Simoun Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • 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: 19.95
  • Running time: 150
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Simoun

Simoun Vol. #1

By Mark Thomas     October 26, 2007
Release Date: November 13, 2007


Simoun Vol. #1
© Media Blasters


What They Say
In the peaceful theocracy of Simulacrum, 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 Simulacrum. These pairs refrain from undergoing the ceremony as long as they wish to keep piloting their Simoun.

Aer 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 battle when she attempted a forbidden Simoun maneuver.

Contains episodes 1-6.

The Review!
Containing the first six episodes, the first volume of Simoun is a promising start to what could be a great show.

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.

If I have any problem with the look of the show, it is the look of Neviril. The rest of the cast have a good design, and a natural feel; but to me, Neviril looks almost unreal, almost like a porcelain doll. In a way, it is almost goddess-like—considering her position as a Simoun Sibyllae, and how much people look up to her as the top pilot, this might be intentional. That said, it does not detract from the show, but it will be interesting to see if Neviril’s design reflects any future personality traits or actions.

Packaging:
The case for Simoun Volume 1 features a picture of Aer holding Neviril around the waist, set against a cloud motif. Hinting at their personalities, Aer has a confident look on her face, while Neviril is staring off into the distance, appearing lost and possibly overwhelmed. 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 Aer and Neviril 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:
Aside from a couple trailers, this disc has two other extras that are fun for a single viewing, though nothing that will blow anyone away. The first is the Character Discussion, a brief Q&A session with Michi Niino and Reiko Takahashi, who provide the voices for Aer and Neviril respectively. It’s a somewhat amusing bit that covers their perspectives on the yuri nature of the show and their experiences in making it. The second extra is the Voice Actor Contest. This bit runs a little under twenty minutes, this time with all of the voice actresses of the girls of Chor Tempest, breaking up into pairs based on the pairings of their characters and answering questions with the ultimate goal of being named “Golden Priestesses.” Again, somewhat amusing, but nothing worth more than one viewing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I really did not know much of anything about Simoun when I first popped it into the DVD player for this viewing. It simply was not a title I had heard about in the current crop of titles heading our way. With what we are given in the first six episodes, there is a lot of potential for a great show here, though we have yet to get into what looks to be the major conflict.

Simoun is the story of a group of priestesses from Kyuukoku who are granted the honor of piloting the Simoun, aircraft with mysterious technology they believe to be divinely granted. The Simoun are two person aircraft, each with an auriga and a sagitta. The auriga handles most of the flying, while the sagitta, among other things, assists in the formation of Ri Majon, divine flight patterns that create devastating attacks.

In this world, everybody is born a female, with the expectation that at the age of seventeen, they will journey to the Shrine and pray to the goddess, Onasia, ultimately choosing the gender they will be for their adult lives. The Simone pilots, Sibyllae, are all young girls who have yet to journey to make their pilgrimages.

When the show opens, the elite squadron known as Chor Tempest stumbles upon a battle where Chor Caput has been wiped out by an invading force from Shoukoku trying to get the Simoun technology, the first defeat in Kyuukoku history. Chor Tempest themselves suffer losses before ultimately winning the battle. What follows on this disc is Chor Tempest’s attempts to recover from their decrease in ranks, both from battle and from the age/gender restriction.

These six episodes mostly concern themselves with two plotlines: the integration of new Chor Tempest Sibyllae and the eventual return of Neviril, Chor Tempest’s squad leader, to active status. Neviril has a difficult time dealing with the loss of so many members of her squad, not to mention her sagitta, Amuria, and refuses to fly, retreating from what squad is left further and further until she rarely leaves her room. With Neviril out of action, Chor Tempest has no real direction or leadership, and the remaining Sibyllae are left to do spot duty, filling in where needed. This lifestyle is challenged by Tempest’s newest recruit, Aer, a hothead who is the best pilot to come along since Neviril herself. Aer breaks rules, challenges the status quo, and most importantly, takes it upon herself to force Neviril out of the funk she is in.

For the most part, there is not a whole lot of plot advancement in the episodes presented on this disc. Essentially, we get the setup, with the advancement of the war to come along later. However, what we do get has a lot of potential going forward. Despite being centered on a war, Simoun seems more concerned with the human nature of war, rather than on the outcomes of the battles themselves. One effect that is really well done is that to this point, the battles have been accompanied by slow, quiet, orchestral music which lends a somewhat poignant vibe to scenes that might otherwise call for an upbeat, frantic score.

What will be of particular interest to see is that since the show comes from the perspectives of Kyuukoku, and in particular the Sibyllae, the attackers from Shoukoku come off as villainous in these episodes. However, we get some hints here and there that Shoukoku only wants the Simoun technology for the betterment of their health and society, and not for military reasons. I’m very interested to see how this plays out.

The only potential issue so far with this show is the yuri nature of it, which is on display within the first two minutes of the show. Since the Simoun are seen as heavenly aircraft, and the Sibyllae are priestesses, the girls go through a ritual each time the head out. This ritual consists of the auriga and sagitta kissing one another, and then kissing the orb that powers their Simoun. They also kiss again when they deplane after their missions. When Neviril and Amuria first board their Simoun, Amuria makes sure the kiss lingers, hinting at a deeper relationship. In fact, since all children are girls, it is not out of the ordinary for there to be girl/girl relationships among them, some of which end up with one of the partners choosing to be male in adulthood to further their relationship. While all yuri encounters on this disc were fairly innocent, there is enough present to suggest that not all will be in future episodes; and given the fact that some of the girls are quite young, those encounters could potentially be uncomfortable.

In Summary:
What we get in the first disc of Simoun is little more than setting up what is to come for the rest of the series. However, what is here is really good and admittedly gave me high expectations for the next disc. From what we have seen so far, fans of action shows might be a little disappointed in this, since most battle scenes take a back seat to furthering the human elements to the war being fought. For people who like a bit more meat behind their war shows, this will potentially whet that appetite.

Even though this disc did not have anything too potentially offensive, people who do not like, or who are disturbed by, yuri will probably want to stay away, especially since there is no guarantee that later episodes will stay at the same level. However, for most everybody else, Simoun looks to be a series that will be very good by show’s end, and I am really looking forward to the next disc. Recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Discussion,Voice Actor Contest

Review Equipment
Phillips Magnavox TP3285 C129 32” TV, Samsung DVD-V5650 Progressive Scan DVD w/ DD/DTS, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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