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Warning: Some spoilers for Gatchaman Crowds Insight, many spoilers for the original Gatchaman Crowds

Gatchaman Crowds was an incredible work of fiction. Even going beyond the immediate realm of anime, Tatsunoko’s remake of their 1970s classic was incredibly clever, intelligent, and challenging. Presenting a story and world that asked how an age of social media, crowd-sourcing, and gamification might affect the very ideas of heroism and altruism, the mix of sociopolitical commentary and vibrant visual presentation made it unforgettable. Back when they announced the sequel, Gatchaman Crowds Insight, I was excited but also skeptical as to how they could possibly follow up on the original. After all, this isn’t the kind of series where you can just set up a new villain to fight or upgrade the characters’ powers, and the finer details of its philosophical ending was such that further scrutiny might benefit its messages less than just leaving it open ended.

Whether or not Gatchaman Crowds Insight is an improvement on the original is debatable, it turns out to be a worthy successor, taking the ideas of the original series and expanding them into, of all things, an examination of the danger of overvaluing a “harmonious” society, as well as an exploration of the conflict between the concept of direct vs. indirect democracies.

Gatchaman Crowds was a series featuring five unique transforming heroes who use their special powers to defend Japan, but the arrival of a program called GALAX that could enable ordinary citizens to gain superhuman abilities and help out in times of trouble changed things. By the end of the series, GALAX had gone under trial by fire, its strengths and weaknesses forcefully put on display, with a controversial decision based in faith in human decency being the outcome.

By the start of Insight, GALAX creator Ninomiya Rui has joined the Gatchaman team, allowing his perspective to influence the team, but soon after arrive two important individuals: a new Gatchaman member named Misudachi Tsubasa, and an alien named Gel-Sadra. A being that can sense mood, Gel-Sadra believes that, if everyone’s minds are united and in agreement with each other, then conflict would end. Underlining all of this is a new attempt to bridge the modern age with democracy, full-on popular voting via smartphone, which inevitably has both its advantages and problems, including fostering conversation and the threat of mob justice.

Altogether, the series takes that idea of social media and heroism and pushed it further to examine the challenges of political power and reform. What makes this anime especially impressive is that, similar to the first series, the solutions that come out carry a great deal of nuance that encourage you to think. In fact, that is probably the core value of Gatchaman Crowds Insight, to step back and really consider how words such as peace, harmony, and more embody so many meanings that are capable of both empowering and manipulating people, even if there is no conscious intention.

As with the original Gatchaman Crowds, the linchpin of this series is its main heroine, Ichinose Hajime. She is perhaps even more important to this newer series even as she seems less prominent overall. One potential criticism of Insight is that it goes overboard with positioning its characters as representatives or mouthpieces for various beliefs (the series goes as far as to have characters recite lines of philosophy on occasion), but Hajime’s inquisitive nature that amazingly combines both skepticism and optimism presents her intellectualism in a way that is fun and accessible. While intellectualism is usually thought of as being wordy and philosophical, in the case of Hajime it’s the way she employs the Socratic Method through her fairly limited vocabulary that becomes that ray of light in the shadow cast by the tyranny of the majority. The visual emblem associated with Hajime and only one other character in the series, a gray speech bubble derived from Gel-Sadra’s alien powers, and the truth of its meaning, are key to understanding Gatchaman Crowds Insight and its critical nature.

Nowhere is Hajime more representative of the series’ values than in her relationship with the previous series’ terrifying antagonist, Berg Katze. At the end of the first Gatchaman Crowds, it is revealed that Berg Katze is now inside of Hajime’s body. Every other person was consumed by their doubts because of how Berg Katze brought out their very fears, but Hajime is somehow able to keep him in check. In this situation, many works would have had her suffering at his constant and unyielding presence as the most dangerous kind of devil on the shoulder. Alternatively, they might have made it a metaphor for some internal conflict. Instead, Insight uses it to show just how powerful Hajime’s way of thinking is. Rather than ignore Berg Katze, she is willing to engage in dialogue with the alien, somehow gleaning useful information from someone who’s actively antagonistic towards her and shutting down the conversation when she needs to. To a lesser extent, she can be seen doing the same thing all of the other characters, especially Tsubasa, whose “get-it-done” attitude contrasts with Hajime’s nature, and it overall shows how much Gatchaman Crowds Insight values that questioning of not only established norms but the very formation of them as they happen.

Given Japan’s history with internal propaganda from World War II (deliberately mentioned in Insight) and the more recent controversy over the decision to expand Japan’s military applications on a global scale (a vote made by Japan’s parliament in spite of polls showing that over 50% of the Japanese people were against this), Gatchaman Crowds comes out an especially relevant time. It has a lot to chew on, and I would hope that not just anime fans but people of all backgrounds and interests take a look at this series. Its views are complex and perhaps difficult to digest as a result, but its overall theme, encouraging us as people to think and understand conflict and harmony as being both beneficial and harmful depending on the circumstances, is not to be missed.

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The truth comes out in more ways than one in this chapter of Genshiken. Not only does it turn out that this entire trip was an elaborate way to help Madarame towards finally making a decision about his love life (much to Kuchiki’s chagrin; it was supposed to be his graduation trip after all), but now Yajima knows that Hato is aware of her feelings for him. Within all of this is… the potential for yuri?!

I should be clear about that last point. Thus far in Genshiken outside of Hato and Madarame and the magical fictional world of BL, same sex relationships haven’t really been a factor. The closest thing we’ve seen is Sue being very attached to Ogiue in a way that makes it unclear whether she’s using otaku and manga references to assert her friendship with Ogiue in an odd way (Ogiue wa ME no yome!) or if there’s something more. Sure, there are yuri fans who ship certain pairings (Ogiue and her old middle school classmate/friend/bully Nakajima for example) but here even I who normally forego donning a pair of yuri goggles saw a few things that caught my attention. One was of course intentional by Kio, when Ohno comes onto Ogiue to make Kuchiki jealous (it’s complicated), but then you have a moment like this:

Actually, it almost feels like a “yaoi” moment using female characters. Has anyone done a study of how interactions are portrayed in yaoi vs. yuri? There’s also significantly more Ogiue in this chapter compared to the previous ones, but more on that later.

What I find especially fascinating about this whole Nikkou trip as a way to move Madarame forward is just the idea that he (and perhaps anyone) should not be able to let his relationships stagnate. As Evangelion has taught us, staying in the same place unable to move forward can be a crippling experience that appears comforting when it is seen as avoiding pain. While it could be seen as them pushing Madarame unnecessarily, his passive personality likely means that nothing would ever happen, and it would hurt everyone on all sides if it persists. Of course, there’s still a chance that Madarame will probably still come out of it indecisive because that’s just how he is, but the very fact that Genshiken is having its characters try to constantly prevent the “series of misunderstandings” that can occur when too many secrets are kept gives me the sense that everyone wants the best for each other.

Probably the biggest surprise of this chapter is everyone’s accepting attitudes towards Sue potentially ending up with Madarame, including the other girls interested in him. I mentioned in the previous chapter review that Yoshitake’s comments about Nikkou being a fake-out meant to draw attention away from Tokugawa’s real grave might be meta-commentary on the statuses of the others gunning for Madarame, and it looks like it’s panned out. Hato and Keiko have gotten so much attention, and Keiko even commented on how Sue is unlikely because of her personality, but here Keiko is in Chapter 116 saying that she won’t interfere with Sue like she does the others because that’s the one other person she’s okay with.

Given the cunning with which Keiko has competed, does this mean that she sees something special between Sue and Madarame that doesn’t exist with the other potential partners, including herself? Perhaps the fact that no one wants to interfere with Sue x Mada is because they understand both of their personalities, and that Sue in particular has her own battle to fight regarding her own feelings. Maybe it’s the fact that everyone other than Sue appears to be using wits and charm to pull Madarame towards them (or at least Keiko believes Hato to be doing this), and that if Sue turns out to be the one, that she’s “won” in more than one sense of the word. Again, suddenly Sue looks increasingly likely when she had previously been dismissed, turning everything upside down.

Kuchiki, in his jealousy, argues a version of a  point that I’ve mentioned before, that Madarame has shown how his 2D and 3D tastes don’t necessarily line up. While he has mentioned that Sue is exactly the kind of person that matches his favorite anime archetype, there’s also no denying his lost love for Kasukabe. At the same time, Genshiken Nidaime plays significantly with the blurring of real and fictional interests, or rather the reveal that the difference between them is possibly fairly porous even if the two aren’t the same. However, there’s another possibility, which is that Madarame and Sue’s connection goes well beyond looks, and that, other than possibly Hato, Sue is the only one who match him blow for blow when it comes to otaku power levels, creating a truly ultimate “otaple.”

As I mentioned above, Ogiue has gotten more attention in this chapter than every other one in this “Nikkou Arc,” though not enough to make her a particularly important character for this story. However, it does give us many glorious Ogiue faces.

A lot could be said about Hato and Yajima, but it seems like they’re saving the big guns for next chapter, alongside Sue & Madarame’s Excellent Adventures. Until then…!

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Following a previous appearance on The Anime Now Podcast to talk about the Love Live! The School Idol Project TV series, I was invited back to discuss the recent movie alongside Bamboo of Anime News Network fame and Host Bradley Meek. Find out which of us is the biggest Love Live! fan, and see our mutual thoughts on some of the more interesting quirks of the film.



Commercials about deodorant are not a common topic on Ogiue Maniax, a blog dedicated to anime and manga discussion. However, one thing that anime, Old Spice in 2015, and superhero comics have in common is a love of crossovers in varying capacities. With Old Spice, this comes in the form of ads where its two biggest spokesmen, Isaiah “Hello Ladies” Mustafah and Terry “POWERRRRRRRRRRRR” Crews pit their respective deodorants against each other. It’s been a long time coming (and basically instant money for Old Spice), but what stands out to me about these commercials is just how much they actually pay attention to keeping their respective superhuman abilities consistent as they’re utilized to both entice the viewer and outdo each other.


When placing characters into a crossover, especially one that involves a direct conflict, what’s important is maintaining the strengths and identities of the characters being brought together. Superman is immensely strong, unbelievably fast, and has a variety of astounding abilities, while Batman is extremely intelligent, excels at planning, and puts in more effort than anyone else. Detective Conan is a master of deduction and observation, while Lupin III is renowned for his deception and improvisation. When these characters meet, there is ideally a clever interaction that enhances their mutual reputations, and that’s what happens when Isaiah takes on Terry.

Both Isaiah Mustafa and Terry Crews exhibit reality-bending powers in Old Spice commercials, but they’re uniquely different when compared to each other. Isaiah’s “ability” is that he can quickly and seamlessly transition one environment or object to another without a moment’s notice, owing to his status as the ultimate ladies’ man. Terry essentially invades space through the sheer power of his intensely hyper-masculine personality for men, cloning himself, appearing where he shouldn’t, and even blowing himself up. What you see in these series of commercials is how the two try to one-up and counter each other with their specific skill sets, a battle of equals who realize that the other is just as potent and manly as the other, only in different ways.

Basically, while it’s always been clear that a lot of thought is put into Old Spice’s recent commercials, what we see here is an actual consideration for Isaiah and Terry as unique, superheroic characters. Isaiah can’t do what Terry can and vice-versa, and never is there a conflation of what the two are capable of. It’s the superhero duel the world has been waiting for, and in a way I hope it comes to define and influence all future crossovers in mainstream media and advertisement.

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Love Live! is huge, no doubt about it, and I would say deservedly so. Between the quality of the anime TV series, the appeal of its characters, the addictive nature of its mobile game, and of course the slew of songs produced, in a way it’s no wonder that Love Live! manages to attract both male and female fans in large numbers. I attended the New York City premiere for Love Live! The School Idol Movie, and as expected was greeted with a long line full of cosplayers, glow stick wielders, capes adorned with the characters’ faces, and just generally fans who love the main idol group so much that they practically treat the showing like a live concert. Watching the movie amidst an audience of differing values and perspectives, what I found most interesting is how the movie juggles all the various aspects that go into the franchise while maintaining both a fun experience and a solid narrative, and which speaks further to how malleable Love Live! is as a fan experience.


Synopsis and General Thoughts


In the world of Love Live! are idol groups that represent specific high schools. Kousaka Honoka, a new attendee at Otonokizaki High School, forms a “school idol” group called μ’s along with eight other girls so that they can save their school from rapidly declining attendance and closure. Eventually, through various trials and setbacks, they not only manage to keep their school, but win the biggest school idol competition, the “Love Live,” defeating the defending champions A-Rise in the process. However, because they cherish the specific circumstances and experiences that brought them together, they decide that they will retire μ’s and its name. As the TV series, ends, however, they receive a note of great importance, leading directly into the film.

The note turns out to be a request to fly to New York City and shoot a live performance to promote a bigger and better Love Live, which results in the film being split into two parts: first, the trip to NYC, and then the build-up to a concert back in Japan. Given the first half, I find that there’s something special about attending the NYC premiere, especially because of how much care and attention they put into replicating New York’s landmarks at overall atmosphere. Jogging through Central Park, visiting the new World Trade Center, what stood out to me in particular were actually the restaurants. Visiting thinly veiled analogues for such NYC institutions as Junior’s (where they experience American cheesecake for the first time) and Japanese restaurant Kenka (where the surrounding St. Mark’s Place atmosphere is captured surprisingly well), it’s clear that the people responsible for the movie did their research, and in terms of capturing the NYC experience they did a good job.

As for the second half of the movie, it’s very much designed to conclude the story of the nine girls of μ’s, which in a way is a major surprise. Not only would it be obvious to have their adventures continue forever given their appeal (and I’m sure they’ll find a million ways to extend the overall life of the group), but the film doesn’t even mention the fact that they’re creating another anime with a new group of girls aspiring to be school idols. One of the criticisms of Avengers 2 is that it feels like a stopgap between two different status quos, and it would have been all too easy to feature the new girls in the movie conspicuously as a way to promote them. In fact, there’s nothing of the sort, at least as far as I can tell. This movie, whether it’s truly the end or not, at least feels like a conclusion to a long and entertaining journey.

As a film that’s supposed to be both the sequel and bookend to the story of μ’s, I find that Love Live! The School Idol movie strikes a good balance of calling back to beloved moments of the TV series, being its own story, and giving enough time and energy to each of the characters without having them overcrowd each other. Some figure more prominently into the main narrative than others, especially in the second half, but there was clearly a lot of effort made to keep the movie tight and not to bog it down with having to showcase each girl like it was a fighting game movie. Notably, entertaining musical numbers group the girls together by year (there are three 1st years, 2nd years, and 3rd years among the group), with one girl in each group being the “center,” and are in a way reminiscent of a Fred Astaire movie.

The Characters of Love Live! in The School Idol Movie and Beyond

A lot of the time, what makes Love Live! work is that the characters’ key traits allow scenes to practically play themselves out, and this comes across very well in the movie. For example, certain characters have their favorite foods. Kotori loves desserts and sweets, so naturally she would view America and New York as a never-ending wonderland. In contrast, Hanayo loves food in general but reveres plain white rice above all else, and suffers in an environment that emphasizes bread and pastries and considers rice merely a “side dish.” In such a circumstance, the normally quiet and reserved Hanayo would act out. It only makes sense for Umi to be a nervous traveler, for Maki to be flustered by a close interaction with A-Rise’s leader Tsubasa, and so on. It’s moments like these which capture the appeal of the characters so well, while tying them into the story.


There are a lot of different values carried in Love Live! fandom, and given people’s differing opinions on favorite characters (Hanayo is the best), level of interest in yuri, amount of fondness for idols in general, and more, it occurs to me that one of the strengths of Love Live! is that it has as much or as little “depth” as you want it to. Take the character of Nico, who’s also by far the most polarizing figure among Love Live! fans. Her appeal (or to some lack thereof) comes from the fact that she’s both the most cynical and optimistic member of μ’s when it comes to being a school idol. She’s sort of like a pro wrestling fan who knows all of the behind-the-scenes information behind wrestlers’ real personalities and controversies, but at the same time gets more excited than anyone else (with the possible exception of Hanayo) by the illusory presentation of the performance.

In wrestling terms, Nico would be a “smark” turned pro wrestler. Having all of this enthusiasm and background knowledge and fully believing in its potency is what prompts her coy, girlish persona and her use of her signature catch phrase, “Nico Nico Nii!”, which has been optimized to be the perfect idol moment. And yet, it’s very easy to say that Nico = “Nico Nico Nii!” Hanayo is rice. Rin is meows. Eli is “khorosho.” Both sides, the simple and the elaborate, are represented well in Love Live! The School Idol Movie, and rather than impacting the quality of the movie and Love Live! in general, I think what it serves to do is widen its appeal. Whether that’s a good thing or not is, of course, up for discussion.


As a final note, I’d like to talk about the present we received at the premiere. Attendees received character signboards as well as codes for the Love Live! School Idol Festival mobile game. It’s the first time I’ve received anything of the sort, and I think it went a long way in making fans of Love Live! feel like they were part of the franchise experience as a whole, even if they couldn’t fly to Japan. As shown above, I received a Nozomi signboard, which I’m happy about, as she is indeed one of my favorite characters. But if anyone has a Hanayo… leave a comment below.

Actually, one last thing: internet fandom in a nutshell.


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Recently I accomplished one of my goals over the past couple of years: I finally created a team of 9 unique Hanayos in the popular mobile game Love Live: School Idol Festival. Seeing as how tomorrow I’m going to see the Love Live! movie, I think now’s as good a time as any to discuss how I play School Idol Festival  as a fan of the franchise, but also as someone who knowingly restricts his exposure to the game, and creates games within games.

There was a time when I didn’t feel as strongly about Love Live! as a whole. All I knew was that I liked the anime quite a bit, and when I discovered the increasingly popular mobile rhythm game, it introduced me to the collector’s mentality that goes into supporting idols, digital or real. What began as a curiosity became an understanding of how involving the rhythm game with its collectible card aspect, character loyalty, and other aspects could be. The game taunts you with the prospect of buying more gems to give you that next gashapon-esque crank of the lever. If you choose to not give the game money, it then becomes the absolute biggest time sink there is. It’s a dangerous combination not uncommon to mobile games, and seeing the potential threat to my free time that the game posed, I knowingly restricted my goals. Thus, the All-Star All-MaddenHanayo Team starring Jerry Rice became my aspiration. I could pick my battles, prioritize certain events over others, and prevent the game from destroying my free (or not free) time.

While I hit my original goal, what’s funny is that somehow I feel that, by aiming for it so intently, it actually got further away from me. What I mean is that in the process of trying to get 9 unique Hanayo cards, I ended up with full teams of Eli and Umi without even trying. I’m sure there are fans of those two characters who would devote their everything to having full squads, but it was merely a stepping stone in my process. Again, it’s a good thing I didn’t approach the game with a completionist mentality, or else I would really be in trouble.

In the end though, I find that the game was merely supplemental to my fondness to the anime, which is why I’m looking forward to the movie far more than my anticipation over getting the final 9th Hanayo on my team. There’s an interesting disparity between the worlds of the game and the anime, and that has to do with the role of men. While players of Love Live! traverse all sexes, genders, and sexual orientations, there’s still the residual effect of idols classically being a point of desire for guys. A lot of the rewards for playing the game are messages from the girls, who will talk about how they want to be alone… with you.

In contrast, men are virtually non-existent in the anime. This is what perhaps makes it yuri fuel for a certain contingent of the fanbase, and certain characters’ actions acknowledge that men exist in a kind of abstract sense (Nico’s behavior, for example), but a lot of the character dynamics and interactions are pointed towards each other rather than the hypothetical viewer/player. The game is where I show my support as an extension of my fondness for the anime, and even if I ever buy a CD (NicoRinPana of course), then that’ll also be supplemental to my fondness for the overall narrative and theme of Love Live!

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It’s Keiko’s turn for with Madarame, and she uses the opportunity as only Keiko can. At the same time, she shows both some chinks in her armor and her resilience in spite of that. The chapter also ends with a reference to Overman King Gainer, which is never a bad thing.

One thing I’ve neglected when it comes to these recent Nikkou chapters of Genshiken is the potential meaning behind Yoshitake’s historical expositions. One purpose is to show that Yoshitake is indeed a history otaku, and visiting such a culturally significant place as Tokugawa Ieyasu’s tomb would set her off, yet I can’t help but feel that there’s a sense of metacommentary behind it. According to Yoshitake, Ieyasu purposely lied about the true location of his grave in order to mislead his enemies, and similarly it’s possible that Kio Shimoku has been placing one Madarame love interest in front of the others as a kind of red herring. The question is, then, which of the four is actually in the “lead?”

The answer is probably Keiko or Hato at this point, and you could make cases for either. In Chapter 115, Keiko outright states her case. Keiko: The Realistic Choice. It’s not the most inspiring campaign slogan, so to speak, but as I’ve mentioned in the past that is part of the Keiko x Mada pairing’s charm, that they already seem like a married couple, that opposites attract, etc. In certain ways, like a tangent graph, the more Keiko x Mada is a thing, the more it approaches (but never quite reaches) Spotted Flower. It’s realistic in a very specific sense of the word, where it reflects a popular image of how monogamous love and relationships are “behind the scenes.”

As for Hato, Yoshitake makes a comment that Hato has gotten closer to Madarame as a guy than he ever has in his female guise. Whether Yoshitake realizes it or not, she’s directly addressing one of Keiko’s criticisms of Hato, that he’s putting on an act, a performance, to get attention. Is this gender performativity, and is Keiko any less guilty of it?

If Hato is the front-runner, however, then this chapter is possibly the undermining of that, and again it has to do with Keiko. At the end of the chapter, Speaking of that, Keiko defies the standard manga progression, where secrets are unspoken and affect the dynamics of the love polygon, by just telling Hato about Yajima’s feelings for him. Cutting to the chase in that way is very characteristic of Keiko. You’d think it’d perhaps also be Saki-esque, but I feel like while Saki was devious, it’s a different kind of planning and awareness when Keiko is involved. Keiko is “realistic,” and part of her “reality” is that she both shatters illusions while creating others, and is very aware of everything that goes into presenting herself to Madarame. The main thing that throws her off is that Madarame is indecisive beyond her imagination, to the point that she at first interprets his waffling as rejection. There is a great deal of miscommunication because Keiko just perceives the world differently compared to the primarily otaku cast.

Keiko’s reaction to her “rejection” is fascinating in its own way. You can tell just from how shocked she is that Madarame might not be interested in her just how much confidence she had about winning. It actually didn’t occur to her that she wouldn’t be able to do just the right things to get Madarame to fall into her arms. It’s indicative of how she thinks that she feels that Angela is the biggest threat to her but is thankfully stymied by a long distance, and sees Sue as being too reticent for anything to happen, not realizing that this might be part of her appeal. Keiko aims for physical desire, and aims her personality in that direction.

So what does it mean that Hato is aware of Yajima now? It could go in a lot of different directions, but I could see it going for a while where Yajima doesn’t know that Hato knows about her crush. Yajima is fairly observant, but nowhere near on the level of Keiko or Saki, and Keiko is likely going to try and push them together. In other manga, Keiko might be viewed as the scheming villain, but I wonder if Hato and Yajima would be so bad after all. For one thing, characters like Yajima, especially in terms of physical appearance, are kind of a rarity in manga and anime, and to have them together might make for an interesting statement.

As for the red herrings, perhaps neither Keiko nor Hato are as likely choices as they seem.

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I’m back with Sir Brad of Meek to talk about, bears, lesbians, and torrents of highly structured forms of social exclusion.

Check it out!

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to support Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

When first approaching the anime Senki Zesshou Symphogear, my view of the show was colored by one experience in particular. A few years ago, I was on the Veef Show to discuss AKB0048, another show from Studio Satelight that also involved singing, battling idols in a science fiction setting (no surprise coming from the studio founded by the creator of Macross). There, Veef informed me that Symphogear was essentially a show made by a relatively inexperienced staff, and it showed. So, I went in with the impression that it’d probably look nice but be fairly discombobulated, lacking the veteran knowledge of Kawamori Shouji or others. While after watching four episodes I certainly can’t say how the series concludes or holds together, what I can say is that Symphogear is very good at conveying passion.

I’m aware that this kind of sounds like a cop-out response. How can any anime, created by teams of people, and often tied in along with a desire to sell and succeed, be any more or less passionate than others? For that matter, how can a series that combines mild yuri, skintight space battle uniforms, idols, mecha, and general fanservice be anything more than a cynical marketing ploy? However, when watching Symphogear, I can’t help but feel that all of those elements are less calculated ploys and more actually the things that the creators themselves wanted to see. I haven’t read any interviews, and I haven’t researched this show heavily, so none of what I say is backed up by hard facts. It’s mainly my impression, and that feeling says to me that there’s something beyond appealing to the lowest common denominator as an external factor in Symphogear.

Being calculated doesn’t make a bad series, and neither does being true to one’s passions result in a good series. I think Love Live! School Idol Project, for example, is a fantastic series, entertaining through and through, with lots of great characters with well-rendered personalities, but it feels on a very basic level to be a product of marketing knowledge. All of the characters, even my favorites such as Hanayo and Nico, are carefully crafted to have just the right balance of traits. It’s just that this has worked out in its favor, and the series is genuinely well-written. Conversely, a series that is genuinely the product of its creator’s vision and interests but might carry an unfortunate message or soapbox situation can also be an issue. Symphogear seems as if it on some level has to go cheesy and get overloaded with all of those otaku interests, because that’s just what the creators think would be enjoyable.

I think the best example might just come from the main character Hibiki herself. Within the first four episodes, she’s shown to be this quiet girl with large, gentle eyes and a petite yet shapely figure who gains a mysterious power almost equivalent to that of a berserker. She’s shown to have a strong sense of justice, a willingness to get her hands dirty fighting, and a childhood friend who seems to be on a Daidouji Tomoyo level of “friendship.”At a distance, she can come across as this amalgam of desirable traits, and even upon looking more closely they still maintain that impression, but through the efforts of the animators and artists, the writers, and her voice actress Yuuki Aoi, her sense of being shines through. All of the elements that might be viewed as schlock when viewed with a cold, critical eye gain an air of warmth, and it feels possible to connect with Symphogear on a deeper level as a result. Perhaps it’s because Symphogear, more than even Kawamori’s own series, is the pinnacle of combining singing idols with space fighting faction, because the girls’ suits are literally powered by their voices.

With three seasons of Symphogear now in existence, I might assume that the series gets better as it goes along, but of course that’s never a guarantee. One thing I’ll be looking out for is, simply, what this inexperienced team ends up doing with the experiences they gather.



I was recently on PatzPrime’s Space Opera Satellite podcast to recap and review the highlights of Otakon from the mecha fan’s perspective. Joining us were also Tom Aznable, Hazukari, and Ashe Blitzen.

Have a listen

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