Binging Symphogear (First Third) | Anime Voyage

Be Warned: Here There Be (Mild) Spoilers

All right. So anyone who’s been paying attention knows that Bulletoon is a series I write for and edit to hopefully get uploaded every weekend. This month, we’re running an event we’ve dubbed “March of the Magical Girls.” It’s basically just a four-week event where we run one feature episode a week. The second episode was delayed because of a scheduling conflict with one of our actresses, as well as some work-related madness on my own end. Basically, being forced to work full days for the past three weeks has left me just plain exhausted and in dire need of rest. And with Burning Sky to work on as well (Chapter 2‘s out, by the way), Bulletoon work fell behind.

The one boon of working part-time during an epidemic? Lower hours so I can be home longer and get more done. I’ve mentioned as much on Twitter, but the latest episode of Bulletoon – the delayed feature on Cardcaptor Sakura will be out on either Wednesday or Thursday (work pending. They have a habit of spontaneously changing my hours… while I’m there). But the extra time home today, at least, has allowed me the few bonus hours I needed to start making progress on the third episode in this little event month, the feature on Symphogear.

I haven’t played the games, nor do I really plan on it (at least not for a while). But I’ve been binging through the show, and I’ve now completed the first third of it. I’m not going to spoil what the actual episode’s theme is going to be (though if you watched the Kill la Kill episode that kicked us off, you might be able to put together a vague idea), but I’ll just summarize what my early thoughts are.

Symphogear is an incredibly mixed bag. Pretty decent action and overall presentation, bangin’ tunes, and a cute moments, mixed in with some amusing (if not especially robust) humor. But. The problems lie in basically all the other aspects. The plot is perfectly fine, on its surface. But some serious logical inconsistencies and holes the size of Marianas Trench hurts a lot of what the show really wants to sell you on, from the get go. The emotion.

I’ve made it perfectly clear before that I approach storytelling logically, first and foremost. A-to-B thinking. A science. And the problem with Symphogear is that it just… doesn’t follow that philosophy. Which isn’t a problem with the show, necessarily. It just means it’s not exactly built for someone with my particular inclinations. But a story is a story. I can – and have – enjoyed stories that weren’t virtually airtight. If I didn’t, I’d likely never watch anything but the absolute safest things imaginable.

For me, one of the more paramount things to observe is that the characters act in a way that makes sense. Not necessarily in the overarching way. But for them, specifically. Based on their history, their personality, the situation in which they’ve found themselves, you get the idea. At the same time, though, sometimes that does involve characters thinking logically about a thing. If I ever land myself in a situation where I mentally have to just go “But why didn’t you just…?” Then either it’s going to be explained in a future episode (which may well be the case with Symphogear as I’ve only gotten through 4 episodes, at the time of writing this) or – and this is, in my experience, more likely – there’s a problem in the writing department.

Getting back to the emotion, one of the biggest sins that Symphogear commits is dead smack in the middle of the first episode. In fact, it’s the linchpin that pretty much instigated literally everything, going forward – the death of a very pivotal character. Now. I know what you’re thinking but here’s the thing. I don’t have a problem with them dying, in and of itself. Opening the show on what’s perceivably a major character death is a pretty interesting hook, when executed well. But the style of that characters demise – the way in which they went out – had so many gaping holes that it just left me scratching my head and more interested in figuring out why it had to go down that way, based on the information I was provided. I wanted to know more about that than what the show clearly wants me to focus on, which is the emotional effect of that character’s death on one of the other leads.

That said, looking back over it, yes. The emotional component for the surviving character was handled perfectly fine. I dare even say remarkably well, given what we know of their relationship in the first 4 episodes. But the brief flashbacks to that relationship we did get also only deepened my curiosity (and frustration because, let’s be honest, my concern is likely not addressed, later) about the aforementioned issue. Of course, even this well done element isn’t without its own problems. If anything, it reinforces the one I already had because in that climactic fourth episode (if there’s one thing I can’t call this series, it’s slow), history very nearly repeats itself… and once again I’m in a place where the logical part of my brain is just overriding what the story wants out of me. It wasn’t as bad, but the shortsightedness of the characters involved, here, has begun to bother me. I’ll just point out that there’s a difference between nobility and stupidity, and leave it at that because I actually want to go a bit deeper into that topic than I feel like I should in this post.

Of course, then there’s the other issue I have. I like the show’s lead. Hibiki is a sweet, cute, charming character that fits an archetype I’ve always enjoyed. I like her Deku-esque desire to help people (yes, I know she came first. Hush) despite those around her being technically more capable/qualified to do so, opting to simply do what she can. I like the traits of her character. The problem I have is that we spend so much time on the other lead and her emotional plight without really getting to know much about Hibiki that, when it comes time for her to have an emotional moment around the events in Episode 4, the emotions being conveyed just… don’t feel quite earned. It’s close. It’s really close. But not quite there. It needed more time in the oven.

To contrast this, the emotional outburst she had in the episode immediately before that, and the resolution she ultimately comes to at the end of her angst in Episode 4 are fantastic. Those moments are based on things we get to see that are plainly about her. Things affecting her life. Things impacting her relationships. It’s incredibly believable (if a bit hammy, but… Shounen) that she would feel what she was feeling in those moments. The empathy she feels for the other lead is perfectly understandable. But connecting herself to all of that and injecting some sort of “it was all my fault” arc, almost entirely out of the blue just wasn’t necessary. I guess what I mean to say is that the brunt of the emotional impact was weighted too much in the direction of the wrong part of the character’s arc. Yet the resolution was weighted very much on the right side of it. So the emotions feel… halfway earned. Not entirely lost, but also not fully warranted.

Was I to rate the show currently, based purely on the first four episodes, I’d probably give it a Junk Food rating. It flounders around too much on its emotional component for me to really call it Super Effective, but that could change over the next nine episodes. We’ll see. If it’s all the same, I probably would’ve needed more than the standard 3-episode rule to judge if I planned to keep watching it or not. But I’m watching the whole thing anyway, so… there’s that.

Have you seen Symphogear? What do you think of it? Le’me know, down below.

Be sure to check out March of the Magical Girls on Bulletoon! The first episode on Kill la Kill was a rousing success! Stay Toon’d!

Keep up the Awesome,

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