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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Lyrical Nanoha: Season Set
Lyrical Nanoha: Season Set
FUNimation // Unrated // December 9, 2008
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted January 20, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Show:

The market is flooded with Geneon titles now that they have reached a publishing agreement with FUNimation. For the most part this is a fantastic thing for anime fans since it's always nice to have variety, after all it's the spice of life or so they say. While most of the series are from a backlog of catalog titles that have already been released in some form or another, some are new properties such as today's subject of discussion Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (try saying that ten times fast).

If you can't tell from its title, Nanoha is a series about a magical girl...who also happens to be lyrical? At any rate, the name doesn't really make a lot of sense, but then again this isn't the kind of show that really needs to either. That's the beauty of the mahou shoujo genre and by and large it simply doesn't have to be anything other than standard. It follows a set guideline of character traits, often stays structured to a fault, and rarely does anything to break the mold. It's a polarizing genre to say the least and here in the States I'd argue that it's less popular than in Japan. After all, Nanoha is a spin-off of a PC game and has multiple sequels. I simply don't get the appeal.

Now, don't get me wrong. I enjoy mahou shoujo just as much as the next anime fan. I have sat through countless shows of a similar nature and I have had a blast with several of them. The problem I had with Nanoha wasn't quite so much the genre it is firmly rooted in, but rather the fact that it does little to distinguish itself. Sure there are a few traits that help it rise above the rest. Unfortunately those elements and highlights are fleeting at best and in the end the show is awash in stereotypes and clichés.

The show starts out innocently enough with a young girl named Nanoha. She's a sickly sweet third grader who is about as normal as you can get, but that all changes when she bumps into a talking ferret named Yuuno in a bit of a pickle. She helps the critter out and her life is never the same from that point on. Basically, Yuuno is a magical being who is on a quest for powerful items known as Jewel Seeds and for her efforts Nanoha is imbued with some magical abilities of her own. Thanks to a crystal she now has the power to transform into a magical girl form and with these new skills she joins up with Yuuno and helps him on his quest. Yawn.

Once Nanoha gets her magical powers the show quickly sets up a somewhat episodic nature as she starts out looking for the Jewel Seeds. In all honesty it's kind of boring until the fourth episode where the character of Fate is introduced. Fate is a damaged girl with a crazy mother who wants to use the Jewel Seeds to revive her dead daughter (Fate's sister). Fate and Nanoha become enemies of sorts, though Nanoha's innocent nature persists as she doesn't necessarily see the bad qualities of her opponent. It's this rivalry that instills some interesting moments into the show and their development is one of the better things that Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has going for it.

The thirteen episodes of this series tend to drag since things don't really happen until later on and ultimately the antagonist simply doesn't do a well enough job to up the ante. The show plays it safe with regards to the plot and dramatic developments and all around these elements are very light. It leaves the series feeling boring and slow-paced, but it's the lack of originality that is the real killer here. I suppose you simply have to have be a mahou shoujo-moe to really appreciate shows such as this and if you'd consider yourself a lover of all things magical girl then you'll eek some pleasure out of many moments. For the rest of us though, this series simply comes up too short, offers too little, and plays it safe.

Actually, before we close this review it's also worth noting that there are several uncomfortable moments in this show. Because Nanoha is a magical girl who goes through transformations and the like, there's naturally an accompanying animation. This leaves the viewer subjected to some very risqué scenes with partial nudity of its main character. Normally I don't have a problem with this, but consider how young its protagonist is Nanoha simply pushes it too far. Needless to say if you have a loli fetish then you'll get more out of it, but it definitely wasn't for me. All things considered Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is simply a show that will only appear to its core fan-base of raging otaku who love watching young girls beat the crap out of monsters with their magical abilities. If you don't fall into that category then consider skipping this one all together.

The DVD:

Video:

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha was originally released in Japan in 2004 and is presented on DVD with the full frame aspect ratio it was produced with. Visually the show is about as bubbly as you'd expect it to be. The design is all-too cute, the colors pop off the screen, and all around everything in the show oozes adorable. It's sickeningly sweet, but thankfully the technical aspect of the series is decent enough. There's some light compression in part, some grain, and a little aliasing at times, but the series' transfer is good enough to be easy on the eyes, if not a little unassuming.

Audio:

The two dubs for Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha are both presented with 2.0 stereo output. The English and Japanese language tracks are good for what they were intended to be though the dubs can be a bit flat at times. The voice acting is handled lightly and there are no outstanding performances with either track, but it fits the theme and atmosphere of the show. As far as the presentational qualities are concerned the stereo tracks do their job with no notable flaws though there's virtually no sense of immersion and the show feels lifeless because of that.

Extras:

Some clean animations and trailers are all you're going to find here.

Final Thoughts:

If you enjoy magical girl anime then you're undoubtedly going to love Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha since it throws just about everything but the kitchen sink at you. It does not break the mold whatsoever and it goes out of its way to please fans. With that being said there's really not much else for the rest of us to latch on to. The story is dry, the characters are stereotypical to a fault, and the magical transformations are bit too risqué considering the age of the girls. All in all Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is a disappointment and it simply doesn't do enough to raise the bar or meet standards. Consider this one not worth your time unless you're in love with magical girls and enjoy partially nude third graders.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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