Written by TheBigN
In terms of the fansub culture, I was late in “catching” the Nanoha bug. I only went over the first two seasons after I had heard of it’s licensing here in the US (and still going strong even though we’re not going to see DVDs by Geneon USA), so you could tell how prominent it was on my radar. People were saying good and great things about the original series and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s, but the magical girl genre isn’t necessarily something that I pay much attention to (watching Shugo Chara seems to reaffirm this to me; while I like it, it’s something that I could easily stop watching and be fine with). Finally deciding to watch the shows, I left satisfied, but not to the point where I could agree with others on how good the series were. They just didn’t click with me as it did others, but they did keep me interested in watching StrikerS, if only to see how they do things. And after watching all 26 episodes, for all of it’s faults (much more so than the first two seasons), I find that I like StrikerS more than the previous two. Is it supposed to be like that? 😛
From what I’ve read from people criticizing (and needlessly bashing) the series, I agree that the show did have many problems in its execution. The main offender was probably the over-inflated cast of characters present in the show. Or rather, how all the characters were handled by the group producing the anime. Throughout StrikerS, we see that there’s not really a definite focus on specific characters. The idea seemed to be to give everyone a chance to present themselves, their backstories, their relationships and so on. When have like the main 10ish protagonists, 15ish side characters and the 15ish villains, you can where the problem lies if there is no main focus on a subset of the characters. And in a series that seems to center on the characters as it’s precursors have done (though I consider the original series and A’s to have done in a very cursory way), this affects everything else in terms of how the show is run.
Which ties into problems with the show’s pacing. People complain that what could be expressed in 26 episodes could have been expressed in 13 episodes, but I disagree with that. If everything was more evenly spaced throughout the series, like more main plot in the first half of the series in order to make the second half seem less rushed (along with some more OMG befriending action), I think things would have gone down better and people would be happy. This includes the story, or stories, that made up the show. Because most characters apparently had something important to say, a lot of information was brought up in a way that all of it couldn’t be integrated nicely into the main plot. Especially when the point to bring in all of the hard-hitting revelations near the end of the series caused chaos in this case. Some really important or meaningful points had less impact then they should have (like the xxx happening to Nanoha/Subaru/Vita/Hayate and Friends, or Fate xxxing with the villain, or all sorts of stuff ;P), while others had way too much attention focused on them. For example, way to go with not really following through with the military situation in the show (and ending it in a way less befitting of it’s start), where they could have done an “everyone against Section 9 (lol GitS SAC)” sort of thing. Even if that would be predictable, it would still be entertaining to watch, and Nanoha isn’t about really breaking new ground anyway. 😛
So why do I really like this thing again? StrikerS clicked with me where the original or A’s didn’t: the main good characters. Sounds like a contradiction, I know, but it still works for me. Despite the attempt to cram all the character info that they wanted into the show, for the main protagonists (which I cared about since they had most of the screen time anyways, and since it’s the logical choice), my feelings for them weren’t forced in StrikerS, which isn’t something I could really say with the first two seasons. In those cases, I could only really sympathize with Nanoha, since we’re with here from the beginning, and understand that she had to go through a lot of adversity to get to where she is at the end of those series. Fate in the original series and Hayate in A’s, though I feel like I get to know them much better, still seemed to have backstories stuffed down our throats to make us have to be concerned for the characters, and I hate that sort of thing. It seemed so… fake in those cases. This is also why AIR didn’t make much of an impact on me despite the fact that it was supposed to be so emotional, and it was for many other people. I can’t be lured so easily, or so I’d like to think.
In StrikerS, I feel that at least I got to know more about our heroes enough to feel for them, and yes, I didn’t mind the oodles and oodles of training that was there to provide the basis for learning more about them. Even if the training caused a slow pace for the beginning of the series which probably hurt it in the end, it was a good way for me to know how Section 6 and Teams Lightning and Stars did things; the techniques of the would be Strikers, the motivation and (longer) backstories of them, their mannerisms and the like. The amount of time spent not kicking ass, while a problem that many people seemed to have especially after the literally action-packed flying start of A’s, obviously pissed off people who expected more. But for me, it made moments in the series that much more impactful for me. For a direct example, I would be much more critical of Teana’s whining before befriending if there wasn’t as much training as there were before. As we could see, compared to everyone else’s training where they’re moving around and stuff, all Tea does is stand and shoot. I could understand her growing frustration when seeing the differing treatments and where she fits in, and I also found it more satisfying when they deal with it in that “I see what you mean, Tea, but you’re being stupid. Stop it.” Sort of way.
For indirect approaches, the feeling of knowing the characters presents itself when they have to deal with hard-hitting events. Situations like Subaru going over 9000 (which was one of the most emotionally action-packed sequences for me to watch this year, even over some of the best moments in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan), Hayate and Vita’s dedication for separate causes, and Nanoha’s new resolve based on her past actions while trying to keep her personal feelings out of her work had a strong effect on me. These circumstances have a much more poignant impact for me because of seeing the normal character interactions over the first couple of episodes, regardless of the lack of actual goings-on happening (and I was engrossed enough not to be bothered by that); hell, I almost cried in sharing Subaru’s viewpoint during that time. In that sense, this sort of thing is like Mai-HiME, only the “nothing happening” parts in the latter were much better. Mind you, this only worked because enough time was spent on knowing more about the good guys compared to our normally multi-faceted villains. Despite it being a staple of the Nanoha universe, I could frankly care less about sympathizing with the bad guys in StrikerS, because in this case, I wanted them to stay that way. They were being dicks with no redeeming purpose to me, plus I definitely wouldn’t mind punching them in the face a couple of times.
Considering the problems I mentioned above, the subpar animation through most of the show, and the lack of more action in the series (I admit that I wanted more beamspamming and GaoGaiGar than was presented), the fact that I still really like this series probably says more negative things about me than I want to admit. Still, I liked that StrikerS attempted to be more mature, more expansive in scope, and less feel good than the previous two series, even if things didn’t turn out that well in the end. I might be in the very small minority in terms of that, but I don’t think the show should be knocked as badly as it has been, but then again, I didn’t have much expectations going into watching StrikerS, and that also helped a lot. If I was anticipating something great, I might feel differently than I do now. But I wasn’t, so it’s fun to be in the minority like that. I can always laugh at the retcons and alternative ideas produced by other users as well, and wouldn’t mind a season 4 if one was proposed. I’m strange like that. :3