Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's

Alt title: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A's

TV (13 eps)
Fall 2005
4.223 out of 5 from 4,094 votes
Rank #718

Six months after the Jewel Seeds incident, Nanoha is still using her magical powers to help the Time-Space Administration Bureau maintain dimensional stability. However, new adversaries involved with the dreaded "Book of Darkness" Lost Logia have appeared, wielding weapon systems that far outclass Nanoha's Raising Heart and Fate's Bardiche. Nanoha, Fate and friends must now find a way to match the strength of their new opponents and once again use their powers to prevent a large time-space disaster from happening – an event which threatens not only their world, but multiple dimensions!

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Nanoha A's is a spin off of Nanoha that didn't believe enough in itself to be an actual spin off. Story You might get tricked into thinking this show is actually a sequel, after all the first 5 episodes are dedicated to the original cast. But when considering the plot, nothing relevant happens in those 5 episodes. Without giving spoilers, from episode 1 to 5 Nanoha and Fate encounter new enemies with a unknown weapons and unknown objectives. That's the one and only story relevant thing that happens. The rest of the runtime of those episodes is tea time and trips to the grocery store.Then in ep 6 we find out the backstory of the new enemies from the perspective of Hayate and their intentions. Said perspective never goes back to what it was before. The protagonists of the story clearly change. And from that episode on the story actually unfolds. Sure the characters we know are still there and they do stuff, but there is no need for them to be.. well themselves. Non spoiler example: Yuuno has a single role and important scene in the story: He needs to find some information from a library, he doesn't do anything else. Sure he talks in a couple other episodes but it's random chitchat. There was no need for Yuuno to be the one to do that. A random librarian would have sufficed in the plot. The same goes for all the other characters. Fate and Nanoha might be the ones fighting, but they have no particular reason or need to do so. Don't take this as me hating the original characters, I like them. But the story focuses on them while not giving them interesting stuff to do. They don’t have any character development. They don’t reflect on the events of the previous entry in any meaningful way. And they end up having a more toned down version of their original personality. Main offender being Fate that turned in the most unbelievably “boring nice girl” archetype possible with no opinions in any matter whatsoever other than the generic “I wanna help people!”. How to solve this? There are two ways.Either give them interesting stuff to do and actual stakes in the situation.Or better yet focus on Hayate from the first episode. For those that don't know Nanoha S1 is also a spin off of something else. It's a spin off of Triangle Heart. What's Triangle Heart? Well do you recall Nanoha's brother and sister? It's an action show about them fighting with ninjas and stuff.Now imagine Nanoha S1 except this time the first five episodes are those two siblings wasting time chatting and having tea. Only after that we get to Nanoha's story, doesn't that sound terrible? Direction and Technical aspects The first season was directed by Akiyuki Simbo, famous for the Monogatari series, Nisekoi, March Comes in like a Lion and many more. He gave the show a distinct look and interesting scenes. He might depict a scene with a full blood red filter, use interesting low angle shots, or edit it in a engaging way. Whatever it was it gave the show a unique look within the magical girl genre. Outshined only by very few other works like Madoka Magica. (Which he himself directed years later, imagine that.) Wanna know what else he directed? The aforementioned Triangle Heart. So he knew the need to let the old characters aside in a spin of. Something that as I established the new show was incapable of. (I say show instead of director because the heavy presence of the original cast might have been enforced by the production committee. Who knows the details.) Keizou Kusakawa is the new director and he would go on to direct such "gems" as Sekirei, Dog Days and Campione!. This was his directorial debut so we should cut him some slack.. but he’s still to blame for the terrible looking show. To summarize my thoughts on A's visuals: flat and still. Forget the interesting visuals and cool use of colors everything is flat. Forget the quirky angles, everything is a still body shot / reverse shot of a conversation. Anyone who's not talking? They are statues. There are so many shots of more than 30 second with characters talking and they are completely still! (except for lip flaps)What about the designs? While the individual quality is about the same there is a character that has a ridiculous amount of transformations. Like 6 within 4 episodes. There are some that come and go so quickly that you can't even find a picture of them on google. Fight Scenes The exceptions to the poor animations are within the fights, that look as good as the first season. To compensate though the pacing and value of them is horrible. A fight might go on for like 15 minutes without anything changing. Two character shooting each other, two crossing swords and the rest punching each other. For almost the entire episode. Half of the fights are meaningless anyway and they are there just to give past character stuff to do. Alph/Arf and her male equivalent Zafira are literally useless for example. Why are they in the show? Well they couldn't just write off Arf could they? And she needed something to do, so they gave her a buddy to punch. Neither do anything for the story, they just waste screen time. They are a mirror to each other but neither has any value, so they end up reflecting nothingness. Talking about the fights, the new concept of the Cartridge system, while simple in design it's incredibly misused. Some weapons can use a cartridge to get a temporary power boost. Pretty simple right? How could they mess it up? Give the characters entire magazines of them and then never make anyone run out in the entire show. That's how.This turns the system from a combat mechanic into a visual gimmick at most. "Oh look the cartridge popped out and made a pretty sound..." Is the extent of its importance.  Characters While I focused on how this fails as a sequel, it's not like focusing on the new stuff would make it particularly good. Other major changes are needed. The story outline is good enough as is but it's hard to find it anything more than acceptable considering half of the runtime is wasted. And the characters (old and new) are incredibly bland. I can’t even say they are the usual anime archetypes, they are a toned down and blander version of those archetypes. We got Hayate a “boring nice girl type” as opposed to Nanoha and Fate that are… slightly less boring nice girls? Can you even begin to imagine those three disagreeing on anything? I can’t. Then we got the 4 Knight/Wolkenritter. I already mentioned why Zafira the wolf boy is useless. Vita the generic bratty loli is actually decent as is, I don’t think she needs particular changes. But the final two, Signum and Shamal.. why are they even two different characters? I see that they wanted one of them to be more like a fatherly leader and the other more like a motherly caretaker. But they either needed to develop those aspects more (which they could have done if they didn’t waste 5 episodes on trips to the grocery store and tea time). Or fuse the two characters together. (Cutting one of them also works and makes it easier to develop the survivor).Of the remaining minor character the only one worth mentioning/good was the commander. But I can’t go into details for spoiler reasons. Final Thoughts The acceptably satisfying ending it's ruined from a rushed pace with characters being put in "danger" to then be rescued within 5 minutes. The show also bets most of the emotional climax on us to caring with a new character that gets introduced 3 episodes before said ending. This wannabe spin-off is a disappointment both on it’s own and especially when comparing it to the original.


If you've watched the first season, then you're in for a treat because Nanoha A's takes everything good about the first season, strips the bad, and improves upon it immensely. Seriously, they could not have made this more perfect... well, perhaps a bit more action at the end, but it's the only minor complaint in a long list of Awesomness.Story:The series starts up again where the last left off, with Nanoha training her magic and Fate being assisted by Chrono and Yuuno with regards to her actions in the first series. Meanwhile, we get our glimpse of the antagonists, as a mysterious book awakens in a young girl's home. Not only does this new girl, 9 year old Hayate, live alone, but she's been relegated to a wheelchair (she does get some assistence froma mysterious uncle relative, but more on that later).Unfortunately, a new force is active in Nanoha's hometown, as mysterious girl named Vita homes in on Nanoha and attacks her. The reasons behind Vita's actions, how it connects with Hayate, and the so-called "Book of Darkness" all intertwine in a solid plot with great action that will leave you feeling for both the heroes and "villains." Motivation for the antagonists is a big issue with me, and this season weaves the story well, bringing conflict in, while not skimping on reason or believability. All 13 episodes are used well to tell the story, and not a minute is wasted. Since we have most of the character introductions out of the way from the first season, the second season can focus more on pure story.And Nanoha continues to show just why she's the best magical girl out there; no whining, but going straight forward and facing the dangers with confidence. Not to mention the kick-ass fight scenes that put every other single magical girl show to shame. In a lot of ways, Nanoha justifies the fan feelings that the show is more shonen with mecha references, rather than magical girl, but fans of any of those will find something to like in this.Animation:Top notch. Not only are there more battles, but they are enhanced in length. There are technically only 3 transformations sequences (2 of Nanoha, 1 of Fate), but other than that, no stock footage. Even the transformation sequences for Nanoha are different. They certainly didn't skimp on the animation, but pulled out all the stops; every other series could learn something here. Other than that, the animation is similar to the first series, just more consistent.Sound:Quite a bit of the music from the first series is back, but it still blends so well with the scenes that it enhances them, rather than overwrites them. There are two vocal tracks that deserve mention, playing in their 4+ minute entirety. The first is "Snow Rain" a haunting, but beautiful melody that's played near the end, that will give you shivers. "Brave Phoenix" isn't quite as good, but if you like seeing numerous heroes ganging up on something with all their best attacks, working together, then you'll get chills listening to this piece when combined with the onscreen action. Characters:Nanoha continues it's focus on character motivations and growth, emphasizing courage under fire, and rising to meet the challenge, rather than retreat in fear. Hayate in particular will warm your heart with her many crowning moments of awesomeness; despite the crappy hand she's been dealt, she doesn't give up, either. And no matter how badly she gets hurt, she doesn't run away, making her a welcome addition. The family she gains also deserve mention for the bond they form with her, how they are changed by her, and the lengths they go to serve her.Again, the one minor flaw returns in that we have 9-10 year old girls who seem incredibly mature and self-sufficient for their age, but compared to the magical girls we've known that frequently whine, cry, run away, act stupid, or detest their powers, wanting to live a normal life... well, Nanoha is a refreshing and welcome change. There is no cringing over stupidity. It's nice to see that characters can show humanity and growth, without resorting to cliches.And lastly, I do need to mention Raising Heart(or Raging Heart if you prefer) and Bardiche; intelligent devices that really grow into their own and show why they have just as much character as the mages they serve. Raising Heart in particular has several moments of awesomenes.Overall:There's not much else to add, as I don't want to spoil too much, and it needs to be seen to be believed. If I'm overhyping this, well, you'll see why. A's is considered to be by many the crowning moment of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, and of the magical girl genre in particular. All the new characters are welcome additions, and give much needed fleshing out of the cast and universe, while not overshadowing the returning ones.As I said in the review of the first series, this is one of those overlooked hidden gems, a diamond in the rough, that you won't regret watching at all no matter what kind of anime fan you may be.

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