You folks ready for some Symphogear? When last we checked in, Hibiki and Kirika had concluded this season’s “let’s do some off-brand Symphogear pairings” conceit with fabulous fury, as Kirika unleashed a Climax Song in order to protect St. Germain from her betrayal-happy superior. We always knew Adam and Tiki were huge assholes, but at this point their dickery has exceeded even my most jaded predictions, and I am beyond ready to see our team initiate some countermeasures.
In terms of narrative structure, it also feels like we’ve at this point basically resolved all of this season’s individual character conflicts. The season’s first half was essentially dedicated to Maria and Chris’s struggles with accepting their former lives; Maria resolved that through her trial with Elfnein, and then paid that assistance forward by assisting Chris with her conflict with Sonia. Then Shirabe and Kirika each received a boost from Tsubasa and Hibiki, leading us to a point where the cast can hopefully communicate more confidently and honestly among themselves. Hibiki herself has actually taken a bit of a backseat in terms of emotional development, but given she carried the bulk of season three’s drama, it makes sense to put her on the backburner for the show’s penultimate season. But anyway, that basically catches us up to now – let’s dive on in then, and explore a new episode of Symphogear!
“Ultimate Apotheosis.” Oh shit guys, most episodes of this show just end in a regular apotheosis. Get ready!
God, that shot from behind Hibiki and Germain as Kirika performs her Climax Song is so good. Incredibly dynamic posing, great use of shadows, excellent effects animation. I’m not really a fan of many superhero comics, but shots like this make their appeal viscerally clear
Germain sets her powerful eyebrows against Adam for the first time. But alas, he too has powerful eyebrows. Who shall prevail?
I love that Germain and Hibiki bonded over “even if that’s true.” Hibiki has many qualities, but one you can always count on is her absolute, indomitable stubbornness
“So that thing has the power of a god?” “I know! The god-killer!” I love this show
Adam flings his hat at Germain, which immediately gains a fiery blade edge as it flies. Fuckin’ alchemists and their bullshit powers
“Don’t try to team up just because you’re weak!” That actually seems like an excellent reason to team up, frankly
Germain keeps bonus fuel rods in her pauldrons, as you do
That bastard Adam keeps moonwalking even as he dodges their attacks
Oh wow, I love this cut of Hibiki literally pulling back her piledriver engine with her other arm. There’s a sense of ugly, almost clumsy brutality to Hibiki’s movements in this series – it’s become less prominent as she’s shifted away from the sort of “berserker” persona of the first season (in line with the show’s general rejection of that season’s darker elements), but it’s one of the things that really differentiates her fighting style, so I’m always happy to see it show up
Chris, of course, takes issue with Hibiki’s largely friendship-based combat style
“People won’t like you if you’re too smart.” God, Adam is such an endlessly slimy character. I’m rarely a fan of that style of characterization – it’s not hard to make an unsympathetic villain, and “we need to prove how bad the bad guy is” generally feels like weak justification for reveling in misery. In this case, it at least fits neatly into his overall perspective that he’d also be a raging misogynist – but he’s still less of a villain I “love to hate,” and more of a villain that is just unpleasant to spend time with
Hibiki is kinda having to handle this duet by herself, considering Germain’s powers aren’t singing-based
Oh shit, Adam himself is some kind of robot or alchemical doll? What a twisted web we weave
Excellent cuts of Tiki brimming with godly power. The effects animation this season has really leveled up
Welp, now Tiki’s crystallized between the giant breasts of a monstrous floating naga creature. You fall for bad boys and this is what happens, Tiki
I like the understated beam sound effects for this creature’s laser attacks. Frequently, when you reach a certain scale of threat, it can be more intimidating to actually reduce the intensity of that threat’s aesthetic signifiers – that is to say, make its sound effects, or the visual style of its attack, discordantly minimalist relative to the impact of those attacks. By doing so, you can naturally imply that attacks like these are no big deal to this creature, without the enemy having to clumsily boast about their power. It can also impart a sense of otherworldliness or “wrongness” to the enemy, because the visual input of intent feels out of sync with the output of destruction inflicted
The combination of monster design and sound effects actually strongly reminds me of RahXephon, which is a good source to crib from if you’re looking for distinctive robots
Adam says he was created as “their” representative, prompting an obvious question, and also likely our final season hook
Love these cyan and magenta skies. An appropriately colorful vision of the end of the world
I always appreciate an energy beam so intense it parts the clouds
Adam smugly looking down as the satellite burns in the atmosphere behind him is a terrific image
Genjuro’s dad pops in, angrily forecasting that the world governments will now step in, and bring their armies to Japan under the auspices of UN peacekeeping. He’s not wrong, but his prioritization of Japanese independence and military might over the actual fate of its people is a clear jab at the fundamental toxicity of Japan’s militant nationalism
“Only I, a true protector, can defend this nation.” Even his outfit is clearly modeled on that of a samurai, underlining how archaic his attitudes are, and the ancient personal image of Japan he’s working off of. After seeing shows like Mahouka and GATE blithely embrace the ugliness of Japanese nationalism, it’s nice to see this extremely goofy show take an opposing stand, and embrace Japan as a global, multicultural community
“That idiot! She’s in love with the ground!” Oh my god Chris, will the burns ever stop
Tiki’s voice gaining a fracture from this creature’s damage only emphasizes how manipulative her relationship with Adam is. Tiki doesn’t really have any positive qualities, but she also doesn’t deserve to be led around by Adam any more than the other alchemists did
“Accept control, if you truly seek perfection!” If there’s a line to be drawn between Adam and Genjuro’s father, it is their fundamental distrust of allies, and certainty that only a pure embodiment of their ideal can achieve salvation. They are fundamentally selfish and untrusting in their worldview, standing against the Symphogears, who have always succeeded by trusting and relying on each other
And right on cue, headquarters receive a massive transmission of data from an “unknown source,” which is presumably one of their global allies. Humanity is stronger than Adam believes, and stronger for its reliance on others, unlike Dadjuro believes
Apparently Gungnir itself is the god-killer. GET ‘EM, HIBIKI. KILL GOD
Nice smeary cuts for Germain and Adam’s hand-to-hand combat
I suppose this retroactively makes sense of Hibiki punching that serpent so hard it was destroyed in all possible realities. Hibiki isn’t just that tough, she’s actually wielding the god-destroying Symphogear
Genjuro asks why this country is revealing their information, and they respond that “they heard a song.” It was Shirabe and Kirika’s efforts that saved the plane this information was carried on, and its pilots – their selflessness inspired future selflessness, in pursuit of a mutually supportive global community
Really wasn’t expecting Symphogear to evolve into an argument in favor of transnational unity and multiculturalism, but I certainly don’t mind! It’s easy for action stories to somewhat unintentionally promote a “might makes right”-adjacent worldview, but Symphogear is all about characters lifting each other up, and is now extending its personal ethics into a larger political framework. It’s not an abrasive shift, though; our politics are really just our ethics expressed on a larger scale, and it’s difficult to write a narrative that doesn’t embody or articulate some sort of ethical perspective. “We need to catch the killer” is only a coherent narrative in an ethical framework where killing is bad, for example
The explanation of these pilots also ties neatly into this season’s character stories; this season has been all about finding common ground and a communal song shared by unexpected couples
Aw, Adam even kicks Tiki aside once he’s done with her. She was a lousy character, but also a tragic one
Well shit, now the godly energy’s all transferring into Hibiki
I mean, what’s the point of even describing episodes like this as action-packed? That’s obviously true; in fact, this entire episode took place over one single scene, with Hibiki and Germain fighting Adam, Tiki, and their monstrous creation for twenty straight minutes. This show’s action spectacle is so consistent and so high-quality that it’s easy to take for granted; but even if you take that strength for granted, this episode still served as a remarkably satisfying thematic junction point for the season so far, drawing a clear line between the attitudes of Adam and Dadjuro, and setting them against the wielders’ own philosophy on both the personal and global level. This show has been charming and entertaining from episode one, but I’ve never seen it quite this angry, and I’m delighted by the results. Let’s ride on through the end of Symphogear AXZ!