We Are the Knights Who Say aNIme

Alex watches too much TV and then thinks about it for longer than is healthy.

For some time now I have been thinking about delving into the world of anime and manga, so many people seem to love it and I thought it was high time to see what all the fuss is about. But even with this sense of determination, an ever-lengthening list of TV shows to watch and a fear of accidentally watching some weird tentacle based hentai has up until now kept me away from the genre. Recently however, a combination of Netflix and insomnia led me to bite the bullet, hoping curiosity would not kill the cat with an invasive tentacle, and watch “Knights of Sidonia” an anime show localised by almighty Netflix and based on a popular manga series of the same name.

The series revolves around the life of Nagate Tanikaze, a young man brought up in secret by his grandfather in the bowels of a giant space ship who, following his grandfather’s death, emerges into the society on the levels above. The ship “Sidonia” is gigantic and fashioned from the remnants of planet Earth, which was destroyed long before by mysterious and creepy space creatures called “Gauna” (who coincidentally feature a lot of tentacles). These Gauna still pursue the remnants of humanity across the universe and it is unknown whether any other ships aside from this one have survived. The ship is protected by the pilots of a fleet of transformer-like fighter jets armed with the only weapons capable of piercing these betentacled weirdos and reducing them to what looks suspiciously like Aero chocolate bubbles. Our hero has mysteriously somehow been trained by his grandfather to be an excellent pilot of one of these fighters and the story follows his journey to becoming a heroic defender of the ship and its inhabitants. There is also a talking bear with a robotic claw who is a chef, and it’s just NEVER mentioned that she’s a bear and there are no other animal people at all. If that fact alone doesn’t sell the series to you I don’t know what will.

knights-of-sidonia-talking-bear

I have to admit I found some of the early episodes quite slow and was on the verge of abandoning ship, but it is at this point a few episodes in that things really start to get going as some genuinely unsettling aspects of the Gauna are revealed and the first hints of a deeper mythology to the show are introduced. I was also really impressed by the world that has been created aboard Sidonia as more of it was unveiled as the series went along. There are some really cool sci-fi ideas, like humans having genetically engineered the ability to photosynthesise to reduce food consumption, as well as some interesting and surprisingly dark exploration of the dangers of day to day living on a spacecraft, like gravity malfunctions or evasive manoeuvres killing thousands of residents in graphic splattery detail completely out of the blue. The universe of this show is futuristic and high-tech, but with a very utilitarian and grubby feel to it that is reminiscent of the workmanlike future in Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” or the noir tower blocks of “Blade Runner”, which is an excellent thing in my opinion.

I was also struck by the similarity between this show and the more recent version of Battlestar Galactica; the remnants of humanity flee through space from a mysterious enemy bent on their destruction, protected only by brave fighter pilots as they search for a new home. The flight suits of the Sidonia pilots also bear quite a resemblance to the Viper pilots of Galactica, I’m not sure if this is intentional as I suppose there are limited options when designing a flight suit but I would like to think it is a little nod to Starbuck and her cohorts. I don’t think this similarity to a blockbuster American show is a bad thing, and it is in no way a rip off there are just similar themes. It puts the tropes and traditions of anime into a recognisable story format for those like me who have no previous experience with the genre. This blend of American style adventure story telling and Japanese sensibilities really does create something new, interesting and accessible; for newbs like me the story is engaging and you pick up the anime bits and bobs along the way and for seasoned fans it has all the style elements you enjoy in a great sci-fi setting. Also story-wise answers are given quickly to thematic and background related questions, which is a refreshing approach considering the infuriating lack of answers at the very end of shows like BSG or Lost in recent years.

The arc of the series comes to a satisfying end that certainly leaves scope for more, and I do hope it gets a second season as it’s only in the last couple of episodes that a great deal of things come to light that suggest the history of Sidonia is not as simple as this cat and mouse game with the Gauna would indicate and it would be great to see these avenues explored fully.  So overall this is a cracking bit of sci-fi with a great theme tune and a good genre jumping on point for the anime-curious like myself.

7 Heigus Particles out of 10.

Alex

 

 

 

The Argument: Would You Have Given Jayne A Second Chance?

Comic Review – Copperhead #1

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

This week, along with the couple of other creator-owned titles and a few of the Futures End issues (of drastically varying quality) from DC’s September event, I picked up Copperhead #1 from Image Comics, written by Jay Faerber, with art by Scott Godlewski, colours from Ron Riley and letters by Thomas Mauer.

Copperhead is a sci-fi western (I love a sci-fi western) set in the titular town on the planet of Jasper. Our main character, Clara Bronson, is moving to Copperhead to start a new life with her young son Zeke. Taking up the recently vacated Sheriff’s position (or ‘Sherif’), Clara and Zeke are greeted by her surly Deputy Budroxifinicus (or ‘Boo’), one of many of the various species living in Copperhead. They soon head out to a domestic disturbance, where Deputy Boo doesn’t really help, and return to the station to find the local mine owner and his artificial human bodyguards, seemingly running some form of racket (and whose dialogue, I’m pretty sure, is impossible to read in anything but a sleazy Southern accent). Before Clara and Zeke can settle in to their new home that evening, Boo calls reporting a murder that she has to head out to investigate. And Zeke suffers from Carl Grimes syndrome, because he doesn’t stay in the damn house when he is told to.

The story is interesting, if a little slow in building the groundwork for the world and the characters. The basic premise is good though, like a cop show but set in a desolate frontier town in the middle of nowhere. In a letter at the back, Faerber describes his original idea as ‘Deadwood in space’, which is pretty accurate. The dialogue is strong, and a few pieces are teased about Sheriff Bronson’s past and a presumably fairly large and possibly interplanetary war that ended at least relatively recently. The art was great, with the sand-blasted barren Copperhead looking bleak and bringing out the varying colours of the different species. The night-time scenes at the end of the issue were particularly vivid and gorgeous despite being a little gruesome. It actually reminded me of Fiona Staples’ art, with the alien creatures and locales blending perfectly with the humans mixing in with them.

This felt like it could have been set on a planet in the Firefly universe if there were a few alien species (and not just Dead Bessie), and for that reason alone I was bound to enjoy it. The story, while a slow burner, is intriguing and I liked all the characters a great deal. Check this out in your local comic shop, or digitally with your recently unveiled pointless watch phone or whatever.

Score: 8 Bullet Ridden Uniforms out of 10

Comic Review – Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #6

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he is going to attempt a mini review of his favourite one, with potential minor spoilers.

There were a lot of great comics this week, but as it was ending (and I forgot to pick up Outcast #1) I decided to review the finale of the Serenity: Leaves on the Wind mini-series. It was published by Dark Horse Comics, as I think all or most of the Serenity comics have been. Leaves on the Wind #6 was written by Zack Whedon, with pencils from Georges Jeanty, inks from Karl Story, colours by Laura Martin and letters by Michael Heisler. I don’t think we’ve made it a big secret at The Lost Lighthouse how much we love Firefly and Serenity, so it was pretty much guaranteed that I was going to pick up this series.

Leaves on the Wind has been the first story, after a couple of one shots, that follows on from the events of the Serenity film. For those unfamiliar with the short lived Joss Whedon sci-fi series Firefly and the feature film Serenity that continued the story (though I find it hard to believe anyone reading this site hasn’t seen either), the story follows the crew of the ship Serenity, led by Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds, as they take odd jobs both legal and illegal to try and make ends meet. Nine months after the events of the film, where Mal and his crew unleashed damning information about the ruling Alliance government to the whole ‘verse, they are laying low. Following complications during child birth, the crew are forced to leave Zoe at an Alliance hospital to save her life, even though her status as a known criminal ensures her incarceration after medical treatment. The series then becomes focused on finding and rescuing Zoe, taking care of her newly born child and encountering the new resistance born out of the signal Mal released. This final issue sees the crew finally locate Zoe and stage a grand rescue from a prison planet. A pretty simple, but very well executed conclusion. The twists and turns in the story, a few of which come to a head in this issue and particularly in the cliffhanger at the end, are really where the meat of the story comes from and I don’t really want to spoil any of it.

The story is really solid, and there are some great appearances from old favourite characters that are unexpected and completely serve the story rather than feeling like fan service. Zack Whedon nails the dialogue and personality of every member of the crew, getting the almost lyrical quality in the speech that served the show so well spot on (“This job can’t go but one way. Turns out you’re beyond your depth, I ain’t gonna drag you back.”). The art is great too. Jeanty captures the look of each of the actors who played River, Kaylee, Mal, Zoe and the others without making it photo-realistic, which often looks clunky and a little bit valley-of-the-uncanny. As with his work on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer continuation comics, his faces resemble the actors they are based on but as they would be in an actual comic, so it fits well. The rest of the art team do a great job bringing this all to life, especially the colours from Laura Martin. The pick up in issue #6 looks gorgeous, and considering how may people are wearing brown and it takes place in a desert, everything is really clear and vibrant.

The only drawback, if there is one at all, is that this comic very much depends on you being familiar with these characters. The story is written well enough that you can entirely follow what is going on through the series without having ever watched an episode of Firefly, I’m just not sure you would care about anything that happens. I’d still recommend checking it out, and if you like it then try the show. If you are a Firefly fan, definitely pick this series up. It is a really strong continuation of the series we all loved, and I really hope there is more. Check the series out, and try to track down all 6 issues of the mini-series if you can (or read it digitally!). If you can’t manage it, or can’t be arsed, Dark Horse will be releasing a hard cover of the whole of Leaves on the Wind in November. So check it out then!

Score: 9 Powers in the ‘verse out of 10