A bit surprised that this series has been under my radar for a while now. Ignoring its promotion as a yuri title briefly, Simoun is quite focused on the various character developments of the young members of Chor Tempest as they find themselves coming of age. From sibling rivalry to moving on from personal loss to feelings of inferiority, there are a diverse number of ordeals that are tackled from the girls of Chor Tempest explored to great length as they get involved in protecting their country from foreign invasion and being the only major defense available through their piloting of the Simoun planes.
Moving back to the "yuri" element, Simoun is quite notable for its gender-swapping aspect being a prominent part of the Simulacrum culture where the girls in the world of the series get to choose their gender in a coming-of-age ceremony when they turn 17. This adds some interesting elements to the series involving growing up and relationships between those among Chor Tempest's ranks. Because of their status as sibylla capable of piloting Simoun, the members of Chor Tempest are allowed to avoid the ceremony for as long as they are trying to halt enemy advances with members of the group having differing thoughts on approaching the issue. Some characters at points desire to attend the ceremony as their escape from the responsibilities they've gained in fighting a war beyond their control, indicating their lack of maturity in handling complicated affairs. Some other characters desire to become male because of their desire to become romantically involved with one of their fellow pilots, an aspect which (along side kissing between those of the same sex to run the Simouns) had many folks assuming the series to be a typical yuri title at first glance. However, all the girls have enough personality and self-control to comprehend when their actions would be wrong and not spiral things into a mindless yuri delight, even when having inner conflicts over the gender they desire to become.
The exploration of the world of Simoun is a bit hit or miss though. On a basic level, you come to understand that Simulacrum is a theocratic nation with a strong belief in the divine, despite their technological superiority over other nations at the start of the series, and you come to understand a number of aspects to the country's culture influenced by their divine beliefs. Some characters who are strong followers of the divine teachings that they are taught find these beliefs challenged when confronted with the reality surrounding their country's past origins not being as they would think, especially concerning the Simoun.
On the other hand though, there is limited to little depth you come to learn of the enemy nations desiring to attack Simulacrum thanks to much of the show's focus being on the developments of Chor Tempest. This same issue also comes about with the revelations discovered about the Simouns as either there is limited information on what to learn about them or the show doesn't bother exploring the "hows" to said elements.
The visual presentation to Simoun is a bit of a mixed bag as well. The series features good-looking character designs of its cast and great-looking CG animated renderings of the Simoun and other aerial vehicles which move about fluidly both on the ground and in the air. On the other hand though, a good number of the show's background designs look washed-out in quality and the show usually likes to mix in sketch-like still shots of the girls in certain key scenes which are not consistent with the animation style used throughout much of the show.
Despite my minor issues though, Simoun made for a surprisingly solid anime featuring the coming-of-age developments of the young members of Chor Tempest as they dealt with differing issues and being involved in a heated war, all with little actual dabbling in its so-called "yuri" element.
Last updated Saturday, April 14 2012. Created Thursday, April 12 2012.
ANN anime review that SIMOUN is perhaps one of the most overlooked and underrated R1-licensed series this year.
I find myself agreeing with Bamboo Dong as mentioned in his
SIMOUN is pure scifi, exceedingly complicated, alien and/or very strange and also very YURI - all niches in the anime market. Both EVA and Rahxephon met most of these criteria and were successful, but I think that the 'kiss' of the YURI stamp might have tainted this series in the eyes of many anime fans.
Reminecient of Ursula K. Le Guin's award winning book Left Hand of Darkness which tells a story of the world of Gethen in which the people are of an unclear sexuality, SIMOUN dares to tell a story of a group of young female pilots who pair up to pilot their advanced and surreal aircraft. They are only able to pilot their craft for a short number of years and when they reach the age of seventeen, they must undergo a ritual in which they must choose to remain female or change into a male. In the shadow of this rite to adulthood, their partnerships as pilots and priestesses of the SIMOUNs plays out in a unique way - they are not really gay, but rather undecided about their gender.
Set at a time when their country is under attack from its neighbors who resent the wealth and power of Simulacrum and who created a number of elaborate airborne assault craft to rival the SIMOUNs. With war-losses mounting and the dominance of the SIMOUN challenged, their leaders are forced to propose a number of special laws and changes that will fundamentally change the rituals and definitions of the priestesses of the SIMOUN. This story follows the small group of chosen girl-pilots as they struggle with the issues and losses of the war and the impact that the proposed changes has on their relationships.
I could see where some might be uncomfortable with this weird gender (or transgender) element, and how this element combined with the complexity of the story might loose or turn-off some of the younger anime fans, but it is these very same ambiguous elements that attract me and allowed me to enjoy Ursula K. Le Guin's book. Both stories could be considered both 'feminist' oriented and very much of thinking-persons type of tale.
Perhaps it is best to consider SIMOUN as a daring scifi story, rather than a story with a strong YURI appeal, but I can see where this series would work at that level too. But if one can get past this, then this series might have something special to offer.
If you enjoyed the characters of Mai-Otome or the complex story and depth of Last Exile, then you might want to check out this uncommon and unique series.
Last updated Wednesday, August 20 2008. Created Saturday, April 29 2006.
|Japanese Language Series Web Site
|Wikipedia - Simoun (Anime & Manga)
|Wikipedia - Simoun (fictional aircraft)