It’s not an entirely satisfactory ending but Simoun manages to wrap things up with enough to keep the audience happy.
In the final five episodes of Simoun, the war has grown to be more than anyone can handle. The alliance between Plumbum and the highlands has grown too strong. After the Arcus Niger is shot down, there is no choice but to sign a peace treaty filled with conditions that no one wants to deal with including the disbandment of Chor Tempest.
As the girls are forced to deal with the reality of no longer being sibylla and being forced into visiting the spring, all of them will find new directions. Yun will find her direction after she visits with Onasia, Aer and Neviril will finally face their feelings and make a decision about the Emerald Ri Majon and the rest of the girls will face their decisions about gender and their lives.
Good and the Bad
In an odd twist, Simoun starts this volume going back to the primary story of the war. With volume four ending so solidly on Aer and Neviril being approached to complete the Emerald Ri Majon, as an audience member, I had an assumption that this is where the series would pick back up on this volume and not doing so felt like a mistake. Even later in the volume as Aer and Neviril continue to explore their feelings, Simoun rarely gives this part of the story the attention that it deserves robbing it of a large amount of emotional impact.
Most of this will be apparent in the build up to the decision to do the Emerald Ri Majon or not between the two characters. While Simoun has always done a great job of teasing the relationship between Aer and Neviril, that’s precisely what it’s always felt like: teasing. Now that the series is over, it’s hard to remember really key scenes in which the audience could believe one way or the other that Aer and Neviril were about to get together or part permanently (though one probably predicted it about four volumes ago).
In the final episode of this series, the staff gives the audience most of what they want though. With all of Chor Tempest making their way out into the world, the episode will constantly move back and forth between the present and future while highlighting various members.
To show most of the Chor Tempest members grown up is a great touch. To see some of the younger members grown up and to see other members as males for the first time proves to be a great way to give the audience closure. What the series doesn’t manage to do however is provide closure on one of the biggest plot points of the series purposely excluding Aer and Neviril from the scenes. While it’s great to see everyone else, to not give the audience the chance to see where Neviril and Aer end up and if they’re happy there after twenty six episodes of waiting patiently is annoying beyond belief.
For this volume, the pacing retains its consistently slow rate. While the story and episodes always move at a steady pace, it’s still a very slow steady pace. Even with the final episodes winding down, it remains hard to get all five episodes in one sitting and without any sort of break since all of them are dialogue driven instead of action driven.
The dialogue in these episodes is well written with many strong scenes to carry them through the end. In particular, the characters spend a lot of time talking about Aer and Neviril and what role they played within the lives of each of their lives. While the two girls will never get their real send off from the series, having all of the other characters tribute them in this way is as close as the audience is going to get making the lines that much more important.
The music in this volume is quite strong despite the track record that Simoun has created for itself in the music department (see some of my earlier reviews). In particular there are absolutely beautiful themes that play throughout especially in episodes twenty four and twenty six. At the very beginning of episode twenty four, the opening theme is arranged into a solo piano piece and does an absolutely wonderful job of capturing the sad emotion of the scene. While this series has never choked me up before, these early scenes came close with the heart break that the girls were suffering.
Then again in the final episode of the series, there is a string arrangement that plays repeatedly throughout the episode. The theme is a very soft piece that really stays in the background but if you hear it you’ll know it instantly. The song is a wonderfully composed and placed piece that does a great job of bringing the audience in for a landing.
Dub vs. Sub
The staff behind the voice cast made some very interesting decisions when it came to these episodes. In particular, all of the characters that come in from another country after the peace treaty are presented as invaders and nothing else. What I mean by this is that none of their dialogue is ever translated and instead just appears as ‘Foreign’ when subtitled. Secondly is that these characters are never given their own language. Instead the characters are all speaking Japanese played backwards. This really does a great job of presenting the characters are complete outsiders with no redeeming value. They are strangers who look and talk oddly and almost always kept in shadows, nothing more.
Observant audience members are also going to notice instances of bad audio sync, particularly in episode twenty four. In the second half, you can clearly see Onasia’s mouth moving a full half second before her dialogue began and again later when the Captain is speaking. I didn’t notice any other errors of this kind in the other episodes however.
The vocal cast does a good job with the closing dialogue. All of the characters are given their screen time and in particular I was quite impressed with Kaori Nazuka as Yun and Sakiko Tamagawa as Onasia. The scene that these two share is one of the most powerful of the series and the two seiyuu do an absolutely wonderful job of carrying it through to the end.
For the final set of extras, this volume features another ‘Monthly ADR Bulletin’ featuring Nana Mizuki (Morinas) and Fumie Mizusawa (Waporif). In the seven minute extra, the two will talk about their characters (including the revelation that Morinas was always meant to sound ‘erotically cool’ which is a phrase that I now want to steal), answer a question about the series and shill some more merchandise.
While the extra itself is fun and entertaining to watch, the aspect ratio of the feature is shifted giving the entire thing an odd stretched out look on my screen. The subtitles were also very oddly distributed in each line making the extra look even worse.
In the second extra, director Junji Nishimura and character designer/art director Asako Nishida will sit down to talk about the series some in a new segment. In the eighteen minute segment, the two staff members will sit down and talk about various characters while providing commentary on episode twenty one (I believe). The commentary comes across well with some interesting information being floated out by Nishimura and Nishida though giving fans enough to enjoy the commentary.
Finally the extras are closed out with clean animations.
While initially the series presented itself with some great innovative ideas to push it past the ‘just another yuri series’ hump, the staff failed to reach the point where this series could be sold to a general audience. Simoun succeeds in telling a story from start to finish that will give different audience members different things. What they never quite fail to deliver on is a strong story in a believable world. For a yuri series, Simoun is a series that is much better than anyone thought it would be. For a drama, romance or sci-fi series however, Simoun never found a way to tap into its inner potential. While I’m not sad to see the series end, I don’t regret watching it.
While the payoff is greatly disproportionate to what amount of time it took to get there, the series could be worth a single run through for those who are looking for an above average yuri series. But the odds of it getting a replay or making it into my personal collection are slim.
Final Grade: C+