Nanoha the movie 1st impressions
Having told of my disappointment from ten days ago, I guess it might be a good idea to also write about the parts of that week-end I enjoyed tremendously. A Chuugakusei nikki post is certainly in order, in particular, but that will have to wait for a few days. In the meantime, I'd like to share a few very short thoughts about the Nanoha movie. I won't be addressing any specific plot point, so you can consider this post almost spoiler-free.
Note by the way that the theatrical adaptation starts from zero, so I can even recommend it to people who haven't seen any of the TV series before—as confirmed by the friend with whom I watched it, who only had a passing familiarity with the characters through doujinshi. In fact, if you're new to Nanoha, it might be best to start with the movie and watch A's afterwards, skipping the first season of the TV series altogether (which had serious pacing issues). While I'm on the subject, if you're new to Nanoha, you may be confused about an almost completely unrelated anime called StrikerS, which is awful, and just happens to borrow the names of some characters from Nanoha with the apparent purpose of defiling them offensively; this show only has a very superficial connection with Nanoha proper (a series consisting of two TV seasons and this movie): don't be fooled!
Anyway, back to The movie 1st. As you've probably heard elsewhere already, the adaptation does an incredible job at bringing together the emotional story of season 1 (the personal histories of Nanoha and Fate and their ultimate face-off) and spectacular epicness of A's quality. Throughout the film, you could sense an entire room of male otaku in their twenties (clearly a more extreme audience than for the screening of Haruhi) holding their breath here, crying manly tears there, and drooling uncontrolably most of the time.
There are a few elements in the characters' backstories that are fleshed out further in the movie, while various monster-of-the-day happenstances are omitted, but the plot is mostly the same as in the original series. Yet, it feels like a very fresh experience. In terms of visuals and animation, of course, even if it's not kami sakuga all the time, it is miles above the 2005 TV series, especially in action scenes. Waterscapes, character movements and PEW PEW are all pretty awesome. Moreover, screenwriters have been playing with viewer expectations in ways that might seem slightly strange at times if you're unfamiliar with the franchise, but work towards increasing fan pleasure further. I'm thinking in particular of one point when you would expect Nanoha to use her hissatsu waza Starlight Breaker, but she, erm, holds back for a while, and it feels, you know, so much better when she actually releases it afterwards.
It is a bit difficult to put words on why I liked this film so much, probably because, even compared to something like Haruhi, it is to be appreciated with guts rather than intellect. But by and large, I believe this works on two major levels, at least as far as I'm concerned.
The first one, which may not apply to you depending on your particular proclivities, but is difficult to toss away, is voyeurism. You have those cute little girls whose skirts are short enough to give you an occasional peek at their panties, who have naked transformation scenes, who engage in mild bondage play and who fight with long phallic implements shooting bolts of energy, all in complete innocence. A total turn on if you're like me. If you're not, you shouldn't find this particularly obstructive, unless you're striving with your own sexuality, or cannot put aside some sort of irrational moral outrage (which is probably another warped way of striving with your sexuality, just saying).
The second one should be familiar if you were a reader of jpmeyer's former blog. It's about the power of NEKKETSU, LOVE, COURAGE and FRIENDSHIP. Like the original Nanoha and especially A's, the movie borrows a lot from mecha shounen of old (particularly the super-robot variant), in terms of graphics and imagery on the one hand, and themes and narratives on the other. I for one don't usually mind mecha imagery, at least if it's not too rusty, but I find it hard to get into the LOVE and FRIENDSHIP narrative of those older shows and take it seriously. I mean, look at something like Ai oboeteimasu ka. If you can watch through it without constantly grinning at the cheesiness and naïveté of the script, I'm impressed. A love song literally stopping armies on the battlefield is a bit too taxing for my suspension of disbelief.
But Nanoha is different. Nanoha is believable. Because it's little girls talking of the power of friendship, and when they say it, it rings true and heartfelt rather than cheesy and trite. (Also, the homoerotic subtext is lesbian rather than gay). While I can't hold back a sneer or two at your typical robot show, I was weeping sincere tears during the movie's poignant scenes. The difference, perhaps, is that those shounen series were, by definition, targetting kids, possibly young enough to not roll their eyes at grown-up soldiers thinking that friendship overcomes all. But we adults know better. So it takes Nanoha to make the setup credible again, and our hearts pound as they did when we were kids (you may not believe it, but I was a dedicated follower of UFO Robot Grendizer in kindergarten). Of course, if unlike me you're already a fan of those shows, you can probably derive extra enjoyment from the referential fanservice.
All in all, I think the movie is great and has a lot to offer. If you've read this far, you should definitely give it a try when you get a chance, if only as a litmus test of sorts. I know I'll try it on anime club friends back home when it becomes available, and hopefully make converts.