Knights of Sidonia Eps 1-2 (Anime Review)

Last year, SFF author Django Wexler joined SFF site SF Signal and started a column called “Lost In Animeland” where he takes a look at various anime from each season and talks about his experiences with them. He pretty much got me back into watching anime on a somewhat regular basis with Arpeggio of Blue Steel and now with his most recent column, he’s gotten me to watch Knights of Sidonia (Shidonia no Kishi)as well. My love for mecha anime is no secret, and this new show definitely hits some of those buttons. I love trying out new things and despite having a very strong connection to shows like the various Gundam franchises, there is much that Knights of Sidonia does differently.

In this show, Humanity has left Earth almost a thousand years ago after a race of violent and aggressive space aliens destroyed the solar system. Now the only remaining mass of Humanity leaves in the seed ship called Sidonia and is protected by a corps of mecha-pilots called the Knights of Sidonia. There hasn’t been a sighting of the alien Gauna for almost a hundred years, but that we know is just the hook for this story to get started. Having watched the first two episodes, my curiosity about this new anime is definitely peeked, although the CGI animation isn’t really working so well for me.

Knights of Sidonia Logo 0001To give a fuller context to the story and to the characters, the Gauna seem bent on unreasonable genocide since it seems that communication with them is utterly impossible and they attacked Humanity first, and unprovoked. They destroyed the Solar System and scattered Humanity to the stars, condemned to live in massive vessels called seed ships that ply through space, always alert for more attacks by these hostile aliens. Our protagonist is Tanikaze Nagate, a Human who lives alone and forgotten in the very bowels of the seed ship Sidonia and when the first episode starts, we see him make his way to the surface and break into a rice threshing plant to steal some food. Eventually it is discovered that he has a connection to one of the greatest heroes of Sidonia and so the Captain of the Sidonia presses him into service as a trainee for a Guardian attack frame, a mecha. And so follow his adventures as he learns of the wider world he never knew about and adjusts back into society.

In these first two episodes, things proceed very slowly. The setting and the characters are teased out bit by bit and sometimes it can even get a little boring since there’s too much inane character development and not enough action or otherwise exciting things happening. Plus, the show seems to be stuck in a mode where it exemplifies some cliches of most such anime, and they kind of take the fun away from things. But at the same time, I love the allusions to Battlestar Galactica and the fact that the show makes an effort to be a bit more science-y than expected. The best case of that is that given the lack of a homeworld, genetic engineering has been used to create a third asexual gender, with cloning being regularly practiced and that Humans have learned the photosynthetic process, so that they are able to survive on a far less quantity of food than ever before.

From what I’ve seen, a lot of reviews praise these elements of the show, and I’ll add that the characters are all quite fun too, especially Tanikaze Nagate who seems to be having a really tough time adjusting to society and finding his own place in the ranks of Sidonia’s in-training elites. This creates lots of dramatic tension in both episodes since he has to compete against some of the best trainees and even unwittingly develops some enemies in that regard. The show focuses a lot on Nagate for these first two episodes, and not enough on the other characters, but that’s fine since these are early days yet and there is still a lot of room available to get more experimental.

With regards to the animation process, I kept thinking that the dialogue often appeared out of sync with the animation in that the facial expressions weren’t drawn properly for when the characters are speaking. It creates some really odd moments that are tough to get over. But that’s a rather small concern and easily dismissed. Of far bigger note is the fact that given that Sidonia employs cloning and the fact that there is now a third gender in society, far too many of the characters look like each other, whether male or female and the case falls predominantly towards the latter since they are covered far more than any of the other characters. It is extremely irritating since I really cannot distinguish between these characters and that makes following the story a bit of a chore. If there was something to be done with the trainees’ uniforms and hair styles, then things might be different, but as it stands right now, this is a big failing of the animation.

Knights of Sidonia Stills 0001

Another thing is that the designs of the Guardian frames aren’t clear and thus it is tough to mark out any unique features to them, as you can tell just by looking at a Valvrave or a Gundam. That is something that I definitely miss so far in this series but hopefully this is something that is explored in the next few issues, because I really want to see more of the visual designs of these mecha-frames. Then there is the fact that on a lot of the characters, their noses aren’t clearly defined, which means often their faces are just eyes and mouths, further complicating things in a really weird way.

On the other hand we have the Gauna, who are quite inexplicable. But they have the market cornered as far as creepy and horror is concerned because just by looking at a Gauna gives me the most serious creeps. Then there are the shooting tentacles, which can really mess things up in a most glorious way. And watching the Guardians avoid the tentacles, with all the high-speed swerving and juking that involves, is one of the best moments of the show. Frankly, when the action gets going, that’s when Knights of Sidonia starts to excel itself with the CGI animation, because that’s when the narrative stakes are high and that’s when it all fits together really neatly.

The first two episodes are fairly good, but there are also quite a few problematic things about them, and I’m hoping that these are addressed in the future episodes. We get introduced to lots of characters quickly and with the whole visual design issue few of them stand out, so that is something that I’m especially looking forward to seeing corrected. But in the meantime, Knights of Sidonia is a quite decent anime with these first two episodes, and I’m definitely in for a few more I think.

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Posted on May 18, 2014, in Anime, Knights of Sidonia, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hi, I translated an interview article of Shizuno-san who is the director of Sidonia Anime.
    Have a look if you are interested in 🙂
    http://dwatablog.blogspot.jp/2014/06/interview-koubun-shizuno-director-of.html

    Like

  1. Pingback: Knights of Sidonia Eps 3-5 (Anime Review) | Shadowhawk's Shade

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