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[Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS]
AKA: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, 魔法少女リリカルなのはStrikerS (Japanese)
Genre: Action / sci-fi / magical girl
Length: Television series, 26 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently unlicensed in North America
Content Rating: 13+ (violence, animated blood, fan service, child nudity)
Related Series: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid (manga)
Also Recommended: Dirty Pair, Magical Lyrical Nanoha A's, My-Hime
Notes: Third Nanoha series, taking place several years after A's. A manga based on the concepts in the anime ran in Megami Magazine between November 2006 and February 2008.

The DVD version of this series is incredibly different visually from the television broadcast. This review is based primarily on the broadcast version, though the DVD version is briefly mentioned in the review.
Rating:
 

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS

Synopsis

Years after A's, Nanoha, Fate, and Hayate now work full-time at the Time-Space Administration Bureau. Nanoha is also now a captain who takes care of new recruits, and quickly finds herself two new ones: Subaru Nakajima, who was saved by Nanoha when she was a little girl, and Teana Lanster, an orphan who lost her parents and older brother when she was... wait for it; a little girl.

But what starts off as simple training missions turns into something far more sinister.

Review

Oh, Nanoha. Nanoha, Nanoha, Nanoha. How the not-so-mighty have fallen. You went from a decent show to an even great one, but your most recent effort is.... lacking.

Let's look at the history of the franchise.

The first season, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, was about a little girl named Nanoha, a mage/ferret named Yuuno, and her rival/friend-to-be Fate and her familiar, a dog-girl named Arf. It was a fairly dull, by-the-numbers magical girl series whose second half more or less saved the show, along with some cute costume designs and an in-typical plot for a magical girl series. (I give bonus points automatically to any magical girl show that's not about power-hungry villains wanting to rule/destroy the world.)

Then we had A's, which introduced Hayate, a frail young girl in a wheelchair, as well as her protectors of sorts. This series cranked up the fights quite a bit, as well as flashing some backstory for Fate as well. Unlike the first series, A's was consistently interesting, with a series of "antagonists" who weren't simply bland and one-dimensional. It was, well, good. Very good, I'd even say.

And now we have StrikerS, which takes place five years after A's epilogue. While most of the Nanoha cast is still present and accounted for, the series focuses attention (at least for a while) on two new girls:

The first is Subaru, a 15 year old girl. In her childhood, she was saved by Nanoha from a burning and collapsing building. Her tools consist of a huge mechanical glove on her right arm for fighting purposes and a set of rollerskates which she uses for transportation, and her magical ability is the ability to create beams of light in the air which she skates on. Basically, she's a martial artist. She's also the energetic one of the two, and while she isn't exactly dumb, she's also not quite as smart or tactical as her partner, Teana.

Teana, a 16 year old girl, is assigned to be Subaru's partner from the beginning of the show. She sports a twin set of guns and has the ability to create illusions. She's generally the more straightforward and cautious of the two, thus less likely to just rush into any potential danger, screaming at the top of her lungs. This does have the unfortunate side effect of her being the most prideful of the two as well, which means she's also more likely to react badly to screwing up.


These two are eventually joined by two 10 year olds. Caro is a little girl who can use magic to enhance others' abilities, cast barriers, and summon dragons. She's most notable for her White Mage costume, complete with pink hair. Rounding off the team is Erio, a boy who uses a spear as his weapon, and his abilities are mostly centered around offenses and speed enhancements. He's there mainly to serve as a possible love interest in case the show ever planned to go there. That's about it.

Of course, we also have virtually every character (except for Nanoha's childhood friends and family) from the two series returning in this one. Of them, Nanoha has changed the most. Now an instructor of new recruits, she's gone from a cheerful, sweet girl to a fairly strict, even brutal instructor who will smack a bitch down if she feels she needs to. Fate, meanwhile, has become super-motherly and perky, almost a mirror opposite of her earlier personality. As for Hayate; despite being able to freely move now, she spends most of the series sitting in her office and talking to people. Her guardians have returned as well from A's, though only Vita and Signum get any significant air time. She's also accompanied by her flying fairy friend, Reinforce II, who's just there to be cute. No, seriously. She's like a child mirroring everything Hayate does, and sleeps in a little toolbox outfitted with miniature furniture. It's enough to make one go "awwww."

Speaking of things just there to be cute, we have Vivio, a little girl who Nanoha "adopts" about half-way through the series. There she mainly serves as moe fuel..until she gets kidnapped by the bad guys, mostly because the show makes a big deal of pointing out that maybe, oh maybe, she's not quite human. Big surprise, I know.

On the villainous side, we got Dr. Jail Scaglietti. (Yes, his name is Jail. Make of that what you will.) He basically comes across as an insane scientist -- which he is -- and he's got a team of annoying, smart-aleck robots, all of which are female and talk like Dragonball Z characters. Most notable among them is Quattro, who wears glasses, which of course makes her the most evil one of the bunch. Hooray for stereotypes! And in case that wasn't a strong enough hint, she also gladly resorts to manipulating people's minds and cackles like a madwoman. This sets her apart from the others, who, despite also working for the professor, tend to question his methods whenever they're called out for work. It's more than enough to make a "guess who'll be defecting over to the good side" game out of it. Oh, and they're all named by numbers. Literally! Uno, Due, Tre and so forth.

As for the story; it's a mess. It starts off simple (if long-winded) enough, with Subaru and Teana training, eventually training with Caro and Erio. Later, though, attacks start to begin, followed with more attacks, training, attacks, training, reflections into the past, training, and more attacks. Oh, and Vivio gets kidnapped, but we've already mentioned that. There's also a whole lot of side projects, stories or whatnot, that are introduced merely to give the already too goddamned large cast something of a purpose, only to be abandoned after having served their barely adequate onscreen time, as it were. Some of these are actually far more interesting than the main characters' aggravatingly frequent habit of patting themselves on their backs.

On a visual level, the show is just horrible. It starts out "kind of" ok, but just grows worse and worse from there, with inconsistent character designs -- more often than not in the same episode, even -- and the animation... My God. The animation? It's trite. If you thought off-the-assembly-lines shows like Medabots were the worst animated full-season anime you'd ever see, you're in for a surprise. (And not a good one at that.) It kind of devolves from a "bare minimum" as far as animation goes and right down to where it looks like a PowerPoint presentation could have done things better. The shining moment was a flight scene with Nanoha that you can see in the screen shot just below. It's not quite as choppy as this, but they literally took this one frame of cel and just... slid it across a generic 3D background to make the scene. In fact, the slight choppiness of the screenshot actually makes it look less ridiculous.

And that's not even getting started on the scenes where the girls are just standing around chatting -- and believe us, this is a chatty show. The DVD version looks better, but it must've stunk for people who watched the television (and liked it) to have to buy the expensive DVDs to see the show in halfway decent quality. Even then, though, it raises the bar from "awful" to "average". Go look it up yourself; the difference between the T.V. and DVD versions are like night and day.

The music is even worse. First of all, it's all synthesized. This might not necessarily sound like a bad thing, except that it sounds like video game music. Bad video game music. Second, it's shoehorned into every single possible scene the directors felt should have its own background score. It's almost like a mid-90's anime dub, except this isn't a dub - it's the original soundtrack, one that sounds like MIDI files played on a cheap-ass, low-quality sound card, and then had their pitch changed around for the hell of it. Of course, we've both heard people work wonders creating music with simple computer/console chips, so the creators of StrikerS have NO EXCUSE for something like this.

Sounds like budget issues, right? Maybe. StrikerS probably would have been far better off limited to a 13-episode show instead of 26. That the show just meanders about doing character introductions for HALF its run time is one thing the show should be held responsible for, but honestly it's more a case of "too many damn characters". Although the protagonists are likable enough, and there are a few good battles here and there, Nanoha StrikerS is almost universally considered a disappointment to Nanoha fans for many a good reason; even as a stand-alone series, it's pretty wretched. Only the most fanatic/curious Nanoha fans need apply.

Likable characters and a few somewhat good fights are all that save this from the bottom of the barrel. I'd suggest you add a star if you like cute girls, but even the art's too damn inconsistent for it to count for much.Stig Høgset and Tim Jones

Recommended Audience: As an action series, there's quite a bit of violence, and sometimes blood as well. There's also small traces of fan service now and again, some of it from the now grown-up and well-endowed Nanoha and Fate. (There's also small bits of child nudity in the series, too. Ew.) Should be okay for teenagers ad up.



Version(s) Viewed: Pre-license fansub
Review Status: Full (26/26)
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS © 2007 Nanoha StrikerS Project