Anime: Senki Zesshō Symphogear

"In the distance that day, when the star became music....."

Senki Zesshou Symphogear (widely translated as Swansong of the Valkyries: Symphogear) is a sci-fi series about Magical Girl Warriors who use Power Armor fueled by The Power of Rock to battle Eldritch Abominations.

Yes, seriously.

Hibiki Tachibana is an ordinary schoolgirl who attends a concert by the Idol Singer duo "Zwei Wing". Unfortunately, the concert is attacked by a group of mysterious Eldritch Abominations called "Noise", and Zwei Wing transform using magical Power Armor- the Symphogear- to battle against them. During the battle, Hibiki is impaled by a fragment of Symphogear armour, which gives her the power to use the armour as well. Recruited by the secret government organization behind the Symphogear, Hibiki must learn how to use her new powers to fight against the Noise on behalf of humanity, alongside veteran fighter and Broken Bird Tsubasa Kazanari.

Originally airing in January 2012, Symphogear was developed by Noriyasu Agematsu (composer of music for games and anime including Wild ARMs and Girls Bravo), published by Kadokawa Shoten, and animated by Studio Satelight. It features an All-Star Cast, including Nana Mizuki, Aoi Yuuki, Hideo Ishikawa and Miyuki Sawashiro.

Compare and contrast Ar tonelico, Macross 7, Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Lyrical Nanoha and Suite Pretty Cure ♪.

A second season was announced for July 2013 with the title Senki Zesshou Symphogear G, adding Tomokazu Sugita, Ai Kayano, Yōko Hikasa, Yui Horie and Yoshino Nanjo to the cast. Taking place three months after the events of the original series, the heroines of the 2nd Division face a new threat when a terrorist group known as "Finé" emerges from the shadows with an army of Noise and their own band of rival Symphogear users.

A third season, titled Senki Zesshou Sympohgear GX, is scheduled to air starting in July of 2015.

Hibiki, Tsubasa, and Chris also appear in Super Heroine Chronicle, though Chris starts out first as a villain.

Unmarked spoilers ahead!

This series contains examples of:

  • All Myths Are True:
    • Norse myths (Kanade's relic, Gungnir), Japanese myths (Tsubasa's relic, Ame-no-Habakiri) Hebrew/Sumerian tales (Kadingir, the gateway of the gods, looks like the Tower of Babel, the healing artifact Nehushtan and the demon-binding Staff of Solomon), Roland's sword Durandal, all together.
    • All mythological creatures and monsters are thought to have existed too, though the majority are theorized to have been Noise.
  • All There in the Manual: Lots of information regarding Symphogears, relics, and other material can be found in the form of translated key words. They give insight to things that weren't or couldn't be explained by watching the anime alone.
  • And the Adventure Continues: At the end of the series there's still Noise in the world to be fought and heroines willing to do it. Indeed, the adventure continues in Symphogear G.
  • Animation Bump:
    • Within the first episode of the first season, Kanade and Tsubasa' concert features extremely fluid choreography for both characters, something that goes unrivaled for several episodes.
    • Season 2's animation is much more fluid and better-looking than the first season.
  • Anyone Can Die:
    • Kanade and the main heroine, Hibiki in the very first episode. That said, it turns out Hibiki wasn't actually dead.
    • Of diplomatic importance, Japanese Defense Minister Hiroki is assassinated in episode 5.
  • Badass Family: The Kazanaris. Tsubasa is a Symphogear trained since childhood to become a warrior (or a sword/sentinel according to herself), and her uncle, Genjuro, is a Badass Normal who punches boulders and gets all his training from watching action movies. By extension, the latter is also Chris' legal guardian, who reveals herself to be another powerful Symphogear user.
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: Subverted. The last thing you will see in the OP is the holding hands of two girls and a starry sky. This is elaborated further in the finale, and it is also the last thing you will in that episode. After Hibiki's return to Earth, she and Miku get to see the meteor shower, holding hands.
  • BFS: Durandal. Hibiki activates it in episode 5, which she promptly uses to demolish an entire chemical plant in a single attack.
    • Tsubasa's special attacks get bigger and bigger each season. <I>G</I> had multiple Heaven's Wrath dropped in succession when running from Miku. In <I>GX</I> E1, Tsubasa gets a modified variant of her Flash of the Wight's Blade attack, just without the motorcycle.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Tsubasa for Maria, in <i>GX</i> E1.
  • Bland-Name Product: They weren't even trying to hide it.
    • For instance, Ryoko's car's logo is the same as the Toyota logo, upside down.
    • At the cinema that Hibiki, Miku and Tsubasa go to, there's a movie poster for the caped and spandex-clad "Suppaman", who is most definitely not Superman.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: While there's plenty of High-Pressure Blood instances, Tsubasa is even shedding Tears of Blood at the end of Episode 4.
  • Book Ends:
    • Just as Hibiki did in the first episode, in the last episode Miku rescues a girl under Noise attack, they run, she falls, a heartbeat is heard...
    • The whole graveyard scene serves as book ends.
    • The final episodes (of the first season) bring back the following songs: Synchrogazer (as an ending theme specifically) and Gyakkou no Flügel (the insert song from the first ep, now the series ending theme).
    • Done again in the final episode of the second season with: Vitalization (as an ending theme for 12) and Niji Iro no Flügel as the series' ending.
  • Body Horror: Noises' mere touch turns people into ashes quickly, but not quick enough for the victims not to feel it.
  • Breather Episode: A well-deserved one, at that. Episode 9 is a "girl's day out", and Nana Mizuki performs karaoke on an Enka song.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster:
    • The first episode is very dark. The second episode is far brighter, focusing on Hibiki's induction as a Symphogear candidate; then episodes three and four go back to being serious... until the very last minutes of episode four suddenly turn into a goofy shonen Training Montage. Overall the tone of the series gets Lighter and Softer as the series progresses (Episode 8 even relies on The Power of Love and The Power of Friendship as a plot point) with the international conspiracy subplot and Chris' Dark and Troubled Past being the only "edgy" elements left by the finale.
    • The 2nd season, on the other hand, goes back to the dark tone of the first 4 episodes, and even more.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The little girl Hibiki saved during episode 1 plays a role in the finale.
  • Cliffhanger Copout: Tsubasa and Hibiki's fight never happens: old man Genjuro comes out of nowhere and stops Tsubasa with his BARE FIST.
  • Colony Drop: This was Finé last ditch effort as she grabbed a piece of the moon and pulled it towards the Earth. The second season reavealed that the moon itself is heading towards the Earth.
  • Continuity Nod: G has many nods to the first season.
    • There is at least one Dead Star Walking character, who dies in episode 1 of both seasons.
    • At the end of the respective first episode, a new Gungnir user appears, followed with Genjuro's reaction "Gungnir datto?!"
    • In season one, Hibiki breaks off the heels of her Symphogear outfit because they're in the way. Season two has Tsubasa accidentally break a heel of her idol outfit when fighting Maria.
    • When Hibiki tries to prevent Tsubasa and Chris from fighting in episode 4, they say "Shut Up! This is a battlefield!". This happens again in G, this time it's Shirabe and Kirika.
    • Episode 12 from both seasons start with the ending theme and end with the opening theme. At the end of the episode, Hibiki transforms and she yells "SYMPHOGEAR!" and "GEKISŌ ・ GUNGNIR DA!" in response to Finé and Maria, respectively.
    • The first season ends with the song Gyakkou no Flügel. G ends with Niji Iro no Flügel, a remix of the former.
  • Creature-Hunter Organization: The Mobile Disaster Response Corps, being the ones with Symphogear users who are the only ones with a fighting chance against the Noise.
  • Creepy Doll: The ending features a lot of "gutted" mannequins, for no discernible reason. It somehow got past the radar with it's explicit pictures.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The fate of those attacked by Noise: they get reduced to carbon compounds over the span of a few seconds.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: At first it seems the series is going to play the Magical Girl Warrior as strategical weapons, villains being honestly deadly, heroines never getting a break and lacking Plot Immunity. By the final three episodes, the Power of Friendship and the Power of Rock trumps all. It's quite epic.
  • Description Cut
    Tsubasa: "Smiles have no meaning where we're going."
    Cue the next scene having the bureau celebrating Hibiki getting there.
  • Downer Beginning:
  • Eagle Land: Extremely obvious by the phone call and the assassination of Hiroki by an Ahnuld look-alike. — In-universe, Japan and America relations are tense due to sheer competition and its authority present around the world. At least until it is revealed that America and Japan were working together to get information about Ryoko.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Kadingir was designed for blowing up the Moon. And it has some success at that.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Noise are mysterious monsters created by mankind that kill people just by touching them.
  • Empathic Music: Since singing songs is a key idea in the anime, the background music changes depending on who is currently singing and/or in their Symphogear. It is rare for songs to be pure orchestra.
  • Everything Is Better With Spinning: This series loves spinning.
  • Evolving Credits:
    • Chris is added to the final group shot in the OP in episode 11.
    • In Symphogear G, Episode 5 adds portraits of the legends the gears are based on and episode 10 adds Miku with her Symphogear.
  • Expy: The Noise; they're the Gnosis in all but name. Namely, they resemble featureless humanoid or animal-like abominations, shapeshift, can go right through walls and conventional projectiles, turn humans into swiftly crumbling statues on touch, and may only be harmed in the split second while they attack - unless specialized weaponry based on ancient artifacts is used. Never mind that Chris strongly resembles Kos-Mos with her signature dual gatling guns.
  • Faux Fluency: The beginning of episode 5 has a conversation over the phone done in full English. And it's very obvious the voice actors aren't very fluent in the language. Watch it here. Invoked on the Japanese side of the conversation: she was performing that gratuitousness as an insult to her American interlocutors.
  • First Episode Spoiler:
    • We see the tombstone of a main character a minute into the first episode. Midways through that episode another main character is dead, becoming a Posthumous Character.
    • Similarly for G, we see the moon cracked open and the competing Idol against Tsubasa having a fragment of Gungnir and being The Dragon.
  • Flanderization: The OVA exaggerates some traits of the characters. Justified, it's a gag series.
    • Hibiki being dumber than usual.
    • Miku's love for Hibiki is less ambiguous.
    • Tsubasa's stoic Samurai personality reaches freaky levels.
    • Chris' Hair-Trigger Temper is even shorter. Even though the character design for the OVA is simple and Super-Deformed, Chris is noticeably shorter than most characters and is shown to have (big) breasts. (The other character with noticeably big breasts in this OVA is Maria.)
    • Kirika's Verbal Tic is basically a Catch Phrase. And she is shocked very easily and that happens everytime to her.
    • Shirabe displays even less emotion than normally.
    • Maria's role as the Team Mom and Cool Big Sis is much more pronounced, as well as her low self-esteem.
    • Ogawa is willing to do a lot more suff to make Tsubasa more popular, whether or not he has Tsubasa's co-operation.
  • Flashback : The first episode has an extended flashback to Kanade's death.
  • The Future: Not terribly far into the future, but more than Twenty Minutes.
  • Genre-Busting: The above description is correct: a music-themed Science Fantasy Magical Girl series.
  • Good Costume Switch: A subtle example in the second season. Chris' Gear design was changed (just like everyone else's), and it now has more white trims instead of black ones. It also reflects in her default civilian clothes (when she's not wearing the school uniform), that are now a brighter shade of red, lose the black parts and are overall less stripperiffic.
    • <i>GX</I> also seems to be going this way, with Maria, Kirika and Shirabe all getting redesigned Gears with more white on them.
  • Gratuitous English:
    • The subtitle for the logo is "Meteroid-falling, burning, and disappear, then..." This is supposed to reference shooting stars, which show up in Episode 3 as a Youtube video.
    • In S2, the subtitle is "In the distance, that day, when the star became music..."
    • Symphogear GX continues the tradition with "Believe in justice and hold a determination to fist."
  • Hair Contrast Duo: Kanade (orange), Hibiki (creme) and Kirika (blond) are cheerful, Tsubasa (blue), Miku and Shirabe (black) are calm.
  • Heartwarming Music: Not that it is even seen in Symphogear G, but the single for the G ED Next Destination has Ayahi Takagaki, Chris' Seiyu singing "Memory" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats. When you listen to it, imaging Chris is the person singing this song will be the way to see this as a Justified Trope.
  • Heroic BSOD: Episode 7 is a good contender for the most BSODs in one episode.
  • High-Pressure Blood: Any meaningful impact will release a humongous burst of blood, as seen for example when Hibiki gets hit in the first episode.
  • Homage: Many factor in this series is somewhat similar to Kamen Rider series.
    • Hibiki's selfless attitude somewhat similar to that of Hino Eiji.
    • Both Eiji and Hibiki also gain their power from relic hosted inside their body and they are both prone to its side effect which include transformation into The Berserker and Heroic RROD.
    • Miku's Symphogear Shenshou Jing possess similar color and ability to Kamen Rider OOO's Putotyra Combo.
    • Many of Tsubasa attack is similar to Kamen Rider attack such as her Heaven’s Wrath attack that somewhat resemble variation of Kamen Rider Gattack's Rider Kick and her Flash of the Rider's Blade which similar to Rider Break attack
  • Image Song: Not only the Symphogear users has some, even minor characters gets image songs in G.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: In G episode 12, no less than three characters suddenly find themselves naked due to their circumstance. Two of them are even displayed in their glorious nudity to the whole world!
  • Invincible Minor Minion: The Noise are truly dangerous Mooks. They can actively adapt, morph, mutate, and combine to form some of the strangest kinds of Eldritch Abominations. The concert scene destruction in the first episode, for example, was comprised fully of Mooks and several Boss in Mook Clothings. Episode 4 is the first episode to actually show a Mook Maker and a Boss, if you would call it that.
    • Noise are nigh-unbeatable for anyone who doesn't have a Symphogear. They can kill in a single touch, and are only vulnerable to conventional weaponry within the split second in which they need to physically interact with their target.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: In G, Hibiki and Chris' battle to secure the by-train delivery service of a relic is rendered moot when the Noise attack the party who receives it just as those two leave. Both the relic and the scientist who handles it (Dr. Ver) are missing. Episode 3 says that this was intentional, and that Dr. Ver is actually in league with the Big Bad. No, he is the Big Bad.
  • Magic from Technology: The relics are explained as ancient supertechnology by Ryoko. Then again, she's a reincarnated Sumerian priestess who wants to break the Curse of Babel.
  • Meaningful Name: Chris' mother; a singer was named Sonnet Yukine.
  • The Men in Black: The government agency handling the Symphogears actively keep their existence from the public eye, as they are considered a strategic resource. But their tactics are pretty nice and polite, like making witnesses sign Non-disclosure agreements.
  • Monumental Battle:
    • The fight in episode 10 takes place around the Tokyo Tower.
    • In season 2 episode 7, the battle between Nastassja's group and the US military takes place in what is obviously Tokyo Sky Tree, probably as a Shout-Out to fellow Magical Girl anime Dokidoki Precure and Vividred Operation. The tower blows up with Miku still inside.
    • GX opens with a more natural version, when the Symphogear team attempts to save a shuttle from crashing... but not without some collateral damage.
    Sakuya: The K2 is now the third highest mountain in the world!
  • Mood Whiplash: It's extremely hard to keep a straight face when transitioning from an Idol concert to a Bloodier and Gorier battle in under 12 minutes and then to high school Slice of Life.
  • Musical World Hypothesis: Symphogears invoke the AU variant to activate and power themselves. The idol performances also bring in Diegetic elements.
  • Music for Courage: In the Darkest Hour, the school's anthem rallies the forces of good.
  • Never Found the Body: Space is vast. Or maybe they burned in the atmospheric reentry.
  • No Sense of Energy: Dr. Ver exclaims that the energy released by Nephilim's heart that will vaporize the earth exceeds 1 trillion joules. This is roughly equivalent of 1 kiloton of TNT, or a third of the energy released in the Halifax Explosion of 1917. Of course, he does have a few screws loose so his thinking could be off...
  • Off Model: Episode 3 has a walk scene that looks animated in Adobe Flash. The animation studio working on Bodacious Space Pirates in the same season (especially when Mouretsu Pirates has so much CG scenes in them), plus having the OP single delivered post-haste and a budget slash might explain these animation issues.
  • Phenotype Stereotype: Notably, given how notorious anime is for this trope, it's averted for the most part. Maria and Serena do have bright blue eyes, but lack the blonde hair that's also typically associated with Americans and other Anglophone countries. Nastassja, Dr. Ver, and Chris all lack both the stereotypical hair and eye color. Background characters who are said to be American aren't overwhelmingly blonde and blue eyed either. However, it's played straight in regards to Finé once you realize that she was apparently blonde and fair skinned even though she lived in Ancient Mesopotamia - located where Iraq stands today. It makes more sense while she's using Ryoko's body if you take Power Dyes Your Hair into account, but she has the same hair and skin even when you see the real Finé during flashbacks and when she speaks to Shirabe from within her mind.
  • Production Throwback: The show loves referencing Akifumi Kaneko's other brainchild, the Wild ARMS series. From simply reusing mythological references in similar context (Ka Dingir or Airgetlám come to mind), to borrowing quotes and catchphrases (Hibiki's heiki hecchara/"it's okay, it's fine" comes straight from Lilka), to outright references (such as the Your Honest Self book from Wild ARMS 3 making an appearance, the later forms of G's Nephilim looking more and more like recurring Bonus Boss Ragu O Ragula, or GX turning the 2nd Division into an international intervention team called SONG in a blatant shout out to ARMS)
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: Episode 11, complete with a Weird Moon.
  • The Reveal: An In-Universe example: Miku sees Hibiki in Symphogear form fighting off against Chris in Episode 6. This easily changes her perspective on how Hibiki has been acting.
  • Running Gag: Genjuro's reaction to a relic being activated, usually the Gungnir, is usually done the exact same way. The name of the relic pops up on their central monitor, then cut to Genjuro yelling the name of the relic in surprise.
    • This was actually played with a few times. They used it to announce a special event after the credits of the final episode of season 1, and Genjuro's reaction changes from a yell of surprise to quietly repeating the name of the Relic with a worried look at one point in season 2, when Hibiki's uses her Gungnir when it could kill her.
  • Scenery Porn and Scenery Gorn: On both sides of the spectrum, and can change at any moment. Transitioning from a vibrant laser-show concert that ended with a sunset to a battle-stricken concert under that same sun is animated very beautifully.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Hibiki? Kanade? Noise? Mephisto? Why does it sounds so familiar?
      • Second season adds up 'Maria' and 'Shirabe' in the shout-out to said familiar series.
    • When Tsubasa bleeds from eyes and mouth when she executes her Ultimate Song against Chris, she looks almost like Miki Sayaka during her "I'm such a fool" moment. Jarring, because Tsubasa normally doesn't make that kind of face, her emotional spectrum considered.
    • At one point during the episode 4 Training Montage, Genjuro is dressed exactly like Akuma/Gouki. Considering his Badassery, it's not exactly inappropriate. Hibiki is also wearing Makoto's clothes.
      • The Training Montage of the second season, on the other hand, is a full-blown Shout-Out to Rocky, complete with punching frozen carcasses and the library staircase.
    • Chris's armor the Ichaival is a nice one to Wild ARMs.
      • Let's not forget "pagan technology", the "Ruins of Memory" and Kadingir, a tower to reach the heavens.
    • MEGADETH PARTY. In episode 10, she transforms into the Dendrobium Orchis.
    • Maybe it's just coincidence, but if you take Toyosatomimi no Miko from Touhou and wear those hair ears down, she looks a lot like Hibiki.
    • Berserk Hibiki has some interesting similarities to Asura, completely with being shrouded in darkness with ominous glowing eyes.
    • It seems that Noise have started manifesting outside of Shibuya.
    • Miku's Sympohogear form is a pretty much a Murokumo unit, mixing elemnts of Nu-13 and Lambda 11 (the Anubis-like head gear and visor) with elements of Mu-12 (having special devices that allow beam spam).
    • Kirika's jump at the end of her Transformation Sequence looks a lot like of Cure Pine's.
    • The Frontier resembles Castle in the Sky, especially the generator room.
    • The final episode of G. Vitalization? They might as well have called it Hell and Heaven!
  • Starts with Their Funeral: The first few minutes of the first episode reveals under Grave Clouds that Hibiki is already dead and buried. The series then flashbacks to two years ago and then forward two years again (though some time before the initial scene, since Hibiki's still alive) to show it got to that point. Also doubles as a Foregone Conclusion.
  • Take That:
    • In season 1, Genjuro states that Japan has the upper hand over the crisis-ridden Europe (i.e. the 2008 financial crisis), and thus the Durandal will be kept by the Japanese.
    • In season 2, Genjiro states that the USA can't be trusted. One wonders whether it's because the mess was kickstarted by the American relic lab, or due to the sheer extent of the US' surveillance state in Real Life.
  • Tempting Fate: Pretty much all of the first half of episode 10. "Boy do I like my school! I sure hope nothing happens to it!" Well guess what?
  • Those Three Girls: Aside from Yumi, Shiori and Kuriyo, there are also three girls in Chris' class that want to be her friends and help her break out of her shell.
  • Title Drop: The collective name of the anti-Noise armor is the name of the show. And the Ultimate Songs are translated from the the Japanese word "Zesshou". Also, each season title-drops its opening theme as the final, ultimate attack for that season.
  • Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe: Japan as a whole consists of the Research Facility underneath the school, at least three Symphogear users in two locations, and (potentially) two weapons, one of them being BFS Durandal. Doesn't look like Japan will hand over Durandal to the EU, what with Episode 5's revelation that Hibiki can use it as part of her song.
  • Tower of Babel: The tower Fine built to reach God is obviously supposed to be it, despite being unnamed within the show. But since she mentions the Curse of Babel too, it's obvious. Finé even transforms into the semblance of the Whore of Babylon when she goes One-Winged Angel, with apocalypse dragon included.
  • Training Montage:
    • Hibiki trains with old man Genjuro during the credits of episode 4. Bruce Lee and Street Fighter make appearances.
    • Also in season 2 episode 9. This time, all three Symphogear users are training under Genjuro. And Genjuro also sings!
  • Transformation Is a Free Action: Shown in episode 12, when Hibiki starting her transformation into her new Symphogear creates a shockwave that pushes Finé away.
  • Unmoving Plaid: Sometimes the school uniform skirts move but the fabric pattern doesn't.
  • Unusual User Interface: The consoles in the control room include features such as virtual faders/drawbars and turntables.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: Frontier has all the trappings of one. It's a mini-Floating Continent, the main characters are Storming the Castle into it and Fighting Your Friend, the Final Boss has taken One-Winged Angel form and is waiting inside, and so on. Glorious!
  • War Is Hell/Humans Are Bastards: The Noise were created by humans in order to fight against rival humans during the early ages.
  • Wave Motion Gun: Kadingir is not a tower - Finé even references the biblical Shinar - even though it is referenced as such, but an humongous energy cannon with the intention of shooting the moon. It works, but not as expected.
  • Weird Moon: It... has a massive dent and a ring surrounding it as shown early on in the second season.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Episode 11; the Big Bad and her plan is revealed, bad guys change sides or turn to have been The Mole for the good guys all along.
    • Symphogear G, episode 5: The moon is on a collision course with earth, and Hibiki loses an arm to the Nephilim.
    • Symphogear G, episode 7: Maria didn't inherit Fine...but Kirika does.
    • Symphogear G, episode 9: Miku was brainwashed by Doctor Ver and armed with her own Symphogear.
    • Symphogear G, episode 10: Hibiki and Miku are apparently killed, The Frontier is risen by their fight, and as a last shot Chris shoots Tsubasa in the back while saying "Goodbye"
  • Whole Costume Reference: During Hibiki's aforementioned training montage with Genjuro, there's a brief still where Hibiki dressed like Makoto (the red cloth strip is on her neck and her gi isn't sleeveless) and Genjuro dressed exactly like Akuma, both characters of Street Fighter fame.

Alternative Title(s):

Senki Zesshou Symphogear, Symphogear