Reviewby Nick Creamer,
Senki Zesshō Symphogear G Episodes 1-13 Streaming
One year after the intensely surprising events of the first season, life has returned to normal for Hibiki and her friends, and Tsubasa is all set to perform in a concert alongside the international singing sensation Maria. BUT THEN! Noise attack the stadium, threatening a repeat of the disaster that gave Hibiki her powers! BUT THEN! Maria reveals that she too has a symphogear, and what's more, she's controlling the Noise as the reincarnation of the goddess Fine! Threatening the assembled concertgoers with a new calamity only vaguely similar to those that came before, Maria's words prompt a whirlwind adventure of symphogears and mad science and moon-shaped projectile weaponry. It's Symphogear, it's back, it's not messing around.
If there is a single coherent theme running through all of Symphogear, it has to be “restraint is for suckers.” The first season of this ridiculous show ended with a resurrected goddess hidden in a scientist's genes attempting to blow up the moon with a giant laser-tower. That would seem like it'd be kind of hard to top, but Symphogear G certainly does its best.
It tries this, first of all, by throwing what small semblance of coherent narrative Symphogear once possessed out the window. Symphogear's first season was bombastic and often absurd, but it obeyed certain general rules of narrative form, and had a coherent central arc that rose in tension throughout. The nature of the Noise, and the threat of the goddess Fine, were both stable threads, and beyond that, all three of the series' central characters had tangible internal conflicts that were resolved in ways that made sense relative to their personalities and relationships with the rest of the cast.
In Symphogear G, what “plot” exists is basically just an excuse to throw three new symphogear users into the fray. There's an evil mad scientist (who you know is evil because he cackles maniacally and bulges his eyes out whenever you see him), and a tragic mother figure stricken with Blood Cough (the deadliest of anime diseases). There's even a new symphogear user who's somehow more tortured than Tsubasa, whose name contains both Eve and Maria (we have soared beyond symbolism and straight into Sympholism). These new variables bumble through a general plot concerning a second moon-crash and the creation of some kind of arc for humanity, but basically everything comes down to slamming the symphogear users against each other and reveling in their individual angsts. Characters leap incoherently between sides and motivations, and fights are prompted for the barest of reasons. In every traditional narrative sense, G really doubles down on the “not giving a damn” writing of the first season.
Fortunately, for Symphogear, that's almost a bonus. If Symphogear G is a “worse show” than its predecessor in terms of traditional storytelling metrics, it is probably a “better Symphogear.” Symphogear does not succeed because it tells compelling stories of tragic heroines - it succeeds because it's ridiculously entertaining moment-to-moment, full of both exciting battles and narrative choices bizarre enough to celebrate.
And Symphogear G definitely has plenty of both of those things. On the battle side, the fights in this season are both more numerous and far more impressive than the first season. Part of this comes down to the fact that instead of fighting the boring Noise (who basically just exist to be smashed in one-sided duels), almost all the fights here are between symphogear users, each of whom have their own unique powers. This allows for far more back-and-forth, leading to both fun clashes of asymmetrical powers (swords versus lasers! scythes versus fists!) and a whole bunch of vivid martial arts choreography. But matchups aside, what most elevates Symphogear G's fight is the fact that Symphogear has received a tremendous visual upgrade between seasons.
This upgrade, like the shift in narrative priorities, does result in some sacrifices. For one, the first season's beautiful backgrounds and architectural designs have been cut back. Additionally, the sense of horror and drama that infused the first season with occasional emotions beyond “silly” and “punching” is absent here. There's much less tonal variety in general, in fact, which is a difference likely coming down to the show's shift in directors.
But what Symphogear has lost in visual diversity, it has gained back in focus and execution. The fights in G feature much more dynamic direction, with the fairly stable mid-distance camera of the first season replaced by shots that swoop around clashing warriors, or frame them from wild, dramatic angles. And the animation has received a tremendous upgrade as well. Almost every fight in this season is lovingly animated, with symphogear users careening off each other and windmill-kicking the sky and blowing holes in buildings, islands, or each other. Tsubasa leaps off a breaching submarine to fire sword beams at an escaping zeppelin, Hibiki scrambles halfway across the landscape in her classic beast mode, and the new symphogears alternately buzzsaw or rocket-scythe their way to death or glory. The change in visual priorities means the non-battle scenes are less engaging than the original's, but the battles themselves easily make up for it.
Symphogear's music is also solid this season, with a variety of flute and guitar melodies diversifying the background tracks. Each character gets at least one new battle song, a few of them get several, and the last few episodes even feature some ensemble symphogear songs. The show's even worked to get around Aoi Yuuki's limited singing range, by giving Hibiki a main song that's really more of a shout-along chorus than an actual melody. The symphogear songs in general are still more vehicles for character motivation monologues than catchy tunes worth humming along to, but they get their jobs done. And hearing Yukine Chris singing about her gatling gun and “kneeling before Satan, in Hell” is always a good time.
Overall, Symphogear G marks a honing of the Symphogear craft, a choice that will either succeed or fail entirely based on your personal tolerance for Symphogear's style of resolute unstorytelling. By discarding the secondary attributes the show only ever pretended to care about (things like emotional range, coherent character writing, and storytelling that actually sort of makes sense), Symphogear is better able to focus on the things that it does best - having fun with its cast, pulling out ridiculous twists, and punching things in the face. If there's any legitimate emotion to be wrung from Symphogear, it's clearly the overall sense of how much fun the show is having, from its Rocky montages to its evil villain laughs to its gloriously animated battles. It's a very specific and inherently campy ride, but if you're on board, Symphogear G is a fine successor to the original series. Rock on, Symphogear.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C-
Animation : A-
Art : B
Music : B
+ Doubles down on everything the first season was good at; significantly upgraded animation results in constant thrilling fights.
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