Why can’t all of Sidonia no Kishi look like the eyecatches?
Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou – 05
We’re almost at the halfway point of this series, so the decision really can’t be dragged out much longer. But more and more Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou is looking like one of those shows that alternately compel me and piss me off, which in almost all cases are shows I wish I’d dropped sooner rather than suffering through to the end. I always argue that shows that do some things well and others poorly are more interesting than ones that are mediocre in every respect, but this one is really putting my resolve to the test.
I don’t think there’s any great mystery as to why the anime/LN/manga oeuvre is so fascinated with sadistic females and torturing teenaged males – I’ve discussed it before and there’s no need to rehash old ground. But seeing that kind of thing in a generally crap series is one thing – seeing it taint one that has this much going for it is quite another. So when you start with a generally unfunny premise and then add the fact that Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou is pretty clumsy with comedy generally, you’ve got a real problem. Maybe a deal-breaker, if episodes like this one are a regular occurrence (and I might add, the PV for next week’s makes me think of that episode of Sakurasou – talk about deal-breakers).
It’s not just the visuals that I like about this show – it really does have the kernel of something interesting and emotionally valid at its core. Kawai and Usa are certainly flawed, but that’s fine – it makes them interesting and realistic. I can do without the way Kawai is constantly used as a prop, but essentially she presents a fascinating study on the nature of introverts. Is there something wrong with the way she is – or is she just fine, and she should be left to be the person she is? It’s clear that the mangaka understands what she (I think) has here, but equally clear that he doesn’t trust the audience (maybe with good reason) enough to stick to that theme, and thus loads it up with a bunch of cliches and pandering crap that’s probably what got him his second anime adaptation, but threatens to drown the charm the show really should have if it were allowed to express it.
Sayaka is the biggest problem here, no doubt. She’s an insufferable, sadistic horror – there’s nothing wrong with flawed characters, but ones as unlikeable as she is are just a chore. There’s the possibility for something better with Mayumi – we’ve seen glimpses of it, but it seems that Miyahara is content to go for the lowest common denominator with her, and as a result she ends up being almost as unlikeable as Sayaka. It’s such a shame, because there’s enormous potential here – as an introvert and an inveterate reader scenes like Kawai and Usa bonding over her detective novel brought back a lot of old memories in a wonderful way. But potential without the talent or will (or both) to realize it is ultimately a burden more than a boon.
Sidonia no Kishi – 04
I was pretty close to abandoning ship here, but the fourth episode was a marked improvement. It just so happens that the two great flaws of Sidonia no Kishi – horrendous character animation and poorly-written character interaction – overlap with each other. So when you get an episode like this one that focuses not on those but on what are clearly the strengths of the mangaka – the hard sci-fi geekery – Sidonia no Kishi predictably fares a whole lot better.
It would be tempting to pigeonhole these two series as polar opposites and leave it there – a series where only the visuals keep me watching and one where only the visuals turn me off – but it goes much deeper than that. Just as Kawaisou has more going for it than the gorgeousness, Sidonia has other problems besides bad CGI. It’s been suggested that there’s a lot of Attack on Titan here and I can definitely see it, both for better or worse. But let’s not sell AoT short – it brings a lot to the table in terms of spectacle and intrigue, and so does Knights of Sidonia.
It’s very clear that this is not a cookie-cutter mecha show. This is hard sci-fi that aspires to the tradition of the likes of Matsumoto Leiji (though it lacks his wit and style). It has a good basic premise – humanity scattered through the galaxy on these huge seed ships, the aliens who destroyed home unseen for a century but making their return. Nihei-sensei clearly cares about getting the facts at least close to right and knows something about physics, and that show through in an episode like this one. The series does very well in the panoramic but not so well in zoom, so I suppose which lens it uses most often for the next two months is the crucial factor in dictating its success or failure.
I certainly do wish Sidonia no Kishi had gotten properly animated by a good studio, but while that would have made a big difference it’s only part of the puzzle. I worry even more about the one-cour length, which threatens to undercut the series’ greatest strengths. As for what happened this week, the chaos resulting from the Captain’s decision to use an uneven acceleration to evade the Gauna was convincingly brought off – though I’m not sure her the reasons for her decision were especially well-explained. The CGI can handle this sort of scene just fine and we get a real sense of consequence in this story – the situation is grim for humanity, and no character is off-limits. We’re not exactly swimming in science-fiction anime that has that on offer so I’m not dismissing Sidonia by any means, though I still don’t feel anything for any of the characters – not even so much as a sense of who they really are. I’m not sure it matters to the series itself, but it’s an obstacle that must be cleared for me as a viewer.