Target: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha – Mahou Shoujo Ririkaru Nanoha
Studio: Seven Arcs
Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Comedy
Notable Themes: Magical Girl, School Life
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.
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?