Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha’s TV series celebrates its fifteenth anniversary today, and since we have covered the origins of the brand and character, it’s now time to get into the series itself.
I’ve decided to split my look at the series into two halves, the first being focused more on the production and conception of the series that people who haven’t yet seen it can appreciate and the latter being a series overview and narrative summary. As such, this part is spoiler free.
The Lyrical Retrospective begins now.
As mentioned in the previous episode, a lot was carried over into Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha from Tsuzuki Masaki’s previous visual novel project, Triangle Heart, and its spinoff scenario.
Like the visual novel, we meet the nine year old elementary school student Takamachi Nanoha, now voiced by Tamura Yukari replacing Hitomi. Yukarin was twenty-eight years old at the time and had been a professional voice actress since the 90s.
Her biggest roles at the time had been playing Ranpha in Galaxy Angel, Mai in Kanon and Sakura in Da Capo. Sure enough, her performance as Nanoha would greatly increase her popularity and she’s since have countless main character roles in everything from Precure to Cutie Honey.
She would also perform the ending theme song, Little Wish ~Lyrical Step~. This would become series tradition moving forward, with Yukarin performing the ending theme songs for each TV series carrying the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha name – as well as insert songs for the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha movies as well.
Nanoha herself remains mostly unchanged. She’s still working at her family’s cafe in the fictional location of Uminari City, she’s still outgoing and doesn’t take any shit. There is one major addition to her character, however. Nanoha suffers from depression.
In the first episode we learn that despite living a happy life with her family and friends, she can’t help but feel empty and lost. This feeling is what eventually becomes her driving force once she learns about magic and sees the potential for her to help others.
Nanoha have two friends in class, Suzuka and Arisa. Suzuka is the younger sister of one of her brother’s love interests in Triangle Heart 3 and Arisa, a new character, technically had a cameo in the original Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha scenario – as a name on a gravestone.
Like the visual novel, Nanoha discovers magic through an encounter in the forest. On her way home from school she finds Yuuno, a small ferret looking creature, with a red jewel around his neck. Yuuno takes over Lindy’s role from the visual novel, being Nanoha’s teacher in magic and the one who unites her with Raising Heart, her intelligent device.
Yuuno asks Nanoha to help him seal the dangerous Jewel Seeds spread across the city, which requires her to bond with Raising Heart and perform magical incantations. However, Nanoha and Yuuno soon learns that they’re not the only ones after the Jewel Seeds.
This is where Fate Testarossa comes into the picture. Fate takes the role that Chrono served in the visual novel, Nanoha’s antagonist and love interest. She’s voiced by Mizuki Nana, arguably the biggest name attached to the series to date.
Nana-chan performs the opening theme song, Innocent Starter, and much like Yukarin’s ending theme songs this would become a series tradition alongside insert songs. Though funnily enough, Innocent Starter’s lyrics tend to read more as Nanoha’s perspective than Fate’s.
Without going into detail, Fate’s clash with Nanoha leads to them both being on each other’s minds. Nanoha often referring to Fate as “the girl with the pretty eyes” when thinking out loud.
Though while Lindy and Chrono’s roles were taken by new characters, both of them still appear in the series. As do a lot of other Triangle Heart characters such as Nanoha’s family. While her father was dead in Triangle Heart 3, his fate was retconned to having been in a coma in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha’s canon.
One character that’s completely gone is Kuon, the pet fox who transforms into a shrine maiden to help Nanoha in the visual novel. While her character is gone, there’s still a hint of her left in two other characters. Yuuno becomes Nanoha’s house pet, like Kuon was, and Fate’s familiar Arf is also someone who transforms between animal and human form to assist her.
Another change is how Nanoha uses magic. In the visual novel, she would simply have Raising Heart transform into a magic wand, but here Nanoha herself goes through a complete transformation sequence and new outfit, called a barrier jacket, inspired by Gundam mobile suit designs, hence the white and blue color scheme.
Raising Heart still transforms into a weapon, but the basic form is now more staff like in appearance, though several other forms are utilized throughout the series as well. Spells functions as lyrical incantations that can be spoken, thought or programmed into your intelligent device depending on your magic efficiency, eventually leading to rather complex uses of magic.
As the story continues past its initial premise it takes several surprising turns and tackles some very serious subject matters. While Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha was far from the first mature magical girl series, it serves as a key pillar for series that came after it. Many of which have direct connections, such as Madoka Magica sharing director with the TV series and Symphogear’s creator first working on the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha PSP games.
Despite its huge popularity and monumental status in magical girl history, the series has not left much of a mark in the west. The first two seasons were dubbed and released in English by Geneon on DVD, but low sales and Geneon closing shortly after have made them collector’s items that can reach prices rivalling Japan’s collector’s edition Bluray releases of the series.
For a few years the series was available on Amazon Video, launching alongside their short-lived Anime Strike service. This license was not renewed and the series has since been taken down outside of Japan. Though perhaps for the best, as the translation was full of errors and would sometimes omit entire sentences.
So instead Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has lived on in the west entirely through fan driven translations. Over these fifteen years there have been countless fan groups devoted to translating the TV series, comics and movies, though the latter do have official English subtitles on the Japanese home releases.
I would love to tell everyone to watch Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha right this moment, it is my favourite magical girl franchise and it only gets better from here. But the sad reality is that your only option at the moment is buying an expensive out of print DVD or pirating the series, unless you’re willing to watch it entirely in Japanese that is.
This is why I’m also urging streaming sites and localization companies to pick the series back up and give it a new chance in the west. If so many of its derivatives can become hits then there’s no reason it shouldn’t be able to become one as well. So please watch the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha TV series from 2004 and please ask for it to come west.
As for the recap movie, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 1st, we will be talking about that in a later episode. But do absolutely under no circumstances watch it first or think it’s a replacement for the first season. I’ve seen people make this mistake and they lose so much context and character writing that is crucial for later entries.
I know there are fans who say you can watch the movie instead, but those fans also tend to be people who actually did watch the TV series first and as such already knew the missing context when they saw the movie. Of course, that movie is also not available in the west. Only the third and fourth movies are and only in certain European territories, thanks to the French company Wakanim.
That’s it for the first part of looking at Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha’s first season, next up we’ll be diving deep into spoiler territory, so please look forward to that. Until then you can like, subscribe and support me on Patreon if you like my work. Happy fifteenth anniversary Nanoha.