Wednesday, August 11, 2010
I'm still floored by how much Nanoha improved after the first half of the first season. The second season is significantly better than the first since it gets right down to the business of telling a tightly-paced action-adventure story instead of screwing around with introductory monster-of-the-week dreck. If you tried the early episodes of the first season and dropped it out of boredom (really can't blame you), I swear that it's worth it to give it another chance.
This season features a new set of villains painted in deeper shades of gray than Precia from the previous season.
The Book of Darkness is an ancient magical tome that travels through time and space searching for a master to fill its pages by draining magic from different sources. It makes a contract with Yagami Hayate, a girl debilitated by a serious illness, and materializes four "Knights" to protect her- über-cool Signum, mellow Shamal, hot-tempered Vita (who cools down around Hayate), and stoic familiar Zafira. Even though Hayate has no interest in using the Book of Darkness, the Knights still secretly try to fill the Book in the hopes that it will cure her, because it can grant her deepest wish after its pages are filled.
The catch is that the Book destroys whichever world it's in after being filled, before moving on to another world and master. After the Knights target Nanoha's magic, Nanoha, Fate, and the rest of the Time-Space Administration Bureau try to stop the Book from being filled- and in Nanoha's case, befriend the enemy. (I love how she's like, "*smile* Please tell me what's wrong and let me help you. Let's be friends!" and if she doesn't get an affirmative reaction right away, she shoots at her opponent/prospective friend with her device. Good thing Arisa and Suzuka took to her quickly when she first met them.)
There aren't any real bad guys in this season- just people trying to do the best they can to deal with the circumstances handed to them, however ineptly. Even on the good side, shades of gray seep in- like the old "should we sacrifice one person/a small group of individuals to more easily save a large number?", among other examples. Despite the bland, saccharine character designs and magical girl window-dressing, this is a surprisingly dark show written for an adult (otaku) audience, which is good in some ways (short season length, tweaking the magical girl formula for a more jaded sensibility) and not so good in other ways (fan-pandering ---> cat girl librarians, that unsettling, but mercifully rare new henshin). The new characters are almost all likeable.
My favorite part of this season was seeing how Hayate and the Knights form their own little family. (I liked to think of Signum and Shamal introducing themselves as Hayate's parents at PTA meetings. ^^;) As with the first season, there were several affecting moments- Hayate being manipulated into losing control of herself to the Book, Fate's dream of her ideal world with her mother and Alicia, and Reinforce's decision at the end being the most noteworthy. The ending was pretty terrific, wrapping up the story satisfactorily and capping it off with an epilogue that shows all of the characters six years after the main story.
This season is the lowest on yuri out of the three, although fans still see it anyway.
Overall: B+ (A- for the final episode. Seriously great ending.)
BGM: "Brave Phoenix" - Mizuki Nana