It’s been a long time coming, but here we are. The final four. The best of the veritable best.
And, much like Black Rock Shooter, I’m using this to accredit the entire franchise, as opposed to a single specific season. But the praise falls mostly on the span of the final half of Lyrical Nanoha through A’s, for the sticklers. But being such an expansive franchise, it’s hard not to just talk about everything.
Many people credit Madoka Magica as being the quintessential deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre. While it may be the revolutionary deconstruction, its forbearer is this series: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha).
Sure, the themes don’t get AS dark (exactly…it’s hard to judge one tragedy against another), and its structure is not nearly as theatric as the Faustian elements that permeate Madoka. On the whole the Lyrical Nanoha series is still an upbeat one.
But I rather liken Nanoha to the works of Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock, if you can’t put a face to the name, is of course the father of suspense and thriller film. The Birds, Psycho, his resume is impressive indeed. But one thing he did that almost no horror/mystery/suspense directors do, is he played very strictly “by the rules”. He rarely pushed the boundaries, which is probably part of why he became such a sensation. He rarely went for “shock value”, instead relying on cleverness and storytelling to illicit your reactions to his works.
Nanoha is similar in the regard that it plays by many of the traditional rules of the magical girl genre, but it bends the way the material is presented. While it doesn’t twist the magical familiar into a Lovecraftian horror like Madoka would, it does present the life of a magical girl as a curse of sorts, and not a blessing.
For example, while there is combat like in, say, Pretty Cure, in Nanoha that combat often ends in hospitalizations for one or both parties. The evil witch in Nanoha, Precia Testarossa, doesn’t JUST want to be evil like Queen Beryl does, she beats her daughter and flogs her for failure, while we have to grimly sit and watch. And while Madoka often explores the “dark” aspects of love, the selfish preconceptions and such, Nanoha explores the evils good people will commit FOR pure love. Battling evil isn’t a sacred duty, it is a last resort, and in a sense, Lyrical Nanoha could be considered an anti-war series. I’ll get into that point deeper later.
Which is why, as a fan of both series, I wince whenever anyone proclaims Madoka Magica changed the magical girl genre forever.
Yes, but not as much as you think.
As always with the Top 10s, there will be spoilers. But! If you are new to the series but not sure how to get into it, read the next section, it’s for you, and basically spoiler free. Continue reading