I’ve talked a lot on this blog about how amazing Simoun is, and I’ve also talked about how the Region 1 DVDs are some of the most worthwhile purchases you can make. Aside from great package art, they have all 26 episodes on just five singles with a full retail price of 18 bucks apiece. All of the DVDs feature cast interviews and games, and several of the DVDs feature a commentary video with the director, Junji Nishimura, and character designer/animation supervisor Asako Nishida, wherein a lot of behind-the-scenes information and bonus facts are revealed that dramatically enhance the experience. In the comments of my last Simoun-related post, remm noted how he wouldn’t be able to get the DVDs where he lives, so I figured, what the hell, I’ll do the world a favor and transcribe the commentaries! Plus it is great for referential use.
PLEASE DO NOT USE THIS AS AN EXCUSE NOT TO BUY THE DVDS. If you live in a place where you can get your hands on the DVDs, BUY THEM! There are a lot of other worthwhile bonuses included, and you’ll be supporting the industry to help get more great shows like Simoun made! A great thanks goes out to Media Blasters both for releasing this amazing series and translating the director commentary for the American release!
Notes on the commentary – all of Junji Nishimura’s words are in regular black type while Asako Nishida’s are in red. Please remember that Asako is a woman! These two are a ton of fun to listen to, and they take a very quick, witty, and lighthearted tone through the commentary (this video is 16 minutes long, and looks it!) The commentary is done with random clips from the first six episodes playing in the background. They are occasionally commenting directly on those clips – I have done my best to note what scene is going on at those points. There WILL be spoilers for eps 1-6, and you should really see the whole show before reading. I’ve also added notes where necessary. Please enjoy!
Junji and Asako’s Know-your-Simoun Lecture
So anyway, I’m Junji Nishimura, nice to meet you.
I’m the character designer, animation supervisor, and light comic relief director Asako Nishida.
Um, and I’m the director. Let’s see, episode one. (starts playing scenes from the beginning of the combat in episode one) I have to say that episode one was all about quantity. So that’s what we focused on, sheer quantity.
Of enemies. So, what did you think of the amount? Excessive?
I don’t think so. *laughing* But you know how this scene comes up in clogged airspace? (she’s referring to the image on-screen of Neviril and Amuria kissing) Did you start this project to shoot this scene?
Yes, I suppose you could say that. Many people pointed out this would never happen at such a moment. *laughs* Comments like “I’m sure they had better things to do.” But I still wanted to do it.
And your reasons?
Well, you see… When we were discussing how realistic the story should be, I said this was what I wanted in episode one, what I wanted to show. The bizarre worldview, realistic but at the same time contrived – I wanted to do everything I could in episode one. But as far as the plot line went, I didn’t want it to follow a dramatic formula. I wanted an “audience vs. me” feeling and to remain conscious of that. That was my plan for episode one. […] So it seems the story got even more confusing since little was explained. But I thought that should be an aspect of the overall Simoun worldview. That’s what I set out to do. And this is what came of it. And I ended up getting mixed reviews *laughs*. So what did you think of episode one?
Oh, well… Let’s see… A lot of kissing scenes in Simoun take place midair during battles… Is that your experience? Have you ever kissed someone during an attack?
*laughing* Have I ever kissed someone during an attack?
Was your first kiss a traumatic experience or something?
No, mine happened under a pine tree.
*rofling* Under a pine tree?
So it wasn’t like the show. Proper, on a beautiful beach, and with a pine tree. Under that tree.
Can your wife hear that?
It’d be bad.
It’d be bad? *laughing*
See this? This scene here? (this is right after the emerald ri majoon and the purple beam has split the sky. The last Simoun is leaving the blast site.) This scene is what you’d call the heart and essence of the entire series. As a matter of fact. Did you notice how forced it was going to that overwhelming red sky?
And when we were done with this draft of episode one, we gave it to Katoh for processing, and we’ll talk about him later on, and he asked “Are you really okay with this?” He spoke of how the worldview was real yet dramatically contrived. How should I put it? A world depicted in images. Battle scenes, for instance. And a significant number of them were depicted in that style.
Personally, I think it worked out when I saw the episode one storyboards, and I never thought I’d see the use of “harmonies.” We call the pastel freeze-frame shots “harmonies.” (DIGIBOY’S NOTE: you know, those times where they’d be talking over a really extremely detailed still image? This shot was used heavily by one of the greatest directors in anime history, Osamu Dezaki. Junji Nishimura is VERY highly influenced by Dezaki, as you can see in any of his work.) I never thought I’d see harmonies used.
When I watched the first episode, my personal opinion was that the harmonies didn’t really fit in. But I can see quite a lot of motivation behind those shots. In episode one, those harmonies appeared at least twice.
Why’d you do them?
It was an artisitc decision… that also got mixed reviews. (DB’S NOTE: BAH! Fuck the critics!)
Why did you do those mural paintings?
I was flooded by so many comments about those, but you see… I couldn’t advance the story without them. There was no other way to link the scenes. That’s all I can say.
So it was a directorial decision?
I’d have to say yes. There were people who asked me if I was an Osamu Dezaki disciple. Sure, I respect him, but I’m not a disciple.
Well, let me ask you this. The art director is Kobayashi-san, so I was wondering if he was the one with a real affinity for harmonies. (She is referring to the great Shichiro Kobayashi who also worked on a lot of Osamu Dezaki shows.)
Well, of course he would never say he wanted to do them.
But if I want to do harmonies, and he does the artwork, there’s no way we’d end up without harmonies, you see *laughs*.
That was your thought as a director?
Because after all, he… he’s a purist who holds to the old-school way of doing artwork. Today, there’s so much you can do with digital processing, but he’s the type who does all he can to work in the old style. And another thing… today, you never see cel animation anymore… but he still has them somehow.
And he turns in cels that he’s drawn. You wouldn’t believe it.
(it starts showing the scene where Aeru and Rimone are going to cut the hands off of the soldier in the seat of the Simoun.)
Here it comes! She’ll cut them off!
She’ll create a huge scene.
*laughs* We show the corpse in a series of harmonies here too.
That’s right. […] You know, I really, really love this scene. Was that one of your creative decisions? To have her chop the body up?
No, actually… I didn’t write this scene. When the first script was turned in, it was actually even more graphic.
Do you think it’s alright to describe it now?
Sure, why not.
Long story short, she chops off his fingers to remove them from the steering wheel, right?
Either his fingers or his wrists.
But in the earlier version, she actually mutilated… did she dismember his whole body?
That’s right. She dismembers him and disposes of him piece by piece. The first draft was brutal. And I wanted to keep that quality as much as possible… but when I started considering the Simoun worldviews, I wasn’t sure I could go that far in terms of repulsive behavior. It was really a challenge in that respect.
[…] But it was this scene that made me see Aeru as a young girl.
Oh, I see.
[…] I read in the DVD’s liner notes that most dismemberment homicides are committed by females to an overwhelming degree.
Is that so?
Because women aren’t strong enough to carry corpses.
So we were on point. (it is now showing Kaim doing Paraietta’s nails) Um, we were just talking about corpses, and suddenly we’re seeing someone get their nails done. *laughter* This is another scene that didn’t follow the original script. She wasn’t doing her nails.
What was it then?
Well, it was much simpler. She was pouring tea for her. I think that was how the scene went. Then the episode director said “no, it won’t work unless there’s some touching involved.”
Oh, you mean to transition to the next scene? He set that up?
Yes, he said to set up the next scene, we had to show their hands touching. But in that version of the script, this scene… or was it the next? When they’re in the maintenance hanger, going “pow-pow-pow-pow-pow-pow-pow!” That scene originally happened in one of the girls’ rooms.
And then they fall on top of one another, getting a little cozy. That was supposed to happen on a bed. Originally.
Well, a bedroom would’ve been fine, too, but personally, I think it’s more appealing under that blue ceiling.
Oh? *laughing* I’m very sorry about that.
Did you flinch?
Just a little, I think.
Really? Come on, you need to follow my lead. *laughter*
But anyway, this scene really fits in with the Simoun worldview, right?
Yes. It’s pretty symbolic, isn’t it?
What happens next, when Kaim… seeing whether Paraietta sees Kaim or not was really interesting.
You mean Alty?
Oh, sorry. Not Kaim, I mean Alty.
At this point, Alty is watching all of this happen behind a curtain.
Right, it’s a given she’s watching. But how about the other way around? Is that why Paraietta stopped? *laugher* Didn’t you theorize she held back since she saw Alty watching?
I think you’re pretty much on the nose.
I-Is that your official approval?!
[…] This is just so… well made, this scene.
But yesterday, you said Paraietta’s feelings were the easiest to get.
It’s easiest to get Paraietta’s feelings.
So for our information, you can’t resist a girl with glasses hitting on you?
*laughs* Why do you keep turning it into a personal thing?
My goal is to expose the director’s personality through this show.
Well, uh… it doesn’t have to be a girl with glasses. (DB: ROFLMAO)
*laughs* You’re so generous.
I have very liberal standards when it comes to that.
[…] Paraietta’s braless from this angle.
This is… wow.
We had the character designs. You decided she’d have this body type, with her breasts hanging down like that.
Yes, I designed her that way without being asked.
And we’re usually pressed for time, so we tend to neglect those details… but everyone really stuck to the script and desgins. I was so surprised… the animation was so faithful! *laughter* They even kept the braless look! That was really surprising. And you know when different people work on the same character, it can get inconsistent. But that never happened with this show. (DB’s NOTE: Not entirely true, but I guess he’s used to working on Ranma where it’s difficult to keep the damn characters on-model for a damn minute.)
But when I was going over the animation, I tweaked Kaim a lot.
Oh, so it did happen after all. So it did. But still, I think that what we see onscreen is largely what the character designer had in mind.
(It’s showing Mamiina cooking dinner) You know that apron Mamiina was wearing just now? That was one of your requests… To have her wear her own apron.
Right, her own apron.
She packed her own apron to go to war!
This was what gave Mamiina’s image a real boost.
Even though she cooked those mice? She’s deceiving you, guys! (now we see Yun sort of drinking and watching the room in general) In this scene with Yun, what exactly is she observing?
Um… that’s a mystery, isn’t it. *laughs* […] Yun happens to be very mature. She’s an adult. She’s actually thinking, “I never got to do anything like that.”
Oh, is that so? So Yun is imagining herself in Floe’s place as she’s drinking juice. (we see Floe hitting on the military boy.)
So she’s daydreaming.
Right. The thing about Yun is that she never got to do anything she wanted. I guess you could say she led a sad life. But because of her principles and those gorgeous looks, people think highly of her.
So is she one of those people whose suppredded affections are later… later in the story… do they, like, explode?
You could say that.
Really now? *lauhging* (Now we are at the girls meeting the foreign priestess.) Hey, I was about to discuss the war, but look where we are now! I did hear this yesterday… This war has been going on for about 50 years, growing out of skirmishes.
It’s been going on in some fashion for a long time. Ever since Neviril’s dad, Harukonf-sama, went into battle.
Or rather, he’d take off in a Simoun, intimidate the enemies, and come back to base. […] Is it all right if I draw Harukonf when he was a sibylla?
All right! Then we need him to guest star in Simoun episode 37. *laughs*
I’ll let him know. *laughs* Well, anyway, a lot of story development happens in this episode. (it shows Aeru making funny gestures and faces) Those hand gestures and facial expressions started in this episode, didn’t they?
I looked at them every time the revised drafts came in.
I’ve heard that the climactic scene of this episode was when Anglas screams ‘AERU!’ and then blows up. So I was wondering how to fool our viewers. Sinister passions were stirred. While I was drawing those cute facial expressions.
(It shows the harmony of Anglas screaming) And this harmony here.
This priestess named Anglas… Later on in the show, another Plumbum highland priestess… (the clips stop) Woah, hey, it’s over! Way too short!
(That’s all for this commentary! It ends on a cliffhanger like that! I’ll do the next one sometime, but not soon, because this took a long time!!! If you want to keep up with the updates to wait for the next part, be sure to subscribe to my RSS feed!)