In a land surrounded by enemies, young woman fight back using ancient machines that only they can use.
What They Say
In the peaceful theocracy of Simulicram, everyone is born female. At age 17, each maiden undergoes a special ceremony where she chooses her sex. However, only Pairs of maiden priestesses can synchronize with the ancient flying ships known as Simoun needed to defend Simulicram. These Pairs refrain from undergoing the ceremony as long as they wish to keep piloting their Simoun. Aeru is recruited to be a Simoun pilot after a terrifying attack by an enemy nation decimates the squadron known as Chor Tempest. To earn her wings she needs to find her way into the heart of Neviril, Regina of Chor Tempest. But Neviril's heart still belongs to her previous Pair, lost in the battle when she attempted a forbidden Simoun maneuver.
Simoun is one of the casualties of the bilingual presentation issue as it received only the original Japanese language mix during its single volume release. This release mirrors that as we get a solid stereo mix encoded at 192kbps. It’s not the best and brightest stereo mix out there, but it serves the material well and comes across with a fair bit of directionality during the big action sequence. The dialogue makes out well too as there’s a good bit of placement during a number of scenes and overall everything has a very clear and problem free feel to it. Dialogue is well leveled throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006, this twenty-six episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Simoun is released in this collection using the same discs as the single disc release so we get a 6/5/5/5/5 format release. The series is one with a very clean look to it that comes across beautifully here as the bitrate is fairly high on average. Colors pop off the screen on many occasions and the fluidity of the animation shines through regularly. With straightforward designs for the characters, they have a very clean and fresh look to them that the transfer captures. Beyond a bit of minor line noise during a few panning sequences, this show was a really treasure to watch on the big screen as it looks quite good.
In comparison to the growing notorious STACKpacks that are being put into the market, the package for Simoun is one of my favorite. This single sized keepcase has a hinge in the middle that allows it to use all of its space to secure the five discs included in the release. It’s a clear keepcase that lets you really focus on the character artwork on the front cover, which is quite appealing. It’s a close-up shot of Neviril and Aer together, hand to hand, with feathers floating about them. Their designs, the intensity of the eye color, really is eye-catching here even if it doesn’t say anything about the show itself. The back cover lets us get a look at the main core cast of characters in a row-pose along the right and a few shots from the show down towards the bottom. The summary is very slim as to what to expect considering it’s summarizing such a big show. They also provide a clean listing of the extras on the disc and a solid technical grid that lists everything without issue. Unfortunately, this release doesn’t have any reverse side artwork as I’d have liked to have seen more, or a way of using the original cover artwork here.
The menus utilize the original cover artwork pieces of the various pairings along the right side, so you do retain something of the original single volumes artwork in a way. These pieces are very detailed and look beautiful as they’re done with a very sensual feeling to them. The navigation along the left side is solid with easy access to everything, though I continue to really dislike how Media Blasters handles their episode navigation. Paging through each episodes chapter listings is very annoying when you just want to jump to a particular episode. Submenus do load quickly though and moving about is easy and otherwise very logical.
Simoun retains all of its extras from the original release, placed on their respective volumes from that release as well, and they cover a good range of material depending on your interests. We do get some of the basics such as the clean opening and closing sequences, but they go further by having a number of video discussions, some with the staff and others about the characters themselves. There’s also some staff commentaries included for those that love to get into that area of the shows production.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series by Studio Deen and helmed by longtime director Junji Nishimura, Simoun is a twenty-six episode series that provides plenty of hook by playing up the yuri aspect of it. In fact, it's the yuri aspect that often draws people to it the most but that's just a piece of dressing to the bigger storyline laying underneath. Large, complex and filled with characters, it's reminiscent of a lot of Tomino's non-Gundam works to me in just about every way, except that I couldn't find myself really enjoying it overall.
The premise is straightforward and never really explained deeply as we're introduced to an Earth-like world where it's split into several nations. The main focus is on the nation of Simulacrum Kyuukoku, a land where the people have made a discovery some time earlier of an ancient technology that allows them some very advanced mechanical concepts. Known as Simoun and given over to an almost religious aspect, these are trains and aerial vehicles that are powered by helical motors. These motors are very much sought after by other nations who want to progress themselves with it and Simulacrum really finds itself at odds with all its neighbors. The one that is most intent is the nation of Shoukoku. They're a technology oriented country that's consuming its resources hard, enough so that it has very much a turn of the century feel with its grime and very oppressive feel. It's citizens are highly desirous of the helical technology that could save their nation.
Their constant attacks are fairly lopsided as the show begins and goes on for the majority of it. The Simoun craft are simply very powerful and when used in pairs and groupings, they can create massive effects that cause quite a lot of destruction. When you have a couple hundred of the Shoukoku ships flying around and a single attack can take them down, it's not something that really gives them much hope. As time goes on though, the Shoukoku nation begins to figure out some tricks and advances to their advantage, but they also try various kinds of deceit and trickery to and gain an advantage. Politics figures into the series at several points, as does religion, but like other parts of the show it comes across more as window dressing without any real depth to it. It adds some nice color and character to it, but it doesn't connect in a really deep way for me.
With that bit of political intrigue and the religious angle tied to an ongoing war, what will make or break the show is its characters. The cast here is fairly expansive when it comes to the primary Simoun pilots. The problem that I run into with it is that even with twenty-six episodes, there are too many of them and the relationships play out with some mild complexity that is too over dramatized at times. The central crux is the relationship between “longtime” pilot Neviril and the upstart rookie Aer. Neviril is still reeling from losing her last partner in battle and isn't sure exactly what it is she's doing or fighting for in a way. This comes out throughout the series to varying degrees and there's a lot of girl-emo moments going on here with her. Aer feels that she's destined to be partnered with Neviril and does everything she can to make it work, particularly because she's in love with her and wants to experience everything alongside her.
And that aspect of the show is pretty regular. The makeup of the world is fairly interesting as in Simulacrum, everyone is born a female but at the age of seventeen they get to go to the Spring and make a choice as to what they want to become, a full fledged woman or a man. The Simoun pilots are delaying this a bit because of their duties but there's conflicts between them about what to become, particularly those who are interested in others there. Other nations play things differently as we learn that in Shoukoku for example that the children are altered when born into what's needed, thereby removing the choice and other important aspects. When it comes to the Simoun pilots though, they play up the various angles fairly well but the size of the cast and the complexity of the relationships leaves you not really connecting with any of them for the most part.
And that's where my biggest problem really is with Simoun. Everything feels very superficial overall and a lot of the potentially interesting things are never really explored. Life after gender choosing is given only some token moments overall and mostly just in the epilogue section. The choices that the characters have to make are given some highlights at times, but it's not often that it comes across with real conviction. I also really wanted to see some of the more interesting possibilities for side stories about those who have gone through the change and how it affects them. When you have people growing up ostensibly as females and then become males, what does the change in their perspective? We see in one instance where some men talk down to the women about how weak they are outside of their Simoun ships, and that hints at something a lot more interesting than most of the stories the show tells. And in the end, Simoun feels like a very, very long series about a group of women who are afraid of the future, afraid of what they'll have to deal with in the war and afraid of themselves and their emotions.
Watching this series over the course of a day really felt like it might have been too much to do. I was very interested in Simoun when it was first licensed, yuri fan that I am, but I didn't watch it in the single disc form. I have to wonder if I would have enjoyed it more in that form since here it feels like far too much and the fairly superficial nature of a lot of it becomes apparent. There's a lot to like here, with the women all over each other in non-explicit ways, some interesting technology aspects and a very clean and great looking sense of design for the characters and the action sequences. But the show didn't click well in a complete sense as I never really felt invested in the characters and the length to which some of the stories went in dealing with their issues. Simoun had a lot of potential for the stories it could tell, but with a mostly faceless enemy that didn't have anyone truly standout to rally against, it reached high but didn't make it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Cast Interview, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Staff Commentary
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.