For a while now, I’ve heard some buzzing around the internet about a certain anime series called Symphogear. An anime that apparently had some excellent action, has hot girls, is pretty gay, and might have magical girls with technology like Nanoha, but also includes singing? Well, all of that sounds pretty interesting and exciting to me. I am going to do a short series of explorations for this series season by season on here. As long as I find it interesting though. Also, the intervals for whenever these posts will come out will be random. This post is about season one and you might have to wait a little bit for the second season. At the point of this appearing on here, I am halfway through G.
While you are waiting, TakamakiJoker has written some Symphogear Reviews and some other cool stuff on his blog that you can check out here. This post is his Symphogear review and I am sure you can navigate around yourself afterwards to find what you want. I mean there are things to look at here, but try looking at another blogger’s material too.
As we all know, magical things happen at places where people show up to listen to hear music. The magic that happens depends on the matter of music you listen to, what sort of things you ingest at the time, and the general rowdiness of the crowd itself. I mean, a classical music or jazz concert aren’t going to be wild these days unless you just want to be that one guy out of many. But what about aliens attacking? I am guessing that isn’t common. During the idol group the Zwei Wing’s concert, the aliens race called Noise, Attack and devestate the concert. This is where the Zwei Wing members Tsubasa Kazaranari and Kanade Amo transform and attack through the power of song.
Unfortunately, this opening episode isn’t that happy or exciting. In fact, it was tragic. For you see, a girl in the crowd by the name of Hibiki Tachibana watched the concert and didn’t run away like the rest of the crowd when everyone else did. As a result, one of the idols performed the death song to gain ultimate power before their inevitable death to save Hibiki. Her name is Kanade Amo and her disappearance will stir up the lives of Tsubasa in a way that you would expect through trauma and Hibiki’s through her sudden powerful, Symphogear ability ability. Hibiki’s lesson? Never accept death.
So the season really starts a short amount of time afterwards. Hibiki and her “friend” Miku go to school at a music academy that the idol Tsubasa also goes to. One day whe the noise attack, Miku sings the same song that Kanade sung while in danger just to rescue a girl. Kanade’s symphogear relic Gungnir fuzed itself into her body so she can transform. Of course, Tsubasa comes in with her experienced Symphogear and saves her. With that explosion of power and awesome, Hibiki Tachibana joins the Mobile Disaster Response Corps Section 2, another symphogear girl named Chris who controls the noise attacks, and a mysterious villain is overseeing all of this chaos.
No matter how cool the concept of Symphogear is, because girls transforming through singing and fighting monsters is insanely cool with more visual and sound flair by the concept itself, the story line itself is pretty basic. It doesn’t hurt the show a lot because the series obviously has a solid direction to hang all the super powered coolness onto, but it doesn’t help or add to the experience either. Almost on every level, the writing is what you expect it to be and what happens is what you expect to happen. At least the bits of story that we do have come with some interesting bits to dig into on a thematic level.
The main story and character interactions Symphogear centers it’s plot on is the relationship between Hibiki, the new symphogear girl, and Miku, the normal girl. It’s a very classic sort of super hero romance arc with a good ending to it. Yes, I do believe that they are couple considering they sleep in the same bed hugging every night. As the story goes on, the two-start drifting apart a little bit. Hibiki seeks to become stronger physically and using the Gungnir that she can’t summon properly (so she punches things really hard). Miku is left behind waiting and seeing Hibiki grow until the moment when Miku sees Hibiki in her super hero form. That huge, romantic trope centered on misunderstanding happens where Miku runs away from Hibiki for a while until Miku comes back to support Hibiki in her time of need. It’s just so frustrating because it feels like this misunderstanding happened just so it could happen if you know what I mean.
The show examines two characters and their relationship between their partners as a balance to Miku and Hibiki. Tsubasa’s partner is gone and her story is coming to terms with that through Hibiki and Miku’s help. First, she lashes out against Hibiki for obvious reasons, right? Trauma, seeing her partner replaced by someone else new and not experienced, but her seeing Hibiki’s morals and actions help her over that hump. This is something that couldn’t have happened if Hibiki wasn’t backed by Miku. Hibiki and Tsubasa talking and working together in the second half of this season is pretty good stuff.
Of course, I felt a little tired in seeing the relationship happen again in a different way with another character. It’s a little bit of a hammer on the head to look at the ideal Miku and Hibiki relationship model and then having it cast over again and again. It’s not that bad considering that Chris is a good character in her own right and her story is decent. I mean, she is the Symphogear user lost to Mobile Disaster Response Corps from years ago and her coming back is her arc. You know, after she was sexually assaulted by the main, mystery villain for an extended amount of time then let go for failing. The writing about this happening is ok at best and the trick of turning back a hero who was ruined has already been done once. That doesn’t mean what happens to Chris isn’t important, because it is. It just feels like too much.
I suppose there are other things going on too like another mystical relics which appear halfway into the series and then becoming important later, Hibiki trying to go the peaceful route against the more human villains, and Hibiki’s dark mode that pops in and out until it takes everyone to get her out of it. I kind of find those a little too much too? Like, everything is centered around Hibiki because she is the main character, right? I can’t help but think the show centers itself a little too much around her by making her do or feel everything. Even if the point is to get everyone on board to help her out, it’s ok to give other characters more than one thing to develop from. It would give the show a rounded out the cast a little more than what the show did. Giving Hibiki a little too much kind of deadened her character growth by making it too spazy and unfocused.
Another thing that I need to admit, I’m not a huge fan of characters just fighting into vague alien voids that don’t have any personality at all. I don’t mind villains just being evil for evil’s sake because you can have a lot of fun with characters doing that. A character doesn’t need to be deep to be interesting. Look at Dio and his single minded “vengeance” against the Joestar family in JoJo for instance. The opening sequence had drama because the aliens just attacked and caused the story to happen or the middle action scene in the movie was interesting because it took place in a city. The finale was just kind of alright for me. Mainly because the aliens had a vague sense of could have been someone and could have their own morales we didn’t know. As soon as we discovered they were being controlled, all of that tension and interest just left for me making the finale mute. That’s a me thing though.
Lastly, a small comment on the fanservice in the show. In general, I liked how it was used to characterize people instead of being horny for horny’s sake. I mean, Symphogear is very horny and I feel like I’ve been desensitizing the series when writing this. The main villain only wears tights and gloves inside her own house for instance which is a choice. The metaphor of Hibiki cleaning up Tsubasa’s clothes all around her room was obvious, but appreciated. Same with Miku and Hibiki wearing underwear of each other’s characters colors in support of each other and Chris being stripped by Miku after she was injured and recovering somewhere. That last one was when more of Chris’ motivations were revealed more. All of this is very Gainax like because the fanservice is ingrained into the story so much that it wouldn’t work without it.
I feel like the visuals of this first season of Symphogear were alright or linearly planned out to hit the highest impact points. At least from an animation perspective. Art style wise, it’s generally alright. There is a little bit of same face syndrome with the girls, but they were their own style of clothes or wear uniforms their own way, have their own hair styles and colors, and the Symphogear outfits and relics are incredibly unique from each other. Character animation and small bits of action animation outside fights were decent, but you get more from the writing then the actions so to speak. I do thing that the relics are cool and everything, but the show seems a little too wordy for its own good? Aside from singing, because that’s a cool thing. Oh, this is going to be a continued thing isn’t it?
Animation wise, it feels like the highest points are at the corners of this cour. The opening scene with the concert being destroyed was wonderful to watch, the battle in the city with the special relic being used was just as awesome and meaningful, and the finale was where mind blowing visually if not a little empty thematically. The second half did have some good fights and the tension raised, but they were pretty spaced away from each other too to let simple character drama happen. It makes sense that the action would increase in scope and danger as the stakes get higher and higher in the second half, but I can’t help but get an image in my mind that a robot sort of decided all the decisions for this anime writing and animation wise. There is just something off about these things I can’t figure out.
At the end of the day, I can’t help but think this show was somewhere between an ok and a good for me. For my purposes, going to lean it toward an ok slightly because while I am interested to watch more, it took me a while to start doing that. It just hits that middle ground because I do think this show is a little too obvious about what it’s doing and its execution is general alright. There is good material around characters, the world, and concepts going on here that provide intrigue. I just wish everything plot and character wise wasn’t so by numbers and robotic. Once again stay tuned and read the posts from TakamakiJoker in the second paragraph to help you wade the ride until then.