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Long-running anime franchise Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is a sci-fi reimagining of the magical girl genre. While it started as a monster-of-the-week sort of show, it now exists as sort of an interdimensional action anime. In the franchise’s very first film with an original story, a girl from another dimension makes the choice to sacrifice the inhabitants of Earth to save her father.

The basic story of Magical Girl Nanoha follows Nanoha Takamachi, a fifth grade elementary school student who was chosen by an interdimensional being named Yuno to use the “Raising Heart” amulet that gives her the power to transform like a magical girl and use high-tech weapons. She works alongside her friend (and former foe) Fate Testarossa to protect the world from threats from other dimensions. During the time that the film Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Reflection (Mahō Shōjo Lyrical Nanoha Reflection) takes place (which is after the second season, A’s, and before the third, Striker’s), Nanoha and all her friends—accompanied by their parents (who are in on the secret about the crazy battles their children have gotten into)—are taking a summer trip to a new amusement park’s pre-opening day.

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All the way in another dimension, on a planet named Eltria that has all but died, two sisters—Amitie “Amita” Florian and Kirie Florian—live with their scientist parents who are trying to find a way to revive the planet back to its former glory. However, because of the horrible conditions, the father contracts an illness that leaves him comatose and he isn’t expected to survive. The elder sister Amitie suggests that they should follow their mother in moving to the neighboring colony that—while it only has an artificial sky and sunlight—has good breathing air, and might raise their father’s chance of living, albeit by just a fraction of a percent.

Younger sister Kirie, however, has gotten word from her artificial intelligence buddy Iris that Nanoha, Fate, and their friend Hayate hold the key to unlocking a greater power that could save her father and planet. However, more than her planet, Kirie wants to save her father. She runs away to Earth using a dimension-hopping device with Iris and, while she is determined to do her best to cause as little trouble as possible, will do anything to achieve her goals, even violence. Of course, Nanoha and the magical girl gang have to try to stop her.

Despite the title of the film, Nanoha isn’t actually the focus—in fact, she’s barely focused on at all. The film balances the screentime between the sisters, Fate, Hayate, and a few other members of the team, but aside from one or two strong quotes, Nanoha is just one of the many fighters attempting to protect the Earth.

If you haven’t seen any Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, you probably shouldn’t watch this movie. There is no explanation (except for a special clipshow which is for some reason stuck at the end of the movie and not the beginning) of the previous installments, and while the names of characters are thrown on screen as they appear, there are at least twenty undeveloped characters who don’t get more than one line in the entire movie. While it can be enjoyable for long-time fans to see the more minor characters showing up, newcomers will be utterly confused.

Rather than the titular Nanoha, more of the focus in the film is put on the guest characters. While Kirie has been taught since childhood not to cause trouble for others, she throws away her innocence in order to achieve her goal. Like Fate in the original TV anime who hurt Nanoha and the others around her in order to help her mother, Kirie hurts anyone who will get in her way of healing her father. Kirie brings up a very important question: Is it right—or at least, understandable—to hurt a large number of others in order to save one? After all, while the method Iris has told her about will supposedly save both her father and her world, what Kirie really cares about is her father. Even though her goal is supposed to be protecting her precious family, she hurts her own sister to stop her from intruding.

But that doesn’t mean Kirie’s sister Amita is completely in the right, either. A bit of a timid girl, Amita cares about her father’s well-being just as much as her little sister does. However, she is willing to throw away her home planet for even the smallest chance for his survival, discarding his dream and life’s work of reviving the planet in the process. Which is worse? Giving up all hope and adapting to one’s surroundings? Or doing anything in one’s power to protect a fleeting dream? Their clashing ideals force the sisters to fight on opposite sides—Amita with Nanoha, and Kirie with Iris.

Because both of the sisters can use technology similar to Nanoha, they are able to duke it out without hesitation. And wow, this movie is filled to the brim with action scenes, many of which are enjoyable and satisfying. After all, we get to see a large variety of character matchups, and even less prominent characters like Arf and Shamal get their chance to shine.

Unfortunately, some of the fights also end up kind of same-y, especially one particular one in the latter half of the movie. This battle has Nanoha, Fate, and Hayate fighting against three different enemies. Despite taking at least ten minutes for each separate battle, the conclusion to the battles are disappointing, to say the least. A lot of the action scenes seem repetitive and unnecessary, and with a runtime of two whole hours, it might have been in everyone’s best interest to cut them down just a little a bit. The story wouldn’t have suffered without the same fight basically happening over and over again for an hour or so.

Although Reflection felt like a long battle, however, it’s not over yet—the second of the two new original films—Magical Girl Nanoha Detonation—is scheduled to open in Japanese theaters sometime next year. While I’m not the biggest fan of the franchise, the first film created a story with enough mystery and intrigue that I’m interested to know how everything will turn out, especially with the film’s main villain. There are plenty of unanswered questions at the end of this film, and I look forward to having them answered next year.

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Reflection premiered in Japanese theaters on July 22. It is planned for a theatrical release in North America this October.

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