Senki Zesshou Symphogear G Review

Title: Senki Zesshou Symphogear G / Symphogear Season 2
Length: 13 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Music, action, mahou shoujo
Year of release: 2013

Senki Zesshou Symphogear Season 1 Review

Symphogear’s first season was a done-deal. The story was complete, with most characters overcoming the base trauma that formed their character arcs… with only perhaps Chris having significantly more room to grow. Not only that, but the ‘power levels’ that the team at S.O.N.G. achieved meant that they’re a group at the top of their game. It’s no easy task writing a followup to that. Symphogear G (henceforth just ‘G’) does the most obvious thing for a Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha influenced show to do: bring in an equal and opposite team as enemies, that battle with whether they are doing the right thing.

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In this regard, Symphogear opens with quite the bang. The organisation known as Finé make a grand entrance in true Symphogear-style, with musical fanfare and the introduction of another thriller plot. Once again, it’s a wild ride for these opening few episodes. Badass Symphogear user, Maria, heads the group, claiming to the reincarnation of the villain of series 1, and attempts to get the world under her thumb by summoning Noise. Of course, this being a magical girl cum thriller show, there’s more to the surface, and her talk of ‘saving’ the world is certainly something of interest.

Of course, Maria is not alone. A scientist that S.O.N.G. have worked with is seemingly the brains of the group known as Finé, as he tends to the wheelchair bound Nastassja who is the brains of the operation. But perhaps the ones most interesting to us magical girl fans would be Shirabe and Kirika, the two magical girls who hero-worship Maria.

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Now, I’m going to be honest – Shirabe and Kirika introduce a couple of problems to Symphogear’s opening handful of episodes, particularly just after the immediacy ends. They partake in a small handful of menial plots, and even worse than that, the background music attempts to play up the comedy as the ‘murder loli’ and ‘obnoxious loli’ fail to do anything significant. Their best idea is to invade the main character’s school festival, ultimately leading to them musically challenging Chris over a musical duel. It’s a good performance – obviously, because Symphogear’s songwriting chops are strong – but there’s a part of me that felt this as padding. It’s not until after this fact, that the group Finé start suffering loss, that Kirika and Shirabe get the appropriate developments, and until that point, their screentime is perfunctory.

Thankfully, outside of their mediocre presence, the series fires action on full cylinders, so few developments are needed for the cast already well developed. Chris’ rehabilitation is the primary character driving force of the series until the plot developments start affecting the others, and it’s a good angle to take as she runs away from her schoolmates, only managing to connect with Tsubasa. This plays into her later role, as she continues to feel the guilt of her part as an antagonist in series 1, which gives a sense of sympathy with the opposing side. Though, sadly, their interaction takes a while to be noteworthy and even then is minimal.

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Around the halfway point, the series really kicks into overdrive with all the pieces in place. Hibike’s hero-complex has to consider her power being too suicidal to use, which feeds into Miku trying to save Hibike in-turn and Tsubasa trying to not lose something important to her again; Maria begins to realise that perhaps she isn’t a good guy, but can she turn back?; Kirika and Shirabe begin to gain independence from Maria. With the supernatural, geopolitical plotting increasing in intensity, the pacing is like a whirlwind until the very finale, when everything comes together, perfectly, to resound in only the way this heavy-feeling action show can. It was surprising that Tsubasa was given so little screentime considering she stole the spotlight in Season 1, especially considering how many little references there are throughout that should probably affect her moreso than they did, but it’s another reminder that time is finite in these kinds of series.

Perhaps the most important change from Season 1 to G is the production. The art is much, much more consistent, and is only minor when going off-model. As for the most intense animation sequences, they are not necessarily more impressively animated, but in general more well-crafted. Lighting, in particular, is something that makes G really stand out visually. But, there’s also a strange rise in the voyeuristic framing. Shirabe, the tied-youngest of the gear users, has a relatively fanservicey transformation sequence, and moreover, there’s the occasional focus on the girl’s bodies – particularly Chris’ legs. The first season wasn’t exactly innocent with naked transformations, but there’s definitely the occasional skeevy cut that’s wormed its way in.

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But the songs! Elements Garden did it again. Bigger, stronger and just simply more. Throw in a comedy song to involve Genjuro and the series becomes even more of a musical, rather than an anime with music. With 3 more singers, too, there’s much more variety on offer. Maria’s giant dramatic numbers are particularly noteworthy, but the duos end up getting a good deal of duets, too.

Overall, Symphogear G is largely more of the same – though I think being able to keep things consistent is, in itself, an achievement. There’s a small hiccup in the midseries, and the uptake in fanservice is a bummer, but the finale is just an exciting typhoon of magical girl action. Symphogear G still doesn’t have brakes.

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5 thoughts on “Senki Zesshou Symphogear G Review

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