Symphogear is the best anime that you’ve probably never heard of. It is a magical girl/super robot/music anime where a bunch of adorable girls fight aliens in the most over-the-top action scenes imaginable (in a good way), using mech suits powered by J-Pop. If you took every anime ever made and threw it into a blender, it would probably be something like Symphogear. And everyone in it is gay!
There’s so much to love about this series, from its jaw-dropping transformation sequences to its ever-expanding medley of Best Girls, but the main selling point, for me, is the music. Every Symphosong is a banger, and there’s a new one in almost every episode. The action sequences are timed perfectly with the music, and holy shit are they amazing!
The music is incredibly eclectic, mixing electronica, rock, and even classical music to constantly keep you on your toes. Each Symphogirl has their own unique design, personality, and weapon of choice, and their character songs often showcase a different genre of music which reflects who they are as people. The punky tsundere Chris sings loves rock music, and guns through her enemies like an 80’s action movie star…
…While my personal favorite, the sultry blue-haired samurai Tsubasa, often has elements of traditional Japanese music in her songs. It’s a great fit, since her voice actress, Nana Mizuki, is an enka (a type of Japanese folk music) singer.
Of course, no great action anime would be complete without an intimidating and varied rogues gallery, and Symphogear delivers in spades. The villains range from a mad scientist who can’t stop chewing the scenery to the Transgender Illuminati (yes, really), and they’re all a ton of fun to watch. And they get their own songs too! The egotistical alchemist Carol has an incredible singing voice, and is so freakin’ badass she can stand up to three lesser villains without moving at all:
While the series’ epically ridiculous action scenes get the most attention for their pure spectacle, that’s not to say that the show is lacking in substance. All of the girls have well-developed character arcs that show them overcome their personal hangups and grow closer together as a team. Hibiki, like any great shonen protagonist, learns to face her insecurities and become a strong leader, while Tsubasa struggles with breaking out of her icy shell and opening up to people. There’s a real camaraderie between them all, as they constantly support each other and build each other up when the going gets rough. This makes even the non-action scenes, like Tsubasa and Maria’s incredible pop concert in Season 5, just as fun and exciting as any of the battles:
And contrary to almost every anime ever made, the series just gets better and better with each successive Symphoseason. The first season is a bit shaky in the animation department, but the story, characters, animation and music improve seemingly every episode. By the time you get to the final season, Symphogear XV, your mind will be constantly blown by the most intense sakuga this side of Mob Psycho 100.
Symphogear is an amazing and criminally underappreciated anime. If you’re a fan of classic Gainax action shows like Gunbuster, Evangelion, and Gurren Lagann, you should definitely give this series a shot. It’s got fantastic action, wonderful characters, a story that can be surprisingly dark when it wants to be, and, of course, an absolutely bangin’ soundtrack. It’s also probably the gayest anime I’ve ever seen (although, to be fair, I haven’t watched Revolutinary Girl Utena yet). Plus, Crunchyroll has the first three seasons on YouTube, so you don’t even need a subscription to watch it!
…It is very, um, anime, though, so it’s probably not a good one to watch with your parents or anything.