Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp
Publisher: Geneon Entertainment (FUNimation Entertainment)
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Rating: 13 and UP
Release Date: Available Now
Nanoha’s greatest battle is also her best.
Unlike Ai Kano who reviewed the first season of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, I actually liked the season from start to finish although I will admit that the season did get a lot better in the final four episodes. Sure, the cuteness of the first introductory episodes was there but the final episodes were dramatic and wonderfully executed. Well, the Complete Box Set of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s captures the feel of those exciting last episodes but manages to maintain it through the 13-episode season that makes this the better half of the Magical Girl series.
Once again, we return to Uminari City where a little wheelchair-bound girl named Hayate Yagami is in possession of a rare book that suddenly starts glowing, floats to the center of the room and opens in a blinding flash. What happened after that isn’t revealed just yet but this is the event that sparks a new conflict in the life of third grade student Nanoha Takamachi.
After having saved a girl named Fate Testarossa during the Jewel Seed incident in the first season, Nanoha has been practicing her magic and learning new Mage abilities with her staff Raging Heart. Even better, Fate (who is now Nanoha’s good friend) is coming to live in the city and will attend school with Nanoha. It seems that Fate has had a long trail but thanks to Chrono and his mother at the Time-Space Administration, Fate and her canine-like “Familiar” named Aruf have been studying to become a part of the Administration for good.
Just as things are starting to look good, Nanoha feels the presence of something magical and something powerful. She encounters a young Mage with a staff and is attacked by her. The fight is not only intense but it’s also a small taste of what Nanoha and her friends will be up against in this second have of the series. Their battle leaves Nanoha struggling to stay on her feet and just as she is about to be smashed to nothing, Fate steps in to save her friend only to find herself trying to keep from being killed herself. Then more enemies show up. All of this and it’s the first episode!
As more Mages from the Time-Space Administration are being attacked, it is clear to Chrono that they have a threat the Administration should not take lightly. The investigation begins as Nanoha and Fate try to return to their other lives as Fate enters her first day of school with Nanoha. While Fate makes friends with her classmates, one of Nanoha’s close friends makes a friend of her own … it’s Hayate Yagami, the girl in the wheelchair. Hayate, it seems has a group of loving caretakers, each one dedicated to her every needs. One of them is the same young Magical Girl that attacked Nanoha. Her name is Vita and her companions are also Mages that have sworn allegiance to Hayate as her protective Knights.
With the help of the young archeologist who introduced Nanoha to her magic as well as her duties as a Magical Girl, Yuuno and Chrono discover that the ancient Book of Darkness has been unleashed on the world. It’s power is destructive and since its awakening the book’s pages are gathering enough power that it will spell disaster for the city if the Book of Darkness isn’t frozen and sent to another dimension where it won’t do any harm. So why do these Knights want to use the Book’s powers so badly?
In the course of their many confrontations with these Knights that are far from pretty and blood is even drawn in some of the more violent clashes, pieces of the mystery reveals the big picture and the reason why these magic users are fighting. Interestingly enough, the Knights’ reasons are actually quite heartbreakingly noble. I won’t go into the details because half the fun is discovering the mystery behind their motives but I will say that Hayate is connected to the main reason.
This is why the final four episodes of the series becomes so deeply moving as Hayate is thrust out of existence when the Book of Darkness finally takes its real form. Even the Book’s human form is fighting for a cause that is nothing close to what one would have expected in the first place. The final battle, I must say, is one of the more impressive ones and so is the outcome that makes Nanoha really stand out as a truly great Magical Girl series.
Make no mistake, Nanoha A’s is still just as cute as its first season set but there’s a more mature tone that takes over in this one. There aren’t many funny elements in this part of the series, though, but there are some surprisingly fun ones scattered throughout. When Vita mispronounces Nanoha’s name, Nahoha flips out a little. It’s cute and it works. What doesn’t still work is the fan service, which – in another series with older protagonists would have been acceptable – is still a bit on the creepy side. Thankfully, it is way toned tone here but still present.
In the end, the Complete Box Set of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s has everything you could ever want in a surprisingly exciting, fun and action-packed Magical Girl anime. Having enjoyed the first season, I truly love Nanoha A’s more for the very reason that made the final part of the first season so compelling and a better change of pace. If you are looking for a Magical Series worth sharing with a fellow Magical Girl fan, make it this one.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Nanoha Takamachi is back and even better than ever as she and returning favorite Fate Testarossa discover a group of magically-inclined individuals are out to fulfill an old and dangerous prophecy revolving around a powerful book known as the Book of Darkness. It’s up to Nanoha and her friends to discover who they are and why they want to unleash the book’s power.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
You just have to love how good this season’s episodes look and even more so on DVD that makes the animation look so wonderfully crisp and more colorful. The visual effects really stand out here and Nanoha and Fate’s Magical Girl “transformations” are not toned down but reduced to two or three times throughout the thirteen episodes.
AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The voice acting is in top form when it comes to the English dub but the original Japanese is the way to watch Nanoha. Like the story, even the score has become more exciting this time around and picks up at all the right moments. The opening and closing theme songs are just as cute as Nanoha.
Aside from the fact that all three discs have three trailers in each of them as well as textless songs. The set also includes the full version of the first season’s opening theme song as well as the extended textless version of the last episodes ending credits.
A vast improvement over the likeable first season, Nanoha A’s is just a far more exciting and action-packed 13-episode set that is sure to please all Magical Girl fans out there. It’s also surprising to see how visually dazzling the series has become as well but when it comes to the story, Nanoha proves to be just the ticket for those looking for a truly magical and lyrical series worth investing.