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Dated 5 April 2006: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha

When it first started airing, I dismissed Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha as being a horrible ripoff of Cardcaptor Sakura. Yeah, it turns out I was way wrong. Both it and its sequel Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A's are actually kinda awesome, to tell you the truth.



Fate and Nanoha
Fate > Nanoha.

Fate and Nanoha
(Fate has a cape with a giant collar AND had a terrible life. This contest was a boat race.)

Standing in circles magic? Check. People shouting out the names of their attacks before unleashing them? Check. Battle costumes? Check. MAGIKAL GIRLS KICKING THE SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER? Checkmate.

In other news, both Shakugan no Shana and the end of Mai-Otome were also great.

Dated 11 October 2006: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS

Yuuno, Nanoha, and Fate
Fate saves Nanoha's ass.

Fate Testarossa, Nanoha A's costume.

There's an apparently canonical manga bridging Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A's with the upcoming third season, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. Here, we get our first view of the characters' new battle costumes:

Thumbnail image of Fate, Hayate, and Nanoha
Fate, Hayate, and Nanoha in their StrikerS guise.

Fate T. Haraoun, StrikerS costume.

Admittedly, it is not an especially good look, but it's clear enough to see the basic elements of the new costumes. I'll have to see it in its final form and animated to be sure, but so far I like Fate's old EVIL DRACULA CAPE garb more than her new light-colored cape over dark-colored double-breasted long coat combo. The new appearance is more business-like, while the old costure was more about beatdowns—moe beatdowns.

Dated 7 January 2007: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha

So apparently there is a doujin-type Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A's shooter. Aside from that, I can't tell you much else about it except that it's a Bullet Hell sort of shooter, and that I'm horrible at it since my ability to see into the future has diminished considerably as I've gotten closer to it. I also really need to get myself a good USB arcade stick, because this gamepad madness is not cutting it.

You could also play as Nanoha if you were so inclined. Theoretically. I'm just sayin'.

I should probably also take this opportunity to drum up more interest in the upcoming Nanoha sequel, StrikerS. I would tell you it's going to be badass, but I'm hesitant as a matter or principle because (a) I don't see Fate's Dracula cape anywhere, and (b) they're introducing more new characters. Has there ever been a sequel to anything that had fewer characters than the original instead of more?

Maybe I'm just saying this since I've always kinda wished Vita had killed Nanoha in episode two of A's, so that series could have been about the entire Adminstration Bureau desperately trying to keep Fate (insane with rage and grief and consumed by unholy bloodlust) under control as she spent the next 10 episodes hunting down and whacking each of the Knights—with considerable collateral damage. Ah, don't worry, she would have let Hayate live.

Dated 30 March 2007: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS

Megami StrikerS poster
Megami StrikerS poster.

Like everyone else, I have high hopes for Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. Likewise, I am also disconcerted by the heavy influx of new characters. I also have issues with the grown-up character designs. As I've mentioned before, I think Fate should keep her Dracula cape. But perhaps more importantly, I think Fate's and Nanoha's faces now look somewhat vacant. They aren't entirely vacuous, but there are definite negative side effects from what I assume are attempts to maintain their original youthful appearances while making the characters themselves older.

I didn't comment on it earlier, since all that was available was promotional art. Now that the series' start date is only days away (and at least one animated promo is available, albeit sans any FEITO scenes), it seems likely the anime character designs will at least closely match the newest stills. Hopefully they'll look better in final animated form.

P.S. Needs more belt-fed Bardiche.

P.P.S. I hope the character named Subaru is a Brat.

Dated 14 April 2007: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS

Teana and Subaru
Teana and Subaru race for the finish.

Okay, first of all, I can't help but think of Subaru as a dude. This is not exactly the most feminine Nanoha character around. Even the reverse trap girl from Idolm@ster Xenoglossia looks more feminine than Subaru.

Imminent death
What we have here is FAILURE to think ahead.

Teana seems okay. I keep thinking she belongs inside a GIANT ROBOT, though.

Teana and Subaru
Teana and Subaru recognize their predicament.

Fate and Nanoha look a lot better animated than in the early promotional art, although Fate looks kinda horsey in the ED. Other times she looks like Sawachika Eri from School Rumble cosplaying a magikal girl.

Nanoha probably knew they would screw up.

But what I really want to know is what Fate was about to do at the end of episode one. I mean, we have Subaru going, "LUDICROUS SPEED!" and Teana is like, "OH SHIT, NO BRAKES!" and Nanoha goes, "Raising Heart, ACTIVE GUARD with HOLDING NET, hoorah," and Raising Heart is all, "Raising Heart? more like RAGING HART, my dear (ha ha, I kill me)," and beam spams accordingly.

Active Guard with Holding Net
Jeez, Active Guard with Holding Net is your answer to everything, Takamachi Nantoka.

Then we see FATE leaning out of the helicopter with her arm already powered up, while Hayate is busy looking for the right page since books don't have CTRL-F—not even magic ones, but FATE had to get out of her chair and open the helicopter door whereas Nanoha was already standing by since we all knew these new characters would find someway to screw up, so FEITO is all, "Ah, never mind. Goddamn magikal blue balls."

FATE and Hayate
"CRAP. We were just about to do something this episode."

And we never find out what Fate was planning on doing to save Teana and Subaru. Whatever it was, I bet you it was going to be AWESOME. Way better than some dumb net. AWESOME is the only way Fate knows how to do things.

In other news, I hope StrikerS has Fate returning to her glaring-down-at-people-ominously-while-standing-on-light-poles ways. Maybe once we find out SPOILERS is back, and Fate gets to re-live her childhood traumarama. I bet you that YOU KNOW WHO isn't dead, yo.

Dated 31 October 2007: An unanswered Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha question about Fate Testarossa

Fate Testarossa makes an offer.

Something has been bothering me about the ending of the first season of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha. (Naturally, the rest of this post involves some considerable spoilers, so avert your eyes if you haven't finished watching the original series.) During her final confrontation with Precia (in episode 12), Fate Testarossa makes one final bid to gain her mother's acceptance—not even her love, just an acknowledgment. Fate basically offers, "Even if you won't accept me as your daughter, I will still protect you—from anyone—because you're my mother."

Search your feelings. You know it to be true.

But how sincere is this offer? From the scene's context, there is no reason to think any duplicity is involved. Likewise, this is not hyperbole; Fate obviously chooses her words carefully and makes a genuine attempt to reach out to her mother. So what happens if Precia accepts? Doesn't this mean Fate would have to turn against the Time and Space Administration Bureau, Nanoha, and potentially Arf? Okay, Arf would probably back Fate unconditionally after making token attempts to talk her down, and as far as Fate is concerned (at least at this point), the TSAB is staffed by a bunch of pinheads, but would she really betray Nanoha?

Fate and Nanoha
Fate tries to look Nanoha in the eye.

I believe she would. Fate was willing to suffer her mother's abuse her entire life. Desperately trying to gain Precia's love was all Fate knew. And Fate is visibly devastated when her mother rejects her again. I believe Fate was willing to sucker-punch Chrono and help Precia make a break for it, plowing through anyone the TSAB put in their way, including Nanoha. Sadly, the series never explored this possibility. In less than two minutes, we discover that Fate is willing to go to very dark places and confirm that there are fundamental differences between Fate and Nanoha. Nanoha may be willing to beat people down until they submit to her friendship, but we don't even know what sorts of things Fate did before she met Nanoha.

It's clobberin' time.

Personally, I think we need a Mahou Shoujo Fate Testarossa prequel to the Lyrical Nanoha series—one that highlights all the fucked up things Fate did for Precia before she met Nanoha. Bear in mind that when we first meet her in Nanoha, Fate is remorselessly smoking the Bejeesus out of a kitten. I assume Fate is likely responsible for numerous atrocities. She's too young to have Vita's body count, but there has got to be some shit Fate doesn't like to talk about. A 13-episode series, with no episodes about training. (Are you kidding me? There's no way Precia bothered to train Fate.) Just wall-to-wall mahou shoujo whalings with maybe an episode to reveal where Fate got her Dracula cape. We're there.

Dated 7 September 2008: Where is my Mahou Shoujo Fate Testarossa movie? Dang

Fate Testarossa
This is the only life Fate Testarossa knows.

You know, I really hope this upcoming Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha season one movie isn't just a glorified clip show. If they're going to make a movie re-telling the first season's story, what they ought to do is re-tell it from Fate Testarossa's point of view. They've got enough material to fill a 90-minute to two-hour block easily, and Fate's story is far more compelling than Nanoha and Yuuno's daily life.

Fate Testarossa
It's not an especially good life.

This movie should also fill in some of the gaps the series glossed over. For example: I bet Fate doesn't know how to swim. There's no way her mom ever taught her. In fact, I have a feeling that Fate is entirely ignorant of many things most people take for granted because she never had a regular childhood. She's kind of like Kirika, only more so. Fate probably doesn't know how to ride a bicycle, and isn't familiar with fairy tales, never owned a box of crayons, and doesn't know how to braid hair. But man, can she take a beating.

Dated 16 September 2008: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. What a mess

Ginga, Subaru, Teana, Elio, and Caro
Yup, that's the kind of show you're in, sister.

I've finally resumed watching Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. I've already heard all the usual complaints about the series and know most of the spoilers, so I'm pretty much only watching out of general principle.

SEELE comes out of left field.

This latest Nanoha installment really isn't very good. There are too many new characters, and the antagonists aren't interesting, and the extended focus on training episodes really does get rather tedious. But despite all that, the real problem I have with StrikerS is that it doesn't make any God damn sense.

Zest and Agito
Why is TSAB fighting the evil, "Mirror, Mirror" cast of Hand Maid May?
(You know, from the alternative universe where Spock has a beard.)

I'm willing to play fast and loose with the "rules" in a magikal girl anime, but the elements that don't necessarily have anything to do with propping up the story shouldn't just be arbitrary. For example:

  • Why is this huge metropolis a ghost town? It makes it convenient for the good guys to fight robots in an urban environment with lots of buildings getting torn up without the hassle of civilians on the battlefield or the possibility that anyone might get hurt. But yeah, post-rapture/zombie-apocalypse WASTELAND, this city is.
  • Is the Time and Space Administration Bureau a military organization or not? Because their rank structure is completely FUBAR—as are their customs and courtesies. People salute at random ass times and half the time don't drop their salutes, standing rigidly with their hands glued to their foreheads while the people they're saluting have their backs turned and don't even know they're being saluted. Plus there's a lot of backtalk.
  • Why are these yahoos out in the field when they haven't completed their training? Didn't they watch The Empire Strikes Back?

Nanoha and Fate
At least Nanoha and Fate are better parents than Eureka.

Then there's just the random assortment of unrelated problems I have with the show:

  • 15 episodes down and I still can't see Subaru as a girl. I suspect I never will. The closest she got to appearing feminine was when she and Teana were doing mundane work in a cubicle farm and chattering like office ladies.
  • Vivio is horrible. She's not as bad as the Eureka 7 children, but she's still ghastly.
  • Holy crap, they talk a lot on this show. Someone's always going on trying to explain some nonsense that doesn't really matter.
  • I can't accept Kyon/Chrono. Chrono was a little bitch before, but it's better than being a TSAB pinhead.
  • I liked Hayate better when she was in a wheelchair. Is that wrong?
  • Nanoha-mama and Fate-o-mama? Terrible idea. Whoever thought up that idea needs to go choke himself.

Nanoha, Fate, and Vivio
It's just that Vivio is a horrible kid.

Part of me sincerely wishes Vita had killed Nanoha in episode one of A's, with Fate arriving too late to save her but still in time to clutch her still-warm corpse. And then A's could have been about FEITO losing her mind, hunting down and brutally butchering the Velka knights while useless TSAB pinheads desperately try to get her under control and end her reign of terror with impotent lines such as, "Killing more people won't bring Nanoha back, Fate!"

Vivio. Seriously, she's awful.

Alas, it was not meant to be, but A's turned out to be pretty good all the same. I don't know if there is really any way they could have saved StrikerS, but if pressed I'm just going to volunteer some manner of Triangle Heart sequel or tie-in to acknowledge that OVA series as canon.