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Nanoha and Fate are working together with the TSAB to investigate an artifact of incredible power called the Book of Darkness, which has been linked to a number of attacks on magi that have left the victims drained of Mana.
Unknown to them, the Book of Darkness has attached itself to an orphaned girl in a wheelchair called Hayate. She just wants to have a family, and she lovingly adopts the sentient defence programs of the Book- a sympathetic female Power Trio and their Non-Human Sidekick- as her own.
But what Hayate is unaware of is that the Book of Darkness is slowly eating away at her life, and only by feeding it the Mana of others can she be saved. Not wishing to lose their kind master, the servants of the Book go behind her back and attempt to satisfy the Book's hunger on their own, leading them to an inevitable confrontation with Team Nanoha.
Widely regarded by fans as the best season of Nanoha and the only sequel to the original not to have caused a Broken Base in some way. Until previews and info for the movie below started showing up.
It has a supplementary Slice of Life manga and Sound Stages that take place between the episodes. The Namco Bandai game for the Play Station Portable, The Battle Of Aces, is an Alternate Continuity sequel to A's which changes the events of the last episode. A movie remake of A's, following the continuity of the first movie, is also in the works with an expected release date in 2012.
The anime was dubbed and is available by FUNimation along with the original series.
MGLN A's provides examples of:
- An Asskicking Christmas: The final battle takes place on Christmas Eve.
- Anonymous Benefactor: Hayate has an "uncle" who provides her with money and turns out to be Admiral Graham.
- Artifact of Death: The Book of Darkness, because of the malfunction.
- Biological Mashup: The corrupted defense program of the Book of Darkness, which seems to be a hybrid of the magical monsters whose linker cores the Wolkenritter absorbed.
- Bittersweet Ending: The threat of the Book of Darkness is over, as is its control over Hayate and the Wolkenritter's lives, but this requires Reinforce's Heroic Sacrifice, preventing her from sharing her mistress and knights' happiness and greatly upsetting Hayate.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Arc-en-ciel is a Chekhov's Wave Motion Gun. The Arthra is put into maintenance while it's being installed, and it is repeatedly spoken of as a last resort that the protagonists are reluctant to use.
- Christmas Episode: The first Megami Sound Stage, set during this season, takes place around Christmas time, and features Nanoha telling Fate about Christmas, among other topics. Nanoha has a belated Christmas celebration on the 26th, as a result of her family restaurant being busy on Christmas Day.
- As well as the last four or five episodes taking place on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Reinforce isn't evil, but she can't control her own actions.
- Demoted to Extra: The rest of Nanoha's family suffered a steep decline in importance in A's, and stopped appearing altogether afterwards, barring a couple of Sound Stages. During this season, Yuuno gradually transitions from a major character who fights alongside the protagonists to one who stays behind and helps by researching.
- Did Mom Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Inverted when Fate and Nanoha accidentally stumble upon the Wolkenritter in the hospital, while visiting Hayate, and thus discover she's their master that they've been looking for. Since they had their oblivious friends with them as well, the conversation was a little awkward.
- Distant Finale / Where Are They Now? Epilogue: A sequence taking place six years after the main story. It's somewhere in between the two, since it's an extended scene with both dialog and on-screen captions.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Book of Darkness's defense system after it goes berserk.
- Good Versus Good: With a side order of world-killing Eldritch Abomination thrown in at the very end so both sides can really cut loose.
- Grilling the Newbie: Fate receives this treatment when she transfers to Nanoha's class.
- Late Arrival Spoiler: Fate's Heel Face Turn.
- The Library of Babel: The Infinity Library.
- Lighthearted Rematch: After the incident is over, Signum tells Fate she would like one. The last chapter of the manga involves a 5-on-5 sparring battle in which Nanoha, Fate, Yuuno, Chrono and Arf fight against Hayate and the Wolkenritter.
- Living with the Villain: Hayate's place is villain central, although it turns out the problem is on the bookshelf, not with the people. Nanoha's friend Suzuka becomes friends with Hayate, later introducing Nanoha to her, and even meets the Wolkenritter. In the first Sound Stage, Nanoha and Fate go to the public bath at the same time as Hayate and the Wolkenritter, and the two groups barely avoid seeing each other.
- Lock and Load Montage: The show already devotes an inordinate proportion of its Transformation Sequences to shots of the characters' magical armaments, which include a surprisingly large number of moving parts. These evolved into full on Lock And Load Montages in A's, they begin literally loading their weapons with cartridges and magazines.
- Lotus Eater Machine: Fate gets caught in one by the Book of Darkness near the end of A's. Reinforce offers Hayate one, and planned to put the entire Earth into one, but she refuses.
- No Ontological Inertia: Averted; Nanoha is able to finish firing off her Starlight Breaker after her Linker Core gets damaged.
- Made of Indestructium: Technically you can destroy the Book of Darkness, but it just pops back, good as new, somewhere completely different. So the book is functionally indestructible and can only be neutralized by freezing it... which doesn't work. Ultimately they hit it with something capable of taking out a good chunk of a planet. And even then it's not completely gone until they seal Reinforce as well.
- Mood Whiplash: The relationship between Hayate and the Wolkenritter is absolutely adorable, until it's revealed that they are only able to serve her since the Book of Darkness is slowly devouring her soul. No one involved is really happy about this.
- Episode 9 begins with Nanoha having Fate over for dinner and planning to surprise Hayate in the hospital. The surprise visit causes them to run into the Wolkenritter (who had originally took pains to not be there when Nanoha and the others visited to avoid them finding out about Hayate being their master). Things then get 'much worse.
- My Name Is Inigo Montoya: Both parties pull this off against the raging Eldritch Abomination, and it was AWESOME!!!
- Opposing Combat Philosophies: Present in the later seasons as well, but probably best showcased here. In general, Midchildian Mages use a mixture of defensive barriers, support magic and ranged attacks designed to support any situation or tactic. Belkan Knights specialise entirely in combat magic, using punishing melee attacks and cartridge-enhanced weaponry to make themselves unrivalled in one-on-one fights. (Of course, there are exceptions to both rules like Fate and Hayate.)
- Phantom Zone: There is a spell called "Barrier" that pushes everything half a dimension over. The city is still there, but all non-magic users are no longer present, and thus cannot witness the light show. It can be breached from the inside though, as Nanoha demonstrates in episode 2.
- Rousseau Was Right: Nobody is outright evil in this story: the heroes are trying to stop the Book of Darkness as it could destroy the Earth, the Wolkenritter- although doing evil acts- are trying to save the life of their innocent master, Admiral Gil Graham is trying to save the world even though it would require using Hayate as a sacrifice, and even Reinforce wants to "save" the world by imposing a Lotus Eater Machine on it. The closest thing to "evil" is the corrupted defense program of the Book of Darkness, which is really more of a mindless machine than anything else.
- So Last Season: Nanoha and Fate are easily beaten the first time they go against the Wolkenritter with their cartridge-loaded Devices. It's not until they copy the system for their own Devices that they can fight them on an equal footing.
- Spell My Name with an "S": The TSAB ship's name - Arthra (official) vs Asura (Fan Sub). This one is so widespread that most of the fandom seems to think that Asura is the official name.
- Sucking-In Lines: Starlight Breaker, some of Hayate's and Reinforce's spells, and the Arc-En-Ciel.
- Tempting Fate
- In Vita's second fight with the title character, Nanoha fires a cartridge-boosted Magic Missile spread of twelve (in the first fight, Nanoha used twos or fours at most when shooting). Vita responds by deploying Panzer Hidernis to protect herself while saying: "Are you stupid?! There's no way you control all these bullets!" A moment later, the bullets start speeding up, and Vita's Panzer Hidernis begins cracking. Good job, Oh Great Hammer Knight.
- In her third encounter with Nanoha, Vita used Eisen Geheul ("Iron Howl", kind of a flashbang/flare) to distract Nanoha while the knight escaped. After flying quite a distance (though still in sight), Vita muses, "OK, this is far enough..." Cue Nanoha charging up Divine Buster. "Is she seriously going to shoot anyway? At this range?!" Yes, Nanoha was and did. Vita was saved by a third party intercepting the beam and slapping a binding spell on Nanoha in just a few seconds.
- Nanoha notes it would be funny if the master of the Book of Darkness happened to be a girl her age. Moments later, she gets an email from Suzuka telling her about Hayate.
- Amy, having taken charge in Lindy and Chrono's absence, tells Nanoha and Fate that she doesn't expect anything to happen, and is cut off in mid-sentence by the alarm going off as the Wolkenritter are detected.
- That's an Order: Hayate tries to invoke this to stop Reinforce from sacrificing herself, but fails.
- Theme Music Power-Up: "Brave Phoenix" for pretty much everyone in the final fight.
- Time Skip:
- 6 months between MSLN and A's.
- 6 years to the Distant Finale.
- Treachery Cover-Up: Admiral Graham's plan to seal the Book of Darkness away with Hayate is largely overlooked outside of the upper echelons of the TSAB, and he merely resigns, only being officially accused of breaking into Bureau systems and interfering with the investigation.
- Together Umbrella: Nanoha and Yuuno. The shippers must have gone nuclear...
- The Worf Effect: Nanoha loses to Vita, and Fate is losing against Signum for most of their first fight, to show the power of the new antagonists.