After last night’s big finale for the overtly lesbian martial arts anime ViVid Strike! I was in a great mood. The spin-off of the classic Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha franchise has easily been one of my most enjoyed anime this year and I felt it was time to properly revisit the franchise from the start. You see, I haven’t watched the original Nanoha series since it first aired back in 2004 through 2005. So with ViVid Strike! freshly wrapped up, a new season of Nanoha ViVid coming out next year and two new movies announced I dug all the way back to the start.
First I need to give thanks to my friend Richard Beaubien, who helped me put Nanoha‘s strange origins on the map. In case you don’t know, the franchise didn’t start in 2004 with the first Nanoha TV anime, it technically stretches further back to the 90s. Specifically it started with the pornographic visual novel Triangle Heart, released in 1998. Scenario writer Tsuzuki Masaki came up with the Takamachi family, including Takamachi Nanoha, for the series’ third entry in 2000; Triangle Heart 3: Sweet Songs Forever.
In the game, the young Nanoha was voiced by Hitomi, at the time credited as Hokuto Minami, who would continute to portray Nanoha for all pieces of media we’ll look at for this post. She didn’t play a major part in the game, mainly serving as the younger sister of the Takamachi family. A year later, players could obtain a fan disc called Triangle Heart 3: Lyrical Omochabako, which translates to “Lyrical Toy Box”.
Lyrical Omochabako was a collection of mini scenarios featuring the Takamachi family. It was still pornographic, since it was tied into the main game, but we’re not going to be looking at the actual game, even though Nanoha does briefly appear in it. We want to look at the animated music video that also came with the disc. The song, specifically titled Lyrical Magical ~Suteki na Mahou~, was performed by Hitomi to a fully animated sequence depicting Nanoha as a magical girl. This was the founding stone for what would eventually become the Nanoha series.
A lot of things are different from what we’d see in 2004. The characters that appear in the music video are all from Triangle Heart 3 and Nanoha’s transformation and general character seems to be presented as a more traditional magical girl than her final version. Personally I feel that the creators of Lyrical Toy Box were likely inspired by Carcdaptor Sakura more than anything else when making it. Still, it’s a catchy little song and a very fun look at what could have been the now famous Nanoha series.
Since it wouldn’t be fair to talk about the music video without showing it to you all, here’s the 2001 original appearance of Takamichi Nanoha as a magical girl… Lyrical Toy Box!
Pretty great, isn’t it? While I’m glad it’s not the direction the eventual anime took, it’s still a delight to behold when you look back at it as this strange little “what if?” scenario. Unfortunately, Nanoha wouldn’t be seeing any more animation again until a few years later, in 2003. When a four episode Original Animated Video (That was what we used to call OVAs) series based on Triangle Heart 3 released. That’s right, this is the real first anime series in the Nanoha canon. I hadn’t seen it until this weekend.
I now understand why.
Triangle Heart: Sweet Songs Forever is one of the longest 90 minutes I’ve spent with an anime in a very long time. It’s quite impressive just how stalling and uninteresting the narrative is, not to mention how it doesn’t even try to offer itself as an entry point if you’ve not played the original game. It’s not exactly surprising to learn that the OAV was never rereleased or localized, even when the rest of the Nanoha library have been.
So what’s it about? Well, to be fair, the narrative itself is not bad. It follows three characters who are meant to serve as body guards for a singer, Fiasse Crystela, who’ve been issued a violent kidnapping threat. The bodyguards are Takamichi Miyuki and Takamichi Kyouyo, Nanoha’s older siblings, and Ellis McGaren, a former childhood friend of Kyouyo. Ellis is fairly skeptical of Miyuki and Kyouyo using traditional melee weaponry over guns, which remains the conflict between the two for the first two episodes.
As the story continues we learn that the reason for the kidnapping is that the villain, an older man who hangs bicycles from the ceiling for some reason, wants to marry Fiasse because he’s lover her ever since she was a child and because she has a big inheritance waiting in Canada. You don’t learn this until the final moments of the series however, because the biggest problem with Triangle Heart is that it refuses to tell the viewer anything.
Characters are brought into the story without any background or context given, everyone speaks as if you’ve missed an entire season’s worth of story before the OAV and the result is a plot that doesn’t move until the eventual climax with any major plot detail being jammed into the final moments just to get it out of the way. I realize this was made for fans first, but there’s a limit to how unwelcoming you can make a media debut like this. If they wanted more people to get into Triangle Heart, this isn’t how.
The first two episodes are by far the worst. Both contain decent enough action scenes, but neither of them have any weight to them. Instead the episodes are spent with people talking, mostly about nothing, and with cameos from the minor characters in the visual novel showing up every now and then for a joke or two. These moments are arguably the better ones, such as when Kinotori Akira and Houren Tobi, neither of which would return for Nanoha, are arguing and fighting behind Nanoha’s back.
I mentioned the action being decent, and that’s honestly the nicest word I can use for it. The combat scenes are generally more focused on obfuscating the action for dramatic effect for the most part, with fights taking place in the dark with zoomed in perspectives. This is done to a lesser degree once the final battle of the OAV comes around, which is a three-way fight scene that actually wind up quite entertaining.
But in the end that’s too little and too late, with the dry and dull nature of the presentation already having killed any interest I had in the story. I could talk about how Fiasse have magical healing powers when she sings or how one of the villains can turn into a shadow, but these things doesn’t even matter to the narrative, they’re just odd supernatural things that exist in an otherwise empty void of nothing.
Not even Nanoha’s three cameo appearances can make up for how unbelievably uninteresting Triangle Heart: Sweet Songs Forever is. Is it awful? Not really, that would require it to leave a larger impression on me. It’s just awfully boring. It’s probably for the best that this remains a mostly forgotten chapter in Nanoha‘s origin.
If you for some reason still want to check out the OAV, perhaps out of the same unfortunate curiousity I had, then you might have noticed that I earlier mentioned the lack of a rerelease or localization. Thankfully, the series have been fully uploaded to YouTube and I highly doubt anyone would bat an eye over you watching it there.
Next up on the rewatch is the original 2004 Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, I’m very excited and I’ll make sure to write out my thoughts on the series as a whole once I’m finished watching it.
Thank you for reading and if you have any thoughts on Nanoha‘s origin material, please leave a comment! I’d love to hear it.
- Part 0: Triangle Heart and Lyrical Toy Box
- Part 1: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
- Part 2: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s
- Part 3: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS
- Part 4: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The MOVIE 1st
- Part 5: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The MOVIE 2nd A’s
- Part 6: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid
- Part 7: ViVid Strike! (Coming Soon… I hope!)