Ever since beginning its mercifully short 13 episode run, Symphogear has become something of a running joke among those still watching in the aniblogosphere. There’s very little irony in what’s being done; it’s simply one bad design choice after another with no respite, and it becomes infinitely more entertaining than it’d be if the people helming it actually had any idea how awful a show they were making. I know of maybe one blogger that actually likes it, and even they admit that it’s a guilty pleasure.
In what I consider the objective sense, there’s very little to redeem this show. Its pacing is schizophrenic, the plot is a million times more convoluted than it needs to be, and none of the characters are likable. All of this is compounded by an overproduced soundtrack and mediocre animation, which do nothing to dissuade criticism. If it weren’t so god awful that it actually becomes funny, I would have dropped this piece of shit a long time ago. However, there’s the occasional moment of unintentional (or what I hope was intentional) brilliance, one that instantly stretches a smile over my face each episode. Here are the top four such moments thus far. Why four? Because I couldn’t even think of five that could constitute their own entries.
1. When the Villain Engrishes It Up
After last season’s Ika Musume came to a close, anime’s been surprisingly bereft of hilarious Engrish. The only anime that comes close to creating something absolutely cringe-worthy with English dialogue is Symphogear, and boy does it deliver. To put it bluntly, the villain sounds like she got drunk to work off a nasty speech impediment. Her words are slurred and often run together, sometimes not even sounding like it was supposed to be in English, or any kind of language spoken by a sane human being. It also helps the comedy factor that she usually talks in English over the phone, while being buck naked. I don’t know why, but that fact just makes the entire thing a million times more humorous.
2. Every Moment that Hibiki is in Danger
The opening shot of Symphogear, where a friend of our lead loudly mourns on her grave after a funeral, really set the tone for the rest of the series in a way that was probably not meant to be. Not only do we know that Hibiki dies at some point before the series ends, likely in episode thirteen during the climax, but it keeps trying to make it seem like she might die before then. She’s basically a dead woman walking/fighting/singing her own theme music. Speaking of which…
3. When the Characters Sing Their Own Theme Music
This is just silly. It’s not particularly offensive since the songs are actually alright to listen to, but you have to wonder how practical a fighting style is when it requires you to sing your own theme music. It happens each episode and does nothing to make me take this series more seriously.
4. Each Time the Plot Tries to Sort the Politics
The story of Symphogear is as straightforward and easy to follow as a corn maze, with enough vestigial features to choke something that can eat a ton of corn metaphors. A corn-eating cow. Basically, there is the Noise which is, while apparently like the Mushi from Mushishi but stupid looking, summoned by one character who wants to wipe out the city and find an artifact for… some reason, and this somebody is controlled by a mysterious blonde woman who likes to talk in mangled English. Hibiki finds the artifact though and apparently takes it into her being because, as mentioned earlier, she has super Mary Sue powers. Also, the blue-haired girl reminds us each episode that she misses her old partner, regardless of how shoehorned in the statement has to be.
Meanwhile, a power struggle is at play between the American and Japanese governments, secret agents are involved, political leaders are murdered, and there’s generally more going on than the series can keep up with. Each time it tries to sort out this mess, it ends up making the situation worse, furthering my hypothesis that the writers have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. Hell, I couldn’t save the scenario at this point by doing anything short of killing everybody off and starting over from scratch.
It tries so hard to be deep and profound, yet fails on every conceivable level. Meanwhile, even the fighting is incredibly token, even though that’s what each power struggle is reduced to. There’s simply no development, something that’s legendarily lazy.
Once again, Symphogear is a series that manages to blur the line of incompetence, occasionally crossing over into parody territory. It’s campy beyond belief, but what makes it funny is the fact that it doesn’t seem to know. Just like Guilty Crown, I can’t help but get the feeling that it’s being played entirely straight, and that somehow makes it a million times better than it’d be if it were actually competent. There are several other things that I wanted to squeeze into this post, like the outlandish costume designs or the way that the guy always dressed in red has his pink tie in his pocket, or even the way each move is titled before never being done again, but there just wasn’t room for all of that. Symphogear proves that sometimes you don’t need to be good or Guilty Crown to be entertaining. Sometimes you just need to take yourself way too seriously and have your characters sing their own battle themes.