After an arguably subpar season of Symphogear AXZ, I was preparing myself for another letdown with Symphogear XV, but actually, it’s probably the best Symphogear season yet…
Synopsis: Fifth season of Senki Zesshou Symphogear.
Just when I thought I was out, the series pulls me back in. XV was the fifth season of Symphogear, and as everyone knows, story hasn’t exactly been this series’ strength. That’s not to say that the story thus far has been bad, it’s just that it’s been about the action first and foremost, and as long as the story was serviceable and allowed for all kinds of crazy action, it’s done its job.
The story is more or less what you’d expect from Symphogear: and new evil faction (they call themselves Noble Red) rises up with bad intentions, and it’s up to S.O.N.G. to once again save the day. But I think what really made this season the best Symphogear season yet was how Satelight threw caution to the wind and pulled out a bunch of ridiculous plot twists that they knew that fans would love. Characters that we thought we’d never see again make their return? Yup. Seemingly “good” characters turn evil? It happens. The person you thought was the main antagonist actually answers to an even bigger villain who then brings about the real main antagonist? You better believe it. It’s not nuanced storytelling or anything, but that kind of fanservice is pretty satisfying nevertheless.
But as fun as it was at times, I couldn’t help but compare it to another anime. After finishing Granbelm and coming back for the last few episodes of Symphogear XV, I finally realized how much more I enjoyed Granbelm (although their scores might not suggest it). Over on MAL, Symphogear XV sports a score of 8.63, which is kind of ridiculous, if you ask me. I like to think of Symphogear as the anime equivalent of a Michael Bay film. Often times, his movies will have decent enough stories, but the stories are just an excuse for the action set pieces, much like this series. That’s not bad at all, yet it’s enough to hold me back from thinking of this series more highly. But at least Adam is no more, so that in and of itself is something worth celebrating. 😛
I personally found the story to be a little more interesting than prior seasons, and all of the twists and turns certainly didn’t hurt. I won’t go and call the story in Symphogear XV (or any Symphogear for that matter) good, but Satelight seemed to know what fans wanted to see, and they did a great job of giving all that and more to them.
As has been the case for an overwhelming majority of the series, Miku stands on the sidelines while Hibiki is fighting (which is a whole lot), but similar to Symphogear G, Miku ends up getting in on the action as well. To be honest, I didn’t really like it when Shem-ha took over Miku’s body, since it served as an excuse to not have Miku participate in a good chunk of the season, yet that final episode almost made up for it. I was so ready for them to declare their love for each other in that post-credits scene, but then it ended. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?!
In order to make up for this act, the next season needs to take place after two more years, with the girls, now in college, clearly established as a couple. They can have a couple of evil professors who introduce the girls to their daughters, who attempt to break up and seduce Hibiki and Miku in order to steal their powers. Boom. You’re welcome for the great idea, Satelight. 😀
But this is Symphogear, so their are other pairings to keep an eye on. Of course, Kirika and Shirabe still fight together a lot, and while they have a few brief moments where their gay shines through, Symphogear GX remains the best season for Kirika x Shirabe shippers. Tsubasa and Maria have always had a lot of potential, but aside from their duel and duet, they definitely could’ve had more scenes together. They’re never going to achieve Hibiki x Miku levels of gay, and that’s pretty unfortunate…
Vanessa, Millaarc, and Elsa are the trio of new villains called Noble Red, and compared to the Bavarian Illuminati from AXZ, I liked them quite a bit more. For a minute, I felt kind of bad for Noble Red thanks to their tragic backstories, but then they went right back to being your typical villains, and I was pretty disappointed with that. The three of them kind of resemble a strange little family, and that strong kinship is another reason why I liked them more than the girls from the Bavarian Illuminati. I also liked their designs, well, at least for Vanessa and Millaarc. I thought Elsa was kind of generic, and she didn’t have as much to offer as the other two, besides the cat ears. 😛
I already mentioned that it was a great thing that Adam didn’t return, though Shem-ha isn’t an amazing villain either. If she didn’t inhabit Miku’s body and simply existed on her own, I think she’d be pretty forgettable, so I wasn’t too impressed by her. In comparison to the main antagonists from prior seasons—Finé, Carol, and Adam—I thought she was middle of the pack, but the series has always been more about the Symphogears than any of the villains, so I don’t really mind it.
And then there are the returning characters. I think this season was pretty good to Tsubasa, which is more than what I can say for the series’ best girl, Chris. I definitely wanted to see Chris play a bigger role than what she did, and Maria was somewhere in between, playing a more important role than Chris but still lagging behind Tsubasa (which is understandable). Elfnein is still super cute, and it was great to see her play an important role again, technically.
Five seasons in, there have been a lot of good characters in this series, and Satelight finally found that the best way to appease them was to bring (almost) all of them back for more. I loved seeing some of those characters again, and because the new additions this season weren’t bad, and because Hibiki and Miku almost became canon, I think this season was a big success for this cast of characters~
I already alluded to how nice the visuals are, but for a quick sample of what I’m talking about, take a look at Hibiki’s transformation scene.
Yeah, that’s real nice. And the action is every bit as over-the-top as it is in prior seasons (if not more so), so in other words, there isn’t much to complain about from a visual standpoint. If you’re familiar with the series at all, you know what to expect here, so no need for me to go on like a broken record. 😛
I think I’ve liked the novelty of how the girls fight and sing at the same time more than the actual songs themselves, as I don’t find myself seeking out the songs afterwards like I would do for some other shows. Still, you rarely fail to notice the music in this series, and although the music isn’t great, it’s solid nevertheless. In addition, that Nana Mizuki OP is probably my favorite OP this series has had thus far~
Overall, it’s hard to argue that Symphogear XV isn’t the best season of Symphogear yet. It has the action, it has the crazy plot twists that seem like they were lifted from a die hard fan’s series wish list, and it has a satisfying finale between Hibiki and Miku, but at the end of the say, it’s still just Symphogear to me. I don’t think the show is great or deserving of a super high score, but I can’t deny that it’s pretty entertaining, and action fans and fans of the series will probably eat this up.
Sooo, not sure if this is true or not but apparently this was meant to be the last season of Symphogear:
Sorry to burst your bubble on that future story idea – as much as I’d like to see that 😀
Though I do hear a rumor that there will be an OVA, so maybe there is hope for Hibike and Miku’s future prospects.
I thought this one was one of the great Symphogear seasons, though heavy on action, we do get closure on the Babel curse that has been threading it’s way through all the stories so far. This is one that is so dense that it really merits a second watch to digest all that is going on in this thing. I also liked them dropping in some Mesopotamian legends with Enkidu and Marduk (am a Gilgamesh fan from a long time ago!).
As you mention the twists were just massive, and I thought well paced. Every time you had a chance to catch your breath, BANG, here’s another one! 😀
And seeing cowboy Carol and her autoscorers once again was a real nice touch too.
As for Noble Red…well…I had a bit of trouble feeling sympathy for them, they were pretty dang ruthless and brutal, and even though they turned it around at the end and helped out, I guess they deserve some redemption for being used for so long and finally being accepted.
Just to throw this in about the ending, I stumbled on this song mentioned on DS:
Also this scene to match:
It was the last season?! WhOOOooOOoOooo! Uh, I mean… that’s unfortunate. 😀
But I wouldn’t mind an OVA. It would be easier to watch than an entire season, which’ll make the review much easier as well. Oh yeah, and maybe something more will happen between Hibiki and Miku. 😛
I’m not the biggest fan of the series, but even I can’t deny that this season was pretty entertaining and much better to me than previous seasons. Story-wise, I probably zoned out a little bit in past seasons, but this one held my attention the entire time, and it seemed a lot more interesting to me, even though I’m a total Gilgamesh noob… 😀
And that song was kinda nice. Hibiki’s no Chris, but I can see that song as an OP or ED song for some other anime~
Awww, and I was so looking forward to you reviewing 10+ more seasons too! 😛
I see they just announced some odd sounding specials for the disk release, so will just have to hold out for the possibility of that OVA.
Judging by the number of comments, you’re the only one… 😀
And I almost always skip specials, so sounds like I might be waiting a while for more Symphogear.
Can’t help but notice that this season seemed to have quite a bit of fan service compared to seasons past.
There was the bath scene with Hibiki and Miku (5 – 11:30).
There was a boob grab by Hibiki on Chris while doing a princess carry (12 – 11:33).
A bit of bondage by Carol (12 – 4:15).
The transformation sequences were risque as expected, but I think Chris (boob load) and Kiri’s (pole dance) took the cake.
There was even plenty of boob missiles, which as a concept we previously touched on:
And last but not least is the fighting style Elsa uses. I mean having to insert that, well, plug thingy into her backside area…must leave her sore post battle and walking a bit funny for a day or so.
No wonder she sits on her suitcase and rides it around so much. 😛
Compared to other magical girl anime, I’ve always viewed Symphogear as being more risque than other series, but you bring up some good points about this season maybe taking things a step further. I haven’t heard anyone complain about it, so maybe we’re all just desensitized to it now. 😛
And you foresaw the future with the boob missiles! I might start calling you Nostrashady. 😀
(I tried commenting yesterday, but it didn’t show up, and I don’t know if it was awaiting approval or got eaten because I wasn’t logged into an account.)
My opinion might be slightly unpopular around here, or it might have something to do with which version of subs I watched (I watched Symphogear on Crunchyroll), but I still feel a bit of a need to defend what might actually be my new favorite show (and couple) in spite of all of its problems. Like yeah it could use a little less fanservice and I’d kill a man for another 30 to 60 seconds or so on that final scene, but I still felt that Hibiki and Miku’s relationship arc was easily as Text, if not moreso, in Symphogear XV than the relationships in a lot of beloved yuri works like Flip Flappers or Utena (the anime, I mean; movie notwithstanding). I got some ending-of-Korra vibes in that the directorial intent seemed very clear that these two are a couple and should absolutely be taken that way, but like there were pointy-haired bosses sticking their fingers in like “oh god just don’t let them kiss OK.”
It *does* occur to me that one of our causes for disagreement on just how gay each of the shows I mentioned above actually is probably has something to do with, to use Flip Flappers as an example, it being a much shorter work and much more aggressively focused on the relationship between the two protagonists, whereas Hibiki and Miku’s love arc didn’t really kick into high gear until the fifth season (with a few heavy beats in earlier seasons like Miku’s song in G or the scene in AXZ where Miku laments her inability to tell Bikky her real feelings) and even then there was a lot of other stuff going on, like all the fight scenes and other character arcs, and Miku was still part of Hibiki’s supporting cast rather than part of the main crew per se.
Even so, I dearly loved that it was a *heroic* love arc rather than a *slice-of-life* one, because heroic yuri is my absolute jam and it is *so* very rare. I acknowledge that Symphogear had a lot of problems but I still treasured this particular love story between a big-hearted hero who often feels like she’s worthless and maybe even unworthy of having survived the Waffle Incident where she gained her powers and the girl who’s always been by her side and sees her and loves her for the hero and the wonderful human being that she is, and the hero’s willingness to punch a god in the face both for the sake of the girl she loves and for her own desire for them to be together.
But yeah I still have that whole awkward internal conflict where on the one hand I’m pretty satisfied that they are canon and the creative team seriously wanted it to require mental gymnastics to believe they aren’t even if marketing was skittish about eliminating the last vestiges of deniability, while also feeling like after shows like Korra *walked* shows today should be *running* instead and yeah would kill a man for a proper confession/kiss and throwing all implausible deniability to the wind.
Just checked, and it seems the comment was wrongly flagged as spam. There’s been a ton of spam lately. Sorry you had to type it all out again…
It is hard to directly compare the yuri level in this to that of other shows, for all the reasons you mentioned, and I’m sure it does affect how I viewed their relationship. I think it’s only natural to consider all of the other moving parts, and different people are going to value those things differently.
Heroic yuri is nice, and it’s probably not just my inner action fan speaking. The idea sounds so great, but then (like it somewhat did for me here) it sometimes winds up getting drowned out by all of the action and everything else. More reason why the creators should try to go that extra mile and not wait until the very end to confirm what everyone’s been thinking. 😛
Not sure whether it’s ignorance or optimism, but I like to look at it as glass half full and just keep fighting the good fight~
LikeLiked by 1 person
I do feel it’s worth considering that Bikky and Miku’s love arc was baked into the primary plotline of the season (and Bikky’s primary motivation, even above saving the world, if what Carol dragged out of her is anything to go by), and I do feel like Miku wasn’t exactly irrelevant through the whole thing: she didn’t have that many interactions with Shem-ha but what she did have was Telling in the yuri department, and I liked the usage of flashbacks to get her screentime and keep developing her relationship with Bikky even when she couldn’t be present in, well, the present.
As far as waiting until the ending to confirm it… fair. I still like that their relationship ended up building to a romantic head with a heroic arc befitting and buoyed by four seasons of prior relationship buildup, tho (check that highlights reel in the ep 8 credits), as opposed to them just actually having been an item all this time. Applying mythological-scale outside pressure to tear them apart, raise the stakes, and make them confront their feelings for each other was my jam.
Also seriously, half the season wouldn’t have happened if Miku wasn’t in love with Hibiki but afraid to say it like *oh my Shem-ha* that was just *precious.*
Anywho, you probably do still disagree, but I feel like a yuri score of 5 was selling this season a little short. While there was a lot going on, their love, and the fact that they aren’t Just Best Friends, was at the heart of the season’s main plot (puns always intended), and to use Flip Flappers as a measuring stick again, it was put even more bluntly than certain shows that scored much higher. I feel like this kind of situation might be what a 7 is for, if you want to ding it for having more going on than just Hibiki and Miku’s relationship arc. A lower score makes sense for the earlier seasons, but it feels strange that the season where the MC and her love interest finally got their love arc didn’t at least score higher than past seasons did.
Anyway just my $0.02
Since it’s been a while since this aired, I think I’ve forgotten most of what happened with the story by now, so I’m just going to nod and agree with you… 😀