Alright, let’s get started on Simoun! I don’t actually know all that much about this series, but I know enough to have it placed on my internal shortlist of must-see anime. By reputation alone, Simoun seems to be one of those fragmented classics that end up on a lot of personal lists but never really receive all that much public recognition. Mari Okada seems very good at creating those kind of “this messy show is my ENTIRE SOUL” stories, and that plus an interesting aesthetic and a story that apparently takes a very unique approach to gender identity seems like a very fine recipe. I’ve tried to keep myself relatively ignorant of Simoun’s twists, and I’m excited to see where this adventure goes. Let’s get to it!
Opening with a lovely open sky, with clouds painted as loose splashes of white and grey, as a choral song that sounds like some kind of religious chant plays against it. A good start!
Ooh, this first background is gorgeous on the whole. Fine, evocative details paint a city that seems to exist somewhere between Rome and Venice, with massive curved silos acting as a visual counterpoint. This feels like an angelic place
These CG planes do clash a bit, unfortunately
And there’s the title drop, with the title itself incorporating wings and flowers into its design. Suitable for a show that seems to emphasize flight and transformation as key narrative devices
The muted greys of these flying machines helps their CG designs stand out less. The show overall has a very pastel-heavy palette
These character designs hew reasonably closely to standard moe figures, but there’s something austere and kinda distancing about them – like they’re made of reflective glass
Two pilots for each of these machines
And uh, there’s a random shot of two of the girls deeply kissing. Is this the OP, or are we just getting a preliminary visual introduction of all the characters?
Yeah, these backgrounds are lovely. Delicate pencil art and nice complementary colors, all used to illustrate an ornate world full of beautiful architectural feats
Wait, this seems like an all-girl version of a giant robot OP. Have you jerks tricked me into watching a giant robot show?
The blonde and pink-haired girls seem to be our leads
Now we open the show proper in a shadowed industrial park, its sharp spires a strong contrast from the opening scene
The large mechanical structures here seem to embody a very different style of organic design from the marble buildings before. These are all segmented, like these structures grew one piece at a time, as opposed to being sculpted as one smooth whole
Also lots of smoke, the use of toxic energy creating yet another contrast
The zeppelin hangs like a giant jellyfish in the sky
“Our Archipelago has the best science and technology on Daikuuriku. However, we have been unable to develop an airship that can fly over the clouds”
Now smaller copters fall from the zeppelin like seeds, further emphasizing its organic aesthetic
“The Holy Land is a quiet and beautiful country that hides a secret”
The secret is Simoun, their flying machines
“Fallen Wings.” Alright, so that’s obviously a clear motif
“The government” is here. Framed as shadows through glass, they seem to be the only adult men in this country so far
Neviril is our main pink-haired girl
And Sybiril Aurea is… her title??
Amura is her partner
It seems like the Simoun have to kiss each other and then their engines to make their machines work. I guess that explains that!
I guess Ri Majoon is the invading country. Very interesting that we started from their perspective before switching over here – it immediately frames this fight in terms of desperate human conflict, not an existential threat
Those who fly in Simoun are called “sybilla”
Apparently Neviril is the daughter of an important figure in the government
There seems to be some gender ambiguity among the adults of the government
“Prayers are meant to be offerings. To use them for war…” Huh. So the kisses are prayers?
So this is overall some kind of theocracy, but interpretation of god’s will isn’t that rigid
“Chor Tempest is the best choir.” So “choir” is also some combat term?
“We try to create a perfect Ri Maajon shape to offer to Tempus Spatium.” Whole lotta made-up words, but “Tempus Spatium” seems to be their god, or clergy, or whatever
The girls actually open their cockpits and shout at each other to communicate, which seems impractical
Ah, Chor Tempest is their battalion, and battalions are known as choirs
So the enemy has just now discovered a way to shoot down Simoun
“No man-made aircraft can possibly outperform these heavenly craft!” Fascinating. After a long period of utter martial superiority, the impossibility of their defeat has become a belief that actually carries religious weight. Not hard to map that to Japan’s own belief in its divine infallibility prior to World War II
“Are we going to die?” So these “soldiers” have been basically just ceremonial figures, flying along the border to scare off anyone without a fight. This world keeps getting more interesting
Having defeated several Simoun, the enemy helicopters are now trying to cart the craft away. Bad news!
Ah, this narrator from the other side must be our blonde girl
The Simoun create synchronized movements in the sky that seem to release some kind of violent energy. Their combat style is a coordinated dance
Yeah, Ri Maajon are the formations
This episode isn’t being particularly kind to the holy land – they’re framed as complacent monsters, hoarding their technology from others
“The Simoun are just machines, and there’s no such place as hell.” Hah
Their energy sources seem to dictate the Ri Maajon, and the movements can be performed by any number of craft
But the outsiders have learned to erase their trails, cancelling the attacks
This soundtrack is terrific! A very diverse selection of instruments in this orchestra
“They’re trying to take our wings from us!” A very charged line
“Let’s go to the place where we can be free.” Huh
Kissing in battle is generally frowned upon, but it seems acceptable here
“If you see their eyes, you won’t be able to kill them!”
Their failed Ri Maajon seems to spark some kind of terrible reaction in the sky
An explosion so strong it provokes a religious fear in our unbeliever. Looks like she’s not the other lead after all
“If you’re going to the Spring, you can never be sybilla again.” “I wish to become a man.” Huh. So people can choose their genders here, but seem to start as women, and only women can fly Simoun
So it looks like Neviril’s partner died in that explosion
It’s interesting. Alongside the dogfighting combat stuff, their quarters within this large craft look like school dormitories. The scifi stuff is contrasted against a school setting that seems to echo classic yuri stories, with the original subtext of “Class S” romance eventually fading with age being literally interpreted through the mechanism of the Spring, which physically makes these characters “grow out” of their initial selves and into a larger patriarchal order
Limone, a young girl who’s just recently joined their Chor
Aaeru’s our blonde girl
The sybilla are also referred to as “priestesses,” which makes sense
“You guys can stay behind and pray. I came here to fight!” Ooh, I like her
Well shit, that was a fascinating first episode! I absolutely love all the little cultural details we’ve learned about the holy land, from its status as a complacent but consistently themed theocracy to its strange and still mysterious conceptions of gender. This episode introduced the mechanics of the Simoun and the holy land with virtually no exposition, and we’ve already been introduced to a variety of very distinct characters. That was a terrific premiere, and I’m very excited to see more!
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