It has been six months since Takamachi Nanoha fought to seal the Jewels and freed Fate to be herself. Now she continues with her old life while continuing to train her new skills – and to keep up a lively long distance relationship with her new friend by mail. The trail is nearly over, and soon Fate will be officially cleared and return…but their reunion is cruelly twisted by the arrival of new enemies, and a new threat: the Book of Darkness. A tome of old magic gone awry, it seeks to eat the power of mages until it reaches a certain point: then it causes terrible destruction, and disappears to repeat the process elsewhere. Now they find themselves fighting four people – including their familiar – of formidable strength, strong enough collectively to overpower even Fate and Nanoha together. They are sure that these people are no more evil that Fate was – but the cause they endorse is irredeemable, and in order to make things clear, they are going to have to fight – both these soldiers, and their unknown master: the Master of the Book of Darkness. In the end, whoever it is will decide all…
Magical girl, fantasy, drama.
Ueda Kana as Yagami Hayate
Mizuki Nana as Fate Testarossa
Tamura Yukari as Takamachi Nanoha
Sanada Asami as Vita
Mizuhashi Kaori as Yuuno Scrya
Shimizu Kaori as Signum
Ichijou Kazuya as Zafira
Kuwatani Natsuko as Arf
Yuzuki Ryoka as Shamal
Thirteen. There is one more anime sequel after this, Nanoha Strikers. Plus two manga series after that.
One of the most common wishes at the end of a really good anything is: I wish it wasn’t over. So there is always a huge call for a sequel to any well loved book, movie, or anime. However, in the anime and movie world at least, sequels are dangerous things with a regrettable tendency to backfire, throwing mud over the image of its predecessor instead of continuing what it began. Which is why Nanoha A’s is truly a rare pleasure: a successful sequel is special in and of itself. A sequel that actually exceeds the first is truly special, and I take a great deal of pleasure in putting down in my own review what many others have said before me: Nanoha A’s is everything that made the first great, but one better. Or two. Or three. It’s that good.
When writing a review on a sequel, I generally assume that if you are reading this then you have either watched the first already or read some review, whether mine or someone else’s, on it. So I will describe the old characters only in comparison to their first appearance. At six months, neither Nanoha nor Fate have changed very distinctly, though there is overall a slight dimming of the ‘cutesy-ness’ that I mentioned in the first. This actually an improvement, and one of those ‘but one better’ bits. There are still plenty of those charming moments, but they are turned down just so – neatly ducking below the threshold they toed so closely in the first. Many males, myself included, were surprised to be so enthused of a show like Nanoha. One such friend described it as having ‘enough sugar to give a dentist a heart attack’. Nanoha A’s tunes those down just enough to make the whole experience that much easier to appreciate. Getting back on subject, this is basically the formula for all the old characters: slightly and subtly older (to varying degrees of slight), but otherwise the same. Possibly Arf is an exception. Getting to the ‘villains’. Those watchers of Nanoha have already seen the pattern, but believe me when I say this sequel takes it to the next level. The three Velka Knights are extremely sympathetic, diverse, and powerful in well conceived ways. Signum, their leader, is tall, long haired, and has a quiet but powerful aura: of them all, she is most truly a Knight. Disciplined but well aware of her feelings, her relationship with her subordinates is very close, reinforced by long years of cooperation. Shamal is their backup and healer: nearly as tall as Signum with short blond hair, gentle and caring, she spends the most time with their master Hayate, and covers for them the most when they are out. Vita, the last of them, appears even younger than Nanoha, thought it’s clear she’s been around as long as the others. Spirited and volatile, but in the end quite sincere and honest, she wields quite a heavy hit: If Signum, with her sword shaped device, is the skill on the team, then she’s the brute force, a fact highlighted by her own device, which takes the form of a two handed war hammer. The fact that none of them fall into the warrior women stereotype of being in denial of themselves is a key point, one that drives their utterly sincere love for, and perhaps misguided actions for the sake of, their newest master, the owner of the Book of Darkness: Yagami Hayate. The same age as Fate and Nanoha, and confined to a wheelchair for most of her life, she acquired the book unwittingly, and despite her conformity, is not tempted by what it has to offer. To her, the Book is happiness because it brought her the Knights – she who had lived alone for so long, now had family. Her love is now shared by the Knights, and the resulting tangles of wants, hopes, wishes, and actions drive the emotional plot of the story.
Right. The story. I kept digressing into it up there. At this point you already know the plot. All that’s left is to discuss its handling. Which is: wonderful. Nanoha was simple but true. Nanoha A’s is much less simple, but equally true, and proportionally more powerful. All the plot and character devices of the previous series are brought to whole new levels in a truly mind boggling way. At a certain point, every battle is an exercise in pained empathy – knowing both sides, you could almost cry for the Knights as they fight, even as you pray that Nanoha and the others can win, because nothing else will save them. The pace and style of revelation is much like the first, except much tighter – the first fight begins in episode one. So it’s all more intense as it goes. Like Nanoha, by episode six you know far more about the antagonists than the protagonists. Which, like Nanoha, lends far richer levels of empathy to what follows. Except that these revelations have so many more layers, are so much deeper, more powerful and painful, that to compare them does not seem entirely correct. Rather than a copy of what made the first series work, it is an evolution of it, a new, superior form. If you enjoyed the first one at all, you will enjoy this one, even more. I can give a sequel no higher praise than that.
Nanoha A’s surpassed all expectations raised by its predecessor, telling a tale with such effect I am deeply tempted to give it a five. In the end, I don’t think I can quite give it that…but it unquestionably passes the limits of mere fourdom. For its admirably bid for greatness, I give this series a four point five out of five. It is well worth seeing.
Final Rating: 4.5/5
This review was brought to you by Z.N. Singer
Information such as cast and airtime are courtesy of ANN’s encyclopedia entry. All else is and always will be the origination of the author.
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