Simoun Vol. #3 (of 5) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, May 16, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, April 08, 2008
What They Say
As the sibyllae begin adjusting to life on their new home, the Messis, their relationships continue to evolve in the close-quarters environment. More is discovered about Alty and Kaim and why there is such tension among the two sisters. Feelings stir between certain crew members, while rifts develop between others. And as the war continues to brew in the background, Dominura delves into the inner workings of the Simouns and sees something that shocks her to the core. She has little time to contemplate her findings as the Messis comes under attack, and she and Rimone attempt the ultimate Ri Majon with unforeseen results.
These episodes continue the trend of asking really intriguing questions, but the passing of the halfway point sees some answers start to come forth.
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.
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.
The case for Simoun Volume 3 features a picture of Wapōrif is lavishing her amorous attentions on Morinas while Morinas appears to be melting in the embrace, set against a cloud motif. 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.
The menus for this release have a nice and simple design. On the right, the main page has the same picture of Wapōrif and Morinas 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.
As seems to be standard for this title, there are two extras on this disc: a second staff commentary and the third installment of the cast interviews. The staff commentary this time around runs approximately fifteen minutes and features the director, Junji Nishimura, and the character designer/animation supervisor, Asako Nishida. Similar to the first part, this is not a commentary over one particular episode, but rather explores plot arcs that stretch multiple episodes, so the imagery bounces from one episode to the next. In this commentary, Nishimura and Nishida spend most of their time exploring the relationship between Neviril, Paraietta, and Aer as well as Dominura and Rimone.
The cast interview segment on this disc is just as silly as the previous installments. Two of the voice actresses, this time Mamiko Noto (Rimone) and Yukana (Dominura), are asked completely random, nonsensical questions about their own life that only vaguely relates back to their characters in the show. This runs about seven minutes and is hosted by a pair of lollipops. It is about as cute and silly as can be expected.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The third disc of Simoun takes us past the half way point of the series, and it now starts to feel like the story is going somewhere. This is not to suggest that the measured pace of the first half was in any way bad, quite the opposite in fact, but it really was little more that setup for what is starting to be solved by the end of this disc.
The five episodes presented here show the continuing life of the Sibyllae on board the Messis, the old, run down ship they have been stationed on while Arcus Prima is being repaired. Behind the scenes, Dominura continues making decisions that only seem to further her own ends, while the rest of the Chor seem confused as to why. In particular, Dominura seems determined to mix up the pairings Sibyllae, despite protests, in order to try and find some perfect combination. Despite not having the full trust of the rest of the Chor, Dominura is unhesitating in trying to reach her unknown goal, but a later desire to discover as much as she can about the inner workings of the Simouns themselves almost destroys her will completely and ends with a jarring conclusion.
For the rest, we have what really drives these episodes, and the entire series up to this point: the exploration of the relationships forged and ruined among the various crewmembers, and how much the continual battles play into those developments. The relationship that takes center stage on this disc is the continuing sage of the love triangle between Neviril, Paraietta, and Aer. On disc two, Neviril finally accepts Aer as her permanent pair; yet while Neviril's affections begin to grow for Aer, it becomes increasingly obvious that Aer is oblivious to serious relationships and instead wants Neviril for her talents in the Simoun. Paraietta on the other hand, does have serious feelings for Neviril, but cannot bring herself to accept them due to feeling unworthy. As such, Neviril's emotions, as fragile as the porcelain doll she resembles, begin to tear her apart once again. However, unlike after Amuria's death, Neviril only allows herself to fall apart when she is not needed to be a leader. At those times, she is all business.
Yet, for me, the most intriguing relationship arc is the budding and "forbidden" relationship between the mechanic Wapōrif and the Sibyllae Morinas. Wapōrif is a former Sibyllae who has since gone to the spring, but returned because of her knack at repairing the Simoun. Morinas shows the same fascination with the inner workings of the Simoun and therefore spends much of her free time with Wapōrif and the aircraft. While a sexual tension grows between the two, Wapōrif holds off since the Sibyllae are sacred priestesses. However, when Dominura convinces Wapōrif to dismantle a Simoun in order to discover how the orbs and helical motors work, the mechanic is left with the realization that one "affront in the eyes of Tempus Spatium" is really no different than two, and opens up to Morinas. When the destruction of one of the sacred planes turns out to be a mistake, Wapōrif once again hesitates, and their burgeoning relationship falls apart before it can really begin.
I find this relationship fascinating because it really begins to explore the concept of class differences. Throughout the series so far, it is reiterated time and again that the Sibyllae are worthy of the utmost respect in Kyuukoku, second only to the high priestess and Tempus Spatium herself. This is shown in the way others treat them, the way they react to being forced to live on the Messis for a while, and the way people react when the pilots do things deemed beneath them, such as cleaning. Yet, while never particularly conceited, their increasingly dire circumstances have now begun to impress morality on the young pilots. But it is Wapōrif's attentions, for now hidden from others, which have started to truly open the doors for at least a reworking of the current class system. I am really interested to see how this plays out.
The point I am finding most interesting with all of the plots is how the war is affecting all of them. The event that caused the deteriorating relationship between the sisters Kaim and Alty is a direct result of Kaim's fear of battle. Dominura's desire to maximize the potential of the Simouns is driven by the fact that Kyuukoku is slowly losing to their enemies. A surprise attack thrusts Paraietta into an uncomfortable role of leadership when both Dominura and Neviril are incapacitated. In many ways, the war continues to take a back seat to everything else that is going on with the girls' lives, but for better or for worse, it is the war itself which drives many of the changes each of these girls experience. The battles are fairly short, but their effects are long reaching.
After a brief lull, the yuri nature of this show begins to reassert itself during this disc. As the focus of the show reverts back to the bonds between Sibyllae, the return of sexual tension is imminent. While there have been no outright sex scenes so far, there have been enough suggestions of such, as well as kisses and fondles, to really see the sexual charge of the show. But really, what can be expected of a show where 99% of the cast is female?
The promise of the early episodes of Simoun is now starting to be fulfilled. The complex web of plots and relationships are finally beginning to show an overall pattern that should be a blast to watch play out over the final ten episodes. In particular, I really like how Simoun is handling the psychological and sociological effects of the war on the Sibyllae. Though battle scenes have been few and far between, they have been at the heart of everything that has happened so far. While I really enjoyed the first half of the show, I am even happier to see the pacing pick up and various plot elements start to be solved. Here's hoping that the last ten episodes can deliver the awesome that the first sixteen have set up for it.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Staff Commentary, Staff Interviews
Magnavox 37MF337B 37" LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component 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: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2