The Summer 2019 Anime Preview Guide
Symphogear XV

How would you rate episode 1 of
Senki Zesshō Symphogear XV ?



What is this?

The Curse of Balal still hangs over humanity. An accident on a S.O.N.G. research vessel spurns the Symphogear team to Antarctica, where a massive, monstrous ‘coffin’ is awakening. Supposedly carrying the corpse of one of the fabled ‘Custodians’, the wielders will have to survive their encounter and actually defeat the beast before they can obtain the secrets within. Their powers have come a long way after all this time, fueled by the bonds they've forged and the song in their hearts. But will that be enough this time for Hibiki and the others to succeed, to return home to Miku and celebrate Chris's birthday? And even if they do win, with remnants of the Bavarian Illuminati still lurking around, what kind of Pandora's Box will the Symphogear Wielders end up opening? Symphogear XV is the fifth season in the Symphogear franchise, and streams Saturdays at 2:00 PM EDT on Crunchyroll.

How was the first episode?

Christopher Farris

Rating:

The thing about Symphogear premieres is that they're almost entirely meant to be spectacle: Episode-long action-oriented cold opens for the whole season that tease a few elements of the plot-to-be, but leave it in the background so we can focus on the crazy-cool thrill-rides the series has since made a name for itself on. So how does the first episode of this fifth season top previous feats like GX's space-shuttle-suplex or AXZ's assault on a military junta? Well in this one, Hibiki and friends fight a kaiju.

So don't worry if you're still behind on the plot of the previous season as Crunchyroll slowly doles out their release of AXZ episodes: Aside from a few references to the fallout from that one's tussle with the Bavarian Illuminati, you can throw on this episode just to enjoy the ride if you want to. All the important setup for taking on the giant ‘coffin’ monster in the Antarctic is laid out relatively efficiently- It's amusing how Symphogear trades so earnestly on mythology and biblical history as ‘reality’ in its world, and still can't ignore the effects of global warming. From there it's off to the races, starting with one of the biggest highlights of the episode in Hibiki's frankly jaw-dropping new transformation sequence. Even if the rest of the episode's animation never quite tops that spectacular new piece of stock footage, it's still in top form all the way through. As well, it's necessarily backed by an assortment of customarily fist-pumping insert songs, including a six-Gear-girl ensemble piece from all the Wielders right from the get-go this time. All the action is just show topping itself in spectacle-oriented gimmickry, from Tsubasa surfing on a board made of swords to a double-drill combo attack from Hibiki and Maria. Hibiki later reforms that spinning armor into turbines to fight the big beastie underwater. It's that kind of show.

As straightforward as a nearly episode-length giant monster fight would seem, this premiere does get a little clever with its structure. A flashback scene dropped in the middle is what gives us the background on why the team is at the South Pole fighting God-Coffin-Zilla, and also sneaks in some quieter character work to drive this season. In particular, some serious portents about how Hibiki and Miku's relationship may factor into how this plays out are foreshadowed. There's also an aside during a break in the fight where we meet our villains for this season, but don't learn too much about them beyond hearing a sampling of their guest-star voice actors (Hey MAO!).

It's efficient, and not too much of a distraction from the centerpiece show-off that is the big battle. Basically, if you know what to expect from the first episode of a Symphogear season and are here for that, you'll be here for this. I could recount the myriad 'Hell yes!' moments it already provides on its own, but many of them are the kind of surprising animated insanity that words can't do justice to. If you've seen it already, you know what a blast it is and just talking about it probably makes you want to watch it again. If you haven't yet, well, you're in for a treat.


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