The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Senki Zesshou Symphogear

Title: Senki Zesshou Symphogear
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Satelight
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 26 Dec 2011 – 30 Mar 2012

Synopsis: An alien race, the Noise, fight against humanity. A young girl, Tachibana Hibiki, is attacked by the Noise one day, but she is saved by a pair of idols, Kazenari Tsubasa and Amou Kanade, who battle the Noise with music. During the battle, Kanade saves Hibiki’s life by sacrificing her power. Two years later, Kanade’s power manifests itself in Hibiki, and she joins the organization that fights the Noise.

The Highlights:
Story: Utterly nonsensical but doesn’t take itself more seriously than necessary.
Animation: Wildly inconsistent.
Optimism: Relentless.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear is a silly show. It takes a certain amount of experience with anime to not blanch upon learning that the premise hinges on teenage idols fighting aliens by singing at them to bolster their superpowers. I might have done so myself if I had not seen similar premises in numerous superior and inferior anime. The fact remains, however, that the core of Symphogear is stupid. However, although I certainly wouldn’t call the show good, it is at least self-aware enough to go all out with that silly, dumb feeling and remains enjoyable on a certain level.

In a weird way, Symphogear is both cynical and not at the same time. Doubtless, it was conceived to cash in more on Mizuki Nana‘s immense popularity and to help push Yuuki Aoi‘s burgeoning music career. The anime itself, however, is almost insane in the sheer, relentless optimism it exudes. There are some harsh moments throughout the series — possibly inspired by last year’s Puella Magi Madoka Magica, though I can only speculate — but no matter how low things get, it’s guaranteed that the leads will power through and make things right in the cheesiest way possible. Watchers who are allergic to the “Power of Friendship” need not apply here.

Cheesiness can be a great source of enjoyment, though. There’s something refreshing about a series that pushes its optimism so hard it’s almost crazy. The final episode alone is like being zapped in the brain with a death ray of cheerfulness. Despite how much I enjoy mocking silly/dumb stuff, I don’t fashion myself a cynic, and I do appreciate how committed Symphogear is to its brand of optimism. Sometimes a person just needs to believe a simple hug is the solution to all life’s problems.

That said, raging, unending happiness is about all the story has. The actual plot points aren’t particularly inspiring or interesting, though they occasionally make the leap to crazy. The characters are as simplistic as one would expect. At least the show breezes through most of the plot points and character development so quickly that the fact that it’s difficult to truly care about any of it isn’t too huge a problem. The only point the show really lags on is the reveal of the main villain. The antagonist is supposed to have a mysterious identity, but it’s obvious who it is from the moment the character shows up. Even that isn’t so bad, though, since the villain works mainly behind the scenes until the end.

Symphogear built a slightly unfair reputation as a poorly animated series during its run. Certainly, there are many moments when the show’s art and animation are embarrassingly bad, such as an early scene where Tsubasa and another character hobble down a hallway like two paper dolls glued onto Popsicle sticks. During the battle scenes where it actually counts, however, Symphogear‘s animation ranges from decent to shockingly good. I legitimately enjoyed the big, crazy battle in the finale, and other battles throughout the series. I’ll gladly take some embarrassing lapses in animation to get some solid action scenes in return, even if one would never mistake Symphogear for an animation heavyweight.

Even with its good points in mind, I can’t call Symphogear an average series, simply because the sloppiness of its writing and characters and the shallowness of the show as a whole outweigh the good parts after a certain point. I can’t bring myself to slam it too hard, though. Symphogear knows full well what it is and doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t. That’s not such a crime, right?

The Rating: 4

Reviewed by: Shinmaru

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