Sidonia no Kishi

Title:Sidonia no Kishi
Knights of Sidonia
Keywords: , , , , , , ,
Notables: Animation - POLYGON PICTURES
OHARA Sayaka
R1 License - Sentai Filmworks (ADV)
It's been a thousand years since the Gauna, a strange alien race with no known method of communication, destroyed the solar system. A portion of humanity managed to escape using enormous "seed ships" like the Sidonia, which have allowed them to maintain the population while drifting through space. Nagate Tanikaze is a young man who has been raised deep in the bowels of the ship. When he goes into training to pilot the huge robotic weapons known as Gardes, Nagate is entrusted with piloting the legendary unit known as Tsugumori. Nagate and his fellow pilots put their lives on the line against the Gauna, in the ultimate battle for the survival of humanity.
(Synopsis courtesy of ANN)

[TV series, 2014, 12 episodes, 24 min; based on an ongoing Seinen manga with 12+ volumes since 2009.]

See also: Sidonia no Kishi: Dai-kyou Wakusei Seneki
Episode Details 
05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Watch 10 10 8 7 5 5 Ggultra2764 [series:2896#1552]
Knights of Sidonia is an anime that pushes a hard sci-fi storyline mixed with elements of "real robot" mecha in exploring the Sidonia fleet's struggles against a mysterious alien threat in space that has nearly driven humanity to the brink of extinction. The major element of Sidonia that sticks out prominently is the meticulous detail it provides to showing off the world of the Sidonia space colony. The series devotes a great amount of effort in detailing varying elements to the civilization of the series as humans aboard Sidonia have undergone genetic engineering that provide them with differing abilities to adapt to the space colony environment they live in that include utilizing cloning to increase population size and giving humans the ability to perform photosynthesis to reserve on food supplies. This meticulous detail also went into the mecha and technologies of the series as limitations of their capabilities, the zero gravity of space, potential for casualties and ammo/ energy reserves are factored into missions and battle tactics seen throughout the series a la past "real robot" titles like Gasaraki and Patlabor.

The other prominent element to Sidonia that sticks out is its high quality visuals. Milking use of 3DCG animation, the use of the technology helps to give more realistic detail to its character and scenery designs with subdued color tones to compliment the title's serious storytelling. Movement is very fluid throughout the series, best highlighted in showing off the realistic effects that gravity has on the human pilots and the intense action scenes that take place between the Sidonia mecha and the alien threat they are dealing with. The only setbacks with the use of 3DCG with Sidonia are that its use give character designs a somewhat plastic feel that can be rather noticeable in some camera angles and facial designs are poorly animated with limited range of expression.

When it comes to the story and characters of Knights of Sidonia as a whole, the series is a bit on the generic side in these areas. Sidonia mostly relies on story elements and character archetypes typical of sci-fi titles to carry along the series and it doesn't really offer anything new for the genre that I might have already seen before. The gifted teenage pilot and uptight, jealous rival seen in the form of Nagate and Norio's chemistry has been a recurring character dynamic of past titles and this dynamic is rather shallow since both characters don't get much in the way of dimension or depth. This issue also applies to the majority of other characters seen throughout the series as they mostly exist to fill specific tropes found in sci-fi anime, from the doomed love interest (which the Gundam franchise milked enough for many of its titles) to the secret group of superiors having ulterior motives hidden from the majority of those within their ranks. The whole "post-apocalyptic future where humanity struggles against an alien threat" premise is also nothing new and Sidonia offers nothing new to let it stick out from other titles milking similar plots.

There were also some noticeable issues I took notice of with the anime's plotting. Due to the limited depth given to much of the cast, the character deaths seen lack any impact and Sidonia makes a half-assed attempt to force viewers into caring for them by having characters aboard the Sidonia bond with Nagate on the episode they die in. One particular incident that happens during the middle of the series is a bit dumbfounding in how the perpetrator behind it can get off scot-free without any repercussions nor suspicion of it thoroughly investigated by the military, leading to a pointless case where Nagate is reduced to a depressed state and lashed out against by the Sidonia populace. I also have to wonder where in a series that is as meticulously realistic with its sci-fi depiction as Sidonia is, why it has a talking bear with a robotic arm in the form of Lala Hiyama as there is nothing revealed over why she appears as she is while everyone else aboard the Sidonia is human in appearance. In addition, the series ends inconclusively as there are lingering mysteries unresolved with several plot elements within Sidonia.

While Sidonia is pleasing enough with its animation and implementation of realistic elements for its sci-fi, the series doesn't offer much new to the sci-fi and mecha genres that have been seen from similar titles of its ilk, which made it hard for me to care much for the story and characters it had to offer up. Action and sci-fi fans may enjoy this if they overlook this problem. But Sidonia had me feeling like I seen the stuff it offered up too many times at this point in my 13 years of anime fandom.

Last updated Wednesday, July 29 2015. Created Wednesday, July 29 2015.
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(All episodes watched--twice):

Judging from the title, and the mention of 'knights' especially, I was expecting Sidonia to be another generic and unremarkable fantasy sword and sorcery anime; but it turned out to be much better than that, namely an intriguing science-fiction story set in the future. I couldn't help but be interested in all the little bits and pieces of what life on the spaceship/space colony Sidonia is like: the 'Biogenerator', which apparently doubles as a means of execution for criminals, the seedy basement of the wondrous tower, anxiety about the 'undead', people of a third gender--a serious effort is made to engage in science fiction. This show takes the trouble to create a unique and engaging background for the story. Perhaps the basic premise itself isn't all that radical; a guy is recognized as having special abilities and is promoted to the coveted occupation of mecha pilot. What his talents are had yet to be revealed, but the detail that had been provided gave this scenario a plausibility which most mecha shows lack. The CG animation could integrate a little more smoothly, and character designs ought to be a little more distinctive. But this show interested me enough to put forward the necessary effort to keep track of what was going on, and it didn't make that task unnecessarily difficult. In most anime I wouldn't be getting enough enjoyment in exchange for the trouble for it to be worthwhile.

The animation really is pretty crude, in a way--like early CG from maybe ten years ago. But, paradoxically, that kind of makes this show unusual and catches my attention--I'm not sure if 'fixing' the problem would make Sidonia better or worse. On the other hand, episode two included a genuinely exciting and frightening battle scene with fluid animation. Afterwards, we learn some more about what's going on and how the war with the 'Gauna' came about. The 'mankind fighting for existence against monstrous aliens' premise sort of reminds me of Gunbuster. I was gladly soaking this new information up, because it is intriguing. When the credits appeared, I swore because I was really enjoying the episode and wanted it to continue. The main plot hasn't surprised me; you could guess what was going to happen when a team of the supposed best mecha pilots was sent out to deal with the Gauna. But the plot doesn't do anything wrong, either; it seems to use tried-and-true storytelling techniques, and the frills give it enough originality to be fun to watch.

Fuck! (in a good way)--that was the word that came to me after watching episode four. This is the coolest damn show I have seen in good while. I got a distinct thrill (which doesn't happen often) out of what happened here. This show clearly takes science fiction seriously, and the technology--stuff like the 'mass driver', or the effect of sudden changes in gravity--makes sense and is fascinating to watch. And weird stuff is clearly going on behind the scenes--like the skull-like beings/devices/whatever that advise (or issue orders to?) the masked woman who seems to be in command (she takes off her mask in episode six). This is a show in which I dread each episode coming to an end, because I'm totally engaged. I like the 'refresher' bit that we get at the start of each episode--even when watching an engaging show, like this one, it helps to be brought up to speed about what the last important development was. A week or more has probably passed since the last episode, after all.

The storytelling could get kind of difficult to follow at times. Perhaps this show has a slight problem with assuming that viewers will automatically draw the correct conclusions from the hints that are dropped. Episode eight tells us a good deal about Tanikaze's background and why he is considered important and has gotten special treatment. I doubt if I understood everything, but I think I grasped enough to keep track of what's going on. The fact that people can be cloned, brains can be transferred to alternate bodies, and all sorts of tricks like this are possible make it difficult to keep track of who's who, but are intriguing nevertheless. Have I mentioned that one of the characters seems to be a talking bear? I'm guessing it's an artificial body for an eccentric person who seems to have been around for a long time and was fairly important once. I may have to watch Sidonia twice to 'get' everything, but in this case I wouldn't mind at all. Having enjoyed this show as much as I had, I was confident that everything would come together in a thrilling and perfectly plausible manner at some point.

The biggest battle yet is looming in episode eleven. Will the newly commissioned Izana survive her first battle? What effect is the captured alien having? How will Tanikaze break through the swarm of Gauna? All sorts of exciting questions leap to mind and there's clearly a lot at stake, given how wrapped up I have gotten in this show and how much I like the characters whose lives are on the line. Perhaps one reason I like this show is because I like Tanikaze. Usually, he's a shy, almost goofy sort of guy, but in battle he becomes grim and determined. He's gradually learning all sorts of things about why the important people in Sidonia take an interest in him. In general, he has both strengths and weaknesses, and acts in a realistic way which we can identify with.

The wild, exciting, Star Wars-like battle in episode twelve, and the wrap-ups afterwards (like Tanikaze going to see the man who betrayed him) left me in awe of Sidonia as a whole. Damn, that was a cool show--a work of literature converted into animation, not the usual mass-produced anime fare. This is what makes watching the first episode of almost every new anime at the start of a season worthwhile, because now and then a show of this caliber will come along. Some people say that Sidonia was nothing but yet another rehash a mecha stereotypes, but if so I think it was an extremely skillful one which outdid many of the classics in which those stereotypes were born. My only complaint is that all the various plot strands (most of which have yet to be unraveled) were kind of confusing. But this is the sort of show which I'm tempted to begin rewatching rightaway--that doesn't happen often. This turned out to definitely be my favorite anime series of the Spring 2014 season. I'm eager for the second season, "Sidonia no Kishi: Dai-kyu Wakusei Seneki" ("Knights of Sidonia: War of the Ninth Planet") which is supposed to be forthcoming.

I have started rewatching this show a second time, and I find that the reruns are much more fun than most, if not all, of the new series that I'm watching concurrently. The plot seems to make more sense to me the second time around. The first time I didn't understand a lot of these hints and as a result they didn't register in my mind, but now I have an idea where they are leading and am intrigued. The story seems to zip along without wasting time, and I enjoy watching a lot. Rather than a mecha series with some science fiction, I would call this a science fiction series with some mecha. The mark of a bad mecha series is when the mobile suits have as much or more personality than the characters do, but that certainly isn't the case here. Sidonia is clearly about the characters, not the mecha. Oh, and I caught the trick Kunato used to discredit Tanikaze during the attempt to capture a Gauna's tail--I knew he had done something bad, but I missed exactly what it was the first time around. And the secrets behind the Immortal Council, The Captain, Tanikaze's relationship with his 'grandfather', the technology that can defeat a Gauna--all these things make a good deal more sense as I rewatch. I wonder why I missed so many points the first time around. By chance I was also rewatching Evangelion as I rewatched Sidonia, and I greatly preferred the latter. I know exactly (or almost exactly) what's going on here while I was constantly confused and frustrated about where Eva was going. I love this show.

Last updated Saturday, February 01 2020. Created Friday, April 18 2014.

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