I spent the better part of my review for Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 1st explaining the cliches of the ‘Magical Girl’ genre; cliches that I can only assume are enforced on penalty of death, which is the only way to explain their near-universal compliance, even down to the smallest detail.
Its sequel, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 2nd A’s does not rock the boat in anyway. It is still every bit the standard, predictable magical girl show; though since the origin story is out of the way, it gets a partial respite from the cliche checklist.
The only real cliche it adds to the list is ‘upgrades.’ When our generic magical girl encounters a new threat (usually at the beginning of a new story-arc/series), she is gifted with a new, more powerful skill set; along with a slightly altered uniform (a convenient way to make the fans buy new dolls, toys, posters, etc.)
One of the issues I had with the first film was that the titular magical girl, Nanoha, was woefully bland and underdeveloped. Well, this entry into the series has somehow managed to make her even more of a blank slate. We know literally nothing about her, other than that she is kind and brave. I mean really; she has no interests, no real relationships (unconditional love for everyone she meets is not a relationship), and no flaws. We don’t even get the scenes from her home life this time around (not that they added much anyway). She now exists solely as an embodiment of cliche; like the writer uploaded the magical-girl-template into the script, but forgot to tweak the settings.
Also carrying over from the first film is the fact that the villains are fairly well developed. Again, like the last movie, it isn’t Shakespeare; but the producers do make an effort to give their antagonists a logical, if shallow, emotional basis for their actions. In both cases, that basis is the desire to save a loved one. A desire so strong that they are willing to hurt others along the way.
Since Nanoha now has a magical team of sorts, the villains she faces must also be a team, in this case, four magical girls and a magic cat boy. All five follow the magical-girl-series-secondary-character-convention of being dominated by a single trait; the smart one, the petulant one, the boy one, and so on.
The best thing about this movie is the fight scenes. The magic battles between the two warring sides are very flashy; beautifully animated and well-choreographed. Unlike a lot of TV-based productions, the Nanoha movies actually look like movies, and not like too-long episodes of a TV series.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie 2nd A’s is candy. It looks nice and tastes sweet; but is offers little beyond that. And yet, it’s oddly compelling. After consuming a bit, you find yourself inexplicably reaching for more. It’s simple, but it’s fun; and keeps your attention throughout its two and a half hour run time.
Like its prequel, this movie is available only as an import from Japan, though the Blu Ray contains English subtitles (and an English menu so you can easily find them).