Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: A
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: C
- 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
Simoun Vol. #4
By Mark Thomas
June 06, 2008
Release Date: June 03, 2008
Simoun Vol. #4
What They Say
© Media Blasters
Chor Tempest is given little time to recover from losses that occurred in the previous battle as they encounter strikingly familiar enemy aircraft en route to the Ruins. After a brief clash, stunning revelations lead to even more unanswered questions. Throughout it all, the chor is able to grow more closely knit as a team, and one sibylla's fierce resolve and the subsequent consequences of it only serve to solidify the team's role as priestesses and not warriors. And in the end, a select few are allowed to finally know the secret behind the Emerald Ri Majon. The Review!
Containing episodes 16-20, volume 4 appears to lay the final foundations for what should be an eventful conclusion.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 3
features a picture of Yun, Mamina, and Roatreamon laying and cuddling, with Mamina and Roatreamon holding hands while Yun looks on in an almost motherly fashion. This is 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.Menu:
The menus for this release have a nice and simple design. On the right, the main page has the same picture of Yun, Mamina, and Roatreamon 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:
The only extra on this disc is the fourth installment of the silly Cast Interview segments. This version runs a little over eight minutes and features Mikako Takahashi (Roatreamon), Rika Morinaga (Mamina), and Kaori Natsuka (Yun). Like the previous interviews, this is somewhat amusing, but is nothing to write home about.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Through the first three discs, Simoun
introduces many interwoven subplots all revolving around the basic premise of war. By the end of the third disc, some of the minor subplots began to find conclusions, while the major arcs continued to build. This disc does more of the same: lying to rest some minor conflicts, while introducing new twists to the more prominent storylines. It all points to something big in the works for the final few episodes; however, with so many angles still being taken, I am left hoping that we get the conclusion this series needs and that it does not fall apart at the end.
In a lot of ways, the various relationship dynamics have now been set, as only the Neviril/Paraietta/Aer triangle gets any real play, and even that is somewhat muted by the rest of the surrounding events. Instead, the major theme running through these episodes concerns the Kyuukoku Military Council and their perceptions of the world.
As the last disc ended, Chor Tempest had finally returned to their home aboard Arcus Prima; however, as this one picks up, we learn that Central has been attacked, so the High Priestess and the Military Council have also taken up residence. While the Sibyllae are technically priestesses, and therefore under the jurisdiction of the High Priestess, the Military Council are now throwing their weight around and taking over complete control of the war.
This causes problems, as the Military Council see the Simouns as little more than weapons and refuse to accept any divine properties the ships or their pilots may possess. What this means is that the Council continues to force the Sibyllae into situations they might otherwise prefer to avoid. Previously, Neviril and her crew joined the war of their own free will, but now find themselves forced to fight.
With the disappearance of Dominura and Rimone, some of Chor Tempest were already fed up with the constant battles, and the decree from the Military Council, along with the lack of support from the High Priestess, causes more rancor. When they lose another member in a pointless attack, it almost destroys the Chor altogether. Only a visit from Onasia, the physical manifestation that links the mortal world with Tempus Spatium, causes Chor Tempest to band together and look for their own answers. As they begin to learn the truth about history, reality, and the Emerald Ri Majon (the ultimate prayer), the stage is set for an ultimate confrontation between the Sibyllae, the priestesshood, and the Military Council, not to mention the alliance of Argentum and the Plumbum Highlands.
In many ways, the episodes on this disc represent a shift in tone for the series. While much of the point of the story continues to be an exploration of the effects of war on non-warlike people, the earlier episodes played more with internalized struggles amongst the characters, concentrating more on concepts such as love, friendship, rejection, and feelings of inadequacies. Each character was intrinsically linked to at least one other, whether romantic or not, and many of their decisions and actions were based on that link.
By these episodes, the links are well established, for better or for worse, and the focus has now shifted towards more external conflicts and plot points. While the relationship dynamics still dictate character actions, the dynamics have stopped shifting, and more attention can be paid to the problems facing them. As such, the pacing of the series has picked up tremendously. It seemed that each time an episode would turn around, a new revelation would pop up that helps in understanding the complexities of the plot.
That said, there is still one relationship arc that is still developing, and will probably continue to do so right up to the ultimate conclusion. As mentioned above, Neviril, Paraietta, and Aer are still sorting out their interests in one another, with Neviril right in the middle of it. Neviril is finally starting to emotionally emerge from the shell she created following Amuria's death, and previously she turned to Paraietta, the one person who she knew she could trust. However, Paraietta is still struggling with her role within Chor Tempest, questioning her own leadership qualities, and her own inferiority complex. As such, she resists Neviril's advances out of pure fear.
As a result, Neviril turns to Aer for support. Since Aer is a bit more oblivious to the more complex human emotions, she at first finds Neviril's attentions confusing but slowly begins to find herself drawn to Neviril. Witnessing these actions just makes Paraietta more frustrated at her own hesitations and causes her to act out in odd ways and eventually retreat into her own shell. When Neviril unwittingly reveals that she is still thinking of Amuria, Aer reacts in a similar way. In many ways Neviril serves as an oblivious antagonist towards her two potential paramours, and it feels like however she sorts out the confusion she has caused with her indecision will play a major role in bringing all the events of the series to a close.
With the shift towards more concrete problems, the Yuri in this show has once again mostly disappeared. Except for one brief exchange between Neviril and Paraietta, it was basically nonexistent. That said, the continual build of the tension between Neviril, Paraietta, and Aer has it now at an almost fever pitch, and the atmosphere of the show up to this point suggests that the outcome could be quite explosive, pardon the pun. There has been little so far through twenty episodes that should deter Yuri detractors from staying away from Simoun
, but there is no guarantee that it will stay that way.In Summary:
So far, Simoun
has done a wonderful job of keeping the myriad of subplots separate, but connected. There have been no scenes that could be considered 'throw away'; everything has worked towards the 'greater good.' However, because of the complexity of plot, I see it going one of two ways: either an excellent ending that wraps everything up perfectly, or one that cannot handle all of the different approaches the earlier episodes have set up and ultimately ruining what so far has been an excellent series. Since there has been no hint of clunky writing so far, I remain optimistic that the final disc will live up to the expectations that the first four have built, and I look forward to it immensely. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Cast Interviews
Magnavox 37MF337B 37" LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System