Season 1 Nanoha is, rather famously, essentially Card Captor Sakura by way of Gundam, although genre conventions of the former are largely discarded in favour of the latter's two thirds of the way into the season; since when did Mahou Shoujos start packing firepower capable of levelling mecha (with the attendant environmental destruction) on a personal level? Virtuoso aerial daredevilry is but one part of what the eponymous heroine is known for, another being the complex relationship she develops with her troubled counterpart: the heartrendingly pretty Fate Testarossa, erstwhile rival and candidate for social services poster child. Fate's vulnerability immediately appeals to Nanoha's protective instincts, and she consequently spends a considerable amount of time mooning over how someone so beautiful could show such sadness in her eyes, precipitating sincere (if unconventional) ouvertures of friendship. Not even remotely love at first fight, no. While the character dynamics elevate the show above shallow displays of Super Robot derived pyrotechnics, they are in danger of descending into melodrama, mostly due to Precia's pantomiming. That the atrocity she perpetrates on daughter Fate is an implicitly regular occurence would have sufficed as given: having to see it twice, lest we forget the real villain, is surplus to requirement and makes for uncomfortable viewing, despite claims otherwise. Carping criticism aside, there is much to recommend about the series: short and sweet (a characteristic shared by its leads) at only thirteen episodes long, it never overstays its welcome despite intermittently uneven pacing. The grownup sensibilities are also refreshing: when not busy scarring the sky with plasma trails, Nanoha exhitibits a strength of character that belies her tender age. Of course, this precocity also informs her...interest in Fate, which is seen finally reciprocated in moving fashion at the season's conclusion. Now what was it someone once said about how relationships formed under intense circumstances never work out? The hell do they know.
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