“Knights of Sidonia” is set in the future. It has been one millennia since the Earth was destroyed by these massive space slugs called The Gauna (and please, do NOT mispronounce it as the Guano, OK? Already been there). Maybe they are more like squid, with their tentacles and such. People fled in these enormous space ships, which look like a derringer barrel shoved though a piece of pumice. Look, when you are in a hurry to leave, niceties like beauty get in the way of things. Well, quite a lot happens in 1000 years, so the population is maintained via cloning. Aside from getting rid of having boring sex, it allows one to tinker with the genetic structure, so a lot of these folks have human photosynthesis (oh, and immortality, but that’s not for you to worry about).
Into this mix comes Nagate Tanikaze (smack in the middle), who has lived in the underground layer of Sidonia since birth, raised by his grandfather. Since he is all by himself, for amusement he trains himself in an old Guardian pilot simulator every day, eventually mastering it. His grandfather’s death forces him to the surface to steal food and whatnot, but he is eventually caught. He is a genuine throwback and no one knows what to do with him.
Then, the Gauna attack! Since Tanikaze is now pressed into the cockpit to be a Guardian pilot, in hopes of defending Sidonia from the Gauna’s attack, he is given a Gardes that is more suited to what he trained on and distinguishes himself, using all the combat expertise he learned from those endless hours of playing. Nagate 1, Gauna 0.
Now, what makes this a change of pace from other GFR shows is that we worry less about the fighting and more about the relationships that a show like this generates. The fight sequences are more combat-related to fighting the Gauna than mere Gundam v Gundam, so a lot of that trash talk which infiltrates those shows is gone. We talk tactics and bark out orders and warn of imminent danger than spout nonsense on how your brother killed my sister and I will see revenge on you, arghrghrgh.
One jarring aspect of the show is the animation. Now, whether it was a conscious decision or just trying to cheap out, it has a strong CGI feel to it. Things do not really flow as they kind of jerk and spasm. I realize in some aspects this works, to show the rather soulless nature of this society that we live in. It also helps when you see a group of girls and they are all the same. Not that they look the same, THEY ARE THE SAME (Cloning, remember). They are the Honoka sisters. Keep an eye out for all 22 of them.
It’s just that so much is asked of and depends on Nagate and he sometimes cannot live up to that expectation, especially when his real friend, Shizuka Hoshijiro, (second from left, dispensing the elbow job) is lost in battle. Look, in a show like this, you expect to take losses. It’s not always “Us, perfect victory; Them, complete failure”.
One aspect that really bothered me is that one of the pilots is a bear. Lala Hiyama dresses now like a cook for those who still eat (remember, many photosynthesize) and has a claw for a hand. It’s just an odd addition to the cast.
If you can wrap your head around the animation style, you will find this a rather interesting space anime. The art style also forces one away from relying on anime tropes and traps, so we have to fully rely on emotions and reactions to get the points across.
Since I consider this an experimental anime, check out the first two episodes and take your cue from that. But I am going to urge that you really watch the show, even with a rather unusual plot device inserted into the proceeding about halfway through. Because things are not resolved, expect a second season soon.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (Too CGI for my tastes)
Plot 7 (Still a ‘stranger in a strange land’ idea)
Pacing 8 (Good execution and fine balance of war and peace)
Effectiveness 7 (Good, even with some clichés)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 0 (A similar show would be “Honey and Clover”)
Overall 7 (Much left unexplained)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Pilots, to your Gardes!