Simoun – Episode 16 | Wrong Every Time


Let’s settle in for another episode of Simoun! The show’s last several episodes have done tremendous damage to the underlying fabric of this team, all while further elaborating on the individual motives of all our sybilla, and even reflecting Simoun’s overarching preoccupation with the natural conflict between faith and military pragmatism. They’ve frankly been one of the best stretch of episodes this show has seen yet, and have clearly demonstrated that the show’s consistent weaknesses in terms of pacing and narrative structure haven’t done anything to undercut its fascinating ideas or gripping character work. “Gripping ideas or characters, wibbly-wobbly narrative foundation” is pretty much how I’d characterize both Sho Aikawa and Mari Okada’s work more generally, but now that we’ve gotten out of the early episodes and their sometimes frustrating aimlessness, the show’s strengths are coming entirely into focus. We’re currently juggling close to a dozen individual character conflicts, and all of them are resulting in natural flare-ups of drama all through Chor Tempest, as personal motivation and public duty clash again and again. With most of the team gone and Neviril close to despair, is it Dominura’s turn to save the day? Let’s find out in Simoun #16!

Episode 16

And we begin back in the storm, as our introduction is narrated by the Messis’ captain Wauf. An interesting choice that centers us back on the overarching tactical stakes of this situation, as opposed to its immediate emotional concerns

“The increasing number of enemy sightings over the last twelve hours worries me. And there are only two Simoun left aboard the Messis.” All this tells me that we’ve finally arrived at the moment of truth, and Tempest’s current dissolution is going to have to resolve itself in order for them to fight back against an actual enemy. Simoun is making sure we’re up to date on the stakes and mechanics of this battle setup in order to make sure we understand how dire the situation is, and exactly what resources are still available to Tempest. Simoun’s battles are generally more tethered to emotional turns than immediate, in-fight stakes, but this could be the exception

Now we see Dominura praying in the church, a choice that feels almost like an intentional mockery of Tempus Spatium religious ceremony. Dominura doesn’t have much faith, but with this act of piety leading into the “Emerald Ri Majoon” title drop, it looks like even Dominura still has a reason or two to fear God

Limone’s giant, horrifying Frankenstein stuffed animal sure is something

Oh right, it’s Rea’s doll. Aaeru breaks the tense atmosphere by joking about it, and then Para scolds them for not acting seriously. What a great natural illustration of Para’s simultaneous desire and unsuitability for some kind of leadership role. She wants to support Neviril, but she’s too brittle to see when those around her need kindness or levity, not just that firmness of self-sacrificing character that she herself embodies. Good leaders understand that their subordinates shouldn’t be obligated to perform perfect professionalism at all times, and when their subordinates need some sort of emotional break

Oh god, there are so many ships approaching. Well, I guess it’s now or never for that Emerald Ri Majoon

As always, “can we successfully pull off this Ri Majoon?” has always felt like a pretty weak conflict to me. It’s one of those switch-flipping conflicts, a “will they or won’t they” question that possesses no mechanical variables we can invest in outside of whatever emotional significance they’ve attached to it. Granted, a lot of emotional weight is hanging on this particular victory – this is Dominura’s big turn

“Don’t talk that way, you’ll scare the children.” “Limone’s not scared, is she?” Another squabble between Para and Aaeru, once again demonstrating Para is the worst friggin’ leader. Her paternal, “I will carry all your burdens” bullshit is no help to anyone

None of this is to say Para is unsympathetic, of course. Her position also sucks, and she’s more wedded than most of the cast to the sanctity of Simulacrum culture. Simoun has been very good about avoiding actual villains

Dominura tells Wapourif “the Simoun are the chariot of the gods. They won’t fail.” That was kind of her

Limone: “I kinda brought Rodareamon’s stuffed toy along.” Oh my god Limone

The Simoun take their shots and the Messis goes to ground, followed by a great sequence of shots in all the cockpits, as each of our heroes hopes they simply won’t be found. After all these episodes of building, the rain pouring down on their cockpits feels like the world itself conspiring against them

“I don’t know anything about surviving out here.” Finally, Para gets it. As someone who’s spent her whole life entrenched in the lofty, religious view of Simoun Sybilla, she’s only now realizing that it’s those who treat these fights like the bloody battles they are who can actually survive. This might be Para’s rock bottom, and I’m eager to see where she grows from here

“Well, it’s not like knowing the art of war is anything to be proud of.” The other girls say Aaeru is always strong-willed, but she’s been very kind and considerate all through these last few episodes

“Right now, I need to think I’m doing it for someone else or I can’t get anywhere with it.” A fascinating little confession. It seems like Dominura can’t really fight for her own sake the way she once fought for Simulacrum’s sake, and having lost her faith, she needs something else to believe in

This motivation seems foreign to Limone, who’s always been happy to fight for her own sake, but she’s surprised to realize she actually understands anyway

The enemy showed themselves to divide Chor Tempest, and Para was perfectly willing to fall into their trap. Now Dominura has to pick up the pieces

Wauf proposes two options: holding their position and waiting for the others to return, or fleeing before sunrise and abandoning the others

Oh man, this exchange is such a perfect expression of character. Dominura asks the obvious followup question, “that second choice would result in a very low chance of survival for our allies, right?”, and Para explodes, ranting about how Chor Tempest is too strong to ever lose. Para is so caught up in her arbitrary, faith-based view of the sybilla that she can’t even honestly engage with the tactical variables of this fight, thus making things far worse for her teammates

And even here, Aaeru attempts to mediate, saying “yeah, we’re too strong to fail! But maybe dial it back a little and listen to Dominura,” but even this degree of common sense is unacceptable to Para. She wants to go out looking for the scouts herself, an act of desperation and selfishness that’s basically a last-ditch defense of her self-image

“Such dangerous foolishness.” Dominura is less tactful than Aaeru

Hm, this sequence makes some odd choices. They use three straight textured freeze frames in that classically Osamu Dezaki style the show likes, but these freeze frames aren’t strictly for scene punchlines – they’re held on throughout a continuing conversation, as characters argue against a static image. It’s a bold choice, but I’m not sure it’s an effective one; I feel like maintaining traditional animation through the overall sequence and then using one of these frames as the final punchline is generally more effective

Dominura and Wapourif meet in the church

“Someone who has nothing to believe in has no firm ground to stand on.” Dominura understands the pain of this, and can likely see it in Para’s actions

Dominura just knocks the cross down altogether. Jeez, Dominura

If Limone is just buried beneath this giant stuffed animal every time she’s in the cockpit I’d probably be okay with that. Smash cut across Dominura! Aaeru! Para! Horrifying Bunny Creature!

Oh wow, great work Simoun. For possibly the first time, a fight scene is succeeding on its own visceral merits – this dogfighting sequence’s mix of strategic discussion between the pilots, close perspective shots of their movements, and clear articulation of their various Ri Majoons’ mechanical constraints is actually making this fight feel satisfying for its own sake

I like Limone actually calling Dominura on being afraid, but I’m less thrilled with how the show keeps dragging out whatever Dominura saw. And now they double down on that, with her saying “what I saw was horrible, but it was what I saw beyond the horror that made me afraid. I saw… hope.” What the hell does any of that mean? What can we in the audience draw from that in an emotional sense?

The massive storm created by the Emerald Ri Majoon alerts all of the scouts to the ongoing battle. Whether Limone and Dominura succeed or fail, they’ve probably saved their friends

Dominura and Limone… disappear? And the Ri Majoon doesn’t destroy their enemies. Did Dominura see wherever this action leads?


And Done

AGGHHHH WHAT IS THAT SHIT YOU CAN’T TAKE AWAY DOMINURA AND LIMONE! They’re two of the best characters! That is unacceptable Simoun! THAT IS UNACCEPTABLE.

Well, that episode was… weird. In emotional terms, it was very clear and perceptive, mining satisfying and natural conflict out of fault lines like the differences between Para and Dominura’s perspective. In more general narrative terms, it was far more shaky, largely because it leaned so very heavily on the arbitrary mystery of whatever it is that Dominura found in the Simoun. It also had what was likely the show’s best battle scene yet, and then it went and vanished two of my favorite characters. THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE SIMOUN. GIVE ME MY FAVORITES BACK.

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Bobduh , 2018-10-13 12:42:44

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