Nanoha Cannot Be the Best Magical Girl Anime

I take issue with people who declare Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha (or one of its sequels) to be the best Magical Girl series ever. The magical girl genre is understandably focused primarily on relationships, the pursuit of love, and other similar themes. Nanoha, meanwhile, is noted for its magical girls engaging in earth-shattering battles with devastating laser barrages and bone-shattering impacts. The general impression I get from people who make the claim is that Nanoha is great because it’s a magical girl show without all the fluff and romance.

In other words, it’s the best magical girl show for being nothing like a magical girl show.

I don’t think this is a case of breaking genre conventions, though the thought occurred to me. It’s different from a show like Evangelion which turned the mecha genre on its ear because Evangelion did not go against what defines the mecha genre in the first place. The characters may have been emotional wrecks, but the common theme of humanity and its relationship with war and suffering is a long-running concept since even before First Gundam, and it’s present in Evangelion with a twist. Princess Tutu, as an example closer to the topic of Nanoha at hand, approaches the issue of meta-stories and the very nature of “story” itself, but it maintains itself as a magical girl series with, again, its emphasis on relationships.

I like the Nanoha series, but the appeal of it is more like a Sunrise mecha show than it is a magical girl series, and I think to judge it from that perspective is a little unusual. It would be like saying that a plate of spaghetti you just ate is the best yakisoba ever, despite tasting nothing like how a yakisoba should. The key word in mahou shoujo is shoujo, and personally I think the fact that Nanoha is basically only a magical girl show on the surface automatically disqualifies it.

PS: If you’re wondering what I consider to be the best magical girl series, Cardcaptor Sakura, of course.

15 thoughts on “Nanoha Cannot Be the Best Magical Girl Anime

  1. I’m totally with you in terms of CCS being the best mahou shoujo show ever. Although I haven’t seen all the Nanoha (+ sequel) episodes, I do recall several instances where Nanoha suspiciously resembled CCS. There was one episode where Nanoha battled an oversized cat, which also happened in CCS (due to the doings of the Big Card). Anyway, if I ever get the motivation to watch all the Nanoha episodes, I’ll do a detailed back-to-back comparison between the shows. :P

    I feel that Nanoha was more intentionally targeted at males than CCS, and as such it loses some of the essence of the mahou shoujo genre. Like you said, there were not as much focus on relationships, which works for the show – but not for me.


  2. Agreed, CCS 4tw! While I too love Nanoha for what it is – mahou shoujo on the outside, and almost nothing of the sort for real (plus the action sequences in A’s rival almost every shounen show I’ve watched ever) – it can’t really qualify as a best mahou shoujo show if ppl love it for non-mahou shoujo reasons…


  3. Yes. Nanoha is Gundam with girls instead of mecha (‘Moebile Suits’); there are relationships and they’re important, but what’s really important is the beamspam. Haesslich recently proposed to me that Gundam Wing is a Magical Girl show with Gundams, but I’m not qualified to judge that.


  4. Whoever said Nanoha is the best mahou shoujo anime? It isn’t even close to CCS. I guess CCS comparisons came to play on season 1, but by season 2 and ‘especially’ StrikerS, it essentially became as you said, Sunrise mahou shoujo anime.


  5. > I feel that Nanoha was more intentionally
    > targeted at males than CCS,

    It’s SO targetted at males. IIRC the show aired during like 1 or 2 in the mornng, so it wasn’t targetted at 8 year-old girls.

    I’ve always said that Nanoha is a shounen-fighter masquerading as mahou shoujo. Beneath the “little girls with magics!” stuff, the true essence of Nanoha is people kicking the crap out of each other. In this case, instead of super saiyans doing the ass kicking, it’s 10 year old girls.

    I haven’t seen many magic girl shows, but of the ones I have seen, I also agree that CCS stands out the most and I enjoyed it the most.


  6. CCS is probably my favorite magical girl series, with Hime-chan’s Ribbon in a close second.

    As a tangent to what you brought up, I think the main reason why Nanoha, as good as it is, can’t be called magical girl, is because it appeals to anime watchers who would never touch the genre. For example, I have a friend who is a massive mecha and shonen fighting fan who would never touch a shoujo and/or magical girl show, yet he loves Nanoha.


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  8. We are in a land (let’s say we’re at book-off or something) where the entertainment is sorted by demographic instead of genre. Demographic isn’t exactly ironclad (and there are huge, glaring exceptions to the process I’m about to outline), but it’s how they make the shows. Mainstream stuff tends to work both the kid and otaku markets, though, the way Gundam does, the way CCS did.

    Meanwhile, Nanoha’s a late-night anime. Where before, little girls and otaku were watching, say, Pretty Cure, now the little girls have gone to bed and hopefully the otaku are watching anime instead of trying to sneak into bed with them, the sick fucks.

    Anyway, what’s important to the little girls isn’t so important, and what’s important to the otaku is the basis of your show. So you turn down the relationships and the pursuit of love and all that, and you turn up the Pretty Love Love Beam kinda stuff until the magical girls are having Dragon Ball fights. Throw some titillation and a little moe-moe character design in there and you’re golden.

    Plus, what romance is left should be between girls.


  9. I personally feel that the people who claim Nanoha as the best mahou shoujo series ever are doing so in full cognizance of the fact that Nanoha isn’t an actual mahou shoujo series. By calling it the best, they’re simultaneously expressing their distaste for the mahou shoujo genre at the same time that they’re praising Nanoha–Nanoha is the best because it isn’t a mahou shoujo show, and that’s why it’s the best mahou shoujo show.

    As for what is actually the best mahou shoujo series, I’d like to say CCS, but I have major issues making it though the series (I’m still somewhere at episode 31 or something after watching it for over a year), perhaps because of the very reason that makes it the best mahou shoujo show– the overwhelming girliness. And I consider myself quite girly, but I think CCS is so much concentrated girliness that I can’t quite relate. I liked what I saw of Princess Tutu much better, and need to get the DVDs to finish it up. If FIgure 17 counts than that, far and away, takes the mahou shoujo crown, and if you count Utena then that’s nothing to sneeze at either. But, then again, with Utena and Figure 17, their status as “mahou shoujo” series is debatable.


  10. CCS gavce me animé diabetes for a while.

    It’s that powerful.

    And for that it deserves the best mahou Shoujou show award.

    Coincidentally do you count Dai Mahou Touge a Magical Girl Show?


  11. I too consider CCS the best Mahô Shôjo/Magical Girl seeis.

    However, your use of the Meg-chan picture was what caught my attention.

    Old School Mahô Shôjo (Meg, Lun Lun, Lalabel, etc.) For The Win! ^_^


  12. Nanoha is what you shouldn’t do when making a mahou shoujo. Nanoha has no personality outside of “blast you to understand you”. CCS on the other hand is brilliant because of how grounded in reality it is the characters feel like people the auidence could meet in real life. With Nanoha none of the characters feel real they are just props the author set up for the auidence to blindly love them especially fate. Also the show only cares about the Nanoha fate thing never mind her interactions with her family, friends, and community. On how almost every single female character is gay Nanoha fate being the most popular pairing is beyond dumb. They are only four straight couples in Nanoha: nanoha’s parents, nanoha’s brother and suzuka’s sister, cario and erio, and chrono and amy. The show is more for how popular the girl pairings are then any story especially with the fourth season Nanoha vivid. Ccs is just overall better because sakura has a personality resembling how a real ten year old would act at that age she had to go through trail and error with her powers she interacts with her family, friends, and community. Sakura and Syaoran actually spend time together unlike Nanoha fate who mostly always meet on the battlefield. Yuuno barely gets any development or acknowledgement(makes you wonder why he was needed in the first place) no backstory on him or anything. Its obvious the author never spoke to or researched how real kids act he probably saw tons of moe stuff got inspired by it and went with whatever from there.


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