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LAB Notes #5 – Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha

Nanoha Movie BoxTarget: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha – Mahou Shoujo Ririkaru Nanoha
Studio: Seven Arcs
Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Comedy
Notable Themes: Magical Girl, School Life
Episodes: 13
Fanservice Level: Heavy*

Reasons to Watch:
Visually dynamic, high action magical combat
A quintessential ‘Magical Girl’ experience

Reasons to Not:
Heavily reliant on anime tropes and stereotypes
Low episode count makes the pacing a little manic

Similar to: Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Cardcaptor Sakura, a long list of other Magical Girl shows.

Review:
Magical girl (Mahou Shoujo) series are a long time staple of anime.  Most Americans in my generation got their first taste of anime either from Dragonball Z, or from Sailor Moon, probably the most iconic magical girl show to cross over to the States.  The genre ranges from the uber-commercialized product placement, like Pretty Cure, to some of the most interesting critiques of anime as an art form, like the much lauded Puella Magi Madoka Magica.  These shows have huge appeal in their target market, 6 to 11-year-old girls, but also tend to be popular in the 16 to 30-year-old male and otaku demographics.  The same cross-demographic appeal is what has made the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic reboot so successful.

In contrast, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha was written almost exclusively to appeal to the older male demographic.  It uses tropes and storytelling tools more commonly associated with the giant mecha genre and characters pulled from an H-Game.  At the same time it retains much of the subject matter typical of other magical girl shows.  The combination of high action mentality and magical girl sensibility produces a uniquely fun series that escapes the worst of both of its parent genres.  So we end up with a show that packs in some fantastic action sequences right alongside significant social dramas and resolves both with giant lasers.  What more could a fan ask for?

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Lab Notes #4 – Kiddy Grade

Kiddy Grade Cover 2Target: Kiddy Grade
Studio: Gonzo
Genre: Science Fiction, Action
Notable Themes: Politics, Mecha, Superpowers, Fanservice
Episodes: 24
Fanservice Level: Heavy

Reasons to Watch:
Strong primary story arc
Surprising political and economic commentary

Reasons to Not:
Slow to get to the main story
Female cast is heavily sexualized

Similar to: MADLAX, Vandread, Mai-Otome

Review:
I’m probably going to take some flak for this one.  Kiddy Grade is the frequent target of some heavy criticism, both from inside and outside the anime fanbase.  There’s an unusually high level of fanservice for a show from the first half of the Aughts and the series takes a while to really hit its stride.  In spite of these flaws, the show has a lot of redeeming features for those who can stick with it past the first few, admittedly vapid, early episodes.

Kiddy Grade is set in a far-flung future where humanity has expanded out to colonize the galaxy.  The use of terraforming and genetic manipulation has enabled the human race to occupy a vast variety of planets.  This human diaspora is overseen by twin organizations: the Galactic Union (GU), a political body similar in role to our UN, and the Galactic Organization of Trade and Tariffs (GOTT), an enforcement organization used to police interplanetary economics.  The protagonists, Éclair and Lumière, are special agents of the GOTT.   Gifted with superhuman abilities, they work to ensure that the galactic economy is preserved from greedy governments, criminals and warmongers.

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