Next up in our New Spring 2006 Yuri Anime Season reviews, Simoun. I touched briefly on the Simoun manga that premiered in Yuri Hime 3 in February. There wasn’t too much to say about it, as the publication is quarterly and we’ve only seen one chapter. (T-minus one week to Chapter Two in Yuri Hime 4) So, I had no specific expectations going into the anime.
The premise of the Simoun anime appears to be the same as that of the manga. Our protagonists are Neviru and Aeru, two female warriors from an embattled society. Everyone in this world is born female, but at some point (it was originally stated on the website that the choice was at 15, but it has since been changed to 17) that everyone chooses whether to remain female (which they must do to continue to fight) or to become male. Most Yuri fans appear to be a bit hesitant to embrace a story in which a sudden gender change might render a lesbian couple suddenly straight, but I’m not that concerned.
The main objection appears to be that in the middle of a really wonderful yuri love affair one character might suddenly decide to change her gender. This is reasonably unlikely for several reasons, based on what I have read and seen so far:
1) This decision is a once-a-lifetime choice. At 17, you go to the sacred lake and chose. Then it’s done. You don’t choose again, and the choice isn’t reversable.
2) The main characters we are following are all going to be female because they are warrior-pilots. To fight you have to be female. I expect one or two to change gender as the story goes on, but the bulk of any main relationships you’ll see are going to be lesbian.
3) The manga is running in Yuri Hime, which is a Yuri manga publication for a Yuri audience. I think it unlikely that they’ll piss the audience off by changing too many of the couples mid-flight, as it were.
Interestingly, all the characters in this anime, male or female, are voiced by women, which I thinks puts a very unique spin on the masculinity of the male characters. I though it an original touch. In addition, several of the leading male roles are drawn with very feminine features.
Let’s go over the bad first, as I frequently do when there is more good than bad. The thing I like least has got to be the character designs. The clothing is less annoying than it is in the manga, but in general, I don’t care for the characters’ faces – especially their eyes and mouths. Most especially our heroine Neviru, looks, with that mouth, just like a sex toy blow up doll. I find that very unpleasant.
That about covers the bad. Now the neither good-nor-bad, but it makes for good conversation:
The opening episode has several Yuri kisses, which are clearly not plot drivers. On the one hand, they are, to my realistic eye, Yuri service to sell the anime to the widest audience possible. On the other hand, I think that they might also represent a tradition.
One – the pilot pairs kiss each other before departing.
Two – the pilots then kiss a green gem-like thing that must be understood to be the energy source for their ship.
I conjecture that Neviru’s original partner and she were (I think it’s fairly obvious, actually,) much closer than just partners. Neviru’s partner and she shared kisses because they were lovers, and the other pilots, seeing their princess sharing a kiss with her partner were moved to do the same – and from there it became a tradition. It’s not entirely unlikely that the partner-pilots grow exceptionally close, as they hold each others’ lives in their hands. Think of them as Spartans. But now it has become a tradition and regardless of partner one shares a kiss, to remember the fragility of life, to remember love and peace and good things, before one boards for battle.
Now let’s look at the second kiss, the one that, perhaps, activates the ship’s power source. We know pretty much nothing about it, and personally, I hope we never really do learn anything about it. It’ll make writing fanfic easier. ^_^
So – let me just take a flying leap here and say that the technology does not have to be activated by a kiss. It might be both pilots touching the gem that activates it – or their intent brought to bear upon the gem but, like the kiss shared between pilots, the kiss on the gem focuses the mind and intent *directly on* the technology, and makes it activate. So it becomes part of the tradition – a kiss for your partner, a kiss for your ship.
In a sense – a very feminine way to approach battle. In another sense, a fun, cheesy way to gain instant yuri street cred. Whichever you want. It matters not. ^_^
Serge then pointed out that the kisses may well be an older/religious tradition quite apart from Neviru and her partner, as they all refer to God quite a bit in reference to the whole thing. So there you go, justification for the conjecture. ^_^
Now for the fantastic:
On the definitely good side, we have to start off with the background art, and the CGI of the mecha. The designs for the mecha are unique and the computer animation is lovely. The backgrounds are, like the picture above, watercolor-esque and very appealing. The two combined work for me, absolutely.
Also, story-wise, I absolutely ADORED the point of view in the first epsiode. Nota Mamiko (Shimako in the Marimite anime) voices an “enemy” pilot. A large portion of the first episode is from the perspective of a pilot from what is (to us anyway) a miserable over-industrialized world, which has demonized the protagonists’ society, Simoun. Simoun is shown as a garden-like, beautiful world, without taint of smog or grime, in which the technology is as beautiful as the people. I really, really liked how we first see Simoun through the eyes of someone who seeks to destroy it. This kind of writing is more important to me than any kiss will ever be, in an anime, at least. :-)
Music was good very good, I’ll have to consider getting the soundtrack
Art – 8
Characters – hard to tell, let’s go with 6 and revise later
Story – 7, with some genuine hope for more/better if the writing keeps up
Music – 8
Yuri – 8
Service – 3
Overall – 8
After two episodes, I think we can, perhaps, look forward to a decent anime with some unique characteristics, at least. Time will tell whether it is actually *good*, but at least it’s not starting out from the gutter. ^_^
Oh, and P.S. – Simoun was the name of French-made series of airplanes. Just thought you might like to know. ^_^