Simoun (2006) has a fascinating setup: gender choice. In a world where gender is chosen once a person reaches a certain age. If handled correctly and delicately, a goldmine of material can be harvested and might make for a classic. After watching three episodes, this show failed to keep my interest intellectually while compounded by issues that affect the theme.
Although I lament dropping it, the ideas it has deserves some justification or writing.
The strongest hook is the setup itself that is material for gender themes. However, the first episode presents us with two girls kissing without meaningful context. (I know it is a greeting but the screen focuses on it.)
I don't mind fan service if it is earned, but this exchange of saliva is not explained well. This tells me that the show will be bogged down in making me drool, not think. Rather, fan service in a show about gender selection is exploiting itself. By focusing on the kiss, it is viewed as a sexual and possibly arousing act; however, sexual expressions should not be expressed until the person has made a choice. Gender does not matter but the expression.
I understand there are more nuances as with Ghost in the Shell and Hourou Musuko where the relationship comes before the sexuality, but objectifying a gender is contradictory in equal portrayal. To be fair, this only happened in episode one, but pretending it will not happen again is foolish. Even then the mechanic of kissing the ship's orb is suggestive for more things to come.
Why is it girls instead of boys? Fan service scenes? From a gender standpoint, women have the greatest flexibility in expressing masculine and feminine traits thus have the opportunity on the matter, thus girls are a natural choice. For this series, the choice of being a male or female should be equal; however, why is it then that the environment is female oriented or biased?
Rather than the architecture, design or inherent bias, where are the males? What reason is there to be a male if there is no clear representation? This issue is quickly raised in episode two where the friend cannot clearly decide.
To its credit, the act of selecting a gender does not end well indicating some artistic touch; however, the choice should be made after a few episodes in the series where the genders are established. Within this world and scene, we do not know what gender roles are in place. What we know is that she is making the choice to escape the fight, we couldn't care less what gender she actually takes because there is no weight or investment in the story or character. Why waste this pivotal exposition or exploration on a throwaway character?
Slowly building the world and characters would make the choice more meaningful and allow the themes and messages to shine. This is not a requirement but this is an indicator of the pacing and quality of the series.
To address the direct quality of the series within three episodes so far:
- Show, don't tell
- Many scenes can be inferred without dialogue showing the need for a crutch
- The exposition keeps repeating itself specially with the terminology
- Design variation
- The girls are girly, where is the masculine or unisex designs at least? Not that it is absent but rather lacking.
- Pampered protagonist
- Why does she get unfair privileges while the others have to work?
Primarily, I am concerned with the theme and pacing, I can forgive the lackluster animation, the weird Simoun craft, the complicated setup and other elements of the presentation; however, the problems may persist and ruin the series over time.
To be fair to the setup, here are some ideas it can explore:
- Gender Roles
- What does having a gender mean in society?
- Gender Politics
- Not having a gender equates to power, literally. The war element adds weight to the choice.
- Relationships and Gender
- Hinted by Paraietta, the gender only complies with the role of sexuality. Perhaps, gender is not required to have a relationship.
- Decision Making
- If the choice was made for someone else sake and backfired, it can explore the responsibility of consequences
- What of people who do not care about gender, what does it mean to live?
- When is gender introduced in their growth if it does not matter until seventeen?
- Gender Inequality
- If the world is trying to maintain a balance of men and women while being biased for women, it can explore inequality more strongly
These are just some ideas that a simple thought exploration can yield, what more if the concept is fully detailed?
To contribute and re-imagine to the setup, I envision robots. Imagine if sentient artificial intelligence is made by putting a core or seed intelligence on a robotic shell and letting it experience humanity. Once the robot has reached a certain age or accumulated enough data, it must return to a factory to determine what upgrade or gender it will have. Exact details aside, this variation can avoid fan service, be less complicated than magic, explore gender in a genderless frame and more. Sadly, a counter-argument is the notion of copying software; why waste time when the program can be copied to another shell.
This sounds like Ghost in the Shell but with the focus on the value of gender. It may or may not be a better idea but it certainly is an idea.
Since this is a quick post, I might have omitted some points or failed to expound on the ideas, but writing more instead of watching is ironic. I do hope the series turns out good but the indicators are overwhelming. To summarize, the themes or messages might not be carried out to its full potential despite having a rich and wonderful setup. Maybe with another reincarnation will I find hope.