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.”

Overview:

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.
– ANN

Yuuno: having no problems with being a ferret despite actually being a human…

Review:

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).

Rating: 5,5/10

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on September 1, 2011, in Anime, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha the Movie 1st, Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Fate just wanted her mothers love, yo. Whether her memories are Alicias or not is largely irrelevant, as they are still memories Fate remembers vividly. And there was a small gap to where Precia treated Fate as a daughter, before she went batshit insane. Add on the the fact that Fate is only nine years old, and I’d say that scene makes a helluva lot more sense than Fate coming out of her comatose state and disowning Precia as a parent.

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    • You think so? I mean, forgiveness as conclusion to how her mother abused her and how her memories are fake isn’t really the reaction I would expect. Certainly it does follow the atmosphere of this story but personally I would like to see more of an inner struggle in her character because forgiving her and acknowledging that there were happy memories isn’t the only imaginable reaction that Fate could think of, I would say. The development going from total despair to merciful forgiveness was a bit too rushed, I think, to make sense as a character-development for Fate. But of course you’re right that going berserk on her mother wouldn’t have made more sense either. Perhaps they should’ve toned down the total-despair-phase to give room for a more reasonable development of Fate, a dialogue that would reflect Fate’s inner state would’ve been far better than Fate being catatonic and suddenly deciding that it’s time to get up and forgive her mother.

      Ah, and thanks for the comment ^^ !

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  2. Eh, well Fate fell catatonic from despair, not because of any type of animosity towards Precia. So it’s not that she forgave her so easily, it’s that she still loves her all the same, and attempted a last ditch effort to gain Precias acceptance. It may have been overly naive on Fate’s part, but she’s very young, and I liked how she was so forgiving; almost to a fault. If I wanted RL, I’d watch Judge Judy where children sue their parents over an unpaid loan. Also, she’s more or less an abuse victim, I’m sure that put a lot of stress on her ability to think rationally.

    I will say things were rushed at time, but converting a 13episode series in a two hour movie does make for a condensed plot. I’d say there could have been other ways to handle it, but Fate was clearly obsessed with wanting Precias acceptance, so it was inevitable that she would be crushed once abandoned by her.

    …Anyways, I do respect your opinion, however, I just felt the need to express my own, as Fate helped me enjoy a movie I would have otherwise struggled to finish.

    And no problem, I mostly agree with the rest of your review.

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    • No, you’re right, I mean, Fate deciding to forgive her mother is in accordance with the tone of the story, it’s just my personal taste where I would like to see something else expressed with Fate in that situation. And that movie I think, is the best way of understanding what defines the mahou-shoujo-genre, it’s a really pure presentation of it but what lowered the score was that the movie didn’t try to go beyond the clichés of that genre. Sure, there were ideas but it didn’t really try to use them. And that’s then just wasting potential when stuff is introduced but not really used. With the clichés already known and much of its potential to do more left unused the movie is under-average in the end because it does nothing new for anyone who knows the mahou-shoujo-genre while its story clearly shows negative signs of just being the condensed version of the series.
      Well, it’s certainly stupid how they approached writing this movie. Just condensing what was told in the series doesn’t really create the best plot you could think of for a movie-adaptation of a series. For example the repetition of Fate fighting with Nanoha but Nanoha trying to understand Fate and becoming her friend seemed just like a stupid repetition here in that short period of time. Two fights would’ve been more than enough for the viewer to get what these moments want to say. What they instead should’ve shown in the first half was how dangerous the Jewel Seeds are because all they showed in that regard was just a little kitten turning into a monster and that barely shows why these Jewel Seeds are so dangerous. You could definitely understand the implications of that but to really include it in the atmosphere of the story the plot should make it clear what is at stake instead of assuming that the viewer can figure it out himself.

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  3. i agree with what you said even though i like the series, also i felt nanoha was too masterful with her powers as well as overconfident to the point of questioning her emotions and the whole thing did nothing to make the auidence care about the characters outside of the magical circle like nanoha’s friends and family

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  4. m0rg0th

    While I don’t disagree with your overall assessment of the movie, there are some parts of your review that I disagree with.

    First, I highly disagree with you saying that the entire Nanoha series is a “Mahou-shojo” through the end. I think the first season dropped the “Mahou shojo” elements after the fourth episode. I think the “mahou shoujo” elements have become less and less prevalent over the later seasons.

    Second, you think the first movie is “fluffy?” I’m sorry to say this but are you kidding me? I definitely agree that the Nanoha series is no “Madoka Magica” but to call the first movie “fluffy” is just wrong. I think the original series is much more “fluffier” than the movie because of all the boring, light-hearted “slice of life” moments that the original series had.

    Speaking of “slice of life”, I’m surprised you bothered to even mention about the “slice of life” moments of the first season even though you thought they were crap anyway.

    And lastly, I highly disagree with you saying that the Nanoha series went downhill after the first season. Most fans think that A’s is even better than the first season and that the Nanoha series went downhill with Strikers.

    Honestly, I’m not trying to sound like a raving douchebag fanboy. I just wanted to offer some of my two cents. I know that this review is entirely your opinion and I respect it despite the fact that I disagreed with some of your points. I completely understand if you don’t like the Nanoha series that much (“to each his own”).

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