I wish I could have friends who love me more than they love schoolwork and boys put together. I wish I could find an enchanted hairband that signifies I’ve been chosen as the new Avatar of Aphrodite. And I really wish I could explosively jumpkick Ultra Jinma, Arch-Queen of Jealousy in a way that exposes both my True Heart and my panties. I don’t know, you guys. I guess I just wish I was in a Magical Girl Anime. But how do you start? By studying, of course. It’s time for…
Still haven’t changed that title, huh? Welp. Gotta be arrested for something, I suppose.
Let’s dive into today’s lesson, brought to you by Symphogear!
Symphogear starts off with some worryingly pretentious text that makes you think you might accidentally be watching a “good anime,” about like historical tragedies or divorce or something else boring.
Yes yes, I know: All of the islands are in the shape of her tears — the woman who cried so much she became the moon. They say all humans are born with a hole in their heart that can only be filled when they trod on the shadow of their soulmate. The mountains breathed her name 16 times and on the 17th all cats died.
Pretty much all modern anime has to start with weird poetry or they lose their Educational Tax Credit and won’t have the cash to faithfully render the cocks at the tips of Yggdrasil: The Monster Life Tree’s branches.
But don’t worry. This is definitely a Magical Girl Anime, which you know because the opening credits feature an overly dramatic naked girl-orb spinning in a void:
That is mandatory. If the credits don’t feature a tortured girl-orb rotating in the space between spaces, just turn it off and maybe watch Revolutionary Girl Utena again. There are two gorbs in that credit sequence, so you know it’s good:
So far this is all par for the course, but Symphogear does do something interesting…
The most high stakes concert I’ve ever been to was a punk show where the bassist fired seltzer bottles from his ass, so I thought dodging bubbly butt-water in a mosh pit was Live Show Master Difficulty. But the world itself rests on this one! Now, I know there is one forbidden concert that will end humanity (Smash Mouth opening for Jimmy Buffet), but I’m on board to find out how a concert saves the human race.
Ah, I see, it’s your standard “feed the Sacred Ammonite on hyper-dense girl band energy” plot device. That’s a pretty viable anime trope, actually. You see it a lot. Apparently the greatest source of pure green energy in Japan is how much a stadium full of 13 year old girls wishes they were someone else.
I considered embedding this performance as a video so you could hear the music, but I don’t know how much of our audience suffers from arrhythmia and I don’t want to be a murderer. It is the sugariest JPOP backed by the most frantic beeps this side of a robot hostage negotiation. This is how a DJ tries to warn the crowd there’s a murderer in the club without tipping him off. These songs sound like every noise from F-ZERO happening at once. If you tried to dance to this you’d shatter your legs and then inhale them, dying from Pulmonary Legosis. If these girls are trying to fuel the Sacred Ammonite with the life energy from this concert, maybe they should dial the tempo back from Cocaine Ferret to Annoying YouTube Host, or else-
The liability on this is insane — you ladies are Rhythmically Negligent and you are going to get sued into the dirt unless you find a scapegoat, quick.
Oh shit, our villains are just called The Noise? I-is this the Pop vs. Noise Band battle royale I’ve always secretly hoped for? I could not love that concept more, Symphogear, but I’m torn on who to root for. I do like me some Noise Bands, unless…
They are literally vomitous maggots who spew out jellyfish-sperm and knock-off Tallboy Minions.
I am as surprised as any to learn which side I’m actually on in the inevitable armageddon brewing between Girl Groups and Pedal Jockeys. But I’ve seen the Pop side’s Magical Girl Transformation Sequence, and they used the power of music to change from perky Idorus into a robot burlesque show…
While the Noise Band Guitarist Magical Transformation Sequence harnessed the power of Montucky Cold Snack to transition from “talented guy onstage” to “bitter misogynist ranting in the smoking area.”
Here’s where Symphogear’s glorious hook comes in. It’s not just about a Girl-Pop duo who secretly fight slugs in cyborg bikinis — that’s practically a cliche in Japan. The hook is that they have to continue singing the entire time they fight:
And the songs don’t even change! Their magical mechano-armor is powered by harried techno bubblegum pop, and holy shit are those robo-corsets powered. These girls warble mildly introspective diary entries and they get so hype about it they fucking chop their enemies in half the long way.
And god have mercy on your glowy lil’ tadpole-soul if a move gets its own splash screen:
These are anime rules: If a preteen Japanese girl shouts a random english word followed by a type of kick, you might survive — you’ll never walk again, and the only thing you’ll ever taste for the rest of your miserable life is the sole of a size 5 Mary Jane, but maybe you’ll keep sucking breath. If everything pauses so ROMANTIKU FOREBAA DUROPO KICKU can get its own graphic? Swallow your tongue so you don’t have to live through the seven-minute sequence of your body being blasted into space while every single part of it explodes individually.
And with Symphogear’s battle karaoke twist, it’s even more degrading. Imagine you’re a huge space maggot-horse. Life is great. You just puked up your astro-sperm, JPOP tweens are dying at your feet, this is a fine Saturday. Then some wispy young girl in Robocop’s underwear runs up and absolutely demolishes you while singing sugar-ballads about how her boyfriend better not miss the next train.
All of the other space maggot-horses will make fun of you in space maggot-horse hell, which is honestly just like regular space-horse hell, but none of the corpses rot.
Despite absolutely working over these poor Noise Band aliens with her romance-themed typhoon uppercuts, our hero is overwhelmed and has to sing…
Oh shit, she’s going to sing Ginuwine’s “Pony,” everybody step back!
Aw, no, it’s the other kind of climax. I guess every pop idol knows one secret self-destruct song, aside from “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Hey so if that’s not our main character, who is?
She was standing too close to the battle.
So both of our heroes have died, but as we have learned in anime, comic books, and every single season of Supernatural, death is really just a temporary inconvenience so Dean can film a subpar slasher over the spring.
Anyway, let’s flashback ten minutes and meet our protagonist:
This was her first concert and she is spoiled forever now. Any musical performance that does not explode halfway through, get invaded by acidic alien sperm, and end with her actual death is just going to disappoint. She can basically only go to this, and GWAR shows.
But of course she doesn’t die, and actually inherits the previous hero’s Karaoke Battlemech Swimsuit. Let’s check out her sweet Magical Girl Transformation Sequence!
Hey, you try Magical Girl Transforming on your first day. My first Magical Girl Transformation Sequence, I spun my pants off, tripped on the dog, and wound up crashing through a window while screaming about love. Did you know there’s such a thing as double house arrest? There isn’t. They just extend the first one.
Anyway, after our hero shoots for ‘playful dazzling lightshow’ and winds up with ‘painful Cronenberg organ thrusting,’ she turns into a meek little foxgirl mech, and her very first song is about how much she likes holding hands.
So I guess this was like the first level, where you get to preview all the powers but lose them to some bullshit before you actually start the real game. I’m not fooled though, I recognize problematic powercreep when I see it. It’s cool as hell to start your show off with Pop Idols power-tornado’ing space worms into oblivion, but you have to escalate from there, and things are going to get out of hand, quick. Mark my words: By the third season there are going to be ten of those girls, and one is going to be fucking a sentient asteroid, and another is going to jumpkick god.
And it’s so important that you know I wrote that joke before I went and looked up the last episode.