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"Tell the chef, the beer is on me."
I have to clarify something first, I never watched Nanoha, not even the first series which Shinbo directed. I have little to none knowledge regarding to the mahou shoujo genre other than a few odd CCS episodes I catch when I was really young. Some of the elements in this show might be present in other shows in the genre, but I'll probably fanboy over them since I never seen them before.
The tone of the episode is contrasting between the dark and surreal tone and the happy-go-fluffy school scene. In the first minute you are already introduced to an artsy world full of symbolic and fked up artifacts. Elegant laces, simple yet bold patterns in the background, gigantic floating tree, and a world of emptiness yet filled with menacing powers. All these on the backdrop of the blasting score from Kajiura. It's not going to be your usual Mahou Shoujo affair.
Then the focus changed to the ordinary fun school scene, where it just look so peaceful and normal. The introduction of a certain character also means the shift in tone as you realise that something deeper is in the works. There's not much that can spoiled as so far the story didn't give you much, but I expect to go back to watch this episode again after the series has finished since it's obvious that there are hidden agendas behind characters' behaviours. The forces at work behind the whole scenario can be count as pretentious, but at the moment it's quite interesting.
As you are beginning to think that the dark and surreal scene in the beginning is nothing but a bad dream, the story hits you from a complete blindside. If you think that the opening scene is weird enough, wait till you get to the final few minutes of the episode. It's what makes me so hooked to this episode, the mind fk supernatural phenomenon is great.
Compare with the awesome set up, majestic music and crazy backdrop, Madoka Magica does suffer from a few weak links. Even as I am slowly getting adjusted to the look, Ume Aoki's design still stood out quite a lot. However I gathered that it might plays into the whole fluffy magical girls vs dark Nitro+ overtone business, so I'll just wait and see if it plays out nicely. The character animation, however, is not up to par. Often I got distracted by the weird still shots, and the action scenes just doesn't look that smooth when compare to other studios. It's not flaky per se, but seems like the characters are restrained by something when moving in fast pace. I know this series might not be your action shows, but I would so love to see some freedom in the mobility(especially when i just came off watching Hyakka Ryoran, and that's not a pun).
I quite like the OP and its animation. It's like 80 fluff and 20 sadness. While the ED did not make its presence this time, I expect something awesome from Kalafina in the next episode. I don't think I need to emphasis how much I love Yuki Kajiura's music.
Overall the show did its hype justice, even when there could be so much more to make it great. It's currently on my recommended list, and we'll see how the show will pan out. If his previous works are any indication, this will not end well (in terms of story). When they can make the transformation scene look badass, you know there's something good from it.
"Tell the chef, the beer is on me."
"Basically the price of a night on the town!"
"I'd love to help kickstart continued development! And 0 EUR/month really does make fiscal sense too... maybe I'll even get a shirt?" (there will be limited edition shirts for two and other goodies for each supporter as soon as we sold the 200)