Yuri Anime: Simoun, Volume 5 (English)

September 19th, 2008

Sometimes, the worst part of a choice is the time before the decision is made. The doubts, the waffling, the feeling of “what if?”

In Simoun Volume 5, all the choices are made, the cards are dealt and the fate of not only the Sibylla of Chor Tempest, but all the people whose lives touched theirs, is decided.

I don’t think I breathed once while watching this volume.

There are many people who did not enjoy Simoun. It was non-linear. There were giant holes in the construct of the world in which the Sibylla lived (although if you like your worlds tidy, I can’t *imagine* that there’s too much anime that suits you. Maddening inconsistency is about the only constant.) We never really learn the answers to a lot of our questions.

Honestly, I can’t imagine caring a damn about any of that. This series has beautiful art (with the exception of Nevril’s sex-doll mouth,) amazing characters, fantastic music, a terrific plot. And…above all…it made me realize exactly what I think makes a good story.

To me, a *good* story travels a considerable distance in character development from the moment we meet the character to the moment we last see him or her. If the characters grow, change, respond to circumstances and learn from their experiences and choices – that is a good story. If the character starts the story and ends it roughly the same, I might enjoy it, but I won’t consider it *good.*

So, Strawberry Panic (anime), for instance, isn’t *good* by my standard; Nagisa and Shizuma do change a little bit from the beginning of the series to the end, but not a lot. Neviril and Aeru travel astronomical units by comparison. They pretty much reverse roles completely from the beginning of the anime to the end.

Yun, who comes to Chor Tempest seeking absolution for not dying with her previous Chor finds her absolution in saving one woman. And the rest of the Sibylla face what they thought they wanted, and found out what was really important to them after all.

If Simoun was too hard to follow or just annoying to you, I won’t try and convince you to watch it. But there is *no* doubt in my mind, that this will be the best Yuri Anime once again this year for me. (With at least two Yuri couples and as many as four if you have no pride. ^_^)

The Director comments were particularly interesting this time. The director says that, at the beginning of the volume, when Aeru confronts Neviril about her feelings, he (the director) had ceased to think of them as two girls. Also the Animation Director commented that she felt that Yun was in love with Onashia, which I completely agree with. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters – 8
Yuri – 7
Service – 2

Overall – 9

Technical – 9

Couldn’t ask for better.

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12 Responses

  1. deanbcurtis says:

    She? Would that be the great Nishida Asako, chief animation director/character designer? Because the art director was Kobayashi Shichiro. Hmm, by pointing that out, do I level up my anal retentive points or nerd points? Either way, I totally agree, Simoun is one of the greats.

  2. Choux says:

    “Honestly, I can’t imagine caring a damn about any of that. This series has beautiful art (with the exception of Nevril’s sex-doll mouth,) amazing characters, fantastic music, a terrific plot. And…above all…it made me realize exactly what I think makes a good story.”

    Beautiful art? Sure, the designs were great, the promotional art looks terrific but the backgrounds are hideous and the characters are inconsistent (if only the budget was better, as it is we get cheap looking characters who don’t look solid and seems to be floating in air while moving around with some REALLY bad animation). Amazing characters? Sure, if you think so. Fantastic music? I like the opening and endings, but the bgm? NO.

    Good story? HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! You’re cracking me up…..

  3. Anonymous says:

    Slightly unrelated, but while I was playing Grandia a while back, it struck me the makers (I’m assuming the script writers did the work, but I don’t know who had the idea) did something interesting with the main guy, Justin’s, personality. He doesn’t really ever change… He says the same kind of things, he responds to things the same way, you know, like any main guy in any game or anime targeted to a mainly male audience would do. But by replacing the people around him as he travels the world, his mother being replaced by the tough female adventurer, his childhood friend being replaced by the masculine warrior, and by what THEY say and how THEY react to things, they manage to create an illusion that Justin changes and grows. It’s cheap in a way, but I was quite impressed!

    More on-topic, I loved Simoun. I’ll admit I didn’t quite get all the nuances the first time I watched, but things always become more clear the second time!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Agreeing with you all the way, Erica-san. Simoun topped my list when it first came out…I rushed to buy the import and was not disappointed. IMHO this series has the best d*** eyecatches…EVAR! – HipsInc

  5. Thanks for the correction Dean. Animation Director it is. :-)

    Choux – We got it, you didn’t like it. You’ll find that lots of people disagree with you.

    anonymous – It is a cheap trick, but interesting. William Gibson writes that way a little bit – he can’t describe things, so he describes people’s reactions to things, so by the time you encounter it, you know how to react.

  6. anonymous – oh god, the eyecatches. Yes.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This was an excellent series. Besides the points Erica made, some other things I liked:

    – Music. The opening was excellent, perhaps the best of the year, and the incidental music was pretty good. I got both CD collections and enjoyed them.

    – The Simoun machines. They were very original designs. It would have been terribly easy to go with standard airplanes or robots or whatever. They didn’t, which added an extra air of mystery. And they were wonderfully realized in the animation (as well as their rotary power source being repeated elsewhere as a motif for the civilization, e.g., in trains).

    – The religious theme. The “our we priestesses or soldiers” added an extra element of conflict throughout beyond the war itself and the relationships of the characters.

    Oddly enough, I found Okazu as a blog a year or so ago while looking for reviews on Simoun. Which was anothe cool thing about it, as I’ve enjoyed Erica’s reviews.

  8. Eric P. says:

    Erica Friedman and these comments already listed what made the series really great and unique even to me, so I only have a couple other things to add. I was often confused with all the space/time-shift elements, and although it might be clearer the second time I watch it, I thought the mysterious aspects of the show were really well done. Story’s great, characters great, music’s great, and so on and so forth.

    (spoiler) I couldn’t help but laugh seeing girly Floe as a boy. I know that it probably wasn’t meant to be funny, that it symbolized Floe starting a new life by growing up from her old self, but it was still downright funny to me, especially since he/she still had the same baby-ish voice (end spoiler)

  9. Anonymous says:

    I love Simoun and I can’t agree with you more on your opinions when it comes to the series Erica. It has become one of my favorite anime series ever. I find a lot of philosophy in it(especially things that concern Aristotle’s Metaphysics) and it made me very happy to discover a bridge between two things I like.

    Simoun is one of a kind.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Simoun is the only anime that consistently brought tears to my eyes (embarrassed tears; I was watching with a friend to whom I didn’t think I could explain.) I just found it so beautiful.

    Somehow Simoun made everything feel so *important*…as if daily life has some impact, and that’s something I wish I had.

  11. Zeke says:

    Do you think it’s likely that Simoun will get a box set once all the individual DVDs are released?

    Also, what the heck do you mean by “four if you have no pride”?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hi,

    I am now halfway in the Simoun series, and I have to say that right now I can’t really see why this anime has garnered such praise just about everywhere. No reviewers seemed to be bothered by the corny gimmicks (anime is full of them, then again, so maybe one should not complain about that) or the religious dogmas which make the Catholic Church seem progressive and flexible in comparison.

    The first episode gave the series a solid start by presenting the stuff from another viewpoint, but from there the series has just been going nowhere. The character dynamics have not wholly convinced me, and the cast is simply too large. Also, I wonder whether I am the only one who is extremely bothered by the character designs. Neviril looking like a pumped up sex doll (brilliant, Erica) is a one thing, ******-up anatomy is a wholly another. I am of course talking about the, um, rather shapely fashion in which the girls are depicted. It could be somehow passable were the girls older, but the combination of childish moe faces and overflowing breasts… (One could write a novel about the sexualization of children in anime. I have a hunch that Simoun is very modest in this department) It gives the series a naughty feel, which is totally unsuitable for any anime which tries to take itself even remotely seriously.

    What I expected and wanted to see was that the series would somehow put the premises into question and present the thing more from the perspective of the other nations. After 12 episodes or so the series has not done that. I realise the series is mostly about the (still very mediocre) characters and that there is still time to question very much, and I hope it will be done, or else I fail to see how the series could be saved from mediocrity.

    More random complaints: Anyone else bothered by the fact that everyone in power seems to be men? Morality of mass slaughter under the name of God barely even touched upon? Child soldiers? The list seems to be endless.

    As a final word, I hoped that first part of this series would have been a way better judging from the various positive reviews that I have read. I am currently seriously considering whether to continue watching the series. I would like to give it a shot, as I don’t want to believe that everyone seems to be praising a series with so many faults and so little redeeming characteristics, but then again…

    With mixed feelings,
    Secret Fanboy

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