Gintokiro's Blog – An anime blog for news and episodic reviews.

Senki Zesshou Symphogear [Swan Song Chronicles Symphogear] Episode 01 – First Impressions Review

Symphogear – Come at me bro.

Symphogear is a very odd anime – a good kind of odd but, nonetheless odd. We haven’t had an anime like this in a long time. Barely anything is explained about the story but straight away a lot of the plot is revealed and then the anime only continues to charge on. It isn’t apparent in Symphogear what is happening and what relevance it has to anything, there are a lot of different groups of people doing things and a lot of plans being set in motion but, we are for the most part, left without any explanation.

The episode starts with a girl named Miku in quite a sombre mood, drenched by the pouring rain. A bouquet of flowers gripped in her hand she is going to the grave of her dead best friend, Hibiki. The episode then flashes back in time two years where Hibiki is by herself at a concert as she was cancelled on by Miku. The concert is a flare with lights and music coming from our two battle vixens; Tsukasa and Kanade. In a room somewhere, there is some sort of golem being resurrected but I have no idea what. Promptly, some foe called the Noise appear and slaughter a lot of people. Tsukasa and Kanade sing a song with german words mixed in and promptly transform into their Symphogear armour and weapons. In a rather impressive and pretty hectic foray, Kanade decimates a lot of Noise. However, whilst blocking a massive attack, her sword shatters and the flying parts impale Hibiki. Kanade then sings the ‘Swan Song’ which obliterates the remaining Noise but also eviscerates herself in the process. Moving on, Hibiki still remembers the incident despite the world not seeming to know anything. However, soon the Noise attack again and in a desperate bid to help a small girl she runs but is soon cornered. It is during this she recalls Kanade’s final words – Hibiki starts singing, her powers go berserk and she transforms into Symphogear attire (as depicted in the first image). Episode end.

That’s a quick summary. I don’t normally summarise episodes, but I felt that this one deserved it. It really had a lot going on. In any case, how would I describe what happens in Symphogear? Turbulent. The show is a bumpy ride of action, music and a lot of other random things with no apparent explanation. However, it isn’t necessarily bad.

PRESENTATION

The art in Symphogear is certainly something I haven’t seen in a while and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. There is a clear style in symphogear, it seems to be combining comic style action stills that have that water colour edge, with hard edge animation. There are a lot of very pretty and very pastel textures which seem to meld together quite well. For example the school building seems to be white but actually on closer inspection has various colours blended in and it gives it a shimmery effect (click images to enlarge). There is a purposeful style to Symphogear which I must admit I found myself liking. During the fights, a song would blare and one of the Symphogear ladies would unleash a pretty large scale attack – the scene would freeze and water coloured into an epic still pose. I’d have thought it would break the fluidity of the action but actually, it gives the action tempo, spaces it out and delivers those hard hitting moments where necessary. So overall, I quite liked the use of colour and presentation. However, my only concern was the dilapidation of said graphics when there was a lot going on. As a general rule of thumb, the more is going on in a frame, the more animation is needed and so the higher the cost. There is a lot going on in quite a few of the scenes of Symphogear. As a consequence, the graphics fell quite badly to the point where faces are hard to distinguish and detail is lost. Such as in the left photo above (click photos to enlarge). In any case, I don’t feel I can complain a huge amount. You either have the epic animation and beautiful overall scenery and loose character detail or you limit how much you want to put in on a larger scale. Sure you could use stills for the large parts, but it would break the immersion. I certainly wasn’t too phased by the loss in detail, I was enjoying the music and the general atmosphere of the show too much. Much like one of my all time favourite Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the graphics were only secondary to the awesomeness of the show. So for me, it was the lesser of two evils and something which I think works out better for the show overall.

ACTION

The action was pretty cool. Suffice to say normally I’m not a fan of action where the people are just running around using random moves and seemingly just making them up as they go along however, Symphogear pulled it off really well. We had a a nice array of moves, the pacing was quick and the scenes were lively. The music in the anime just added to the feeling and whilst at first it was a bit odd hearing her randomly singing in the middle of battles, it soon turned into a really nice background music and only served to enhance the lively atmosphere of the battles. The music isn’t exactly mould breaking, its your typical female J-pop singer type songs however, Symphogear uses them to their advantage and if I’m being honest, I did find myself enjoying them quite a bit. One thing I couldn’t for the life of me fathom was, what are these Noise fellows that are attacking? The most reasonable thing I can think of is they are made of, well, noise. Hence why physical weapons do not work and only our sword wielding pop-stars can stop them, but this for me, only made me more curious as to what the whole premise of this show is. What is the Symphogear? What does it do? Who can use it? What are these songs and why are they effective? Who can use the gear and why is it so different per person? The action in this anime was outlandish, in a good way but, it only served to make me more curious. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if anything its a plus – it just means I’ll be watching to find out more.

SUMMARY

Action Still – Tsukasa’s leg swords in action.

Overall, I’m very pleased with Symphogear. If you had described it to me prior to watching, I’d have said it didn’t sound like anything I’d be interested in but, I find myself not only wanting to see more of the staunch action and absurd battles but also to find out more about this symphogear and the world this anime operates in. I have a feeling there is a lot of backgrund info to this anime and there are certainly a lot of questions I want answered. So congrats to Symphogear, I’m certainly hooked for another episode. More action, more character and story detail and some more music – its got a good formula for a successful mainstream anime. All in all, Symphogear gets a heavy 8.5/10 from me.

Likelihood I’ll be watching: Definite! Likelihood I’ll be blogging: Definite!

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