At midnight on October 3rd 2004 the first episode of the animated TV series Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha aired across Japan. In just a few weeks the fifteenth anniversary of the series is upon us and across those years there’s been countless additions to the now massive mixed media franchise.
I wanted to celebrate the occasion by reviving an old blog series of mine detailing each of the media entries in the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha canon.
The Lyrical Retrospective begins now.
Before we can talk about the 2004 TV series we have to look at the origins of the titular character Takamachi Nanoha herself. This means we have to go back to the late 90s where we’ll find the earlier work of Nanoha’s creator, Tsuzuki Masaki.
Tsuzuki wrote the script for the 1998 erotic visual novel Triangle Heart, developed by ivory and published by Janis. The name of the novel came from the fact that it featured three main characters, one man and two women, who were engaged in a triangle drama.
The novel was popular enough to produce two sequels. Triangle Heart 2 ~Sazanami Joshiryou~ and Triangle Heart 3 ~Sweet Songs Forever~. The latter of which is where we first meet the nine year old girl Takamachi Nanoha.
Released in 2000, Triangle Heart 3 is an action thriller where the siblings Kyouya and Miyuki are tasked with protecting a childhood friend of Kyouya who have been receiving threats from a criminal organization.
Nanoha, voiced by Hitomi under the pseudonym Hokuto Minami, only has a minor role in the story itself, primarily appearing in filler scenes while working at the Takamachi family cafe. However, Tsuzuki was fond enough of the character to give her a special scenario of her own a year later.
The fan disc Triangle Heart 3 ~Lyrical Omochabako~ was released in 2001 and contained a variety of smaller applications for fans of the original novel. The main course being the new visual novel Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha starring the younger sibling of the Takamachi family.
The scenario, which is both very similar and very different from the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha we know today, originally started off as a joke in the original visual novel that grew popular enough for Tsuzuki to write a serious attempt at it, deliberately taking a lot of inspiration from Cardcaptor Sakura, which was the most popular magical girl series at the time.
In the story, Nanoha is bestowed magical powers from a small red jewel after a mysterious encounter with a fairy named Lindy Harlaown. Soon she finds herself facing off against another magic user, the mysterious Chrono Harvey, who might not necessarily be the foe he first appears to be. Both Lindy and Chrono would reappear in the main series three years later, but in vastly different roles
It’s worth mentioning that while the Triangle Heart novels are erotic fiction, Tsuzuki didn’t want Nanoha and Chrono to take part in sexual content since they were children. As such, the sexual content in Lyrical Omochabako still revolves around side characters and not the two protagonists, with the exception of an unlockable post-game chapter where Nanoha and Chrono are adults.
The scenario proved popular enough that just a year later they released an animated short and music video for Nanoha’s theme song Lyrical Magical ~Suteki no Mahou~, complete with brand new lyrics performed by Hitomi. The video was produced by the newly formed animation studio Seven8 of which Tsuzuki was a co-founder.
Let’s have a listen to it, shall we?
Hitomi would play Nanoha one last time in 2003, in the four episode adaptation of Triangle Hearts 3, which was also animated by Seven8 who alongside the aforementioned msuic video had also animated an erotic mini-series based on the second Triangle Heart novel.
This new adaptation, simply called Triangle Heart ~Sweet Songs Forever~ without any number, would introduce Nanoha to the man who would direct her TV anime debut. A man named Shinbou Akiyuki. You might know him as the co-creator and director of Puella Magi Madoka Magica and the Monogatari anime adaptation. We’ll talk more about him later, but his friendship with Tsuzuki led him to take on the project.
The anime mini-series itself is, if I may be honest, not very good. The story moves at a snail’s pace despite its short series length and it doesn’t serve as a good entry point into Triangle Heart either as so much is left out from the story that a lot just doesn’t make sense unless you’ve also played the visual novel it’s based on.
The first two episodes are by far the worst. Though they do contain some decent action. The long-winded dialogue on the other hand is rarely interesting and is often interrupted with cameos from the visual novel’s minor characters for the sake of a gag or two. Though arguably those gags make better content. Though while Triangle Heart ~Sweet Songs Forever~ is never outright awful, its highs are not enough to make up for what might be the longest 90 minutes in 2000s anime history.
It’s fair to say that Japanese fans didn’t take too much to it either, as the mini-series has not been reprinted or given a new digital or blu-ray release. Existing only in its original VHS and DVD form from 2003. Though there would be a handful of Triangle Heart media released over the following years, its connection to Nanoha would be severed the moment fall 2004 began.
And that’s the origin of Nanoha herself and the prototype for what would become a vastly influential anime series. If you like my content, don’t forget to like and subscribe and if you want you can also support me on Patreon. Until next time, au revour.