Review-Roundup: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha ViVid 01, Nagato Yuki-chan no Shōshitsu 01, Arslan Senki 01
That’s the best way to summarize this first episode actually: It’s a romantic comedy interrupted by outbursts of shrillness reminiscent of the original Haruhi-series.
This time I review:
Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha ViVid 01: A little girl becomes a woman because of magic and it’s all for the sake of kicking ass! Her two mothers, Nanoha and Fate, try to cope with that change.
Nagato Yuki-chan no Shōshitsu 01: Nagato is a shy nerd who secretly loves some lazy dude with a very laid-back depression and a heart of gold.
Arslan Senki 01: A prince gets kidnapped and learns that slavery isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha ViVid 01 Review:
At this point, the series might as well just openly admit that Fate and Nanoha are a couple.
The Nanoha-franchise has always been great at setting up its pure, innocent atmosphere. Therefore it may be no coincidence that it always puts its youngest characters into the limelight. That this series is doing that while establishing a continuity is one of the appeals of this franchise. There aren’t many franchises which would switch out the role of the mainchara while still keeping the previously established characters around. It also helps that Masaki Tsuzuki had always been in charge of the franchise’s storylines. When you get to the fourth installment of a franchise something like this is a huge benefit (unless said creator has lost sight of what made the series initially great). Despite having a new setting populated with old and new characters it’s the tone of this episode that really sells it. If you have been watching right from the beginning and are fond of the typical habits of a Nanoha-series, then you will find some comfort in how nostalgic this episode feels.
What has always marred the franchise is a lack of growth. The franchise has always treated its sequels as opportunities to focus on new characters and make the story about them while the old guard is just hanging around with little involvement. It’s the new characters that get the big character-arcs while the old characters’ developments follow predictable lines. The fact that Nanoha and Fate have apparently become a couple who has adopted Vivio is a development that StrikerS hasn’t covered. It’s simply the next step in this relationship that the series had started developing in the first season and since then the series had just done everything it could to solidify this relationship. But the series doesn’t address this sort of stuff in a dramatic way. Something like Nanoha’s and Fate’s relationship doesn’t turn into a storyline aiming for a love-confession. Once characters have solved their personal problems in the Nanoha-franchise they’re good people whose problems are at best nuisances they’re indirectly involved in.
In this case the new focus of the series is Vivio, the daughter of Nanoha and Fate who happens to be royalty in some sort of ancient kingdom. The setting of the Nanoha-franchise has always used the idea of trans-dimensional mahou-shoujo-warriors as the main-point for its stories. But the actual setting is very fluid in what tropes are getting used. While the whole concept of mahou-shoujos is treated as a sci-fi-thing, you can also get tropes associated with fantasy like magical tomes and medieval concepts like knights.
Right now my guess is that this series will be all about the idea of responsibility. With Vivio being royalty, some assassin running around linked to her background and the whole adult-transformation-thingy then it’s all headed for this sort of rude awakening one calls “growing up”. And seriously, the idea of the adult-transformation is fucked up. All that’s left is that she’s put in charge of a toy-store and that she starts a relationship with a dude/lady who’s as old as Nanoha and Fate. Also, the idea of “Hey, I can fight better in this form.” may be logical but maybe this should also be taken as an indication that little children shouldn’t get involved in fights where physically becoming an adult is necessary.
I’m also worried about how this series is gonna treat Vivio’s power-potential. When she changed clothes with her two friends one of them thought she was a bookworm because she found her reading books but then it’s revealed that Vivio is also already this fighting-protégé. And she’s royalty as well. This doesn’t seem like a very well-rounded characterization. The cheesy dialogue between Vivio and Nanoha doesn’t help either as Vivio accepts her limitations and acknowledges that in the end she’s still just a kid despite the adult-transformation. Childishness means that you aren’t aware of your limitations. Vivio already seems pretty mature for her age to be so self-aware and patient. No kid would ever say “Oh, yeah, sure, I know that this magic-thingy doesn’t make me powerful. It will take me at least another ten years before I really can kick some ass, I assume.”. Maybe they will play the past-lives-card to explain her mature personality…? Who knows but right now Vivio is indistinguishable from the general atmosphere of the series turning her into a character who plays a role without any charisma.
The series certainly has been successful in setting up another series of the Nanoha-franchise as there’s plenty familiar in this first episode if one likes this franchise. This first episode relied on nostalgia in many ways as it does little to change the formula set up by previous seasons. You got a bunch of pure characters and some “evil” entity threatening the peace of everyday life. And the plot will focus on finding out why the “evil” entity does what it does and then the series will enter negotiations (which will result in battles) until some sort of understanding is reached. Of course, maybe this time around this series will do things differently but this first episode doesn’t seem to go into that direction.
Nagato Yuki-chan no Shōshitsu 01 Review:
I assume, this is something the anime added… In this scene Nagato isn’t reading a book like expected (based on her portrayal in the original series) but instead she’s playing some game using… what I assume is a PSVita…? Maybe they even should’ve added the detail of her playing some VN and then you could’ve turned that into a premise for a joke in that scene… but oh well, whenever these two are alone this episode has always gotten very cheesy.
What would The Melancholy Of Suzumiya Haruhi be like without Haruhi? Actually the answer to that question is quite obvious if you think about it. Things would simply be quieter. Her character is so shrill and over-the-top that she has always set the tone in each scene. In her place Nagato plays the role of a shy, introverted girl who pines for Kyon’s attention and love.
That alone gives the series a very different atmosphere. Romance isn’t just this little sub-plot that comes up from time to time here. This is all about Nagato’s love for Kyon and the way this series addresses that makes you wonder whether this romance-plot will be able to stay entertaining. As obnoxious as will-they-won’t-they-plots may be you can at least milk those for story-material. In this case, though, this first episode has made it clear that Nagato loves Kyon but is too shy to confess to him. Kyon on the other hand just seems flustered whenever the mood gets romantic. I mean, where do you go from there? The only thing keeping Nagato from confessing is herself but her struggle heavily relies on a constant state of shyness-fueled reluctance (which isn’t deep enough to be anything other than a cheap plot-device). But if the end of a story isn’t reached only because a character obviously avoids going into that direction, then the plot essentially becomes filler. You have to keep moving into some direction after all, that’s what story-progress is all about.
What’s more interesting is to see just how strongly this series is connected to the original series. While scenes of Nagato and Kyon alone punctuated by Nagato’s thoughts are full of cheesy romance-pathos, the scene of the two in front of the washing-machine becomes shrill and comedic as now it’s Kyon’s inner voice that punctuates the scene. All the scenes in the shopping-district are like that as well. The humor of this first episode is very reminiscent of the original series but without the pair of Haruhi and Kyon leading the charge (as one is the reason why the shrillness exists and the other plays the straight man commenting it) it just feels like a sudden shift in tone. Especially if you compare the shrill silliness of the shopping-district-scenes with this melodramatic speech Nagato is giving to Kyon in one scene you get a very unbalanced portrayal of two extremes in this episode.
Also, I wonder, just how much this series wants to rely on knowing how the original series characterized Nagato. If you’ve seen the original series or the movie or read the Light-Novels then you know why Nagato’s acting the way she does. But separate from this there isn’t a lot in this episode that illuminates Nagato’s character. So she wants to be around other people, she wants to have fun – but at the same time she’s unwilling to leave her little bubble she has created for herself. She let Kyon in because she’s in love with him but she doesn’t do a lot to connect with the life around her she so yearns to experience. Personally I would’ve preferred if this series had gone to some length to give her some mundane background explaining this attitude instead of taking it for granted that everyone in the audience already knows what Nagato’s deal is. Especially during Nagato’s melodramatic speech it’s very telling how Kyon doesn’t question her or react much but just has this look of pity on his face as if her speech had been something he could relate to. I mean, wouldn’t it have been more interesting if Kyon would’ve her just dragged outside after that speech and told her to just confront life and to do more than just listen to it.
But of course the series can’t do that. This series’ story as it’s presented in this episode is far too simplistic to fill an entire season. Unless they plan to just spend the whole time having comedy-antics-filled filler-arcs, there isn’t much here to raise your interest. A first episode should make you feel curious and excited. This series wants to tell a story and you want to know where this story goes and how it ends! This episode doesn’t do that. It’s all laid out in front of you and nothing of it seems worth the trouble of watching 12 episodes. Unless you’re already a fan of the Haruhi-franchise this first episode didn’t deliver any sort of hook. Right now, I think the only thing this series has going for it is its comparatively toned-down shrill comedy and a predictable romance-plot.
Arslan Senki 01 Review:
The virtuous but naive prince figuring out what it means to be a king… Not a very compelling storyline on its own but coupled with the epic worldbuilding of this episode this can become a really entertaining storyline (once the main-chara grows up a bit).
Legend of the Galactic Heroes is a classic anime-series depicting an epic sci-fi-saga over the course of 110 episodes. Yoshiki Tanaka has written the Light-Novels the series was based on and he has written other stuff as well and some of those works got adopted as well after that success. But none of these other adaptations ever managed to match the success and/or quality of LOGH. The biggest reason for that is that nowadays nobody would invest in another 110-episodes-series. At best it’s series with a cheap straightforward formula that are allowed to run for so long. And considering that you can’t help but already imagine how disappointing this series’ ending will be.
This series barely even has the budget for inadequately short run. The battle-scene this episode opens with simply looks cheap. From the narration and the imagery you know that this will be an epic series but as soon as people start to move and fight in that battle you know that this series doesn’t have a big budget. Depending on how often there will be battle-scenes in this series this may become a real problem. Judging by the previews for next episode we will have to watch these cheap animations again.
Another curious detail about this series is that this isn’t an adaptation of Yoshiki Tanaka’s novel-series. This is an adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga-adaptation of the novel-series. The work Hiromu Arakawa is probably best known for is Fullmetal Alchemist. Well, and her Silver-Spoon-series also has gotten an anime-adaptation. This series doesn’t have the backing of a big animation-studio, though.
In terms of its setup the setting has a similar dualistic conflict as LOGH did. In this case you got a somewhat-Arabic country called Pars and a Western-like country called Lusitania and in this first episode you already got this conflict between two morally grey mindsets. Arslan is baffled by the zealousness of the Lusitanian boy who kidnaps him but the boy is horrified by the Parsian practice of slavery. Neither side looks like the good guys in this scenario. It’s the individuals who are good and have to somehow change the corrupted world they live in.
This first episode does a good job by establishing the setting and the characters which will probably matter in the future. I assume the three boys that Arslan spares will become his friends and comrades in future battles. And things get even more epic as the preview establishes that Arslan will be one year older in the next episode. Apparently this series won’t split its attention between both sides of the conflicts like LOGH did and instead the story’s perspective is mostly focused on Arslan’s point-of-view.
There’s a boyish charm to this epic fantasy. You may have these somewhat loaded topics like religion, war and slavery but in the end Arslan is a character who isn’t so much part of the world as he’s observing it while trying to find ways to improve it. He’s a character who’s still searching what he wants to fight for. And this made him seem timid and somewhat naïve in this episode but besides establishing his personality it also nicely shows how he’s still just a kid in the end. He searches the approval of his father but he barely acknowledges his son. At the same time his mother is pretty much an arrogant viper – or that’s what she seems like in this episode.
It isn’t a great episode as far as first episodes are concerned but there aren’t a lot of fantasy-animes out there and even fewer that try to be epic. With a bigger budget and longer running-time this may have turned out to be a great series but as it is, it’ll probably end up being a disappointment (like Tytania for example).
Posted on April 7, 2015, in Anime, Arslan Senki, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu, Reviews and tagged Arslan Senki, アルスラーン戦記, 長門有希ちゃんの消失, 魔法少女リリカルなのはViVid, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, Mahō Shōjo Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, Nagato Yuki-chan no Shōshitsu, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, The Heroic Legend of Arslan. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.