave a high score is because I'm a big fan of the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha series. I felt that the original series was already pretty good, and the creator brought forth something different (it's different enough to me anyways) that was also enjoyable, so I didn't hesitate to stick a positive impression in my mind. Despite being so short, I still think the movie still manages to capture the whole feel of the original series well. Another thing is that I loved was the scene near the end where Nanoha and Fate conversed before the farewell. Nanoha said what I consider as perhaps one of the greatest quotes of all time, and Fate's reaction to it just makes me almost burst into tears while feeling so happy for her. That highlight was in the original series, and I was very happy that it was in the movie as well. Neither the movie nor the original series would've been as great without that scene.
Unfortunately, in the end I suppose I still suffer from knowing the general story beforehand. Even if has been over 2 years since I watched the first season of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, a few reminders from the movie allowed me to remember the general story very quickly. The upside of that was that I get to remember how much I liked the series to begin with. The downside of that was that if I wanted to enjoy the movie as I did, I couldn't just sit there and watch it like it was something I've never watched before. I was too aware of many things from the original series that I had to kinda tweak my mindset a bit in order to absorb everything fully. Either way, I still think Nanoha fans would be able to enjoy the movie. For people new to the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha universe, the movie would probably be a great introduction to the series, except I'm somewhat under the impression that if you do watch the movie first, the first season might not appear as good. It's your call though. I would recommend watching the original series first, then jump to the movie as if it's a super long OVA that covers more details of the overall story. If you do watch the movie first though, you can still try the original series right after, or jump straight to the A's season without a problem. And of course, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha The MOVIE 1st also works as a single story on its own.
"Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha: The Movie 1st" is, as stated in the synposis, a re-telling of all the major events that took place in the series, "Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha." While this movie does indeed cover all you really need to know about the overall story and plot, it's highly recommended that you've at least seen season one of Lyrical Nanoha before viewing this movie - mostly since the series touches on a larger variety of characters and gets you more familiar with the entire cast.
For the movie itself, I won't be reviewing it as a comparison to the series but as a standalone,
mostly because it is possible to watch this movie without having any other knowledge of Lyrical Nanoha.
The story in the movie is pretty blunt and right to the point; basically, our main herione Nanoha gets involved with a young boy from another planet named Yuuno, and his quest to collect the scattered Jewel Seeds that have fallen to Earth. At the same time, another young girl named Fate is also after these Jewel Seeds. The two girls' conflicts, and own inner conflicts as well, are the major driving points of the story.
The movie isn't something that's very hard to follow or understand, however it does go a bit deeper then what you'd expect from a magical series. It's a pretty well written story that mostly focuses on the relationship between Fate and Nanoha. The story flows pretty nicely since it's mostly focused on the rivalry along with growing friendship between the two of them. Speaking of rivalry, you should know that there are quite a few fight scenes in this as well. The movie focuses a lot more on these scenes then one might expect, especially if you're already familiar with the show where these didn't occur as often. While the story could've focused a bit more on some other characters or even had the fights occur less frequently, you have to remember it's condensing 13 episodes worth of material into a 2 hour long movie. The movie basically covers all the events and relations between characters that you need to know.
The story itself is, like I said, more in depth then you'd normally expect. While the movie doesn't totally screw you over and ride along on the dark side like Madoka Magica, it does have it's fair share of moments that may leave you in shock, and also in awe. Everything flows smoothly together and these more or less shocking moments flow with it as well. Events in the movie are paced a bit faster then I'd like, but again - it's condensed material. Standing alone, the story is an easy to follow one that's driven mostly by its characters and their own actions.
As for the characters themselves, the movie mainly focuses on the two rivaling girls - Nanoha and Fate. Nanoha is a motivated, friendly, and overall likeable character and a very good fit for a magical girl movie lead. Fate, on the other hand, is a cold and distant girl who fights with loneliness in her eyes and determination in her heart. The two girls do indeed clash because of their own motives for the Jewel Seeds, but throughout the movie we get to see the relationship between Nanoha and Fate grow as Nanoha continues to work harder to get along with Fate and eventually become her friend.
While the characters aren't the most original, the way that they're presented and used in this movie is done so well that you almost forget that Nanoha is the nice-girl archetype while Fate is the emotionless girl one. It can easily bring a smile to your face to watch as Nanoha does her best to reach out and help Fate, and it's nearly heartbreaking to watch exactly what Fate has to go through and how hard she's trying to do what she thinks is best, even if it means being alone. The movie doesn't try too hard to flesh out the characters or anything like that either. The bonds and connections between the two girls is really just something you want to sit back and appreciate.
The only downfall with the characters is that no one else is really focused on or given much screentime other then Nanoha, Fate, and anyone else involved with the Jewel Seeds. Again though - condensed material. It's much rather preferred that this movie focuses on the major conflicts and relations between the main characters then the side ones.
As for the animation, considering it was made in 2010 and it is a movie it's only natural that you'd expect the most out of the animation, and that's what you get. The battle scenes are extremely fluid and really engaging to watch, along with the transformation scenes. (despite the fact that these were pretty infrequent.) Something that people may have an issue with is the really big eyes that are used on, well pretty much everyone, but it's something that can be easily overlooked when you consider the well-done (and improved) character designs and fight scenes that take place in this movie.
The soundtrack isn't something that I can say is the most memorable. While it is indeed there, most of the tracks aren't something that you're going to remember or really want to look up later on after the movie's over. Most of it consists of pretty average battle music and just some nice pieces to fit the mood. The seiyuu's all do a great job and fit their roles very well, but again it's nothing all too fabulous. One thing I will give you as a treat to the viewers though is, "Namae wo Yonde." Look up that OST. I can honestly say that it is the most emotional track in the soundtrack. You'll thank me later.
I have to admit, I really did enjoy watching this movie. It was nice to see the story more focused on the plot and two main characters as opposed to the series, which took a little while to really set the story forward. The only thing that brings down my enjoyment is the fact that I had already seen the series and knew what was going to happen, but thankfully this movie doesn't use the copy and paste formula when it comes to animation and gives you pretty much the same storyline, but with newer scenes (for lack of the better word) and better artwork as well.
Overall, if you're a fan of the Lyrical Nanoha series and you've yet to see this movie, I'd highly recommend you pick it up since I highly doubt there will be much to disappoint you. You can still watch this movie without seeing the series, but I wouldn't really say that's the best way to approach the Lyrical Nanoha franchise. If you do plan to watch this first and you enjoy it, at least go back and watch the original series as well. Both truly show how great a mahou shoujo can be when it's done right. & I can undoubtedly say that Lyrical Nanoha did just about as much right as one could expect.
"Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha" is one of the more true to form Magical Girl works that I've personally seen (the only other one being Madoka Magica), and personally I wasn't all that impressed. That being said Nanoha still manages to deliver on some level despite its quirks.
Execution wise the story could of panned out slightly better. Bogged down with pacing issues, and a few mechanical problems with the plot. These mechanical issues pertain to mainly: Nanoha herself (more on that later), some lack luster dialogue, and the powers of the girls. The overall tale lost impact due to some less than stellar writing,
which is a shame considering what the story was trying to convey is touching. Thematically speaking (as simplistic as it was) Nanoha was still solid,but didn't effectively present its core themes. Moving onto the powers, or the magic. With something like this I don't really need to know the inner workings of everything, but a little would of been nice. This becomes an issue in the latter half of the show when the physical limitations of the characters are brought into question. With no guide lines or basic systems to how these powers work all tension is diffused. I never once felt like any of the characters were in danger, which is a problem since it devalues the overall struggle. "Struggle" being the key word, because it never felt like one. This is not considering inner struggles of some of the cast, which was quite real. I'm only commenting on the outer more physical challenges. With all of this said Nanoha still had some sparks of actual quality, and delivers on a fundamental level. Sadly nothing more. If you are generally a fan of the this genre then you will feel right at home with Nanoha's setup, and progression.
Nanoha's art falls short of ever being anything more than alright. Animation wise although nothing really spectacular was still fair, and did a decent job. The character designs were also decent, but left much to be desired for in appearance. Also the CG in almost every instance was jarring, and really took me out of the experience. Now on a more personal note I found the overall style of the show to be to clean, and incredibly bland. This is of course personal preference, but worth mentioning. Although I found it bland it still wasn't bad just not my cup of tea.
I was initially going to give this a 6. Although the OST never really shined me on it fit into the background, and never really pulled me out of the show. But this is one of the first instances I've encountered where voice acting was actually an issue. Nanoha's weapon speaks, and dear God is it bad. Maybe it's the Engrish, the robotic nature of her voice, or she is just a bad voice actress. Either way it was so bad that I actually was praying for her not to talk. That aside there just wasn't really anything special about it, and the only really bad part would be that voice.
Here is one of the better parts of the film, but also one of the weakest. The strengths in this don't come from our main "character". I use character loosely because Nanoha isn't one, which being the title character this is kind of a problem. So much so that she almost becomes a side character in the end. This is the weakest part of the entire show, and the most hurtful. Luckily besides her, and her non existent friends (who also play almost no part) we have a group of likable side characters. They aren't really all that deep, but at the very least entertaining. Now time for why this is one of the better parts of the film. The dynamic between Fate, and her mother. I found Fate's struggle/journey not only more interesting then Nanoha's, but I think the film did as well considering that it pretty much becomes her show in the latter half. Also Fate's mother was an excellent villain. I really appreciate when you see where the villain is coming from, and can actually sympathize with them. These two characters had more depth, and had the most time devoted to them then any other cast members. Fun fact this isn't a bad thing. The only problem that arises with this was that I wondered why the movie wasn't called Mahou shoujo Lyrical Fate.
Even if this wasn't really my cup of tea I still enjoyed my time with "Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha". A few times it pushed my patients, but never to the point to where I wanted to stop watching.
Overall with a somewhat generic story, but touching theme "Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha" execution made it fall short. If you are a fan of magical girl shows then I see no reason why you wouldn't enjoy this movie. For what it was I had some fun with Nanoha faults included. As always, thanks for reading.
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