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.
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.