Senki Zesshou Symphogear – 03 Review

Okay, he blocks a giant sword with a punch and the only thing that got damaged by the impact is the street – and his shoes?! Why are his shoes the only thing that got damaged? And also: What the hell happened to his socks…?

Symphogear 03 – J-Pop Kills Alien-Goo

Watching this episode I asked myself how the strongest character on the good side wouldn’t fight against the Alien-Goo? Genjuro, the commander of the 2nd Division (what actually happened to the 1st one?) is apparently stronger than Kanade and Tsubasa combined but then it hit me… There are actually three convincing reasons why he’s just a commander and not doing anything directly against the Noise: 1. He’s older than 17 which makes him automatically either evil, stupid or an unimportant talking-head. 2. He’s no girl which means that he can’t be moe and these Blu-rays don’t sell themselves after all. 3. He’s no generic J-Pop-idol and nobody will buy singles of a humming old man (since he can’t sing, he’d just hum the melody). But instead this series is stuck with Tsubasa being constantly in a bad mood and Hibiki being a complete failure except when she’s angry. So, seriously: Give Hibiki a training-arc…!

Synopsis:
After the alien-goo was beaten Hibiki repeated that she would like to fight beside Tsubasa and replace Kanade. Tsubasa who practically did all the ass-kicking herself and still grieved Kanade’s death listened to Hibiki and decided that this was the stupidest thing she ever heard. So she challenged Hibiki to fight her as a way to prove what an incompetent stupid kid she really is. Everyone at the Totalbirne-HQ was shocked by that development except Sakura, the brains of Totalbirne who considered it funny and childish. Genjuro, though, saw this confrontation as something stupid that needed to be stopped immediately. So he rushed out of the Totalbirne-HQ which is deep under the earth to this godforsaken highway in the middle of nowhere just in time to stop the first attack of Tsubasa. All this happened within a few minutes. You may ask yourself how he got that fast from point A to B but there’s an explanation: He’s Superman… basically. He stops Tsubasa’s ultra-strong “Strike From Heaven”-Special-Attack (or whatever it’s called) with a punch but the force of the attack damages the highway – and his shoes. After that Tsubasa continues her life full of passive aggression and practically stopped singing on concerts since she now just sings for killing. Hibiki, though, has quite a troubled life with her girlfriend for whom she just has no time anymore. Not that it’s any different with her school-life in general.
At a meeting in Totalbirne more stuff about the Noise gets revealed and about a super-special relic which is called by me “Paukenmarschhören” (because who cares what it’s actually called…?) which makes it possible that even deaf people can become generic pop-stars who sing to kill Noise (so it’s actually just like one of these pop-star-casting-shows on television). Also the Americans seem to show an unfriendly interest in the location of Paukenmarschhören.
After another terrible day at school Hibiki is called to the Totalbirne-HQ to battle Noise. She apologizes to Miku that she can’t keep her promise and that makes her angry enough to go into “Dark Hibiki”-Mode which comes and goes as fast as you can switch a light on or off. As she follows the last Noise outside Tsubasa appears and kills it. That’s when a newcomer appears and Tsubasa frightened explains that this woman wears the Heftigschwer-armour (I think weird nonsense-German is better than random biblical references).

Just stop it, okay? This is the second time in three episodes someone made that meta-fictional- joke about Hibiki and it wasn’t funny the first time. Especially since I have no idea how this is supposed to be funny when Hibiki indeed finishes her report on that day despite the joke that something like that would only happen in animes. I mean, where’s the joke in this…?!

Review:
Watching the third episode, I still wonder: What’s the deal with Noise? Is it an alien-invasion, Lovecraft-fanfiction or just plain stupidity? This episode tells us some important bits about the setting and how the Noise operate (Apparently you learn it at school right after you learned the ABC or something). Basically what attracts this Alien-Goo is – music. So Kanade and Tsubasa gave a big concert in the first episode in a big stadium which was full of people – but everybody knew that the music would attract Noise. Kids go to a music school and apparently don’t fear for their lives despite the fact that people die in that city because of that school. This is the kind of stuff where it’s obvious that nobody truly thought this through. This setting is a mess.
And it’s surprising all the same that some elements of this show are actually decent. Tsubasa’s subplot is the only thing, though, that I would say works. I mean, you can understand why Tsubasa would go into this “I’m like a blade”-mode when she has to shoulder the burden of two symphogears. And that she can’t accept Hibiki is also understandable because the clumsy Moe-stereotype never quite succeeds in doing anything until the last third of the show. So Hibiki of course says the wrong things at the wrong time with good intentions and Tsubasa is still grief-raging which means that she doesn’t have the patience for Hibiki’s stupidity.
The second sub-plot going on is Hibiki with the usual secret-identity-conflict where she simply can’t keep going on with her normal life parallel to her superhero-life. One might also think of Madoka and how she yearned for the normal life after she learned of Witches and so on but I don’t know whether Symphogear wants to go the tragic route. I expect a more uplifting tale after Hibiki has gotten her shit together. What irks me about this part is Miku, though, who has become this loving ideal of a very dear friend (or love-interest, who knows how far they will go with the yuri) but it forces her into this corner of passivity. Miku just worries about Hibiki but still helps her as well as she can. Hibiki suffers over her oath not to tell anyone and Miku suffers because she wants to help but doesn’t know what the matter is. It’s a fairly generic conflict in hero-fiction with secret identities and it would need something more like in the case of Madoka to make the contrast between normal life and the supernatural world more interesting. The relationship with Miku is just such a button-plot-device that can be activated at any time because Miku won’t be doing anything until the series expects to have some drama in that relationship. Miku should’ve done something about Hibiki’s secret activities in episode 02 if this would’ve been a real good series. But like that this sub-plot becomes a plot-device and the dialogues between Hibiki and Miku played the same tune as they did last episode.

Does she know how she looks when she’s angry? Somebody should tell her, right? Glowing eyes just can’t be healthy…

The main-plot (at least I think that’s what the focus of the series is) is the American’s evil machinations to get their hands on this super-special relic I call “Paukenmarschhören” that would make it possible to industrialize the Symphogears. People wouldn’t need to sing generic J-Pop anymore to kick the asses of the Noise. The Americans already hacked Totalbirne multiple times and this girl at the end of the episode who wears the special “Heftigschwer”-armour is probably the American Symphogear. She’s probably evil, too, but who knows, how long has it been since we had a show where Japan was threatened by foreign influence? I’m sure everyone will be surprised when the Americans attack Japan in this series because they don’t want to give them “Paukenmarschhören”. That really sounds original. But seriously I was surprised how obviously this episode wanted to make the Americans this secretive schemer with possibly bad intentions. I’m certainly interested to see how this plays out.
Another thing you might have already noticed reading the synopsis is that this show loves to give things names. The attacks have names, all the relics have names, the symphogear-suits have various names and so on. It’s insane how this show just wants to name everything. I get it why they gave the super-special “Paukenmarschhören”-relic its own name but giving each relic its own name sounds a bit excessive. This isn’t some Naruto, Bleach, whatever special where hundreds of geeks are watching this and will create a complex wiki during the show to keep track of everything. But the worst thing is that it’s only the names, there’s nothing distinctive that would warrant that kind of attention. By the way, I still don’t know what Aufwachenschlagen is supposed to be. If it’s just the awakening of a relic as it’s used by a potentially generic J-Pop-star then I have no idea why it has gotten its own name.
In the end I have to admit I still don’t know what to think of this show. It’s just so confusing, sometimes I feel like it’s so stupid it actually does things right. Letting the partner of Tsubasa die in the first episode gave the character-dynamics a rather dark twist which was completely unexpected in this kind of “mahou-shoujos against Alien Goo”-show. Perhaps it’s just the influence of Madoka that forced this series to be this grim with some of its elements but I have to admit that it isn’t bad from an idea-point-of-view. Surprisingly the pacing is solid as well but it seems that’s mostly because this show just lets stuff happen without caring at all about delivering any kind of message. Someone writes the episodes probably with a “Oh, this seems entertaining…”-mindset as things are kept so simple-minded and direct that they kinda work despite the fact that it’s not very well-done. The rest of the time this show is just plain stupid, though. The setting makes barely any sense and stuff like the singing during battle are things where you facepalm just hearing about them. And the animation of this series is also mediocre most of the time but when Tsubasa with her manager left the meeting, the animation was really bad. I can’t imagine anyone watching this scene without cringing.

The third episode didn’t fix any of the things that made the previous two episodes such a sloppy mess. It’s still rather stupid overall and some stuff in this episode is definitely unintentionally funny or a joke being funny for the wrong reasons. But in a rather crude way this show actually works as a simple-minded story of girls killing alien-goo.

Episode-Rating: 4/10

Wikipedia: A hand grenade is any small bomb that can be thrown by hand.

About M0rg0th

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Posted on January 22, 2012, in Anime, Reviews, Senki Zesshou Symphogear and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. i can’t imagine that commander guy wearing armor like tsubasa and hibiki

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  2. You brave, brave man….continuing watching this anime. I dropped it at the first episode, becuase I had this feeling that it would turn out rather bad. Maybe it will become better after a few more ep? Maybe not…in any case, I’m glad you write these reviews. Even if i don’t watch this anime, it’s always interesting to hear your point of view :).

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    • It’s not *that* bad actually… The first episode was the worst one of them, I think. The setting is far too convoluted for its own sake as far as names are concerned and the battle-scenes obviously aren’t that spectacular anymore since they didn’t have the budget, time, whatever, to animate even normal walking-scenes properly. But to say that Symphogear is actually a generic “been there, done that”-series is exaggeration, it’s more like the series was so chaotically made that I have no idea where this thing is going 😀 .

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  3. For the relics, they have a name because they are all mithological weapons.
    Gungnir (Hibiki’s relic) was Odin’s spear
    Durandal (“Paukenmarschhören”) was Roland’s sword.

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    • I know, I know but it’s not like it matters in any way. These are just randomly chosen for being important in some mythology, religion, story or something else… There’s no reasonable system behind the choice of words. Therefore I might as well give them weird nonsense-German names myself 😉 .

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  4. wow! this show is sooooo good!

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  5. Don’t really get how its so weird to give different pieces of very different equipment that all do things in a very different way their own separate names, its not like every weapon on the planet is just named weapon after all.

    I doubt the weapons names are completely randomly chosen, so far their all based on mythological artifacts that resemble them, yah know, spear= Gungnir, sword= Durandal, would you rather they used the massively over used name of Excalibur? Also considering the references to valkyries in this its not like the Nordic names are entirely out of place…..

    I do agree though even now I have not a clue where this series is going even if I am enjoying it

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