Lyrical Nanoha - Edgy magical girl done right [Spoiler]
Magical Girl shows are mostly dead. There's Aikatsu, PreCure, and everything else is edgy and dark stuff. Now I'm not going to claim to be well versed in Magical Girl shows; I mean I've watched all of Cardcaptor Sakura, I've read all of Sailor Moon, Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel, Madoka Magica, Yuuki Yuuna, and that's about the extent of my experience with magical girl stuff. As you can tell, it's not a lot, but from what I have seen and read, I like it. Cardcaptor Sakura is one of my favorite anime, and Sailor Moon is my favorite manga, so it's not like I don't care about the genre at all or have zero experience with it, I'm just not that seasoned when it comes to it.
But as I stated previously, magical girl is mostly dead. If we take a look at the Spring 2019 seasonal charts, there is exactly one magical girl show airing, Aikatsu Friends. Thats it, out 47 shows total, only one is a magical girl. Now, why is this? Well, I'll say that the currently airing season isn't really the best to illustrate my point. Because Madoka is the reason all this happened. 'Madoka' is the reason we have 'Yuuki Yuuna', it's the reason we had 'Magical Girl Spec Ops: Asuka', 'Magical Girl Raising Project', it's the reason the only "pure" magical girl franchises still getting sequels is Aikatsu and Precure.
But I'm here to posit an idea: Nanoha is not an edgy magical girl show. It is a magical girl show that is edgy. Now why do I feel the need to make this seemingly pointless distinction? Well, it's because I feel it's important. If you watch Madoka and Yuuki Yuuna, it's clear that these shows were made with edgy first, magical girl second. Just look at the first few episodes of each. When you watch episode 1 of Madoka, it's clear that something is off. If the scene where they go through a weird dreamscape and Kyubey's wounds didn't tip you off, something is wrong. But when I watch Nanoha, I get the opposite feeling. Now sure, Nanoha is extremely edgy. There's child abuse, characters get brutally hurt all the time, this was made for otaku, not young girls, just like all other edgy magical girl shows. But the thing about Nanoha, is that it continues to wear the coat of a sugary happy magical girl show throughout all of it. Sure, Fate may have just found out that her mom hates her and that she's only a clone of a previous daughter, but at the end of the day nothing is more important than friendship between third graders. This is a magical girl show first and foremost, with the edge thrown on for good measure. This is mostly apparent in the first season, where the episodes right before the time space burea gets introduced could pass for any other random show. I mean it's basically just the plot of Cardcaptor Sakura but shortened, and then spiced up a bit with some interdimensional time travel, loli fanservice and child abuse for good measure.
I've been going on for a while now, but I still haven't answered the most important question: why is it good? Well, it's actually pretty simple. It's fucking unhinged and insane. In what show do you just watch a cute third grader and her magical ferret (who is actually a guy from another dimension who unearthed ancient technology) fight another cute third grader in revealing clothing with a lion-dog-familiar thing beat the shit out of each other before realizing that they're actually best friends, so with the help of top-secret interdimensional travel burea they go to kill one of their moms because she wants to use technology from a previously destroyed dimension to travel to a mythical land so that she can revive her daughter and live happily ever after.
Like what even is that synopsis. It by all means should not work, but the execution of it is so damn great! The fight scenes look awesome, the character designs look awesome, the weapons are awesome, the scale is awesome, it takes itself very seriously, yet isn't afraid to suddenly just have them chill out at a cafe playing with some adorable ferret.
So all in all, Nanoha is pretty damn great. I'm currently watching the second season, Nanoha A's, and so far it might actually break into my top 10. I'd also just like to mention that while I did name shows like Precure and Aikatsu in here, I haven't watched them yet. I defintely want to, but there are a lot of shows I want to finish first. I'll see you next time, sayonara ;)