Senki Zesshou Symphogear – 03

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I almost used the same tagline I did last week, because it’s still true – Senshogear is still a mess, but there’s something about it that’s working for me.

Yes, I did notice the shocking lapses in animation quality, especially in the second half of the episode.  The scene where Tsubasa and her manager Ogawa Shinji (Houshi Souchiro) were walking away from the “friendship meeting” was jaw-droppingly bad.  But as a poster over at Animesuki pointed out, this may not be so much a question of budget as scheduling: Thomas Romain mentioned on his blog that the first episode of this series was finished 30 minutes (!) before airing, and that the show was only conceived nine short months ago.  Satelight is a studio that normally finishes an entire series before airing (see Ikoku Meiro) and we know Mouretsu Pirates has been in development forever, so this was of doing business is odd for them.  Hopefully they’ll catch up with themselves and we won’t have any more unintentional self-parody like that scene again.

Aside from the animation issues, my take on the content front is just about where it was – it’s a bit of a confused muddle, Yuuki Aoi is wonderful (apart from the singing) and I find the characters appealing and the story overall has a lot of snap.  As in many throwback anime are we’re still seeing a pastiche of styles, and while I still see lots of Madoka and KamiDolls here there were hints that the story with The Noise may take a sort of quasi-religious turn, almost in the mode of Evangelion or RahXephon.  When the new girl shows up at the end Tsubasa makes reference to her wearing “Nehushtan Armor”, which is a reference to the Old Testament and specifically to powerful sacred relic made by Moses, a “fiery serpent”.  And indeed, The Noise sort of feel like a cross between the witches from Madoka Magica and the Angels from NGE.

We did get a fair amount of plot exposition this week – for one, we saw Kazanari actually mix it up in combat – and show some serious moves – in stopping Tsubasa from doing Hibiki serious bodily harm.  Tsubasa’s resentment towards Hibiki is fairly broadly played and rather obvious, and Hibiki innocently makes it worse with talk of “replacing Kanade” and grand pledges to fight for the common good.  Sakurai really brought her loli/yuri proclivities out into the open, actually biting Hibiki’s ear at one stage (which I think scared her more than any encounter with the noise or an angry Tsubasa.  There was the revelation that The Noise’ activity seems to be centered directly above 2nd Division HQ, where they’re digging for relics which anyone could theoretically use at 100%.  And we get a recurrence of one of the major anime themes of 2011, xenophobia, as the Americans are painted as another potential enemy lusting after relics and hacking the 2nd Division’s computers.

The most effective part of the episode for me was the way it portrayed the impact her new secret life is having on Hibiki’s old one.  The way the desires of a “normal” life never go away was one of the most effective and moving parts of Madoka Magica, and while Senshogear is obviously not in that class, it’s doing a good job of showing how these worlds are colliding in Hibiki’s life (it pissed her off so much that Dark Hibiki reappeared).  Much of the credit goes to Aoi’s funny and authentic performance, and it’s interesting to see the way her modest abilities as a singer are playing into that.  Clearly she’s well-outclassed by Mizuki Nana, though that’s to be expected, but there’s really no effort being made to cover up the difference in the quality of their singing.  Aoi Yuuki isn’t known as an idol for a reason, but she’s done theme song performances – so I really wonder if she’s sandbagging here, just a little, to play up the vulnerability and fragility of her character.

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  1. F

    I'm starting to rather like Ao-chan's song. Its not "amazing", but its got its charms.

    They did a good job of conveying just how hurt Tsubasa still is by Kanade's death, that wound never even began to heal, and Hibiki's presence just makes it worse.

    Miku is in a somewhat analogous situation. She clearly cares deeply for, loves, Hibiki, but can tell that something is wrenching her away, and she can't do anything about it. For her part, Hibiki clearly was upset about having to "stand up" Miku, Ao-chan did a great job of conveying that when she answered her phone.

    This show has a myriad of flaws, but I really love it.

  2. This show has a myriad of flaws, but I really love it.

    That's a good summation, though "love" is a bit strong for how I feel yet. Aoi Yuuki really is a wonderful seiyuu – funny and quirky, but capable of real subtlety and depth. She really is growing into the Hochan of this generation.

    It's not that easy to convey unspoken pain, and this series is really good at it. The scenes between Hibiki and Miku are surprisingly and profoundly emotional. Let's just hope the incredibly, jaw-droppingly bad animation of that scene with the manager never rears its ugly head again.

  3. A

    I think this is the first time I've ever facepalmed while watching anime. That scene with Tsubasa+manager walking down the hall was godawful. The technique they used to "animate" walking can be done in about 5 min on editing software.

  4. b

    I cringed in that part with Tsubasa and the manager. Just…ugh. My eyes hurt there.

    Having a double life is pretty hard and Hibiki is feeling it. I wonder what's the deal with that raep face of hers when she went berserk. I got curious about that at the end of ep1 when she first transformed but the next episode it just disappeared.
    Tsubasa is still too emo for my tastes but I'm still digging Nana Mizuki singing. Fans of hers must be so happy.
    And finally I was waiting for the others to appear at the end.

    Yeah this isn't one of the best shows now nor my favorite show but I still like the music so yeah.

  5. K

    LOL!!!!!! I did the same thing when I saw that scene with the manager. It was like grade schoolers learning how to animate in school. I still really like this series as well too even with its flaws.

  6. t

    You know at first I thought the Madoka similarities were just a coincidence since I figured production on this would have started before madoka aired but now knowing Madoka was still airing when production started I have to change my view.
    Hell I wonder if Yuki Aoi was cast because she played Madoka and the OST also has those Kajiura-ish chants in them.
    I'm still watching though,and since I can never get enough of Takagahi Ayahi I guess I'll keep on watching.

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