Review by: Ai Kano
Publisher: Geneon Entertainment (FUNimation Entertainment)
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Rating: 13 and Up
Release Date: Available Now
She’s a Magical Girl, alright.
A big part of me was reluctant to be given the opportunity to review Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Complete Box Set. It’s not that I don’t like the magical-girl anime theme (in fact, I have a few favorites). The fact is that I’ve been disappointed by a number of other magical-girl releases that all tend to handle the story in the same tired and recycled fashion. Nanoha casts a very familiar spell but does it in her own super cute way.
Meet Nanoha Takamachi, your average third grader living in the fictional Japanese metropolis of Uminari City. As the youngest child of two older siblings, Nanoha is actually well loved by her brother, sister and two loving parents. She has two close friends she hangs out with often and does Ok in school despite the fact that she cannot envision what she wants to do in the future. Oh, and she comes to the aid of a ferret named Yuuno who is really a young human archeologist with the ability to cast magical spells via a gem called Raging Heart.
You see, Yuuno came to Nanoha’s world in search of 21 Jewel Seeds that were scattered throughout Uminari City. These seeds have a magical effects once they activate and could turn into an unstable threat as well as mutate life forms. When Yunno becomes hurt, Nanoha and her friends find him and take care of him until Nanoha receives a mental message from Yunno requesting help. An activated Jewel Seed attacks Yunno but it’s Nanoha who fights in his place. Using the Raging Heart gem, Nanoha becomes a Magical Girl with the ability to perform lyrical spells. With the guidance of her new ferret friend, Nanoha wields a staff that acts more like a computer and gains a super cute little outfit complete with ribbons.
Nanoha offers to aid Yunno by helping him collect the rest of the Jewel Seeds thanks to her new Magical Girl status. She finds herself taking on Seeds that have activated in a dog in one episode and then a giant tree that was activated by a young soccer goalie and his girlfriend in another episode. While young, Nanoha takes on her responsibility in a way that doesn’t really connect with her age. For a third grader, Nanoha certainly reflects on her successes and failures as if she were a teenager instead.
Her new job becomes more difficult when another Magical Girl is introduced and this girl isn’t interested in making friends with Nanoha. Fate wields a similar-looking staff and is determined to pick up all the Jewel Seeds for her own purpose. Losing her battles with Fate, Nanoha discovers that her rival has a sexy “familiar” named Aruf that can transform into a big dog. As it turns out, Fate is after the Seeds by request of her mother, Precia Testarossa. Precia wants them so bad that when Fate does fail to obtain a Jewel Seed she whips her daughter.
Meanwhile, being a Magical Girl is an exhausting and lonely life. Nanoha finds herself slowly alienating her friends from her life and worrying her family. This is probably why Nanoha is so determined to make friends with Fate. During another confrontation between the two girls, a young Mage named Chrono breaks up the fight. He tells them that he’s an Enforcer for the Time-Space Administration Bureau. Interestingly (or confusingly) enough, this is when the series takes on a sci-fi element. You see, Chrono and Captain Lindy (who happens to be Chrono’s mother), move about on a spaceship. The activation of Jewel Seeds is a threat not only to Uminari City but also other worlds. So Nanoha and Yuuno joins them in carrying out the mission to find all the Jewel Seeds.
We discover a number of secrets about Faith and her mother and why they’re looking for the Jewel Seeds in the first place. In one episode, Aruf evens turns to Nanoha to help her save Fate who is willing to do anything to help her mother. This leads to a huge battle as Nanoha fights to bring down Precia and to save the Magical Girl who is heading for self-destruction.
Lyrical Nanoha’s 13 episodes have its share of lows and few highs. First, the story isn’t a very strong one and the added sci-fi elements comes a little too late in the game. Worst of all, the series adds some fan service that feels considerably out of place seeing as the main focus of said fan service is directed at Nanoha and Fate … both of which are grade school aged girls. We could have bought a romance element since some episodes indicate the Chrono has a crush on Nanoha and that bother Yunno when the ferret reveals its true form. The story isn’t told as well as it could have been told and this is too bad since the action scenes are exciting.
Unfortunately, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is too by-the-numbers to be a refreshingly different take on the genre that has covered the Magical Girl scene a tad better than this series. Still, this is not to say that you won’t have fun watching this series because Nanoha does have its shining moments that actually make it a pleasant viewing experience for those young anime fans out there. Is it a great tale of magic and adventure? No, it’s not but it’s not an entirely bad story either.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
We’ve seen and heard it all before: Nanoha is your average grade school girl who proves that she’s more than average when she discovers a gem that unleashes her full potential as a Magical Girl. The early episodes feel all too familiar but the last six or seven episodes are a lot better.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The voice quality is actually stellar on DVD and – despite the generic looking characters – Nanoha sports some flashy effects. It could have done without the creepy fan service when Takamachi “suits up.”
AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The voice acting is decent whether you like the original Japanese or English voices and the music is simply adequate.
Each of the three discs comes with Geneon previews and textless opening and closing theme songs.
It’s lyrical and it’s magical but we have seen Magical Girl fare like this before and, while it fails to do anything different to set it apart, Lyrical Nanoha isn’t entirely bad. In fact, it certainly does improve in the later episodes. I’m recommend this one to the young anime viewers who have yet to check out a Magical Girl anime but everyone who has seen their share of this genre will not find anything new with Nanoha.