Kaina of the Great Snow Sea
Kaina is an inhabitant of the Canopy (and apparently the only young person in his tiny community.) But when a girl named Ririha literally floats into his life, he must descend into her world, the world of the Great Snow Sea, to help her defend her homeland, Atland, from the depredations of the Valghians, a nomadic "nation" of pirates out to steal water (which is in short supply in this world.)
This was created by Tsutomo Nihei, the creator of Blame (which I haven't seen), and Knights of Sidonia (which I reviewed a while back.) Like Knights, this one is also produced by Polygon Pictures, and frankly their CG animation here shows no improvement over that in Knights; the characters are still too pale, and the motion still lacks the fluidity of more conventional cel animation. It's pretty distracting, but it's not the show's worst sin.
I'm still trying to get my head around how this world works. I gather, from the first episode, that there's been some kind of societal collapse, and the world we're in either originally WAS our Earth, or it was at least very like it. Things are now a lot more three-dimensional, with humans living at two very different levels: either as part of the tiny population in the Canopy (which is apparently formed from the interlocking branches of the gigantic Spire Trees); or down near the bases of the Trees, where there seems to be some actual rock (islands?) poking up through the "Snow Sea". But the snow isn't frozen water (seems to be spores from the trees), and the "sea" isn't water either; readily-available water seems to have disappeared from this world. The question of the composition of the Sea bothered me- there aren't many things that are NOT at least partly aqueous that are nevertheless liquid at human-compatible temperatures AND nontoxic to humans. But setting aside the chemistry question, there are some other issues here. I gather that both the Canopy and the Snow Sea folks get their water from the Trees; and the Canopy dwellers get their food from the giant insects that live up there, while the Snow Sea denizens get their food from their dolphinlike mounts; while the Valghians simply loot these things from the scattered surface communities. The Valghian approach (piracy) has allowed the population of its mobile, ship-based civilization to increase well beyond the real carrying capacity of the (at least firmly established) environmental resources available- Thomas Malthus would have loved this show's illustration of his ideas. At this point, there are two ways these folks might have gone. One would be to limit their population growth, preferably in conjunction with some scientific investigation to find other places where water might be hiding in this world; in other words, to change their ways. Another, of course, would be to find some even bigger, as yet unexploited Spire Tree, and just continue doing What They've Always Been Doing. Well, when the choice is between finding some way to live long-term within one's environment, versus just sticking with doing What We've Always Been Doing, the choice that's made here is about what one would expect.
But let's set aside the ecological considerations for now. And I won't even get into the reasons for the peculiar demographics of the Canopy civilization, which seems to consist exclusively of a few old folks, and Kaina. Let's look at the plot, or, considering the pacing here, the plod. For over and over again it's the same thing: Ririha and/or Kaina and/or Ririha's younger brother Yaona get captured by the Valghians (usually it's Ririha; she IS a Princess, and Princesses of course get captured a lot.) Then there is either an escape, or rescue by another of the group (rescues usually done, in the traditional way, by the male hero, i.e. Kaina; Yaona doesn't provide much more than moral support.) And then the cycle repeats, with another capture by the Valghians.
It isn't just the repetitive nature of this that's a problem; it's the fact that there really isn't that much else going on. We have some mad ravings of the Valghian's leader, called the Admiral; and we have a little dueling between respective champions from each side, one Orinoga on the Atlandian side versus a woman named General Amelothee on the Valghian side, but this contest may not exactly be decisive- in fact, it might not even be concluded. The focus tends to stay on our leading trio (Kaina, Ririha, and Yaona), no matter how slow their journey gets, and no matter how little there really is to look at on a world covered with "snow".
Ririha, in particular, doesn't exactly impress. Some people fault her for destroying a valuable document in order to save a life, but I'm not holding THAT against her; while Crunchy readers did suggest using something else to cope with the situation, I'm pretty sure there wasn't time to do it another way and save the person. I'm satisfied that her actions there were necessary.
However, a scene or two later, I was infuriated with her. Ririha comes face to face with a major menace, and instead of trying to escape or evade it, she just... drops supine to the ground and cries out to Kaina to save her.
Now the problem here is that even if Kaina WERE close at hand, as far as Ririha OR Kaina knew he wouldn't be any more able to beat this menace than she was. My wife (who's a dedicated feminist) always decries the whole cliche of a woman needing rescue by a man, and Ririha's complete abandonment of personal agency in favor of hoping that our male lead may somehow have the means to save her, seems anti-feminist, cowardly, and, given the information either Ririha OR Kaina had, likely to end up with TWO dead leading characters.
Fortunately, of course, this is fiction, and fiction can find a way, whatever reality might suggest. But it's kind of a letdown from Knights of Sidonia, which I remember more fondly. (Again, I haven't seen Blame, so can't make a comparison there. Some who've watched this show say there are clues that Kaina and Blame are set in the same "universe"- an assertion which, again, I'm not qualified to evaluate.)
There is apparently more of this planned (the story still has plenty of loose ends.)
When Ririha simply gave up, I gave up on the show myself. By the way, ALWAYS stick to the recommended settings on your appliances, unless you're attacked by a giant robot. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Some sword fights (with blood); one person catches on fire. Brief nudity. We'll go 13+.
Version(s) Viewed: Crunchyroll video stream
Review Status: Full (11/11)
Kaina of the Great Snow Sea © 2023 Polygon Pictures
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