Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha has a weird place in my List Of Anime I Like. Every time someone asks me about my Top Ten (or Five or Three) anime, number one will obviously be Card Captor Sakura, and number two will be The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, since both of them made me see the world in a whole new way. (For non-anime fandoms, this also applies to Discworld.) After that, things get kind of fuzzy; I like a lot of anime, but not so much that I'd stridently defend them against all comers the way I do for my top two. For the most part, I might be sorry if they didn't exist (say, for Princess Tutu), but for all I acknowledge their quality and enjoyability factor, they didn't completely reshape my world the way CCS and TMoHS did. There'll always be something else, at least for me.
By all rights, MSLN should be the same way. Which is why I'm not entirely sure why I place it as my number three anime of all time (counting all three seasons together), but it seems right, somehow.
There are several possible reasons for this. Off the top of my head, I recently got into an argument with another MSLN fan, which would have been extended if I hadn't decided to cut it short with an Agree To Disagree clause. (I didn't feel like dealing with that person's antagonistic and confrontational debating technique. I understand that it's How They Are, but I also reserve the right to not like it.) The gist of it was that he could not comprehend why I preferred the magical girl aspects of the show, while I could not explain why I did. I've heard several independent opinions on this multi-genre appeal of MSLN, in that there's Something For Everyone, and I believe that there's some aspect of this in play here: the person I was arguing with likes MSLN because, to him, it was very little like the magical girl series he disliked, and he hopes that future seasons or productions would remove the remaining magical girl aspects he found annoying. For me, I like MSLN because despite all the cross-genre reputation, it still has magical girl aspects at heart, and I hold out my own personal hope that these will never depart from the series.
One of us is obviously and logically going to be disappointed.
And it is something in that magical girl aspect of MSLN which snagged me with a hook for fanfictional ideas, which makes it prominent among the anime I've watched: only two other anime have made me write this many stories for them, and MSLN has surpassed CCS in terms of the number of story concepts I've come up with. (The champion, if you're wondering, is still Ranma 1/2.)
A part of it could be due to the bad parts of the show. I generally write fanfic when I get either one of two reactions to watching something: "This is awesome!" and "This could have been awesome, but it's not. I can do better than this!" The Nanoha-verse is full of Cool Ideas, and regardless of how the canon characters and their adventures are protrayed, the Cool Ideas remain.
There's also my start in writing fanfiction for ReBoot. A mage and her Intelligent Device is not that much different from a Guardian and his Keytool, and the idea of freelance (or close enough to it, at least) troubleshooters with Special Powers that go around Protecting People is a strangely compelling one. Superheroes with a loose organization and official approval, of sorts.
This setup makes it friendly for original characters, unlike TMoHS, where the SOS Brigade is fairly well-formed already and any recurring additions will just seem like an intrusion, or CCS, which already has a complete uberplot, necessitating major fanfic-only characters to exist in prequels, sequels, or another continuity. And interaction with the canon cast can be dictated as simply "the TSAB told you to", which does away with the usual plot contortions to get the new character in the same general area as the canon cast, much less meeting them.
The net result is a bit like my view of Spore: if pressed, I can't say that it's good. In fact, it's a little bit shallow, and there's not a whole lot of substance in there which stands up to close scrutiny. But that doesn't stop me from spending six hours a day playing around with the universe in question.
This is likely to be but the first post in a series. So it goes.