Trouble is brewing again and young Nanoha finds herself caught up in the middle of it with her friends.
What They Say
After defending the Jewel Seeds and converting her rival into an ally, Nanoha now faces an even stronger foe. The mysterious Book of Darkness threatens to consume its host and engulf the universe if Nanoha can't overcome its defenses!
Contains episodes 1-13.
The bilingual presentation for this series is decent and about as expected with a standard pair of stereo audio mixes encoded at 192kbps. Nanoha doesn’t have any really big moments to it when it comes to the audio but it’s a solid enough piece overall that the forward soundstage presentation is good and it is problem free. It doesn’t really explore anything in the audio department such as significant depth or placement of dialogue, but it conveys the action cleanly and everything has a strong feel to it even if it doesn’t really sing in its own way. The music is often the part where it feels the fullest, but that’s standard for stereo shows in general.
Originally airing in throughout 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full screen aspect ratio. The thirteen episode series is spread out across three discs in a 5/4/4 format which gives each episode enough breathing room. With the full frame aspect of it, there’s plenty of space on each disc to give it a solid presentation. Nanoha has a lot of strong vibrant colors to it and some very active moments and all of it comes across very well here. When it comes to exteriors, the skies look great with the shades of blue and the green in the trees while the interior colors are generally strong without being overly done. There’s some noise to be had in various areas as well as some line noise during a few panning sequences, but overall it was nothing that was really distracting or took away from the show. It’s a very clean looking show overall that’s very appealing.
Nanoha is done up as a single box set release with three thinpak keepcases in it. The heavy chipboard box we had before is gone and now we get a simple flimsier piece that holds the cases well enough but really doesn’t provide for a good look next to the first season. Continuity is really out the window here and the paying fan is again out of luck. The slipcover box is appealing in its visual design again though as the main panel features a shot of Nanoha leaning in to cradle Fate as she lays on the ground. The border surrounding it is very nicely done to fit in with the theme of the show and it’s a bright, colorful look overall. The back cover has a cute picture of both girls in their school uniforms with their familiars by their side all of which is set against a bright light colored background. The summary runs through the basics nicely and there’s a clean listing of the discs features and extras – though it does omit one. The episode listings are very cleanly done and it’s rounded out by a clean production and technical grid.
The thinpak cases inside appear to do their best to utilize all the cover artwork available so that fans get the pictures they want in some form or another. The main exterior pieces of artwork are done with dark backgrounds, such as purples, blacks and greens, which lets the bright colored character designs stand out all the more. It’s a mix of action poses general character artwork which really feels very busy individually; especially with the logo, but even more so when you look at all three side by side. The back covers use more cover artwork pieces with only the series logo included. These are a little brighter and more focused on Hayate as the central figure. The first two volumes have more pieces on the reverse side which means four more cover shots that you can choose from. The third volume rounds things out with a two panel character shot. There’s a lot of great covers here and certainly plenty of choices for fans.
Like a lot of Geneon releases from before their shutdown in 2007, the menus for Nanoha are pretty basic but serviceable. Each menu has a bright blue sky background to it with a leafy green border which is very appealing and each menu is different for the three volumes. The menus use artwork from the various covers and there’s a strip through the lower portion that provides the navigation. Each strip has a play all function as well as individual episode selection which is a plus. Submenus load quickly and access times are nice and fast. The menus are simple but functional, appealing but not flashy, and they get the job done well.
The extras are about as minimal as expected here with a clean version of the opening and closing sequence as well as a short music video which is included on the second volume.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the success of the first season, it was little surprise that a second (and third!) season of the series was greenlit. Magical Lyrical Nanoha A’s brings us another thirteen episodes of the young girl whose talents are above and beyond. Considered to be the better of the first two series, I was very curious to see if it would change my otherwise bland feelings after the first season. A lot of the problems inherent in magical girl shows were in it, things that are at times hard to suspend disbelief over, and most of those make another appearance here. In fact, a lot of this does feel like a retread, just without the origin story.
Nanoha A’s takes place a little bit after the end of the first season as everyone is essentially getting on with their lives. Fate is off doing her thing and working part time for the Time Space Administration Bureau. Yuuno is deep into his studies and research on board the ship as well while it continues the current mission its on. Nanoha for her part is living the life of your average third grade student while also spending time practicing her magic skills on the side with Raising Heart. The relationship between the two is certainly becoming strengthened over time as they practice and you can hear it in the way the Raising Heart talks to her and obeys her commands. Such is also true for Fate and her device, Bardiche. In general, everyone has moved on and is dealing with what has happened and where their lives are taking them for now.
And into every ordinary life a little drama must fall. The drama that comes into this one has a similar flavor of sorts to what we saw in the previous season. We’re introduced to a fellow student at the school named Hayate who isn’t actively attending school at the moment. Hayate is dealing with a degenerative disease that has paralyzed her legs and is slowly but surely working throughout the rest of her body. She’s still quite bright and outgoing, but there’s that edge of sadness to her as well. What helps her through the days are the friends she made several months ago that showed up out of nowhere. The quiet and stern Signum, the motherly and soft Shamal and the much younger and brasher Vita. And there’s also one male in the group named Zafira who tends to stay out of the picture for the most part. With these people in her life, she’s very happy and able to cope with all the tests and problems that come up because of her condition.
While this group has been with her for six months, they’ve decided to change their approach in how they deal with her. As it turns out, Hayate is the new master of the Book of Darkness and the people that surround her are the Belka Knights of the book, the programs that operate in order to serve the master. And they’re the ones that go out and attack other magical people and creatures so as to draw out their magic for a short period. When they do so, dealing in their Linker Cores, they’re able to add words to the Book of Darkness. When all the pages are filled, Hayate will then become the ultimate master and have immense power at her command. Hayate knows all of this but has told the others that she doesn’t want to gain power like that and that she’s content to just live with them as they are until a cure is found. Of course, her sickness is tied to the book so unless she actively works to add pages, the book will drain on her instead.
That has her programs, the knights, decide on their own that they have to save their master, contrary to her wishes. It’s this that brings them into contact with Nanoha and the others as they start tripping throughout space to attack magical people and creatures in order to add pages to the book. The discovery of this prompts the Bureau to realize what’s going on and it sets its sights on taking them down. Of course, Hayate is completely unaware of this and is just doing her best to cope with things. Amusingly, it’s Nanoha’s friends that end up seeing her often since if Nanoha met her and her knights, things would progress a lot faster. The conflicts come pretty regularly as the knights work to gain the pages they need both on Earth and elsewhere, right up until the dramatic conclusion where everything spirals out of control.
Looking at the series as a whole, it’s certainly better than the first season but mostly because it doesn’t have to spend its time on the origins of the main cast. Having Fate and Nanoha being friends this time around from the start helps as does the way everyone is actively working for the Bureau in different ways. It has more of a work feel to it than anything else, as does the way everyone is simply moving on with their lives. They all want to get together again in some way, but it’s not an overwhelming thing. And the lack of romantic relationships is a big plus as well, even though they give a little nudge for Yuuno here and there which is sort of sweet. But some of it just feels too pat and settled as it starts. The fun moments come when we have Lindy playing more of a motherly role to Fate (as well as Chrono) and the two of them spend some time on Earth. The really nice part was the entire six years later epilogue where we do see how things turn out with everyone and how their lives change as they enter their high school period.
What bothered me about this series is that it has for the most part taken a similar track to the first one. Instead of Fate coming in to do things as she pleases because of what she’s instructed to do, it’s these knights that are doing what they need to without instruction. And just like Fate, the knights here have no interest in actually explaining their situation to anyone nor hearing what they’re being told. They can be forgiven a bit a since they are just programs, but they are more than that as well. With Nanoha trying to get them to tell her what’s going on, even after she’s been hit hard by them, they won’t do it. And even with Nanoha and the others yelling to them what will happen if they use the book, it falls on deaf ears. Granted, without conflict it’d be a quieter series, but it’d be nice to see that happen just once instead of the usual back and forth fighting.
Similar to the previous season, Geneon was apparently looking at releasing this as a four disc set if you go by how the DVD titles are setup. The thirteen episodes here do make out pretty well across the three volumes we get and there aren’t any really noticeable drops in quality, mostly because Geneon has done well with their authoring and finding the right sweet spot for the various highs and lows. But it does point to how the company was originally intending to operate in 2008 with its plans and it’s hard to imagine them being able to get away with it considering how the industry has shifted during that year. Thankfully, this release is far better than what we would have gotten in single form and for a better price.
Maybe the third time is the charm? With the next season, StrikerS, centering around the girls four years after the epilogue here, maybe it’ll be more to my liking. This season was certainly better than the first season but it still felt like a retread in a lot of ways which left me feeling cool towards it. I can appreciate what it’s doing, but the common elements of the genre still bother me. Some series can figure out a way to make it work, like Cardcaptor Sakura, but others tend to muddle through and simply have the characters acting too old. There’s a lot of pent up drama in here as Hayate’s situation is explored and as the Book of Darkness is truly revealed and that allows for some fun towards the end. Nanoha continues to pack a lot into a thirteen episode series – almost too much – and it avoids a fight of the week mentality which helps. But it also feels a little too over dramatic at times and too familiar as well, which is even worse considering we’re getting the two seasons a month apart.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Music Video
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.