Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ Review

Title: Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ
Length: 13 x 24 minute episodes
Genre: Music, action, mahou shoujo
Year of release: 2017

Senki Zesshou Symphogear Season 1 Review
Senki Zesshou Symphogear G Review
Senki Zesshou Symphogear GX Review

There’s two kinds of sequels. On the one hand, you’ve got what I like to call ‘intended sequels’, where the story isn’t finished or is extended. On the other hand, you’ve got the ‘unintended’ sequel – making something into a franchise of vaguely related, but not essential, stories with familiar faces. With AXZ, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to deny that Symphogear’s sequels fall into the latter camp. There’s an increasing divide between what Symphogear does best and what it does worst, and more than any prior season does AXZ chase its strengths and neglect the rest.

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The background plotting on this whirl with Elements Garden’s typically great songs and Satelight’s increasingly apt animation revolves around an Illuminati announcing their presence in the world. Throw in more blatant history-cum-mythology botching than the series has ever had before, and you wind up with a group of gender-bent antagonists fighting in skimpy outfits against our girls in S.O.N.G. Their motivation is a callback to Season 1, and with it comes some trips down memory lane, but it doesn’t provide nearly as much rumination as that facet should. Nor does AXZ have any callback-style developments for Chris, the girl who was played like a fiddle by Fine. But she does get some hackneyed, irrelevant plot point to look gloomy about for the majority of the series before its solved in the way GX thought appropriate for its similar arcs – Yes, loud music to the tune of emotional vomit. It doesn’t help that both the setup and solution are equally convoluted.

See, the Illuminati’s plotting feels like window dressing to get to these types of developments (and, thanks to Tiki’s annoying persona, frustrating irrelevances). The stories of Kirika not knowing her birthday and Shirabe’s weakness at cooperation are merely excursions in the grand scheme of things – but they dominate the screentime. These stories don’t relate to the villains or grander plottings (as they’ve always done, even if GX’s attempts were a bit of a stretch), so instead of building up or juxtaposing the story-telling, it distracts from it. AXZ is constantly trying to tell two stories at once, but the more connected story is vaguely told and treated as an excuse.

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Nothing quite paints this dilemma as much as Maria’s arc. Maria’s been stealing the spotlight more and more since her introduction (neither of the Season 1 stalwarts, Tsubasa and Hibiki, actually gets any much screentime outside of fights and discussing other people’s issues in AXZ). Well, what’s the catalyst for Maria’s arc? Solving a plot-hole, of course! What should really be a minor plot-point to solve a resource-issue is treated to several episodes that backtrack throughout Symphogear’s storied history to build Maria’s character. She’s such a ripe character for the writing team to play with because of all this history, though I think the conclusion she draws from this whole arc is likely to be controversial.

But, it’s also true that, when not devolving to emotion vomiting, Symphogear has the payoff down pat. It’s easy to get riled up in all of the high flying emotions amidst well-paced episodes, (typically) excellent music and exciting action. So much so that the barely-told overarching story that makes little reference to these emotional outlets are details that get lost in all the noise. One of the cathartic, healing climaxes was trying to wash out the tragic story of one of the villains, and it’s all too busy to really function.

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But perhaps worst of all is the climax. Midseason hiccups have been a staple since G, but both G and GX recovered for an exciting finale. AXZ doesn’t so much have one resounding finale, but lots and lots of finales that keep on going. It’s one rapidly introduced plot-point after another, that serve no purpose but to extend it all. Each one feels like it should be the last, and throughout it all, AXZ’s ending is an exhausting handful of episodes.

AXZ doesn’t dwell too much into the fundamental weaknesses of its arcs like GX did, no, but it’s got a great deal of other problems. In an attempt to double-down on the one thing Symphogear’s always done well, it feels like AXZ isn’t just scoring failing grades in the other aspects (like GX did) – it’s downright ignoring most of everything that isn’t core to its gung-ho action identity. Put simply, you’re gonna need a lot of popcorn to get through AXZ.

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4 thoughts on “Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ Review

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