Long before StrikerS came along and irretrievably damaged the reputation of the Nanoha franchise, I decided to acquire the eight chapters that comprised the Nanoha A’s manga. By the time I came to read it, I wasn’t even sure if I still wanted to, but since it was a) bearably short and b) sitting on my hard drive with a silent determination to be addressed one day, I decided that I might as well go ahead and get it out of the way.
Although it may sound like a straight manga adaptation of the second season of Nanoha, these few chapters are somewhat more interesting than that, for instead of treading the same old ground, they are actually a collection of standalone chapters that slot in before, during and after the A’s timeline. If, like me, you felt that that series had promise but was ultimately lacking in character development, you’ll be pleased to hear these chapters help to fill in a few gaps, giving us some additional insight into Hayate and her guardians, and even helping to flesh out Nanoha and Fate that little bit more. Surprisingly, even action scenes translate well into the manga format, with training sequences offering the impression that Nanoha and Fate take an active role in battle instead of relying on their intelligent weapons to fight whilst they stand around and entice the fanboys.
Whilst it is certainly a nice complement to the anime, however, it should be noted that this manga is clearly not meant to be a standalone series. With its gap-filling nature, short length and lack of overarching plot, this is one for fans (or at least viewers) of Nanoha only- if you have no knowledge of the anime, this will be a pointless and disjointed exercise at best. You can’t even read it to get a feel for whether you would enjoy the animated version- it simply won’t work if you’re not already familiar with the characters and storyline.
Visually, it’s hard to go wrong with Nanoha’s superior character designs, but even so, artwork is hardly this manga’s strongest point. Like many manga adaptations of anime series, there isn’t really any flair or personality to the style, which instead relies heavily on simplistic shading and backgrounds and an overuse of screen tone. Characters remain solid and recognisable enough, but even they suffer a bit in distance shots, and overall the general aesthetic is functional and ‘good enough’ rather than particularly noteworthy.
Unlike the StrikerS manga, which was confusing and bogged down with endless characters, these few chapters are actually quite a worthy accompaniment to the series whose name they bear. If you’re a Nanoha fanboy, then you’ll no doubt have already read this already, but even if you only mildly enjoyed the first two anime series, this manga may give you an added appreciation for them.