Symphogear AXZ – Episode 9

Hello everyone, and welcome the heck back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’re heading back on down to Symphogear City, where the girls kick ass and the sakuga’s pretty, in the wake of Chris having at last come to terms with her past, and hopefully set herself on the path to a happier future. Of course, this is Symphogear we’re talking about, so this emotional revelation was accompanied by an absurd display of action fireworks.

In fact, the fight between Cagliostro and Chris/Maria was one of the most impressive displays in this franchise altogether, and though I’m sad to say goodbye to the ever-entertaining Cagliostro, I appreciate that she at least went out in a gorgeous blaze of glory. Meanwhile, with Prelati still incapacitated from her fight with the babies, it appears that Adam is finally making some major plays, and forcing St. Germain to choose where her loyalties lie. However these nefarious machinations turn, I’m eager to enjoy a fresh helping of explosions and lovey-dovey relationships as we barrel through another episode of SYMPHOGEAAAAR!

Episode 9

“Blue Bunny.” Welp, I guess it’s time for a Tsubasa episode. And considering her close connection with S.O.N.G.’s overseers, we might be in for another politically charged conflict, as well

Elfnein looks adorable in her tiny lab coat. Did they get her a mini one at a Halloween supply store or something?

Chris enjoys having someone smaller than her to fluff the hair of

Meanwhile, Tsubasa and Shirabe are having difficulties syncing their movements. Not surprising that Shirabe, who basically always fights in a pair with Kirika, is actually having the most difficulty adjusting to a different pace

Ogawa just gets more and more ninja-like as time goes on. He now arrives in a gust of wind, using teleportation jutsu complete with hand gestures, and even a period Japanese drama music cue. His transformation from a vague superhero into an obvious ninja feels similar to Symphogear’s evolution as a whole, as it’s learned to embrace many of its most charming and ridiculous elements

Hah, Tsubasa even recognized his ninja technique

Shirabe tries to chase Ogawa, but the man can teleport, so it’s obviously not going well. Her single-mindedness here illustrates her block pretty well: she needs to think ahead, not just rush into things, and learn to predict her opponent rather than just pursue him

Shirabe accidentally cuts Ogawa in half, but fortunately, he of course used a substitution jutsu just before impact. Goddamn substitution jutsus

“Shirabe is the only one unable to increase her phonic gain through teamwork.” It’s nice to see the show offering Shirabe a conflict all her own – normally, the hardships of Shirabe and Kirika are kinda grouped together, like with the LiNKER dilemma throughout this season’s first half

“We may need a change of pace,” says Genjuro, which in the context of Symphogear makes me immediately think BEACH EPISODE MOTHERFUCKERS

They’re heading to a shrine, because “many shrines are built on ley lines.” Symphogear is the kind of show that actively resists audience attempts to build a comprehensive mythology, but it does seem to take place in a “all mythologies are to some extent true” sort of universe. It’s a common worldbuilding choice, since existing mythologies offer such rich histories to build off of, and you can always handwave the fact that mythologies contradict each other through a variety of means – saying that some myths were misinterpreted, saying that a variety of myths are all versions of the same deities, or saying that mythic figures drawn strength from human belief, and thus ebb and flow in power in time with shifts in humanity’s active mythologies. Neil Gaiman really loves that last one, and I’m a fan as well

Meanwhile, Kirika likes snacks

Interesting flashback into Kirika and Shirabe’s first meetings. Both of them arrived at the lab without much of a past – Shirabe’s name was actually chosen by her handlers

“Are you getting carsick because you’re not riding on a saw?” Amazing

“When I look at you, I remember my grandchild, whose parents died in an accident.” That is some exceedingly graceless exposition right there

I love that Chris immediately objects to this priest grouping them all as “about the same age.” Her immature preoccupation with her perceived maturity is very endearing

Interesting. The Hikawa Shrine Group are arranged in the precise pattern of Orion, and the power of a god is alleged to emerge at the nexus of this shrine formation. I can see why their overseers would consider this “Japan’s power”

Prelate pours out a glass for her homey Cagliostro, who apparently warned her about Adam’s plans

This season has made a few oblique references to Cagliostro being trans, and some of them are pretty clumsy, but I appreciate how little that part of her identity has defined her character

Unsurprisingly, Shirabe is very accustomed to holding her feelings inside, and letting them stew rather than talking to someone about them. She’s used to being Kirika’s rock, and letting Kirika express her feelings for her – but in this conflict, Kirika doesn’t share her issues, and thus she’s left with no way to express her emotions

This visit to the shrine has been lovely. Normally the show is kind of partitioned into “slice of life” versus “action,” so I appreciate getting this slow-paced and emotionally driven segment that is nonetheless reflecting directly on the show’s main plot

Shirabe is very frank with the priest, admitting that she doesn’t really understand the purpose of ritual, both in terms of religion and in terms of getting along with others. Kirika’s friendship has essentially been a crutch for her – Kirika is the charming, outgoing one, and so Shirabe has been able to hide in her shadow, never really learning to express herself in her own right. As a result, when she does express herself, it’s through extremely blunt declarations like these

“My sense of inferiority is creating walls that drive away the people I care about.” It’s extremely painful to actively see this happening, and yet not feel you can really overcome it. And yet, the fact that she’s so aware of the effect she has on others reveals her sensitivity, prompting the priest to tell her that she’s a kind person

Meanwhile, Tiki wants to be human, so she can marry Adam. Why do either of these characters exist

Adam just fucking hates clothes, I guess

Oh my god, Prelati rides her stupid croquette mallet down the highway like she’s perpetually wheelieing on a motorcycle. This incredible show

Shirabe and Tsubasa are the first to arrive, of course. I’m a little saddened seeing these very entertaining alchemist opponents each get turned into fuel for one of the wielder’s emotional growth

Shirabe’s driving pose is delightfully stupid. I love how her arms spread out to match the angle of her head-beams

Nice to see Symphogear branching out in terms of its conflict design, and embracing a classic high-speed chase. Outside of the standout setpieces they tend to design for the first couple episodes, Symphogear fights can sometimes fall into similar patterns of one-on-one fights without much larger context. Embracing environmental conflicts like “we’re battling while racing on a highway” is an excellent way to diversify your action scenes

Shirabe underlines the emotional reason for her Ignite issues – she doesn’t know how to relate to people other than Kirika

Once again, the show is doing some fine work drawing emotional parallels between characters who’ve never really had a chance to talk before. It’s like the writers finally realized that in spite of being a “six person team,” the Symphogear crew was actually made up a series of distinct and non-overlapping friendships, meaning it’d be hard to imagine, say, Hibiki and Shirabe ever sharing a conversation. They’re doing a solid job of addressing that issue now, by having Tsubasa relate her experiences after Kanade’s death to Shirabe’s refusal to open up to others

That said, they’re certainly engaging in some, let’s say “ambitious character arc shorthand,” in terms of how they’re setting up and resolving Shirabe’s emotional conflicts within two adjacent scenes, wherein two different characters explain her feelings to her. But hey, this is still Symphogear

I love how Prelati’s cape flows and dances with the effects animation throughout this fight. The ragged cape also emphasizes her desperation here; she looks like she’s visibly fraying

“Twin Rush of the Wind and Moon.” Oh my god, their combo attack is too much. Really, every Shirabe-inclusive combo attack is an awful lot; her tops just look so absurd when they get mega-sized for a combination

Transforming cars exploding into each other in a magic-infused game of chicken. This show is so good

And then Tiki calls St. Germain to gloat about Prelati’s death. Really starting to hate Tiki

And Done

Jeez, now I’m just sad about Prelati! She wasn’t as well-defined of a character as Cagliostro, but she still clearly cared a great deal about her fellow alchemists, and died doing her best to save her remaining friend. At least Cagliostro’s death accompanied Chris resolving a season-long character arc – Shirabe didn’t even possess her current conflict until the beginning of this episode! Still, I very much appreciated this episode’s slower, more character-focused material at the shrine, and of course, the fights are still excellent, with this week’s high-speed battle offering a unique structural twist on the usual formula. I’m sad we’re having to say goodbye to all these charming alchemists, but with only a few episodes remaining, I’m also eager to see how bombastic this season can get!

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