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Simoun #5: Song of Prayer PDF Print E-mail
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R1 DVD Reviews
Monday, 17 November 2008 00:00
SimounI'm kinda torn over this final volume of Simoun, as it's finally dawned on me that the series isn't going to give me what I thought I was getting. Is that a bad thing? Perhaps - but you have to credit the series for being brave enough to try something unexpected. Let's see what we've got, shall we..?

22 - Sortie
Arcus Niger, one of the fleet's major ships, has been shot down by the Shoukoku fleet, and they're now on their way towards Arcus Prima and the Kyuukoku capital. Chor Tempest - what's left of them, anyway - are scrambled in response, but the sheer numbers of ships that the enemy are throwing at them is too much for a small force of Simoun to deal with. With victory in sight, though, the enemy fleet surprisingly pulls back. They've sent a message, though - Kyuukoku is on the verge of losing the war, unless they can come up with a new battle plan, and quickly. In the meantime, Shoukoku are keeping up the pressure, hoping to force a surrender - but Anubituf, the Arcus Prima's captain, has an idea that may give Kyuukoku the upper hand...

PlayfulSurprise

23 - Eternal Maidens
The war is over, and the forces of the Shoukoku-Highlands Alliance have taken control of the Arcus Prima. On the one hand, the girls are pleased that the fighting is over, but that's also tinged with sadness for a variety of reasons. Aer would still like to see the 'other world' that her grandfather had told her about, but that would require her to be able to pilot a Simoun. Yun is also looking into the effects of the Emerald Re Mājon - but with a condition of the peace treaty being that Chor Tempest be disbanded and the girls sent to the Spring, their time to try and perform it is running out...

Learning lost truthsSecret allies

24 - Choices
Onasia's role as Guardian of the Spring is no honour - it's a punishment, handed down due to her failure to choose a permanent gender for herself. With Chor Tempest disbanded and the girls stripped of their priestess duties by the terms of the peace agreement, they're all due to visit the Spring themselves to choose their future paths - whether they want to or not. It's not a decision to be taken lightly, but while most of the girls are reluctantly giving it due consideration, Neviril, Aer and Yun have other things on their minds...

OnasiaForgiveness

25 - Pair
While Neviril and Aer have been given permission to wait a while longer before travelling to the Spring, the rest of Chor Tempest are there, and have made their decisions: with Yun having become Guardian of the Spring in Onasia's place, the others cross the Spring, and Chor Tempest becomes part of the past. Meanwhile, the Shoukoku governors placed in charge of the Arcus Prima are getting jittery over Aer and Neviril's failure to go to the Spring, and make arrangements to have them escorted there - forcibly, if necessary. Faced with the failure of the plan to restore Simulacrum Kyuukoku, Guragief arranges some help from an unexpected source...

At the SpringMilitary governor

26 - Their Portraits
Some time has passed since the girls visited the Spring - they've all found their place in civilian life, but the spectre of war is hanging over their heads again, as the alliance between Shoukoku and the Highlands is beginning to unravel. The priestesses of the Highlands are aware that Aer and Neviril are planning to perform an Emerald Re Mājon - but will they allow it to happen? In their world, meanwhile, Dominura and Rimone have been training a new generation of Simoun Sibyllae...

Back in the past.....and off to the future

Okay. What I thought we were getting was a war story, wrapped in the details of how that war affected the girls of Chor Tempest. What we got was a story about the girls of Chor Tempest, wrapped in an incidental war. Now, those two descriptions may sound like much the same thing, but bear with me. In any series, you expect the core story to be fully resolved - it's nice if the events around that are also tied up, but it may not always happen. I'd been expecting the war in Simoun to be fully tied up, but as it turns out not to be as important to the overall story as I'd thought it would be, it isn't - instead, we get the story of the girls finding their place in life and eventual happiness, while the final outcome of the war (left in the hands of Aer and Neviril) is left unresolved. Does that make sense?

So on the one had, I'm glad the the girls are all given the attention they deserve. Many of them have fallen in and out of favour as the series has gone on, but come their final decisions, we get a good look at what they go through both before and after, with Yun getting particular focus thanks to the unusual nature of her choice. Aer and Neviril are left out of this strand, for reasons we'll come to later. While part of me sees all this as a little too much navel-gazing, it does play out surprisingly well, and gives a real sense of closure to the stories of the girls involved.

Aer and Neviril aren't so lucky, though, and end up in the same sort of unknown status that Dominura and Limone also end the series in. It's clear that the belief is that wherever the Emerald Re Mājon sends the girls, they'll be in a position to unpick history and remove Kyuukoku from foreign domination by the back door - so the clear implication is that they'll be travelling to the past. What you see of what Limone and Dominura have been up to reinforces that - but equally, once the girls complete the Re Mājon there's no further attention paid to them. Did they succeed in their Re Mājon? Probably, but not confirmed. Were they able to change the situation in the "now"? Not even touched upon. Instead, the plot thread is a vehicle for the two girls to confirm their love for each other, with the actions and plans behind that plot thread being considered irrelevant - and to me, that's a huge disappointment. It probably wouldn't have taken too much time to provide an epilogue scene showing how they turned out, thereby neatly closing off the war arc for better or for worse, but we don't get that opportunity - and not knowing nags at me like a hangnail.

Overall, though, it's a decent closing to the series, although not quite as good as the rest of the series might lead you to expect. The volume maintains a laid-back feel throughout, even when the girls are in combat; the war never really seems to be all that threatening; and the surrender when it comes is a footnote to the story, with the viewer being told of it by way of an "Oh, by the way..." voiceover that goes to reinforce just how unimportant the war eventually proved to be. As an individual volume, this is maybe the weakest in the series, but as a conclusion to the series as a whole, it works well, once you get past the frustrations of things left unsaid. I've enjoyed Simoun, minor niggles notwithstanding, and have no hesitation in recommending it.

Rating - ***


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