This was originally a recap on the finale (containing spoilers) as well as the following final impressions. You can read the post on my website found here.
Welcome to the literal future. This is a time traveling review about an anime that weirdly became my favorite of the Spring 2014 season. With the initial premise, the computer generated creation, some sneeky-peeky at that source manga — well, let’s just say I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the beginning of the season. Now that’s it over, I am thrilled at the thought of a second season. So what’s this futuristic tale about?
To briefly summarize, it’s a tale of a giant “seed” spaceship, one of many that has left Earth hundreds of years ago, due to an ongoing war with the Gauna, a race of mysterious deep-space flying spaghetti monsters. During the course of the first season, we get to know a lot, but not all, of the Sidonia‘s past, including seemingly ageless crew members and the history of the science and technology used by its citizens.
Knights of Sidonia is based on the manga by Tsutomu Nihei and was animated by Polygon Pictures, a studio known for their 3-D animation expertise. In North America, the streaming company Netflix, has acquired the rights to air the first season. With the relevant information out of the way, let’s get into what I enjoyed about the story.
First, the series doesn’t pull any punches. When stuff gets real on Sidonia – people die, get eaten by horrifying space monsters, get slapped by a bunch of clones — and that’s just the first 3 minutes of episode 6. The story mostly focuses on Tanikaze Nagate, a younger dude, who was raised under the surface of the Sidonia, but has mysterious ties to several ongoing events.
Nagate is the least complex and most straight forward character on the show. This is by design however, as he was raised by his grandfather, a just and honest man who we learn about later in the series. We follow Nagate as he becomes a pilot, tasked with defending the giant ship from Gauna invasion. There’s a large cast of supporting characters to familiarize ourselves with as well.
While many of the characters aren’t exactly at the epitome of originality, there tends to be a slight twist to people we meet on Sidonia. Shinatose Izana, for example, is one of Nagate’s friends and a potential love interest. Izana is not a female though. It’s not a male either, but a third gender that were genetically created. Izana makes perpetual sad faces though, because Tanikaze only has eyes for number-one-space-cutie Hoshijiro. Izana is then relegated to being Nagate’s space-bro.
I don’t want to make the show out to be some romantic-harem style series. Overall, it’s mostly heavy on the suspense, with a good amount of action, and some lighter comedic and sometimes touching moments. The Sidonia gets repeatedly attacked over the course of the season, which each threat slightly more dangerous than the previous one. In this regard the show has been compared, by myself included, to Attack on Titan.
Both shows feature a ton of gloom and doom. Both sets of characters are facing a threat they know very little about and both shows have researchers who take the monsters hostage to learn more about them. Both Sidonia and Titan also don’t mind killing off some of their characters — especially it’s citizens. The biggest comparison I can make though, is less do with the actual content, and more to do with my anticipation of both series.
Sidonia is a bit more episodic when dealing with its monsters however. While watching Titan, you’re always aware there’s more to the horrifying creatures than meets the eye. We’re even giving hints as such, and we assume we’ll get some explanation eventually. It’s just another reason to keep watching. I get a similar feeling while watching Sidonia, but there’s no hints, no real exploration of the Gauna besides some history lessons and scientific research.
In that regard, the drama that plays out in Attack on Titan is more multi-dimensional. Although I think that with its longer first season and well explored universe, it was actually a little better than Sidonia, I liked the futuristic space show more. On that note and before some discussion on the production, it’s time for the rating. With its quick 12 episodes, nicely paced action and exposition, I’ll be giving the never-a-boring-moment Knights of Sidonia a 4.5 out of 5 on my Kitsune Scale.
I read reviews, comments, blogs, forums — you name it — and a good number of people seem to dislike the computer generated animation seen in this series. They’re crazy and I’ll explain why. They’re like the same people who think that music on vinyl records sound better than digital, or that shooting films on actual analog film and then converting it into digital film for editing, is somehow better than shooting it digital to begin with.
I hate to break if to you guys, but as computers continue to become more powerful and as users continue to master rendering-type software at younger and younger ages, computer generated anime will one day be the norm. And, studios and directors that prefer hand-drawn anime, will pay more for materials and pay higher salaries for capable artists, because everything in 10-20 years will be done on the computer.
I’m actually an old guy, so I don’t know why I’m more flexible with the design choice inSidonia. Scratch that, I do know why. It’s because I don’t take anime seriously in the first place. I do to certain degree obviously, I consume a ton of it, write about it and take great enjoyment from doing so. But it’s still entertainment.
So, when one of my friends told me they couldn’t get past the CG and how all the characters looked the same, I had to smile, because this is the same person who enjoys every silly loli-based harem style anime ever made. You ever see the shitty character designs on these shows? If you’re watching anime, but a certain style of animation will get in the way of actual story content, you should stop watching anime and take up another hobby. Snob.
Not only was the animation in Sidonia adequate all the time, but was superior at other times. All the action sequences, ship modeling designs, including interiors and monitors, were a visual treat on the eyes. Along with great opening and ending songs, matching the serious nature of the show, the production was top notch.
If I had to nitpick at all, I would start with the 12 episode length of the series. There was always a feeling, with the quick-pacing, that it was a little too quick. That the show was playing catch-up to the source material. Nagate, as a main character is a little cringe-worthy to be honest, but he was isolated from everyone, even carrying the moniker, “Mole Man.”
That’s really it. I loved the show, and each week looked forward to it with building anticipation. I look forward to watching season 2 and I hope you’ll all be watching it with me. Well, not actually with me here, that could weird. You know what? Come on over, anything for my space bros. Special thanks to Underwater Subs for providing quality translation all season.
Notice: This is a review for both 2 seasons of Sidonia.
Well, well, well, what do we have here? A fully computer generated anime series, based on an incomplete manga by the creator of Blame, with a premise that is basically Attack on Titan in the far future. What could possibly go wrong? Let’s analyze the previous elements, one by one; shall we?
1) Fully computer generated. Major disadvantage. CGI sucks ass without a lot of time and effort put into it, something that isn’t the case with Sidonia. It does make machines look cool and aliens creepy, which adds to the atmosphere of the series, but when it comes to character designs, it looks very off-putting. Unless you have an extreme tolerance to choppy motions and robot-like characters, you will drop this show like a hot potato.
2) Based on an incomplete manga. Major disadvantage. You are left with no ending, or an anime original one, which will contradict the manga, and nobody will like. Sure, you can always wait a decade until enough material is out, but by then, very few will care anymore, and the difference in technology will be making it even harder to get into.
3) By the creator of Blame. That sounds like a plus, because he excels in mindfuck stories full of machinery and bizarre monsters, but in this case it works against him. This is a much more mainstream type of story, full of anime stereotypes that take it one step away from thinking it is a light novel. The expectations are too high because of his fame, and the final product is disappointing.
4) A premise that is basically Attack on Titan in the far future. That sounds like it doesn’t mean anything, when in fact it does. Because of the undeserved praise AOT got, everybody and their waifu are now making shows with the same premise, just to milk those addicted to shock factor and bad storytelling. Meaning, this show is in effect a cashgrab, made on a tight budget just to run to the casual oasis before shows like Black Bullet, Arpeggio of Blue Steel, and Seraph of the End dry completely the money well. And yes, Sidonia began as a manga before AOT, but its adaptation came into being only because of its success.
Well done Sidonia, you already failed before you even began. But for the sake of argument, let’s give it the benefit of doubt and assume everything I said so far, are not enough to drive you away from enjoying it… It’s still terrible. For the same reasons AOT is terrible.
5) Shock factor. You know the drill; lots of gruesome deaths, destroying the characterization of its cast. It doesn’t give them depth, nor does the story become more serious. Wasn’t Akame ga Kill enough to realize that? It doesn’t help how most characters look the same and move like robots. When they die it’s like they get deactivated and replaced by other robots. Also, none of them get enough screen time or feel important enough in the plot, so you don’t give a shit when they die.
6) Lack of focus. As for those who survive and live to fight another day, they don’t get much fleshing out, because the audience is either too busy staring at the creepy aliens, making bets about who is going to die next, or doesn’t give a crap about their personalities because the whole show is an ecchi comedy.
7) Wish fulfillment. For a show that is supposed to be about humanity trying to survive against alien monstrosities, you constantly get fan service moments which break the immersion. There isn’t that much of it, but it is more than enough to not take the show seriously. The protagonist feels like he was transferred there from a harem. Weak, passive, constantly bumps into naked women, and feels like he is incompetent in everything. But as soon as things get serious, he will be a super pilot who will be single-handedly wiping out aliens that not even elite groups could scratch. And then he will be cheered by everybody, and all the girls will be after his D, before reverting to his useless mode and keeps bumping on naked women. All this pandering makes him look like yet another Jesus for introverts.
8) Creepy factor. And it’s not good fan service either. You can’t even enjoy it as guilty pleasure because the characters look like robots. Also, it has some really deviant fetishes that are too gross to even count as sexy. One of the chicks who wants the protagonist’s D is a hermaphrodite with cyborg arms, and another chick is an alien freak which can’t even speak properly.
9) Unused concepts. There are lots of interesting sci-fi concepts that either don’t fit in the setting, or are not used in any good way plot-wise. There is a bear woman with a hook arm that is supposed to be some sort of genetic hybrid. That’s so out there; it is never explained, never used in any way, and it belongs to a school comedy. There are people who photosynthesize instead of eating, as well as hermaphrodites; again part of the genetic engineering going on in the future. Those are not relevant to the plot, and are used only for silly comedy and deviant fetishes.
10) Weak mystery. Not even what the aliens are, or what they want means anything in the longrun, since just like in AOT, the show deliberately never explains their motives, as means to keeps them scary by being a mystery, and not a faction with an agenda or characters with personality. And since by now we all know it is always some variation of Soylent Green, you might as well not give a damn about them.
11) Bad storytelling. The show has no idea of how to surprise you without insulting your intelligence. There is a scene where a guy gives the protagonist an inappropriate command, just to fail and be accused of being useless. Everybody indeed accuses the protagonist and doesn’t even attempt to verify what exactly happened, even when the whole thing was recorded in the robot he pilots. There is another scene where the protagonist bumps on a secret facility by complete chance, and it turns out he is already chosen as a test pilot there, making all the time spent on the accidental discovery pointless.
12) No objective. The whole show is aimless, since the motives of the aliens are never explained, and all the humans are doing is surviving alien attacks. It is a very passive goal that never fixes the problem, and gets dull very fast if all you get is aliens attack, humans fend them off, aliens attack, humans fend them off. And the worst part is that, this formula can never change, because it will mean the death of everybody and the end of the show.
Thus once again you get a good premise that is ruined by bad handling and I do not recommend it, unless you are one of those people who think that constantly killing robots we don’t know or care about is a stroke of brilliance. How about simply watching that wonderful music videoclip by Muse, which happens to share the same name? It doesn’t have pitiful CGI and it actually has a cool space western vibe to it. Also, it’s retro, so it’s better.
When I saw that it was a 3D attempt I wanted to drop the series. I continued watching because of the environment and plot staging. It was interesting. I thought it might be a lame attempt at 3D, not even coming close to the Final Fantasy 3D movies. Surpisingly it was not bad. Some of the things early on that caught my attention was some of the grotesque visuals.
There was also an interesting story behind it. The history of the world that was presented was extremely interesting. One problem was that the anime was too short to cover enough of the past to satisfy me. There was so much more to cover and not enough time to do it. Then I was worried that this was going to be an anime where all of the action presented was denounced because the point of the anime was pacifism or "communication" with the aliens. Luckily the story did not betray itself.
This anime ended up have a very solid amount of action, good character building and a uniqe animation style which made for a nice overall effect. Now granted, there were many flaws in the anime and that is why I give it an 8. Being only 12 episodes is part of it. It was not a bad anime though and Im glad I got around to watching it.
Story: 9, for such a short time the story was not bad at all. This anime was too short to give it more then a 9 though.
Animation: 8, the 3D was strange at first but kinda cool later on. It gave a great feeling of disgust when they showed the aliens and the whips they used to attack with.
Sound: 7, didnt really feel it was special, but it was ok
Characters: 7, maybe this is a 7 because (again) the anime was too short. Too many characters seemed to much alike.
Overall: 8.5, it was an ok anime. Wasnt the best Ive seen but was way better then my first impression of it.
We meet again Mecha, only this time, I am the master fed up with your BS. Sidonia no Kishi is obviously not the worst the genre has to offer (and if you don't cringe when thinking of bad mecha shows then something is wrong)... but does it deserve to actually be called good? Sorta. Maybe. Kinda. Perhaps. It may just be the combined loathing I have for the genre, but it is hard for me to truly love the show.
There are plot holes, and by holes I mean "gaping", not tiny things you might not notice. The animation is mediocre at best, because despite it all, pure computer generated stuff requires a ridiculously high budget to be decent. Still, there are some redeeming features. The characters are not purely your cookie-cutter stuff. Some of the art is actually fantastic. Also, all jokes aside, the plot isn't bad and has its moments where it is actually original.
What really bugs me most about mecha in general and Sidonia no Kishi specifically is that using a robot shaped like a human makes absolutely zero sense. Just off the top of my head I can think of eight improvements that would make fighting the enemies easier (having legs is worse than useless in sapce, multipurpose things like arms are useless for something combat specific, locating the pilot in somewhere weakly shielded is stupid, locating the boosters on the back makes no sense and is inflexible, etc). I had hoped that there would be a reason why a centuries long military rule would design machines like that, and couldn't think of one other than "they look cool".
All this being said, Sidonia no Kishi is actually rather fun to view. It doesn't make light of itself in order to smooth over the holes in the plot, but luckily makes up for it with playing well on the themes that make mecha shows work. Scientific errors and lack of logic aside, the show manages to be dramatic at the right times, and even has a bit of humor added in with good timing.
Writing (Story and Characters):
This is the single weakpoint of 99% of things that can be described with the word "mecha". Sidonia no Kishi is no different in this, but isn't actually half bad. Classic structure and technical proficiency manage to make the most out of it. The series manages to be exciting, thrilling and well thought out overall, and that in mecha is a rare feat. This is doubly true without the super-character.
That being said, the one big problem with the series is the plot hole. THE plot hole. Sidonia no Kishi has one huge issue, and that is when one pilot frames another, causes the death of the girlfriend of the guy he framed, and the guy framed just takes it. Let alone the fact that there are no recording devices for transmissions in the military, something that is a staple of any military force since the technology was available. Still, the classic structure and avoidance of major cliches is a nice thing, and I cannot help but say that the story is nice in the other aspects of it.
From a character standpoint, the series is rather patient in letting the characters develop. It allows for some rather natural characters, which is a rare sight for mecha. Don't get me wrong, you will still find the cookie-cutter ones. But overall, the cast might err a bit on lacking personality due to being conservatively developed, but not on being badly developed. While not particularly exceptional, for a mecha show this is well above the standard.
The characters, at least some of them, thrive in the story. Both fit in with the world. Unfortunately, none of them develop enough for Sidonia no Kishi to be a complete package. That being said, it isn't supposed to be a complete package because there's a second season coming up. This is a good thing, as there is a feeling of curiousity as to where this is going... which is a sign of something well written overall.
Art (Animation and Sound):
Unsurprisingly, the art is well developed in Sidonia no Kishi. This is because it has to be, because without art the mecha genre has no excuse to exist. The problem is that the CG has moments where it is unimpressive. Still, overall it manages to bring the writing to life and give it a unique feel despite everything.
Computer generated graphics is a hard thing to not hate when it is focused around the movements of characters. While Sidonia no Kishi does a far better job than Kingdom and the usual gag-inducing ones, there are moments where the movement is just too unnatural. But, the backgrounds are great, the character designs solid, and the mecha fights are actually surprisingly good. There are moments of extreme awesome too: the super-slow motion and angle shifts add a lot of pathos to the combat when they appear.
Allow me to state this outright: the sound effects of Sidonia no Kishi are amazing, matching the visual side perfectly (including some innovative use during combat and slow motion sequences). The soundtrack is rather good, and while used dramatically, there are cases where the shift between to pieces is very abrupt. The voice acting is also rather good, if tending towards over the top during the dramatic parts, ignoring the fact that these are soldiers.
Overall, the art is suprisingly good. Especially for CG animation. It brings the world of Sidonia no Kishi to life, and allows the characters to thrive in it. Don't get me wrong, the flaws in human movement can get annoying, but are not too big a thing. Still, I'd hesitate to say anything is great other than the backgrounds, super-slow motion bits, and the sound effects. That's enough to be called a good showing all the same.
OK, I tend to trash mecha shows with glee. Sidonia no Kishi has its issues, but despite them all is a fun thing to view, and does some things rather well. Recommended to anyone who likes mecha stuff.
So this is a typical anime portraying a post-apocalyptic world with a small amout of hope left for humanity. However, it's not as gory and hopeless as Attack on Titan.
The storyline was well-written as a whole and you could tell the main plot was to survive against and kill the Gauna. I do hate the love relationship plots so I subtracted some points, even though they help play a major influence on Nagate's characterization.
I had first thought the CG animation would be horrible because it usually is. It looks almost the same as a normal anime. However, the animation for this anime turned out to be great. There are still a few places where I don't think the animation turned out to be well. You can tell the CG animation made it look fake.
The soundtrack was pretty good, matching up perfectly to the scenes. It made the peaceful scenes more calm while the dramatic scenes became more exciting. The sounds had basically enhanced the anime as a whole making it less boring.
The characters are pretty typical in the fact that they are like children. Nagate is really naive in the fact he doesn't really understand any hints of love from the girls, except for Hoshijiro. He usually walks into rooms filled with nude girls and then gets beat up for it. Izana is that comical character that just gets shut out every time she tries to make a move on Nagate, usually by Hoshijiro, creating a passive rivalry. There are still other characters, like Eiko Yamano where they're killed off almost as soon as you meet them. She does play a role in making Nagate hate Gauna, but maybe she should just be left out as a whole.
The anime was pretty good, and I liked it. Although I don't really like futuristic and mecha type anime, this particular one was really captivating.