Check-out Station: Knights of Sidonia (killing people you just met long before you knew)
What an appropriate final episode for the first season. Too be honest, I thought and expected this show to be a 20+ episode affair. But with the confirmation of a second series my mind is at ease. There was a lot that made me worry about this manga being adapted into an anime, especially with the art style chosen. But it appears for now, that this show is a mild success. A sign that a very dark, atmospheric show with leanings towards hard scifi could make it in the big leagues.
Aside from the annoyance that they had to give this show a shounen battle manga style recap (read: way too long) of the entire previous episode, I thought this final piece of season one was amazing. Once things actually got started, it was just one continuous high stakes run to the end. Even Izana, as pitiful as it is was able to be of great assistance in this somewhat final battle (of the season at least). And the battle between Nagate and Benisuzume was damn good, I couldn’t have asked for more from their confrontation. While you knew the battle would come down to the special bullet Nagate received before his dogfight with the alien enemy ace, I don’t think most people would have expected the cool rocket punch moment that ended it. As for the way the battle itself ended (because while Benisuzume was a huge threat, a planet being thrown your way is much worse), I’m glad to see the few remaining pilots of Sidonia take the hive cluster down. Having Nagate do everything would kinda diminish the impact of much of the rest of the cast. It’s important that not only the technological advances play a part, but the people, too. Despite all the awesome scifi nonsense in this show, this story is fundamentally one about humanity as a whole.
The capper for this episode though was seeing Nagate confront my most hated character in a while, Norio. It’s that “kill them with kindness” approach that Nagate takes that really breaks Norio down. I think it was that action, and that action alone that broke down the fascade he cloaked himself in and exposed to himself the kind of lonely sh*tty person he’s become. I wanted to complain about Nagate’s approach, but I couldn’t. The main reason is because he says he will never forgive Norio. That’s a powerful statement for the Japanese. It means the ugly stain of Shizuka Hoshijiro’s death will never be erased from his mind, and he’ll always see it when he sees Norio. In other words, he’s not letting Norio off easy while still acknowledging that he’s a talented and valuable pilot that can help save lives. What happens from here is completely up to Norio. The olive branch is extended. He can either accept with grace. He can accept it and take advantage of this for his own means. Or he can reject it and continue his lonely path. I don’t put much stake in his penchant for being a decent human being, so you can guess what I think will happen.
Overall, this episode was a very well placed cap to this initial season. I appreciate the great amount of effort put into this show, and you can see that effort if you pay enough attention to little bits of animation here and there. They put emphasis on stuff that is quite a bit more difficult to convey with the still black and white imagery of a manga. Seeing the animation portray the excitement and nervousness of a stoic masked character like Kobayashi was one of my most appreciated moments, and a great example of what I mean. Izana’s adorable face, which has made it a mascot moreso than any cute animal could be in this show is also another great example. The moments where we see Izana’s face be pulled through so many strong emotions near the end of the episode, where it’s unsure if Nagate or any of the other pilots has survived, and then seeing that moment where in the distance a blue light comes towards them and you see her depressed face turn from tears of sadness to tears of joy – I loved it! Well done! Well done!Checking out….
Overall, this show has been pretty fun. I was quite worried this show may be too slow, and quiet at most moments for viewers. There was also the issue of having so many characters that look alike, including about thirty female clones. Granted, that wasn’t a limitation of the mangaka (though you could say it would make for an awesome excuse), moreso it’s to represent the very limited gene pool that the Sidonia draws from as the population has been drastically reduced to the point of near extinction before. But as Izana shows, there are characters to pick out and love; and in Norio’s case there are characters to hate as well. This was only the introductory phase of the series though. There is much more to take in as we learn about more characters and more of the world, so things will get more intimate and exciting as we move along.
When it comes to the production of this show, I will say that I liked it more than I feared I would. The style of animation, the CGI style is similar to that of Arpeggio of Blue Steel, only worlds better. With Arpeggio I initially hated it and the show for it, but once I learned to like the characters I gave it a pass and adjusted. I already knew I enjoyed parts of Sidonia’s style, so it was much easier to adjust to the unconventional style. And I think it works well, if not best for the show because it probably makes a lot of stuff easier to animated, especially when you get into how messy and complicated scenes can get with dozens of tentacles and blobs on screen at any given point in a battle. Animating that sh*t would be a nightmare. After watching Flowers of Evil, Arpeggio and this show, I’ve learned that animation doesn’t matter to me as much as I once thought. And I’m a little proud of that fact, because there was a time (long, long ago) where I wouldn’t have touched a show if it was too “ugly”.
Something I didn’t enjoy about the show was how little I cared about the soundtrack. I didn’t care for the opening or ending themes, or any of the songs or background music in the show. And if I did find something tolerable, I don’t remember it at all. That’s not good at all, though it’s surprisingly not a deal breaker for me. I’m just disappointed that I couldn’t find anything to latch onto, though I’m at least glad they didn’t put anything in that I found egregious or so horribly out of place I couldn’t forget my hate for it.
Moving forward, I was worried that this show was just being picked up to ride the wave of brutal and dark manga full of character deaths that recently Attack on Titan had made so popular. It showing up at the time and season it did this year almost certainly confirms that, too. But it seems that that doesn’t matter upon completion of this show though. The material is unique and interesting enough that it stands on its own while serving its purpose.
I remember reading somewhere that some were saying that they enjoyed shows with character deaths before they became popular. I don’t quite understand this statement as this is a very long standing tradition with anime shows going way back to the brutal OVA filled 80s. Named characters were getting killed off all the time, and this is nothing new at all. Watch some of those shows. Watch Zeta Gundam or Gunbuster for example. Hell! Watch Victory Gundam and see it done to the point of unintentional comedy. Getting a named character and then having them die a horrible death in one or two episodes is anime as hell. And its going to continue to be around for a long time. This is a long standing way of storytelling that you’re going to see well into the past and the hopefully into the future. If you didn’t know that before, go watch some of the stuff I just mentioned, or ask someone else well-versed in anime and you’ll learn something. And perhaps watch your new favorite anime in the process.
I’m all done. See you guys for season two, and thanks for reading!