Senki Zesshou Symphogear GX Review

Title: Senki Zesshou Symphogear GX / Symphogear Season 3
Length: 13 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Music, action, mahou shoujo
Year of release: 2015

Senki Zesshou Symphogear Season 1 Review
Senki Zesshou Symphogear G Review

In my last review, I talked about how Symphogear G used whirlwind pacing and new faces to sidestep the fact its leading trio are a bit overdeveloped. Well, GX has more to play with with the new girls from G, but it drops the ball by trying to add needless developments to the original three. And, as if that was it’s biggest weakness, many of its plot-points play out as overly melodramatic humdrum. In many ways, GX feels like a major step down for the franchise.

But, it’s important to get to the good before we get to the bad. In many ways, GX is a step-up for the franchise. It seems like director, Katsumi Ono, is showing influence from his time with long-running Yu-Gi-Oh! 5ds – moreso than he exhibited on G. A keen-eye can see the areas that the animation is much less exhaustive on the animating team – but this results in a much, much more consistent visual experience than either of the prior seasons. Barring exposition sequences, there’s almost constant action sequences and they all look great. Even those with keen-eyes will struggle to see or care about the time-saving shortcuts taken (such as partial stills), because clever smoke-and-mirrors and smart storyboarding keep it kinetic and striking. It’s not all great though. The fanservice has increased even more in intensity, with probably the most annoying aspect being the boob jiggles when Chris talks. But there are many other little tidbits of unwarranted reminders of sexuality, and they are not wanted.

However, Elements Garden have seemingly upped the ante on this series. While the OP/ED songs might lack a bit of inspiration compared to prior seasons, the character songs are as splendid as ever – perhaps even more so, with more duets and group numbers very regularly. The series has serious style points, even in its BGM.

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Before we get to the bad, let’s go to the beginning. Amidst a high octane introduction to antagonistic team, Carol and her Autoscorers, and where the girls are now, that whirlwind feeling really is maintained. Some strong cliffhangers and musical cuts keep the tension high as the girls are taken down a peg or two by the revamped Noise. GX puts some ideas of forgiveness and a vague attempt at Carol playing 3d-chess in place as the mid-series starts, and GX falls apart dramatically as the girls face the Autoscorers in one-on-one battles.

Tsubasa’s episodic is perhaps the worst of the episodic bunch. A midseries plot to push the girls in different directions results in her overly political family feud being discussed. While this development makes a bit more sense than some of the other arcs, it suffers greatly from a verbal vomit of self-explanatory dialogue. Symphogear’s script has always suffered from a bit of floweriness – it preferred to let the emotions do the talking for themselves, usually – but that is not the case here. The climax to her episode is just uncool, as Maria and her internal monologue spit it out, even cutting up the action.

Chris’ new situation as a hero rather than villain leaves her still with room to grow, yes, but GX has a mediocre attempt to acclimatise her to her new side. She values the social hierarchy, and attempts to be an inspirational figure to the new young girls – but the mental gymnastics she does in the midseries are confusing. Even when, much like in Tsubasa’s arc, they’re explained in the flowery nonsense of verbal vomit.

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Shirabe and Kirika have a better time with it. Relying on their relationship with each other, their arc deals with a minor spat between them as they struggle to fight the Autoscorers. Due to Kirika’s shamelessness honesty and Shirabe’s more nuanced truths, the pair manage to find a way through the series’ writing problems and deliver an emotionally resonant climax to defeat the badguys. They get a handful of very smartly written songs that do the speaking for them, too!

I’ve talked about Hibike being one of the already well developed characters, but her arc this time stretches across several episodes. About her scumbag of a father, this portion of the show is just a bit overstuffed with dramaticism and lacking in reason. Her sudden perspective-shifts, and perspective-shifts back, are hard to make sense of; what, Hibike, caused you to change the tune you feel about your father? It doesn’t add up. The threads that make Hibike the Hibike we’ve known all along are unravelling, and she feels like more of an emotional contrivance. She’s a device to punch things harder than anybody else can, that otherwise only offers agitating excursions and romantic bait with Miku.

And then we get to Maria. I think that, if Hibike wasn’t so strongly associated with the face of Symphogear then Maria would have displaced her as the protagonist. Her story of antagonist-to-protagonist is much more effectively handled than Chris’ hand-wave of acceptance. She struggles with her sense of personal weakness and has to overcome her misgivings with herself. It’s powerful, and right up until near the end, it seems like her struggle with guilt is the primary emotional factor throughout GX. But, then again, that might just be because the actual protagonist’s arc is so disappointing.

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Many of these problems might have been alleviated if they weren’t mirrored by the leader of the villains. Put simply, Carol’s whole backstory balances on even more mental gymnastics that force a misunderstanding. While the theme of deleting her memories to make power is an interesting parallel to the way the other girls derive strength from overcoming the memory-related trauma, it’s somewhat undeveloped, and marred by the general weak writing of its other arcs.

It’s a jolly good thing that the audiovisuals are better than ever, because GX is otherwise a major misstep for the series. As a series that has gradually embraced more and more action, possibly as a side-effect of the stronger animation available, it means that less emphasis is put on the writing for Symphogear to succeed. It’s sad to see this once hearty, resonant magical girl action show turn to spectacle driven popcorn fuel.

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4 thoughts on “Senki Zesshou Symphogear GX Review

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