Genre: Combat, fantasy, yuri
Score: Good (and odd)
Rating: 15
Length: 24 episodes

In the land of Simulacrum, on a world known as Heaven’s Shore, everybody is born female. Soon after they reach 17, they take part in a ritual in which they choose what gender they will become. Only a few of those girls who have not yet undergone the ritual are able to act as the priestesses whose purpose is to pilot Simoun, two-person craft based on lost technology and considered holy. The Simoun are also Simulacrum’s first and strongest form of defence. In the past, flying Simoun was a secred duty; but increasingly they are being used for combat.

Even for anime this is a weird one. The world it’s set in is post-post-apocalyptic, meaning it’s set long enough after some massive destructive event for people not to remember it ever happened, merely that the world contains technologies and artefacts it shouldn’t. The core of the Simoun is an ancient technology that is found by excavation rather than built, and then used as the engine for a craft whose other components are of a much lower level. While rare, this idea isn’t unprecedented: it was used to good effect in the manga of Nausicaa.

The gender thing is extremely strange. After deciding to become a man in their grown-up life, it takes some years for a character’s body to adapt, so young men are wandering around still looking and sounding female. Even old men are still voiced by women (one of the rare chances to hear a Japansese female voice that isn’t high-pitched and cutified). What this means for the balance of power between the sexes is strange, in that it seems to eliminate gender-determined preconceptions of strong and weak. Characters instead seem to find their own natures and then pick roles to suit. And if all relationships are

The premise might lead you to expect that the show was cheap and exploitative: a cast of adolescent girls wearing skimpy flight suits, and not a male character in sight. But while it makes use of that advantage (for example, two girls having a zero-g fencing match), it seems never to let it interfere with a story that’s focused on the characters and their relationships. The two-pilot nature of the Simoun craft, and the way the six craft in a choir must cooperate if they’re to be effective in combat, means that personal disputes and things unsaid have a big effect on the story. As situations change, so do people: a character can be introduced and appear to be nothing but a bitch in their first episode, then be sympathetic soon afterwards, and still be consistent.

The main conflict of the story is between the ceremonial role of the Simoun and its pilots, and its emerging role in warfare. Most of the girls in the story were made priestesses before it was imagined that they’d have to fight, but a few of these little girls signed up in the full knowledge that they’d have to kill people. The administration seems to be in denial, sending them into combat while objecting to anybody who admits that that’s what they’re doing. And the people, who’ve traditionally regarded the priestesses as sacred and pure, are gradually forced to see a new side of them.

Though not guarunteed to be to everyone’s taste, this is worth checking out purely for the weirdness.