August 05, 2009

Nanoha A's -- questions

A couple of things about Nanoha that have always bugged me. First, what is Chrono's title? They translate it as "enforcer". It sounds to me like tsumakan or something like that, but I can't make any sense of it.

Second, what is Fate holding here?


Is that supposed to be an artichoke? Or some kind of melon? (If it's a melon, it's a pretty darned strong one. A few seconds after that grab, Amy drops it about 4 feet onto a hard floor, and it doesn't break.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Entertainment at 09:58 AM | Comments (32) | Add Comment
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1 It looks like a pumkin to me. They sometimes come green like that.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at August 05, 2009 10:16 AM (/ppBw)

2 If it were really a pumpkin and she dropped it four feet, it would have splashed.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 05, 2009 10:26 AM (+rSRq)

3 I'd guess it's an acorn squash. The appearance fits, and they're fairly firm.

Posted by: TimF at August 05, 2009 10:39 AM (9QRdA)

4 Likely some variety of what a USAan would call a squash, yes. There's a number of similar varieties, many of them are that shade of green. I'd guess it was supposed to be a buttercup or something similar; acorn squash come to more of a point at the non-stem end. Assuming it's supposed to be an accurate picture of anything, and not just random anime food... heh.

And most are surprisingly misnamed, since they're very hard to squash. (I'm likely to start with a meat cleaver against a raw one... they're a lot of work even with a big chef's knife.) Structurally similar to a pumpkin though... stringy seed glob surrounded by "meat" surrounded by waxy skin. Squash are much denser and much thicker-walled than the jack-o-lantern/pumpkin-pie variety, so you could probably drop one ala MSLNA's and not do more than bruise it lightly.

Based on watching Iron Chef, the Japanese might use the same word for what Americans separately call "pumpkins" and "squash". (Either they actually do, or the translators/dubbers for Iron Chef messed it up... what were clearly squash on that show got called "pumpkins".)

Posted by: Mikeski at August 05, 2009 12:04 PM (CT8LT)

5 I did some googling and I can well believe it's supposed to be a buttercup squash.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 05, 2009 12:13 PM (+rSRq)

6 Or one of these. Anyway, I'm satisfied with this answer.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 05, 2009 12:14 PM (+rSRq)

7 Looked at the link.  Guess acorn squash can be round, too. The ones I see in the stores around here are always shaped like their namesake. You learn something new every day.

Posted by: Mikeski at August 05, 2009 01:48 PM (GbSQF)

8 It's called a kabocha in Japanese.  They're usually cooked by being skinned (more like debarked), cut up, steamed, then simmered in a sauce of mirin, soy, and sugar.  It's surprisingly tasty.
And yes, they are hard as hell.  I bet they'd survive a trip to the kitchen floor 99% of the time.

Posted by: Toren at August 05, 2009 02:05 PM (T8y65)

9 Someone should answer that 'enforcer' question before this finishes turning into the first episode of Lucky Star...

Posted by: Mikeski at August 05, 2009 02:34 PM (GbSQF)

10 If I had a link to Youtube, I could give it a try.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at August 05, 2009 02:36 PM (/ppBw)


Sorry, folks. If I had some sort of tool, that worked, with which I could extract out a small segment of a video file I'd post an example.

But the only thing I have which does that is Vidomi, and getting the audio to work with that is always hit-or-miss. I've pretty much given up on it. (About three quarters of the time the result is audio which warbles, i.e. an audio codec mis-code.)

I downloaded Handbrake, and it works really well, but only for transcoding full files. As far as I can tell it doesn't have any way to extract out a small subsection. (Or if it does, it has to be done using the CLI and there I do not wish to go!)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 05, 2009 02:55 PM (+rSRq)

12 It's situmukan - 執務官.

Posted by: HC at August 05, 2009 03:43 PM (y+7vV)


OK, dig out the old dictionary...

執務 shitsumu means "performance of one's official duties"

kan means "government service"

So it sounds a lot like it means "bureaucrat". But almost certainly it's not intended to be read literally.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 05, 2009 04:34 PM (+rSRq)

14 By the way, thanks!

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 05, 2009 04:34 PM (+rSRq)

15 I had "enforcer" on my list of Official Nanoha Names, so I went with it. Nanoha seems to put 'em about half JAG and half CIA - independent investigators who don't operate as an integral part of a unit. (Which is one reason they're more powerful on average - they're expected to get into situations where they're forced to operate without support.)

I suspect the translator saw the term in the fansub and decided to go with it; too much of a coincidence otherwise. Eh, it works for me.

The TSAB seems to have easy transitions between branches, far more than most Earth militaries. Chrono is an Enforcer in A's but an admiral by Strikers, and all of the aces swap services at least once.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at August 05, 2009 04:50 PM (pWQz4)

16 I suspect that's an adaptation to the situation:  powerful mages are rare, but also necessary for a variety of functions.  So, the rules for fitting them into the hierarchy are looser, both so they can fill more roles, and also as a perk for the mages due to their value.

Add to that a smattering of the old school British navy command independency ( due to communication speed limits ), and there you go.

( well, its not strictly due to comm lag, per se, but interdimensional travel seems to be of widely varying speed and safety, and that applies to comms too. . . so being cut off is not unlikely, particularly in the situations TSAB fleets and operatives would be expected to deal with )

Posted by: metaphysician at August 05, 2009 05:39 PM (M5Kik)


The whole business of them using kids like that was always a bit creepy. The reason for it was easy: it's a mahou shoujo show, so of course the protagonist has to be a kid.

But you could retcon it with the same logic that Strike Witches used: the power of a mage peaks in their mid-teens. That wouldn't explain why Precia was so damned strong, but maybe she was even stronger when she was young.

Anyway, if that was true, then you couldn't really afford to wait until age 18 to recruit promising mages like Chrono. At age 18 his best years (as a mage, anyway) would already be behind him.

I'm not arguing that the series plotters had that in mind. Just it's one way of explaining it for the first two series.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 05, 2009 05:56 PM (+rSRq)

18 Not a bad thought, except as of StrikerS, the major cast members are, if anything, massively more powerful than they were years earlier.  I suppose they could be just coming to the top of their peaks, theoretically, but I suspect its just something you have to SD on.

Posted by: metaphysician at August 05, 2009 07:27 PM (M5Kik)

19 I haven't seen StrikerS and I understand it plays pretty considerable games with the continuity established by the first two series, especially regarding the general character of the Bureau.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 05, 2009 07:52 PM (+rSRq)

20 I just found "Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vivid" in the new manga section of a scanlations site I visit.  I haven't seen StrikerS yet myself, and about three pages into Vivid I was utterly confused and convinced that I didn't dare read any further until I'd caught up.

Does anyone know how close the manga and the anime stick to each other?  It's kind of hard to figure that kind of thing out from the wiki's without getting hugely spoiled.

Posted by: David at August 05, 2009 10:21 PM (n/RK7)

21 I don't know that it does, actually. The Bureau's not an evil organization, but it's clearly prepared to countenance bad things. Lindy makes a couple of cold-blooded decisions, and Graham intentionally sets down a path of massive dishonor and shame, even though they're both good people acting from good motives. Nothing that happens in Strikers portrays a Bureau that is any different (though in Strikers the antagonists are not also good people, for the most part.)

That said, Fate and Nanoha joining up at that age was just plumb abnormal - Teana and Subaru don't start formal military training until 13 or 14, and don't actually get a posting to a real unit until 16 (and that wouldn't have been much more than a militia unit, with their abilities, if they hadn't been headhunted at the beginning of Strikers.) Still a little younger than we run things, but not so far out there. Elio and Caro are younger, but they're atypical in their own ways.

It's -really- clear that in certain ways, the TSAB is a lot looser than a normal military organization. No prohibitions on nepotism at all - not just Chrono, but Admiral Leti's son too, as well as Subaru's dad and sister. Which makes sense if you're running your army as a big social network. We have good reason to believe that magical ability is hereditary; strong mages are rare and the TSAB has good reason to surround them with other strong mages at that time of life and encourage, heh, the production of more strong mages.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at August 05, 2009 10:27 PM (vGfoR)

22 Good gravy, don't read Vivid until you're done with Strikers. It's not an altverse, it's a sequel, and most of the characters in it are introduced in Strikers. (The ones that aren't, were introduced AFTER Strikers, in drama CDs...)

The manga that's out there is mostly meant to supplement the anime, so it's "some stuff that happened between S1 and A's" and "some stuff that happened after A's and before Strikers." It's apparently canonical. There's even a chapter that focuses on the bad guys in Strikers, kind of like a Yagami family episode from A's, that was released right in the middle of Strikers.

There are two new Nanoha manga series: Vivid, which is the Vivio story (you don't know who she is and there's no way to explain it without massively spoiling Strikers), and Force, which looks to be more serious in tone and might not feature as much in the way of old cast. Vivid's pretty light material so far, lots of "where are they now" fanservice.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at August 05, 2009 10:33 PM (vGfoR)

23 I always figured that the TSAB/Midchildia civilization operated off of differing standards of responsibility adulthood than ours. (There are various different sorts of adulthood, legal, responsibility, military, physical and sexual, etc...)

In our society, due to a combination of how children are sometimes raised, child labor laws, and the screwed up nature of our educational system, we tend to delay every form of maturity except maybe for physical and sexual. A lot of people aren't really good until say 25 or 30, and some never reach it. Other societies have had massively different standards. (Except for physical, as that process does not seem to vary so much.) One example that comes to mind is the goose boy or shepherd boy, who fulfills adult levels of responsibility while still being to small of frame for more difficult tasks.

In Mid society, this seems to be different. Up until watching Nanoha, I had always considered 10 a good practical minimum military age. Besides the skill with which the creators have presented their hard work, there are a few reasons why I found it so convincing. 1. The high intelligence, good grades, and language abilities of the young powerful mages have convinced me that the magical technology allows for earlier and more rapid education. For example, a telepathic interface might allow the understanding of complicated writing and the operation of complicated computers before they would otherwise be able to write. Nanoha is still a freak by this criteria, but maybe not as bad as Tom Kratman. (I do expect that the Mid Kids in the military do not have as broad an education as they might otherwise.)

2. Responsibility comes from partly from being in a position to succeed or fail, where not failing is important. Mid Kids with powerful magic are in a position to do as much harm as an adult, perhaps an armed adult. If they could not develop restraint to the extent that armed adults do, it would be a very different series. (Disturbed magical child 'soldiers', of the Joseph Kony/Nepal Maoist kind might be as reasonable a story to tell, but I doubt very much that any of us would like it.) 2b A fanfic author I know has postulated that magic drastically increases the mental maturation rate by altering the internal mechanisms. I don't feel this is actually has to happen for everything to make sense, and for them to be satisfying for me.

3. Normal militaries tend to be made up by very young people backed up by or using as cadre much older people. If there is some acceleration of maturity do to education, culture and life style, then there is might not be all that much functional difference between the TSABs general 14ish versus the US Military 17. In real life those two or three years are very important. Without faster development of some sort as a general rule, the TSAB may just be happy with the drawbacks. If they are a small fraction of the organization, they might not get out of hand, and the leadership might just want some people who will do what they are told without thinking about it, ala the HJ.

4. The very young and very powerful mages who star in Nanoha are pretty clearly not statistically representative of the TSAB as a whole. Generally they are *Spoiler*, raised abnormally, warped by growing up with unusual at an early age, and/or just a monster in general. There also seems to be an implication that precocious brightness and discipline are also needed to develop magic power beyond a certain point when young.

Posted by: PatBuckman at August 06, 2009 02:32 PM (9PeMI)

24 I got a text exceeds maximum limit message. Continuing from above:

In addition, the TSAB is not really a warfighting organization. I imagine that like for the third world militaries, the TSAB has elements of a jobs program for powerful mages who would otherwise be unemployed and a danger to the regime. Since they already need a low minimum legal age so they can stop some overpowered runt from cracking the universe because the voices tell them to, lowering the military age to the one where practicality suggests they can be held responsible for their actions seems a bit of a no brainer. I imagine that the older and more competent heads give the ones who cannot justify the position on their own merits make work to keep them busy and learning until they are more trustworthy.

It has been said about getting into the modern American military, that there is a waiver for everything except for not being well enough educated. Given everything else in the series, I would expect the TSAB to have a much lower minimum age for the form parents sign to allow their young children to enlist. Given what Triangle Hearts reveals, I imagine the Takamichis would have signed, and every other young person so enrolled is either an orphan (and hence legally competent to sign for themselves) or under the guardianship of someone who would sign.

I suspect that I may be overthinking things. Or it may be that I was an unusually incompetent child, and I don't see much difference between Nanoha Takamichi and Dido Twite.

Posted by: PatBuckman at August 06, 2009 02:34 PM (9PeMI)

25 I'll agree that the TSAB isn't really a war-fighting organization; it looks a lot like the modern Japanese military (perhaps unsurprisingly) with some British Navy tacked on. On the other hand, while you can pick holes in its tactical doctrine all day, you can't just conclude "man, Nanoha would do better to have read up on the US military". Specifically, I would hate to be the guy responsible for coming up with military doctrine that was effective against small forces that can teleport, fly unassisted, pass as little civilian girls, and leave large holes in the landscape. (And do all sorts of other funky things that we've seen Nanoha characters do...)

We do know that kids with magical talent in Mid itself are identified early, and have special schools available to them; on the other hand, at least at young-Nanoha's age, they're not in any sort of military or even pre-military.

It could just be a case of rarity. Nanoha and Fate, and Hayate especially, are powerful enough that the TSAB just can't afford not to use them where it can, even if two of them are former OPFOR. AAA-ranked mages are thin on the ground (S-ranked even thinner, of course), and doubtless there are more calls for that kind of ability than people to fill the slots. There's a long, long distance between AAA-rank and plain ol' A-rank; Signum and Vita (AAA themselves) were a match for any number of the mooks they encounter in A's (and we know they're minimum A-rank themselves).

Too many A's!

If it's a question between "get fifty long-service men killed for nothing" or "send in the loli", well, I'll hold her stuffed bunny. ;p

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at August 06, 2009 06:15 PM (pWQz4)

26 One other thing that encourages putting the young girls into service: what ELSE do you do with a magical girl that powerful who has already shown she's not inclined to sit on the sidelines and play with dolls?

Co-opting them into your force and dealing with any consequences seems far preferable to me than ending up using other already scarce high powered magic users to keep an eye on them and make sure they don't get into trouble.

Posted by: David at August 06, 2009 08:06 PM (n/RK7)

27 #26- Especially in cases where you don't necessarily *have* people capable of monitoring and restraining the girls in question. . .

Posted by: metaphysician at August 06, 2009 08:42 PM (M5Kik)

28 I'm not saying that saying more US doctrine should be brought into things. An alien society will produce a military or military substitute based that society, which may well be very different from a military produced by another society. The TSAB is in a dominant, satisfied position, and is mainly concerned with keeping the bandits down, so they don't accidently blow everything to kingdom come. This will, of course, be different from America's military, whose motivation is different. Tom Kratman writing his stuff, and the creators of Nanoha continuing their excellent work will both sell better to the markets than Tom Kratman writing Magical Girls.

metaphysician: They have limiters, but I imagine people with the technical knowledge can break them. Then I imagine there would be some who would be tempted to use their hard earned skills to make money on the private market, ala the Russian/Soviet security forces and the Mafia. Lay offs cause a spike in organized crime, especially youngsters that don't have any salable skills other than fighting.

Not employing Nanoha or leaving either Fate or Hayate in prison might have had bad long term consequences for the stability of midchilda society. Idle hands, grudges and alienating salvagable fighters have taken down more than one real world government, even without the overpowered kiddies.

Ideas, Ideas.

Posted by: PatBuckman at August 06, 2009 10:34 PM (9PeMI)

29 Well, it's still Nanoha, which means that one effective method of restricting a mage is to keep them away from devices by locking them up. That's effective in the short term if you have to do it. But it's a poor solution long-term, because it creates a sub-population of embittered mages who don't like you very much, and will either get out one day to create havoc, or remain as a possible resource to be used by a "liberator" with the guts to strike at a TSAB prison.

(TSAB prisons are NOT nice facilities, and are kept in orbit around uninhabited planets.)

"Device control" doesn't work either, because the technology isn't secret, the tools aren't unavailable, and it's a big multiverse. Precia was able to make a device for Fate without much trouble. We know that minor mages have devices without the full capabilities of an Intelligent Device like RH, but which operate on the same principles.

So yes, it's probably much more effective to co-opt them than it is to try to stop them. (The appropriate metaphor is wholly inappropriate for use in a conversation about magical girls, but you get the idea.)

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at August 06, 2009 10:37 PM (vGfoR)

30 I think its even worse than that, re:  "Device control."  Midchildian technology and infrastructure seems to be based off the same principles as mage Devices.  It wouldn't shock if a mage with some technical competency could put together an improvised Device out of random salvaged parts.

IOW, hard enough to keep such from being done by inmates in high security prison; utterly impossible regarding the general populace.

P.S.:  *looks around sheepishly*  What?  I really like Nanoha, and don't mind extensive world debates. 

Posted by: metaphysician at August 07, 2009 08:46 AM (M5Kik)

31 Leaving aside whether those factors also apply to real world gun control, I am not sure that a gun is the best analogy for a device. A device seems to be something take requires strength developed earlier to make use of, and requires learning to be truly effective with. IIRC Yuuno could not use Raging Heart to its fullest. With a gun, anyone can use one, with instruction if they have the certain minimum of manual ability. As with every human weapon, the greatest users will have aptitude and build on it through hard work and thinking. Other possibile cognates include the bow, the sword, the spear, the club, armor, power armor, and the boxing glove.

It does not take a long cultural immersion to become somewhat skilled with a gun. (Now, the most effective soldiers, regardless of weapons system, seem to need a cultural and institutional heritage to really develop.) It is not clear what the case is with devices. On the one hand, they were originally alien to Nanoha. On the other hand, she is a freak, and the basic teachings of the Takamichi sword style may be usefully similar to say Lindy's combat mage style. It is said, to get a longbowman, start with his grandfather, and swordsmen seem to take at least a lifetime.

Mainly, I think the device protects and enhances an already dangerous as a weapon combat mage rather than being a complete weapons system in its own right. Remember Nanoha bouncing the can at the start of A's? Well funded top of the line soldiers and warriors will pay quite a lot for effective armor, even if it doesn't do anything for their ability to cut people down. While all of the characters tend to be top of the line, and well funded, I am not trying to argue the power of the mages versus that of the devices to that extent.

I also seem to recall something in one of the mangas about the TSAB knowing of 4-5-6 hundred different methods of magic. I think I've seen about six, which implies that there may be some quite deadly deviceless methods.

Posted by: PatBuckman at August 07, 2009 11:28 AM (9PeMI)

32 Guys? Hey, guys? Whose blog is this?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 07, 2009 11:43 AM (+rSRq)

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