Monday, 27 December 2010

Review THE FIRST: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie

You know what's been one of my biggest sources of frustration over the years watching these cartoons? When some bigwig in one of the primary sponsours for a show, or some crazies in the production staff themselves decide to take a show made to be 13, 26 or even 50 episodes long and mulch it down into a movie. Usually one made out of recycled footage. They often have breakneck paces that kill any sort of world building or character development (Why hello there A Contact). If they don't, then they wind up stunningly dull for large chunks (How's it going, Soldiers of Sorrow?). And even if they do both of these, they then try to work in all new footage just to try and make people think it's worth viewing (I can't be bothered linking to the Gundam SEED movies here. They don't deserve it).

So really, I don't have a clue why I acquired a copy of this film to watch in the first place. Perhaps I thought it would be a good lark. Maybe I thought I'd make a web log bemoaning the state of the industry so I could complain about it. What did I get when I fired the film up after a month of avoiding it though?

I got an action film. An action film with some rather nifty choreography in parts. An action film where (fake) buildings were destroyed and lasers flew about. An action film riddled with technobabble and blatant mechanical fanservice. But more importantly, an enjoyable action film.

The writing was somewhat above standard too. Quite often, particularly in the first half, words weren't wasted. A facial expression or quick gasp was all that was needed to convey an emotion, so that was all that was used. Characters were exhibiting some actual character, rather than bluntly telling the viewer what their character description says they should feel. Exposition wasn't too long-winded, but at the same time gave all the information needed to understand what was going on. Hell, it tweaked some things from the original show in order to keep it consistent with later material. Things became a bit sloppy later on, particularly with some rather overly long scenes involving one Precia Testarossa, but it was certainly a cut above the norm. As far as action films go, it worked.

The animation demonstrated that if you give them enough time, money, and no excuse to just correct things for a DVD in a month's time, Seven Arcs can do a good job. This isn't a mind-blowing production, but it's reasonably fluid and doesn't go off model. The colouring's bright, but not painfully so either. On the other hand, the massive amounts of bloom used were most definitely to cover up a lack of detailing, but I have to commend it for actually working.

There's no doubt that it's a film for existing fans. The promotions, the Rocky Horror-esque final screening, and certain directorial choices all prove that. Transformation sequences (sure it's an action film, but it's still a summary of a magical girl semi-parody show) are intentionally elaborate. The main characters' signiature devices get set-up sequences that evoke memories of 90s super robot shows. Pointing a magic stick requires an advanced targeting reticule. Scenes between the two main girls are naturally filled with the franchise's notorious homosexual undertones. But then, I'm a  sucker for all these things so it's hard for me to stay objective. However, I didn't find any of them overwhelming enough to consider it offputting for anyone who hasn't seen the show before.

I popped in the film expecting the usual sloppiness of a compilation film. Instead I got something that while silly and cliche, was a fun enough romp that I actually wanted to show it to people without shame. As for you? Well, give it a whirl and tell me what you think.

I give it a solid Worth Watching/10