Knights of Sidonia

Tagged: Film | TV

Japanese animated tv series (2014-current). Also known as Sidonia no Kishi. Based on the Manga by Tsutomu Nihei. Polygon Pictures. Directed by Kōbun Shizuno (season one) and Hiroyuki Seshita (season two). Written by Sadayuki Murai. Voice cast includes Satomi Arai, Hisako Kanemoto, Sayaka Ohara, Ryota Ohsaka, Takahiro Sakurai, Aya Suzaki and Aki Toyosaki. 24 25-minute episodes. Colour.

Sidonia may be the last of the 500 Generation Starships that fled the destruction of the Earth by the monstrous Shapeshifting Gauna (see Aliens) a thousand years earlier, for reasons still unknown. Nagate Tanikaze (Ohsaka), from the otherwise uninhabited lower levels of Sidonia, is caught whilst attempting to steal food. Captain Kobayashi (Ohara), of the ruling Immortal Council, discovers he is the Clone of a disgraced hero and makes him a trainee Mecha pilot, helping defend Sidonia from the Gauna. Nagate experiences some culture shock: to reduce food consumption the populace are Genetically Engineered to photosynthesize; there is a third gender whose bodies change to be breeding-compatible with their partners, reminiscent of the Gethenians in Ursula K Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness (1969); people willingly go to the organic converters when their allotted time is up, recalling William F Nolan's and George Clayton Johnson's Logan's Run (1967); his "Dorm Mother", Lala Hiyama (Arai), is a (formerly human) bear. He also befriends the non-gendered Izana Shinatose (Toyosaki).

Sidonia suffers a series of increasingly hostile Guana attacks – including an organic mecha, whose pilot is created from the DNA and memories of the recently killed Shizuka Hoshijiro (Suzaki), whom Nagate had developed feelings for. In the second season, called "Knights of Sidonia: Battle for Planet Nine", the mind of long dead rogue Scientist Ochiai is downloaded into industrialist Norio Kunato (Sakurai) (a form of Identity Transfer). He creates human/Gauna hybrids: the first is Tsumugi Shiraui (Suzaki), whose source material includes the Guanan mecha that incorporated Shizuka. Tsumugi and Nagate grow close. Following the hybrid's comfortable destruction of an attacking Gauna, Captain Kobayashi announces that Sidonia will destroy all Gauna, though Nagate would prefer to see if negotiation is possible. Meanwhile, Kunato plans to become a hybrid – "a God".

Most of the protagonists are charming: if some lack depth, this is partially justified in-show, one young adult explaining they are only five years old, a result of "concentrated education". The cast has many strong female roles, but are the subject of occasional Fan Service – women photosynthesize naked: we can only infer men do so too. The plot moves the story along effectively, though the romcom strand, involving Nagate, Izana, Tsumugi and the talented but impetuous Yuhata Midorikawa (Kanemoto) is weak on the "com" front. The series has much verve, with interesting worldbuilding and lively CGI animation; the latter generally impresses, conveying a SF sense of wonder, with the Lovecraftian Guana being frequently disturbing – though the character animation is more stilted. This is a memorable Anime, influenced by Stanisław Lem: there are hints that the Guana's actions are attempts at Communication.

The source manga won the 2016 Seiun Award for best Comic. A film, Knights of Sidonia (2015), was compiled from the first season, with some new material. A third season has been announced. [SP]

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