Even though Lena has already reviewed the movie, there are some slight differences in the TV anime that that was based on, so I think a review of the original material seen through a different set of eyes is something worth exploring. Is A’s one of those instances where the sequel is better than the original? I think it’s a fairly easy question to answer…
After the events of the Lost Logia case, Nanoha waits patiently for the day she can reunite with her newfound friend, Fate. Although being an exceptionally powerful mage, Nanoha spends her days normally with her friends on Earth. But peace is once again suddenly shattered, as Nanoha is without warning attacked by a powerful mage. A group of violent mages have been attacking anything with magic power for their own goals. Nanoha and Fate, along with their friends Yuuno, Arf, Chrono and the Space/Time Administration Bureau must once more band together to stop these renegade mages from hurting anyone or anything else. Takes place after the first season of Lyrical Nanoha.
Picking up slightly over half a year after the events of the first season, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s once again centers around the Lost Logia, with the Book of Darkness being the focus of a new group of villains called the Wolkenritter. Probably the biggest problem I had with the first season was the extended period of time spent with little happening, but that’s not something that’s much of an issue this time around.
The battles with the new enemies begin in the very first episode, and slowly but surely, we come to learn more about who these new girls are, and why they’re doing what they’re doing. Being able to see things through the perspective of the Wolkenritter did a lot to make the group more likable to me, as their motives were understandable and actually kind of honorable, and you usually don’t see that from the would-be “villains”.
I felt like the story lost a bit of momentum towards the end, especially once the case of the mysterious masked man was solved, as well as the somewhat confusing (at least they were to me) details surrounding the Book of Darkness/Tome of the Night Sky/Reinforce, but up until that point, I thought that the story was a marked improvement over the first season.
For me, this was a much easier watch than season one, and even though the story is still rather simple and a little cliche, it didn’t feel as drawn out, and it just felt like there was more substance this time around. Finally, something I greatly appreciated was seeing how each of the characters had grown during the six-year time difference seen at the very end of the season. It would’ve been easy to keep everyone the same age throughout the series, but it’s really nice to see characters you’ve come to care about actually growing up.
Speaking of the characters, A’s introduces several new ones into the fold, yet none are more important to the story than Hayate. As an orphan who’s bound to a wheelchair, Hayate finds herself the master of the Wolkenritter, but despite all the hardship she’s faced, Hayate is the cutest, kindest character in the entire show, and it’s impossible not to like her. That said, it doesn’t mean she was my favorite character of the season…
Out of all the new additions to the cast, it was Signum and Vita that really stood out the most for me. Signum is the strong, stoic-type and the leader of the Wolkenritter. Her personality makes her a perfect foil for Fate, and I thought that their duels were some of the best of the season. I’m oftentimes a fan of characters like this, and she was a pretty enjoyable one, so it’s no wonder she was one of my favorites.
On the opposite end of the personality spectrum is Vita, but that’s what I ended up liking the most about her. When she’s around Hayate, Vita is a warm and devoted girl, and she’s actually incredibly sweet… but that’s a far cry from how she is on the battlefield. As the most colorful of the new characters, Vita is a spitfire when anything or anyone comes between her and Hayate. She’s the youngest of the Wolkenritter, and despite her best efforts, she’s as cute as can be. It’s also pretty awesome how she has a rocket hammer, just like ma boy, Reinhardt. 😀
Shamal and Zafira are the other two members of the Wolkenritter, but for me anyway, they didn’t bring as much to this season as Signum and Vita. Shamal is like the mother figure of the group, and while that’s sweet, she’s not as front and center as the other knights, so I didn’t take to her as much as the other two girls. The same can be said of Zafira—and to a much larger extent—so he doesn’t play that large a role. On a side note, it’s strange how so many of the characters are seemingly named after cars. It’s useless trivia kind of stuff, but nevertheless, still pretty interesting.
As compelling as some of these new characters are, for a lot of people, this series is still all about NanoFate. Season one saw Nanoha and Fate as adversaries for a majority of the season, but in A’s, they’re finally friends and partners and are firmly on the same team, alongside the others from the TSAB.
And just like before, there isn’t a ton of subtext to go by, yet it’s clear that they care for one another. Given the fact that these two have a ridiculous amount of doujinshi dedicated to them, I think I’m always gonna be left wanting to see more happen between them… and then I remember how young they are, and I feel like a total perv. 😀
In light of that, it’s understandable that this doesn’t feature too much closeness between those two, however, there are other potential ships available this season, with my favorite being Hayate x Vita. I always love it when there’s a character who’s overly dedicated to another, and even though you could say that when it comes to Hayate, that applies to the other members of the Wolkenritter as well, but probably none more so than Vita.
So, NanoFate isn’t the only ship in town anymore, but it’s a welcome change that there are other pairings to ship this season. Perhaps things will change in StrikerS, now that the girls are a bit older, but for A’s, the modest level of subtext is appreciated, despite how underwhelming it can sometimes feel to someone expecting fandom-levels of yuri in the anime~
With A’s airing only a calendar year after the first season, there really isn’t too much of a visual difference between the two seasons, save for some more battle scenes in season two. Despite this, I wouldn’t say that the show looks bad for 2005 or anything, so I don’t think it’s an issue. As was already stated, the increased number of battle scenes are definitely a welcome change, and what’s a magical girl anime without some good fights, am I right? At the end of the day, the animation remained more than sufficient, so I can’t really complain at all.
When it comes to the music, I hesitate to say that the second season was a major improvement over the first, but I did feel like it was more noticeable and slightly more impactful than before. It wasn’t the most epic music ever heard, yet it still did a pretty good job of setting the mood.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the new ED, as I thought it was pretty forgettable, but I can’t say the same about the OP. That’s yet another really good Nana Mizuki theme song, and overall, I’d give A’s the edge over the first season, in terms of sound.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s is a pretty good example of an anime that took a step forward in its second season. A more focused story that introduced a bevy of interesting characters is the basis for what turned out to be an action-packed follow-up season that I definitely prefer over the original.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and A’s seems to have taken this to heart by keeping most of what made the first season enjoyable, while tweaking some of the weaker story elements that could’ve used some improvements, resulting in a win for magical girl anime fans the world over~