At last they've broken me. I'd slogged all the way through this franchise. It's bad, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. I'd disliked Nanoha herself. I'd survived all of StrikerS, for crying out loud. I'd almost reached the end and Vivid wasn't going to beat me.
Well, I was wrong and I've been beaten. Even my desperately sad completism won't drag me back to watch ViVid Strike (i.e. season 2).
The problem is that it's a shounen tournament battle anime. I knew this. Everyone said it. "It's a shounen fighting series. If you can cope with that, you'll be fine." This is true, but unfortunately this means that all the characters are mentally ill. I don't watch shounen fighting shows, so I'll be hypothesising. OPTION ONE: the whole genre is this bad. (This seems quite likely, being aimed at eight-year-olds who just want to watch cool heroes punching people for 1000000000000 episodes.) OPTION TWO: the problem's unusually bad with ViVid's cast because they're girls. One almost expects it with boys. A show's entire cast can be pea-brained psychopaths with hair-trigger tempers, but that's okay because it's a fighting anime and it's their job to be like that. They're boys. They fight. They need psychiatric help, but... well, boys.
However these are girls. Nice, kind, all-loving girls who believe in friendship and supporting each other. They're cute. They're only ten or eleven years old... and they love to fight. There's almost nothing else in their heads and they won't shut up about it. Let's have a fight! What about a fight? Fighting's great, isn't it? We could do some practice sparring. I want to become stronger so that I can fight even more! Fighting is how they connect with each other. "You just have to reach out and grab them with your fist!" If you like someone, presumably you want to fight them again. A girl might cry if she thinks "there's no one left to fight on this world." Repeatedly punching your new friend as hard as possible might even suggest that you're developing romantic feelings for her. "I'll show her my passion! My true feelings!"
If a boy were like that, you'd just think "he's a boy". He'd be a twat who'd need his head slammed hard in a car door a few times, but you wouldn't think the world was weird or anything. With an entire cast of girls, though, it feels wrong.
In fairness, these are magical girls who can fight on the same battlefield as Nanoha. They're highly trained and good at what they do. I could understand getting a buzz out of magical battles... but this is a franchise where "magic" basically means high-calibre weaponry and blaster bolts. The fights are just fights. They have punches, kicks, broken bones, people shooting each other, etc.
Here's a map of my journey through ViVid.
EPISODE ONE: This is good! Softer, gentler, nicer than usual. It's a show about girls at elementary school. Yay! Better still, Nanoha's not the main character. She's just a housewife and her adopted daughter ViVid's roughly the age she was when she first met Yuuno and Raising Heart.
EPISODE TWO: a girl who remembers her past life wants a fight. "Weakness is a sin." Uh-huh. She's a twat, in other words. Well, at least this means there's a plot.
EPISODE THREE: these girls are fight-crazed freaks. Get away from me.
EPISODE FOUR: I've lost my goodwill towards this series. Incidentally, Vivio's saying she's not as strong as she wants to be, despite fighting Nanoha to a standstill three years ago at the end of StrikerS! (There's a fix for this on the internet, Apparently what Nanoha did to her at the end of that fight might have permanently damaged Vivio, which wouldn't surprise me from Nanoha.)
EPISODE FIVE: "They wanted to end that time of bloodshed, but they did so by taking up arms and fighting again." There's yet more practice fighting. It's also empty, by the way. They're not real fights. The last fight where anyone meant it was in ep.2. There's nothing at stake and afterwards the girls will pick each other up, congratulate each other and go off to the hot springs for a nine-minute group fanservice scene including a lesbian bikini molester.
EPISODE SIX: "Let's start the mock battle!" "Yes, it's quite a beautiful battle." Bloody hell, remind me never to watch a shounen fighting tournament series. Finn has a realisation: FAST-FORWARD. I skipped through the episode at quadruple speed, slowing down only for the Nanoha-Einhart fight at 14:30. Einhart actually comes close to winning, but... well, it's Nanoha. You'd think someone had launched a nuclear missile. Oi oi oi, girl, it's not a warzone.
EPISODE SEVEN: skip, skip, skip ahead. So much empty fighting that's just dead air. However I'm still watching dialogue scenes, only skipping the most blatantly pointless filler, i.e. the fights. (This franchise has always been so proud of its action scenes, yet they've generally been crushingly boring.) "I'm just happy she's learning that magical battles can be fun."
EPISODE EIGHT: nothing
EPISODE NINE: another fight I can skip.
EPISODE TEN: yet another fight I can skip, but with extra fanservice.
EPISODE ELEVEN: one of Vivio's friends only started fighting because she'd thought she might lose Vivio as a friend if she didn't do martial arts too. "It's all for the sake of working towards everyone's greatest moment!" (Orgasm? No, your fist crushing your opponent!) Lots of fights here, which I was happy about since it let me get through the episode in only six minutes.
EPISODE TWELVE: there's a cool anti-fight, with a witch who wins by plunging her enemy into terror without lifting a finger. Otherwise, though, the show's as empty as it's ever been. There's just nothing here. I wanted to skip ahead even in the non-fight scenes. I wasn't fast-forwarding to the good bits, because there weren't any. It's twenty-four minutes of nothing.
Season 2's going to be more of the same. I know it. More tournament fighting. More scenes about small girls getting ready for tournament fighting. Nothing meaningful anywhere. If Season 1 ended up making me want to fast-forward through the whole thing, it's hard to believe I'll get anything but a hard time from Season 2.
There's more fanservice than in earlier Nanoha shows. Fights cause clothing damage. Ep.2 shows us Nanoha, Fate and Vivio in the shower. Ep.5 spends almost half its time with everyone naked in a hot spring. Ep.10 has Sister Shante (i.e. a nun) fighting in a top that stops halfway down her breasts. In real life this would guarantee a wardrobe malfunction, but also wouldn't it be uncomfortable? You'd be flopping around with every punch. Come on, wear a sports bra. Oh, and quite a few of these eleven-year-old girls have boob-expanding naked transformation sequences into adults for battle. (We'd already seen Vivio's in StrikerS, though.)
Lesbian hints? Inevitable. Not only are Vivio and Einhart being flagged up as the main couple, but they were even married in a past life. (Einhart was the husband.)
I don't mind the plotlessness. I approve of the show's disinterest in formerly established characters, who are present in reasonable numbers but with no backstory or explanation. A newbie would be unable to tell who was new and who weren't... but that's of no importance and you don't need to care about that. I recognised that some of the names were familiar, but none of them had distinctive enough personalities for me to remember any more. Generic perky kind-hearted fighters. That's them all, really. Swap their names and you'd never notice. That's this franchise all over. To be fair, though, I have positive things to say too. The cast are nice people and Einhart is slightly interesting. The show even has a plot for the first two episodes. I liked the girls' lack of machismo, being cheerful and ungrudging about losing fights. I also quite admire the franchise's refusal to repeat itself, every time moulding itself to fit a new and even more rubbish genre.
...and that's it. Otherwise it's unwatchable. Literally. Ep.6 is the first anime to have driven me to the fast-forward button and I don't think I'd have reached the end in real time.