Went to watch the 2nd A’s movie on August 8, despite not having seen the first Nanoha movie, at the Shine Libre Ikebukuro movie theatre. This review is really late but the more it languishes in draft purgutory, the more my memory of what I watched deteriorates so I’ll just push it out as it is. I did not take notes during or immediately after as I was mentally maxed out partly because I was watching it without English sub-titles but mostly I was trying to pretend that I wasn’t crying like a little girl during some of the key scenes. After that was Comic Market 82 so that wiped me out too.
Please be warned that will be *heavy spoilers*. I also did not and still have not found the time to rewatch A’s TV so points of comparison are also tentative. Although I consulted Stripey on a few specific points, my general recollection remains fuzzy.
The Melancholy of Yagami Hayate
At the beginning of the movie, as Hayate is making her way home, her doctor Ishida Sachie tries to call her but Hayate refuses to pick up the phone after seeing the caller ID. She then deliberately ignores Dr Ishida’s mail suggesting that they have a birthday meal together after their appointment the following day. I didn’t recall Hayate doing anything like that in the TV broadcast. It’s quite clear that Hayate is lonely but the above suggests that she may think Dr Ishida pities her and she doesn’t want any of that. This fierce pride and independent streak is effaced by her general sociability as seen when she politely, even cheerfully, declines any further assistance to get home from the bus stop on her non-motorized wheelchair which must be physically demanding for a girl of her size and age.
For me, this change was a really big and important one because, even though the movie title is Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, A’s is really about Hayate’s relationship with her knights; instead the role of the title character and Fate is to serve as the antagonists and then, later, helpers towards the bittersweet resolution. Right from the start, the narrative voice uses Reinforce II to look back at the events in the movie which happened a year ago. And the very first person we meet is Hayate who is really run over by a truck whose driver has fallen asleep at the wheel. She’s saved when the stress of impending death activates her Book and, consequently, the Volkenritter whom she enthusiastically embraces. Adopted by their new Master as her family, the initially bewildered knights play along to humour her but are quickly won over by the outpouring of love Hayate has to offer but, also in an opposite and equal reaction, Hayate’s own need to be loved but not pitied.
I had always understood why Nanoha and Fate had an instant and lasting attraction to each other but, during the A’s TV series, I didn’t get the same sense with respect to Hayate becoming the third spoke of the franchise’s troika. Hayate had always struck me as an essentially much more positive person than either Nanoha (who can be quite cold at times, particularly understandable if you take the Triangle Hearts background into account) or Fate (who was abused and pretty much broken by Precia and is thus overly emotionally dependent on others).
For starters, Hayate was Suzu’s friend first rather than the two main characters and it seemed that the bond was formed out of necessity to defeat the defence program and recover what was taken away from her. By emphasizing Hayate’s loneliness at the start, it not only underlined how important the knights were to her but also underscored this common characteristic that she shares with Nanoha and Fate who, as her equals – rather than her knights who will always remain subordinate to her. The addition of Hayate as a main character did make a lot of sense to me in StrikerS TV though. Whereas Nanoha repeatedly refused promotion in order to remain primarily a training instructor while Fate’s priority is nurturing her family, Hayate has the will and ability to lead as a commanding officer – not so much because of her double SS ranking but more because of her little raccoon dog cunning that is essential to the politicking and greasy pole climbing needed to get the resources and authorization to pursue the causes they believe in.
When all is done and well in the movie, Hayate’s growth is shown by how she stops ignoring Dr Ishida and takes the initiative to visit her and to have a meal with her.
Nothing Rotten in the State of the TSAB
The second thing that stood out was that Admiral Graham was removed from this retelling. This was a big improvement even though I miss his catgirl familiars particularly the one that went ‘Hisashi~buri~buri~~’ to Chrono.
In the TV series, two things never made sense to me: he claimed to have found Hayate as the Book of Darkness’s next Master much earlier on and had been preparing to use Durandal to freeze the Book (and her along with it). First, how did Graham track down the Book (and thus Hayate)? This is never explained in the TV series. If it were through luck, it would be too much of coincidence. If he had some techno-magical means to literally find a needle in a galactic hay stack, wouldn’t the even higher ups at the TSAB have wanted to get their hands on that too? Second was his proposed ‘solution’ because it would not have worked and he should have known – even Chrono knew that Durandal could not do the job on its own when it was first brought up. Another A’s TV plot hole was how the Arc en Ciel was also used in the TV series (and it worked) but Graham didn’t even factor it into his plans.
At this point in the main characters’ lives in the series, it is also much too early to bring up the issue of high level shennanigans and corruption at the highest levels of the TSAB. I really enjoyed that aspect, along with the incessant inter-Service rivalries (e.g. between the TSAB Land Forces faction led by Regius and the TSAB Naval faction led by the Harlaouns) as well as bureaucratic infighting, of StrikerS TV because there are not enough shows that have a sophisticated portrayal of the complexities of life in large organizations. But it’s not really something that works in the context of middle schooler main characters.
Final observation was that Nanoha and Fate were taken down (and had their Linker Cores leeched by the Book of Darkness) on the same night. For A’s TV, I can see why breaking it up was necessary in terms of the limits of time in each episode as well as the need for something dramatic happening on a regular basis.
But I much prefer the movie’s retelling. Nanoha was overwhelmed by Vita’s superior weaponry, her rage at having her bunny hat destroyed and also her inexperience with close quarters combat (something that Fate helps train her with later as they go at each other with sticks on Nanoha’s balcony). Although Signum was more powerful and had more combat experience than Fate, the latter would not have gone down like Nanoha because she also has a lot of combat experience and also understood the pressures that the Volkenritter were under as she had to use hit and run tactics while, doing Precia’s biding, she was being pursued by the TSAB. In her fight with Signum, all she really needed to do was to not lose and keep Signum from escaping until reinforcements arrived. However she lost her cool when she saw Nanoha being leeched by Vita and charged in to try and save her, allowing her to be surprised and taken out by Signum.
The significance of this change was explicitly highlighted during Fate and Signum’s second encounter when the latter noted that she had won too easily against the former in the previous round for the reason noted above and asked Fate if Nanoha was someone important to her, like family. To which Fate replied: “My friend.” I can already see so many doujin artists, like Tamago Ruby, having so much fun with that scene by having Fate reply: “My waifu… teehee, I said it out loud!” or something to that effect and Signum becoming totally flustered by that ufufu.
Overall I really enjoyed this movie and my only regret is that I wasn’t able to rewatch it a second time; I would have taken notes then and brought a face towel too. The production values were top notch and I’m glad to report that the horrible animation of the regenerating defence program (which has a proper name in the movie but, for the life of me, I can’t remember what is it except it starts with N) in A’s TV was very much improved. Also, Signum was a gallant and dashing as ever *squeee*