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Symphogear XV – Episode 12


Hello folks, and welcome the heck back to Wrong Every Time. Are you ready for the penultimate episode of Symphogear!?!? Yes, it has been a long and frequently minigun-pockmarked road, but we’re at last nearing the conclusion of this modern action classic. Standing proudly on the shoulders of giants like JoJo and Nanoha, Symphogear is proud to answer every call of “too much?” with a resounding “not enough,” and has somehow found a way to outdo itself for five seasons straight. But all good things must come to an end, and it would be an utter tragedy for Symphogear to ever fall into predictability, so I’m happy to see the show concluding at the peak of its powers.

When last we left off, a computer containing the soul of a Sumerian deity had just explained to our heroes that the villain is now both a language and a DNA sequence, making directly punching her a little trickier than usual. But I have confidence that Elfnein will ramble off several sentences of nonsense that everyone else nods gravely at, eventually resulting in Shem-ha transmuting into a more punchable body. Let’s see what everyone’s favorite pint-sized scientist has cooking, as we barrel towards the conclusion of SYMPHOGEAR!!!

Episode 12

“Senki Zessho” is just sort of cheating, like playing your show’s opening song over your final battle. And just like that song shit, I fall for it every time – five ‘bikis out of five!

Damn, no time for an OP this episode, as we replay the finale of last episode from the earth team’s perspective

Ahaha, I love Genjuro doing this solemn strut towards a battle with Shem-ha. Genjuro’s proud evocation of action movie tropes is the closest this show gets to intentional self-parody, but like with all the rest of its choices, it approaches this material with such earnest love that it still feels satisfying

A great deal of western action media has been infected with this post-Whedon sense of self-awareness, which is generally expressed through characters actively eye rolling at the “silliness” of whatever situation they’ve ended up in. This instinct is poison to authentic drama, and also just tedious as comedy – it’s lazy and self-defeating, and I am so glad Symphogear sticks to the far preferable “we are going to embrace our own madness with the straightest of faces.” If even a story’s creators don’t believe in their material, why should any audience?

And right on cue, Elfnein has an idea! Keep doing what you do, Elfnein

“The great Metempsychosis will soon take place.” Well shit, there go my weekend plans

Shem-ha attempts to make an evil smile, but in Miku’s body it just turns out like this

And Elfnein takes the field! I love that Carol is just like her corner coach at this point, giving her pep talks before her big fights

Miku versus Elfnein, the climactic battle between a teddy bear and a kitten

Hah, I love this momentary flash of the autoscorers as Carol summons her crown. They’re always here in our hearts!

“Carol’s alchemy was a threat to the gods.” “But since that power burns away memories…” Wait, what? Carol’s powers run on memory juice? I don’t remember that, but I suppose it’s been a while since I watched season three

Ooh, I shouldn’t have laughed, but I couldn’t help it. Carol’s song immediately cutting into a “whaaa!” as she slams into the ground is just too funny. This battle is dangerously adorable

“Your use of impossible physics nullifies damage. But what about bondage?” Holy shit, it’s a plan I can actually follow! Mostly because it’s just classic videogame rules: if an enemy is physically undamageable, there’s likely some way to use crowd control abilities or the environment to bind it. If destruction fails, you can always seal your enemies in a metal box

“Our ultimate weapon is an alchemy that recreates a limited version of the world dissection capability of the Chateau de Tiffauges.” Yes… YES. Just imagine me Sickos grinning through all of this

“I’ve long since finished analyzing the concept of humanity.” Every Carol line is a golden gift of preposterousness and confidence. She truly embodies the Symphogear spirit

“Don’t tell me… the evil-banishing properties of the Shenshoujin blocked my alchemy?” Carol stop it, I can’t take any more word salad. I AM TOO FULL

“Since she can’t use human brains, she’s using the world’s computer systems!” Another tactical trick that can actually scan as clever, since we have some understanding of the systems involved. In another show, I might quibble with Symphogear’s general approach of “strategy is magic,” wherein problems are solved not through application of existing and audience-parsable variables, but through the introduction of preposterous magical word salad. Of course, in Symphogear, the utter bombastic lunacy of its twists is actually part of the appeal, and the show is creative enough in its flourishes to keep up dramatic momentum in spite of that drama not really standing on any stable foundation

Welp, it appears we’ve reached the instrumentality part of Shem-ha’s plan, just with significantly less Christian iconography

Vanessa is finding it increasingly difficult to defend the morality of her position as the world is bathed in unearthly red light

Elsa making some excellent sad puppy faces as Vanessa prepares to fight

Chris’ little “hups” and “yeahs” during her transformation sequence are very good. She’s just having too much fun to act cool

Vanessa transforms herself into… some kind of giant robot hornet thing? Symphogear has always in part been an excuse to include robot transformations in a magical girl show, but Vanessa really takes that to another level

And Milaarc strikes back in her tiny bat form, fucking up Chris’ targeting! I love Milaarc’s preposterous diversity of powers, she feels like a Hunter x Hunter character

“If you really want to keep going forward, you should know that it’s even more important to have a place to call home.” Chris’ words ring with the weight of experience, having herself been saved from her own hopelessness and self-destructive instincts by Hibiki’s offer of a new family. An excellent way to express the fruition of her character arc, as she pays that trust forward by saving her own seemingly hopeless opponents

Oh my gosh, the three of them are so adorable. Milaarc’s chibi form welling up with tears is extremely powerful

“I’m tired of using my weakness as an excuse to kill the feelings in my heart.” Goddamn, what a sharp line from Milaarc. “I’m weak, so I have to be ruthless” is a natural line of thinking for those without the power to defend themselves, but it’s certainly not one that lends itself to helping you sleep at night. And what’s more, Milaarc doesn’t want to deny her “weak” feelings of desiring safety and a family. They’ve crafted a tidy little narrative here for this crew, illustrating how the fate of the outsider is always to be considered a monster, and that embracing that monstrous designation is often the only way to survive

Oh my god, this transformation as Hibiki runs at Vanessa is so fucking good. These cuts aren’t in Symphogear’s usual style – they’re ragged and impressionistic, with lots of jagged edges and wildly distorted in-betweens. That animation style perfectly matches the shift in Hibiki’s voice, as she essentially screams out her Symphogear activation rather than singing it. What a sequence!

And yep, looks like the moon’s exploding again. It had a good run

Aw, goddamnit, now Noble Red are sacrificing themselves to make a tunnel back to earth. I know this series has a real problem with cast bloat, but we’re at the end of the final season! These war criminals are adorable, give ‘em a break!

“I didn’t know holding hands with someone took such courage!” Tsubasa is the next to receive a clean arc-fulfillment line, having risen from a point of only trusting in herself to understanding that maintaining faith in others is the most difficult yet most essential thing

Oh, I love this. Shem-ha’s use of humanity’s computers offers a clear point of vulnerability: unlike human minds, we can actually hack computers ourselves, allowing humanity at large to fight back against this invasion. Always nice when they find some way to frame this as a collective human struggle, and not just the wielders saving our butts

“Even when destined to never connect, the world and its people still come together.” Aw jeez, they’re getting to me. This irrepressible solidarity of the human spirit stuff always gets me!

And Done

God damn, what a fucking episode! I laughed, I cried, I fist-pumped in victory and bellowed in defeat. This was a bitter but beautiful sendoff for Noble Red, who have indeed done some pretty bad stuff, but who were always (well, maybe not Milaarc) clearly acting in support of their family. I’m kinda hoping Elfnein figures out a way to reconstitute their energy particles or whatnot, but if that’s truly their end, they exited in a thunderous display of animation acumen and familial solidarity. That cut of Hibiki running while transforming might be one of my favorites in the whole show, and I was also happy to see Symphogear offering some arc-relevant bookends for Hibiki’s closest allies. All the pieces are set for Symphogear’s very last apocalypse!

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