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!
Set up in both 5.1 English and 2.0 Japanese, it also a 2.0 Spanish track combined with having English, Spanish and French subtitles. This is surprising but very pleasing for more accessibility in the market and feels more effort was taken into this series. The audio on default settings has to be in the 5.1 though, as in the stereo modes it always required the volume to be turned up quite a bit which was a shame, as the 5.1 track is excellent. There are no issues with synching with the subtitle tracks (though as I don’t speak Spanish I’m just going to guess with the timing there matched the words) or with the lip flaps, the only issue is the 2.0 in English in particular seemed quite a lot weaker than expected (there was a very noticeable difference when comparing other releases).
Set on an NTSC format over 3 discs in what amounts to be a full screen viewing, the animation is interesting as it was all done in a combination of computer generation and 3D Animation – the colours are mostly grayish though and it does come out at times a little grainy. No problems in terms of the quality – the animation is good, no slowdown or distorted animation when pausing, just more the case of what is showcasing on the viewers screen can sometimes seem a little off-putting.
The menus are similar on each of the 3 discs – all have Nagate in some form on the left hand side with either another character or technology on the right part before the centre – the right hand side has each of the episodes individually (no play all option but if you choose episode 1 that is the equivalent of play all), languages and special features. All are easily selectable and no issues with returning to the main menu (though it is strange that when you select an individual episode it doesn’t return you to the main menu – not that this is an issue as most of the time you will want to watch the next one but just different).
There is quite a sporadic amount of extras spread throughout the 3 discs. The first disc is quite basic – it has the clean opening and ending animation and other trailers from Sentai (which is strange as Sentai isn’t registered in the UK so these shows may not have been licensed yet in the UK) including Soni-Ani: Super Sonico, Muv-Luv Alternative, Ninja Scroll and She, the Ultimate Weapon.
Discs 2 and 3 however have a bit more in depth extras. We get a behinds the scenes sequence on each disc, Disc 2 looks at the World of Sidonia (in Japanese) where we see the cels, artwork, sketches, storyboards and production methods of the show (where you discover how the characters were made and animated in 3D) – the art director of Polygon Pictures showcases the characters details as best as possible. On Disc 3, we have part 2 of the behind the scenes which focuses more on the battle scenes, the production and creation process considering how in depth they are – again with things like the animation, storyboards, effects, movements, designs, character personalities, lighting, etc – they cram as much as they can inside a relatively small timeline which was more than welcome.
Disc 2 and 3 have similar extras in a different way as well – on Disc 2 we have a press conference which introduces some of the cast, – Aya Suzaki (Shizuka), Aki Toyosaki (Izana), Takahiro Sakurai (Kunato), Eri Kitamura (Honoka), Sayaka Ohara (Kobayashi), Eiko Yamano (Nanako), Tomohiro Tsuboi (Ichiro), Atsuko Tanaka (Samari), Koubun Shizuno (Director) and Hiroyuki Seshita (Assistant Director). Here, they explain the terms used in the show in detail (like the size of Sidonia) and each member explains their characters. On Disc 3, there is a very similar extra but it is an advance screening – here the cast is Ryoto Oosaka (Nagate) Aya Suzaki (Shizuka), Aki Toyosaki (Izana), Eri Kitamura (Honoka), Sayaka Oohara (Kobayashi), Kobun Shizuno (Director), and Hiroyuki Seshita (Assistant Director). Again, each of them speak up but this time answer questions – the other main difference is half way through, Angela, who sang the OP also arrive and take and answer questions too.
We also get a behind the scenes look at the Sound of Sidonia, as Asakura (music director) showcasing him composing the orchestral music, we see the violinists in action as he is giving instructions. Being a euphonium player when I was younger, it is fun seeing all the terms of the past being used and how calm he is in explaining what he actually wants.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Knights of Sidonia is another show that I went in cold turkey, with no real knowledge of the show beforehand. The concept gave me a feeling similar to Attack On Titan, with unusual beings used as protagonists but here, it is set up as they were not active for a long time and then cue the protagonist. So how well does it work here?
We start by introducing our main protagonist, Nagate, trying to steal food within the aforementioned Sidonia, a massive spaceship. What is interested is that the show establishes early that food is not something that is hugely used because most people can photosynthesise. So when Nagate gets caught, he is seen as something of an anomaly. This brings him the attention of Captain Kobayashi, a masked individual who is the highest authority of Sidonia who requests to become Nagate’s guardian. Immediately there is something about him but it isn’t established immediately what. Kobayashi only asks that Nagate enters their training program for being a Guardina pilot, where we learn that they are defending Sidonia against a hostile alien species named the Gauna, which had previously destroyed Earth. We meet other characters such as Shizuka and Izana (who can adapt to being male or female, making things interesting as Izana along with Shizuka is considered a love interest of Nagates’ as the show goes on). The show immediately showcases that he is a spanner in the works with knowledge of previous generations fighters allowing him to use a legendary ship called Tsugumori (much to many of the other cadets dismay), the fact the Gauna return at this moment after being missing for a century isn’t that big of a shock – what is though is that outside of Nagate, protagonist syndrome isn’t in full affect here, and with it being a short series, characters introduced early (including the top generation of pilots in episode 2) do die – there is enough info for you to feel bad for them, but not fully as the characters didn’t have enough time to develop.
Nagate himself along with him having knowledge of previous generations seems to be able to heal at an alarming rate, even more unique considering he has to eat. With his rival Kunato wondering why he is getting all the attention, whilst other people are starting to wonder what he is about. Other characters such a young woman named Yuhata who sees what Nagate’s combat is about, whilst Izana stays by his side to help battle. However, when the top pilots do die shockingly quick, Kobayashi is forced to defend whilst Nagate continues to improve, as well as disobey orders to try and save further people from death. With a lot of stories told with the past regarding the Guana, the idea that Kobayashi seems to be immortal (tying in with her interest in Nagate and his healing abilities) and people rallying in his favour. In the middle of it there is mild character drama with Nagato trying to suck up, and the girls/Izana definitely more interested in Nagate, this really takes a back seat to the back-story of the Gauna, and the idea that anyone can die when one of the potential love interests does die. This does lead to a critical story point though which I won’t mean who dies and also how the character is still a pivotal part of the story, but it is very cleverly told.
A lot is told about Nagates’ past whilst linking in with the current, combined with an apparent betrayal which led to the aforementioned spoiler death (and subsequent how that affects the Guana) – Nagate is involved in anything involving the Guana, leading to the conclusion told that he too is immortal, but as a liability in comparison to the other immortals, yet Kobayashi recognised that his grandfather, a friend of hers in the past named Saito, passed everything onto him, including his piloting skills. Again, clever dialogue and use of the past between Kobayashi and Saito is used here to interlink everything happening in the present.
Everything within the final four episodes hits the fan so to speak – Kunato for example, from a basic antagonist in jealousy, showcases his complexity, whilst not going to be friendly with Kunate is wrecked with guilt due to his role in the betrayal, and seeing his combined downward spiral with learning more about the past and Kobayashi adds a new dimension, plus the ideologies of the Guana and what their thoughts are is surprising too – it adds a new dimension with the big spoiler involving clones, and the giant Gauna pod ready to attack the Sidonia, adding to a lot of tension to the end.
This is an interesting series to review; as it does a lot in the 12 episodes it has been given. There is a lot of backstory, a lot of flashbacks which tie into the main protagonists’ skills and psyche, and then more story is revealed with the links between Kobayashi and Nagate’s grandfather, how his skills have been linked, and how it ties with the Guana returning. It feels strangely slow paced because of this, especially when there are a number of action scenes with the battles that, whilst don’t feel out of place, seems to be a way outside of the lot of talking scenes to hold attention.
Because of this, the show also suffers in a number of ways. The main one is that the series could have done with a few more episodes to showcase the world of Sidonia more and have more done with the battle sequences. Also, any character who isn’t Nagate really gets relegated to the background. There are some moments where you can see Nagate as part of a love triangle (though to the shows credit, they keep it to a minimum so it is more of a minor distraction to everything else that happens in the show) but characters like Izana, Shizuka, Yuhata, etc – they are all just there at times, though one of them does have a major role but in a different way than expected. The ‘anyone can die’ philosophy works better here than in Attack On Titan though, for example, because here, it really does feel bar Nagate anyone can die. A good example is when they introduce the 4 ace pilots in episode 2 and the way they are interested in Nagate is set up as potential mentors. Literally an episode later, they are dead and it does actually surprise you, and they aren’t the only people who suffer surprising deaths in this series either.
The animation combines CGI and 3D Animation to make a very grey and gritty series, it is set in space and isn’t really colourful, but for this series it works. The many ideas involved to make this future interesting, like the fact most people can photosynthesise whilst Nagate has to eat is interesting and wish more was made of that outside of a few rumbling stomach jokes and everyone looking confused at him. Nagate himself has to carry the show himself a lot, and he does do it well as his past is interesting, his links to Kobayashi (who is very shrouded in mystery which is a key interest of the show in how she is this immortal being – when she appears as the innkeeper when Nagate, Izana and Yuhata take a trip together in one of the few incidents where the love triangle is addressed, it causes quite a shock to Nagate and to the viewer) and how he becomes from hero to zero and back to hero, is quite the journey.
There isn’t a set antagonist in human form at least which is a slight issue as Kunato is obviously set up to be an antagonist and rival for him but it never really transpires as he falls into depression after his attempt to make Nagate look bad does work, but costing many lives realised a real battle isn’t like a simulation. He does become more interesting and the last episode sets up there could be more of him for the sequel, but like most of the cast, there isn’t enough time to establish more of those characters sadly, which is the biggest weakness of the series. The Guana also are part generic bad guys, but also with more history and depth than expected especially when the clone dynamics are applied (again, big spoiler involved so won’t say more than that) – yet in the end, they still are fought by Nagate – in when the series delivers its battle sequences, that is when the animation truly works and shines.
In short, it is a mixed bag of a series. The story is told well albeit at a slow pace, a lot of mystery and past flashbacks which tie in with the present, the action sequences are great and the lead holds his own. The issues with the lack of time with the other characters and how the story can drag down is quite noticeable as a lot is going on, but with the potential of a sequel considering the last episode and a lot of unanswered questions, there is definitely a lot more going for this…
Kinghts of Sidonia is more than Attack On Titan in space. They do their best in telling a complicated story in a sci-fi setting, with the lead Nagate slowly developed by good flashbacks, current relationships and facts we learn about him throughout. Whilst this is at the sacrifice of other characters, and there are a few goofball moments which seem out of place, the stuff it does right, it does very right, and with the set up as it is, there could be much more about the world of Sidonia we need to learn. Definitely intriguing at the very least.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK/Animatsu
Release Date: September 7th, 2015
Running Time: 300 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.