Aa-e-ru! More Thoughts on Simoun

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.

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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.

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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.

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18 Comments

  1. Marigold Ran
    Posted January 3, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    LoL. Given that this post is already a day old, and this is the first comment, it must mean that very few people have watched this show when it first came out. Guess Simoun will have to rely on word of mouth to become popular.

    Oh, by the way, I didn’t read your post because I don’t want it spoiled.

    • Posted January 6, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Apparently a big cause of its limited viewership was that the subs stopped halfway through and no one picked them up again until after the season had ended. That must’ve been some crappy season for fansub groups since most series don’t end up with absolutely no one subbing them like that.

      • Nina.W
        Posted January 9, 2011 at 6:49 am | Permalink

        I watched Simoun at the time it aired and I don’t remember any problem with the subs weirdly enough. Though those subs were quite difficult to find and it was only scripts, thus we had to add them ourselves to the raws.
        That said, Simoun is a masterpiece and definitly one of my favourite anime of all times. Thanks for bringing some light on it again. Hope more people will give it a chance.

  2. Posted January 4, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I thought that Anubutif and Guragief had actually been sybillae together once upon a time, and both chose to be men because they had both wanted to “be there” for the other? It has been a while since I watched it, though, so I may be wrong.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your post. I’ve been trending toward a re-watch of Simoun, and this is another one thing that pushes me further toward doing so… I’m probably just waiting for Right Stuf to have a sale on Media Blasters stuff.

    • Posted January 6, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      I don’t recall that part, though I could be mistaken. What I took as significant was the time when the captain of the Messis said to Anubituf that “it’s a shame you’re both men.”

      Glad you liked it, and hopefully you’ll be able to find that sale soon. Though given how much I liked the [Simoun-Fans] subs I’m not sure I could transition to the likely lower quality professional subs.

    • reika
      Posted January 8, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      To ExecutiveOtaku: Thanks so much for writing about this anime. Simoun was one of those anime that I always thought was awesome but somehow people just weren’t watching it.

      ————————-

      I same the opinion that they both chose to be men so they could work together?
      Judging from the picture of Guragief and Anubutif when they were young and still female, it seems to hint towards Guragief staying female were it not for the fact that he wanted to support Anubutif in his work. Especially because the war has broke out and if he had chosen to be female and married Anubutif he won’t actually be with Anubutif most of the time.

      And the kiss, it’s a while ago when I watched it too, but rather than just ‘omg yaoi’ [which was nevertheless awesome -- I do get the feeling that simoun has in mind a female audience despite the yuri possibilities], I remember this happening after Anubutif talking about what it means to be a sybillae, and this was sort of a throwback to the times when they were both sybillae? Very symbolic kind of thing…

  3. Posted January 5, 2011 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    I’m a little sad to not see Mamina in your character picks. She was by far my favourite of the series but Anubituf is a good choice too teehehehe

    I’m not generally a fan of religion bantering in my anime but in this fantasy world it just worked in a great way. It allowed me to think deeper if I wanted to about it all or not at all. That pleased me greatly.

    Their ships are one of the best in anime as far as I’m concerned. I loved everything about them and the fact that they looked interesting helped a great deal. Sides smooching to turn one of them on with their pairs was great fun XD

    • Posted January 6, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Mamiina was a great character. They all were really, and I could easily right a post on each one if I had the time for it. But for this I just picked out my few favorites. Choosing just a few was tough.

      Religion’s role in Simoun was really interesting and was a big part of what made the world so unique. Most anime series, most fiction in general, doesn’t seem to create and ‘operationalize’ religion as well as this series did. Not explaining the mystery behind it also made for interesting theory-building and gave the world a sense of wonder.

      At first I wasn’t a fan of the Simoun and Simoun Simile designs but eventually they grew on me. Especially once I learned more about them and how they were built with Simulacrum components grafted onto the ancient motors.

  4. fathomlessblue
    Posted January 5, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I found Dominura my favorite character in the series, closely followed by Paraietta (for the reasons you’ve stated) and Mamina. With Dominura, I loved how she had both an authoritative role over the other sybillae as the oldest, most experienced member, but was also gentle and supportive when necessary, particularly towards Limone. They were traits can could have made her unsympathetic with viewers or disjointed as a person, but it’s testiment to the solid script writing how endearing I found her. Having connections/allegiances to parties outside Chor Tempest, while not being painted as an evil betrayer (although I had my doubts for a while) as most shows would do was also a great touch for her character.

    Aaeru was also excellent, though prone to anime-cliche ridiculous levels of naivety, regarding both her own and other’s feelings.

    As for Yun, while I loved her storyline with Onashia in the final episodes, in a lot of respects I found it too little, too late. She was simply too much of a closed book for me to really identity with, and I felt that the situation was the same with the rest of Chor Tempest; she just never seemed to fully integrate with the rest of them in a particularly personal way. Yun’s actions were apparent, but the motivations behind them just too vague. Out of all the characters in Simoun, I was looking forward to finding out what made her tick the most, so it was a bit disappointing that we only were given scraps regarding her reasonings.

    • Posted January 6, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Dominura was a character who at first I thought would be the cliche betrayer sort, the kind of character that puts machines or science or whatever over people. She had a touch of that to her but she also had the traits you mentioned. Her and Limone identifying with each other was something I really enjoyed, though I wish that there was a little more light shed on their lives in the ‘other world.’

      For me, I felt that Yun was best apart from the rest of the Chor. She was established as having that sort of personality and I thought that it suited her perfectly to saving Onashia and becoming the new guardian of the Spring. Apart as a sybyllae, apart from society later. But in both cases she was important. For the Chor she was a reminder of their religious roots. She stuck to that role without becoming disillusioned or being won over by the practical concerns of war. And as the new guardian she guided people in making their choice with warmth and comfort, as opposed to doing so with the sadness and anguish that could develop when Onashia was trapped in the role (as evidenced by the screams of the girl who went with Neviril to the Spring early in the show.)

      • Onion
        Posted January 6, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        Other world? I thought they just went to the past, where Dominura eventually becomes Onashia in the present. Weren’t they repeating the whole story of how the Simoun came to the country?

        I could be wrong; it has been a while since I watched the show.

        • reika
          Posted January 8, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

          I think they brought simouns to the country in the past— this makes a closed causal loop…so simouns totally just appeared out of nowhere…

          • Onion
            Posted January 9, 2011 at 7:09 am | Permalink

            That, plus things like the body of the girl that suicide-bombed the simoun showing up inside one of them when they took it apart, really does make you think there is a god or SOMETHING on that world.

        • fathomlessblue
          Posted January 8, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

          There are so many things in the end that are too vague and confusing as to ever fully understand, such as why Onashia, Dominura and Aaeru’s grandfather were all from Chor Dextra despite the apparent generation gap between all three parties. Either Chor Dextra existed with different members over a long period of time or some sort of time travel had to have take place for the three to be sibillae together (most likely Aaeru’s grandfather).

          As I understand it there are three theories regarding Dominura:

          A) She is Onashia. Having gone to the past (probably), Dominura turned into Onashia either in the time she initially ended up in, or at some further point in the future (if she eventually did get back in a simoun with Limone). Things that support this argument include both Dominura/Ontasia being in Chor Dextra and both suffering the effects of having never chosen a gender (that glittering dust), plus Yun whispering Dominura’s name when she touched Onashia.

          B) She isn’t Onashia. It’s never mentioned how long she has resided at the springs; it could ten years or thousands. Also, although the timelines are messed up, both seem to have very different personalities. A final point supporting this idea is that Onashia tells Yun that she had never been hugged before, which contradicts with what is seen of Dominura’s relationship with Limone. If this is true, then Onashia is probably another member of Chor Dextra that went to the past and stayed alive until the series’ timeline. Either that, or she comes from Aaeru’s grandfathers time (50-60 yrs previously?), with Dominura between a much later addition to the group.

          C) Both. One mindbending theory I’ve heard is that Dominura was destined to become Onashia, as in theory A, but by coming out of her stupor and agreeing to get back in a simoun and become an eternal maiden, basically rewrote her fate and stopped the transformation. Of course, seeing as she was already shedding glitter, perhaps it was too late to pilot a simoun afterall. And of course, none of these theories shed light on Limone’s fate.

          So basically a big confusing mess. I’m leaning slightly to the idea that Onashia wasn’t Dominura, but some other dextra member. I do believe, however, that Dominura/Limone created the sibillae simoun loop by going into the past and teaching people to use them, so they in turn could travel time and teach future generations. Without clear timelines on Chor Dextra’s or Onashia history, these mysteries will be unexplained, which is probably a deliberate move in the first place.

          Apologies if this became longwinded. :P

  5. Marigold Ran
    Posted January 7, 2011 at 2:51 am | Permalink

    I watched the entire show. The fact that I still feel some of the effects now proves this is a memorable show. Yuri+Good War Story+ Excellent Character Development = Win. I personally like Aeeru the most, and Neviril being with her is super. The ending is melancholy and it’s that emotion which is sticking.

    Excellent recommendation, btw.

  6. fatjing
    Posted January 13, 2011 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I just finished watching this show.

    I’d heard the recommendations for this show many times. And I finally made up mind mind to pick this up after reading your previous post.

    What impressed me first were the awkward character design and animation quality. The animation quality wasn’t very good due to limited budget, but I liked the watercolor style background they used ( perhaps just to save money). And with more and more character developments, the character design seemed not important at all, I just found all our protagonists adorable.

    It’s amazing that almost all characters were well developed. Everyone had her own shining moments. But it’s a pity for me that the staff attempted to made Neviril stand-out and somewhat failed. She’s not bad after all, isn’t she? And I really enjoyed the interactions and the subtle movements of the girls, such as Limone’s kiss to Dominura in the corridor, Aaeru’s confession to Neviril. Those scenes were sooo sweeet!

    And last but not least, the music. The music fit the show very much and made the show splendid.

    There are still lots of things I want to talk about Simoun. All in all, it’s a nice experience to go through the show. And thanks for the posts.

  7. Jack
    Posted January 18, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    With regards to Anubutif and Guragief, I’ve read that the director stating that they had indeed been sybillae together (you even see them in their ‘female’ form in one of the shows pictures during the episode break).

    Apparently when they went to the spring, they both assumed that the other would chose to become a women. I guess they should have communicated better!

    This is never mentioned during the actual show.

  8. Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    First of all, thanks for writing this post. Also, thanks for taking that Guragief x Anubituf screenshot, it was very useful. I have to say that i really enjoyed the series, but i disliked the ending, it was disappointing.

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