Trying to Get Simoun Out of My System, Attempt #1

It’s over, it’s all subbed. But am I ready to move on?

PIKACHUUUU

There are so many things to say about Simoun, and I’m going to try get get to all the key things, lest I ceased to be motivated.

But let’s start with the very first, basic thing: spoilers. Simoun is a show that will not be worth your while if you saw it while spoiled. Try to steer yourself clear of that if you plan to enjoy this show at some point in the future.

That said, it’s hard to talk about Simoun without spoiling, so that’s probably going to happen if you continue reading :)

Another thing that’s easily addressed is the music. Ok, so we know Toshihiko Sahashi is the composer, and he’s famous for, say, grand stuff like Gunslinger Girl and Rayearth OAV; or the more staple stuff like Full Metal Panic and Gundam Seed. I don’t really think he’s superlative in his works in Simoun, but he really nailed it as far as the style of music that goes with this stuff–waltz, classical-appealing orchestrations, of things romantic. There’s the right degree of pompousness, and it characterizes the Sybillas well, as elite, and often rich, well-to-do daughters of other elite, rich people. And enough weird stuff for those more uptempo, mysterious scenes, too. Doubly sweet are those “image” songs, such as the music box song, the one waltz they keep dancing to, and Dominura’s surprising performance.

I think there’s less to be said of the OP/ED themes. They work as OP/ED themes, but standing alone they’re both not really strong. Of course now both pieces are completely covered with the sentiments from watching this show, and the words to “Utsukushi Kereba Sore de Ii” hammers the key points home.

And it really is about these salient points, or as I tend to call them as themes. And there are several prominent ones. The coming-of-age story, the find-one-self story, and the idealist/realist conflict. The confusing conclusion to the show all makes sense once you start to think along the themes, at least so I think.

The ending itself is a little loose, sad, and moody piece generally. It doesn’t tie up any of the loose ends plot-wise but the last two episodes give us the details of their lives after they had to make the choice. I think if you’ve seen it, some of the choices these girls end up with are self-evident (Lodore, Para). Some are fun (Floe, Morinas), others are a little ordinary (Alti, Kaimu). Anubituf and Grageif ended up fairly amusing. Will Vyuraf end up like them? One can only hope so.

But when it comes to Limone and Dominura; Yun; and of course Neviril and Aeru, it’s harder. If you recall Utena the Movie, we can write off Neviril and Aeru in that sense–the duo pursuit something more in abandon of what society has thrust upon them. The differences, mainly, is in the context. Utena was fable-ish within a backdrop of everyday society; where as Simoun had a specific context instilled within its elaborate universe. As a result the act of rebellion and the lesbian conquest had a very different meaning behind it.

Harder still is trying to fit Yun in all of this. She really is a victim of setting–we understand why she did it, but the how really bothers me. Perhaps it’s exactly in this way Simoun fails me as an end.

The same question of how stumbles me when I think about Limone and Dominura. We understand how and why of Limone and Dominura’s context in their travels (one of the several points in Simoun which a spinoff seems appropriate). But WTH? STD (Space-time Transmitted Disease)? I suppose Simoun has given us enough hints to piece together the framework, and I may just too dense to figure out as to why she’s flaking. She has Limone, after all?

The question of how is probably the greatest stumbling block to Simoun. Its unexpected road from climax to end is by no means the problem. Not having things explained, in itself, isn’t a problem either. The issue arises from its elaborate story and context and setting. It’s too good to be cast aside just because explaining it all will unravel this mighty-beauty suspension bridge of belief. Nonetheless, a few more road signs will go a long way.

But the setting, my, the setting. It is probably my favorite aspect of the show and it will stick with me for a long while. Gender bending, the tech, the faux steam-less-steampunk. The foreign languages. The Ri Maajons. The class system. Tempus Spatium. So remarkable. So wonderful twists. And all an integral part of this romance. It’s not just a gimmick.

Romance, I think, is the word I would use to describe the feel of the show. Some would describe it as WWII era drama pieces where a lot of the mood comes during scenes when the cast stare longingly down the runway and into the sky, pining at pilots at war. The similarity are there, and these kinds of elements, more than the interpersonal romance, played a bigger part in painting the show with the right texture, that gives traction to the rest of the drama.

I wouldn’t say the watch was easy, but it has a distinct taste and texture–creative and unique. For a jaded anime faux-intellectual like me, that’s just irresistable. Once you couple that with the roller coaster drama in the middle of the series, it was just too delightful. How the two big dramatic events mid-series affect the story is also pretty interesting, too, and rather unusual.

I won’t deny it, either, when you look back at the show and still only see a bunch of cute girls flying jet planes and blowing things up, while kissing each other…that is probably enjoyable too. But for those of us who would rather take it seriously, there’s a lot to take seriously of!

But when Dominura and Limone took their quantum leap, it was awe inspiring. Both in the acting and in the way they constructed the tension and released it. Now that I’ve had a lot of space and things to put in between now and then, it almost seem irrational and odd for Dominura to do what she did. Or rather, by finding the one (and possibly only) meaning behind her action can we sift through the real significance to it.

Indeed, if she knew what the Emerald Rimaajon did, why did she do it at that point? Are we merely fooled by Amuria’s destructive attempt? Is it unintended irony that Neviril’s moment of mercy caused a massacre? A rewatch (as I had several times since months ago) did show that the emerald Rimaajon is a peaceful transcendence, then and even again at episode 26. Was Dominura meaning to abandon? Probably not. Was Limone looking forward to the magical cure as a way out of their predicament? Maybe. It was what they meant to do as girls, as people living wholly for themselves. But it has other meanings too–Schrödinger’s CatAmuria, for example. (By the way, there is little doubt that she is dead, even if they left some space for the contrary).

On the other hand, it’s no coincidence that we were flashed back to Neviril’s performance in front of the inquisition regarding the Arctus Prima explosion several times during the show. While I personally would inject a particular perspective (like related to this), it’s probably safe to say that is a defining point in her path to what she turned out to be at the end of the series. Amuria is similar to Aeru in a lot of ways, sure, and Neviril loved both of them. The difference between the two relationships, logically, is where we can see how Neviril has grown and how she learned to come to terms with what she defines herself with. She made important realizations–about Tempus Spatium, about their organized beliefs, and about what a Sybilla is. It’s partly why she could anchor Chor Tempest in the later episodes of doubt and despair.

In fact, there’s a positively lovely domino effect where one girl helps another to pull through this trying time. Without Lodoremon, we won’t have the reformed Mamiina. Without Limone, Dominura would not have made the “right” decision later on. Without Paraietta, Kaimu and Alti would not have reconciled. Without many of theses we wouldn’t have a Neviril that we see at the end of the series. Of course, without Aeru and Neviril Paraietta would not have reformed and become the integral leader for the Chor Tempest girls. Even Aeru learned a few important things from Floe! Even the Plumbum priestesses had a couple big roles.

I think this is where Simoun remarkably differ from Utena or even Evangelion in dealing with these kind of themes. Utena’s characters were, as the show suggests explicitly, puppets pushing and pulling our protagonists along. The movie version does the best job, IMO, in showing that Anthy was the one true heroine at the end, and Utena is just her trusty partner during her trials in some ways. Evangelion, OTOH, dealt with the similar themes in a similar way, but there wasn’t real understanding between the characters, compared to Simoun.

This spiraling train wreck of a post will have to end here. Theories and conspiracies are great for this show because it beckons, yet I think it would still be imprudent to dive into it full force without reason as a safety rope. Meanwhile, enjoy some eyecatches. Simoun’s eyecatches are as amusing as eyecatches can get, and they do a good job highlighting each episode. A short stroll down Neg’s blog is in order here. When it comes to eyecatches I like it when they make the additional effort to make it a part of the entire experience, and they’ve done a great job. It’s like the first thing you see when people post it on 2ch, and it spreads like wildfire with raws and subs trailing behind. Plus, they’re just gorgeous usually.

Until next time.


17 Responses to “Trying to Get Simoun Out of My System, Attempt #1”

  • DrmChsr0

    Yes you can.

    Read Simoun H-doozins, and then come back to me.

    And you forgot about the dickgirls.

  • omo

    I could also just have a lobotomy, too…

  • dm

    I’m not sure I want to move on, not just yet. Simoun got its hooks into me in a way that few other anime have done. I’ve really only watched Simoun and Gankutsuou since you baited the hook, and not felt like watching much of anything else, because not much of anything else measures up. This happened the first time I saw Evangelion and Nadesico. It helps that I just got a pile of good books out of the library, but still.

    I’m impressed at the number of people who talk about this as one of the best anime this year. This year includes The melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. But not even Haruhi had the impact on me that Simoun had. But Haruhi is a comedy, which tend to have less of a cathartic impact (Nadesico is an exception, but I think Nadesico achieved its impact through sheer energy).

    I’m not through with Simoun yet: I’ll probably follow the Simoun-Fans releases as they come out, especially as they’re just hitting the bomb-drop-an-episode part of the series.

  • omo

    I think that’s just it–it really is killing my appetite. I want to recover and be able to enjoy other stuff as soon as I can…

    Also, though, since episode 21 the show has been winding down. I am emotionally spent over it, so we’re talking about 5 weeks of me just checking up on what’s going on and hoping each next episode unseen will take us up and down again. It just didn’t happen. Now that it is finally over, and ended in a mostly expected way, I feel I should be…done? I guess I’m doing a bit of searching too, as well.

  • Kurogane

    Haha, nice write up on Simoun.

    I have to agree, Simoun is so that awesome, it moved my lazy ass to blog almost daily for the duration I watched it.

    Now, looking back, it seems my foresight of waiting for all the episodes to come out 1st was correct. Seriously, I don’t think the impact will be that great if I watched it week by week.

    Definitely a strong contender for Series of the Year.

  • dm

    I think it’s fine for your appetite to be spoiled. Do something else for a while? Like I said, I just got a bunch of books out of the library, and those will keep me happy. Plus Gankutsuou.

    Also, October 1 is the tenth anniversary of the broadcast of Nadesico. I’ve been thinking about or actually planning to watch each episode on the tenth anniversary of its initial broadcast.

  • Adam

    FWIW, Dominura’s flaking is, as far as I can tell, intended to be exactly the same thing as happened to Onashia – it’s the fate of all those who postpone their visit to the Spring for too long. (This would explain the strong taboo about doing so in Simulacran society.) It’s also perhaps the most melancholy point left open by the ending – one way or another, Limone may have to lose Dominura or give up flying forever to be with her.

    I agree absolutely about needing to find a catharsis after watching this show, though. There are so many things to say about it that it’s hard to be coherent. You’ve done a much better job here than I’m likely to… However much I enjoyed Haruhi at the time, in terms of longeivity it can’t hold a candle to Simoun. In spite of its flaws (and there were plenty), it’s far and away the most memorable piece of TV I’ve seen in a long time.

  • omo

    Dominura’s flaking: I understand, I understand, but it doesn’t quite explain why it’s happening to her. Wouldn’t the same happen to Neviril and Aeru? Or Yun, for that matter…? There has to be something more to it than that.

  • dm

    I expect the same thing to eventually happen to Yun, unless the nature of her decision — she actually did make a choice or decision: giving surcease to Onashia — protects her from the divine dandruff. On the other hand, divine dandruff might just be part of the price she elected to pay when she chose to release Onashia.

    I hadn’t thought about Aeru and Neville, but I think it’s best to think of them as having transcended time/stepped outside of time. But it’s a good question. I’m also wondering if it will happen to Limone (she may still be young enough that the choice is still open to her).

  • Muey

    I think dm nailed it. Aeru and Nevi no longer exist on this plane (or if they do, it doesn’t really matter for us since we don’t/can’t know about it), thus they aren’t likely to fall into the rules governing it either.
    Rimone’s still young compared to the rest, and Yun no doubt has the chronic golden dandruff disease looming over the horizon – Recall she *is* a whole 3 years younger than Dominura.

    What I’ve been left wondering though is whether you can still go and make a choice after you’re hit with the dandruff of slow disintegration…

    Other than that, props on the write-up – It really succeeds in nailing down the aspects, both positive and negative, of the series.

    And yeah, I’m having trouble getting this out of my system too. I’ve been meaning to start on Saiunkoku Monogatari for a week now, but just havn’t gotten myself down to it :p. I think I’m in for a marathon-rewatch of Simoun over the weekend and see if that’d help alleviate the problem =P.

  • dm

    There’s always giving up on anime altogether. Imagine how much time you’d have…

    …and imagine Cym’s reaction when you tell him that Simoun has ruined you for anime for a while.

  • Muey

    Haha, someone totally needs to tell him that o/ :P

  • omo

    Canvas 2 almost did that for me.

    Except the reaction was cured by watching more anime that cheered me up.

  • dm

    Due to excessive Omopromotion recently, Canvas 2 has been trickling its way onto my computer for a day or two, now.

    You did so well with Simoun that I’m willing to gamble on another series.

  • Muey

    I’m not really sure if Canvas 2 is up your alley. It’s harem, done relatively right, but it’s still harem none the less. And it has an awful ending ;) ;).

  • dm

    I did mostly enjoy the last bit of Shuffle! (I skipped the first half of the series and went straight for the Kaede breakdown). So we’ll see.

  • omo

    I enjoy being credible but I’m all about the incredible, so while I would disclaim, as usual, that Canvas 2 is an unusual beast not for everyone, but please do watch it. Talking with Jal about it gets old :p

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