Simoun: anime review – Dreaming of eternal youth

Review: What will you get when you put a large group of immature teenage girls in a flying airship and entrust these girls with the future of the nation? You get headache-inducing emotional chaos, lots of yuri scenes and you get Simoun. The good news is that this anime actually turns out great especially in character exploration.

It’s a whole new world here in Simoun; new god, new rules, new words and new way of life biologically, socially and spiritually. So it’s quite natural for new viewers to be a little taken aback by the huge amounts of unfamiliar things. The anime does not try to familiarize the viewers with these facts in the beginning but instead takes us straight to the heart of matters.

Simoun sets in an imaginary world, the theocratic nation of Simulacrum reign over the land thanks to power of the holy helical motor created by long lost civilization. Simoun is an aircraft powered by these helical motors and the pilots are called Sibyllae. The story revolves around a group of Sibyllae who must struggle through chaotic situation when the neighboring nations declare war against the Simulacrum.

Ultimately, Simoun is a war anime with mild level of violence and not too unexpected military tactics and governmental conspiracy. What’s special are the addition of unique setting of the alternate universe, the difference in life pattern and sexual nature of the people. The anime overall looks and feels refreshing yet not too unfamiliar.

Unlike typical war flicks, winning the war is not the main point because the anime seems to regard war as human’s foolishness and deviation from god’s way. As a result, there is only handful of real battle scenes and the anime does not try to drag the viewers through much detail during battle. Most of the screen time is spent on what happens to the girls before, during and after each battle. I think this is quite brilliant. The war is merely a background and the means to put the Sibyllae in various interesting situations allowing deep and detailed character exploration. There are twelve Simoun Sibyllae. During the course of the show, each Sibylla has her own time for character exploration and development. The character’s moments are mixed well with the larger plot about the war against neighboring nations.

Despite the conspicuous war theme, Simoun is also a coming of age story told in a lavish and utterly unusual way. The anime makes the transformation from childhood to adulthood a physical and objective change. The characters, at certain age, must choose their sex and stay that way for the rest of their lives. The ones who refuse to decide, in this case Aaeru and Neviril, can no longer continue to exist but become the ideal figures that every adult can only dream of. Admittedly, we all dream of such carefree and unstained life every once in a while.

Though Simoun has smooth and fluid character movements and flawless aircrafts animations, the background is mostly painted with water color giving somewhat dreamy and distant feel but it lacks movements. There are a few times when the whole sequence is presented with penciled still images arranged in slideshow. These events do not happen often enough to affect the show in general but they are indeed annoying and they interfere with the continuity of storytelling and emotion.

From what I’ve discussed, Simoun clearly is a very good anime with outstanding setting and sophisticated characterization. Nevertheless, I personally feel that Simoun is one step short of achieving greatness. It’s difficult to explain this accurately but I feel that the anime lacks the point where it should make my heart races wildly with amazement and excitement. The anime consistently maintains its steady pace and emotional intensity by diluting important situations with bits and pieces of the character’s subplots which mostly consist of personal and interpersonal matters of the girls.

Under the impression that the show is an epic fantasy anime, Simoun worries too much about its characters when it should be building up the bigger theme causing imbalance between smaller and greater plots. If Simoun started out as purely fantasy-drama anime, not action-fantasy, I would not complain about this point at all. Conclusion: putting my feeling aside, Simoun’s distinguished setting, wonderfully portrayed characters and its sheer beauty are more than enough to put this anime in anyone’s top ten lists.

Rating: B+

Facts

Title: Simoun
Genre: fantasy, drama, political
Release date: 3 April 2006 – 25 September 2006
Episode: 26
Director: Junji Nishimura
Animated by: Studio Deen

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14 responses to “Simoun: anime review – Dreaming of eternal youth

  1. Hmmm … good times … loved the drama … some wonky looking flying ships that’s for sure … and … a fantastic ending. Been a while so my memories of the show is sketchy at best, but I sure do remember loving it.

  2. “I personally feel that Simoun is one step short of achieving greatness”
    I really dislike it when I finish an anime or manga series and I feel that way. In those situations sometimes I prefer that I never even tried the series. EVEN though I acknowledge that the series was good and had some moments I really enjoyed.

  3. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that as a fan of yuri, I’ve yet to watch Simoun. :(
    It’s kind of sad to hear that it falls just below excellence though. It sounds like the anime played it too safe.

    • Um, on the contrary, I think what Simoun excels is the the fact that it boldly pushes the boundaries of drama and sci-fi. Though it consequently neglects the action. ^^

  4. Yuri, fantasy, drama, all that definite. War anime, oh yes. But it’s not really a military or political anime— the bureaucratic presentation angle is way too shallow for that. We simply never quite got ‘the big picture’ through the entire series. But then that’s part of the difference between ‘war drama’ and ‘military drama’. A ‘military drama’ is all about winning the war and overcoming every tactical & strategic challenge. A ‘war drama’ focuses on how the war affects those involved— many of them even solely focused on civilians rather than combatants.
    Nevertheless, Simoun is one of those series I never bore of seeing discussion, especially given how underrated it is (MAL records only 7k viewers which is just shocking). As a coming of age anime, this is definitely one of the best imo~

    • That was a good point on war anime. I think the slow and rather information-loaded start of Simoun must have turned many people away. I had a hard time getting things together initially as well and I had to do some research before getting back to the show. Simoun requires some patience and concentration from the viewers. It was worth the effort, of course.

  5. Simoun seems like a really thought-provoking and interesting series. I remember maybe watching 1 episode when it aired, but now I’m intrigued.

  6. I enjoyed this series very much. Very rarely do you find a show which develops its character relations like this one does. I found myself attached to all of them by the end.

    Plus, the OST is one of my favorites of all time.

  7. Great review..!
    It was a good series, really enjoyed it, but after watching it the ending left me feeling sad. The disbandment of the Sibyllae, the girls making the decision to become adults, and not knowing what really happened to Aaeru, Neviril, Limone and Dominura. I guess I prefer happier endings…
    +1 on the OST. Wonderful stuff from Toshihiko Sahashi. Just wish they’d come out with an OST 3 with the tracks that are missing from OST 1&2 lol..

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