Analysis / Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's

Dramatic Foils in A's
In Hamlet's Hit Points, Robin Laws defines "dramatic foils" to the protagonist as characters who stand for what we either hope or fear they will become: the angelic/light and the demonic/dark foil, respectively. In A's, it's pretty obvious who the dark foils of Nanoha and Fate are: the angry, berserking Vita and the self-destructively honorable Signum. But the angelic foils are not so clear (not that every narrative needs any, of course). However, considering the leads' future development, it becomes apparent that their foils are actually their own mothers, Momoko and Lindy (not Precia—she actually looms over Fate's shoulder as the overarching dark foil for the rest of the series). Hear me out:

  • While both of Nanoha's parents played major formative roles in her life (Shirou's the one she got all her badass-genes from), it is actually her mother who provided gentle support for her from the start and encouraged her to choose a life she enjoyed most. Fourteen years later, in ViVid, Nanoha shows exceptional aptitude for quiet family life, to the surprise of many, precisely because she has taken so much after Momoko. If there is anyone in the series Nanoha sees as her role-model, it appears to be her mother.
  • By contrast, Fate doesn't seem to be a particular family person, often staying away from home on missions—but that is precisely what Lindy did, too. Although Lindy does not officially adopt her until after A's, one character arc subtly spanning the entire season involves Fate gradually emerging from under Precia's shadow and slowly embracing her bright future as The Cape of the Bureau. And the two people who represent that future for her are the Harlaowns—she learns magic from Chrono, while Lindy shows her how to be a successful career officer and a nurturing mother at the same time.