ViVid Strike! Thoughts
|From one main character to another, a warm welcome!|
There's a fairly complex history to the series in that it's a spin-off to a spin-off (Nanoha ViVid) to a spin-off (Nanoha) to something else (Triangle Hearts), but if that sounds complex, don't let it confuse you--from the first episode, Strike! appears to be very much its own thing with the exception of using familiar characters in a new setting. It even comes with a new main character: Fuuka Reventon, an orphaned young girl who was originally best friends with a girl named Rinne, until she got adopted by some rich parents and began to change into a completely different person.
Gradually, the two of them grew further and further apart until they ended up fighting one another, and Fuuka loses. This gives Fuuka a tiny bit of a complex, as she hates the martial arts but seems to constantly end up in fights--even to the point that she loses a job keeping her out of an orphanage after getting in a fight with a massive gang. One unlikely string of events later and she ends up being offered an opportunity to join a gym where a group of girls are training for an Under 15 martial arts tournament--one in which Fuuka's friend has been consistently dominating in.
There's a bit of confusion in the first episode, with Fuuka going from "I hate martial arts" to actively training in them all in about ten minutes, but overall it's a solid introduction to the world and a decent re-introduction to the world of Midchilda, where the Nanohaverse primarily takes place. It's one in which things look largely identical to our world, but is actually both scientifically and magically light-years ahead of us. Magic is abundantly prevalent and space travel is common (or at least it was), so there's a ton of potential for future stories depending on where it all goes.
It's also good that while Fuuka seems above competent as a fighter, she's not the typical overpowered main character yet. Indeed, her first day in the gym is heartbreakingly comical, as the gym's youngest, smallest girls end up beating the hell out of her in back-to-back sparring competitions. She's got a long way to go before anyone takes her serious, but I'm along for the ride.
What I love most about the Nanoha-verse is that everyone tends to be hyper-competent, and they employ liberal use of Defeat Means Friendship. Not because they need to reform a villain because they're too popular to be proper evil, but because its a logical extension of character growth and people attempting to understand one another. It's an optimistic universe that also employs the Rousseau was Right trope--nearly all of Nanoha's characters are genuinely good, decent people. It's the kind of thing that makes anything from Masaki Tsuzuki an instant watch from me, its just...usually there's not enough conflict.
More oftan than not, in Nanoha-verse stories everyone's so happy and content that there's not enough conflict to create a spark. ViVid Strike is different though--it feels comparatively "gritty" without losing any of what makes the universe likable in the first place. In comparison to Nanoha's life as a young girl coming from a happy family home, Fuuka spends the first eight minutes dealing with one gang or another, often finding herself being beaten to a pulp. Characters seem to have much stronger, more believable motivations thus far and that gives ViVid Strike! the thing this universe was missing through back during Nanoha StrikerS. Normally I finish an episode of something in the Nanoha-verse and feel more content about having spent time with the characters than anything else--but here I was legitimately excited to see where the story goes, something I haven't felt since Nanoha A's.