The finale of this wonderful series is surprisingly low key, but excellent nonetheless.
What They Say
The war finally comes to its inevitable conclusion, and the aftermath is more bitter than sweet. Though the political atmosphere remains unstable throughout the world, the Simoun sibyllae must be firm as most are compelled to the Spring to choose their final genders. With an order issued to disband Chor Tempest, the few sibyllae who are undecided ultimately follow wildly different paths than their comrades. In the end, while many of the former team members lead separate lives, one thing, transcending time and space, still ties them together.
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 Parietta holding Neviril in a passionate embrace, and looking as if she is about to kiss Neviril’s breast. Neviril is staring at the sky almost as if in the throes of passion. 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.
The menus for this release have a nice and simple design. On the right, the main page has the same picture of Paraietta 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.
This disc has two extras outside of the clean opening and closing. First is the final installment of the Cast Interviews, this time with Nana Mizuki (Morinas) and Fumie Mizusawa (Waporif). Just as silly as always. The other extra is the third part of the staff commentary with director Junji Nishimura and character designer Asako Nishida. This runs a little over 18 minutes, and unlike the first two parts which were examinations of the over arching plot themes, this part is a discussion of the various relationships forged over the course of the series. It was a really interesting look at the major plot theme from the perspective of the creators.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The final installment for Simoun is something that I have been waiting for since viewing the first volume at the end of last year. The first volume showed a lot of promise, to which the subsequent releases have more than matched. The complexity of the plot demanded nothing more than expert storytelling, and Simoun was up to the task. While the conclusion to this series was not quite what I was expecting, it was still an effective and powerful one, possibly more so than what I was anticipating.
The last volume ended with the death of Mamina and the subsequent increased resolve of the remaining Sibyllae to end things on their terms. As such, I had been expecting a high energy, fast paced build to the climax, and I really could not have been more wrong. And to be honest, considering the first twenty-one were somewhat ponderous in their pacing, I’m not sure why I felt that the last five would be any different.
The first episode or so of this disc sees the war come to a rapid close, and the meat of the final episodes is taken up with the fallout of the peace treaty and how it effects the Sibyllae. With the war over, they find themselves facing the prospect of Chor Tempest being disbanded and the Sibyllae having to make the long delayed pilgrimage to the temple for their gender decision and transition into adulthood.
This takes them all by surprise as the war had not only brought them closer together than Chors tend to become, but because they knew that any outstanding disputes and misunderstandings need to be solved before the journey is made. As each priestess has her own hang-ups to sort out, a lot of time is spent taking each relationship one-by-one and coming to a resolution.
While most of the girls ultimately come to terms with the idea of leaving Arcus Prima growing up, ironically it does not sit well with Neviril, the one considered to be the most grown up of the lot. Armed with the knowledge that the Emerald Ri Majon is not a destructive attack, but rather a prayer to open the path to a new world, she begins to form a plan that would allow her and her chosen to live free rather than under the dictates of what she sees as an oppressive society.
What I really liked about this series is how it was really more a lot of small stories weaving together to tell a larger one. The setup of Simoun was such that they could have built a really good show just around the idea of these holy priestesses being forced to turn their prayers into acts of war, but that really took a back seat to everything else that was going on in their lives. For this series, the effects of the war on the warriors were more real than anything going on in battle.
Each member of Chor Tempest, regardless of how long they serve with the group, has a very deep character arc, as they are continually forced to accept things out of their control and forced to find new ways of dealing with the horrors of their jobs. Over the course of the twenty-six episodes, each girl learned more than they ever wanted to about the harsh realities of life, and found a place for themselves that contented them. Even the characters such as Mamina, Dominura, and Rimone who were either killed or otherwise removed from the main group were comfortable with their decisions before all was said and done.
No character arc was more dramatic than that of Neviril’s. As the Sibylla Aurea, she is continually looked to for leadership, either spoken or through action. Yet inside, she is little more than a small child, afraid of visiting the temple and growing up, afraid of life outside of the Arcus Prima, and continually mourning the loss of her paramour and co-pilot, Amuria. As such, her leadership becomes suspect, getting masked by Paraietta’s decisive leadership. Even when Neviril begins to put on a strong exterior for those around her, inside she is still held back by her fears.
Most important to Neviril’s growth is her eventual acceptance of these fears. While she ultimately settles her remorse over Amuria and openly accepts love again, she never truly gets over her other fears. However, she does come to recognize and acknowledge those fears, and as such she starts to learn how to live with them. In fact, this seems to be the biggest lesson that each of the Sibyllae learns: life may never be perfect, but there is no reason to be afraid of it. Understanding this is much more important than any temple ceremony.
Due to the many strong character arcs, Simoun has a fairly complex storyline. Each girl is involved in their own problems that only marginally affect the others around them. Because of this, Simoun seems to be a series that would work better taking it all in at once rather than spaced out over the past ten months as I have done. At times, I found it hard to remember some of the finer details from previous volumes, and so I feel as if there might be some things I missed later on because of forgotten minutiae from earlier episodes. Only a rewatching will verify that, but with all five volumes now out, watching it straight through is certainly an option.
If I found anything odd about the series, it is the overall lack of anything seriously Yuri-like. The fact that it is part of Media Blasters' “Yuri Fan” line, and the way that the packaging does nothing but play up the sexuality of the characters, leads one to expect some significant girl/girl “action” at some point, but it never really materializes. The show is certainly sexually charged through many parts of it, but outside of a couple romantic kisses, the sexual tension never builds to anything physical. Not really a complaint, as the tension was all done really well and a fully physical scene would have added nothing, just more of an observation.
After five volumes and twenty-six episodes, I have nothing truly negative to say about Simoun. It is stylish, intriguing, and just very well put together. While the low key nature and slow pacing may turn off some people, the story telling and the way each character came to their ultimate resolution was done just about as well as one could hope. Shows dealing with the human nature of war can be hard to get exactly right, but it cannot get much better than Simoun. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Cast Interview,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Staff Commentary
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System