Reviewby Theron Martin, May 10th 2008
Sub.DVD 3 - Rondo of Loss
While Chor Tempest endures the tedium of patrol duty aboard the Messis, the experimental Pairing of sisters Alty and Kaim brings long-standing tensions between them to a head, which leads to two serendipitous discoveries that carry disturbing implications. Many of the sybillae find Aer's brash declaration to Neviril just as startling and unsettling, none moreso than Neviril herself, who must confront the nature of her relationship with Aer. Other relationships amongst the sybillae and support personnel ebb and flow as some learn about love while others struggle with issues of propriety and what should or should not be sacrosanct. In an attempt to uncover further mysteries of the Simoun, Dominūra convinces Waporif to commit the sacrilegious act of disassembling one of the Simoun helix motors, but what Dominūra sees there shakes her to the bone. When enemy forces seem intent on splitting the Simoun up in preparation for a daring new assault, Dominūra ultimately finds herself with one option left: attempt the dangerous and little-understood Emerald Ri Mājon, the same one that cost Amuria, Neviril's former Pair, her life.
Media Blaster's decision to release Simoun subbed-only was likely a calculated move based on an expectation of limited sales potential due to its emphasis on overtly lesbian content. While that move may make a certain amount of financial sense, it also, unfortunately, discourages fans who will not buy anything without an English dub from checking out a series that now shows the potential to be one of 2008's best. If volume 2 elevated the series to the level of an extraordinary yuri production, volume 3 steps it up to the level of an extraordinary anime production in general.
Sure, there are still some niggling imperfections. The background art has improved some but remains a weak point and the pencil-drawn still shots used as style points in earlier episodes return in episodes 15 and 16, only this time they remain on the screen while substantial amounts of dialogue and even actions pass; in other words, this time around a couple of them give more the impression of stalling out the animation due to budgetary issues. In other places the character designs are a little too obviously digitally drawn and colored, though the quality of their pretty designs and the strong merits of the CG renditions and animation of aircraft more than make up for that.
With such a broad and varied array of eye-pleasing and interesting-looking girls at their disposal, and the backing of such great CG work, the series could have easily wallowed in its fan service and tried to slide by on just the appeal of its many potential girl-girl relationships. Indeed, this volume does have more near-nudity and figure-flattering shots than either of the previous two. Some of the most intriguing relationship developments involve the two vixens featured together in the cover art, while other relationships take varying levels of innocent and not-so-innocent advancements.
To reduce the content in this volume to its base elements would be to sell it short, however, as its writing offers so much more. Highlights include episode 12's startling secret behind the tension between Alty and Kaim (and especially Aer's reaction to learning about it), Neviril's examination of some unpleasant truths about herself in episodes 13 and 14, Waporif's struggles to sort out the intersections of romance, practicality, and religion in episodes 15 and 16, and the mystery of what exactly Dominūra sees in episode 15. Aer fascinates as the kind of inspirationally bold, strong-to-the-point-of-insensitive personality normally embodied in male characters, one who also has an always forward-looking focus and the maturity level of a child when it comes to her understanding of love and propriety. In fact, behavior that both subtly and not-so-subtly suggests of childlike qualities in various sybillae, with the implication being that they are not truly mature until they have gone to The Spring for their gender determination, is a recurring theme throughout this volume. These episodes also raise one mystery dating back to episode 1 that viewers may not have ever realized was a mystery: what, exactly, really did happen to Amuria, the Pair of Neviril who was lost attempting to perform the Emerald Ri Mājon? Everything is tied together with a delicate balancing act of timing and characterizations so involving that the dearth of action through the middle episodes may not even be noticed.
Both musical themes remained unchanged as the series moves into its second half, providing each episode with a beautiful opener and passable closer. The musical score uses more electronica-oriented numbers in some tense scenes, while its choice of music in the “Aer brashly talks about the Emerald Ri Mājon to Neviril” scene provides an unexpected slant to that key scene, one which carries interesting implications about its meaning. The score hits poignant moments just right and ably supports thrilling ones, though, assuring that music remains one of the series' strengths. The Japanese dub, still done all by women even in the male roles, provides no letdown.
This volume offers two significant Extras, both patterned off ones seen in earlier volumes. The Staff Commentary features a discussion by the director and character designer set to assorted images from throughout the volume's five episodes, which provides some additional insight into the design intentions for certain characters while also spending a lot of time making cracks about Dominūra's hair. The dippy Cast Interviews bit this time features the seiyuu for Rimone and Dominūra, in addition to a second sucker who speaks in French (because Simoun sounds French, you see). Those who watch this may find it hard to reconcile Dominūra's voice in the anime with her seiyuu's normally much more subdued speaking voice.
Most series who try to juggle an operative regular cast as big as Simoun's usually falter by de-emphasizing more peripheral characters or spreading development so thin that no one has much depth, which makes the effort here all the more impressive. Despite only two episodes with true action, so much goes on that it never gets dull, nor does any scene feel wasted or needlessly extended. The romantic twists and turns, character development, and intriguing revelations all assure that viewers will want to keep coming back.
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : A-
+ Exceptional and compelling character development, pretty character designs.
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