After reviewing the first two seasons, we’re finally at the most recent installment in the main series (at least until Reflection comes to the West). How does Nanoha fare with an older and wiser NanoFate? Will the new characters make you long for the days of Nanoha’s friends? Will I keep asking dumb questions like these? The answers to these questions and more, right after the jump. 😛
Synopsis: Set 10 years after Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A’s, Nanoha, Fate, Hayate and the rest of the crew are now working full time in the Time-Space Administration Bureau. Nanoha is a combat instructor, Fate is a special investigator, and Hayate is a commanding officer. They must unite once again to save the dimensions. Introducing new characters as well: Subaru, Teana, Caro and Erio. Stand by. Ready. Set up!
Unlike the first two seasons, StrikerS is a two-cour season, so getting a better view of Nanoha‘s world is in order, and that’s exactly what we get. With Nanoha and the crew firmly entrenched in their roles at the TSAB, the early portions of the story focus on the incoming group of aspiring mages, and in doing so, I’m reminded a little bit of the very first season.
Where the first season sort of dragged its feet and spent too much time doing nothing, StrikerS goes ahead and spends a lot of time early on centering around the training of the new forwards, and for me at least, it grew pretty monotonous. On the plus side, it allowed plenty of time to get to know these new characters a bit better, but I would’ve liked things to have started to pick up a little faster. Seeing fresh faces that you’re not yet attached to destroy Gadget Drones that lack any semblance of personality isn’t exactly ideal, but once business starts to pick up and the villains appear, things definitely get more interesting.
Scaglietti, Combat Cyborgs, and Artificial Mages play very important roles in the story, yet I never quite found these aspects as interesting as the Wolkenritter and the Book of Darkness from A’s. I think part of that is due to the more military-centric approach of StrikerS, which just feels very different than the first two seasons. The story is still nearly as cliché as ever—but I doubt many people are interested in Nanoha for its story anyway—so despite the Saint Church and the various branches of the TSAB armed forces overstaying their welcome with me, that doesn’t really interfere with the action.
A more grounded in reality story (even though it’s still plenty cheesy) makes sense, given how the girls have gotten older and more involved with the TSAB, but without strong, engaging antagonists, I felt like the story struggled a bit to live up to its potential. On the plus side, the new protagonists come with a decent amount of character development, and seeing Nanoha and Fate all grown-up is a little weird, but very, very cool.
I’ll admit that early on, I wasn’t really a huge fan of the new forwards. After two seasons with the brunt of the focus squarely resting on Nanoha and Fate, it took some time for me to grow to appreciate Subaru, Teana, Caro, and Erio. To me, they still can’t hold a candle to the main characters that were introduced during the first two seasons, but just as the song says, the kids are alright.
More than any of the four, you could say that Subaru is the closest thing to a main protagonist (at least for the early portion of the season), and after being saved as a child by Nanoha, she’s aspires to be just like the Ace of Aces. With her trusty gauntlet,
Doomfist Subaru was definitely my favorite out of the four new mages, and I think she was a perfect fit for this show. It also helps that her and her partner in crime are really great together~
Teana is said partner’s name, and even though she’s probably the weakest of the new bunch, she compliments Subaru’s abilities very well, and vice versa. That’s not to say that everything is always peachy keen between them—as they often have quarrels that you’d swear makes them appear to be partners of a different kind—but they always work through their issues and emerge stronger than before. I didn’t find her to be as charming a character as Subaru, and I oftentimes ended up calling her TaeNy by mistake, yet these two are like a package deal, so if you end up taking a liking to one, you’re likely to end up liking the other as well.
As for the other two new forwards, Caro and Erio, I’m not quite as complimentary of them. They’re the kids of the group, and especially early on, I found both to be pretty bland and generic. For me, those thoughts mostly faded over time, but needless to say, I’m probably never going to consider myself a fan of theirs. And if it’s your thing, you can definitely ship these two together, just like you can with Subaru and Teana. Maybe I’m slowly turning into a grumpy old man that’ll someday tell some young whippersnappers to stay off my lawn, but I honestly could’ve done without these kids.
Regardless of whether it was Subaru and Teana or Caro and Erio, there’s only one NanoFate, and now more than ever, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t ship these two. At nineteen years of age now, both Fate and Nanoha are mature young women that have grown leaps and bounds since the events of the original season, as well as the events of A’s.
Fate now has a strong motherly instinct that has seen her become the guardian of both Caro and Erio, and even though that’s a trait that isn’t quite as apparent in Nanoha, that all changes with the introduction of Vivio. Taken under Nanoha’s care, Nanoha serves as Vivio’s mama—or at least one of them—since Vivio also refers to Fate as her other mama. With characters that are as close as Nanoha and Fate are, I think that explicitly referring to them both as Vivio’s mamas goes a long way towards making this pairing canon. How often do you see two women raising a child together in anime? Off the top of my head, I can’t recall any other instance of something like this happening in an anime, and even though Nanoha and Fate don’t fight alongside each other in StrikerS like they did in the first two seasons, seeing them in this new light is even better, in my opinion.
Moving on the villains, I felt like Scaglietti was a pretty lackluster main antagonist, playing the clichéd role of mad scientist not nearly as well as mommie dearest Precia did in the first season. And his group of combat cyborgs largely lacked the personality that made the Wolkenritter stand out as worthy adversaries in season two. They may have been surprisingly strong, but I wasn’t emotionally invested in them in any way, shape, or form.
But perhaps the one thing that bothered me the most was what happened to Arf. Compared to the previous two seasons, her role is practically non-existant, not to mention the fact that she’s taken a much younger form that I didn’t enjoy one bit. She doesn’t accompany Fate anymore, and, overall, her presence was sorely missed, or at least it was for me. Hayate and the Wolkenritter also return, and unlike Arf, I think I like them more than ever. That certainly applies to Signum, and Vita may now be my favorite character in the entire series. She’s so cute, feisty, and tough that I don’t know how someone could possibly not like her.
Also, I also wasn’t a fan of the new Reinforce, Reinforce Zwei. Similar to Arf, her appearance and personality are changed, going from that of a more mature young woman, to that of a child. I get that they’re two separate entities and all, but the new Reinforce just got on my nerves so much. And with Nanoha, Fate, and Hayate taking on leadership roles and having grown up a lot since A’s, there might have been a need for more cutesy characters, but I still greatly miss the Reinforce seen at the end of season two.
There are other characters (like Lutecia and Zest) that are introduced and are interesting enough as it is, though, it’s the mixture of new and old mages that works out well enough that even if you’re not the biggest fan of Subaru, Teana, Caro, and Erio, there are still several other returning characters that are a welcome sight. Toss in Subaru x Teana and Vivio’s NanoFate mama drama, and there’s actually a lot to like about the slate of characters this season~
Seeing that StrikerS comes nearly two full years after A’s, it’s not much of a surprise that this is the best-looking Nanoha season yet. That said, coming from the same studio and without any major changes on the visual front, StrikerS maintains the status quo and looks pretty good, but it doesn’t exactly wow you in this regard. At the very least, there’s plenty of action to be found, so there’s that to be thankful for.
More so than in previous seasons, I felt like the music in StrikerS stood out to me more than it had before. I’m not saying I necessarily thought that it was better, per se, just that it was more noticeable for me. Perhaps this was simply due to having more battle scenes in the lot of twenty-six episodes, or maybe the music really was better. Either way, I hesitate to score it higher than an eight, but you get the general idea. 😛
Thanks to this season being two-cour, there are two OPs and two EDs to enjoy. None of them really wowed me, but they’re nothing to complain about, and Nana Mizuki and Yukari Tamura fans will surely love them anyway. Overall, not much has changed when it comes to the music. It’s not great, but being pretty good still has to count for something.
Despite passing the proverbial torch to a younger set of aspiring heroes, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS still retains much of the essence that made prior seasons entertaining. But for most yuri fans, StrikerS will most be remembered for challenging the cultural norm and featuring Nanoha and Fate as same-sex parents, in what can best be described as a godsend for NanoFate fans the world over~