This story is a bit too melancholy for my taste, but it is interesting and original and has a small but devoted following.
One thing to keep in mind is that this is an anti-war story, and such stories usually do not have cheerful endings. It would tend to defeat the purpose.
In any case it is a thoughtful story with a unique premise. Considering that it is from Studio DEEN, the artwork is surprisingly adequate, with attractive backgrounds and impossible, beautiful flying machines. I found the character designs a bit disconcerting at first, but quickly got used to them. The music is haunting (I’ve had “Hikari ni tsusumare musuu no hana-tachi wa…” stuck in my head for days.)
Daikuuriku is an Earth-like planet whose inhabitants look human but are not. In particular they are all born female. At the age of 17 they are required to choose a final sex, after which they are considered adults.
is a beautiful, pristine country which has nevertheless become rich and powerful through the use of advanced technology dug up from the ruins of a lost civilization. Among the most useful artifacts are helical motors
, mysterious machines which can use some unknown scientific principle to generate clean, free energy. Apparently there is some sort of anti-gravity force involved as well.
Aside from the ancient artifacts, which they only vaguely understand, their technology is more primitive than ours. They have some knowledge of electronics, but know nothing about radio.
Beautiful though it is, Kyuukoku is far from a Utopia. It is a strict theocracy, centered on the worship of a god called Tempus Spatium
. The society is rigidly hierarchical with a small, largely hereditary elite and a large mass of poorly-educated commoners. Though they are poor, most of the commoners are devoted to their religion and seem content with their lot.
Kyuukoku is hated by other countries because of its monopoly on ancient technology. However it has always been able to cow its opponents by means of a superweapon: an advanced aircraft called the Simoun
Powered by two helical motors and a mysterious glowing green sphere, a Simoun can carry conventional weapons, but its real power lies in a maneuver called a Ri Maajon
. Simouns draw patterns of glowing lines in the sky which explode in bursts of devastating energy, wiping out enemy forces.
Simouns are considered sacred and their use is surrounded by ritual. They can only be flown by pairs of Simoun Sibyllae 
, young priestesses who have not yet chosen a final sex. In order to start the Simoun they have to kiss each other, in accordance with the sacred principle of ratings boostum
. Sibyllae need special talents and extensive training, and are thus in short supply. In times of national emergency they are permitted to delay becoming adults past the age of 17.
In its efforts to catch up in technology the island nation of Shoukoku
has made itself a wasteland, choked and poisoned with pollution.
As the story begins, Shoukoku launches a massive attack on Kyuukoku using huge fleets of crude aircraft, capable of overwhelming a Simoun by sheer numbers. For the first time in history Simouns fall burning from the sky.
The sibyllae are shocked and demoralized. The nation’s leaders are confused and uncertain how to react. The common people continue to have faith in them and fight back bravely.
As the war drags on it takes an it takes an increasing toll on the priestesses, who feel worn down by the stress of battle and their grief over their fallen comrades. Some feel a conflict between their religious vocations and the duty to slaughter the enemy. Others resent the fact that the high command treats them like temperamental children, though in some cases that’s pretty much how they behave.
This series is unsuitable for young children due to violence, adult themes and the deaths of sympathetic characters.
Then there’s the whole lesbian issue, which is bound to make most parents uncomfortable. Mostly this involves scenes of girls kissing girls, which happens quite a lot. I suppose one could argue that a relationship isn’t really lesbian if one of them is going to turn male, but this seems unconvincing.
Characters and Locations
The Arcus Prima
was originally built as a flying luxury liner, but has been converted to a sort of aircraft carrier supporting 3 “choirs” of Shimons. The story focuses on the members of Chor Tempest
, which before the war began was considered the most elite unit.
is the most senior sibylla of Chor Tempest, referred to as the “Sibylla Aurea.” The others revere her for her superb flying skills and spirituality. However she is sensitive and prone to depression, which makes her seem temperamentally unsuited for combat.
Neviril’s partner Amuria
is full of ambition. She dreams of mastering the Emerald Ri Maajon
which was performed by legendary priestesses in the distant past.
Neviril’s childhood friend Paraietta
is fiercely protective of her.
has no stomach for war and decides to quit after the first battle.
, a new recruit, is a classic “Top Gun” character: talented but brash, insensitive, overconfident and somewhat irresponsible.
is Paraietta’s partner, and very attached to her.
is Kaim’s younger sister. The two don’t get along well.
is Alty’s partner. She is mischievous and flirtatious.
In peacetime a girl as young as Rimone
would never have been promoted to Sibylla. She is extremely talented but emotionally unprepared for battle.
is a gentle girl from a high-ranking aristocratic family.
, another new recruit, is fascinated by the mystery of the Simouns.
is the eldest sibylla still in service. She is the last survivor of Chor Dextra, a choir that perished trying to master the Emerald Ri Maajon.
comes from a lower-class family and has a chip on her shoulder as a result.
trained with Mamina. She also comes from a lower-class background and uses a startlingly masculine style of speech.
(R) is the captain of the Arcus Prima
. His close friend Guragrief
(L) is the “Dux”, or overall commander of all the Simeon choirs on board.
is the ship’s chief Simoun mechanic. Contrary to what one might assume from his appearance and speech patterns, he is actually a recently minted male.
Neviril’s father Halconf
is a high government official. He takes a keen interest in his daughter’s career and an even keener interest in his own.
is the high priestess of Tempus Spatium and chief of state.
is an old freighter converted into a small aircraft carrier capable of carrying a single choir.
is the captain of the Messis
, a gruff man who isn’t comfortable dealing with sibyllae, but quite competent.
I have tried to use the names as they are given in the subtitles, which often don’t match the spelling used on other web sites, or for that matter the pronunciation on the Japanese sound track. This seems to be another case where the translators followed the recommendations of the Japanese publishers on how to convert foreign names in katakana to Roman characters. Such advice is often dubious.
||Common Alternate Spelling
Simulacrum or Simulacrum Kyuukoku (“shrine country”)
Argentum or Argentum Shoukoku (“reef country”)
Wikipedia entry (spoilers).
ANN Encyclopedia entry.
Wikipedia entry for the Caudron Simoun, a French aircraft of the 1930s.
 The title in katakana is SHIMUUN, which is also how it is pronounced.
 Probably the pseudo-Latin terms are supposed to represent a vestige of the language of the lost civilization.
I wrote about this series back when it was being fansubbed. For quite a while I was completely enthralled with it. Unfortunately, right about the time I wrote my article, I began to realize (much against my will) that they were just piling “cool mysteries” on about the world and had no intention of explaining anything. I think your point is well taken: it’s an anti-war polemic and as a result, the world-building took a back seat to the message.
Which is a damned shame, because by the point that the whole thing came apart, I’d really begun to root for Choir Tempest.