Sidonia no Kishi – 11

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One ep left?  Yeah, okay…

Well now – that episode was certainly a full-on nerdgasm.  When it comes to sci-fi cred, Sidonia no Kishi checks off pretty much every box.  In a way it hybridizes Western sci-fi novels and films (which the mangaka is obviously a huge fan of) with anime sci-fi better than any series in recent memory.  If Star Wars and Matsumoto Leiji had a baby and its genes were later spliced into the love child of Evangelion and Shingeki no Kyoujin, I think the resulting specimen would look a lot like Knights of Sidonia.

I’m still not sure why that rumor of a second season turned out to be false – Sidonia has already had one strong-selling volume (about 7300 units) and the second is on-target to do about as well.  It’s certainly possible we will get a second season announcement in the future, but I suspect the production committee has been surprised by how well Sidonia no Kishi is doing commercially.  Truthfully though, hard sci-fi anime has had its share of hits in the last couple of years (though plenty of flops too).

All that is important because we’re a week from the finale and really no closer to knowing how the series is going to end.  If any storyline was ever too big for a single cour it’s this one, and I suppose the upside to that is short of an apocalyptic ending where Sidonia and everyone we know is wiped out, it would be almost impossible to close enough doors to rule out a sequel.  We’re still in the expansion phase of the plot, with more questions being raised than answers given.

This episode was pretty much a can’t miss, because this is the sort of material the writing and animation of Sidonia no Kishi are perfectly tailored to.  Lots of cool and epic scene compositions in space, giant weapons being deployed, death and despair, and geeky sci-fi exposition – it all works really well.  And if there is a character element in the series that kind of works too, it’s the existential despair of the pilots who know they’re cannon fodder – disposable tools whose purpose is to die for the survival of Sidonia, and no more.  Izana as an individual is the perfect vehicle to express this angst, and the first mission (s)he’s sent on the perfect scenario to hammer the point home.

An interesting aspect of Sidonia is certainly trying to figure out the political philosophy of Nihei Tsutomu.  There have been times I’ve felt Sidonia was an overtly militaristic work, dismissive of pacifism and generally nationalistic, but others when a strong suspicion of the military and society in general takes the ascendancy.  There can be no question Nihei’s sympathies lie with the foot soldiers in this “war”, the pilots regularly sent to their deaths, but does he feel these deaths are a necessary evil under the circumstances?  We have the shadowy immortals who grow clones as receptacles for their consciousness, and the even shadier immortals who appear to be trapped in hi-tech coffins and speak of leaving Sidonia if things get too rough (how are they different from the Captain and the other immortals, and why don’t they too have bodies?).  In the end I wonder if Nihei isn’t an anarchist more than anything else – someone who believes no authority should ever be trusted.  One of the great things about science-fiction is that it’s a big philosophical tent – there’s room for every notch on the spectrum, and the classics of the genre reflect moderation and every extreme.

As things stand, the rats are certainly thinking of leaving the sinking ship.  The giant Gauna (turns out it formed its placenta around a dwarf planet) is planning of ramming Sidonia, it’s using Gauna to act as thrusters to match any changes in the lumbering Sidonia’s course, and the desperate Yuhata orders the planet-destroying Exterminatus fired at it.  This means sending 48 pilots (I can’t think there are many left) off to try and wipe out its ability to evade, and they actually pass the missile on their way to engage the planet-Gauna.  When Benisuzume-placenta wipes out an entire platoon single-handedly, Yuhata decides the only option is to pour every ounce of power into the Super-Higgs cannon, blow a hole in the Gauna planet and have the surviving pilots fly inside and wipe out the core Gauna.

This is all cool as hell to watch – the firing sequence (right down to the helmet on the technician) is right out of one of the Death Star scenes in the first Star Wars film – but the overriding sense is simple existential despair.  In the end it’s really Izana who’s become the POV character more than Nagate, because she’s reacting like any normal person would – angry at his lot in life and terrified once the surrounding pilots start dying.  This has become the essence of Sidnoia no Kishi for me – these pilots fated to die for what’s looking more than anything like survival for its own sake.  If there’s a larger ideal in-place here – and I think at least some of the higher-ups believe there is – it’s buried under the notion of the elites and immortals using the population of Sidonia as disposable parts to ensure their own continued existence.

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  1. n

    I don't think the author is projecting his political philosophy to his world building. I find the politics here quite consistent with the context. Limited disclosure of immortal technology, genetically engineered "newtype" people, spatially confined environment with clearly limited source of energy and some alien beings attacking the ship – combine them all and you would get a totalitarian militaristic government with shady old immortals on the top of it. It's true the author seems more inclined to be sympathetic towards the foot soldiers rather than the system, but I also find the sympathy given limited just enough so it won't interrupt the story. All in all, I can only say that his world depicted in Sidonia is consistent with his previous works. To be more precise, I have not confirmed this and I do not intend to do so, but I think Sidonia is set in the same world as that of his early work Blame and Biomega (they have the same shady company running the world as in Sidonia). And the world in Blame is the most extreme anarchist world you can find in comics (imagine Gotham city without Batman and make it worse) but he's clearly not depicting it to promote anarchism – it's a world full of terrors and blood and emotionless deaths.

    By the way, any sci-fi fan who has not read Blame is missing a massive gem. Especially if you like Sidonia, then you should get yourself to read this because this is like a "Meanwhile on Earth…" kinda counterpart of Sidonia – only it's a more intelligent and unkind riddle without hint or whatsoever.

  2. I think that was the most views any post on this site ever had before getting a comment…

    I need to give Blame a longer look.

  3. c

    gah, why only one more episode??? there is so much more to this………well, like i'm hoping for a 3rd season for Chihayafuru, i'll just have to hope for the second one for SnK……i read the manga and the riddle around the Gauna is still not solved. I very bady want to know what is behind it all, why are the Gauna persecuting the Sidonia…..what are they exactly? Who are those old scary immortals? I love the feel of this manga…..the sci fi atmosphere, the weird design of the living quarters and the underground labyrinth of the Sidonia, it's secrets…..definitely makes me want to look into Blame as well… reading your reviews!!!

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