What a fascinating contrast we have in our two Saturday Sci-fi series, Senshogear and Mouretsu Pirates. While MP takes an almost purely abstract view of events, putting full trust in the fact that impassionately observing them will be interesting for it’s own sake, Symphogear take a completely opposite approach. Everything that happens in this series is framed through the emotions of the characters, especially Hibiki but pretty much all of the sympogear girls. The result is sloppy and sometimes exhausting, but for me at least it’s hard not to be swept up in the pure depth of feeling this series depicts, whatever its flaws in doing so.
We’ve already seen what happens to one symphogear user when the most important relationship in her life is taken from her. In Tsubasa’s case, of course, Kanade was taken from her by death, and the result was two years lost in the wilderness, culminating in what was effectively a suicide attempt. She seems to have turned a corner (perhaps a bit too neatly, truth be told) now that she’s hit rock-bottom, but it looks as if the series is about to put the two other remaining symphogear girls through the same sort of trial. It seems that loss and dealing with it is a big part of what this series is about – that should have been obvious from the prologue of the first episode – but it’s clear that none of these girls can escape the fate that’s assailing them.
It’s too early to guess how Hibiki and Chris (now fully named as 16 year-old Yukine Kurisu) will deal with their respective low ebbs. In Kurisu’s case, anyone who’s seen the likes of Gurren-Laggan and Nanoha would have known she was obviously going over to the good guys’ side at some point, but she’s pretty much seeing her world torn apart in the process. It’s hard to see any affection between her and “Fine’”, but certainly Chris depended on her – and it’s obvious that Fine’ was manipulating her with promises about how her symphogear was going to bring peace to the world. Obviously more of Kurisu’s backstory is going to come out, but it looks to be a pretty sad tale – war orphan, taken in by Fine’s initial kindness, used up and thrown away. Hibiki is probably the only person who’s shown her any kindness in a very long time, and it only served to make her more pissed off – her “You made me sing and I hate to sing!” was her signature line so far – though she seemed to reflect a little of it back on the two lost kids she met in the park. Her initial instinct to beat up the brother for perceived bullying is no doubt another clue to her zeitgeist.
As for Hibiki, she (and Aoi Yuuki) continue to be real heartbreakers. There’s sure to be controversy over Miku’s behavior in this episode, and if Tsubasa found the light a little too quickly, perhaps Miku turned on her friend a little too dramatically in order to serve the plot. Still, I can understand where Miku is coming from here – Hibiki has already almost died once, and here she is doing something incredibly dangerous in secret after promising to tell Miku “everything”. Miku has been nothing but trusting and supportive, even as she saw Hibiki slipping away from her – and she feels betrayed. This is one of those instances where I don’t think early party is “wrong”. Hibiki was put in an impossible situation, and I think she was right not to say anything to Miku – she was working for a top-secret government agency after all. But in Miku’s eyes it’s still betrayal, and the wedge between them looks pretty deep. The notion of studying the impact being a superpowered teen has on the personal side of their life is hardly a new one in anime, but I’ve rarely seen the pain of it expressed so purely as it is here – Hibiki’s agony at sacrificing what’s dear to her for the sake of humanity is the most compelling part of Senshogear, for me. If you felt nothing when she sobbed “I don’t want this” after Miku told her they were no longer friends, this series just might not be your cup of tea.
There was a whole lot of plot development in this ep too, and I don’t want to totally gloss over it, but the emotional side of things is really what sells this show for me. Miku reads “Cats magazine” (Vol. 10 – Siamese Kitten Issue) and Bikkie’s ramen gets cold. We still have the issue of Ryoko/Fine’ to deal with – are they indeed they same person, or perhaps twins or clones or such? Ryoko pretty much makes it clear why “Bikkie” is special, as the only human who can use the symphogear without the ravaging effect on the body – the question is, why? Meanwhile Fine’ – same person or different – has her naked hands on a new relic, one which appears to put even Kurisu’s powerful one to shame, and she’s ready to throw the girl out like yesterday’s trash. Things are looking grim for the Second Branch and pretty much everyone working for them, with the ironic exception of Tsubasa, who appears to be on the upswing at last as everyone else is on the down. They say it’s always darkest before the dawn, but with the way Senshogear is going, I’m not at all sure dawn is ever going to come – but even if it is, I expect it to get a whole lot darker before we see it.