Since this is Symphogear’s 10th anniversary I really have wanted to do something to celebrate it. This franchise won me over pretty early on and just kept going strong until it was one of my top anime franchises of all time. Thankfully Twitter gave me a positive idea (thanks @GodSlayingFist). Outside of trying to piece together my feelings on my top 10 anime of the year, I tend to avoid trying to hammer out top 10 lists in general. I tend to flip flop on things like this. But this isn’t a bad way to celebrate Symphogear and the characters I’ve gotten to know across 65 episodes. If nothing else it’s an excuse to praise their character arcs and drive some people crazy with where some characters will end up XD.
Obviously, there is going to be spoilers for the entirety of the 5 anime seasons. I won’t reference XDU since my exposure to that was pretty limited before the global version perished. Plus, it is a similar but alternate universe to the anime so it’s fine to leave that out. It’s not likely that I’ll do this sort of thing too often. But time to make an exception for the sake of a bit of fun.
10. Garie Tūmān
I’m kind of going to start with a bit of a wildcard here. Symphogear GX was a series with great elements and some elements that didn’t work. The autoscorers worked. They were unique in that their whole purpose was to be defeated. They utterly succeeded at what they set out to do. Whether it was dominating the main cast, pushing them, or getting destroyed by Ignite, they got the job done.
Garie being such a fun antagonist helped a lot in that sense for me. Because the autoscorers didn’t have to be redeemed (in their own season) it allowed Garie to fully embrace her rotten personality. Pretending to fall for a scheme to escape by Hibiki’s friends only so she could rip their hope away from them. There was a nice understated arc of her steadily getting more frustrated at not being able to break any pendants or things not playing out as she wanted (like with Hibiki being unable to fight). You could feel her near desperation to at least be the first to be destroyed by Ignite and further Carol’s plans. And it was fitting that she was then the last autoscorer to fall in XV. Getting to witness Carol’s return after sacrificing everything she had to protect her and Elfnein. That just made her top 10 for me.
9. Miku Kohinata
This one might lose me the Miku fans right away. But I find Miku’s place here the same as the lowest season on my personal rankings. When there is so much good, then something or someone has to land a bit lower on the list. There’s no question that Miku has a place in this top 10 for me. She’s been a constant presence from the very beginning and she wasn’t exactly hard to spot in the final season either. Some of the most shocking cliffhangers did involve Miku either being in danger or returning in dramatic fashion after being captured for a time. Having Miku descend on the battlefield in G with Shénshòujìng is still a moment I remember being shocked by the first time. Even if Shénshòujìng had been noted in season 2 before that point…it was something else to actually see her using it.
The same goes for Miku being taken over by Shem-ha in XV. A dramatic reveal that was even tougher since the ending was full of clips of as many Hibiki and Miku moments as the could pack in. The show usually found time within any given season to give Miku a chance to shine. She was a huge factor in Hibiki’s growth as a character and often was the one there to support her when it was most necessary. And there’s no question she saved Hibiki more than a few times. Even if she rarely got the chance to fight with the main cast, she was definitely a valuable part of the series.
8. Genjuro Kazanari
Genjuro might be one of the most fun characters to talk about. Here is a guy that legitimately could have been far more active if he wasn’t up against enemies that would be deadly for him to touch. The Noise and Alca-Noise being such a threat to people without Symphogear is the only real check on him. I still remember seeing him step up to stop Tsubasa’s attack on Hibiki in season 1. This guy just walks into the situation, punches a giant sword, smashes the ground from the pure power he’s unleashing, and the only cost was his shoes that couldn’t handle the force! Symphogear does a nice job in making clear that the main characters aren’t the only capable individuals. Genjuro and Ogawa (the modern-day ninja) can absolutely do work.
I’m absolutely glad that he got one more chance to shine in XV. Genjuro doesn’t really get to win fights, since that is left for the other characters. But he almost always loses because he’s a good guy that doesn’t want to kill people he cares about. Even if they are absolutely doing something wrong. He’s pretty well the father to the entire cast as well. Which is a necessity since the cast all either have dead or rather questionable father figures. And who can deny the fun of his training montages in the first couple seasons or him knocking the main cast around in AXZ? Genjuro even sang his own montage song in G which was absolutely perfect. He’s such a good and awesome guy. And I have no problem fitting him into this list.
7. Tsubasa Kazanari
Now we’re finally getting into the main Symphogear users. Tsubasa has been a major player since the very beginning. That opening concert massacre both allowed the show to leave an impact on the viewers and on Tsubasa. She is definitely one of the characters that suffers the most within the show itself. Her struggle to chase her dreams and fulfill her duties to others leads to a great deal of conflict. And sometimes Tsubasa has a difficult time handling how she interacts with others. She really struggled on how to process Hibiki’s condition in G. That struggle led to her pushing Hibiki away to start and eventually also pushing Chris away. And of course, that contributed to Chris making some reckless decisions on her own.
Tsubasa takes a lot onto her own shoulders and often needs help from someone to get her back on track. She has a pretty interesting list of people that have helped her do that as well. One of them includes the spirit of the dead Kanade in season 1! Tsubasa has some really great songs across the show and her voice actress (Nana Mizuki) sings all the opening songs of the series. Her collection of attacks including raining down swords, wielding twin swords, launching flying slashes, using ankle blades, freezing enemies by throwing a sword into their shadow, etc. Tsubasa is all about swords and it is a lot of fun when she’s allowed to go all out.
6. Maria Cadenzavna Eve
I really love the arc that Maria goes on throughout the show. Besides Hibiki she’s one of the most prominent characters in terms of consistently getting character moments. She starts out on a low point in G. But in some ways that is actually good. Maria doesn’t have a linear character arc where she just constantly improves. She made mistakes in G and then made different mistakes XD. But once she started to accept her flaws and move forward then things continued to improve. In some ways you could say that Maria is too hard on herself and sees herself as weaker than she is. But it is true that her weaknesses did nearly lead to global annihilation in season 2. So maybe it is fair for her to keep herself in check by not letting her ego get inflated.
Maria’s combat skills are a joy to watch and that goes for when she’s using Gungnir or Airgetlám. After Kanade she’s the one character that really lets us see the power of Gungnir’s armed gearr. At the same tiem she shows a great deal of flexibility when using Airgetlám. Her whip sword does good work alongside her ability to fire beams, throw knives, or block attacks with a shield. But maybe Maria’s biggest impact is her stepping up as Tsubasa’s partner in concerts. While those concerts rarely avoided trouble in some form, they do make a really good pair. I did think the Tsubasa ship with Chris had potential, but I didn’t mind the clearly growing connection between Maria and Tsubasa. They have some great songs and fight well together…or against each other.
5. Hibiki Tachibana
This one might also be a bit of a shock. But there’s no question that Hibiki is a top 5 character in the franchise for me. She is the main character and has been central from start to finish. Similarly, to Maria, Hibiki has really grown across the franchise. She started out as just any regular person. But one day she was just going to see a concert and then she was in the middle of a massacre. Nothing was quite normal from that point on. Hibiki’s backstory is steadily built up as the series goes along. In season 1 the focus is just on how she’s responded to surviving the Zwei Wing tragedy. But we eventually get to see a girl who has dealt with humanity’s uglier side. The victim of survivor shaming by people without a shred of empathy.
There aren’t that many characters that fit into a magical girl genre that sort things out with their fists. She isn’t completely unique there, but she does stand out. I always liked the concept of Hibiki not wielding weapons so she can connect to others by holding hands. Her punching prowess just gets more awesome as the series goes along. And there’s no denying the amazing moment in GX where she suplexes a space shuttle! She really matures into a hero and a leader as she goes along. There are a lot of conflicts she has to face from people that don’t want to listen or accept her. But the girl rises above it by the end. And I appreciate that her relationship with Miku is pretty clearly defined. I don’t need a kiss or a confession to get where things stand between those two.
4. Carol Malus Dienheim
This might be one of the biggest shocks to people. Although it probably shouldn’t shock anyone that’s followed my journey with this franchise since I’ve enjoyed Carol as an antagonist the whole way through. GX may not be one of the best seasons, but for me it did bring the best antagonist. Carol stood out when an enemy with bringing one of the most solid plots in the series. This is a character that has lived for centuries and could have made her move whenever she pleased. Her plan needed the main cast to exist and so she couldn’t wait out them dying of old age. She made Noise a threat for the first time since the first episode or two of season 1. Her plan fumbled at the end, but she controlled everything for much of the show and really had the characters in the palm of her hand.
And there’s no doubt in my mind she had the villain song of the show with Senkin Dur da Blá. I didn’t care for how she went out in GX since passing her body to Elfnein felt hollow since…Carol wasn’t really there anymore. But her return in XV was fantastic. It was a great reveal and her stomping Noble Red without taking a single step was perfect. She took her redemption chance and ran with it. Even managing to give Hibiki the push she needed to save Miku. Carol sacrificed her very existence while preserving Elfnein. Passing on the torch in the right way that time. She was great when a villain, but she was also excellent after her redemption. For me she is a top 5 character.
3. Kirika Akatsuki
There’s no hiding that Kirika has been a favourite for me for a long time. Her best arc was in her debut season in G, but she was a strong character in the other seasons. While some people found her actions in G to be chaotic and illogical, that never really bothered me. Kirika was a girl who had two major focuses in her life at that point. She wanted to protect Shirabe and she wanted to help Maria. Her trust in Maria and Nastassja was shattered by the reveal that Maria wasn’t Finé. The panic and fear that she could disappear at any moment combined with a world ending cataclysm made her desperate. Acting desperately in that situation isn’t particularly shocking.
Kirika hides a lot of darkness under a bright outer layer. It says a lot that when realizing Shirabe had Finé’s soul and she might have helped Finé take over that she went suicidal. She also was quick to risk her life in AXZ when Tiki was ready to melt her and Hibiki down. But Kirika isn’t stupid. The move to bolster herself with linker to avoid meeting a Kanade-like fate was smart. Her open love for Shirabe has always had me smiling. Even if she and Shirabe were singing about how they loved each other…while violently attacking each other. Kirika is fun, goofy, but is also there for those around her when needed. She was ready in GX to protect Chris along with Shirabe even after getting upset at Chris for fighting recklessly earlier. And hey, the girl can pole dance while transforming like no one else XD.
2. Shirabe Tsukuyomi
Shirabe is a character that grew on me as time went on. She started out with a pretty big hole to climb out of with firing a painful verbal barb at Hibiki in season 2. Of course, it’s easy to see where Shirabe’s reactions come from. The girl lost everything, was taken by FIS, used as a potential host for an immortal priestess, and then basically raised as a child soldier until she and her friends got out. Confronting someone that just wants to help people could trigger an (unfair) feeling of “why didn’t you save us?” Of course, there’s no way Hibiki could since she only really gained her power after the FIS damage had been done. But pain doesn’t always result in logical actions.
The great thing is that this bad start gave Shirabe a platform to grow from. Her guilt at her thoughtless venting pushing her to risk her life for Hibiki and wanting to do better. She had to face the walls she built up between herself and others in AXZ while accepting that walls aren’t all bad. Wanting to keep the love she had close to herself while not wanting to hurt those she cares about. Shirabe was the first FIS girl to find the light. Trying to stop the senseless slaughter that Maria was trying to convince herself was necessary, teaming up with Hibiki and company, and even fighting Kirika to try and stop her from making more mistakes.
Her Symphogear is one of the most fun in the series. A wonderful combination of saw blades, yo-yos, and throwing in a figure skating motif. I don’t think there are many characters in anime with skirts that shift forms into a spinning saw blade! Her mobility with her wheeled heels and turning a saw into a vehicle leaves her a fun character to watch in a fight no matter what she’s doing. Her songs are at their best when combined with Kirika, but are a treat on their own. And the title of best battle couple in the show definitely goes to her and Kirika. Their combination attacks are a real treat from rideable mech machines to beyblades!
1. Chris Yukine
There really wasn’t any doubt who my top character was going to be. Chris started out strong in season 1 and only got better as time went on. She’s the first redemption story of the series (unless you count Tsubasa’s hostility in season 1) and Chris does it well. And there’s no doubt that Chris’ backstory is pretty tragic as well. The girl got dragged into a war zone by fairly careless presents. Then they died, she was captured once, rescued, captured next by an immortal priestess, and raised as a tool until finally getting out of that situation. I don’t think anyone quite feels guilt over their role in previous seasons like Chris. G was a painful journey for her with Dr. Ver using Solomon’s Cane to kill so many people. A thing only possible because Finé got Chris to activate the relic with her phonic gain.
I think the school festival of G is where I really started to love her character. There was a girl singing about at long last finding a place to belong, but not being able to trust it. Chris feeling the need to ask if it was ok for her to be happy and if she could be forgiven for it. That it was such a great song and one of my favourites in the franchise didn’t hurt anything. I just felt really satisfied seeing her finally reclaim that tool, using it to help save the day, and finally being able to let go. Chris also knows how easy it is to lose things. Unlike say the FIS girls she has a clear memory of how her family died and what she lost. And she also didn’t have the support they did since the only person she had was Finé.
Chris probably my favourite tsundere period. Her inability to be honest just allows for very cute moments of her being embarrassed by how openly affectionate the various couples around her are. Her dynamic with Genjuro at times is fun with her being the unruly daughter of the team. With her Symphogear you can always count on more guns, bullets, and missiles. And I love that one of her last big super attacks of the show was used to save people. Even if they were her enemies, it was the perfect way to do things. A girl who from the start just wanted to stop wars and save lives got to do just that. For all these reasons Chris is my favourite character in the franchise.
This was honestly a lot of fun to work on. And honestly everyone on this list is a character I really enjoy. It could have easily gone into a top 15 or 20 list with characters getting into the mix such as Saint-Germain, Dr. Ver, Elfnein, Ogawa, etc. This is a franchise with a really good cast, songs, and action sequences. There are so many characters that top 10 lists can go in any number of directions for this show. Hopefully this list was at least a little bit fun to read through. I don’t know what the future holds for Symphogear and if we’ll see anything more from the franchise. But if nothing else it was a ride that I’ll always remember fondly. My only immediate hopes are that the remainder of the seasons can be released on bluray over here. Fingers crossed on that one.
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