Yuri Anime: Simoun

April 12th, 2006

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

Ratings:

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. ^_^

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10 Responses

  1. hxb says:

    Simoun’s weird but the Music’s good. The art and the op theme reminds me of Sokyuu no Fafner though.
    Hopefully, the enemy pilot doesn’t get embroiled in a triangle with Neviru and her co-pilot. -_-”
    The kisses felt a bit unnecessary and early. Usually in anime, kisses are the culmination of all the trials and tribulation, so I wonder what they’ll need to show later on… -_-”’

    hxb

  2. Neo_Hrtgdv says:

    I got to watch both Strawberry Panic! and Simoun, I honestly prefer Simoun; the music and visual appeal, the world the main characters are in is really nice and I overall liked this one a lot, I think even non-Yuri fans might like it just for the mechas, I personally liked the “attack” system they use of writing in the sky, I liked it a lot ^_^

  3. gregory says:

    This is one of the more promising looking series this season. The production values look very high. The stuff about the kissing that you mentioned is interesting. I hadn’t looked too deeply into it since the first episode leaves many questions floating around.

    And the music was wonderful, it fit with what was on-screen beautifully.

  4. lilith1013 says:

    “Most especially Neviru, our heroine, looks, with that mouth, just like a sex toy blow up doll. I find that very unpleasant.”

    While I think the overall design of the show is quite beautiful, I agree that there was something about Neviru’s character design I didn’t like. It wasn’t until your doll comment that I realized what it was. LOL. Thanks. =)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hmm, the backgrounds immediately put me in mind of SKU. I enjoyed the first episode, but I do worry about the whole gender swap thing. The japanese do like to de-Yurify their couples in the strangest of ways; she’s a robot; she’s capable of existing as either gender; she used to be a guy but a SHIPFUL OF ALIEN CRASHED INTO HIM, KILLED HIM AND REGENERATED HIM AS A GIRL.

    Such situations = Lame. So i am a little worried.

  6. fignae says:

    Whew, I mostly agree with you here. :-)

    Also I think Simoun deserves some credit for assuming that love goes beyond gender. Perhaps pilots change to male later on to be with their loved ones, but in that androgynous/female state they love regardless, and I enjoy that very much.

  7. Serge says:

    I’d be a decent baseball player if I hit for the percentage I get conjecture and speculation right. (roughly 30%/.300 hitter) And the more I think about it, the more I like the religious aspect of it, which, of course, means that I’m totally wrong. ;)

    In those halcyon pre high speed internet days, we used to say girls like Neviru had DSLs, which, for guys like me, was always a good thing.;) (Though, it’s totally a moot point in a Yuri anime) This is just a roundabout way of saying, once again, Neviru’s character design does not bother me.

  8. Anonymous says:

    What I find interesting is that these don’t seem to be veteran, hard-bitten warriors – they’re all like novices to war, though they are highly trained and considered the elite among pilots. Perhaps the war has just started, perhaps they’ve only ever known victory, they’ve never known loss, and were convinced of their invulnerability (witness their reaction upon losing some of their friends). Perhaps much like pilots in the RAF and Luftwaffe in 1939.

    Love the tango!

    Iskandar

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm … I tried this just because it got such a good review. I’m currently in love with Marimite, which I only discovered one *week* ago because of your review, so I thought I’d give this a go as well. I confess, I can’t get past the character designs. I have a 5 gig download of the entire series on my PC and I can’t even make myself finish watching the first episode. The character designs just make my skin crawl.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I was soo hooked to Yuri after watching kannazuki no miko and strawbery panic and went on an anime hunt through forums and blogs to find more, its when I got here and read this review about Simoun. To be honst I stopped watching this anime after few minutes of the first episode, my reason might sound silly but I really couldn’t stand that ugly lipstick Neviru wears and that hair is just ugh…then days flew by and we got 2 new Yuri animes that had decent art and story “aoi hana, sasameki koto” and then more days flew by and I just couldn’t find animes that had it’s story centered around the Yuri topic. mostly its either a side story of a character or an anime mocking lesbians like maria holic. Thats when I got real desperate and decided to give simoun another chance, and guess what, am glad I did! am still at episode 12 but I really like where the story is going and oddly the other character designs are much better than Neviru’s which eased the pain I get everytime she appears.

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