Symphogear XV – Episode 10

Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today the sun is shining, the birds are trilling, and we’re watching some goddamn Symphogear. When last we left off, Hibiki had just emerged from her doctor-prescribed Pit of Despair, the place she generally visits before rallying for a given season’s final battle. Having once again lost Miku to the allure of jet-propelled pants, she was forced to commiserate with her father, who for once actually had some reasonable advice for her.

Meanwhile, our sword lesbians were busy hashing out some disagreements in the only way sword lesbians can. Kazanari’s violently nationalist philosophy was frankly too distant from Tsubasa’s values to ever present a genuine allure, but where authentic philosophical conflict fails, brainwashing can serve in a pinch. I’m not particularly bothered by that admittedly clumsy turn; having Tsubasa be caught between familial legacy and personal feelings was a natural direction to take this story, and ending it with Kazanari literally killing his son in order to impart his values to his granddaughter felt like a perfect capstone for his role in the narrative. It’s the ultimate counterpoint to his claims of working to protect the family: in the end, nationalists will sacrifice anything for the sake of their own glorious self-image.

With XV’s political thread having pretty much resolved itself, it’s time to get personal, as Hibiki fights to save her wife from some new god-summoning ritual or whatever. However things turn, I’m sure the battles will be absolutely spectacular for Symphogear’s grandest of finales. Let’s get to it!

Episode 10

“Not a Crude Color of Rust.” Ooh, I like it. Naturally evocative, and close enough to conveying an idea that you initially think it means something, before being annoyed by its nonsensical nature on a second pass. Four point five Bikis out of five

Man, the character linework and shading in this show has gotten so intense over time. There’s such a clear sense of depth, of uneven contours and sunken features, in this profile shot of Kazanari. We’ve come a long way from the single-tone flat shading of the first season

“Now you pay the price for trying to chain a god and force it to obey.” Goddamnit Kazanari, don’t you be throwing accusations, this is all your fault

“It is impossible to share everything with the incomplete language of tools.” Aw shit, we’re bringing it all back to the Tower of Babel! See, if they’d just let Fine have her way, they wouldn’t be having these communication issues right now

I really do appreciate this show’s game attempts to contort its wild mythological references into some kind of self-contained system. Like much else in these last two seasons, they’re working hard to wrap a bow on a show that was basically free associating new conflicts for its first three seasons, and “the architects speak in the language that Fine was attempting to unlock” serves as a fine enough gesture in that direction

Yep, Curse of Balal, blow up the moon, etc etc

Damn, we’ve got so much to do that there’s not even time for a Maria transformation sequence

“Your paradoxical desire not to hurt this body dulls your blade.” That’s why we need Hibiki and her Punch of Love

“Impossible physics… in a brute-force way, completely unlike alchemy!” Thanks for clarifying that, Elfnein. Wouldn’t want to embarrass myself with an improper understanding of impossible physics

“As long as I have a sky to howl ‘damn!’ to!” Some terrific Maria lyrics in this song

Noble Red leap in to support Evil Miku, now branded with some kind of mind control seals

We’re also getting a visual reprise of the first season finale, in how this Yggdrasil spike towers over the environment much like Fine’s laser tower. When you’re attempting to create a sense of holistic purpose or inevitability in a largely seasonal property like this, establishing points of congruity that match your ending to your beginning, thus creating a sense of natural bookends, is one of the best ways to retroactively mimic true cohesion of narrative purpose

Oh damn. We open the episode proper with a dramatic pan into depth, as we check in on Kazanari in his cell

“I want to start thinking about the things I don’t understand.” Oh my god Hibiki. “I’ve made a resolution to start having thoughts.” Bless this idiot

Another neat bookend here, reestablishing the friendship and trust between our first two wielders. And some great character acting for Tsubasa’s response to Hibiki’s offer

Beneath the tower, Evil Miku is engaging in all manner of evil science alchemy shenanigans

“How sad. My power is less than one ten-thousandth of a percent of what it once was.” And your uncle works at Nintendo, I’m sure

“A drop of my power changed your bodies into full, complete monsters.” Of course, that’s the opposite of what Noble Red wanted. God, they’re such a sad trio!

Oh my god, this show. There’s this dead serious and genuinely effective beat of Vanessa lamenting their cursed fate, and then she tops it off by popping out her new-and-improved swiss army hand, utterly undercutting the moment. Beautiful

Seems like they’re more following her out of despair than brainwashing, meaning it’s quite likely we’ll get a heroic turn out of them before the end

I love that we get this closeup response of Chris incredulously repeating “Tanegashima!?” There’s no point to this, it’s just fun watching Chris be surprised and stretch out words. This staff really understand their assignment

The legacy of Tsubasa’s father is strengthened relations between Japan and the United States, a firm repudiation of his own father’s goals and values. In spite of Kazanari’s best efforts, international trust endures

“From now on, I intend to put you in my debt. Remember that!” An extremely American way of saying “I look forward to a prosperous future partnership”

This episode has been pretty visually conservative so far, but Shirabe’s fight gets some spectacular cuts right from the start. Her combat style means there’s always a sense of momentum in her fights, frequently accompanied by ambitious camera movement to further bolster the sense of speed and movement

“If the enemy is concerned with the Curse of Balal, it’s possible to predict their actions and move accordingly.” Smart work by Genjurou here: he might not be able to predict Evil Miku’s intentions, but his knowledge of her concerns allows him to act in such a way as to force responses from her

Integrating battle conditions into their song deliveries has been such a boon for this show. Shirabe getting attacked by Noble Red actually knocks her out of her song, amplifying the shock of the moment

Oh my god this fucking show. Vanessa ensnares Hibiki’s waist with her measuring tape attachment, causing Hibiki to blush at the idea of Vanessa learning her measurements. God damnit Symphogear

This is also a direct callback to her first battles with Chris. They can’t get away with this

“We are Noble Red. Not a crude color of rust!” Wow, they really had to strain to get to that episode title. I almost want to bump it up half a Biki for how awkwardly it was integrated

She succeeds in blowing up the lunar rocket

“If I’m going to end up as a monster, it would have been better if I never knew kindness!” They’re so damn sad! Even powered up, they’re just sobbing about how tragic all of this is

Damn, Kirika’s Amalgam scythe looks incredible. I’m glad they saved this golden aesthetic for their final final final powerup

As is only fitting, the werewolf-themed Elza is defeated by a giant robot bear trap

And Done

Oh my god this glorious, ridiculous, absolutely shameless production. I cannot believe the shit they were pulling with Noble Red this episode, simultaneously embracing the genuine tragedy of their cursed existence, while constantly undercutting them with ridiculous crap like Vanessa’s tape measure attachment. Symphogear has always possessed a unique ability to be both sincere and tongue-in-cheek at once, earnestly embracing its drama while also reveling in how silly all of it is. This episode served as a terrific celebration of Symphogear’s most luckless crew of villains, and put us right on trajectory for an explosive final battle. What a generous show!

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