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First anime look: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha ViVid

Episodes: 12
Genre: Magical Girl, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Action
Watch if you like: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanaho, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Pretty Cure
Non-spoiler plot summary: Welcome to Midchilda, the whacked up magical world where it’s normal for prepubescent kids to engage in friendly fistfights worthy of street brawls. We now follow Vivio Takamachi’s growing pains, after the events of Nanoha StrikerS. Throw in several little ass-kicking girls, heavy doses of lesbian undertones, and you have the classic Nanoha cocktail – mowing down enemies and allies alike with full power. Zenryoku Zenkai!
The Vivid quartet. From left: Rio Wesley, Takamachi Vivio, Einhard Stratos and Corona Timil.

Why you should watch it: Nanoha fans, don’t even bother. For the newbies, settle in.
After StrikerS, Vivid takes the angst – and age – down several notches. The series is stripped back to basics, Nanoha-style: ironically hyper-powered lolis with a talent for making friends through beating the snot out of each other, with one angsty lesbian crush that Vivio is just. Determined. To. Be. Friends. With! (she learns well from Nanoha-mama)
For the first time in the Nanoha franchise, we witness ordinary life on Midchilda. Ten-year-old Vivio wakes up to nice, normal days. Gets up, gets dressed, admire her wonderful Nanoha-mama’s breakfast art, meets her friends…and then kicks ass after school in Strike Arts.

Welcome home, Vivio!
Strike Arts, or magic-infused martial arts, is the franchise’s latest take on the magical girl genre. Throughout the franchise, the Intelligent Devices – Raising Heart, Bardiche, etc. – have fascinated fans with the concept that advanced technology can augment spiritual energy. Strike Arts fuses special moves from martial arts manga and breathes them into tiny little girls.
The bad: Vivid has no direction. It quickly goes from idyllic slice-of-life to typical Nanoha-verse unexpected encounters, and then an extremely PG-rated fight-till you drop Strike Arts tournament midway through.
This is about as bloody as Vivid gets. And it's only an illusion.

Hisotrical characters. Who is Vivio's ancestor and who is Einhard's?
It has no flow. Vivid starts out strong, the plot interspersed with battle growth while focusing on Vivio’s attempts to woo Einhard, with Einhard playing hard to get. The backstory: genetically, the girls are each descended from rulers with strong ties (romantic or otherwise, it’s never clearly explained) in a war-torn age. Vivio’s a clone (first explored in StrikerS) while Einhard’s a direct descendant. Her genetic lotto includes inheriting memories and abilities from her ancestor, making her attracted to Vivio by proxy. In the process, the anime explores the history of the magic world while the girls trade punches to the throat.
Vivio resumes her adult mode (first seen in StrikerS) when transforming. Eirhard can do the same.
Compared to that, the tournament is redundant. It’s not Negima. Multiple scantily-clad battle babes are introduced abruptly, given two minutes of utterly boring internal monologues of strength and perseverance, which leaves you with more questions than answers. Oh. Some punches are traded too. I think.

The tournament babes. No one really care who they are.
This is not a series for first-time Nanoha viewers.
In order to fully understand the plot, you need to go back to the very beginning: Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha. For example, the Nanoha franchise has amassed many characters over its three series. It tries to feature each of them in scenes that vaguely seem important in Vivid. The issue is that Vivid tries too hard not to eliminate existing fans while attracting new viewers. It doesn’t succeed either way.

Even the antagonists from StrikerS return with bigger roles. They're even allowed to hold official government posts.
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?
As usual, the men in this series fade into the background, with poor Erio’s transformation sequence shortened to a mere five seconds (I counted). Yunno Scrya, so central to the creation of Nanoha, doesn’t even appear at all.
I’m all for some panty-shots but Nanoha was never known for stooping that low. In this case, the fanservice is out of control. It ups the stakes with panty-shots. Ripped clothes. Girls bathing together, touching each other inappropriately. Some who remember the ankle-length purity of Takamachi Nanoha’s white skirt won’t like it. Others might.

Just...seriously? Seriously?!
The ugly: it irks me that Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force was not the next anime series. Chronologically, Vivid is the fifth. The series would have featured its very first male protagonist. However, considering that the manga’s now gone on indefinite hiatus, maybe it’s a good thing.

My conclusion: if you’re already following the Vivid manga, the anime’s a good accompaniment. Since it’s an action series, the anime plays it out more sweetly. As a standalone series though, it’s done a pretty lousy job. Perhaps it’s meant to build traction for the manga – 61 chapters and counting! The best we can do now is to hope for a new season of Vivid once the manga has completed enough chapters to build a new story arc.

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