Thursday, February 28, 2013

Simoun Anime Review

Simoun
Shimun
Anime Works-Media Blasters
Complete Collection - 5 discs
650 mins. - 26 episodes
$19.99 (2012)
$49.99 (2009)
$19.99 (2008) Vol. 2-5/ea.
$19.95 (2007) Vol. 1
ISBN 631595092974
Japanese Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Junji Nishimura
Studio - Studio Deen

Synopsis: In the land of Simulacrum all children are born female and journey to the Spring on their seventeenth birthdays to choose a permanent sex.  Some remain female and some become male.  An ancient technology based on helical motors is used in Simulacrum for advanced flying machines.  These include large flying airships and smaller craft called 'Simouns'.  Special girls are chosen as priestesses, called sibyllae, to pilot the Simouns which respond to the emotions of the pilots.  Each craft is piloted by two girls who kiss each other and then kiss a glowing green ball on their Simoun to start it.
First the girls kiss each other
The Simouns are impossibly fast and maneuverable compared to other mechanical craft.  The pilots can trace magical glyphs in the air which release powerful waves of energy.  These glyphs are called Ri Majons.  Simulacrum has prospered with the power of the helical motors and neighboring lands are jealous.  These nations have declared war and attack Simulacrum in order to discover the secret of the motors.
Then they kiss the green ball in the Simoun
Now the young priestesses who pilot the Simouns must use their sacred knowledge to destroy the lives of the enemy soldiers.  If they do not then Simulacrum will fall and everyone they love will suffer.  The girls rail against the cruel fate of turning their devotions into murderous weapons.  They come face to face with the despicable enemy and find them to be hopeless men.  These foreign nations' technology pollutes the planet and their bodies in order to compete with Simulacrum.
An airship carrier - notice the massive helical motor powering it
What is the secret behind the helical motors and the Spring?  The most powerful of the glyphs is the Emerald Ri Majon which has never been completed successfully and most are afraid of what will happen it when it is. The sibylla question their beliefs and the Simouns as they are both used as tools for war.  Will they live to make a choice at the Spring or be swallowed by war?
A swarm of enemy airships using propellers
Pros: Nice character designs, very pretty girls who kiss each other numerous times, plot is full of wartime drama, the relationships between the girls are complex, offbeat and not cookie-cutter, good ending
The beautiful Neviril - greatest sybillae of Chor Tempest
Cons: Excruciatingly slow-paced, music was very bland (sort of like classical, but not very elegant), mechanical designs are weird, the CG (computer generated) elements (like the Simouns and airships) were crude, the backgrounds were all static drawings, a lot of pan-and-scan, a very young girl paired with an older girl, sick of hearing everyone call 'Neviril!' 'Neviril!' over and over again
These men all used to be girls
Mike Tells It Straight: This title is labeled 'yuri' which is female-on-female love, but it's all very tame.  Sure, the girls kiss many times and a few profess their love for each other, but I wouldn't call it 'lesbian'.  I think the promotional visuals for this series are misleading as the girls are shown in passionate embraces and this rarely happens.  The story is more concerned with their political exploitation as tools of war and coming of age.
The Simouns trace magical trails as they perform a Ri Majon
The premise and overall look of Simoun is rather unique.  It has an all-female voice cast, even for the male characters which makes then sound like they were all once female.  I loved the character designs and thought Neviril was fairly stunning.  The characterizations were really well done and we get a wonderful ending for most of the girls.
A side shot of the Simouns used by Chor Tempest
I found a lot of things lacking in the show however and give it a low recommendation because of them.  It felt boring despite all of the wartime happenings and battles.  I guess it was focused on the relationships between the girls, but I almost stopped watching at several points (particularly when Neviril was moping about).  Only until the last third of the series did my interest renew as the mystery of the Spring got deeper.  The opening/ending themes were bland and so was the entire soundtrack.  I may not be able to appreciate lively accordion music.
The sybilla of Chor Tempest (from left) - Floe, Kaim, Mamina, Paraietta, Neviril,
Alty, Morinas, Roatreamon (not pictured - Aer, Dominura, and Rimone)
The visuals, especially the backgrounds and mechanical designs, were poor.  Every outdoor shot of sky, forest, or ground looked like a rough colored pencil drawing which the camera panned through to feebly simulate movement.  The CGI were crude and unsophisticated.  The Simoun and airship designs were unique, but plain awful.  Heinous-looking stuff.
An enemy Simoun, wait, I thought only Simulacrum had helical technology!?
Despite being ambivalent towards the visuals and plot I would say Simoun shows a lot of effort and risk-taking.  It's a decent show, but I wouldn't come to it with the wrong expectations of a sordid yuri lovefest.  If you're looking for fan-service, girl-on-girl action then look elsewhere.  This show has solid characters and a thought-provoking (although slow-paced) story.
A promo shot of Neviril and Aer kissing - this doesn't show up in the anime
TO BUY and Recommendations: