What They Say:
Discovering the nature of one’s individual identity is a question every sentient being confronts. Do you only count if you’re entirely human? What does it mean to be a person? In a war with the alien Gauna, capable of absorbing and re-purposing human DNA, these are no longer abstract questions In these uncertain conditions, pilot Nagate Tanikaze finds himself developing an obsession with the Gauna clone of his deceased beloved, Hoshijiro.
Meanwhile, his close friend, Izana, a manufactured non-binary human, goes through an alarming change as their feelings for Nagate grow. Existential and romantic problems will have to wait though, as the Guana step up their attacks and a virtual coup d’état threatens to throw Sidonia’s leadership into chaos, while even darker forces stir within. The very definition of what it means to be human is about to be questioned as the battle to survive continues in KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA SEASON 2: BATTLE FOR PLANET NINE!
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 2015, 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.
The packaging for this regular edition release is well done as we get a standard sized Blu-ray case with a hinge inside to hold the two TV series discs while the movie disc is against the back wall. The cover artwork works a good image of our main three characters together, though Tsumugi gets the dual position of being in the foreground and background at the same time thanks to what she’s like. It’s certainly heavy on the pink color and it doesn’t really sell itself on what it is that it is, but for fans of the show it’s a decent image that works well enough. The back cover has some nice graphics to it with the high-tech view of Tsumugi and we get a couple of far too small shots from the show that doesn’t add much. The premise is straightforward and captures the right concepts and we get a really good breakdown of the extras. The rest is pretty text heavy as we get the production credits and technical grid along with all the usual technical credits and copyright information that takes up a growing chunk of real estate. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
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 once again pretty good all around as we get the broadcast version of the final episode, which is wonderful for completists/purists to have, as well as familiar things like the clean opening and closing, some of the promos and the trailers. We also get the brief Blame! Teaser for that project, which comes in at about a minute, and the movie comes with its own teasers and trailers. Honestly, I would also include the film as a bonus here – the back cover does – as it’s one of those interesting compilation projects.I watched some of it after finishing off the season and it mostly reminded me why I liked the original but also you come across so much missing that helped to expand the wonder and interest in the locations and settings that it doesn’t ring quite as true. Sentai put that film on its own disc here and it works as a great way to reconnect with the property as a whole before the second season. It’s done with just the original Japanese with English subtitles but that’s not a surprise.
The first season of Knights of Sidonia was a series that put me in that rare position of wanting a second season right away. A lot of shows come and go and they’re enjoyable but few really make me crave more. The second season landed a year after the original was broadcast and I actually did watch it when Netflix put it out. What I found at that time was a show that was difficult to put into words with how I felt about it, especially coming off of the home video release of the first season in a super collector’s edition. So I held off on writing about it to give it some time to percolate and then to revisit with this collection to see if a little time and space helps to put it all together in the right context.
That first season had a lot to do in establishing so many characters, the setting, the larger war, and the introduction of the Gauna in new and more terrifying forms. It went big in a great way making for some fantastic battles and building the characters up. With this season, a lot of what we get is more character oriented and with touches of intrigue throughout that really does come across as a proper middle chapter of a story rather than a full on season of a story all of its own. That’s not to minimize what we do get here as it does a lot of really good stuff with its characters, At its core, the focus is on Izana and Tanikaze as they’ve been together from nearly the start. There’s a slow and cautious kind of approach to things born out of a society like this where it’s not “traditional” courting in the sense that we know it. And it’s made more complicated by Tanikaze having lived with just his grandfather for almost his entire life and not really been involved with most social mores.
Where things become complicated in this season in dealing with them is the introduction of Tsumugi. There’s a lot of awe and wonder when we get here as the large space worthy form that can do some amazing combat maneuvers in space that their ships can’t, but what we get from Tsumugi that changes the view is that she’s like Tanikaze in her lack of experience in normal human ways while having that human element to her. What makes me like this story, one we’ve seen many times over, is that they don’t make her a cute human girl that’s too young or too sexy or any of the other cliches. She really is just this massive Gauna hybrid that’s powerful but contains the mind of an adolescent child exploring human interaction. To make it more accessible within the confines of the ship, however, we get the penis-extension that she looks like that maneuvers throughout the pipes and takes up residence with Tanikaze and Izana when he suggests they all move in together to bond. There are problems with how Tsumugi looks in this form and it can take you out of it at times, but I also really appreciated the truly alien aspects to her and how that plays out across the season as everyone has to deal with her in a variety of ways. It’s a rare exploration since we do often get these kinds of characters put into cute girl mode full of moe.
Where this season kind of falls through for me a bit more than other areas is with the bigger picture combined with the intrigue. We get some dynamic changes being put into motion with how the power structure operates and that makes for some compelling material early on, but it feels like it’s not well capitalized on or fully explored and explained in a way that drives it forward to have true meaning. I suspect it plays better in the manga and later material but it was something that felt dropped along the way here. Similar when it comes to the longstanding family corporations that are in play and how they’re involved with things. There are small nods to progress being made and technical leaps thanks to various factors at play with the Gauna and the hybrids, but these are background elements and not main driving pieces to it. And that reduces some of the impact since both of these areas felt like they had more involvement in the first season as we saw how the structure of this society works.
With the season having the subtitle of Battle for Planet Nine, this does come into effect as they’re making their way toward a place where they can potentially find some sort of future that doesn’t involve simply being in flight. There are touches of this early on but it’s not really until the final four episodes that the focus shifts to actual action and battles. This comes after all the buildup and time spent getting Tsumugi as a key part of the team and that does work well as we get new locations, new dangers, and a greater sense of something bigger at play. But it also doesn’t feel as strong and compelling as the final arc action episodes of the season with what it did there since it’s more focused on just a few characters as opposed to the sprawling team and their pitched battle to survive. Visually, it’s wonderfully executed and hits a lot of great moments as it runs through all that’s going on, but it’s just a touch more hollow than I would have hoped for.
The Knights of Sidonia property is one that I definitely enjoy a lot and there’s a lot of good things going on in this season overall. But it’s definitely not just a repeat of the first season, which I wouldn’t want anyway, but it takes an odd kind of pacing and approach to what it is it wants to do. Granted, it’s adapting the manga so it’s going to follow that path and we knew from the first season that this is not a property that follows standard style, which is a huge plus. While I’m not as enthusiastic at the end of this as I was with the first season, it’s still a world and story that I want more of to see where it wants to go and become. We get so few shows that delve into science fiction like this and avoids some of the usual tropes and cliches that I really do want more of it.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Decisive Battle, Blame, Trailers, TV Preview, Teaser, Clean Opening and Closing Animations
Content Grade: B+
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: 308 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.