Knights of Sidonia
Nagate Tanikaze lives deep in the bowels of Sidonia, an artificial habitat/spacecraft housing the last remnants of the human race, until a foray to steal food somehow leads him into induction into the ranks of the pilots of Sidonia's Garde mecha, and his natural talents and gift for heroics (as well as an unusually resilient constitution) soon make him beloved by the ladies (of course.) Unfortunately, his success has spawned jealous anger in one Norio Kunato, a wealthy (and very egotistical) Garde pilot who had his own ambitions to become the top pilot, and specifically to pilot the mecha that Nagate has been given. The mecha pilots face eternal struggles against (and decimation by) the Gauna, the gigantic tentacled monsters that destroyed Earth and can live anywhere, including the vacuum of outer space.
My initial impressions of this show were pretty mixed- and to a large extent they STAYED that way. The opening scenes of the series featured gloriously detailed 3D graphics in the battle sequences, but the movement was less than fluid, and everything was a glaring off-white, including the faces; the facial designs also seemed to suffer from a lack of definition as well. ( Later in the series some of the faces- Nagate's in particular- are actually given a bit more color though.)
There's also an awful lot here you've seen before. Nagate is your typical handsome, stalwart, yet not necessarily brilliant guy who, of course, has a genetic connection to some hero of the past that he's not himself aware of. He has that propensity of male leads of harem animes for stumbling into rooms where women are sunbathing nude- excuse me, it's "photosynthesizing" here. (Genetic engineering has been applied to make Sidonia's more recent models of humans- Nagate is, alas, an "old school" type- capable of photosynthesis, to reduce food requirements. For some reason, he never seems to barge in on men in this activity (which, as noted, is done nude), nor does he ever learn to knock. I also kind of had a problem with everyone's pale white complexion here, since photosynthesis (at least on Earth) always requires some pigment to trap photons. On our planet it's usually either chlorophyll or rhodopsin, and I thought it would not only have been more scientifically accurate, but also more entertaining, to make the ladies green, or purple, respectively.)
In any event, while Nagate is widely adored by the ladies, there are two who are the chief rivals for his affection. One is Shizuka Hoshijiro, the show's sweet and demure girl (as emphasized by her appearance in traditional Japanese dress at one point.) That scoundrel Kunato also likes her. The other girl- or maybe not- is Izana Shinatose. While Izana certainly LOOKS female, s/he explains that s/he is a new type human that is actually sexless, but can choose a gender to complement that of her/his chosen mate. I had no idea that Sidonia had residents from Simoun's planet, but if this show is mostly constructed from off-the-shelf parts of other shows, at least it's picked a good property here. (On the other hand, the whole idea of a lone space station versus giant, CG-animated space monsters recalls Divergence Eve, and that show should NEVER be recalled, despite its salutary effect on the male libido.) Of our two main females (OK, one female, and one contemplating it), one of them will try to build a stable relationship with Nagate as a fellow pilot and, later, as a cohabiter (innocently at first, anyway); the other will die, but will come back, again and again, not as a ghost but in tangible form, and of course Nagate is not the kind of fellow who would simply abandon a kind of recurring dead girlfriend in favor of a stable relationship with a live one. (Yes, this show takes harem male indecision to an entirely new plane.)
The show does have some delightful weirdness, even in the first season (first 12 episodes.) Nagate has a "dorm mother" that happens to be a talking bear. Sidonia itself looks like a very large iron bar stuck thorough a rather small asteroid. The ship's captain, named Kobayashi, wears a mask in her official duties- as many of the cast do, this show is into masks for some reason- but her unmasked face pops up in the oddest places and in the oddest roles. (I thought that it was just clones of her, but the Wiki article maintains that all the appearances of her are really her.) There's a fair amount of the ill-considered here though- their habitat IS a spacecraft after all, and yet every time they actually have to light up the Sidonia's engines, a fair amount of stuff that's not properly secured comes raining down, causing widespread destruction.
The Second Season was- a bit different. It started (I thought) rather badly, with horror elements that included some ickiness borrowed from the second Star Trek movie. I HATED the new opening theme, which alternated pop electronica with a martial fanfare more suitable for Triumph of the Will. Some of the ship's current leadership, along with some other opportunists, go Young Turk (though some of them are actually pretty old), start embracing long-forbidden strategies to achieve their goals, and violently dispose of their chief opponents. But the show defers dealing with most of the negative consequences of all this to another day (i.e., a Third Season.) So from the perspective of Nagate and his friends, this is almost a halcyon time- well, except for the fact that most of the pilots in any given sortie against the Gauna still get wiped out. (In one engagement, we're told that 38 of the 48 dispatched got killed.) Two things of note happen: Nagate is maybe getting a little closer to the living girl who loves him (though, typically, she's the one who's having to do the heavy lifting in the relationship- and the one who's having to make some major personal changes); and a bizarre new ally is acquired. I have to admit that the latter was a pretty original idea, and the peaceful moments between Nagate, this girl, and...well, that very odd ally were sometimes kind of pleasant. Over the course of the show the Sidonians also do make some improvements in their weaponry against the Gauna; when we first see them, they're having to use special swords, of which they have a very limited supply; later they develop a kind of high-velocity rifle; finally they have "organic" weapons developed from the Gauna themselves (but under somewhat suspicious circumstances.) Gauna are hard to kill- they've got a tough integument, and regenerate it quickly when it's damaged, so you have to open them up to expose their "cores", and destroy the core. The toughness, and especially the numbers, of the Gauna they engage increase dramatically toward the end, and the season ends in an honestly thrilling battle on a gas giant, where the humans have to pull out all the stops to survive.
OK, another show which could be considered a three-star show, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt because of some things I liked. I STILL think Nagate seriously needs to wake up and realize that the dead girl is NEVER going to be what she used to be, no matter HOW many times she comes back. And the story here is NOT complete, even though it comes to an acceptable stopping point. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: There's quite a bit of female nudity, along with some graphic violence. Older teen to adult.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Netflix.
Review Status: Full (24/24)
Knights of Sidonia © 2014 Polygon Pictures, KOS Production Committee
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