Not many things can succeed in making me genuinely happy. Fewer things can succeed in disappointing me. So far only one thing has been able to do both at the same time: Symphogear. I’ve got a huge lot to say here, so expect spoilers beyond this point.
Because I have so much to say about this series, let’s start with the good stuff so I don’t get too off-track. The soundtrack was easily the highlight of the show, as it should have been given how many songs it had. The opening is probably the coolest opening I’ve heard in a while (Synchrogazer, if anyone’s wondering). The engrish at the very beginning was pretty awful, but everything else was cool about it. Fight songs were also really good, which brings me to my next point.
Holy crap the fight scenes! They weren’t really well choreographed or anything, but damn were they cool. It was like watching a slightly less extreme version of Gurren Lagann or the final boss fight from a later Sonic game (this analogy is going to come up a lot later on, by the way) toward the end. It helped that, for the most part, they could go all-out because the Noise weren’t human. They were this weird, hiveminded Anti-Spiral-esque thing. I’d have to say, though, that my favorite fight scenes came from Genjuro kicking the ever-loving crap out of Finè. Mostly because Genjuro was my favorite character and I absolutely hated Finè.
As the final bunch of points in the ‘what was good’ bit of this post, I’ve got to give props to the biblical analogies and mythological themes. I’m an absolute sucker for this kind of thing and, despite Finè’s origin story and entire character being mostly horrible, the Tower of Babel and Yahweh storyline was cool. Smaller mentions go to the character designs, with the exception of Chris’s and Finè’s, and the fact that everyone was used in the epilogue. Miku, Hibiki’s classmates, the little girl that Hibiki saved? Everyone and everything was pulled in for the ending.
Now let’s get on to the fun part where I get to complain! Let’s start with Finè. She’s pretty much immortal in the ageless sense of the word. She’s nearly invincible to the point where Genjuro, the man who regularly stops slabs of concrete with his bare hands without breaking a sweat, could barely hurt her. She’s like Superman except without any real weakness and a slightly dumber costume. She’s flat-out boring. Evil Hibiki was a more compelling villain than her!
The fight against her took forever, to the point where it felt like it was the final fight of a Sonic game: Bad thing shows up, it gets killed, it goes super-evil, you go super-good. Except with more layers of nonsensical forms and eleventh hour superpowers thrown in. And, in the end, Hibiki saves her. I get it. It’s totally in-character for Hibiki, but come on! She killed everyone you cared about (or so you thought), beat the shit out of you, and you save her?!
… I honestly think that sums up the bad parts of this series. Anything involving Finè/Ryoko was just unpleasant and bad. The historical implications of who her descendents were (including Ceaser, Napoleon, etc) was cool, as was the biblical mythology… But the character herself. Damn. Oh, and she was in a lot of the Engrish-riddled scenes. I had to mute those eventually. I know you like it being semi-authentic, Japan, but at least make the American guys sound American. Thanks.
Oh, right. The sacrifices of Hibiki, Tsubasa, and Chris (The latter two twice!) were made completely useless. I wouldn’t have minded it if Hibiki was dead. It made the meteor shower from the moon’s partial destruction that much more heartbreaking. And Chris really didn’t have much left after Finè’s death, so… Yeah. As a writer, the inability to keep your characters dead if you kill them is kind of a big deal with me. It gets rid of any semblance of hard-hitting emotional scenes. If they’re dead, let them stay dead. I mean, you could argue they were never intended to be dead, but… It seems like a cop-out to me.
So yeah! What’s my final verdict on Symphogear? It’s good. Not great, but enjoyable. If it sucked, I would have dropped it, to be perfectly honest. I really suggest people watch it, even if you’ve read all this and had a lot spoiled for you. It’s got some excellent fight scenes, a damn good soundtrack and, if nothing else, the plot can be used as a lesson of what to avoid when you’re taking pages from Madoka’s ‘being a magical girl isn’t all fun and justice’ book. In fact, I hope the series is really successful, maybe even gets a sequel or spinoff, so they can take what didn’t work and throw it out.
I’d even take a remake a few years down the road (or maybe a Gurren Lagann movie recap), just so they can give this really cool concept another shot.