“The maiden … wavers., the maiden drifts. Forever escaping from reality, she paints the sky … with her unending beauty.” ~ Onashia
Simoun’s themes and revelations are many and large: the loss of childhood, and the progressive narrowing of our lives by the choices we make. The idea that gender identity is not so solidly fixed as we believe. The elusiveness of time and space. The fact that even after the worst has happened, life goes on. The contradiction between religious principles and fighting a war. The possibility of respect and fellow-feeling between enemies. The dreadfulness and inescapability of social class-distinctions. The mystery of love.
The gnawing, self-defeating harm caused by jealousy. The corrosive effects of grief, and of refusal to connect with others in a vain attempt at self-protection. Love and hatred between siblings. Love among a group of friends. The fact that we do not really know even the people we love. Self-sacrifice for the sake of others, and for one’s own self-respect. And the fact that suffering can make one regret having made the sacrifice. Simoun brings ideal and real together, and leaves us with a real world that, despite its inescapable sorrows, is transfigured by hope and love. – by hashihime
If you want a guide to Simoun for the confused and the perplexed, then you can find a well-done one by Nathan here. Hashihime above provides an all-inclusive, full-blown review that is also recommended.What I attempt to do in this post, is highlight the aspects and themes of the show that grabbed my attention and are carved brightly into my memory. I try to offer a hymn, a prayer to Simoun in my own humble way.
Offering a prayer to Simoun means offering a prayer to…
* femininity and perfection: The feminine element is very strong in the series as expected from a series with a large cast of ‘girls’ and same-sex love undertones. But this element is emphasized by a pleiad of clever ways; it’s not only the curvy bodies of the Sibyllae but also Neviril’s and Amuria’s prominent pink juicy lips, the pastel/soft colors used throughout the series for the landscapes as well as for the (voluminous) hair of many of the priestesses and for their outfits, the presence of frills and lace on the girls’ dresses, the stockings and suspenders, the orbs on their pilot suits and on their aircraft. The architecture and the aircrafts with the white shiny surfaces and the golden decorative lines have an air of royalty and femininity. Edgy lines do appear but not very often and many angles are in truth blunt (for example their noses or the tails of the Simoun).
The circles and orbs that appear in the show are often considered symbols of perfection.”Because of its symmetry the circle is considered as the perfect shape. It is the symbol for the total symmetry of the divine (sic!). The Greek scholar Proclus (500 AC) wrote: “the circle is the first, the simplest and most perfect form”. As Christian symbol it represents eternity, and the sleeping eye of God (Genesis 1:2)” (source). And well, ovaries that are of great importance in the creation of life are spherical. What’s even more interesting is the central role the helical motors play- they are associated with the prosperity of the country of Simulacrum. These helixes that are heavily influenced by the ones nautiluses have are also considered perfect, since they ‘follow’ the golden ratio, hence the number φ can be found in them.
(Side note: About how colors contribute to perfection in Simoun, you can get more enlightened here.)
* queerness: If we wanted to apply lgbtq terms of our world to the world where Theocracy rules, then we have to do with a bunch of female to male transgender people. Wapourif is an obvious example of FtM – while the series runs her/his characteristics change to more masculine ones with the more drastic change of the breasts turning into a flatter chest. Below you can see the change – in the first screenshot is taken from an episode near the end and the second from an episode in the beginning of the series.
And then there’s the q from the lgbtq that stands for queer or questioning coming up in the show, too. The most conscious decision of not wanting to settle with one and only gender was Aeru’s, though unfortunately, like Wapourif’s case, we don’t get the chance to hear about the feelings during such a transition. Aeru’s decision involves and other factors beside the importance of gender identity such as her travelling to ‘another world’. In any case it’s important to note the discrimination she faced at one point. But shouldn’t I start from all the sibyllae? In spite the fact that quite a few are sure which gender to choose when the time comes and the fact that their sex is practically of a woman, till the age of 17 they are identified as genderless. Their pendants are a clear sign of this belief. Notice in the third screenshot how the pendant of a Sibylla has two wings and then take a careful look at the fourth screenshot, which is taken after they have returned from the Spring. After their ‘sex change’ their pendants have only one wing- Vyra and Floe, who chose to be males, have pendants with only the right wing intact, while the rest, that remained females, have pendants with only the left wing intact. What I want to say is that as Sibyllae they theoretically have both genders and thus none at the same time, like samans. The co-existence of the female and the male element in the priestesses is also reflected on their outfit’s sleeve finish – the right hand sleeve ends in a kind of bracelet (female element) and the left hand sleeve has a more pointy finish (male element).
Hm, what else? In Simulacrum there are laws that favor males, most probably in an effort to balance the female and male population and that plays a role in the decision in the Spring. But I think that in the case of Anubituf and Guragief, their love (that places them in the ‘g’ of lgbtq) proves that gender identity always comes first, since it’s a big deal to feel comfortable in your own body (or your dreams come first, if we assume they couldn’t take these positions, if they weren’t men). Then again, other people in that universe don’t think that deep down there’s a big difference either you are male or female, man or woman, as the last dialogue between Vyuraf and Floef show (they aren’t bothered, if the other calls them with their female name) and Kaimu confesses to Paraietta that she would love her whatever she chose to be, man or woman.
* adolescence and coming of age: Most of the ‘analysts’ of Simoun prioritize the theme of growing up as the major theme of this story. And of course, they are right. Already from episode 2 we witness one of the most heart-wrenching and remarkable scenes in the series; that is Eri(f)’ s grief at the exit of the Spring. Apart from her terror-like expression during the revelation of her assigned sex from Tempus Spatium (since she couldn’t decide herself), the moments where everything sinks in are very dramatic. The scream she cries is piercing and she falls on her knees, weeping. Eri(f) realizes that carefreeness is gone and there’s no return to the innocent, happy days she passed with her Sibyllae comrades. Her body is going to change in an awfully slow procedure, a winding path to an adulthood full of responsibilities. Eri(f) mourns the adolescence she lost, the female body she leaves behind and maybe the circumstances of war that started changing radically the scenery of the world. It’s notable that going to the Spring is very often than not accompanied by the emotion of fear and that’s the reason why Eri wanted Neviril to accompany her.
Becoming an adult means also becoming strong and facing yourself. It is kinda lonely but there’s no other choice. It means loving yourself, admitting your faults, forgiving, overcoming a hurtful childhood and moving on. It means the duty to yourself to create healthy relationships and not to force your feelings on others. When Kaimu confesses to Paraietta, the latter declines politely explaining that “We all are children. That’s why when we try to heal each other’s wounds, we just end up inflicting more.”
Some episodes before the final one, Alti, Kaimu’s sister, has small talk with Paraietta twice. The first time she ponders on her sister’s well-being and considers that the best option is to stay away from her, since she keeps coming in her way. Being able to let go instead of clinging is a sign of maturing. The second time, Alti brings back in her memory something Neviril told her – a relationship is only possible when there’s equality (of strength) between the lovers. Alti has decided that she will become a woman instead of a man and says to Paraietta that she’ll manage to be strong on her own account and that doesn’t have to do with a male body or role. This realization is a step forward to becoming a good adult.
And then of course, we have Onashia, who is punished for wanting to stay an ‘eternal maiden’, a genderless Peter Pan. In her talk with Yun Onashia warns her not to take the same path as her, hence denying choosing sex, that was the ceremony that testifies the passage to adulthood in Simulacrum. If we want to take Onashia’s words in a more general way than a more gendered one (which will bring conflicts and false judgements against transgenderism), Onashia implies that coming of age is equal to coming in terms with what society wants and how it works. Even if it’s difficult, even if it’s painful. There are certain things you simply can’t ignore.
The theme of growing up is further explored in this post by Kylaran.
* subjectivity, complexity and balance: The series does a wonderful job of being non-judgemental. It touches on very serious issues such as religion and war and yet it avoids presenting only one side and doesn’t preachify. This is achieved through its large cast and the change of heart even minor characters are displayed to have. The world is too complex to simply be black and white. We see priestesses becoming warriors and acting as terrorists, and at the same time showing respect to other priestesses or asking for forgiveness and a blessing. We see very faithful people and atheists side by side and a strong voice from people like Dominura and Wapourif about knowing that some things are sham and yet you need to believe in something to keep going. We see people disliking war, talking against killing and yet going in the front, but more importantly we see that peace doesn’t solve all the problems and comes with many compromises and sometimes at a high cost. It’s really rare to have an anime or any other medium at that to let the viewers hear this voice, too; war might be a necessary evil. War is a natural state and conflicts arise all the time. Peace isn’t always very effective, at least in a larger scale, in the long run.
(Picture 1. Wapourif: “Because the Simoun ae just machines”./ Picture 2. Dominura: “Someone wha has nothing to believe in has no firm ground to stand on.”/ Picture 3. “War is utter foolishness.” a political leader repeats the words of Her Eminence, after the peace treaty has brought many unpleasant changes in the leadership of the country./ Picture 4. Chloe about Aeru: “She thinks gods are irrelevant.”/ Picture 5. Soldier: “If I didn’t have my faith, I couldn’t go on.”)
[end of prayer] Thanks for reading!