What They Say:
A thousand years after the alien Gauna destroyed the Earth, a small remnant of humanity still fights on to survive, fleeing on the gargantuan asteroid-based spaceship Sidonia. But centuries of flight and warfare have changed mankind in incredible ways: genetic engineering has allowed humans to photosynthesize like plants, reproduction occurs through cloning, and a third gender has been created to balance the population.
Even though it’s been a century since the last encounter with the Gauna, military service is mandatory, with all those able enough enlisted to pilot the Garde robots that stand as Sidonia’s front line of defense. For Nagate Tanikaze, whose grandfather secretly hid him in the forgotten bowels of the asteroid, it’s a strange new world as he’s forced to come to the surface and join the ranks of defenders.
Yet his recruitment comes just in time, for the Gauna have suddenly reappeared, and what could be man’s last battle will require every resource humanity has left. And what no one knows, yet, is that Nagate is not exactly what he seems, and a secret buried in his past may change the fate of all mankind!
The audio presentation for this release is a very good one as we get the original Japanese language track and the English language adaptation, both of which are in 5.1 encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The mix is one that works really well in a lot of places with the sound design of the show itself, which is brought out even more because of the encoding. There’s some great little sounds that come in with the nature of the ships, the characters and their settings and more. There’s also some decidedly creepy sounds along the way as well. The two language tracks work really well in bringing the show to life and it immerses you into it in a great way, especially the subtle sounds in the quiet scenes and the incidental sounds that comes along to breathe more life into it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and the action sequences stand out strongly, making this a great show overall in this area and problem free.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second, which is where all the extras are too. Animated by Polygon Pictures, the series is one that goes for the digital 3D shaded style design, which I found off-putting in indie programs done years ago, but it’s changed so much and it’s so appropriate for this series that it fits beautifully. There’s a great design here with the colors that are used for it to create the right atmosphere, a lot of fantastic detail to be had in the backgrounds and some really slick action sequences that look great throughout with high bit rates to maintain it well. The visual quality here is definitely something that comes through with the transfer here and really is striking in so many scenes.
This collector’s edition release is done up really well with a heavy chipboard box that holds the two DVD sized keepcases and the large spacer box that holds the extras (and potentially the second season). The front of the box has one of the familiar images of Nagate and Hoshijiro together looking upward with the mecha behind them, while the star filled background looks great and gives it a distinctive feeling. The back of the box has a really great illustration style piece of the interior of Sidonia with a look at several of the main characters standing throughout it that gives it a good weighty, if familiar feeling. The two keepcases inside are nicely done as well with familiar and creepy artwork used from different periods of the show on the front while the back covers have close ups of parts of their mecha. Each case is for the discs for each format and they both provide a breakdown of the episodes by title and number along them so you know what’s where for each of them. The rest is given over to the familiar production credits as well as a good listing of the technical specs for each of them that’s clean and accurate. Both cases have artwork on the reverse side where the Blu-ray one goes for a good space scene while the DVD one has a really nice group shot of a few of the main characters together that have a pretty positive look about them.
The spacer box that holds the extras for the collector’s edition is one that really looks great and has a better feeling than most, especially with full color artwork choices. The front of it has one of my favorite images of Nagate and Hoshijiro together, back to back and holding hands, but set in different settings that provides for some great contrast. The back panel has a good space based image with Nagate’s craft attacking he Gauna, with lot sof bright colors in the right place but also some great contrasting darkness with the Gauna itself. Inside the box we get a pretty good clear sticker with the series logo, a foil embossed double sided postcard that has the haunting image of Hoshiroji on one side and the main promotional image of Nagate on the other, and a full color doublesided poster that uses that Nagate image as well while the reverse uses the Sidonia symbol. The big piece of the extras here for me though is the inclusion of fifteen glossy high quality postcards that shows off some great imagery used from the packaging here and more, as well as lots of background images that we get pieces of throughout the show as eye-catches.
The menu design for this release is one that goes simply but has the right kind of detail to fit in thematically to the design of the show. The main menus are done with static images and the first disc sets the tone well with a look at one of the action sequences in space with all the debris that floats around, the detail in the ship and mechanical design of it all and the main Gardes ships themselves. There’s a good color design to it that has a range from dark to light in a good way. The right side has a good navigation design that uses the computer screen design from within the show to break down the episodes by number and title and with the submenus for languages and extras as well. The languages has a bit more to it than usual since the set has Spanish and French subtitles that were created for its Netflix run.
The extras for this release are on the second disc and there’s a good amount of them that lets you really delve into it. The two behind the scenes pieces goes into the production side from Japan well and they’re about eight minutes each, showing the animation process itself pretty well. The press conference segment works well in showing about seventeen minutes of it with some additional footage from when they began to really show off the series in Japan about six months or so ahead of time. The advance screening segment has one of the pre-show pieces with the main cast coming to talk about it first, which clocks in at 25 minutes and is standard PR stuff, but fun to listen to and watch in seeing the actors talk about the production. The other extras I liked is the ten minute Sound of Sidonia as it showed what went into the sound design of the series, which really is striking in many ways. Add in the clean opening and closing and there’s some solid extras to be had here.
Based on the manga of the same name by Tsutomu Nihei, Knights of Sidonia is a fascinating first test case show that had Netflix acquiring the rights to it and bringing it to multiple territories they’re in around the world as an original series. It got a normal spring 2014 season airing in Japan, but it wasn’t simulcast anywhere else. To make things even more interesting, they worked to make it as accessible as possible in its Netflix debut by creating the dub along the way so the whole series can be viewed in either its original Japanese or the well done English language track. And like other Netflix original series, we got all thirteen episodes at once. Hopefully folks that enjoy the show will check out the manga as Vertical is releasing it in North America. What the big question came down to was wondering who would pick up the home video rights for it. And Sentai Filmworks snagged them and has gone all out with a big collector’s edition that’s certainly worthy of the series.
Knights of Sidonia is the kind of series that reaffirms my interest in anime and manga in a way. The series is one that plays to a loose scale a lot of the time, not getting bogged down in being completely descriptive of the passage of time or dealing with the minutiae of the daily lives on board the ship itself, and instead looks at the bigger picture and the sweeping emotions of it. And while I would certainly like to get a lot more detailed look at the larger background of the series, because I’m the type that likes to have those kinds of foundation pieces brought into play to add to the narrative overall, they’re not necessary here. What we need to know is that it’s the 27th century and humanity, and Earth, has largely been wiped out due to a sprawling galactic battle with aliens known only as Gauna. They’re not creatures that have tried to communicate with humanity and there’s a kind of simple and almost parasitic/antibody kind of feeling about them, but they invoke a kind of primal fear in those that have to deal with them and what they represent. And with the way humanity has been hit so hard by them for so long, and forced changes to the species, it’s understandable that there is a natural fear of them that grows as the ability to fend them off lessens.
The focus is on the large space faring vessel known as the Sidonia, which looks like a good part of a gun that’s been shoved through a massive asteroid and is making its way through space. The plan they have overall is to find a new world to colonize and ensure humanity’s survival, but it’s been a long and troubling journey so far where they’ve faced hundreds of Gauna and have barely been able to truly eliminate many of them due to the way you have to break their core. To accomplish this, they use mecha units known as Garde with pilots that work in various sized teams to deal with it. Sidonia has a strong military feeling about it, a necessity to survive after so long, but there’s more to it than that. The show focuses mostly on it though because these are the people defending against the Gauna and trying to keep everyone safe.
What proves to be the gamechanger to events is the arrival of a young man named Nagate Tanikaze, who has operated outside of the system since his birth as his grandfather hid him away and raised him with specialized training. Nagate’s existence is a surprise since things are carefully regulated, and his introduction to this world feels weird in what he’s allowed to do, though there are reasons for it explained that are certainly logical and make sense as the history of the past hundred years is revealed over the course of it. While most of the cadets are working with the latest virtual simulators, Nagate has worked on one from a previous model that gives him an edge in how he thinks and performs. While Nagate ends up coming across as a gifted but flawed pilot as he gets into it, a lot of it really is explained away with reasoning that really does make sense while not coming across as forced, because it all ties into the larger history.
Originally, I had watched the first episode of this when it was on Netflix with the intent of watching the rest, but I never made it back to it. Watching it with this set for the first time in full for this season, I have to admit that the first episode is an interesting one but also a rough one, partially because of its animation style, but also because you’re trying to learn Nagate’s situation and then seeing the world that he experienecs for the first time himself as he’s captured and brought into Sidonia proper. But as we explore more of it, seeing how there are different genders that exist in this world, that people have adapted to the minimal food situation by engineering themselves into using photosynthesis, and seeing the various factions that exist, it becomes wholly engaging and very realized. And even some of the smaller things that could be a throwaway idea, such as the Immortal Council that have given up their bodies to an extent in order to survive this journey and bring their ancient wisdom to a new world, provide some intriguing context to the world.
As the series progresses, we do see a series of relationships unfold that are intriguing to watch, especially since Nagate is kind of oblivious to the interest others have in him. Izana alone is interesting since they’re not gender based and can choose what they want to be, and there’s a good blending where you can see them as both male and female depending on how they’re acting at the time in some ways. We also get a more traditional relationship with Hoshijiro, a more experienced young woman who has a real interest in him and pursues him openly, leading to some tense moments with Izana while Nagate is trying to grasp living in Sidonia. And there’s some good male influence as well with those that interact with him, such as one of the better pilots named Kunato who ends up having a breakdown during one of the battles when things get disastrously serious and he’s unable to truly process the situation.
For me, what really drew me to the series as it goes on is that it takes all the historical aspects of the show and reveals them carefully and slowly, and the connections in the present to pieces of the past that explains away what’s going on. I also rather liked that the Gauna are fairly uncommunicative, at least until a radical event happens later in the series, as it reminded me of a lot of my favorite science fiction books where the other side is just so alien that they’re incomprehensible. But it’s also a series that plays well to building a society and introducing its elements to make it feel fully realized, though not as populated as one might hope due to budgetary considerations. It also excels in a huge way with its presentation of the action sequences as what Polygon Pictures does here is utilize the CG in the best way possible to make it thrilling, exciting and utterly dangerous with what it can present. There’s a sense of weight and importance to the battles and the visual design brings it out beautifully.
Knights of Sidona is the rare series where when I get to the end of the set, I was salivating for more and wanting to be immersed in this world even more. It’s the kind that made me wish it was based on a series of (not light) novels that I could just dig into the world and its deeper meanings because there’s a whole lot to talk about in the details of it all with the situation the Sidonia finds itself in. The main driver of the show is certainly Nagate himself, but more of a catalyst that propels things into action, including himself. Sidonia as a whole is what’s fascinating, as is the changes we’re starting to see in the Gauna towards the end of this set, which draws you into it all the more. Sentai Filmworks has put together a strong release here as a whole, from packaging to presentation and to the extras, and for fans of it, it’s a must-own set easily. This is a fantastic show that gives me exactly the kind of science fiction action oriented work I’ve been craving and does it in a beautifully striking way.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Alternate Angle Version – Uncensored, Behind the Scenes Parts 1-2, Press Conference, Advanced Screening, Sounds of Sidonia, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 9th, 2015
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.