Type: TV Series
Episode Count: 26
Genre: Drama / Fantasy
Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 27 Nov 2009
An interesting drama about war and religion, with a unique backstory.
In a land called Simulacrum Kyuukoku, everyone is born female. At age seventeen, individuals must make a pilgrimage to a sacred spring to undergo a ritual in which they choose the gender that they will live out their adult lives as – to either remain female or become a male. (If they choose to become male, the transformation is not instantaneous; they gradually transition over the course of several months to years.) Only priestesses known as Simoun (pronounced she-moon) Sybillae are permitted to forgo the ritual, as they are the only ones with the ability to pilot sacred aircraft known as Simoun, which are used to offer prayers to their god, Tempus Spatium. As it turns out, these prayers – flight formations called “Ri Majon” – also carry a destructive power that is able to defeat the invading forces which are attempting to invade Kyuukoku in order to learn the secrets of the Simoun. As a result, the Simoun Sybillae priestesses find themselves caught up in a war not of their own making. The arrival of an energetic pilot named Aer marks the beginning of a sea of change for the Sybillae.
Simoun is a series that starts out very quickly and with no explanations. This caused me to be very concerned about how it was going to fare, as the first few episodes are filled with dialogue relating heavily to the story’s mythology and backstory with absolutely no context given. It’s quite overwhelming and confusing, but give the series a few more episodes, and things will start becoming clear. It’s not an ideal beginning, but don’t let the first episode throw you completely off; it does become less reliant on its own lexicon, though you will learn it as the episodes progress as well.
The cast is fairly large, so it does take a while to figure out who everybody is. Not making this any easier is the fact that most of the characters have names which are a mouthful, such as Paraietta, Rotreamon, Neviril, and Guragief. By about halfway through, I was mostly able to remember who was who, but it still took me nearly the entire series to remember what everyone’s name was. Character designs are also unique, some even a bit unsettling at first, with “lipstick” giving a few of them an almost artificial appearance. The wardrobe is also futuristic, but at the same time hard to explain; you just have to see their clothing to get a feel for the style.
The premise is very interesting as well, and it relies heavily on character relationships to drive the story. Of course, with the main cast being entirely female, you may be able to guess what kind of story this is; Simoun is a strong entry in the shoujo-ai genre. This factors heavily into the story, as to pilot a Simoun requires two priestesses in a Pair. The Simoun craft are powered by a gem which is activated by the pure feelings of the Sybilla Pair after they first share a kiss, and then kiss the gem on the ship. One member of the Pair is the pilot, and the other is navigator.
Simoun‘s story is surprisingly engaging, after getting through the rocky start. After episode one, I had my doubts about the series. They were all erased by the halfway point. The story becomes clearer and clearer further in, and it takes some unexpected turns which really helped to draw me in. It combines the war drama with the world’s religious traditions of Tempus Spatium very well, and the shoujo-ai element is a legitimate part of what helps the plot progress; it’s not there merely as a tease. The relationships between the girls – in their Pairs and on a personal level – have everything to do with how successfully they are able to pilot their Simouns. The war drama is solid and is fueled by the combination of the Tempus Spatium mythos and the relationships between the Simoun Sibyllae. Each piece of the puzzle is important, and if any one of them were removed, the story would instantly fall apart.
Even for those who are not a fan of shoujo-ai, the war in Simoun is written sufficiently well that it should provide incentive on its own for one to watch and enjoy the series. Simoun is a series that I knew next to nothing about other than the shoujo-ai before watching it. I came away from it enjoying it quite a bit, and finding that particular element of it integrated so well into the story that it didn’t even stand out, despite how up front it is, if that makes any sense.
Recommended for shoujo-ai fans and fans of war drama who are not afraid to step outside of their comfort zone.