Final Review: Senki Zesshou Symphogear

DISCLAIMER: Anime reviews on this blog will attempt minimal to no spoilers unless other noted. If a review seems dull or shallow, it’s because I’m trying to make sure not to go into too detail for those who are actually interested in the show before or after reading the review or those who have yet to finish the title. If you want further details, there are usually tons of reviews that can be found elsewhere on the internet. Furthermore, anime reviews in general are the sole opinion of the author writing it and thus differ across the users. There is no such thing as a “right answer” only a majority agreement. You are free to have your own opinions and thereby free to state and/or argue/debate in the comments section below or on the Fansub TV Forums. The review is not necessarily meant to serve as a recommendation but rather a personal opinion of having completed the series.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear (hereafter known as Symphogear) is an original work by Noriyasu Agematsu and Akifumi Kaneko. Agematsu has worked on the music for a number of shows prior to this title, including Ga-Rei -Zero- and Girls Bravo as well as the ongoing Mouretsu Uchuu Kaizoku. As for Kaneko, this is his debut title. With animation provided by Satelight, Encourage Films, and Studio Pastoral, and music co-produced by Elements Garden, this show became the wildcard of the Winter 2012 season and boy was it one. With a strong cast to boot, does Symphogear live up to its initial hype?

I’ll give the short answer to the above question for the story: NO! The show’s story is terrible. First it spoils what is pretty much the end of the series in the first 2-5 minutes of the first episode and then makes you sit through 13 episodes to basically see what happens. I will say, however, that like many people, I was quite surprised by the first episode. It was an incredibly strong start with good action and an interesting setup. It showed a lot of potential but all of that quickly went down the drain as the series dragged on and Hibiki became the replacement for Kanade. For Suite Precure fans, there’s a reference for you right there. Putting that aside, the lackluster explanation of many terminology and concepts in this show only hurt it more. What is the symphogear? What are these hidden relics? Why are they so special? etc… At the end of the day, the show overextends itself and fails to give a proper explanation of any of this and assumes the viewers know what the producers are thinking. It got its pacing down with the “simple story” aspect of “good guy beats bad guy” but even a 5 year old could understand that. With that said, its conclusion is obviously atrocious or rather I should say the last two episodes when a number of characters should have died yet didn’t. It ended up being a “let’s be friends so that nobody dies” show.

Art is pretty cool actually. Nice concepts and very detailed settings. Heck, even the barren land fights all had pretty detailed work even though one might not immediately notice it. Character designs are okay but the fact that Hibiki looked like her friend Miku was bothersome even with different hair colors. As for animation, it was divided among 3 studios (mentioned earlier). I don’t know who did what but Satelight and Encourage Films seemed to have worked on about 75% of the show. All I can say is it was pretty poor overall. Flashy/special effects were great but mech designs were sub par with current/Satelight typical standards and don’t even get me started on the bobble-head animation in the first half of the show. Aside from the first episode really, the animation quality for this show was disappointing. It wasn’t bad, but now we know what Satelight’s limits are in a season…i.e. 4 shows before quality starts dropping (Mouretsu Pirates, Fairy Tail, and Aquarion EVOL were the other titles simultaneously airing). Also here’s what I was referring to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLm-jeFj3tk

Music is pretty solid as expected from Elements Garden and Agematsu. Good background music and sound effects overall. Seiyuu cast is pretty solid too with a strong line up of Yuka Iguchi, Aoi Yuuki, Minami Takayama, and Nana Mizuki. I was praying for a Two-Mix revival here but looks like it came later…and by later I mean not appearing in this series though it looks like it’s true. Aoi Yuuki as Hibiki was rather annoying at times. She sounded like a really whiny Madoka Kaname from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. At least the show picked Nana Mizuki who is definitely able to sing like a diva/goddess.

Enjoyment? Strong first episode and everything falls apart afterwards is pretty much what sums up this show. You may as well watch the first episode (or even half) and just assume it’s a one shot. The fact that the show spoils the ending and makes you sit through it to watch how it unfolds in a crappy manner is not a good way of keeping your audience hooked.

Overall, Symphogear tries to really go away from the current anime norm. It has a sense of originality (well barring the Suite Precure stuff that is) but it really never found a direction outside of “good guy must beat bad guy” logic. It’s not a show that will rise from the grave and if it does, I think all hell will break loose. Can’t say this is a good start for Kaneko but at least he’s got some pretty cool ideas. He just really needs to work on getting a proper story together now, which should seemingly not be difficult when you have ideas. Regardless, this is not a show to waste your time on regardless of how “original” it is. It lacks a plot and most people will likely feel they just wasted about 6 hours of their life on this show.

What this anime should have been…

 Story and Character:

  • Premise (0.5/1): Suite Precure! literally just did this setup in a sense. One could call this the “dark” version of Suite Precure! Cool setup though. Ending effectively spoiled in the first few minutes of the show.
  • Character Personalities (0/1): Everyone is overly emo even in a post-apocalyptic sending. Too unbelievable personalities.
  • Character Development (0/2): We don’t learn anything about the characters, at least not in depth. Everything is overly shallow and just mentioned. Not much physical showing to give proper interaction with characters.
  • Character Usefulness/Presence (1/2): Presence is there. Usefulness is definitely arguable.
  • Pacing: (1/1): Gets the job done, no real complaints here.
  • Reasonable/Plausible (0/2): The show tried to implement too much and lacked any time to explain anything. Stuff happened yet no one understands anything at the end of the day.
  • Conclusion (0/1): We knew something had to happen that was relevant to the first few minutes of the first episode, so ending was rather spoiled. Predictable and anti-climatic ending.
  • Total: 2.5/10

Art and Animation:

  • Backgrounds (2/2): Nice and detailed. Great color choices.
  • Character Designs (1/2): Fine overall. Hibiki and Miku need to stop looking too much alike when they’re not twins or sisters.
  • Fluidity (1/2): Bobble head movements. I will never let this series live that down.
  • Visuals/Special Effects/Flashiness (2/2): PRETTY AND FABULOUS!
  • Art and Animation “Expectation” (0.5/2): Satelight can do better than this. The budget clearly went to the first episode of the show and then to other titles afterwards. At least Satelight knew where the money was going to be or so I hope. Other studios were a step up from other works they’ve done though.
  • Total: 6.5/10

Sound and Music:

  • OP/ED/Insert Themes (2/3): OP theme is good and general insert themes were solid. Was hoping for Minami Takayama/Two-Mix/Nana Mizuki combination from beginning to end but that disappeared by the end of episode 1.
  • Background Music (2/2): Good.
  • Sound Effects (2/2): Good.
  • Seiyuu (2/3): Fair overall. Didn’t like Aoi Yuuki that much in her role though. I’m going to get hated for this comment aren’t I.
  • Total: 8/10

Enjoyment:

  • Amusement (0.5/2): First episode only for fabulous factor.
  • Weekly/Next Episode Anticipation (0/2): None.
  • Presentation (0/2): Spoil the ending then tell the story is almost always the worst way to do anything. Unless someone is really in a rush to find out something, 95% of the time it’s the wrong approach.
  • Re-watchable (0/1): None
  • Recommendation (0.5/2): Got some originality here. Concept probably more enjoyable if you haven’t seen Suite Precure
  • Value (0/1): Not underrated and no value.
  • Total: 1/10

Preliminary Score: 7/10

Final Score: 4/10

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