Simoun – Episode 5

Let’s dive right back into Simoun! Episode four featured a pretty dramatic turn for the series, as Aaeru and Limone found themselves coming face-to-face with the enemy. The show’s execution of that confrontation felt a little wonky, but the sequence did a solid job of bringing us closer to both Aaeru and Limone, and hopefully bringing the two of them closer as well. The episode ended pretty much as soon as the pair returned, so it’ll be up to this episode to reveal exactly how that experience shifted things for this crew. Aaeru was already the one most gung-ho about battling, so what will experiencing some of the true terror and ugliness of battle do for her mindset? Aaeru’s been pretty much carrying this narrative by herself for the past couple episodes, so I’m hoping the scars of this experience finally prompt Neviril or some of the other priestesses to take a more active role in the story. Let’s get right to it and find out!

Episode 5

Opening with more Archipelago attackers, and a defense by a Simoun squad. Now that I think of it, we haven’t really gotten a clear picture of how this new conflict paradigm has played out for those outside of our main squad

Oh hey, looks like this is the main squad, with Neviril absent and Aaeru pairing up with Limone

These pleasant pastel backgrounds and graceful Simoun designs naturally emphasize Simoun’s clash of beautiful framing and ugly content, just like how the Priestesses refer to their fighting as “prayer” and whatnot

Looks like Limone has lost her nerve. She and Aaeru are the only ones who fail in contributing to their Ri Majoon

Man, Simoun would make for a pretty great Wii tie-in game, huh. The combat in this show is actually predicated on tracing specific images in the sky

“Those two having been acting strange lately.” Lately? Hadn’t this squad basically given up on combat halfway through the previous episode? And now it feels like we’ve fast-forwarded to some time after they’ve returned to regular duty

Floe ragging on Limone for screwing things up

“White Solitude”

Even this giant ship can look pretty okay in one of this director’s patented head-on symmetrical shots

They bring in the sole survivor from Chor Dextra to comment on Chor Tempest’s failings

Oh dang, are we meeting our hardass coach with a heart of gold?

Sybilla Dominura is her name

Apparently Limone “was told I had to be here.” Looks like this may be a Limone episode

It’s odd. It still feels like this show hasn’t quite established a neutral dramatic platform yet, a stable dynamic within the main crew, and yet it’s already jumping off into these episodic tangents. Neviril has also faded more and more from the narrative, in spite of being the protagonist of the first couple episodes. It’s a strange structure that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to dramatic momentum or audience investment

Apparently Limone’s cadet school genius led to her being made the all-time youngest Sybilla

The show is definitely setting up “this team has the potential to be insanely powerful, if only they can realize it”

Limone Likes Snacks

Dominura is giving Limone the most menacing inspirational proposition ever. And I mean, her name is friggin’ Dominura. Who trusts the new coach with a name like Skullcrusha

“What we’re doing out here… it’s war. Even those kids understand that”

Limone’s life so far has been one defined by structure – she has a clear goal, and she’ll complete it to the best of her ability. But presented by the inherent choices of war and being in a Chor leave her without a clear direction, and now she wants Aaeru to provide that

Of course, Aaeru’s here because she also isn’t sure what she wants, and so she can’t provide any support

In some ways, this show’s early structure reminds me of Evangelion, with so much focus on these young protagonists struggling against their warrior duties. But it also reflects how difficult it is for a narrative to get away with that focus – Eva managed to tether its psychological hangups to propulsive, episodic narrative conflicts, while this show is having some awkward issues coming off as dramatically shapeless. There’s nothing like the continuous threat of angel attacks giving Simoun any sense of focus or urgency

Of course, “dramatically shapeless” is a critique you could aim at a lot of Okada works. Her standard mode seems to be “there are a lot of characters and they all have big feelings and it’s just a mess altogether”

Limone then goes to Neviril for guidance, but of course Neviril’s useless right now

Limone’s position is at least pretty understandable. She saw her own success in training as evidence that she’d become a confident and self-possessed person, but given the terror and ambiguity of battle, she now realizes that the simplicity of success in a binary educational framework had instilled her with a completely false confidence. “I haven’t changed at all”

“A reconnaissance mission?” In spite of it coming about fairly abruptly, I am pretty happy to have Tempest back in active duty. Giving the team episodic work challenges will hopefully help instill these episodes with a dramatic thrust they’ve been lacking

I guess Limone and Dominura are a pair now

“Ever since that incident, you’ve been unconsciously suppressing your talent.” This could well be true

Dominura tells Limone to take the auriga seat

Yep, Limone has lost her confidence. But what Dominura seems to understand is that confidence doesn’t need to come from total mastery – confidence by itself can be a powerful force, and if Limone can regain her nerve, she’ll likely also regain her flying abilities

“Keep the communicator attached.” The team communicate through a wire strung between the ships, essentially a cup-and-string system. I like the contrast between this society’s highly advanced holy weapons and its incredibly simplistic home-grown technology

Floe keeps getting her cheap shots in. Floe’s a jerk, but I’m very ready to see her get a focus episode. This crew of alternately solemn and morose priestesses needs someone with some snark

Some nice shots from the cockpit. The visual filter of this snow helps the Simoun blend into their surroundings, and this song fits the ambiguity of the moment well

Ah, Limone actually has a prior traumatic memory. Her overconfidence as a cadet got one of her fellow cadets killed

I kinda wish they’d seeded that more in this episode. Leaving that as a “surprise” diminishes its dramatic impact. You shouldn’t keep key character-development insight held back to reveal as a “twist”

I do like how her traumatic experience reflects the fact that even before the enemy started fighting back, this was still a war

Aaeru arrives for the rescue, and Limone realizes she has to make her own choice. One last key flashback – Limone looking up at Simouns performing some beautiful Ri Majoon. She realized then that that’s what she truly wanted to do, and remembering it gives her the strength to follow through on her desires now

Limone wants her Silver Ri Majoon, and goddamnit she’s gonna get it

I like this lengthy cooldown sequence afterwards. It’s very necessary to instill actions as strange as the Ri Majoons with a real sense of consequence

And Done

Alright, that was a very solid episode. Tightly focused on Limone’s personal issues, given emotional substance through some very understandable fears, and culminating in a reasonably earned character turn. There were hiccups here and there, from the show’s consistently weird song choices to the awkward use of some Limone flashbacks, but the episode succeeded on the whole. I really liked Dominura’s role in particular – while she was framed almost as a villain here, her perspective was still perfectly reasonable, and the show didn’t really demonize her after that first strange conversation with Limone. Most importantly, it now feels like Limone is a solidly rounded character with a clear goal within Tempest. In the midst of a cast mired in uncertainty, it is wonderful to finally have someone who knows what they want to do!

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