#1 Musical Action
The best way I can describe Symphogear is by saying that it’s a sci-fi magical girl anime crossed with an idol show. It stars a cast of young girls who are fighting to protect mankind from the all-consuming “Noise” and the scheming villains who command them. They do this by using the Symphogears; high-tech suits of sci-fi armor that are powered by their music.
Symphogear already has some amazing action scenes, thanks to the fantastic choreography and the stellar animation with which it is realized. Battles in this anime go all-out on the spectacle; barrages of rockets, laser beams, weapons twice the size of the girls swinging them around. Every fight is full of cool moments, but what makes them EVEN BETTER is that the fighters are singing all throughout these battles.
And these are certainly not some throwaway songs. The cast includes the likes of Aoi Yuuki and Nana Mizuki, who set the bar incredibly high for the series’ music. Hearing these talented singers put on performances while the characters they represent are kicking ass on screen was a gimmick that I never got tired off.
For those interested in the music, the soundtrack is on Spotify.
#2 Mechanical Mahou Shoujo
Symphogear may be a sci-fi anime, but it’s very much steeped in the traditions of the magical girl genre. Ordinary girls who transform into costumed heroes to fight monsters and flashy villains, having to keep their hero identities hidden as they go to school and live a normal life; the only element that’s missing is an animal companion.
What makes this interesting is that this magical girl genre is given a very mechanical twist. Rather than cute, frilly dresses, the cast of Symphogear is clad in colorful, skin-tight suits with pieces of armor decorated all over it. They don’t use magical staffs or other cutesy tools, but giant, neon-colored weapons that look rad as fuck. I mean, who needs magic to save the day when you can just bring some guns or a sword the size of a skyscraper?
The transformation sequences are especially nice, as the elaborate costumes are engineered together with metal parts snapping together and wrenching themselves into place. This also carries on during the actual fights, where you frequently see the Symphogear suits open up to unfold new weapons or load into place as their users perform devastating attacks with them. The physics are highly questionable, but it sure looks cool.
#3 Strong synergy between cast members
The girls who wield the Symphogears are initially pretty straightforward in terms of characterization. Tsubasa is a headstrong lone wolf who takes a long time to warm up to her comrades, Hibiki is an optimistic goofball who always tries to turn her enemies into friends, and later additions are similarly quite basic in terms of tropes. The characters are easy to understand at face value, but then really begin to shine once their development kicks in.
With 5 seasons to it as of right now, Symphogear has had a lot of room to expand on these characters. Their personalities are gradually developed as they spend time together, battle foes, and grow as people. The relationships the girls form between each other are cute and lead to a lot fun developments, like Chris trying to get a grip on her reckless behavior so she can be a more responsible senpai to the younger members of the team.
Around the midway point of season 2 is when I feel the series really hits it stride and the characters become especially well-rounded. That’s not to say that the cast in season 1 is bad, by the way. The girls are still plenty endearing, but their arcs and personality throughout the first season are kept comparatively simplistic, whereas later seasons dared to get more adventurous with them.
On a side-note: Hibiki is best girl and I will argue against anyone who says otherwise.
#4 Lewd fanservice
#5 Absurd violence
Symphogear is, generally, a very cheesy show. Girls in elaborate sci-fi costumes battling monsters (and each other) with giant weapons and super attacks that have names like “Infinite Crime” or “MEGA DETH FUGA”. It’s hilariously stupid, which makes the decision to play the series’ tragedies straight kind of a shock.
The Noise are a genuinely frightening enemy, whose very touch painfully disintegrates people. It’s subtly horrifying how efficiently and suddenly these monsters kill, and how unaffected they are by it. The series even starts with a concert that Hibiki is attending being attack by Noise, leading to numerous children and teenagers being brutally killed on screen. It’s violent and arguably gratuitous, but it gives the show an unexpectedly grim tone that fits it surprisingly well. Especially when later storylines begin to unfold, during which countless human lives are put at risk.
Generating shock value was certainly one of the motivating factors for taking this direction, yet I don’t feel that Symphogear is shallow because of that. The violence has actual consequences to it and the series touches on how it affects people, including the main girls who are confronted with it time and time again. This is explored well in Hibiki’s later character arcs, where she opens up about her psychological struggles.