Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Senki Zesshou Symphogear G

Remember how the sucked? Like, a lot? But it was saved from complete awfulness by small moments so ridiculous that they were amazing fun? Like the entire last episode?

Because Senki Zesshou Symphogear G: In the Distance, That Day, When the Star Became Music (I'm not going to keep referring to it as that) is that. Only that. Except distilled. Purified. Refined. 13 episodes of non-stop, balls-to-the-walls, over-the-top ridiculousness and self-awareness and fun.

It starts with A TERRORIST POP IDOL threatening to crash the moon to the earth if her groups vague demands are not met and just keeps going from there. You will laugh, you will cry (laughing), and a bunch of school-girls in trashy outfits singing songs will fill you with such manly passion and fire that you won't know what to do with it.

Basically, it's fucking awesome.

Time to kick some ass

Here's where I would normally start reviewing the plot. It feels like a bit of a wasted exercise here, however, because you will not be watching this for some deep, complex or intelligent narrative; it's just too ridiculous. I mean, the first episode starts with Hibiki and Chris using gratuitous special abilities to fight noise on a speeding train, before moving onto a sell-out stadium concert with both Tsubasa and another idol, Maria, performing together. And then Maria reveals her terrorist plot to TAKE OVER THE WORLD while on stage, before transforming - she too is a Symphogear user!

And then there's a fuckton of fights with the noise, a 3 vs. 3 Symphogear fight, an epic scale swansong, and then we've finished the introduction to the new series, 2 and a bit episodes later. After that, fuck knows what ridiculous shit happens. Dr. Ver is revealed to be evil (having worked with the protagonists to obtain Solomon's Cane), a non-noise monster is made, the moon starts being brought to the earth for ~reasons~, Symphogear users get injected with performance enhancing or inhibiting drugs every other minute, some Americans are very briefly involved, and we end back up in space again for the finale.

Your average pop concert in Symphogear is still insane

Symphogear G's plot is patently ridiculous. It delights in every shock, vaguely nonsensical twist, every contrived cliffhanger, every dumb deus ex machina, and instead of ending up with something terrible it gives us endless fun. It just runs on rule of cool, and yeah the plot is awfully written from an objective standpoint but there's a lot of self-awareness, a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek-ness that complaining about that writing is to really miss the point. And this isn't me saying "hurr durr it's MEANT to be bad that's why it's clever", because it's not about what's 'bad' or 'good', it's about what's cool, what allows the ante to be continuously upped, what ensures that everything just keeps escalating. It's the difference between a trainwreck and a train ramping over the Grand Canyon. At a cursory glance, it may look similar in the end, but you better believe what happened in between was nothing alike.

Because let's be honest, if it tried anything else it would just fail. The first series attempted some serious drama, some emotion and meaningful conflict, and nothing about the show could support that. It took itself too seriously, acted like it had some real story to tell, but it was impossible for many reasons. Worse still, the attempts at all that only had the effect of slowing the show down, killing the energy and momentum the generally entertaining fights produced. Symphogear G in contrast still has some drama, some conflict, some turmoil, but the difference is that a) it's not as prominent, as frequent, or as significant, and b) ALL OF IT is resolved by beating the shit out of monsters/each other. Symphogear G wants a bunch of schoolgirls fighting each other in increasingly more insane ways and if anything else wants in it has to be through that medium. And fuck me is it all the more entertaining for it.

Makes simply calling your attacks look lame as hell

How much better is the action this time around? Instead of taking on a completely different attitude towards it like it has done with the story, Symphogear G just refines the formula, turning it up to 11 but keeping it largely the same. That half of the fights (at least early on) are between loads of Symphogear users means we get some pretty cool fight scenes that do some very interesting stuff. Lots and lots of singing, with opponents often in a duet while in combat, and a ton of energy. The presentation retains the awesome, heavily stylised freeze-frames for the special attacks, and these are used liberally and excellently. And with all the new characters and new attacks sanity is less important. We're talking a girl who fights with a scythe (that powers up into increasingly absurd forms), a girl who fights with GIANT FUCKING SAWBLADES THAT COME OUT OF HER HEAD (and also power up to absurd forms, except quicker), Chris basically getting a nuke as her most powerful attack, Tsubasa getting a fucking bike that is also a sword, and Hibiki now having a fuckawesome new swansong.

And there's just so much miscellaneous shit that warrants mentioning just to give you an idea about what kind of level this show is working on. For example, Dr. Ver. He is the most blatantly evil person ever, and his motives are fucking dumb. And he just doesn't give a shit. He constantly experiments on the Symphogear users, does awful shit to fucking anyone, and hams up every scene to amazing levels. The only time he's ever even slightly restrained is when he's pretending to be good. It doesn't last. Basically, he's a massive dick and utterly, inescapably hilarious.

Other awesome shit includes: Hibiki wanting to go out and fight for the sake of holding hands, and an actual 80's training montage. Seriously. That fucking happens.


This review is crap and I know it, because it took all of my strength to not just make this a bullet-pointed list, bolded and all-caps, of every amazing thing that series has happen. Everything I can try and say about it in long-form will make it sound amazingly dumb. And you know what? It is. It is dumb, but it's not bad dumb. If I had to liken it to anything (and this is pushing it a little) it would be to Gurren Lagann - it's dumb by virtue of not giving a shit while it single-mindedly pursues its goal of being as cool, as epic and as gratuitously fun as possible.

It's big, it's loud, it's stylish, it's absurd and of you course you can't take it seriously, but that's fine because Symphogear G is not taking it self seriously either. It wants to have as much fun as you are. And this would be perfectly fine by itself, albeit not something that worth raving about, but Symphogear G does raise itself a fair bit with its sincere core. I don't know how to really describe it, but thanks to whatever it is the characters end up becoming quite endearing, it's easy to get drawn in to what's going on, and there likely will be one twist that will make you hate Dr. Ver and get rather upset. So no, this is not ironic enjoyment at all; I genuinely enjoyed the fuck out of this show.

How Symphogear G was able to become a genuinely good show despite being a sequel to something that was quite crap, while still retaining the same core, I'll never know. But here we are. Read a summary for the first series and then watch this.

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