Knights of Sidonia Review

This is review number two hundred and ninety four. This is part of the Spring 2014 lineup. The show I’ll be reviewing is called Knights of Sidonia. It’s a twelve episode show of robots and aliens in space. My review is pretty damn long so let’s just read on. I’m tired already.

Story

This anime follows a guy named Nagate Tanikaze as he fights giant alien monsters in space. He was recently enrolled in a school that trains students how to pilot giant robots if giant alien monsters ever invade their ship. Their help is crucial because the ship contains some of the few surviving humans in the entire universe after the alien monsters successfully wiped out the solar system. It’s been a hundred years since the last contact with the aliens though so all is good so far. Nagate lived underground all his life so there are some people ready to ridicule and belittle him. He isn’t that affected but adjusting to life above ground is certainly proving to be challenging. To make matters worse, the first sight of an alien monster has been confirmed after years of silence and now a bunch of inexperienced pilots like Nagate is soon thrown to the wolves. For the survival of mankind, they fight but humans being cornered often brings out the ugliness in all of us.

Taking the Pants Off

Knights of Sidonia did not strike as anything interesting at first. It was a mecha anime and these damn things all look and sound the same. The structure never changes as we let angsty teenagers fight in huge robots for the sake of mankind. This anime pretty much has the same concept. It had a teenager pilot a giant robot so it can fend off some space aliens with tentacles. If you watch a bunch of mecha then they will eventually look the same. I’m at that weird point where the mecha genre doesn’t do much for me. Do you know what I genre I am more than interested in though? Sci Fi. Knights of Sidonia excelled in two things. It had a cast of interesting characters able to carry the disjointed story and it featured a wonderful world of Sci Fi. I have never been so indulged in a rich backstory quite like this anime. It was able to present a society full of subhumans, space aliens, societal and political practices that just captures everything the Sci Fi genre does best. It doesn’t start out good and the story is admittedly clunky from start to finish but I think the concept art alone is enough to keep you watching. Of course, the fully rendered visuals will catch your attention as well. I’ve seen this done before in a Fall 2013 anime called Arpeggio of the Blue Steel. At first I thought Seiji Kishi also handled this anime but soon feared the fact that he didn’t. This kind of style is very hard to pull off because emotions aren’t carried well by the presentation. Knights of Sidonia certainly suffered from that but I think the mangaka’s vision is actually given more justice thanks to this kind of visual presentation. I have complains with the story but this show certainly did a lot of things right. It was able to present an interesting story of mankind’s survival in space against some alien menace while capturing the interpersonal issues among the characters. It also had a talking bear in it so that’s something to certainly admire.

As I said before, the story is clunky from start to finish since it has a lot of components to it. Establishing important plot points while also developing them proves to be a bit tricky for the show. It constantly introduces a lot of new elements to the story while often backtracking on important ones already established. It keeps on developing the characters giving them deeper meaningful roles that often affect the pacing of the story. The familiar mecha structure is intact though to easily follow the show but it really doesn’t start to warm up right away. I’d say the anime only started to get good right around episode eight or so. It’s a lot of narrative and exposition dump to unload so you’ll often be left confused as the show wanders around aimlessly. This show isn’t all about exposition though. The characters carry the show wonderfully and the action is a nice enough pay off to keep you tuned in. The Sci Fi elements hook you as well. The various individuals in the show has contrasting and complementing personalities that make certain situations very interesting and the alien monster battles features some fast paced fully rendered CGI battle that will really delight you. So I guess things really balance out. It has a good amount of scattered plot points brought to focus by the action and the characters that function in it. The first episode is really the only indication you need though. If the visuals and the sci fi elements capture your attention then you will easily enjoy this show. If you think the main character is annoying though to the point it spoils the whole thing for you then you might not like this particular anime. Still, it’s not that hard to like this one as it does gradually get better as it progresses often presenting a satisfying narrative full of action and social drama despite a lukewarm and disjointed overall plot.

With that being said, and as far as I can gather, this anime has three plot points. The show introduced a lot of potential stories left and right but I think majority of them fall under these three plot points. They are often strengthening the plot point’s structure or sharing the same idea. The first one is about the alien monsters. Once upon a time, monsters called Gauna attempted to wipe out the human species and they succeeded in wiping out the solar system. I’m not sure if the Sun is included but that’s not important. The important thing here is that humans were forced to evacuate. Up to five hundred vessels escaped the onslaught. These ships doesn’t make contact with each other though as they aimlessly travel around the universe. If you live inside one of those ships then it’s basically the same as living in a planet. Gaunas still attack various escape vessels and the show follows the survival of a ship called Sidonia. This plot point is basically about the pilots tasked to fight against the alien monsters. This isn’t a cut and dry affair though. The humans don’t just enter the battlefield, fight for their lives then fight harder when their comrades die. It is said that the last time a Gauna attacked was one hundred years ago. Most of the pilots about to re-engage these alien monsters are inexperienced people about to witness the terrorizing powers of the Gauna. If you add the fact that they’re angsty youths at the peak of their life then the whole thing becomes a bit bittersweet. We were given a sampling of this when the best four pilots of Sidonia battled a Gauna. Emotions took over, fear rendered them helpless and the rest of Sidonia soon saw their best hope of survival screaming for their lives. It’s absolutely freaking amazing as you soon realize the main characters are about to have a full serving of this bittersweet experience soon enough.

The Gaunas are also mysterious creatures. Under the first plot point, the anime also tried to establish what Gaunas are. They are still wrapped in mystery though like the origins of those Titans in Attack of Titans. All we know is that they seem to be attracted to humans, they have killer instincts and humans have no way to properly communicate with the alien monsters. Towards the second half of the show, humans were given a chance to understand the alien monsters. During a certain battle, Nagate is able to secure a sample of the alien and the anime mostly focuses on the rather intriguing personality of this sample. I don’t want to spoil much since it’s an integral part of the story but the mysterious alien monsters are given a chance to present a little about themselves. Whether it’s the bloodlust murders of recruits during a skirmish or the attempt to look presentable in front of a human being, Gaunas are tough to figure out but the hints seem to give us an idea exactly what they are. This is one of those scattered plot points in the show though. Notice the hints and examine them because the show doesn’t do much afterwards. It establishes other things so the story about why the Gaunas attack is still kept in the dark. It was fun while it lasted though because the characters made this scattered idea prominent. It featured a relationship between two characters while it slowly unveils certain things about the Gaunas. The show is smart that way. Confusing plots are interesting to a degree because of the characters that gives meaning to it.

sidonia2

The second plot point is about Nagate and his path to maturity. I don’t really know how to properly call this plot point. It simply focuses on Nagate and his rather unenviable position as a target of so many people. Again, it is a scattered plot point which is why it’s a bit hard to describe. Anyways, Nagate started off as this guy living in the undergrounds who resurfaced because his stomach was growling. He was caught stealing food and he was soon summoned to meet with the captain of the Sidonia ship. Why, exactly? Nagate turns out to be someone important to the captain because Nagate’s grandfather, the one who raised him, is closely acquainted to the captain. Instead of being punished for stealing, Nagate is given a chance to become a pilot. He was given a lot of opportunity to fight the Gaunas simply because people are really interested about him. In the captain’s case, Nagate’s grandfather is actually a really skilled pilot who once disobeyed her orders. A council of high ranking immortals are now ordering the captain to make sure Nagate doesn’t do the same thing his grandfather does and make sure he die at the hands of the Gaunas. So he is asked to participate in a lot of battles. Of course, it’s not that simple. Nagate is actually really talented after practicing in virtual simulations all his life. As it stands, he is the best pilot Sidonia has to offer so he is given a lot of chances to fight with mankind vouching out for him. This second plot point follows Nagate’s own personal journey and the things he learns while being on the surface after a long isolation underground.

The second plot points mostly just follows Nagate and his relationship with a bunch of people. By people, I mostly mean girls out to bang him. This is probably the most infuriating part of the show that makes it hard to take it seriously. For very little reason, the anime follows Nagate’s journey into meeting three girls very much interested in him. The show put a lot of importance in it as well. Nagate bonds well with a friendly third gender character that looks out for him. He is also very close to this short haired girl that seems to show fondness and flirtatious gestures towards him. He is also an object of obsession of this green haired girl completely enthralled by his amazing capabilities as a pilot. It even came to a point where the girls started fighting over him and I think it was a bit ridiculous. You have this rich Sci Fi component and you decided to do an accidental harem shtick. It’s seems a bit counter intuitive for such a wonderful anime. The way he builds a relationship with the girls seems to be a huge highlight of the show as they appear to be very integral to the overall plot. They also aid helping Nagate mature. This dude does a lot of sulking and other pathetic attitude that counters his awesome pilot skills. You can chalk it up to his lack of experience talking with other people after being underground for so long. Whatever is the cause, it seems that his personal maturity is also an important part of the story. With that being said, I think being romantically involved with the three girls also plays a big part in the bigger picture. The reasons are still a bit unexplored but the show focuses on his romantic adventures for a reason. I think it’s for emotional growth. A lot of people die in this show and more will follow. Maybe being closely related to Nagate and sharing a bond would make their deaths more impactful. With their death, a more matured Nagate is realized. It’s all up in the air for now since the anime just establishes this harem and nothing more.

The third plot point is about the societal and political under goings of Sidonia. This is perhaps the biggest plot point of all as if features the various important people of Sidonia making political decisions amidst a growing tension with the citizens of this human vessel. This plot point mostly follows the role of Sidonia’s captain, Captain Kobayashi. She is a very cold person because decisions involving humanity’s survival often includes breaking a few eggs. In the show’s case, it’s sacrificing a few individuals for the overall survival of mankind. I think this is best displayed during various battles where she stands a top everyone and she gives the orders that affect the outcome of battle. One very good example involves her decision to move the ship vertically and letting gravity does its work of demonstrating how humans go splat when dropped from a height. She doesn’t regret her decisions and she goes about handing out even more outrageous orders for the sake of mankind. Her decisions aren’t just hers alone though. It is soon revealed that Kobayashi belongs to a council called the “immortals” who actually gives her orders that often benefits just themselves. This is where the beauty of the politics arises. Kobayashi acts for the greater good and prolonged survival but she follows the orders of a bunch of selfish individuals who only cares about their own survival. They don’t make it pretty as well. They simply order Kobayashi in what actions to take so they can benefit from the situation. Kobayashi would often just take everything in stride but it is suggested that Kobayashi know that Sidonia is strong enough not to ask for aid among the Immortal Council. It is explained though that they mostly have knowledge about Gauna and events going back from when Sidonia left earth. Such ancient knowledge is the only reason the council has high authority. Still, Kobayashi is ruthless and it’s really only a matter of time before something starts to give. This woman won’t allow to be ordered by obsolete selfish individuals for too long.

Kobayashi has a complicated relationship with the Immortal Council but she has an even more strained one with the citizens of Sidonia. With the Gauna attack, tensions are rising. Radical idealism is spreading throughout the people and she is slowly losing control. The residents believe that Gauna are actually harming them because of the alien spears Sidonia has on board. They believe that the military should stop using the spears and maybe the Gauna will leave them alone. Unaware of the horrors of the battlefield, the radical movements have grown fiercer. All they see is the aftermath with soldier’s funeral so they remain stubborn with the belief that the Gauna only attacks because they are attracted to the alien spears. It’s a theory people can’t deny or confirm so the radical ideas keep spreading. Coupled with the brash decisions of Kobayashi sacrificing lower residential areas to keep the ship alive, her own people are starting to grow unsteady. In the show, Kobayashi is such a hard ass that she simply allowed people to leave. If you’re unhappy in Sidonia then you are welcome to leave. One of the focuses of the third plot point is actually the journey of the disgruntled citizens travelling to a small planet unarmed with the belief that the weapons only attract the alien monsters. It’s a recipe for disaster but something ignorant people will soon realize is a huge mistake. Much like the rest of the plot points though, this one is just established so far. Are the pacifists going to be alien food soon? No one really knows since the anime doesn’t focus on it after it departed. It does tell me though that tension is only going to build when more citizens are dissatisfied living in Sidonia. Of course, the fate of the pacifists and their role in the bigger story is also up in the air.

So far, nothing really big materializes in terms of story. Really, only the action sequences and the character development carried this show. It’s not as scattered as the plot points since the show needed something stable to rely on. Letting the characters grow and develop is one of the best aspects of this show. For me though, it’s the Sci Fi setting that really made the show worthwhile. The interesting backstory of a bunch of sci fi elements really bring the whole show together for me. Humans have lived for a long while in Sidonia. In the fourth defensive war against the Gauna, two Gauna actually entered Sidonia and almost wiped out the entire race. To help repopulate the masses from I think less than a hundred survivors, humans resorted to cloning and growing babies in test tubes. One of the freakiest and awesome things they also added is the creation of a human being with a third gender. To answer the population crisis, a third gender is achieved. They remain mostly neutral for the rest of their life until they choose a mate and decide a gender. It’s pretty freaky dicky, huh? In a strange way, Hideyoshi lives in the mind of one sci fi fanatic. I shuddered upon learning this strange fact but, really, it only gets weirder/awesomer from here.

Photosynthesis.

One of the reasons humans can live long in space, with an obvious food problem staring them in the face, is for humans to photosynthesize. It’s basically like plants getting nutrition from the sun. With this, humans can only eat once a week to stay alive since they just have to shed clothing and bathe in the sun for the rest of the week. This is really what I like about the sci fi genre. It doesn’t create fantasies and magical ideals. It often uses humans as its main subject and then grows an idea from there. Humans travel in space, humans having interspecies sex time with aliens, humans with advance technologies to fend off aliens, and (in this anime’s case) having them gain food by bathing in the sun. Sci Fi explores the boundaries and limits of humans and decides that it can go further than that. I am in no way a Sci Fi fanatic but I am a fan of good storytelling. Sci Fi is often the result of a very active imagination and the things presented are often ideas others would likely to indulge and share as well. Humans photosynthesizing sounds like a wonderful idea and the show fuses this notion in the anime seamlessly. It gives us fan service and a lot of other great things at the same time as well. The Sci Fi elements don’t end there though. There is also this awesome feature about the suits the pilots wear. It sticks to their bodies and you can urinate in it. It’s a living breathing suit that doubles as the pilot’s skin. I still remember that moment where the pilots all act uncomfortably while the suit attaches itself unto them. It mentioned urinating in the suits and I think the suit inserted itself in a place most people doesn’t want things inserted in. Nothing was explained but the blushing faces tell a lot. Lastly, I love this whole thing about dead people being fed to a biothermal reactor. In Sidonia, when someone dies, they aren’t buried. There is a tombstone with their name engraved on it but the bodies go elsewhere. Gad knows what the biothermal reactor is for but the dead is sent there. I don’t think it’s to be cremated. I think the bodies are being used as fuel for the ship or something. It’s a rather dark concept but something I quite find intriguing. There is a well-rounded idea behind the sci fi elements of the show that really enriches the overall appeal of the show. After all, humans have been in Sidonia for more than a century now so you can just imagine the measures needed to develop all these things. It all relates back to their survival but it also gives us this fascinating look to a dystopian future that I think Sci Fi really does wonderfully.

The characters are the ones that really made this show fun to watch. They started out clunky though like the rest of the anime. Some characters also looked alike so it was hard to get into rhythm with the show. Most of the scattered plot points lead to a character being fleshed out though so they do grow on you as the show progresses. With the story not showing any clarity as of now, the anime was smart to develop the characters to help gain intrigue to the scattered plot points. Nagate is your typical lead. He is the type that sacrifices himself for others, he eats a lot and he has this childish personality that oddly attracts a bunch of girls. He started out pretty much like a wooden plank though. The whole angle of him living underground, getting caught, being enrolled in the pilot school and becoming a student didn’t transition well. It was forced and I personally had a hard time figuring out Nagate. He didn’t really come off as interesting as well. He spent majority of the first half being beaten, acting gullible enough to have others ruin his life and aimlessly wandering around like a lost cat. Naturally, he became interesting in the second half. Oh wait, no, he doesn’t. Nagate did develop but he turned into this whiny b*tch emo that cried a lot and spent most of his times too emotionally beaten up to act as a likeable main character. He only really mattered because of his crazy ability to fight Gaunas despite having no experience. So he is like this badass alien ripping machine wrapped in a gullible blanket unaware of the harshness of the world in front of him. He had his moments of heroism and that’s really the only thing to like about Nagate. He also had some fluffy moments with some girls and I guess that’s also a nice thing about him. Don’t be fooled though. Nagate is a bumbling idiot that doesn’t know his head from his ass for a reason. One of the main plot points involves his maturity. Nagate experiences a lot of difference things new to him. He basically shared the same fascination viewers had with the Sci Fi elements of the show. He shows his vulnerable sides way too quickly, easily gets attach to people easily and experiences the bitterness of losing someone and failing just as quickly as well. It’s not quite a coming of age story but it does have the same approach where Nagate eventually becomes a more well-rounded person thanks to his rather inexperienced self getting a strong dose of life. I think it serves the story to have Nagate act like a cute innocent puppy because he will eventually turn rabid and it’s only a matter of time before we see a battle hardened Nagate overcome his weak self.

There are a lot of interesting characters in this show. All of them were presented pretty nicely as they slowly take their definite role in the overall story. One big stand out is Captain Kobayashi. The cold hard ass that runs the ship shows both her ruthless side and her soft side throughout the run of the show. She usually wears a mask like the rest of the immortal council and this often makes her a cold person but she seems to favor Nagate a lot and treat him like her own son. She also has some amazing conversation with other characters. Her decisions during battles relayed by her second in command are often the most haunting. When overwhelmed by aliens, she would give the order to continue the mission despite the slaughter she is seeing herself. She would make tough decisions on the spot and simply respond with a short breath yes or no. Her decisions often affects Sidonia in a huge way so you’ll often see her second in command questioning her and going wide eyed in shock that someone could issue such an order. Despite being a ruthless person, she also seems to show her regrets and weaknesses when talking to other people. It was revealed in the second half about the things that transpired during the Fourth Defensive War and she personally hold a deep regret with her actions in it. I don’t want to spoil much. One can only wonder where she goes from here though. With the pressure of she experiences and the tension she has with a lot of the characters in the anime, it’s interesting what cold hearted decision she might do next.

There are also the girls that form Nagate’s stupid harem. They all just started hovering around Nagate for all different reasons. The main reason though is his amazing pilot skills but each girl is in love with a different side of his pilot skills. The anime is weird that way. The first one is Izana Shinatose. She’s basically the Hideyoshi of the group who is known to be among the third gender of humans. So I guess I should call her “it”. She still sounds like a girl though who looks flat chested but gawd, one can only imagine if she becomes male. Oh, the things I keep imagining. That scenario is definitely made for hentai though. Anyways, Izana didn’t do much in the show. She was the third wheel when Nagate started having love relations with another girl. Izana is one of those girls that often get the short straw and she rarely gets some time alone with Nagate after being there for him during his low moments. She’s one of those underappreciated third gender characters often being ignored in favor of a more hotter character. Izana grows on you though. She has this endearing quality to her and her supportive attitude is very likeable. She basically becomes Nagate’s rock whether he knows it or not. It was nicely veiled by the story as well but Izana is the only character Nagate shows his vulnerability too. The anime would distract you by focusing on Nagate going emo but Izana is always the shoulder the dude cries on. Her role was nicely cemented though when she was chosen as a pilot. New pilots have higher chances of dying in battle so imagine her poor self being drowned in a sea of misery. Nagate assures her that he is there for her though. Still, one can only imagine what would happen if Nagate loses his rock and he is faced to tackle life without the shoulder he always cries on. Damn good character relationship if there ever is one.

The girl Nagate eventually has a love relation with is called Shizuka Hoshijiro. She personally felt like an eyesore at first. She hung around this arrogant dude in the start of the episode and eventually wafted over Nagate after seeing how skilled he is. Her reasons for liking Nagate aren’t important though because she is a very pretty girl and Nagate is attracted to very pretty girls. He is always flustered whenever they meet and Shizuka just giggles like an innocent flower whenever she sees him act foolish. Their relationship is soon strengthened after a life altering encounter in space that ended with both of them stuck in space while we see Shizuka photosynthesize. I’ll try to control the spoilers but they eventually hit it off afterwards with the next scene is hinting to be a kiss and an official announcement between the two. Sadly, those events did not occur in the show because something happened that involves aliens and Shizuka facing off. Can you guess who lost? If you guess neither then you win a cookie. Shizuka really just symbolizes Nagate’s teenage drive and youthful energy. He was living it up with her as every moment between them is just bright and vivid. The show established somewhat of a safe zone for Nagate when he is with Shizuka and he just indulges in the moments spent with her. The aliens and Shizuka eventually transformed their relationship into a complicated matter giving fuel to another scattered plot point but losing his safe zone certainly triggered something big inside Nagate. This also relates to his maturity. The last girl is Yuhata Midorikawa. She is this really aggressive girl who fell in love with Nagate after discovering how skillful he is at piloting a robot. She is a robot nerd of sorts and she fell in love with his stats during combat. She has since decided that she wants the dude for herself. She is a tactical genius that is even suggested to replace the captain’s second in command if the need arises. She plans in advance and this makes her a formidable opponent when it comes to conjuring up strategies. She is a bit of a nutcase though. She is like a super fanatic oddball and she is a bit of an eyesore. Her role isn’t properly established in the show as of now but it seems like she is primed to doing bigger things in the future. She also had the least screen time with Nagate but really, her presence is overwhelming by itself already.

There are a lot of side characters presented in the show and they seem to have some pretty cool roles to fill in the anime. There is Norio Kunato. He is a fellow pilot who is raging jealous of all the attention Nagate is getting. He wants to be the one on the spotlight and it annoys him that someone who is basically an innocent cat is getting all the prestige he is supposed to be getting. Kunato is one of the well-developed characters in the show. It was mentioned how he fought hard to get where he is and yet all the recognition is being given to a guy that just happened to crawl out of a manhole. Kunato isn’t just a jealous comrade. He is also a scheming villain. With his hatred for Nagate and the glory he is supposed to have being given to someone else, he eventually plots to claim all the glory that was rightfully his. He is a wonderful antagonist for the anime often clashing with Nagate albeit indirectly. For all his bark though, Kunato shriveled up fairly easily after experiencing the traumatizing battlefield he partakes in. He is a really interesting character but he did lose his place in the show come its second half. It’s all thanks to the scattered plot points. It’s established that he is bad but also soft and emo-ish on the inside. His participation for stories to come is promising because he doesn’t play well with others and this might serve as a particular component that will give depth to the overall story. Another great character is the bear. Yup, the bear. She is the dorm master and she spends her time cooking dishes in the mess hall. She also gives some proper push to Nagate when he needs it. The bear, Lala Hiyama is actually an immortal council member and she is a hybrid of a human bear genetic experiment. She has close ties with the captain of Sidonia and her kind hearted nature severely clashes with Kobayashi’s cold one. She seems to mostly act as this wise sage in a time to turmoil but she doesn’t have a big role to play as well. Perhaps the tension among the immortal might give our bear a role to play soon but one can only wonder. There are also a lot more pilots with small roles to play in the show. There are these two budding senior pilots that often lead a squad together. It’s unfortunate that their squads are often slaughtered though. There are also these eleven clone twins that have a minor role to play in the show. The anime gave some of them a time to become somewhat relevant despite often just ending up dead a few episodes later.

But you know what else is interesting? One shot characters. I’d like to point this out. Most characters that die in battle are given a chance to state their case. They’ll often be friendly towards others and some of them would display a somewhat romanticized version of their life story. Such care was given to these minor of minor characters that it does hint how much potential the eventual overall story contains. I particularly love the second episode where the first girl eaten by a Gauna had her life flashed in the screen. Her parents cheering her on and her dreams of making them proud made her demise somewhat interesting. She literally had less than five minutes of screen time before the last image of her swallowed by a Gauna. The anime was mindful of every minor character’s death because it impacts the overall story. Seeing them die in battle after a decent introduction makes them somewhat memorable and you can only imagine how the deaths of more major characters are going to be like with how minor characters are treated in the show.

The main reason this show has a clunky story is mainly because there will be another season. It was announced at the end of the show and the first two episodes are apparently set to premiere in a huge event in Japan. This sh*t is getting hyped and I can only wish that the second season is going to be epic. I think the second season is set to come out in Winter 2015 but I’m not sure. It is coming though that is certain enough. The second season is sure to compensate for the clunky storytelling. Enough has been established to really set the entire thing ablaze. This anime established everything in the first season down to the smallest details so the second season should deliver on a lot of promises the first season made.  I am honestly nervous because second seasons tend to suck. I’ve seen a lot of them and most hype is often met by lazy and uninspired continuations. This anime is deliberately split into two halves though so I hope it does give us something beyond epic for its second season. This show is presented by a studio called Polygon Pictures Inc. I have not heard of them before. According to wiki, they mostly do 3DCG stuff so I guess it makes sense for them do produce Knights of Sidonia. They seem to have captured the appeal of the full CG style that Sanzigen first presented in Arpeggion of the Blue Steel. PPI seems to have done a much cleaner version though but it does lack in certain areas. You can trust a studio akin to video game graphics to deliver something satisfying with fully rendered CG. I think they did a great job of it despite my small complaints. This was directed by Koubun Shizuno. So far, he’s a very small time director with a few Detective Conan movies under his belt. Knights of Sidonia might be his first critical stuff and I think he did a great job of it. He captured the vision of the manga quite perfectly and I applaud him for that. I hope he continues his great work for the second season.

Sight and Sound

Tsutomu Nihei’s character design is very dark and gritty. He captures a very mature feel with his work. Sometimes, it’s not about the character design itself but his actual concept art that will dazzle you. He does very little to make a character look special but instead, every panel is soaking in darkness and heavy inking while the cyberpunk elements creep out in every corner. His characters are notably “Japanese” though. They often have characteristics similar to what a Japanese person would look like. The girls often have small round faces with almond eyes and dark hair. Even if the characters might have different hair color and a more bright color palette, the foundation seems to still be the same round face, almond eye combo in different variations. His male characters have a more muscular build but they still have the typical Japanese design that seems a bit familiar. Of course, the characters don’t look familiar because Tsutomu’s manga exudes cyber punk overwhelming everything else. I’m picking it apart but his character design is mostly defined by how cyberpunk it is. The outfits are mostly tight skin fitted, a large percentage is leather, and the heavy inking defined by the empty spaces gives incredible depth to a rather ordinary suit. His cyber punk style is sadly not captured by the anime though. One of the downsides of the fully rendered CG style is that darkness looks dull and everything excels in the details. The manga is outstanding with even the Gaunas looking amazingly created as each panel have lines dancing around, inking mingling, and a dark horror mood is easily established as you stare unnervingly in the empty spaces that he purposely left blank. In the anime, without the cyber punk appeal, you can easily tell how lacking in details his characters look. They often look dull and they look the same without the masterful visual narration the manga does best. It’s a good thing character development eventually saved the show and made the characters interesting once more.

The cyber punk appeal is still decently presented in the anime but I think Sci Fi permeated more. It’s not a bad thing because the visuals still gave justice to Tsutomu’s action heavy manga panels. The background is also outstanding. As I said, it’s the first thing that’ll capture your attention. The concept art in fully rendered CG looks absolutely amazing. The tall buildings and the camera angles seem to celebrate the world of the manga in a magnificent way. The animation is pretty awesome as well. The battle scenes are pretty amazing. The story telling is mostly presented in the cock pit of Sidonia though. The screens act like a video game screen where you see the stats of the pilots as they fight the Gaunas. It gives more detail to the fast paced action of the battles. The robots are nicely rendered and it’s pretty awesome seeing them dart through space and avoiding tentacles. The way a Gauna disperse is outstanding as well. Seeing it dissolve in a bubble like explosion is stunning. The way the robots explode and the various action heavy scenes of the manga are nicely presented in the anime as well. The animation seemed to have perfectly captured the manga’s vision as it marry it with a video game like cut scene form of storytelling. It looks pretty damn complex and I am often caught up in how stunning the animation is. With that being, there are a few downsides. Emotions are lacking among the character interactions. It’s the same downside in Arpeggio. Emotionally charged moments aren’t visually captured by the show and the characters often look a bit wooden. Without the strong plot to support it, it’d be very hard to like the show judging by the stiff look of the characters alone. Some of the fight scenes also seem a bit fast paced. It’s hard to follow the movements of the robots darting through the tentacles because of the employment of a shaky camera and lacking camera angles during certain scenes. It’s a good thing the cockpit shows us what is happening in the battlefield because the visuals often just confuse the fight’s pace. I do applaud the way the Sci Fi is represented but I have to be critical and say that the cyberpunk appeal actually makes up majority of manga’s appeal. The anime should’ve tried harder to incorporate it. With that being said, I must applaud the director for giving life to the panels in such an amazing way. I personally can’t pace a manga by myself so it’s amazing how vivid the panel scenes are in the anime.

The anime’s OP is “Sidonia” by angela. It’s a pretty decent OP. Angela’s voice gives this uplifting and pumped up beat to the song while the lyrics are really insane. It’s about pilots laying down their life for the greater good and it does capture the duty of the pilots but seem to leave out the human component in the equation. It’s a rather thrilling and ominous song. The Op sequence features a few scenes of robots battling Gaunas while it flashes various characters and notable events into the sequence. The anime’s ED is “show” by Eri Kitamura. It has a nice beat to it as it sings a song about hope and Sidonia travelling in space for such a long time. Eri’s voice is pretty cool but it’s the rather moody lyrics and rhythm of the song that really stands out. The sequence is simply a3D hologram version of Sidonia travelling in space.

Overall Score

7/10 “A wonderful story of human survival covered in a wonderful Sci Fi wrapper.”

The clunky story prevented the show to have a solid eight out of ten but I think the second season will easily make up for it. The strong characters and the rich Sci Fi background also made the experience pretty amazing. If you like mecha anime then you’ll enjoy this show. If you like a wonderful story with a lot of interesting characters then you’ll like this show as well. If you enjoyed Arperggio of the Blue Steel’s visual presentation then you’ll enjoy how this anime try to make a better use of it. It has a lot of strong components to easily overshadow its negative aspects so I do think this is worth a try. I recommend it.

9 thoughts on “Knights of Sidonia Review

  1. Woah!! Someone else really liked it besides me. 😛 As it is an amazing anime which is simply overlooked! Yeah, I know the CGI can take some time getting used to for some, but it is an integral part of the anime and those whom give it a chance will see why. 🙂

  2. Haha, great review 🙂

    Naturally, he became interesting in the second half. Oh wait, no, he doesn’t. Nagate did develop but he turned into this whiny b*tch emo that cried a lot and spent most of his times too emotionally beaten up to act as a likeable main character.

    ^
    Welcome to the mecha genre. Normally the male mc is a whiner. Ex: Evangelion, Linebarrels of Iron, and even Ozuma.

    It even came to a point where the girls started fighting over him and I think it was a bit ridiculous. You have this rich Sci Fi component and you decided to do an accidental harem shtick.

    ^
    I’m really starting to think they just throw in the harem for a few extra dollars for people looking for girls. They could’ve mostly taken the harem element out with the story remaining similar.

    I particularly love the second episode where the first girl eaten by a Gauna had her life flashed in the screen. Her parents cheering her on and her dreams of making them proud made her demise somewhat interesting.

    ^
    At least someone enjoyed watching the “tragic” girl die. From anime like kights of sidonia to Terra formars, there’s always at least one cannon fodder girl and guy who die with a sad back story.

    Without the strong plot to support it, it’d be very hard to like the show judging by the stiff look of the characters alone.

    ^
    The anime was pretty drab, with it’s lack of exciting colors and dark scenery. At least we had a plot.

    Anyway, well done on this review! Actually watched it because of your review.

    • i have personally never tried evangelion so the whiny main characters aren’t something i can notice right away. plus, the whining does serve a purpose in the story overall.

      lol, i honestly think the harem will have a purpose down the libe especially if characters die in the long run.

      thanks for commenting. i’m glad you liked my review. 🙂

  3. hm, as mush as you said it got better, i just don’t think i can get over how it looks, and can’t really get past the second episode. it just says too distracting throughout.

    Thanks for the review, but I don’t think this is one I’m going to give the chance to get good. There faces are just too plastic looking, and they can’t get away with it like they could in Blue Steel.

    • I think it’s because the cyberpunk appeal of the manga wasn’t carried over in the anime. I do understand it’s hard to get over the visuals but I promise the story is worth it. Well see if the second season can deliver what the first season promised. And I do hope you will give it a try but it’s OK. We can’t like all anime. lol.

Thoughts~

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