Consider this a review of all three seasons and the 2010 movie.
Nanoha is a mahou shojo that messed with the archetypical formula in an attempt to not bore the viewers with a Sailor Moon rehash. Although that partially did the trick, in the longrun it felt victim of its own inability to change or make use of its own duration.
- Animated by studio Seven Arcs which is famous for making colorful ecchi comedies.
- Directed by the all-famous Shimbo Akiyuki, who turned the other studio he usually works in into a colossus. His style to combine the cute with the artsy and the symbolical is very interesting yet this particual work is by far amongst his tamed ones.
- Based on an erotic game, and this is hy the show borders lolicon and hentai at times.
- The production values are good as far as the artwork goes. Nanoha’s setting blended the modern world with the magic of the past and the technology of the future and thus you are offered three-in-one. It has a certain variety that sets it apart from others of its kind and, when the animators were paid fully, it looked very eye-catchy.
- The characters are all drawn to be cute and most of them are kids for most of the story. Being a mahou shojo means that almost anyone important to the plot is a girl, with funky uniforms and magic gizmos that create all sorts of energy attacks. I can’t say I liked their looks; they were all quite generic and not really memorable. Plus, the animators went for fan service and thus there are lots of scenes where the girls are naked or with underwear. Nothing explicit but at many scenes this show is not targeted at little girls but rather horny otakus.
- The contemporary Japan areas are very typical and have nothing of interest to look at. The magic devices and the space-time spaceships on the other hand were an interesting combination.
- There are too many obvious budget problems which results to the use of stiff characters, scrolling panels and reused scenes. And yes, they still reuse a lot the transformation and attack clips. Also, the action scenes are to the most part simplistic exchange of energy beams that end up being tiresome after awhile.
- One thing that will not disappoint is the huge amount of lights and energy beams. They are filling the screen with all sorts of shapes and colors and patterns to the point you can faint if you are photo-epileptic. Very eye-catching and helps you to fight the otherwise boring battles.
- Damn, I rarely find something to write about the sound part. Ok, I had absolutely no problem with it. The voices were not annoying (not too high-pitched to irritate me), the sound effects had an equal variety with the visual ones and the music themes were likable. But not memorable or great for any reason.
STORY SECTION: S1: 5/10, S2: 7/10, S3: 3/10, M: 5/10 (Overall: 5/10)
The story begins in a typical fashion; cute good-hearted girl Nanoha finds Yuuno magic critter and gets powers in order to find something or stop someone. Along the way the story gets more complicating with the addition of an organization that protects the various dimensions from cosmic threats. It sounded very interesting as it blended magic with technology. But the pacing GAH, a complete mess. A major problem with the franchise that made most to give up on it.
- The first season was at first to find scattered spheres from an advanced civilization, and up until the first half it was plain boring. Nanoha and her friends had nothing of interest to fill the slice-of-life moments and the battles were short and simplistic. It is only when her rival Fate is introduced in the story that something good starts to happen. Suddenly she is taken aboard her fuzzy mascot’s spaceship, meats lots of officials and villains with their own spaceship are close by. It was a lot more enjoyable this way but towards the end you could easily see that even this twist didn’t save the story from its genericness. It was mostly about befriending the enemy rather than fighting with wits and the villains pretty much just stormed in and had their way like security didn’t matter. The finale is sweet if you like the power of friendship but otherwise very anti-climactic action-wise.
- The second season is now about finding an evil book that if it charges up fully will create lots of trouble. This season is enjoyable most of the time because it has far more interesting characters, far better action scenes, and in generally far more interesting rivals and objectives. It is otherwise again full of silly moments and again the power of friendship is all that matters in the end. One wonders why the hell do they have all these cool weapons or why they fight in general if all it takes is to just hug the enemy and cry. But anyways, the second season is to the most part good.
- The third season is a bloody mess. Since nobody in this series ever dies, new characters are constantly introduced and the older ones are still present. As a result you have a huge cast that needed a lot of fleshing out or at least episodes dedicated to each one individually. Unfortunately most of the plot was nothing but a very slowly developed military operation with lots of pointless action and uninteresting villains. Plus while the duration is now twice as before, instead of using that extra time to flesh out the characters, or provide emersion to the story, or focus on the established cast, they just slowed down the pacing, leaving most of them as stunts and background decoration. IT WAS HORRIBLE!
- The movie is basically a retelling of the first season. You know, better visuals, more action, less plot, and now loli boobs come with nipples. Just for those who saw the series and want to see the same thing all over again with more superficial entertainment and less context.
In all, the main story had something good going but hardly took advantage of its potential and ended up being a half-baked cake.
CHARACTER SECTION: S1: 6/10, S2: 7/10, S3: 2/10, M: 5/10 (Overall: 5/10)
In all honesty, the cast of the franchise is pretty much stock material. They are all archetypes you will encounter in all mahou shojo in general. So all that mattered was to simply have them colorized throughout every season.
- The first season did a good job with what it had. The problem is, it only had two important girls and one secondary male mascot sidekick for twelve episodes. Although they were quite colorful, they were still archetypes and very few to excuse the duration. Otherwise, not bad for a trio.
- The second season adds almost a dozen more to the main and secondary cast and this is where things become interesting. Although nobody is still special for any reason, there is a lot of variety in personalities and their interactions feel more colorful and less bipolar in good guys – bad guys. Rather good in overall.
- The third season blew it to pieces. It introduced even more characters and pretty much didn’t bother to develop or colorize anyone enough. Not only that but now all the main girls are adults working in a military organization. Where did the magical feeling of those little girls go to? They turned from pure hearted children to military personnel; the magic is gone.
The cast was never special in any way but at least the first two seasons had some innocence in them. The third just makes everybody to feel like a footsoldier in some military academy doing his duty. Very distasteful development. Not only that, but the fan service element never left; it was there all the time showing the girls in various forms of undress. That didn’t add context to them; it took away their dignity. And seriously, watching Nanoha’s and Fate’s adult boobs bouncing like that all the time just felt like they became bitches. And wait a second; isn’t this a mahou shojo show? What the hell does a military organization doing here? And where are the romances? Not a single trace of a girl liking a boy… or another girl. Oh sure; lots of yuri innuendos for the doujins but nothing on screen. What is there to spice things about them? Their bonds of friendship? Not enough.
Although it has its share of loyal fans, it is not a franchise that can keep you interested for long. In fact, I get to believe half of those who like it is because of the fan service and not because of the generic slow story or the stock characters. I see no reason for anyone to spend money on it or even a reason to rewatch it. And let’s be honest, all its interesting plot points were taken directly into their next project, Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Just compare the first and last episodes of season one with each other and you will see what I mean. The very little it has is already used elsewhere in a more eye-captivating way and the rest is just Sailor Moon all over again. With added lolicon and pantsu.
VERDICT: S1: 5/10, S2: 6/10, S3: 4/10, M: 4.5/10 (Overall: 5/10)
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 7/10
General Artwork 1/2 (rather run down)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (fancy blend of magic with technology)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (lots of pretty lights)
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)
STORY SECTION: 5/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
VALUE SECTION: 3/10
Historical Value 1/3 (kinda famous)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot)
Memorability 1/4 (the mix of technology and magic make it memorable but Madoka Magica did it better)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 5/10
Art 1/1 (looks interesting)
Sound 1/2 (sounds meh)
Story 1/3 (good ideas but very dull plot)
Characters 2/4 (they are stereotypes)