Simoun Vol. #2 (of 5) (Mania.com)

By:Mark Thomas
Review Date: Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, February 26, 2008



What They Say
Two new sibyllae, Mamina and Yun, are ordered to join Choir Tempest. But when Mamina and Neviril are assigned a pair, serious friction arises that threatens the Chor's existence. Meanwhile, the Arcus Prima plays host to a peace conference with the priestesses of Plumbum Highlands. But their guests reveal themselves to have less peaceful intentions, and the girls are caught in a violent ambush. With the Arcus Prima out of commission, the Choir in jeopardy, and the country in chaos, Neviril is suddenly motivated to take a stand against the bureaucratic High Council of Simulacrum.

The Review!
With two new recruits struggling to fit in, can Neviril regain her faith in time to save Chor Tempest from being disbanded?

Audio:
The only language option for Simoun is Japanese, which is offered in 2.0. While the dialogue and music stay centered, the sound effects make good use out of the left and right channels, in particular during battle scenes. However, with much of this show being dialogue based, even that amount of directionality is fairly minimal. Despite that, sound quality is top notch. Every track stays balanced with no instances of dropout or distortion.

Where the show really excels is with the music. The mostly orchestral score perfectly enhances the screen action. While it perks up on occasion, the music is mostly quiet and understated, even during most action scenes, lending a haunting ambience to everything. For the most part, it is a soundtrack that one might expect for a more down-to-earth show, but it adds new layers to the dramatic tension that a more frenetic score would not.

Video:
The video is another area that excels in this release. Originally shown in 2006, this show gets a terrific transfer to DVD, with no noticeable technical issues in playback. An interesting artistic choice, preserved in this transfer, is the slight muting of the background colors so that the characters and other objects in the foreground stand out more. With that in mind, it does not take one long to notice the beautiful animation, and the fluidity of the movements of the characters and ships. Even the backgrounds themselves are wonderfully designed in their own, understated way.

Packaging:
The case for Simoun Volume 2 features a picture of Kaim curled up in Paraietta's arms, set against a cloud motif. Similar to their relationship, Kaim is holding onto Paraietta as if she is never going to let go, while Paraietta appears to be embarrassed of, though not exactly rejecting, Kaim's attentions. The same cloud motif continues around the back where screen shots and a disc summary take up most of the space. Technical details for the release are listed at the bottom. The disc itself has a full color image featuring the show's logo and title set once again against the same clouds from the case. In a nice touch, the amaray case is white rather than black, which completes an overall pleasant looking package.

Menu:
The menus for this release have a nice and simple design. On the right, the main page has the same picture of Kaim and Paraietta from the cover, with the menu options to the left and a brief clip of the opening theme looping. At times it feels a little awkward because of the placing of objects on the screen; sometimes moving around them is a little awkward. I do find it a bit odd that they have a complete separate submenu for turning English subtitles on and off, since that is the only language option the disc gives. Seems to me that could have been done just as easily from the main menu.

Extras:
Volume 2 gives us two pretty fun extras. The first is a staff commentary with Junji Nishimura (director) and Asako Nishida (animation director). Unlike most commentaries, this is not over a single episode, but is instead set against scenes from the first eleven episodes (two discs). The second is a goofy interview with two of the Simoun voice actresses: Ami Koshimizu (Paraietta) and Michiko Hosokoshi (Kaim). Both feature some amusing/interesting points, though neither is particularly great for repeated viewing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Simoun Volume 2 opens with Neviril still facing the crisis of conscience that she has struggled with since Amuria's death in the first episode. Despite apparently opening up to Aer at the end of the first volume, she is not yet ready to return to combat. When two new sibyllae, Mamiina and Yun, come to Arcus Prima, Chor Tempest is thrown into turmoil as Mamiina is determined to beat out Aer for the right to pair with Neviril. When the two come to blows, Chor Tempest is ordered to disband.

However, when a highland attack destroys the ships of the other Chors on Arcus Prima, Neviril is forced to act, ordering Chor Tempest to form up and defend Arcus Prima from certain destruction. With her first real battle after Amuria's death under her belt, Neviril gains her former determination, giving her the courage to stand up to Onasia, the High Priestess of Tempus Spatium, in order to keep Chor Tempest together. With the knowledge that sibyllae, also Tempus Spatium priestesses, have willingly killed out in the open, Chor Tempest is now set down a path that threatens to change the way everybody views the world and their role in it.

Much like the first disc, a great deal of these five episodes still felt like nothing more than setup for the conflict to come. In particular, the first three episodes do not do much other than wrap up plotlines from the previous volume. However, there is a certain logic to it: Chor Tempest could not move forward until their leader, whom they all respect to the point of worship, is ready to move forward as well. Neviril's struggles give the story time to properly introduce all of the characters, and by the end of this volume, the roster of Chor Tempest appears to finally be set.

The addition of Mamiina and Yun to Chor Tempest adds new wrinkles to the already diverse nature of the Chor's pilots. Mamiina is the daughter of two servants who served Rodoreamon's family. Rodoreamon and Mamiina used to play together as little girls, but Mamiina now resents Rodoreamon because Rodoreamon was handed her position on a silver platter, while Mamiina had to struggle in every way for hers. Mamiina's issues cause her to act selfish, which at times puts the rest of the Chor in danger.

Yun has had little to do so far in this story, but I can see her becoming more of a problem as time goes on. Yun is a sibyllae with a death wish: all of her friends have died in the war, and she in turn has learned to hate war. Yet rather than leave and go to the spring, as she is of age, she instead chooses to fight on. It will be interesting to see where her problems crop up in the future.

Another point that I am interested in seeing develop is the utilization of the Chor. For each battle so far in the show, the sibyllae have been in air-to-air combat with other planes. While there were pilots of those planes, for some of the sibyllae, it has been easy to justify destroying them. However, by the end of this volume, Chor Tempest has engaged in a battle where they willingly kill ground troops in order to protect allies, a harder justification to make. For the first time, some of the sibyllae are faced with the moral question most soldiers go through of whether killing a person in cold blood is right or wrong.

Finally, this volume begins to reveal details, though so far very little, as to Dominura's role within Chor Tempest. Dominura has background connections to certain members in the government who are giving her orders outside of the commands of the regular government. So far, those orders have been to the benefit of Chor Tempest, but there is no guarantee that will continue to be the case. There is a strong feeling that Dominura's actions will be the driving force behind the main plot as the show progresses.

Since it seems that it will still be an important part of the show going forward, it should be noted that the yuri nature of the show takes a bit of a back seat in this sampling of episodes. While the sibyllae still kiss to activate their respective Simouns, there are no other scenes of this nature. That said, the potential romantic links hinted at in the first volume are still here during these episodes, so it can be assumed that it will return to its yuri roots in later episodes.

In Summary:
Despite much of this disc continuing to feel like setup, the plot does begin to move forward a bit here, and just as important, most of the issues holding Chor Tempest back at the beginning of the war appear to be solved. What we have now is a setup of a number of complex plotlines which will be interesting to see sorted out. Many times, when a show starts out strong, the anticipation for later episodes ends up hurting enjoyment of those episodes, but this disc keeps the strong pacing and storytelling from the previous volume. When a show continues to deliver on high expectations like this one, then it is definitely doing something right. Highly recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Staff Commentary,Voice Actress Interview

Review Equipment
Magnavox 37MF337B 37" LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (S-Video Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Simoun