Hey look, I am still alive. I know, I promised a couple seasons ago that I’d come back to this. Well I lied. Turns out I just don’t care much to deal with the cartoons, and instead have been doing more gaming. Well, I completely bowed out of even looking at schedules, and holy shit, Symphogear snuck up on me and returned this summer. I should have known better, but I caught it just in time thanks to a tip on social media. So of course, I’ll gladly come out of retirement for a little bit to cover one of my favorite franchises.
Senki Zesshou Symphogear AXZ
“We are Overwatch.”
At the end of last season, I wrote:
They dropped a few hints that may lead in to a fourth season, specifically Europe. I don’t know what they’ll do exactly. I presume with Carol/Elfnein sticking around, the Ignite modules are here to stay, and possibly some other alchemy-based weaponry. I imagine we’ll probably encounter another terrorist cell or other relic organization trying to take over the world, and maybe encounter more gear users. At this point, I’d settle for an entire season of just slice-of-life Symphogear, really. But I enjoy Hibiki punching things, and hopefully they do not completely nullify her with this TOP DAD ending.
The last season was the most disappointing season, story-wise, of the franchise. The first season dealt heavily with Hibiki first and foremost, establishing her character, how she obtained her Gear, and her relationship with Tsubasa and later Chris. The end of the series set up two things for the next season, Hibiki’s ticking time-bomb of her gear killing her, and the trio’s power-relationship. The second season introduced Maria and Co. and wrapped up Hibiki’s struggle as well as tie up Chris’ “Fine” storyline. Tsubasa also got a little bit of development. But the third season had no idea what it wanted to do, it tried to turn Hibiki into Nanoha, it largely sidelined Tsubasa (again) and didn’t move Chris too far forward either. Even the primary antagonist, was lackluster and ineffective, almost existing just to get Doctor Ver back and inject more reaction faces into the show. Honestly, it was bad, and I’ll be the first to tell you that apart from its usual song-and-action sequences, you can pretty much skip it and probably not miss a whole lot.
So this season opens up with the trio taking on a military, like, actual military people, who apparently have weaponized the Alca-Noise from last season. SONG, which seems to have re-established itself more fully compared to prior seasons, seems to now be operating largely like Mythril in Full Metal Panic or Celestial Being in Gundam 00 where they’re sending in the Gear users to clean up anyone using Noise-related tech to further military goals, which happens to be in an unnamed Latin American country Chris is familiar with, suggesting she will be the character development focus this season. Like the previous seasons, the first episode flashes high with trio-action and Hibiki’s new transformation song, which seems pretty good.
Besides the trio, SONG’s full staff makes their return, including Shinji “JESUS YAMATO” Ogawa, which Gundam SEED and DESTINY folks would know is voiced by Hoshi Soichiro, Kira’s VA. Like SEED, Ogawa seems to possess every ability in the show and is commonly seen getting the team in and out of places with seemingly conventional plot armor. Sadly, Tanaka Rie (Lacus) is nowhere to be found, but he quickly exits the scene to allow the trio to make quick work of military men and tanks with ease, putting Hibiki and Chris’ abilities front-and-center, but there are also plenty of Tsubasa scenes, including her bearing down her giant sword on a flying fortress.
But as my last season post hinted at Europe, it seems this season’s antagonist-trio are members of the illuminati, the Bavarian Illuminati to be exact, who are explained to be the secret society behind much of the first three seasons, including FIS in season two, and Carol’s alchemy in season three. Saint-Germain, Cagliostro, and Prelati appear to be their top alchemists, and are able to reap human souls to power their machinations.
Honestly, I am not surprised that this would be the plot for this season. I’m a bit disappointed they’re sticking to alchemy, because it still hasn’t really been explained how it fits with song power, but I am hoping that unlike Carol and Friends, these three will prove to be more intelligence and more sly villains Hibiki must befriend to her cabal. Certainly, the notion of an Illuminati suggests that they are trying to bring the show back around to some of its earlier seasons where when the action wasn’t happening, the B-plot was interesting enough to keep me awake. The Carol B-plot was just so bad that it made finishing the season just a huge disappointment.
It’s a one-cour-season show, so I don’t expect long plot lines, keep it short, simple, full of fights, couple of down-time episodes, and bang out an ending where all the users form Voltron and kick ass. This season spent too much time trying to build these relationships between characters that ended up feeling shoehorned and unnatural. Chris’ KOUHAI obsession got annoying in some episodes, as was Tsubasa and Maria’s weird relationship. DMjii was the only one that made sense because it persisted from the second season. They also completely ignored Miku and Genjuro, both whom played roles in previous seasons.
Character development in this show is good. Like Nanoha, it can’t just be all lasers and metal-grinding. However, you have to make it count when you do, or else you just end up with a two-cour disappointment like StrikerS, which would have been better as one.
First Rating: 9
Sub Group: Commie