Saturday, July 23, 2011

Video Backlog: "Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha the Movie 1st"

Publisher: King Records (Japan)
Format: Region 2 DVD, NTSC, Japanese Dialogue with optional English and Japanese Subtitles
Length: 130 minutes
Production Date: 2010
Currently in Print (as of writing): Yes

So, I really haven’t been much of a fan of this franchise at all. The majority of popular magical girl anime are based off shoujo manga and the anime themselves are (at least in the initial series) aimed at a young female audience. But of course if you look back at the promotional events for “Sailor Moon” in the early 1990’s, you could only see male otaku in the audience in their 20’s. The “Wedding Peach” video and music releases were squarely aimed at otaku with LD box releases being the initial home video format and the Furil music group being comprised of the three lead actresses. Nanoha is a different kettle of fish. The anime and everything associated with it is aimed at otaku. The show’s even a spinoff of the hentai game series “Triangle Heart”.

To be clear, I don’t dislike it because it is aimed and created specifically for the otaku audience, but I think because of that it doesn’t as much charm as the magical girl shows aimed at young girls. There is laziness in the writing and the characters are a bit one dimensional. There’s also the purely otaku elements such as the magical wands which in their function and usage are most defiantly made to please their core audience. The whole franchise comes off as like a remix of “Cardcaptor Sakura” for men. And despite being made for that target audience, it is completely free of any (sexual) fan service. This is kind of good, as we’re dealing with prepubescent girls here. Both Nanoha series released in English left me rather cold. It was rather a soulless magical girl show I thought.

This movie is a retelling of the first series. Despite what I thought of the first two series, I was really pleasantly surprised with this film. I don’t know why this is either. I’m assuming it’s because the movie takes the basic structure of the first TV series and truncates it down to a taut 130 minutes. Surprisingly the film doesn’t feel rushed at all. None of the characters feel underutilised either. I think that’s quite an achievement really. Certainly how Nanoha obtains her powers and how she first uses them doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and feels a fraction too rushed, but this is a criticism of a lot of magical girl anime. I thought Nanoha was a bit simplistic and na├»ve, and that Fate was clearly the most interesting well developed character in the show, but this is really no different to the original TV series. I also noted that the character design and design in general was a bit generic. Coupled with the colour and setting design, it felt like a lot of anime from the mid 2000’s, like “Shakugan no Shana” and others. Computer game based animation with designs and situations to match. OK maybe it’s not THAT bad, but I did get that feeling from the film and TV series.

Overall, I for some reason really enjoyed this film. I really can’t tell you why. The run time put me off a lot, but it’s paced really nicely and the coda at the end is really good. I have the regular edition, which contains no on disc extras as such (the special edition came with a second disc of extras), but comes with a nice booklet. Seeing as Geneon sold a heap of the first and second series, one can only wonder why the third series “StikerS” never materialised in the US, nor this film. I must say this film has really turned me around on this franchise. I’m kind of looking forward to the next film in the series, “Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha the Movie 2nd A's”, which is to be released next year. Still, it’s not an exceptional movie, but it is a pretty good one with some great action sequences, a good plot and good animation. 7 out of 10.

Remaining Backlog: 26 months (it's much easier this way than listing the number of discs).

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