Friday, April 20, 2012

Anime Review: Senki Zesshou Symphogear

I was wrong when I called Symphogear a vehicle for promoting the seiyuu playing three of its four leads, Mizuki Nana, Takagaki Ayahi and Yuuki Aoi. This show was created to promote Elements Garden, the group of music composers that produced Symphogear's music. Elements Garden member Agematsu Noriyasu conceptualized the story.

Symphogear (also dubbed Symphogay and Sapphogear by yuri fans) is about girls who sing to transform, magical girl-style, into superpowered armor called Symphogear in order to fight aliens called Noise.

A girl named Miku (second one from the left in the pic above) invites her best friend Hibiki (second from the right) to a concert for her favorite singing duo, Zwei Wing, but isn't able to make it. When the Noise attack during the concert, the members of Zwei Wing, Tsubasa (far right) and Kanade, transform to fight them off. Kanade dies protecting Hibiki, and fragments of her broken weapon get lodged in Hibiki's chest.

Two years later, Hibiki transforms into a Symphogear user while protecting a little girl from the Noise. She learns that Symphogear is a classified government project and becomes Tsubasa's fighting partner. Tsubasa loathes Hibiki at first because she doesn't want Kanade being replaced- and her being in love with Kanade hasn't exactly sped up the mourning process. Of course, she warms up to Hibiki and her memories of Kanade eventually motivate her to do her best again as a singer and a Symphogear-user, rather than cause her to shut out people.

A rogue Symphogear user named Chris (far left in the pic above) attacks Tsubasa and Hibiki because the show's villain got to her before the government could. Of course, Hibiki befriends Chris and turns her good.

Miku, the lovestruck Lois Lane to Hibiki's Clark Kent, gets mad at Hibiki after finding out she's been keeping such a big secret from her, but they make up. As the bravest and arguably most realistic character in the show, Miku became my favorite.

The only character I really disliked was Hibiki because she starts out as one of those cheerfully incompetent leads. Her personality paired with her quavering, Kaname Madoka-like Yuuki Aoi voice made me feel like the writers were trying way too hard to make me go moe over her. But then something miraculous happened. She trained hard to become stronger and more competent, and...actually did so by the show's halfway point. I came to like her, and this made the show much more watchable for me. Miku, Tsubasa, Kanade, and Chris are all likeable (or at the least, not annoying) throughout. One of the show's saving graces when Hibiki was still a twat was that Tsubasa and Chris found her as irritating as I did.

And thank goodness for the decent characterization, because I didn't care at all about the plot. The initial concept- girls singing to fight aliens- gives way to something or other about a millenia-old priestess who has possessed a member of the government and wants to destroy the moon because her love for the god Kadingir was rejected when the Tower of Babel was built...yup. But even though the ending didn't really make sense, it was like...the writers knew that their show was already ridiculous and cheesy, so they just went to town with it. And the final scene, while still not making sense, was actually sweet. So I was satisfied with it.

I'm not completely sure what verdict to give the villain, though. As a villain, she fails, but as camp, she gets top marks.

The music, of course, is a huge component of this show. Bless her heart, Yuuki Aoi tried, but she isn't much of a singer. Takagaki Ayahi is a talented singer and I have enjoyed some of her music, but I didn't like the songs that she sung in her Chris voice that much. Thankfully, Tsubasa's seiyuu is the lovely Mizuki Nana and I really enjoyed her songs.

Story: Cheerfully dumb plot + mostly likeable characters (including an annoying lead who actually grows) + a dollop of irritating service (do we really need a crotch shot of Tsubasa when Chris knocks her to the ground?) + a helping of canon, surprisingly un-servicey yuri + several catchy songs = okay overall.
Art: C-
Overall: C+


Fencedude said...

*stumbles in*

Gotta disagree with you about Kurisu's songs, I loved every one of them. "Tsunaida te Dake ga Tsumugu mono" is made of hopes and dreams (much like Kurisu, with her large hopes and dreams *cough*).

Anyway, Sapphogear was easily my favorite show of the last season, which was a shockingly good season for yuri overall anyway.

Anonymous said...

This was one of my all time favorite shows of the winter season specifically because of how dumb the plot was. It tried to juggle too much at once, but halfhearted character development was the one thing it was ever good at. At least it tried, and it shows.

Glad somebody else enjoyed the camp as much as I did!

Katherine Hanson said...

@Fencedude- Welcome! ^_^

the last season, which was a shockingly good season for yuri overall anyway.

It really was. Symphogear, Black Rock Shooter, Lagrange, Mouretsu Pirates...

@shineiie- At least it tried, and it shows. I agree.

And yeah- the camp and (surprisingly decent) character development were what carried the show.

Rincewind said...

Oh, Symphogear, the most enjoyable show from the last season.
Sometimes you dont need a deep plot, this show proves it. Just good characters, good action, awesome music and lots of yuri (subtext... WHERE'S MY MIKUxHIBIKI KISS, writters!?).

And I loved Chris and her songs. And Im with Fencerdude, Kurisu hopes and dreams put Sheryl's to shame. :P

Katherine Hanson said...

@Rincewind- Symphogear wasn't the most enjoyable show of the season of for me, but it was definitely better than I expected.