I enjoyed watching Simoun greatly but a problem presented itself in coming up with a Secret Santa post for it. I wanted others who haven’t watched it to give it a chance after my review, but there was also so much I wanted to talk about that would be spoilers for any new fans. So I’ve split my thoughts into two posts and in this latter one there will be spoilers. There’s enough rich content in Simoun to write many more posts on it. But here I’m going to limit myself to some specific topics and moments: the progression and impact of the war and some of the characters whose stories I enjoyed most.
Escalation, Technology, and Holy War in the Simulacrum-Argentum-Plumbum Conflict
Something I really enjoyed about Simoun was the progression and changes in the conflict as it went on. The war wasn’t exactly the central part of the show but it was given such attention that it made the conflict feel real instead of as background. The war and the characters’ personal and interpersonal struggles managed to share equal space and be given equal amounts of creative thought and effort by the staff. A lot of shows that try to be both war and character driven often don’t manage to find this balance, but Simoun was actually more realistically military than the vast majority of mecha shows. Frequent patrols, dealing with rusty shower water on the Messis, having to perform joint operations with other branches were all parts of the show. One thing I especially liked was the technological progression in the show and its world. The first Argentum fighters seen were an improvement on past designs to the point where enough of them could bring down a Simoun by employing innovative new tactics. The new fighters increased their speed and volume of fire to make drawing Ri Maajons difficult, and they also used smoke to try and blot out the incomplete designs. Then new medium fighters showed up with improved performance. But the biggest game-changer was the arrival of enemy Simoun when Plumbum joined the war against Simulacrum. It was exciting seeing craft of near equal capabilities fighting, kind of like in Macross Zero. For the longest time Simulacrum possessed by far the most powerful weapons, but no longer. And this military event also affected two other levels of the show. The turning tide against Simulacrum was another instance of change looming in the future for the characters. It also further undermined the theocracy’s religious order now that another country could operate their own ‘chariots of the gods.’
Another moment in the show I really enjoyed was the reassignment of Chor Tempest to the Messis after the bombing on the Arcus Prima. I can’t remember a time in anime where the pilots were reassigned from one home to another. Other shows reassign characters but not from somewhere that’s been a home. By a home I mean a place that’s richly detailed and a big part of the characters’ lives. Reassignments happen frequently in real wars but yet most war stories do not feature them. But the pilots in Simoun moved from one ship with one crew to another and had replacement pilots assigned to their unit to boot. It’s also a testament to the writing and pacing of this show that the late arrival characters had just as much personality, depth, and plot importance to them.
Religion was central to at least two of the three countries in Simoun and due to the reliance on Simoun for warfare it was certain that the two would interact. War changes things and often in unpredictable ways. For better and for worse it can change, create, and especially destroy everything that makes up a society. We see things from the perspective of Simulacrum for the most part and the war is affecting the way they interpret and view their religious social order in many ways. There’s the big conflict between the Ministry of Defense and the church, and between several of the characters, over even how to think of the use of Simoun. They’re supposed to be the chariots of the gods who offer sacred prayers to Tempus Spatium, but the demands of an increasingly capable and numerous enemy mean that they have to be sent out on “sortie”, “patrol”, and “combat operations.” All words that sound heretical to the religious leaders of the theocracy. Wapourif and Dominura come to view them as just machines. Aaeru was part of a new generation that came for the fight, not the religious devotion. And then all this is complicated by the terrorist sneak attack by Plumbum on the Arcus Prima. Now the members of Chor Tempest are fighting another enemy who follows a similar, possibly related religion but is so fanatical in their methods that they’ll kill themselves in the name of their god. Making characters question their core beliefs, and their society’s core beliefs, doesn’t get much better than that.
But with all the conflict surrounding religion there’s also another side to it. The fanatical Plumbum priestesses are the ones that show respect for Mamiina before killing her and also serve as intermediaries with Simulacrum after it’s absorbed into the victorious countries. They still hold the shared origins of their religions as a sacred bond in both war and in victory. And this link is one way to lead to reconciliation between the two countries as well as between individuals. The surviving members of Chor Tempest recognized the priestesses who killed Mamiina. For a moment Neviril had a flash of horror in recalling their faces but they came before her asking for forgiveness and she blessed them in return. For all the blood and suffering there is this link between the two orders of priestesses. It was quite a powerful moment.
Characters and Their Stories
With such a fairly large cast you’d think it would be difficult to really make you care about all of them, much less properly develop their personalities and stories. I do admit I had a little trouble at first keeping all the names straight in my mind but by the end I liked each and every one. Neviril was never my favorite but she had her moments. Below are a few that I was especially interested in and whose stories I enjoyed the most.
Paraietta: Paraietta’s past with Neviril set the stage for her story on the one hand while her sense of duty and responsibility comprised her other side. She seemed like the stable and mature one but lived so much for others and for Neviril that she ended up compromising what she set out to do. I thought that her story over the length of the series was the most interesting because she had the biggest revelations about herself and her relationship with others. She was Neviril’s childhood friend and protector and followed her into the priesthood but had another girl jump on Neviril before their relationship ever got started. And then when Neviril withdrew and then Aaeru came calling she once again went into protector mode.
She was putting herself under so much pressure that she just about snapped three times, pressure that she thought was directed at herself but was really towards Neviril. Kaimu nearly got her to pounce before Paraietta restrained herself. Then she broke down over how to command just as Dominura came out of her own breakdown. And when Neviril was becoming interested in the ‘other world’ and Aaeru she nearly raped her before recoiling in self-disgust. It took her a long time to realize it but it was a powerful revelation for her to discover that she was convincing herself that she was waiting for Neviril and not admitting to herself that she was putting the blame on Neviril instead of truly loving her. When she asked Neviril for a blessing, for forgiveness, was a beautiful moment. Out of everyone I think I enjoyed her story the most.
Yun: Yun had two things against her that made me think I wouldn’t really care for her character. For one she was a late arrival to the show, one of the replacement pilots after the loss of Dominura, Limone, and Mamiina. And the second reason was she came off as being on a high horse about religion and killing. That latter usually spells instant hate from me but the way she developed late in the show really impressed me. No final explanation is given as to how and why the Spring exists or how Onashia can be in more than one place at the same time. But perhaps its better than way because what is revealed by Yun’s interaction with Onashia gives a real sense of wonder to the Simoun world. Faced with no longer being priestesses the characters often talked about how they could move on. Paraietta talked about being able to comfort and forgive as a way to continue being priestesses and Yun took to heart the idea of being able to save just one person being a worthy calling. Everyone kept apart from Onashia out of reverence and probably some fear as well but Yun found a bond with her through the mystery of the Spring and Onashia’s past. And then she ‘saved’ Onashia by giving her comfort and a final embrace. The various characters of Simoun became adults by following various paths. Going to the Spring was a dreaded event for many of them but Yun became its guardian. She found her place in that which was a symbol of what they were trying to escape but she added her own devotion and clarity of purpose to it. Those that went to the Spring together could feel her gentle guidance when they chose. Yun’s decision had that mysterious quality and sense of awe that the fantasy side of Simoun developed and although it was a mystery and therefore I couldn’t understand it, I went away from her story feeling a lot of respect for her character.
Anubituf: Captain of the Arcus Prima, shrewd thinker, and even a skilled Simoun Simile pilot. He was mostly not involved in actual combat but was a great captain and commanding officer for his ship and Chor Tempest. And he was also outside the tradition of most anime captains in that he wasn’t either the stoic veteran nor a hot head. He followed orders even when he didn’t like them but also wasn’t afraid to argue for what he thought was the best course of action, though he did it shrewdly almost like a politician and not in front of most of his subordinates. And he had a badass moment during the Arcus Prima‘s last battle when he piloted a Simile against a large formation of medium fighters and enemy Simoun. He’s the sort of captain I could see actually rising up through the ranks. Sort of what how I wished Athrun would have progressed in Gundam SEED: Destiny had the writing not gone to hell after the first 18 episodes.
Fuck yeah yaoi! (Who’d ever have thought that I’d type those words?)
Anubituf also had almost a married couple relationship with the Chor Tempest’s commander Guragief. Their personalities played off well against each other and they developed as close a bond as any of the sibyllae over time. Even the captain of the Messis told Anubituf that it’s a shame they both chose to be men before they met. The kiss late in the show raises another unanswered but interesting question about the Simoun universe. When everyone starts as one gender and then chooses, how does homosexuality fit in? It seems like it doesn’t in Simulacrum because of this choice, but then if everyone starts from the same place might not that make it more accepted just without the ability to have children? It’s not answered completely, but there is this couple and Kaimu’s declaration to Paraietta that her feelings won’t change whether she stays a woman or not. But aside from such questions about the Simoun world Anubituf and Guragief were a great, kyyyyaaaa-worthy couple.