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05 January 2010 @ 06:08 pm
Anime reviews  

In a steampunk-ish world where everyone is born female and then picks a permanent sex when they are 17 years old; the country of the Simulacrum Theocracy is at war with most of its neighbours because other countries covet their monopoly on an ancient technology : the Simoun aircrafts . The Simoun, which the Theocracy worship as the Chariot of the God and the way to commune with their Tempus-Spatium deity, are the most agile and quick aircrafts there is, and when they trace patterns in the skies those can produce various powerful effects, including explosive ones. The Simoun are piloted by pairs of priestesses called Sibillae, which must be girls who haven't picked a sex yet (due to the war, the government has been letting girls beyond the age of 17 keep holding the office of Sibillae). The story follows a team of 12 Sibillae, their relationship with one another and how the war affects them.

Simoun has a lot of interesting elements : the world building is pretty intriguing, the genderfuck elements has a lot of appeal, and there are many mysteries loaded in the setting to hook us on. However the story didn't end up focussing on the real resolution of those mysteries in a way which I found very frustrating, and the overall storytelling is pretty bad from a plot aspect and contains many plot holes. The pacing is also very uneven, with a lot of time to way before action starts kicking at first. On the other hand, the characterisation and character development is where the storytelling shone. Despite the huge number of characters, the show was dedicated to explore and develop everyone of the 12 Sibillae as well as a number of secondary characters, and did so pretty well, if in a rather melodramatic way at times (they are teenagers after all). Eventually, as a coming of age story, it is a very good one, although as an action or as a mystery focussed one it is an utter failure. It is not much of a romance anime either, despite all the yuri flavours, with only one of the secondary romance being convincing and interesting.

Graphically, Simoun is very colourful, with gorgeous landscapes & architecture drawn lovingly in watercolours and the beautiful design of the Simoun and the way they fly. I'm less crazy of the character design which I found pretty silly and overdone, but at least the fact each girl has a different hair colour helps remembering who each one is, a helpful cue with such a huge cast of characters. The music is also pretty good, unique sounding in a way that fits the peculiarities of the setting.

The genderfuck elements, while very intriguing as a concept, wasn't explored enough for my taste and didn't seem to result into coherent or interesting effects on the setting. For example, they appear to have conservative gender roles and not picking a gender is seen as a very bad idea in the setting, which gives the anime some unfortunate implication message for genderqueers.

On the other hand, the thematic of the confusion between religion and war and the problems this causes, with the girls' role as priestesses and the fact they are being used for war is explored much more satisfyingly, with a lot of bitter-sweetness, painful realisation and conflict between characters.

Overall, I have very mixed feelings on Simoun, because I was very disappointed by the ending due to the lack of resolution other than character-wise, but, aside from the expectations I had build for it, what it does focus on it manages to execute pretty well.
Tune: Alexander Borodin - Nocturne from String Quartet No.2 in D#
cryptocryptoxin on January 5th, 2010 05:43 pm (UTC)
I loved the animation and the music, and thought the characters & world/premise were intriguing, but I never ended up finishing the series because of the plot/storytelling weaknesses that you describe. Still, there was a lot of good stuff in the episodes that I did watch.
Anne-Elisa: grumpyetrangere on January 5th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)
Yeaaah, it's a bit frustrating to have a show with so many exciting elements turn out like this because of storytelling flaws. I almost finished watching it more for the sake of getting rid of it than because I wanted to know what would happen next, if that makes sense.
Sakanagi: Atsukosakanagi on January 5th, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC)
I really like Simoun, although I agree with many of the points you've made about its weaknesses. I felt as if it had a lot of style and suspense to it, and I liked the way that each character had some depth. But there's a lot more that could have been done with Simoun. I think it could have used more focus on the gender elements. Maybe the series would have been better it if had had more episodes. I think they crammed a lot in that could have been more coherent had it been stretched out. But on the whole, I'm satisfied with the series.
Anne-Elisa: genderfucketrangere on January 5th, 2010 08:13 pm (UTC)
yeah I think it depends what you have as expectations for the story. Because I liked the settings and action elements, I wanted resolution on this, but turns out the story is all about the characters' coming of age instead!

A longer series might have worked better, but I think they could have done something well enough in those 20-something episodes with a different pacing and less focus on characters development. But then, we wouldn't have had all this character development!
Perhaps a new, different settings could explore the setting sufficiently, though :)