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Simoun #2: Orchestra of Betrayal PDF Print E-mail
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R1 DVD Reviews
Thursday, 26 June 2008 16:00
SimounForget the yuri undertones and skimpy outfits - there's more to Simoun than fanservice. Honest. Religious fanatacism, betrayal, love, separation, and the determination to do what's right all feature on this volume. And let's not forget the brutal warfare. Who said it was all about the girls..?

7 - Over International Waters
The girls of Chor Rubor are getting cocky - they've taken over the difficult night-time patrols that used to be Chor Tempest's role, and they're not slow to let the Tempest girls know who the top Chor is now. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like Chor Tempest will be getting their old jobs back just yet - but it seems that finally, under Paraietta's leadership, the Chor members are getting the will back to get there. First, though, they need two new members - but when their new recruits arrive courtesy of an unexpected visit by Arcus Niger, they turn out to be not the most approachable of people. Meanwhile, Arcus Prima is preparing to host peace talks with representatives of the Plumbum Highlands, while Neviril has to come to terms with a certain loss of status...

Chor confrontationMamina

8 - Prayer
The fight between Aer and Mamina was the straw that broke the camel's back, and Chor Tempest looks set to be disbanded. Mamina, who started the brawl, is regretting her actions wholeheartedly, but her remorse may have come to late. While their fate is considered, the Chor have been placed on "babysitting" duty, to look after Anglas, a priestess of the Plumbum Highlands, whose representatives are on board Arcus Primus for peace talks. In the course of speaking to her, a priestess who doesn't have to fight, the Tempest girls begin to think about what being Simoun Sibyllae has done to them. Anglas isn't all she appears to be, though - and neither are the peace talks, which soon turn out to be an infiltration plan...

Unhappy reunionDanger in their midst

9 - The Hearing
With Arcus Primus' other Chors destroyed, Chor Tempest launch as the ship's last line of defence. With Neviril having decided to fight, and chosen Aer to be her pair, Aer's filled with conflicting emotions - she's still confused at Anglas' suicide (Anglas would no doubt call it sacrifice), and Neviril's cryptic words about them having "one thing in common" have her distracted, but together the Chor is able to protect the Primus from further damage and escort the ship to a safe location. You would think their actions would be enough to save the Chor from disbandment, but no - on arrival back at the main temple, the ceremony to disband the Chor begins, while Neviril faces a hearing in front of the chief Priestess, Onasia. Will her words be enough to save Chor Tempest..?

First pairingInquisition

10 - Birds in a Cage
With Arcus Primus out of action while it's being repaired, Chor Tempest have been assigned to the Messis - a relic of a ship, if ever there was one - to carry out border patrols. Not exactly a glamour duty, but at least they're still together and back in action. The ship takes a bit of getting used to, mind you - dormitories instead of luxurious rooms, a distinct lack of home comforts... and mice. Hardly the life that the fleet's most famous Chor is used to, and being stuck in such close proximity to each other becomes an issue for Mamina and Roatreamon, who have issues from times past to sort out. Meanwhile, the enemy has set an ambush for the Messis - Neviril figures out their plans after hearing reports from the scouting missions, but has she realised the danger too late..?

Economy classLimone

11 - United Front
Chor Tempest and the Messis have a new mission - a joint mission with a ground-based unit, to recapture a town that has recently fallen into enemy hands. The idea doesn't please the girls - the troop they've joined up with is all older men, and they're neither polite nor pleasant to be around. They're also taking up valuable space on an already-crowded ship - but when one of the girls, Floe, begins to get overly friendly with one of the soldiers, Mastiff, tongues soon start wagging. She's about to discover the hazards of love during wartime, though...

LovebirdsHorrified

There's a problem with shows like Simoun that have frankly huge core casts - apart from the difficulties in keeping track of all the characters (after 11 episodes, I still can't list off the girls' names without having them down in front of me), different characters come into and out of favour. After volume one focussed heavily on Aer and Limone, they're pretty much forgotten about, and it's Mamina, Roatreamon, Neviril and Floe who get the best of the scenes this time around.

With Neviril, it's her rediscovery of her backbone and decision to finally stop moping around in her quarters and get back to the fight that's the most pleasing development. Once that's happened, she becomes a much more interesting and watchable character - the girl has a sensible, tactical head on her shoulders, isn't afraid to speak her mind, and shows why under her leadership Chor Tempest had gained the reputation it had. It's a far cry from the Neviril of the first volume, who really was a waste of space. Her acceptance of Aer as her pair also gives Aer a small chance to shine, even if she is chronically underused this volume.

Inter-personal conflict now becomes the domain of new girl Mamina, who first clashes briefly with Aer over who will get to pair with Neviril (apparently forgetting that it's the older girl's own choice), before moving on to air her issues with Roatreamon. This is where the series takes a look at class issues - Mamina's family have long been servants to Roatreamon's, and a girl of such low standing would normally never get to be a Simoun Sibylla, but Mamina's natural skills during times of war were enough to override that "rule". It's left a certain amount of "class envy" that the two girls have to deal with over the course of the disc. Mamina initially comes across as harsh and arrogant, but there's more to her and by the end of these episodes she'd become one of my favourite characters.

The betrayal and religious extremism is dealt with in the opening episodes and the attack of the Primus by the Plumbum priestess Anglas, while Floe finds love in the final episode that may well be lost by what her love interest sees when she takes part in battle with him. Again, both stories are focussing more on the human side of the events portrayed - where the Simoun are used in battle, it's quick and decisive, and really not the focus of the show. All told, there are places in these episodes were you're really prompted to think, and where comparisons can be drawn with real-world events, and it's almost been put in there by stealth. The whole look and feel of the show doesn't hint at it being particularly serious - more that it's going to be a fanservice piece - but those serious aspects are there and are a huge part of the appeal of the show.

In case you hadn't guessed by now, I enjoy Simoun, a lot. That fanservice-y look and feel and the talk of shoujo-ai undertones (which really don't go any further than the kiss a pair share to activate their Simoun) may put some people off, but the story under that gloss is a solid, thoughtful piece that really does deserve to be given a chance. Go get.

Rating - ****

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