Symphogear GX

Symphogear GX

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Hibiki Tachibana is one of a group of girls able to use Symphogear: a special type of armour that empowers the user as they sing. Alchemist Carol and her group of homunculi are wielding their unknown powers and endangering the world. Their powers have the ability to destroy the Symphogear, and the team find themselves out-matched. In this extremely bleak situation, the battle for the song that will end the world begins.

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When I first began watching Symphogear GX, I was a bit overwhelmed with the amount of unexplained things that were going on. Who were these girls? What were they fighting? What on earth is going on? Then I realised that what I was watching was the third season of this anime and, whilst it has been incredibly popular in Japan, it has only just made it to Western screens. With no sign of the first two seasons, it was up to me to fill in the gaps where I could with my extensive knowledge of magical girl canon and tropes.

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Essentially, Symphogear is battle armour created from ancient relics, forming when the user harmonises with the relic through song. They battle against the Noise – a dangerous alien race that threatens humanity. Ever since getting caught in Noise crossfire two series ago, Hibiki Tachibana has been protecting the world and saving lives through Symphogear alongside the rest of the team.Now, alchemist Carol Malus Dienheim and her homunculi henchmen are out to destroy everything the Symphogear users have sworn to protect. Carol has the ability to summon a brand new form of augmented Noise known as Alca-Noise, able to to completely destroy Symphogear armour at the slightest touch.

What I like about Symphogear GX is the amount of lore it contains with regard to relics, terminology and alchemic crafts, with the added bonus of most of it being able to be deduced through the show without any prior knowledge (which is good for us Westerners coming in at the third series). Although there are some tensions between Symphogear members which go unexplained because the show assumes we have watched the earlier episodes, on the whole the narrative does a good job of not alienating us newcomers by casually tossing us into the deep end and ploughing ahead regardless of confusion.

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Sometimes, magical girl anime tends to take a step back when it comes to fight scenes, but in Symphogear GX they come thick and fast like the proverbial shounen fight-fest. In the first episode we see Hibiki throwing an aircraft caber-style to stop it from crashing into a building. If that is the precedent it sets right off the bat, I’m intrigued as to what’s going to go down in the final episodes! The Alca-Noise, as enemies, are a bit faceless and samey, but without them we wouldn’t have enough excuse to watch these armoured terrors plough through their number at terrifying speeds.

The action sometimes borders on insane – but that’s what I like! When things are a bit out-there and over-the-top, they’re at their most entertaining and amusing. It’s one of the many things I enjoy about anime on the whole as it’s not afraid to put new spins on things and explore some ridiculous situations. For example, the opening sequence of Symphogear GX is a rescue mission rather than a fight, and it still manages to get around to feature the K2 mountain being punched in half. The attacks the Symphogear girls use are the kind that, if I had super powers (one day…), I would be naming my special attacks. You don’t want to mess with “Megadeth Party” and “Kill Juliet” and “One Thousand Tears” are pretty clear on their results. Each team member is a different colour and favours a different weapon, as usual and watching them in action, complete with the up-tempo songs they sing, make the battle scenes truly unique.

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The only area that Symphogear GX struggles with is the subbing of the lyrics to its musical content. Translating songs in anime without losing too much meaning and content is tricky to begin with and damned challenging when licensing gets involved. To be fair, the translations haven’t been too bad in this one, considering its a fast-paced anime that relies heavily on music, however, there are a few noticeable glitches once you start watching. Some songs are completely subtitled, but then you will hear other songs later that have no translation whatsoever – often in the same episode. Knowing the lyrics of the songs isn’t mandatory to enjoy the anime, but it does give the sensation that you’re missing out on the full experience. The characters are actually singing as they fight, it’s not just an opening or ending credits song, and the lyrics often reflect their situation, personalities and fighting style – something which would help Western viewers get up to speed with characters better since they’ve not watched the first two seasons. Whilst I appreciate the hard work that has gone into all the translations, it sometimes feels like an important element that has been neglected due to time-constraints.

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Jumping in at the third series is never going to be an ideal starting point, but if you can get your head around the basics of the Symphogear universe in the first couple of episodes you will discover why this series is so popular in Japan. There’s plenty of great characters, action, animation and, better yet, music. Don’t be put off by going into Symphogear GX at such a late stage – you will be missing out.