Yuri Anime: Simoun, Volume 1 (English)

October 22nd, 2007

So, last week, we were talking about managing expectations in order to enjoy anime more.

And there I was this weekend, staring at Volume 1 of Simoun and wondering – how on earth would I manage my expectations of *this*? ^_^

Here’s the dilemma – I loved Simoun. I named it the best Yuri series of 2006 and I meant it. It was one of the most interesting anime series I have ever watched, and full of so many wonderful points that we can mull over and over to endless annoyance/satisfaction, depending on who you are and what you like.

And I really, really love the folks at Media Blasters. I’m thrilled that they are so genuinely interested in Yuri and want to reach out to the Yuri audience.

But, traditionally, I have not loved MB adaptations. Not because they were bad, but because I thought they were okay, but could have been better. To set the stage, let me explain why it matters so much to me:

I watch an anime with no other expectations than my own, as I said previously. In most cases I can understand some, if not most or all, of what is being said when I watch a series raw. And by doing so, I establish my own understanding of the series. When/if I watch a series subbed, I use it to fill in holes I have, and also to compare my understanding to the subbers’ interpretation. When, after all that, I have loved a series, I want to be able to wholeheartedly suggest it to other people – not only other people who are also already fans, but to people who may not have ever seen the original. And for these last, I need the translations to be all that. Otherwise, what I see as awesome, may come off as being incomprehensible, or uninteresting. Most people who watch an anime are not me. I read fast, seeing the subtitles almost as a subliminal. If the words in the translation don’t match my understanding of what’s being said it jars me. But for a person who relies on that subtitle for the entire meaning of the story, if the words are lazily written, or difficult to follow – or plain wrong, then that person is getting a whole chunk of the story taken away from them. Like having a huge black line through the art – sure you can watch around it, but it’s hard to enjoy.

Okay, that all having been said, let me cut to the chase – overall, I think Media Blasters did a very good job with Simoun. Better than usual, and much better than I expected.

Phew.

It’s not perfect, by any stretch, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Okay, first things first. I need to thank the folks at Media Blasters with all my thanks. They didn’t just send me a copy of Simoun to review – they sent me the very first copy to be printed in the US. And the cover art is signed by everyone who worked on it. There aren’t any smilies that express the sort of thing I felt when I got that DVD. So, my thanks and hugs to everyone at MB. ^_^

I’m going to start with the nitpicky things, starting with the one thing that has GOT to be fixed, or I’ll go mad, and working my way down in urgency until we go into the good, so we can all have a happy end. :-)

The one thing that has GOT to be fixed, is Rodoreamon’s name. For some reason they’ve got it as Rotreamon, which is just wrong. I double-checked the Japanese official website and the Japanese credits – Rodoreamon. Definitely “do” there, not “to”. It looks wrong and everyone definitely says “Rodo”, so please fix that!!! It just looks bad and doesn’t match what they are saying.

Okay, that’s out of my system. So. The names. I appreciated the consistency in the way names were written. In every case, without exception, the final “u” was removed from names. So, Anubituf, Kaim, Aer. I have no trouble with the transliterations they chose, although I’d have been more literal with Alti, instead of Alty. But okay. However, for Aeru’s name, I’d have left the “u” in, because later on, this is going to be an issue. Her name is pronounced “Ah-eh-ru,” not “Ah-er.” However, as this is not a major thing and it matches well enough, as well as being consistent, I’ll drop it. All the long vowels are written with the somewhat old-fashioned symbols “ā” or “ō” so “Wapōrif” and “Māj”. This leads to one really unfortunate typo. The first time the characters discussed doing a Māj, the “a” is left out and what we see is M_j. Erk. (Later, in the extras, Rodoreamon’s name is misspelled, as “Rorteamon.” Two typos on one disk is really not so good. Guys – ask me to to a last disk check. I know the series, the names, the words. Seriously. I’ll be glad to look it over. I do editing on the side.)

The translation. Overall, I think this might be the best translation I’ve ever seen from MB. They left in the honorifics which, in this case, are primarily “-sama.” Can I just tell you how NICE it is to *see* Alty say “Para-sama” when she’s saying it? Later, in the extras, “-chan” is used as well. I’d have loved to see a screen still with an explanation of the honorifics for the potential viewers who don’t know what they mean, but I am so excited to have the honorifics at all, I can barely contain myself. lol

People’s titles are translated. High Priestess, Governor, Captain. No problem. Country names are not translated, but left as they sound. Personally – I liked that. Thumbs up.

Extra points for making everything they say totally comprehensible. If you were one of the people who saw the extremely incomprehensible fansubs of the first three episodes by a particular group, you’ll know why this is so important – the first three episodes are *crucial* to our understanding of WTF is going on. Making it all make sense is not easy and I think they did a really good job. In fact, until the last episode on the disk, I think the translation was very tight. At the end, there was a bit that I felt got lax and fell back into that “this is what they meant, so it’s close enough.” Or maybe it’s just something about the way Dominura speaks that made the Translator want to make her a bit more…casual. (She certainly comes off an an odd bird. If it was done on purpose, then fine. If it was laziness, then bzzt.)

Also, I’d really like to see a Romaji version of the opening and ending themes. It’s pretty usual for anime and fans like it, because we always end up trying to learn them anyway. Alternate bwtween English and Romaji, or run them at the same time as. Either way, I think it would add some value.

The technicals. Well, the usual thing from Media Blasters – no inserts, which made me sad, because I had asked to have inserts of the cover art that we lost as mini-posters or something. This disk contains episodes 1-6, which is *very* good, but since the Japanese DVDs were two-episode disks, we lost two pieces of cover art in the process. I love the cover art – it’s hugely service-y, provocative and sexy. I had really hoped we get them as inserts. But hey – 6 episodes to a disk is *nice*. The whole series in 5 disks would be awesome. Especially for the price – $20 at Amazon ($15 if you pre-order). That’s just over $3/episode. No complaints here. Especially as I’ll probably be buying some Simoun for holiday presents. ^_^ There’s no dub track (although I know that some people like the dubs, and some people felt that they wouldn’t watch it without a dub, the idea makes me shudder, personally) and only the one audio track. Again, I passed on the idea of a 5.1 audio track, so you can’t say they didn’t know fans wanted it. I wouldn’t mind it myself – makes the music, which is so wonderful, even better.

The disk itself is very pretty. Huh, how about that? It surprised me, because I don’t usually notice the disks. This has to be up there for one of the nicest looking DVDs I own. ^_^

And, the extras. As usual, MB has included the extras from the Japanese volumes, which I like a lot. The first is an excruciating interview with the VAs for Aer and Neviril. And the “MC”, who is a horrible lollipop with eyes stuck on and a computer-modulated voice makes it just that much more horrible. Seriously, just skip that extra. The second extra is much, much better. It’s a trivia and quiz game special, pairing up, well, Pairs. Hosted by Morinaga Rika, Mamina’s seiyuu (who is incredibly cute in a punk-y kind of way, with an unrealistically silly voice) each Pair vies for points on how well they match answers to questions, and know trivia from the anime. I was absolutely hysterical during this segment. I had already seen it raw, but I had missed a lot that went on in the background. It was darn funny. I hope we get more of this kind of thing. And bizarrely, when Toyoguchi Megumi is referred to as “Megu-‘nee” it was translated as that. (Well, “Meg-nee”, anyway.) So…erm, why was Alty’s “Kaim-‘neesan” translated as “Big Sister Kaim?” No clue.

Last up. The actual anime. I was so certain that I’d be disappointed watching Simoun this time around. Remember how we retrofit memories? I fully expected to find all sort of flaws with my memory that Simoun was teh awesome. You know what? I was wrong. God DAMN this is a good anime! Two minutes into it and I was glued to the TV and remained that way for all six episodes. Then I was sad that I didn’t have any more to watch. The music remains brilliant. The story remains fascinating. I love the art, the detailed CGI over not-at-all detailed watercolor. I love the ridiculous contrast between our beautiful peaceful sun-filled country and the enemy’s pollution-ridden world of darkness and filth. I love The Arcus Prima, the Simoun, the fact that Morinas is a tease and the fact that all the seiyuu are women. (The wife reminds me that I also still hate the character designs, especially Neviril’s sex-doll mouth. Which is true, but you can’t have everything.) After more than a year, I still love Simoun.

In terms of Yuri, there’s a lot of service. :-) Lots of kisses. And, while it was pretty subtle for an anime, girl-loving LFs of every gender got their RDA of panty and breast shots. But seriously, Yuri in this volume = Neviril x Amuria. The story revolves around what could have been, what happened and how Neviril can’t move on. She *must* be a lesbian, she’s unhealthily obsessing about her ex. :-) And surely we can’t ignore poor Kaim and her not at all unhealthy interest in Parietta. She gets points for trying *really* hard to make Parietta to look away from Neviril. And it’s not really her fault that she fails. And then there’s Morinas and her obvious, immediate, interest in Wapōrif. Can’t say that she’s just interested in him for his great personality…not yet, anyway. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 7
Yuri – 5
Service – 6

Overall – 8

Translation – 7
Adaptation – 7
Technicals – 7
Extras – 6

Should you get it? Hell yeah. Then email the folks at Media Blasters and let them know what they did right – and what they can improve. Let’s see if we can make Volume 2 even better.

Media Blasters responds: In regards to the artwork, we don’t always get the chance to use all of the artwork we receive, especially since we have a disproportionate number of release volumes to the Japanese version. It’s possible we can make an art gallery as an extra on one of the disks…. In terms of translations…the name translations were given to us by the licensor, so we didn’t have a lot of room for interpretation.

This is Erica again: I’m not surprised about the name thing. Thanks, Media Blaster representative, for commenting. It always helps to know what’s going on in the background, so we don’t feel like we’re out of the loop. ^_^

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8 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    As much as I love Yuri anime, Simoun was one I passed up. I don’t know why. Something about it grated at me I think.

    But when you give it a review like this, it’s kind of hard to ignore. Especially if done well, like how you suggest Media Blasters did. I always do like to reward and give patronage to companies that put in effort and listen to the fans. XD

    Guess it’s time for a Yuri shopping spree soon. ^^

  2. I can completely understand that. It’s not a typical anime in much the same way that Eva was not. There are plenty of things to not like. For whatever reason, it just hit my sweet spots.

    I’m not foolish enough or self-absorbed enough to think that what I like is what everone likes. So, here’s my suggestion, for $3/episode, less if you pre-order,try it. If you still hate it after this volume, fine. But at least you gave it a fair chance. :-)

  3. I am a really big fan of anime. I will check this out thanks to the review. Keep up the great work with this blog.

  4. Thanks, Donald, for you kind words. :-)

  5. basic.syntax says:

    It has appeared in a few more places online – shoppers can also check out dvdempire.com and deepdiscount.com (on the later, it appeared in the last couple days.)

    I’m pleased to hear the TL is worthwhile on the whole, though I plan to be frustrated when I hear trailing u’s and don’t see them in the subtitles.

    Character designer Asako Nishida wrote the romanji “Aaeru” on one of her pinup sketches – clearly there are some differences of opinion.

    To go a little sideways, I remember hearing the VA for Furoe (Floe) working extra hard by pronouncing a double A for Aaeru, where only a lengthened “a” sound is called for. It’s kind of tough to hear unless you’re really listening for it. This character’s name is important and repeated often – sometimes by me, followed closely by “Shut up!”

  6. myu says:

    “The wife reminds me that I also still hate the character designs, especially Neviril’s sex-doll mouth.”

    Looks like my opinion is completely different with you. I love character desings in Simoun, because they are so unique. I adore the way they drew characters mouths. Tiny and doll-like lips with some color on them. Just beautiful.

    Don´t get me wrong. I liked your review. I just think that we see different thinks beautiful.

  7. Doug says:

    Thanks for your generally positive review of an anime that I like a lot. I’m a guy – and an old one at that – so I may approach Simoun from a different perspective. And no, it’s not the fanservice.

    I thought that overall the anime had a feeling of melancholy. We’re not dealing here just with the characters’ transition from childhood to adult status, but with what is really the end of a civilization. You might not want to live in that civilization, but it was home for the Simoun pilots. Things are bound to go downhill, and the viewer realizes that pretty early in the anime, but in the process you come to care for the characters and for their world. In the end, there will be no savior for the theocracy of Simulacrum.

    I’ve seen the whole thing in fansubs, and I’m buying the MB issues as they come out. (And wishing they would give us a series box, which doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.)

    Finally, the music. This particular “fanboy” (your term) has both volumes of the OST from Japan, so it obviously struck a chord somewhere. It really got to me in episode 19 – well, not just the music, but the animation too – where something really final occurs, and the Simoun rise above the enemy sky fort and the girls see what has happened…I’m not ashamed to say that I cried. And I still get teary-eyed at that episode. Not only for the one that made the sacrifice, as it was a noble choice, but for its effect on the others: Aaeru with mouth open in a silent scream, Rōdoreamon (“This can’t be…”), and the others.

    I think that’s the test of a great anime – whether it can move you as you watch it. Not everyone may find Simoun to their liking, but they ought to give it a try.

    (Sorry to run on so long.)

  8. doug – thanks for the comment. I agree with you 100%.

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