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I never once thought that I would run into another series/francise/thing that almost exactly followed the old Star Trek movie formula of even number films being fantastic and the odd ones being horrible. (I actually like one and three, but they aren’t as good as the others). This is season five of Symphogear and just like Star Trek 5, this season is literally awful. While the OG Star Trek Films at least had the great sixth movie to cap off that film franchise, that doesn’t exist here. Symphogear doesn’t and the result, in my mind, is that drove down how I feel about Symphogear as a hole. It’s quite a fall from the peaks of AXZ to the endless abyss that is XV. I serious mean that. The good things were heavily outweighed by the outrageously bad.
I am, ummmm, going to spoil a few things because I really disliked a lot of things.
Symphogear XV starts after the chaos that was AXZ. That means a war for the fate of humanity once again, the complete destruction of the Bavarian Illuminati, and a huge international incident on Japanese soil with the United States just launching a nuke because they can. XV starts out with the Symphogear Wielders (Hibiki, Chris, Tsubasa, Kirika, Shirabe, and Mria) fighting against an ancient robot guardian. After a tough fight, the six girls win but the Noble Red, who are last remnants of the Bavarian Illuminati and are people infused with monster bits, attack. Why? They are being controlled by Tsubasa’s grandfather Fudo for his old reasons of keeping Japan self-sustaining and pure by seeking the power of the ancient gods. A totally normal thing to do.
That is a fantastic premise right? Well, it is. Especially with interesting things like each member of the Noble Red not having any place to go and having to work for Fudo because they didn’t have a place to return to. It’s either they take this job in which they rely on special blood to keep living on or they die. In a country and world that is completely against monsters and goes for purity, this is good material to explore. Especially since the wielders try to communicate with them like normal people and the old values of Fudo are worth looking into and exploring because Symphogear has always been about magical girls punching and fire special weapons and communication. Too bad this is only the first half.
Symphogear XV is split into two portions. The first part is this interesting stuff with Fudo. It centers on the conflict between Hibiki trying to understand the Noble Red similar to how she came into an agreement like the alchemists last season and Tsubasa’s constant scolding by Fudo for failing and her finding a purpose for fighting. It’s too bad all of that is crammed into six episodes because it would have been material for a fantastic season all by itself. Instead, the conclusion wraps up with Fudo and then transforms into a war where the god named Semha that Fudo and Noble Red summons takes over Miku’s body (who is Hibiki’s GF don’t lie) and the season goes into “let’s just end this right now” mode.
At least that is what it feels like to me. There are a lot of things the end few episodes bring up from the previous seasons like the curse of Balal on the moon and the building that Carol and the Autoscorers were using in GX for their evil bidding. So that’s good, things from previous seasons still carry over. At the same time, why am I learning about Maria’s gear being connected to Semha three episodes before the end? Why where Noble Red just turned into complete monsters without a focus on that? Why are we still getting exposition from a show that is about to end in three episodes after 70 episodes of so much context, ideas, technobable and such? I realize that Symphogear has a lot of nonsensical technobable, but come on. The worst part of this is that it ruins all the tension of what the curse of Balal was for in separating humanity by just saying it was to stop Semha who we just met. Why couldn’t it be Fine? At least that would be a call back because of G from Maria, Shirabe, or Kirika possibly having their personalities absorbed by Fine and we know that she’s a threat.
One may wonder why I haven’t talked about Kirika, Chris, or Shirabe yet. Almost like I have forgotten them a little bit? Well, it’s because Symphogear XV also forgot about them. Besides some quick quips to tell you how serious a situation is OR Chris saying a bad ass thing while doing a bad ass thing, they are virtually nonexistent here. It’s so strange to go from AXZ where everyone has at least a simple arc to being there for continuities sake. In fact, the season itself is so awful that it doesn’t have much personality behind it. It’s only normal anime levels of horny with Vanessa’s boob jiggles and such and nothing else. It feels wrong because being horny is apart of Symphogear’s personality. Especially since Symphogear always treats them as people despite all of the fanservice in the show. The bland direction of the XV weighed down this season even more and it’s like…gah…
I have one more thing I didn’t like this season, the power ups. I like the Ignite Module power up from GX because that came from something that appeared in the original season of Symphogear and was harnessed to make them stronger after understanding themselves more through self reflection? In this one, the girls just have a power up they didn’t even mention after defeating Saint Germain and the others called Amalgam? With no cost or any sort of emotional story behind them? Ok, so Hibiki and Saint Germain connected together to form Hibiki’s gold form, but how did the others get this form? It’s just like Oprah giving them out to everyone to the point where they don’t even matter anymore. Exactly like the relic monster the Symphogear Wielders suffered horribly to defeat in the first episode were defeated in such great quantities in the final episodes. That conservation of ninjutsu trope is too strong in this anime. I also don’t like the finale needing seven people to complete something, but that is whatever at this point. The show just makes up rules whenever it wants to for forever.
Ok, I am tired of negative things. Let’s talk about some at least passable to positive things. Hibiki’s little arc of fighting for Miku, trying to communicate and understand others, and just general being awesome all around was great. She is a fantastic flat arc kind of character. I also think that Maria and Tsubasa together had a fantastic arc. The over all winner of this season’s arc stories goes to Elfnein for summoning Carol because it retroactively made GX better for me. Carol and Elfnein summoning the autoscorers (YES) and then the appearance of Carol with all her powers form where the highest part of XV for me. Especially since Elfnein and Carol struggled with understanding each other in GX and now they are working together. This happened in between the first and second portion of this season for me and I thought this was a good sign that the last set of episodes would be good. You know what happened.
I also think that XV is the most beautiful season of Symphogear. I don’t just mean the character designs, their costumes, transformation sequences that were fun skits, and things like that. All of those were great and highly recommendable in watching by themselves. The laser blasts and damage in such lavish environments were rather wonderful. There are also so many little details in so many small movements that felt magical. Vanessa, the robot girl, has so many little thrusters firing off when launching her rocket punches and her missile launches from different parts of her body. That level of details goes all over show from how gears are used and so many other things. If I went by visuals and animation alone, this would be the best season. Unfortunately, not the case.
In the end, I think that I am going to give Symphogear XV an ok. It’s not a total loss, but there are a few too many flaws for it. I can forgive a first season for being flawed, but a final season after finding a formal of content to know how Symphogear works and functions, is inexcusable. That goes with all of the complaints that I don’t want to repeat here. It’s watchable, just nothing epic. It just tied everything together way too quickly. I wish we got two seasons in the place of one because that would be fantastic. Now, I don’t think I am going to think about Symphogear as much as I did after finishing AXZ. Bad finales just put a horrible taste in my mouth.