Honestly, I went into this one pretty much cold turkey. I knew Divine from RC liked it a lot, but SenZeSym (copyright pending) wasn’t a series I’d planned to watch. To be blunt I have absolutely no interest in idol groups, the men who love them or anime about them – as a rule. But there was some buzz, and I do try and watch at least one episode of every new show that isn’t likely to be historically bad, so I watched it with really no background other than the synopsis. And in this particular instance, I’m pretty glad I did.
I haven’t read any reaction to this series at all, but I can’t be the only person who was reminded of Madoka Magica here. The cute but slightly pancake-faced character designs are quite reminiscent of Aoki Ume, for starters. The look of “The Noise”, the alien invaders at the heart of the story, could easily have come from Shinbou’s series. Even more, there’s the same juxtaposition of schoolgirl innocence and graphic violence we saw from that show. I get the sense that this could be a show that follows a dark and ruthless path. A quick glance at the credits reveals very little in terms of prominent names, apart from the cast – the director and writer are pretty well unknown, and studio Encourage has never been the lead on a series before. But Satelight is credited with “Production Assistance”, and their aura surrounds the show. One of the Art Directors is Satelight stalwart, Frenchman Thomas Romain.
If I had to sum up the appeal of the show in one word, it would be “style”. From the cold open featuring young Miku (Iguchi Yuka) apparently crying over the death of the main character, Hibiki (Yuki Aoi) nothing is quite predictable, and everything is executed with a good deal of flair. I’m still not crazy about the premise – alien race fighting against idol girls using the power of song as their weapon of choice – but as presented here, it’s quite entertaining. The episode is breathlessly exciting from start to finish, and the battle sequences set to the music of idol group “Zwei Wing” and beautifully choreographed. Most of the action is set in a flashback to two years before present events, where Hibiki is attending a Zwei Wing concert when The Noise attack. One of the members of Zwei, Amou Kanada (Takayama Minami) ends up saving a grievously Hibiki, at the cost of her life. As a result Hibiki becomes a huge Zwei Wing otaku, even attending the same school as Kanade’s partner Kazanari Tsubasa (Mizuki Nana, a natural for the idol role). When The Noise attack again in the present, Hibiki saves a little girl – and somehow in the process acquires Zwei Wing powers of her own.
As excellent as the premiere was, my expectations for SenZeSym are still modest. If the premise can hold my interest for a cour, wonderful, but if not the show is going to have to maintain the razor-sharp execution of the first episode for it to remain compelling. For fans of the idol genre, though, this looks like a slam-dunk. My hope is that the similarities to Madoka Magica prove to be more than just skin-deep, and the series continues to flirt with darkness and tragedy – perhaps it can be for the idol series was “Madoka” was to the mahou shoujo. I’m certainly curious to see where it goes from here.