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REVIEW: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha DVD


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Ishantil



Joined: 18 Aug 2006
Posts: 11
Location: Virginia, US
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 6:12 pm Reply with quote
This is long because Nanoha is something I feel strongly about. Despite this, I'm going to do my best to be objective about it. Your mileage may vary. Smile

This post contains a number of spoilers! You have been warned!


To give you some background, I've been learning Japanese for about 7 years now (I passed the #3 exam this year, huzzah). So I don't watch dubs and I have a pretty good appreciation for Japanese voice-acting.

In any case, I get Megami because it's filled with pretty pictures. It's MADE for moe fans. I enjoy moe along with a number of other genres, including horror, mecha shows, thrillers, magical girl shows, slice of life comedies, and well, Haruhi and Lucky Star. I thought the aforementioned Elfin Lied was brilliant.

During the time that Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS was airing, there were a total of nine Megami covers featuring Nanoha and her cast in some way. Usually 19 year old Nanoha or Fate. I don't recall exactly. I had no idea who the characters were, except they all said NANOHA project on them. Sadly my grasp of Kanji is still not very good.

In any event, my friend and I saw all these pictures, so she and I decided to give Nanoha a shot. Originally, my friend said she thought the girls were really cute and wanted to watch the show, so we decided to start with the first series, thinking it would be a typical magical girl show. Boy were we wrong. By the end of episode four, we felt that we had done the show a disservice for not having had watched it sooner.

Since ANN does not seem to allow fan reviews, I'm sort of going to write one here. Sorry if this is long.

Plot synopsis:
The first few episodes are you standard setup stuff, establish the universe and characters (unless you've seen the fansub only Triangle Heart, which is quite good, btw) and the overall plot line. Yuuno's from another world and is chasing the Jewel Seeds that were accidentally transported to Earth. Nanoha ends up helping him in his quest, almost by accident. The Jewel Seeds are not only a vehicle to drive the show with dangerous creatures, but also give all three eventual sides something very real and very dangerous to fight over.

spoiler[Fate enters the series and it changes things up, not only is she not on the same side, but she's quite willing to blast Nanoha to get what she wants. Just as Fate and Nanoha are about to have their battle to decide the fate of the Jewel Seeds, Chrono, and the Transdimensional Safety Board arrive on the warship Asura. They bear news that not only are the Jewel Seeds extremely dangerous, but Fate's mother is a wanted criminal.]

There are several things about Nanoha that sets it apart from other shows, especially the more generic mahou shoujo shows like Sailor Moon:

1. Actions have consequences. In episodes one and two, the monster trashes the place, and not only does it not magically go away, but Nanoha feels really bad about it. She realizes that by helping, she has a responsibility to try to minimize civilian contact and property damage. spoiler[Fate's involvement in the entire issue gets her in trouble with the TSAB and she is brought up on charges.]

2. Dynamic characters. The characters are emotionally driven people who have feelings and develop during the show. Nanoha's feelings change about how to help Yuuno, and how she won't let him tell her he's going to go on alone out of guilt for involving her. She meets Fate and immediately is struck by how sad she seems and that she wants to help her. Fate's personal transformation (personality wise, not magically) at the end is well done, and realistic. Her mother forces her to realizes several things and she must grow because of them.

3. Losing. Nanoha loses. In fact, she loses a lot. This is something that really sets it apart. Sailor Moon almost always wins by the end of the episode. The same is true of Sakura for the most part. Nanoha, on the other hand, loses to Fate more than once, and gets depressed about it.


4. Child abuse and the psychology behind it. The friend I mentioned is clinically qualified to speak about the subject. She works in the field, and she said that not only was the way that it was handled correct, it was well done. She also gave good grades on the accuracy of how much of the character interaction was well done. She especially enjoyed Precia's madness and how it was done. In the context of the show, the whipping scene makes perfect sense in establishing Precia's madness and her feelings regarding Fate.

5. Writing. Despite what others have said about the show's writing (Carl included), I found it to be excellent. I enjoyed the pacing, the characters and their interactions, the overall plot line, and the few twists, like the spoiler[TSAB coming into the picture and completely changing the tone of the show. All the sudden you have someone who has authority showing up, and we find out that not only is Precia mad, but she's wanted by the law for illegal genetic experiments.]

6. Yuuno's role. Originally, Yuuno is used to bring the obligatory animal mascot into the show. However, this actually has relevance in the show. Nanoha finds out that not only is Yuuno not actually a ferret, but he's actually a boy about her age. And not only are they allies, but friends. Their relationship is way more developed than Usagi and Luna in Sailor Moon or even Cardcaptor Sakura and Kero-chan.

7. Music and voice-acting. The vocal talent in this show is top notch. Tamara Yukari does a great job with Nanoha's voice, being soft, gentle and friendly, a part she's well suited for. Mizuki Nana's softly spoken yet heartbroken sounding voice makes her sound very much like the broken person she is portrayed as.

Mizuki Nana sings the OP and insert songs and Tamara Yukari sings the ED song. I like all three of these songs. As mentioned, Mizuki Nana's songs normally hit Oiricon charts. I enjoyed the instrumental music, but I didn't find it to be super-impressive like say, Kanno Yoko or Kujiura Yuki.

8. Magical combat. The combat in Nanoha is extremely well done. While a lot of the other scenes feature stills and slow pans (both are very cheap to produce), the fights in Nanoha are high quality. The magical combat is exciting, well thought out, and involve tactics, strategy sessions, and realistically develops the characters. Nanoha starts out very naive, and spoiler[loses to Fate several times.] She learns quickly and is motivated by what is at stake. The magical sequences are fun to watch, and don't suffer from the needless exposition like Bleach and Rurouni Kenshin.

9. Character designs. I really love the character designs in Nanoha. The characters are clean and well drawn and have a lot of variety.

And now on to what I didn't like about it:

1. The "fan-service". I know that it's been mentioned countless times in this thread. The show aired at what the Japanese call 2500 hours, or 1:00AM on several channels around Japan. Although it had a re-play the next day at 1000 on one channel. I'm not going to start the lolicon debate. Aside from a panty shot near the beginning of the show (which I felt uncomfortable about), most of the rest of the stuff is pretty mild. The transformations are a bit more explicit about Nanoha's body than Sailor Moon, and they do somewhat objectify her. However, I found that as the show progresses, this was actually toned down towards the end of the show. I do feel that if they toned it down some, it would have been a better show.

2. What Carl mentioned, and one thing I had not considered, was how overly mature Nanoha seems. Fate's probably more in-line with someone who has been abused but is also intelligent. Nanoha is wise beyond her years, to be sure. Perhaps unrealistically so.

3. Pacing. While I said that I liked the pacing above (and I do), the ending episodes are a little rushed. The final confrontation seems too short.

Overall (dub) : N/A. I don't watch dubs. Ever. Call me a sub snob.
Overall (sub) : B+. I thought the voice-acting was excellent and that the seiyuu chosen for the roles were in-line with their characters.
Story : A. I loved the writing and how it sets itself apart with a real plot and a real story, unlike most shows of the genre.
Animation : B+. I agree with Carl's take. Good clean lines, well drawn, but has quite a few pan shots. Well done combat sequences.
Art : B. Again, Carl's take is spot on. Good consistant character designs, nice backgrounds, and relatively sparring use of transformation sequences.
Music : B. The OP, ED, and insert songs are all pretty good, but the background and instrumental music is nothing special.

---
I hope that gives you a bit of a different spin on the show. I really enjoyed it and found that it broke several molds. I don't think it was given a fair shot in this review, and I hope that I've illustrated why.

And while I strongly disagree with Carl's opinion of the show on most points, his opinion is, in fact, as valid as mine is.

I don't think his review of Nanoha was a fair one, and it seems to focus too much on a few points he didn't like without fully expanding on them. It does effectively communicate that he didn't not enjoy the show, however.

Cheers.

--Ishantil
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Tamsin



Joined: 08 Feb 2008
Posts: 7
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 6:26 pm Reply with quote
Personally, having seen nine episodes, I didn't pick up any lolicon overtones. But, hey, maybe I'm just too naïve.

rankothefiremage wrote:
You gave the music a C? and didn't even tell us why? the music is one of the best parts.

The review does briefly address the music, in the penultimate paragraph:
Carl Kimlinger wrote:
... even the uninspired translation are ultimately of little consequence in the face of fatal flaws such as the series' painfully conventional score and unpleasant narrative undertones.
(emphasis mine)
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MorwenLaicoriel



Joined: 26 Feb 2006
Posts: 1604
Location: Colorado
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 6:50 pm Reply with quote
Ishantil, thanks for that post. That's really what I was looking for and trying to get from some of the other fans.
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Zac
ANN Executive Editor


Joined: 05 Jan 2002
Posts: 7673
Location: Anime News Network Technodrome
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:28 pm Reply with quote
Ishantil wrote:
A Good Post


Ladies and gentlemen, this is how you discuss and debate a review. Thank you very much (although you did break our publishing guidelines Wink ).
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Unit 03.5-ish



Joined: 07 Dec 2008
Posts: 1540
Location: This space for rent
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:32 pm Reply with quote
When I saw the series box, I thought, "Uck. ANOTHER one of those 'komedy' shows".

There's a reason I avoid most of the straight gag/humor shows, and that's due to two things:

1. The parody is hard to get unless you watch a LOT of anime or think it's SO HILARIOUS when they poke fun at nerd culture.

2. Cultural references that might not translate at all into English, and whatever reference they replace it with is incredibly weak.

Also, magical girl shows aren't my thing, so I probably couldn't stomach a parody of such. The closest I ever got to anything with magical girl elements was Final Fantasy X-2 with its ridiculous cosplay costume-changing, and if THAT made me wretch, then I surely wouldn't like something like this.

Anyone else automatically suspicious of shows that thrust a pre-teen into the lead role? I mean, come on, we know how the Japanese have a wee bit too much appreciation for underage girls sometimes, and that makes me feel icky.
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Miitan



Joined: 01 Jun 2007
Posts: 117
Location: Gensokyo, UK
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:46 pm Reply with quote
Unit 03.5-ish wrote:
When I saw the series box, I thought, "Uck. ANOTHER one of those 'komedy' shows".

There's a reason I avoid most of the straight gag/humor shows, and that's due to two things:

1. The parody is hard to get unless you watch a LOT of anime or think it's SO HILARIOUS when they poke fun at nerd culture.

2. Cultural references that might not translate at all into English, and whatever reference they replace it with is incredibly weak.

Also, magical girl shows aren't my thing, so I probably couldn't stomach a parody of such. The closest I ever got to anything with magical girl elements was Final Fantasy X-2 with its ridiculous cosplay costume-changing, and if THAT made me wretch, then I surely wouldn't like something like this.

Anyone else automatically suspicious of shows that thrust a pre-teen into the lead role? I mean, come on, we know how the Japanese have a wee bit too much appreciation for underage girls sometimes, and that makes me feel icky.


You're a tad too late to start trolling as Ishantil effectively ended the thread.

Thanks for playing.
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Kit-Tsukasa



Joined: 16 Mar 2006
Posts: 930
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:53 pm Reply with quote
Unit 03.5-ish wrote:
Anyone else automatically suspicious of shows that thrust a pre-teen into the lead role? I mean, come on, we know how the Japanese have a wee bit too much appreciation for underage girls sometimes, and that makes me feel icky.


Welcome to the otaku world where lolis and true moe characters reign (not the pieces of crap you find in Lucky Star....18 year olds drawn as 10 year olds <_<).

Anyways, it sounds like you would like the third season if you don't like too much lolis as the lead role....in StrikerS you get the 19 year old Nanoha and Fate along with 4 new characters (2 of which are preteen, but nothing too suggestive presented about them)

On another note, I thought I'd throw these pieces of fact out here. I never did expect this to be an attraction to the general western/American audience simply because it's a fact that American anime viewers like action and comedy more, and thus the narrow minded knowledge and appreciation of true anime, aka everything ranging from Evangelion to Gundam series, to Code Geass, to School Days, to Nanoha series, to Higurashi, to Jigoku Shoujo, to CCS, to H2O, to the all-time awesome drama KGNE, to the awful Rosario + Vampire and Negima!?, to DNAngel, to the ridiculousness of Hayate no Gotoku, Slayers series, and Kyouran Kazoku Nikki etc... you get the picture if you've seen these.

Point is, because this is a magical girl series, it's going to get beaten harshly unfortunately since it does not fall under the western definition of action and comedy <_< They may as well as left this untouched since they should have know this was not going to get anywhere here. I mean, we all saw the fate of CCS here in the US back in around 2000 I believe? It was just tragic.

@Ishantil: nice post...exactly what I would have given the series except dubbing and subbing since I haven't seen the dvds to critique it.
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Hikari06



Joined: 10 Aug 2008
Posts: 55
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:57 pm Reply with quote
Unit 03.5-ish, although most of the opinions you stated were valid, it should be emphasized that the vast majority of Japanese people condemn lolicon as much as the vast majority of Americans do. Anime that include lolicon (or potentially lolicon) elements like Nanoha are, as Carl Kimlinger stated, aimed at the most hardcore, niche segment of anime otaku. Moe, lolicon, and other servicey aspects that are commonly found in anime aimed at otaku are one of the reasons why anime fans are thought of as creepy socially maladroit misfits by mainstream Japanese society. That's why I was bothered during the Nymphets/Kodomo no Jikan debate (I'm sorry to bring that up again, and I really don't want to spark another debate on that) when people asserted "it's good enough for the Japanese." Japanese people find that sort of thing as creepy and wrong as Americans or people in any country do. How can I back up my claim? I spent a semester studying abroad in Japan and living with two host families. When I went with two of my host sisters to Akihabara, they were obviously uncomfortable, even though they tried not to show it. I subsequently learned about what most Japanese people think of hardcore otaku, and for pretty darn good reasons. (Frankly, some of the shops and people I saw in "Akiba" creeped the hell out of me too.) Sorry about the long rant/digression. I just felt the need to correct the "Japanese people don't think this is wrong!" notion some American anime and manga fans seem to have.

Last edited by Hikari06 on Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Unit 03.5-ish



Joined: 07 Dec 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:00 pm Reply with quote
Trolling is not the same as stating your opinion, okay, thanks
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Charred Knight



Joined: 29 Sep 2008
Posts: 3065
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:02 pm Reply with quote
Brians9824 wrote:
It also seems kinda odd the same reviewer who ranked Kamen No Maid Guy highly for its fanservice and said it was hilarious finds fanservice in a different show distasteful.


I can explain this

The Fanservice in Kamen No Maid Guy is apparently similar to the fanservice in Ken Akamtsu's works of someone past puberty which is usually played for laughs. I loved the last chapter of Negima where the entire group is assaulted by a female pervert who refers to herself as the breast godess.

On the other hand the fanservice in Nanoha appears to be crafted from people used to porn and is aimed at 9 years old girl. The fanservice is badly conceived and disturbing.

The Fanservice in Negima is a plus, the fanservice in Nanoha has made me not even consider buying this series.
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Miitan



Joined: 01 Jun 2007
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Location: Gensokyo, UK
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:08 pm Reply with quote
Hikari06 wrote:
Nymphets/Kodomo no Jikan


We should make up our own Godwins law relating to this.

You know any discussion is over when someone makes a reference or comparison to KnJ.

Edit: For clarification.
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animefanrk2k



Joined: 12 Aug 2007
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Location: The Far Side of the Moon
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:36 pm Reply with quote
I just wanted to state that after having watched the dub and comparing it to the original Japanese voices, I find that the dub does relatively well in its approach to the series, so I'd give it a B+. Most of the characters are spot on with dialogue and feel to their voices, surprisingly. I was expecting a hackneyed job, since this is Nanoha we're talking about, but luckily, this did not hold true.

*reads Ishantil's review* *nods and accepts*

As for Nanoha's personality, fans could simply accept Nanoha's past as the main cause of her to act more mature than your average 9-year-old, or they can just flat out reject any notion of this and assume that she's acting too old for her age. spoiler[I didn't realize that having your father in a near-death accident where the rest of your family is suddenly forced to occupy other places while you live your life alone and to the best of your ability would NOT help people grow up, haha. Seriously, Nanoha probably had to question the bonds of family at a VERY young age because of this incident, thus making her more insightful in her approach to friends and family. This would also explain why Nanoha can see that Fate is lonely as well.]

At the very least, people develop differently, so this is just my two cents.
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pparker



Joined: 13 Oct 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 8:40 pm Reply with quote
Having watched all seasons of both Nanoha and Cardcaptor Sakura, to refuse to watch Nanoha because of loliness yet watch Cardcaptor Sakura, isn't very rational. Nanoha is not Moetan or Kodomo no Jikan. At all, not even close. And the "whipping scene" is perfectly integrated into the plot, inspires the exact emotion necessary (hatred for the villain) and to any normal--I mean even non-anime viewer--is nothing more than child abuse, with no sexual connotation or pandering whatsoever.

For anyone who doesn't know the story of CCS in the U.S., or just to remind, Cardcaptor Sakura was completely butchered when broadcast in the U.S., primarily because all homosexual and under-age sexual or relationship references that were considered inappropriate for U.S. viewers were cut. When they were done, the show was unrecognizable (granted, helped also by changing the lead character and rewriting the plot! But most plot point changes were driven by the censorship.) Conversely, Nanoha would require virtually no editing beyond digitally adding clothing in the transformation sequences and editing or dumping the onsen scenes. Saying it is somehow drastically more lolicon than CCS is pretty extreme.

I'm just going to add that the one thing I've recently noticed in Carl's reviews is very personal, obviously unfounded attacks on the creators of the works.
Quote:
Tsuzuki's thinly-disguised S&M fantasies

I wonder what would happen to an American movie critic who even as much as implied that a director or writer had personal S&M fantasies because they included what the reviewer, apparently alone in this case, perceived as a gratuitous S&M scene involving a minor? Do you have some private, inside information about Tsuzuki, or are we just reaching for hyperbole here, Carl, and defaming someone's character in order to get it?

Are we now going to call the creators of Saw really, really twisted homicidal maniacs in their spare time from earning half a billion dollars making movies that lots of people want to see? Are we to project Tarantino's works onto Tarantino the person? So why is it okay to assume that another artist's personal life or opinions is synonymous with his or her work? Stephen King, anyone? (Okay, he is weird, but you know...Smile)

I could care less whether a reviewer "likes" a work of art that I like, or don't like. I have never depended on someone else to make art or entertainment choices for me because I have yet to find anyone that I agree with on every work. However, I am interested in a professional reviewer's insights on those works because they are supposed to know more about that industry or art form than I do. I learn from informed, well-crafted discussion. I don't learn anything from their subjective opinion beyond one thing--they like it, or they don't--which has nothing to do with my own subjective opinion. So I minus all the subjectivity, and see what's left. The more actual insight into the art, the better the review. That would include comparisons to other works, but not just to say "it's better than that" without saying how--more subjectivity otherwise. You get the idea.

It's not that Carl doesn't do that, it's that once I've minused out the subjectivity, the raging multi-syllabic hyperbole of it, I wish there were more. And I really, really would like to see less attacks on artists themselves and keeping the focus entirely on the work of art itself.

P.S. KnJ is not a Godwin candidate, IMHO, but this is not a KnJ thread, and won't be a thread at all anymore if we start on that one again Smile
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Zac
ANN Executive Editor


Joined: 05 Jan 2002
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:04 pm Reply with quote
pparker wrote:

Are we now going to call the creators of Saw really, really twisted homicidal maniacs in their spare time from earning half a billion dollars making movies that lots of people want to see? Are we to project Tarantino's works onto Tarantino the person? So why is it okay to assume that another artist's personal life or opinions is synonymous with his or her work? Stephen King, anyone? (Okay, he is weird, but you know...Smile)


Uh, have you ever read reviews of Eli Roth movies? They're frequently just a litany of insinuations about his character for making the Hostel films.

Uwe Boll gets the same treatment but he deserves it, soooo....
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pparker



Joined: 13 Oct 2007
Posts: 1185
Location: Florida
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:08 pm Reply with quote
Zac wrote:

Uh, have you ever read reviews of Eli Roth movies? They're frequently just a litany of insinuations about his character for making the Hostel films.

Uwe Boll gets the same treatment but he deserves it, soooo....

And that makes it right, how?

EDIT: I assume he would take legal action if appropriate. Maybe it's all true...
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