Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha the Movie 1st – Review
You know, she said that every goddamn time she met Fate – and they still fought every goddamn time. The only time when they talked was when Nanoha finally managed to beat Fate. It really made Nanoha seem like a hypocrite, I think.
Well, if there’s one thing we can learn from mahou-shoujo-series it’s that in the business of world-saving child-labour isn’t prohibited. With that I want to talk about this new Nanoha-movie that retells the story of the first season of this franchise. Condensed into a “little” more than two hours one has much to endure as far as mahout-shoujo-action goes and if you want to know what this mahou-shoujo-movie wants tell you… well, the message is simple: “Accidents suck.”
Running Time: 130 minutes
Premiere date: 2010
Plot Synopsis: Takamachi Nanoha is a normal fourth-grader who feels a little useless and out-of-place with no purpose. Then one day, she saves a ferret, who turns out to be a mage from another planet who came to this planet to search for the jewl seeds. Nanoha agrees to help, but this task gets complicated when another girl arrives to steal them.
Yuuno: having no problems with being a ferret despite actually being a human…
You know one of my favourite-genres is definitely mahou-shoujo. Girls getting insufferably nice to each other, flashy fights that are decided by implausible sentimentality and preachy messages about the meaning of a life reduced to its fluffy parts – you gotta love this, right? Well, the thing with this movie is that in my memory the series was much worse and really a mahou-shoujo-series adhering fanatically to its stereotypes. But for this movie seemingly someone with a decent working brain went over the plot and made the plot more bearable for the reasonable part of the viewers’ brain. It’s better than the series but it’s still Nanoha.
One of the things that always bother me about Mahou-Shoujo-series is how everyone is essentially good. Instead of using psychological characterization to show how blurry the lines between good and evil are, it’s used instead as an explanation why everyone actually is only good but somehow makes mistakes and these mistakes lead the character on the path of evil. That way there’s nothing interesting or original about the story of Nanoha. Fate may have been an interesting character especially with the twist at the end but the story is so loyal to its stereotypes that they seemingly turn a blind eye on any kind of potential. For example when Fate finds out that she’s just a clone with Alicia’s memories and has been raised as a weapon to get her mother the necessary Jewel Seeds, Fate’s first reaction is naturally despair. But after a while she comes (also naturally) to a resolution but that resolution is just baffling: She goes to her ‘mother’ and stands by her love towards her, proclaiming that these are her own feelings. But that makes no sense because first, any fond memories Fate has of a life with her mother are from Alicia and second, any memories Fate has made with her mother are basically her mother sadistically abusing Fate or ignoring her. But the series makes it clear in another scene before Fate’s resolution that of course her mother loves her, she was just conflicted about her responsibility for Alicia’s death. So Fate forgiving her ‘mother’ is right because she’s actually good. This may make sense as far as Mahou-Shoujo-series go but it sure doesn’t make sense characterwise or realistically speaking.
But it’s not only the sentimental side that has problems to keep things plausible, the plot in general is full of little plotholes. It’s nothing essential and if you aren’t too skeptical while watching the movie you might not even notice the irregularities but they are there. As I said I feel like someone actually went over the script and tried to correct some mistakes and add some explanations for some baffling scenes but even the best explanations don’t help in some cases with the plot of this movie. This already starts with Yuuno, the ‘klutz on a quest’ as I like to call him. Not only is everything his fault but he also loses against generic monsters and thinks it his best defense to turn into a ferret… and forgetting to turn back into a human after he’s saved by Nanoha. His character has practically besides having a reason to be in the plot no characteristics at all. Why does he prefer to be a ferret? From where does he come from? Shouldn’t he return there after having secured the Jewel Seeds he lost? His character just makes no sense. Of course the characters try to explain themselves with their dialogues but it’s all on the obvious side of things and never gets deeper than that and as you try to go deeper in understanding this series you’re only welcomed by a giant emptiness – this movie simply doesn’t care about being deep.
There are even some laughable attempts at actually making something out of the setting when for example Nanoha is training with Raising Heart who asks her what is the most important thing in combat. Nanoha goes of course with the typical “As long as I don’t want to lose, I won’t lose.” but Raising Heart means that “Tactics” and “Wisdom” are far more important. Okay, they say that but I’ve never seen them using it. This movie had as much tactics and wisdom in it as me playing an action-based RPG with screwed-up gameplay. It’s ridiculous how the only time Nanoha does the smart thing in combat instead of just doing an arm-wrestling-exercise, it gets heightened to a kind of plot-twist. It’s a miracle she survived until then to do that last attack the way this fight went!
These devices mahou-shoujo in this series use are just like talking computers and still they are treated like persons. Have you ever seen a girl asking the computer-guy with a concerned voice whether her computer will be okay after it gets repaired? It’s just creepy how Fate and Nanoha interact with their devices.
So there’s flashy action, plenty of it and if you like that this movie won’t disappoint you but as far as slice-of-life goes this movie is even worse than the series. In the series there were some slice-of-life-scenes with Nanoha indulging in her daily life but in this movie these scenes are reduced to – nothing. Her whole life in the real world is reduced to ‘just being there for no reason at all’. This movie might have worked with Nanoha living alone and being a loner at school – it wouldn’t have made a difference. Of course they kept to the character-list of the original and had to put those characters somewhere to give them their chance to appear on screen but otherwise it was just a waste of time. But since those parts were crap in the series anyway I’m not one to mourn the lack of activity coming from that side of the setting.
Well, all that’s left to discuss is of course the point of it all, with what kind of message will one leave this movie after the credits start rolling? Like I said, it’s very simple: “Accidents suck.” This movie shows that most of the adventures one undertakes are about undoing the negative effects of accidents. It all starts with Yuuno’s accident of losing the Jewel-Seeds and it ends with Fate’s mother’s accident that killed only her daughter who was some miles away but got hurt worse than her mother who was directly at the lab where the accident happened. Another thing you can learn from the evil side of the plot: “Death sucks.” Alicia is dead, her mother is also dying (which puts her in a really bad mood naturally) – and the world has to pay the price for it. Well, life doesn’t get sunnier with death and all of course but there’s only one thing to be said to Fate’s mother: “Get over it.” I mean, all these problems only because Alicia’s mother can’t handle death – neither the one of her daughter nor her own. Someone should’ve told her that planning world-destruction and raising cloned super-soldiers isn’t really the way “to get over it”.
So… what does Nanoha get out of all of this? Actually… not much. She has a time-consuming dangerous job – for which she doesn’t get paid since they don’t have money in the magical future (like in Star Trek, you know). She has to feed a ferret who’s actually a freeloader since he could earn his own money, being human and all. And her best friend is a cloned Super-Soldier raised to kill stuff with badass magic, she also has a serious Oedipus-complex, but I guess, one could do worse with choosing his friends.
So the movie was actually quite good, I’d say but that’s probably just me remembering that after the first season it only got worse with each following season.
It is better than the series with some little improvements that try to make sense of the stereotypical plot but it still concentrates more on wishful thinking than plausibility. The flashy fights and the good animation are a good way to distract you from listening to the banal dialogue or thinking about the story but it’s not really what you’d call “entertainment”. As stereotypical as it is, it’s also an interesting way of showcasing what defines the mahou-shoujo-genre nowadays and also shows how mature Madoka Magica is in comparison to this fluffy easy-going mahou-shoujo-movie. If you like flashy no-brainer-entertainment then you will find the two hours nicely spent with this movie (you could do worse when you’re in search of no-brainers after all).