On Aeru

One of the more intriguing female characters to come down the pike over the past few years.

For the uninitiated, Aeru is one of the female leads of Simoun, which you may be aware of as that show with all the girls who kiss and those weird flying machines. For those of you who have seen it, you are well-aware that it is much more, and has quite the cast of characters. However, it is in my opinion Aeru who ends up being the most interesting for a variety of reasons.

Aeru is a curious character right off the bat, as, truly, her character-type is one found much more readily amongst male characters as opposed to female characters – sure, we have the genki-types in many anime, but there’s an edge of, for lack of better wording, “gruffness” and strong-willed stubbornness to Aeru that reminds one much more of a Shounen Jump hero than of any type of heroine. If I had to think of one character off the top of my head who Aeru reminds me of, it would be Ash Ketchum.

No, really. If you don’t believe me, go back and watch a few episodes – Aeru is very, very stubborn, and isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. While I wouldn’t say she is stupid or even unintelligent, Aeru displays an ignorance of odds typical of the shounen hero. Aeru also shows a lack of emotional awareness that is odd for a female character, for even the cold female character doesn’t bluntly tell someone who has just lost their significant other that they want to be their new co-pilot, ignoring the obvious grief the person is still suffering. However, to picture a male character doing such requires no stretching of the imagination.

However, while Aeru is a bit oblivious, she does have a strange degree of perceptiveness, although it is displayed in a detached sort of manner – to her, whatever she is saying isn’t revelatory, even if to all else it is. Have you ever had a time when someone you thought was pretty ignorant casually remarked on some situation, say two people in an ongoing argument, and cut directly to what was really the problem, and you suddenly realized how much sense that made? When Aeru is perceptive, that is exactly how she does it – just a statement of the facts, no big deal, no real surprise… meanwhile, everyone else is choking on their tea.

When one considers how Aeru enters the show, flying in by plane (or, rather, their equivalent of, as opposed to a simoun) and leaping from the cockpit in a flight-suit and goggles, her character should come as no shock. Aeru volunteers for combat, and has a thirst for it comparable to young soldier characters (invariably male); she is not priestess as the rest are, but a fighter pilot, a soldier. Because of that, she does not encounter the religious questions involved with switching from a ‘holy’ position to one that could be considered ‘dirty’, that of a mere soldier. Aeru would’ve fit right in had she been in Top Gun.

Aeru does grow as a character as the show progresses – she realizes, like many a young soldier before her, that combat is a truly traumatizing situation, and she finds her basic assumptions about her world and her role in it challenged as the conflict escalates. Aeru’s maturation is also aided by her falling in love, which is also something she does in a way more often associated with male characters – she doesn’t even think of the possibility of what she’s feeling means until someone else points out the possibility, and greets it with a sort of “Really?” incredulity. However, it is this process which helps advance her maturation, although I do hesitate to deem her a ‘woman’ by the end (maybe Neviril qualifies, but I still think Aeru has a little ways to go).

At the same time, though, Aeru does continue to have her basic qualities – she might be more emotionally sensitive of others, and she’s less hard-headed, but both are far from elided from her character. But it has gone from being a lack of maturity to simply the way she is – this is really what it is to mature, that your lesser qualities are diminished as opposed to removed, and that you become more aware of those negative qualities and so can tamp them down when they attempt to surface in polite company.

To diverge somewhat, I find Aeru’s fate, admittedly ambiguous as it is, sad in a sense. The repeated glimpses of Aeru and Neviril’s simoun across time suggests they remain as ‘eternal maidens’, forever young. While they are together, there is something tragic in never aging. To not age is to remain the same, and to remain the same is to be divided from humanity as a whole, for all of humanity changes. Part of what makes human life beautiful is that we do grow old, we do get sick, we do die. To remove this from one’s existence is to render life as nothing special at all, for it always is. To experience living is to grow old – to be forever young is to not truly live.

I know some people are going to disagree with me on that point. It is just my own personal opinion, and I get the feeling that I am one of very, very, very few who feel that way about Aeru and Neviril’s fates; I would even posit that the creators would disagree with me.

But, to return to my original point, Aeru is definitely a character-type more often associated with males. The lack of males below a certain age necessitates this in a way, though – our cast is very female heavy, and we certainly see no teenage/adolescent males, since they simply do not exist in the world of Simoun. I would argue that Aeru would probably have been a male had the creators not made Simoun a unigender world for those under the age of seventeen… which would’ve been a bummer, because I like Aeru as a girl, and I can’t help but wonder if I would’ve found her annoying as a boy (although I defend myself by pointing out that I’d be getting annoyed since there are already fifty-thousand of male characters like this).

Lack of males aside, the very type of show that Simoun was demanded that there be such a character present – can you really call to mind a conflict-oriented show focused on young soldiers that lacked such a character? It is almost a requirement for this kind of show.

Anyway, to close, Aeru is awesome. Duh.

Ok, so I ran out of things to say. Just enjoy this picture of Aeru from the final episode – think of the pictures as bookending, as the first one is from one of the first episodes, and this is from the final, after she’s matured and changed a bit.

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2 Responses to On Aeru

  1. Baka-Raptor says:

    I can’t believe I didn’t realize this sooner: if you have blond hair, cosplay as a CLAYMORE! There are dozens of blond women to choose from, and they all carry huge swords. If I were a blond girl (or a girl willing to dye her hair blond [which is nearly every white girl at school]), I’d definitely cosplay as a Claymore!

  2. Anonymous says:

    More like “Aer” amirite.

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