Friday, May 26, 2006

Simoun 08

I'm not really blogging this, but episode 8 was so good that I couldn't resist. I've even gone so far as to make a subtitle file for the episode. This show just gets better and better. Here we have not only strong plot developments, both interpersonal and military, but deep emotional and even philosophical elements. And all dealt with subtly and powerfully. The episode title is "Prayer".

the peace conference angurasu, the young Plumbum priestess
young mamiina rejected as a sibylla young mamiina delighted in flight
anguras kidnaps kaimu anguras about to detonate the bomb
bodies of the Plumban negotiators and priestesses mamiina ask Neviril to be her pair
aaeru in tears after the explosion aaeru
the great lady neviril neviril calls aaeru to be her pair

character design
This is definitely one of the strong points of this show. The design is unique and effective. The multi-layer eyes, in particular, are so expressive. The expressions on the faces of Angurasu (the Plumbum priestess), Neviril, and Aaeru, in particular, are very strong.

voice acting
It took me a while to get used to Niino Michi as Aaeru. But now I see the stage actress in her background come through. The emotional effects on Aaeru in this episode are conveyed so well. And Takahashi Rieko's voice work contributes to the grandness of Neviril's character. Matsuki Miyu as Angurasu is also very effective.

The way the music plays against some of the most dramatic scenes makes it work so well. The baroque/classical pieces add pomp that helps locate the society culturally. And check out the various Simoun music videos on YouTube, especially “Memories” and the Ishikawa Chiaki live-action video of the OP.

story (spoilers)
Chor Tempest is in the doldrums, but Mamiina is still with them. Not only are they relegated to ceremonial duty and under sentence of disbandment, but another Chor comes in and takes ove the ballroom they have always used as a social area.

We learn that Aaeru became a Sibylla primarily so she could delay her trip to the Pool for becoming an adult.The young Plumbum priestess, Angurasu, is not allowed to be at the conference, so will spend the time with Chor Tempest. She seems nice, and they seem to get along. But for some reason, she will not say Aaeru’s name. They all discuss whether it is right for priestesses to fight in the war, and to use Simoun for such non-ceremonial purposes. The proper function of Simoun, as of priestesses, is prayer, not war.

Mamiina tells how she became a Sibylla. She was a student priestess, but had a lowly family background, so she could not be a Sibylla. Then Plumbum commandoes attacked her village. The actual Sibylla refused to use the Simoun to attack them, since they were priestesses, not soldiers. But Mamiina volunteered and the Simoun, contrary to predictions of one of the Sibylla, rose for her and she became a great pilot.

Aaeru, Furoe and Kaimu are taking Angurasu on a tour of the ship. They worship together in the chapel, with Angurasu saying that her god and Tempus Spatium are the same, but hinting that her god is the original, or at least derived from the same original, rather than from Tempus Spatium. Aaeru does not kneel, and lets Angurasu know that she is not actually a priestess. Furoe says Aaeru just became a Sibylla to avoid going to the pool. Aaeru says Furoe can’t decide which gender to become, either, and it’s stupid to force yourself to decide when you’re still confused over which is best. Neviril hears her.

But there is treachery afoot. One of the priestesses at the conference makes a secret mirror-signal to the Plumbum warship. As some of Chor Tempest are showing Angurasu around, they notice a flare sent up from the warship. Aaeru and Furoe rush off to see what’s happening. Angurasu is left alone with Kaimu, and suddenly takes her hostage at gunpoint. But you can see stress and pain on Angurasu’s face.

Aaeru and Neviril show their sharpness and command in dealing with the crisis. Aaeru is the first to realize the flare is a signal. With the hostage and hostage-taker on the flight deck, Neviril makes sure the area is sealed off from the conference, so two alien priestesses can’t get together and have a chance of flying a Simoun. Anguras shoots above people’s heads to keep them at a distance, but doesn’t actually shoot anyone. Aaeru realizes she’s not going to take a Simoun, but has a bomb to blow them up, and warns everyone away.

Angurasu refers back to Aaeru’s statement in the chapel as she prepares, with a haggard and distraught face, to detonate her bomb. She says to herself that if you remain uncertain, you can never make a decision and act. Then, as she is detonating, she shouts: “Aaeru!”

Aaeru is devastated by the act, and by hearing her name. But Dominura and Rimone, who have been studying the Plumbish language, say that “aaeru” means “love of god” in Plumbish. This confuses and depresses Aaeru even more.

As the ship lurches, the Plumbum priestesses at the conference, having pulled guns on the Simulacran negotiators, turn the guns on themselves and their male negotiators. When all is over, the Plumbans will no doubt claim that the Simulacrans killed them, and the attack on Arcus Prima was therefore justified.

Mamiina comes rushing up, having heard that only Chor Tempest’s Simoun are intact, and proposes to Neviril that she become her pair so that they can take off and attack the enemy warship, which is lobbing shells at the crippled Arcus Prima. Neviril asks her if she has any doubts. She doesn’t. Then Neviril asks Aaeru, who is shocked and has been cast into a complete quandary.

In a grand and wonderful scene, Neviril walks regally across the smoking deck to Aaeru. She tells her that she has doubts, too. And in a line that sends shivers down my spine, she says: “Stand up, Aaeru. I am your pair.” The image of Aaeru rising, and the two standing there with the smoke flowing by and the wind moving their dresses and Neviril’s hair…. Sugoi!

Finally, from a distance, we see Chor Tempest taking off from the deck of Arcus Prima, ready to redeem themselves, I hope and expect.

Next week's episode (broadcast late Monday night, Japan time): The Trial. Under sentence of disbandment, Chor Tempest will be interrogated, apparently by the High Priestess herself.

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