Friday, 6 March 2020

The Harmony Of Hope And The Dirge Of Despair: Part 1 (Senki Zesshou Symphogear) [1.4]

(Continued from 1.3)

Part 4: Finale Of Finè

Ah, Finè. Her name itself suggests endings, but that in itself is an irony. To speak of Finè is to speak of the grand masterminding she's been undergoing throughout the whole series. Even in Episode 1 during the Zwei Wing incident, she was there. She was hiding in plain sight as a character I've not spoken of yet. Sakurai Ryoko is the Second Branch's main scientist, and a genius when it comes to knowledge of Symphogear. There's also just enough suspicion cast on her midway through the show that you wonder what she's up to. She has superpowers, as is made clear during the Durandal incident, but then the boss of the Second Branch is a powerful martial arts fighter, so one can brush it off. Over time, then, the suspicion grows until Episode 10's cold open is literally Ryoko doing things in Finè's mansion and being ambushed by her American conspirators. On initial watch, I was confused by this, but in hindsight the pair sound very similar. Either way, it is a twist, although one that might have been better served if the audience didn't just get to know it point-blank like that. Regardless, Finè has a scheme, and she's used her alter ego as Ryoko to make it happen, pulling the strings behind the scenes to ensure all the pieces come together properly for her to make her move. Let us then square away exactly who Finè is and what that plan is.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

The Harmony Of Hope And The Dirge Of Despair: Part 1 (Senki Zesshou Symphogear) [1.3]

Part 3: Crescendo Of Chris and Minuet Of Miku

Of course, in talking about Chris, we have to deal with just a bit of an eyebrow raise problem. There are a handful of moments of risque content in Symphogear, the usual Japanese cartoon stuff like shared baths and whatnot. There's also the fact that some of the Symphogear armor is a little revealing. For the most part, it's about as much content as, say, your typical Hyperdimension Neptunia game. The exception here is the opening to Episode 5, which opens with a mysterious nude woman talking really bad English to an American over the phone and plotting something. This woman turns out to be in charge of Chris, who starts the episode shackled to an electrocution machine in her underwear. As the nude woman states that pain is the only thing that brings people together, she begins electrocuting Chris. I. Uh. What. What in the fuck? I don't know what the fuck. Well, I kind of do. The notion that pain is the only thing that brings people together will come back to us in the finale of the show, and be resonant with what the climax is doing. Fair enough, but did we have to do it with electrocution torture??? 

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

The Harmony Of Hope And The Dirge Of Despair: Part 1 (Senki Zesshou Symphogear) [1.2]

(Continued from 1.1)

(TW: blood)

Part 2: Tempo Of Tsubasa

Enough teasing from me. It's not. It's really not. Though a Dirge of Despair is playing now, the Harmony Of Hope is muffled in the background. What does that mean? It means that there's a hopeful utopian idealist show hiding here in this grim, practical, despair-filled world. To find it, I want to shift gears just a bit. Starting from the end of Episode 2, Symphogear's structure becomes quite efficient. The major conflicts between various characters in the series are layered together, such that as soon as one gets resolved, another one will come out of nowhere, or intensify, to replace it and keep things tense. In some ways this is an obvious bit of plotting, as you want a central conflict or tension to maintain audience excitement and curiosity. It's in analyzing each of these interpersonal conflicts, though, that we can find the heart of Symphogear. The thesis statement, if you will. One of the major ones is something I've glossed over in my mini-synopsis of Episode 2's status quo setup; the conflict between Hibiki and Tsubasa. Tsubasa, you see, was incredibly fucked up by Kanade's sacrifice and her own failure to protect her dear partner. This has led her to become a cynical individual, shutting out her own feelings and focusing solely on becoming a powerful Symphogear user to defeat the Noise. Indeed, as we'll find out later, she doesn't even see herself as a human being any more. She is, in her own mind, a sword. A tool for killing Noise.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

The Harmony Of Hope And The Dirge Of Despair: Part 1 (Senki Zesshou Symphogear) [1.1]

(Hello! We're just about ready to talk about the first season of Symphogear, but I do feel that a courtesy spoiler warning is in order. The way I've deep dived into this show to talk about it basically means I'm talking about every major plot beat in the season. This first part, 1.1, covers the first episode and part of the second. If this seems like a show you'd like to watch from my writing on it, or you just want to see it first and not be spoiled, then this is your official spoiler warning. Anyway, this came out to just over 7000 goddamned words. As such, I am splitting it into four bite-sized posts over the rest of the week. That should help it be readable and not the stream-of-consciousness unbroken ramblings of, say, a William Faulkner character. I hope you enjoy, this means a lot to me.)

(Continued from Introduction: Elegy Of The Eternals)

So, then. Having framed my own mental landscape when it comes to magical girls in the intro, we finally come to it. It's finally time to talk about Senki Zesshou Symphogear. Part of the reason I did the preamble that I did was to properly express my mindset going in to the show. Part of it was so I didn't have to explain how that mindset informed my initial reactions to the thing. Here's the real deal, then. We have defined the two "modes", so to speak, of magical girls in my head. I even titled the intro after them. Usagi's Harmony of Hope, and Madoka's Dirge of Despair. Going in to Symphogear, I was led to believe that I was getting a show a lot like Sailor Moon. What I ended up getting and how it resonated with that made my viewing of Symphogear, and how it affected me, quite interesting. I am always hesitant when beginning these things because I don't want them to just be overly rambling plot summaries of the show itself. Nevertheless, to find my footing I'm afraid I have to weave into that lane. Take my hand again. It'll be fine. We're going to dive on in, at long last. No more messing around.

"Can you hear them? All these people who've lived in terror of you and your judgement? All these people whose ancestors devoted themselves, sacrificed themselves, to you. Can you hear them singing? Oh, you like to think you're a god. But you're not a god. You're just a parasite eaten out with jealousy and envy and longing for the lives of others."

Monday, 2 March 2020

Doctor Who Series 12 First Impressions: Episode 10 (The Timeless Children)


That's a good place to start with a once-over of The Timeless Children. Oh my god. Look, this is a great big mess. An even bigger mess than usual because, God help us, Chris Chibnall has (more than likely) changed the face of Doctor Who canon forever with his revelations. This has led to a lot of despair and critique from people I respect, even declarations that they're done with the show if it puts out lore-driven drivel like this. I don't begrudge them in the slightest, of course. It is messy, it is brazen and absurd, and it shifts the lore to places that are arguably less interesting than the ambiguity and assumptions which came before. All I can do is offer my take, and my take is that this is so brazen and absurd that it became goddamned hilarious to me. I don't want to toss around the word "fanfiction" like it's a pejorative when talking about this episode. As I've said before somewhere, Doctor Who is such a long-running show that it's sort of become official fanfiction of itself at this point. People like Chris Chibnall or Steven Moffat, who grew up as fans, got to run the show and indulge their imaginations as fans of the show, officially. There is an almost joyous and innocent sense of Chris Chibnall as a kid smashing his toys together and just coming up with the most ridiculous shit as part of his story, and I found it hilarious. I was laughing at the screen more than once, unable to believe the sheer ludicrousness of what I was witnessing. I had fun here, in some sense! Unlike Ascension Of The Cybermen, which was just dire confusing buildup to this, I found enjoyment out of the silliness. It's rather like a "so bad it's good" cheesy movie, where it's terrible but you get something out of it anyway. Unfortunately I can't go all the way and call the episode "so bad it's good"; there are still some scenes and tonal inconsistencies that are just plain bad. Still, I'm going to have fun with this writeup. One more for the road before the long hiatus begins anew, eh?

Monday, 24 February 2020

Doctor Who Series 12 First Impressions: Episode 9 (Ascension Of The Cybermen)

So this is how it ends. Oh, not Series 12. I mean my patience with Chris Chibnall's plotting pace. I have tried, I feel, to be gracious and nice when it comes to his slow burn of an arc this series. Spyfall Parts One and Two set up some whoppers of future plot elements, and that was fine. A little questionable with snapping back to a destroyed Gallifrey, but I was willing to ride it out. Fugitive Of The Judoon came completely out of left field and raised even more theories and wonderings as to just what in the hell was going on. Look, it's been fun. It has been fun to spend some time in this period of temporal grace, wondering what the big reveals are going to be. Then comes Ascension Of The Cybermen, the penultimate episode. One would think that some of these questions would be addressed, or alluded to in any shocking way. All we have from this are more questions, more theorizing, more puzzlement, and it's here where I finally get fed up with Chibnall's teasing and express a demand for something to actually happen. I didn't expect every answer here, but I expected something. This is a nothing of an episode, 50 minutes of Chibnall spinning his wheels regarding any sort of arc resolution. There are things that happen in it, and I will do my best to explain them... but this really just feels like an extended trailer for the true finale next week. That should not be the case for the penultimate episode of the season, the Part 1 of 2. Good God. Let's analyze this bitch and get out.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Doctor Who Series 12 First Impressions: Episode 8 (The Haunting Of Villa Diodati)

Okay, so the short version is that it was a good episode. I don't know about great, now, but certainly good. Upper tier, but not cracking the top three for me personally? It's a bit of a surprise that I was cooler on it than I expected, considering what it does. Much like last week's Can You Hear Me?, there are concepts here that personally resonate with me. Unlike the previous episode, however, the concepts don't hit me on an emotional level... per se. Instead what they do is mirror two pieces of media which are important and formative to me, and the comparison made me sit up and go "oh that's kinda clever, it's like ___" as I was watching. These comparisons will come in a moment, once I get the proverbial motor running... but I do have to say that, as nice as it is to be reminded of such important media to me, there's only a little going on beyond that. I ended up feeling like I did when Captain Jack showed up a few weeks ago; "yes good, I recognize that element, now do something with it other than reminding me of other shit I've seen.". I don't say this to imply that The Haunting Of Villa Diodati (and I almost got that first try, I only spelled it "Diodata") is an awful piece of reference porn or anything. It's absolutely not. It does what it does, and not much more beyond that, that's all. Still, I can find something here. Come on, then. Let's dig in.