At long last, we’re finally getting around to covering another “classic” series with yuri undertones, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. NanoFate is one of our Top 10 Yuri Pairings, so you’d expect the show to perform reasonably well in the yuri department, but does it have anything else to offer? Let’s get to the bottom of this~
Third grader Takamachi Nanoha stumbled upon an injured talking ferret after hearing his telepathic cries for help. The ferret turned out to be Yuuno, an archeologist and mage from another world who had accidentally scattered the dangerous Jewel Seeds throughout Earth. Without the strength to collect the Jewel Seeds, Yuuno had resumed a ferret form and needed someone else to take on the task for him. He gave a red jewel to Nanoha explaining to her with this she could transform and use magic to combat the monsters that threatened them due to the Jewel Seeds. But the monsters are the least of their worries, as Yuuno and Nanoha are not the only ones out to collect the Jewel Seeds.
Like most other synopses, this one makes the plot seem kinda ridiculous, but I think it’s actually not as bad as it sounds. Well, early on, there isn’t much in the way of plot at all. After Nanoha stumbles upon Yuuno and becomes a mage, the next several episodes almost exclusively consist of Nanoha trying to find the remaining Jewel Seeds, with little to no explanation being made as to why. For the first half of the season, there’s very little in the way of plot development, and if you’re not already invested in the characters, I’d imagine you could lose interest quickly.
It takes a while, but eventually, the story ramps up and things become much more interesting, thanks to Fate’s mother, Precia as well as the Time-Space Administration Bureau. I can’t say that the story developments were totally unexpected, but considering how lackadaisical the pacing and storytelling were early on, they were welcome changes that helped a lot. As underwhelming as the overarching plot seemed, it’s the stories of some of the characters that lend some depth and really make this story worthwhile. Namely, it’s the Testarossa’s that are to thank for this, as Fate and her mom have a… unique… relationship that drives the story forward.
With a story that’s not terribly original, and despite some questionable pacing early on, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha slowly turns it around and ends up telling a decent story that is still far from ideal and not very rich, but it could’ve been worse. I think the arrow is pointing upwards, so let’s see if A’s can improve upon the original’s story.
During the intro for each and every episode, Nanoha reminds you that she was just an ordinary third-grader, but a sudden situation changed all that. Right about now, you might be having traumatic flashbacks to some other series that feature generic protagonists, but thankfully, I don’t think that’s the case here.
Nanoha may be a self-professed ordinary kid, but for a third-grader, she’s unrealistically mature beyond her years. When I was a third-grader, I would do some stupid things, but Nanoha’s introspective ways just seem strange for a girl her age and way too convenient. And there are other things that irked me, like her being allowed to go out alone at night, and later, when she explains her situation to her mom and tells her that she has to leave the house for a while, her mom is like “Yeah, sure! Have a nice trip!” Besides that, I thought that she’s a pretty likable character who’s very cute and charming, and I’m glad she has more to offer than you might expect.
The yin to Nanoha’s yang is Fate, and it isn’t until later in the season that we really get a better sense of who she is, since up until that point, she mainly appears as an emotionless automaton whose sole purpose is to gather the Lost Logias. However, once the story really gets going, I found it impossible not to like Fate. Not only is she a badass fighter and the strong, silent type, but her relationship with her mom is just heartbreaking, and you can’t help but feel bad for her. By the end, I was already a fan of hers, but going forward, I think I’m going to like her even more~
For me, one of the very first yuri pairings that I became aware of was NanoFate, so my yuri expectations were pretty high when I started watching this. Now that I’ve finished the first season, I’m somewhat satisfied but still left wanting more. For a majority of the season, Nanoha and Fate are rivals that are battling for the Jewel Seeds, so it’s not exactly a lovefest. That said, Nanoha can sense Fate’s loneliness, and she wants to befriend her, even going as far as to disobey orders in order to save Fate from herself.
It’s only at the end that Fate returns Nanoha’s kindness, and we get a really sweet scene between them that makes up for all the fighting between them. It’s a shame it didn’t happen sooner, but they say good things come to those who wait, and that scene was very good indeed. Of course, since this first season, the pairing has gone on to explode in popularity, with an endless stream of doujinshi, fanfics, and fanart for NanoFate fans to enjoy. Now that their differences have been settled, I expect much more in the way of subtext in subsequent seasons, so I hope I’m not wrong about that, but NanoFate wasn’t the only yuri pairing we got…
While Nanoha and Fate are busy locking horns, Arf is Fate’s trusty familiar who’s always by her side. NanoFate may get the lion’s share of the attention, but Arf x Fate was a revelation that I really enjoyed. Arf is an incredibly devoted ally that cares deeply for Fate and is very protective of her. During Fate’s darker moments, seeing Arf stick by her no matter what is great, and for a while, I was definitely shipping the two of them.
Whether you’re a NanoFate diehard or someone who prefers Fate x Arf, these four characters provide us with some nice subtext that makes the show more enjoyable~
You may not believe this, but there are characters other then Nanoha and Fate in this show!
Starting off with Precia, she’s your stereotypical villain who’s easy to loathe. Her lair, the Garden of Time, is textbook supervillain stuff, but finding out why she wants to do what she wants to do is a little sad and tragic. I don’t think she’s that memorable a character, but she’s just one piece of the puzzle. Yuuno is a character I’ve yet to talk about, and as the synopsis says, he’s an archeologist who can also take the form of a ferret, and he plays a similar role to that of Arf, minus the romantic undertones. It sounds like he’d be a very annoying character, but I didn’t find him annoying at all, and I’m quite surprised about that.
Nanoha’s family and friends play minor roles, and Lindy and Chrono from the Time-Space Administration Bureau didn’t really leave much of a lasting impression on me, so a lot of the appeal rests with Nanoha and Fate. They’re perhaps the best thing about this anime, and now that they’re on friendlier terms, I expect that I’ll end up liking them even more than I do now. That’s something to look forward to, and maybe Arf and Yuuno will be joined by other characters that strengthen an already solid cast~
When it comes to the animation, it’s is a tough call, since this is another one of those older series (2004) that makes the visuals difficult to evaluate. Things are definitely at their prettiest during the battle scenes, where Nanoha and Fate do their thing, but the show has its other moments where it looks pretty good, for an anime that’s almost a decade and a half old. I have to say that I like the design of both Nanoha and Fate more than I like the designs of most other magical girl anime main characters, and it doesn’t hurt that these elementary school kids usually aren’t as scantily-clad as the girls from some other similar shows out there *cough*Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya*cough*. 😛
With Nana Mizuki as the voice of Fate, you just know it’s only a matter of time before we hear her belt out a song (other than the OP), and although it took a while for it to happen, rest assured that it’s there, and it was definitely one of the musical highlights for me. Besides that, I wouldn’t say that the music is extraordinary or anything, as it’s only fairly adequate and not very memorable, but it’s not bad. As mentioned, the OP was pretty nice, and I was a bit surprised that I ended up liking the ED (which was sung by Nanoha’s seiyuu) as much as I did. It’s a fluffy little song that I found pretty cute, and it just fits Nanoha perfectly. So, all in all, I wouldn’t say that the sound is a standout aspect of Nanoha, yet it’s not bad, and Nana Mizuki fans should still enjoy it.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha may not have been the first magical girl anime, and reviewing it after watching the sublime Madoka★Magica doesn’t do it any favors, but as far as traditional magical girl anime goes, you can probably do a lot worse, and since the series is still going strong thirteen years later, it’s obviously doing something right~