Sidonia no Kishi – 12 (Season Finale)

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Yes, the post title is correct.

A second season of Sidonia no Kishi really made too much sense not to happen.  Presumably when someone leaked the news early a couple of weeks ago, all of the relevant parties denied it because there were still t’s to be crossed and i’s to be dotted, or perhaps just because they wanted the announcement after the final episode to have some impact.  But a surprise it wasn’t – the first volume sold well and the others are tracking to, there’s plenty of story, and the series has above-average crossover potential for the foreign market.  Anime is a business first and foremost, and a second season of Knights of Sidonia is good business.

According to that announcement there’s going to be a two-episode preview in November, which obviously suggests that Winter 2015 is the likely date.  Whether you want to call Sidonia a split-cour series or not (both the handling of the announcement and the timing of the new season suggest this was not a decision made pre-airing)  this episode didn’t really need to function as a finale so much as a placeholder and table-setter, but it actually worked quite well in all three functions.  Despite the fast-moving nature of the last few episodes there’s plenty of mystery still waiting to be mined in the second season.

The finale (or whatever you call it) delivered up a pretty representative Sidonia experience.  The big action sequences were tense and beautifully produced, and the character moments were mostly off-key.  Everything with Kunato is especially a chore, and I found the final sequence where Nagate went to his manse to declare his eternal love and fraternity to be especially painful.  Kunato has been a cartoon villain from the beginning whose motivations feel very plot-driven, and if this is all it takes to “redeem” his character it will amount to one of the great character short-cuts of all time.

By contrast, it’s really been Izana’s character that’s been the most resonant – for me, the only human in the cast that’s really engaging in their own right.  Having Izana in the final battle made an already gripping scene ever more nerve-wracking, because Izana was so clearly out of his/her depth here – just as any normal person would be.  Izana wasn’t much use in a battle Izana should never have been involved with in the first place, but when Nagate was in trouble Izana stepped up to save him.  I like the way this played out – as the bewildering and terrifying chaos played out all around, Izana was helpless to be anything but numbly dragged along in its wake.  But what a simple and straightforward situation presented itself – “Nagate is about to die.  I love Nagate.” – presented itself, Izana acted decisively.

The humans continue to survive all these Gauna encounters, but just barely – and collectively.  It really feels as if Sidonia as a civilization is hanging by a thread, with mission after mission of sending their young and talented off to die in a last-ditch attempt to stop the enemy.  There’s a lot of pathos here and the seeds of some interesting political theatre in the impact it has on the society (though those seeds haven’t really sprouted yet) but also a danger of the cycle becoming repetitive.  Sidonia has done an excellent job painting a picture of just how bad things are, not least for the cannon-fodder pilots.  But I think the story now needs to move to the next stage – digging deeper into the causes behind this conflict and the search for a more meaningful solution than simply sacrificing a few score brave young men and women in order to buy time until the next call to die.

It was my hope that this transition might be facilitated through the Hoshijiro placenta storyline, but it seems with the destruction of the dwarf planet Gauna – and Benisuzume – the placental clone is gone too (leaving behind only Nagate’s name scrawled out in Hiragana as a memento).  I suppose Nagate overcoming his squeamishness and destroying the Benisuzume Hoshijiro is an important moment for him psychologically, but it really doesn’t feel as if there was much time to do anything out there but try and survive.  It was a marvelously executed sequence of complete chaos and terror, with the pilots having to worry not just about the Gauna but (fittingly) their own weapon of mass destruction bearing down on them and destroying them.  In the end Nagate and Izana do survive, along with Ren and the seven remaining pilots (including Seii, who I was sure was a goner – he had death flags up the ying-yang) who took their Gardes inside the planet-Gauna to destroy its brain.  But to call this a victory seems like a real stretch.

Among the questions that are going to have to be answered in the sequel is that of the true nature of the Immortal Council, and the real reason behind why the Gauna keep attacking.  This entire first season really plays like a prequel, an introductory chapter – which is why it always seemed so misguided to have Sidonia no Kishi as a one-cour series.  Happily that’s no longer a concern, and there’s reason to hope that the second season might be the really interesting part of the story.

There are always going to be flaws here – Nihei Tsutomu isn’t suddenly going to emerge as a writer who can do good character interaction after all these years, and the CGI won’t stop being a bad fit for those character-driven scenes.  But Sidonia no Kishi has rarely-matched in anime credibility as a hard sci-fi show – the larger story, the science, and the panorama and big action set pieces are all top-notch.  I think its popularity proves that there’s still an audience for that kind of anime, and – just as with Shingeki no Kyoujin – that success is a healthy thing for the industry irrespective of whatever warts the show has.  There are certainly things I wish Sidonia did better but more important is that that I wish that there were more series like it, and I’m looking forward to seeing if it can lift its game next winter.

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Season Two Announcement:

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  1. n

    I also had my teeth grinding when Nagato went to that dude's house to have the major BS peace pact; the guy deserves to go to military prison for crying out loud! It's a shame Nihei is such a clumsy writer when it comes to human relations. But everything else in this ep was quite okay for me. Are you planning to blog the second season?

    I have to confess btw; initially I didn't have problems with the CGI, but having read Nihei's works (BLAME! and BIOMEGA), I rather miss his old-fashioned drawings. The CGI does suck, I admit.

  2. It was when I saw those steampunk manga drawings in the eyecatches that it really hit me how much better this show could have looked.

    I will likely blog the second season, yeah.

  3. n

    True. But In a way it cannot be helped, since we're in the transitional age from hand drawing to CGI; there will come a time when the old-fashioned drawings can be reproduced seamlessly by CGI. It's just that we haven't reached that level yet. Sidonia and many others are sacrifices for that future…

  4. Z

    This is how you effectively implement CGI
    IG showing how it's done in 1997!

  5. M

    I do not have as much of a problem with the Kunato visit as most people seem to because of the timing. They have been running through pilots like water and they just lost 38 of there best in one go. Kunato is a bastard but he is also a great pilot and Nagato knows that they need him on the frontline. So Nagato tried what he could think of to get him back.

  6. If you want to defend that scene in concept, OK – I still have issues with it, but I can see the argument. The more clear-cut issue is that whatever you think about the premise, the execution – for me – was seriously lacking.

  7. P

    I have lots of fears about a 2nd season: I have been reading the manga these last few days, and if they follow it, this show will turn a lot more into a harem rom com :/

  8. Z

    I have no idea what Nihei was thinking adding those elements in. He was always about the architectural structures and bleak cyberpunk aesthetics.

  9. n

    Maybe it wasn't initially his idea. I wouldn't be surprised if the publisher wanted to add some conventional commercial appeal to his writing. As a matter of fact, Sidonia is selling a lot more well than his earlier works.

  10. t

    a really great…well not finale. but a point to make a full stop right now.
    sure, it's not really split-cour by definition, but it sure does feel so. and indeed, the current ending point is good, especially after an episode like that with a fantastic mecha-space battle. I think every Mecha fan should find this episode really good. it was terrific to see.

    Sidonia no Kishi (SnK???damn cant use the same abbreviation because of Shingeki) started very hesitant like Nagate. but quickly enough the show accelerated itself around the time Nagate become a real pilot (with the heroic save of Hoshijiro back then). thence the series has become even more interesting with more characters becoming prominent and the story take its steps ahead every episode. I really like the way everything happened.
    there are still mysteries within Sidonia and I can't wait to see what will happen in season 2.
    Also, I must praise Polygon. they did such a great job with the art whether it's battle or SIdonia's visuals. every scene really felt like this is a space journey. next season I hope to see even greater things in this context.
    obviously "Sanzoku no Musume Ronja" of Goro Miyazaki will be different in terms of art (after all it's coupled with Ghibli..). but I am positive they can handle that as well.

  11. C

    For some reason Netflix is touting this series as a "Netflix Original" to be added to their library on July. Doesn't make much sense since this already aired. Perhaps they partially funded this project? (none of the other anime they have is labeled as such).

    In any case its very interesting to see where this is going.


  12. R

    This was an exhilarating episode — neatly done indeed. I'm happy to see a second season in the making. Sidonia has the potentials to be a good plot-driven story. Like you, I'm not impressed by all the character interactions, and I hate it when they brought on the harem side story. Having said that, I quite like the world-building, and the plot is intriguing. Look forward to watching the second season.

  13. g

    I can't really rate it very high. For me the most important thing for s-f, after a good world building (which is nice here), are the good & natural interactions. Movie can have a set & props built from a cardboard and an aluminium foil but if it has these two element, I will love it.

    Good thing I'm not only one, who cringed at Nagate's speech, I had to pause it. All his interactions are awkward at best and cringe worthy at worst. Why he has to be main hero? He's so bland and uninteresting. I'm feeling that that he's only reacting and let the things happen to him. I don't want to be him Tom Cruise, who has to be in all scenes, but for god's sake… I would love to see as a MC Kobayashi. She is in a heart of Sidonia, in the centre of action from early days, where Sidonia was only establishing as a society, till today. But, of course, we can't have a woman as a main here in science fiction, can we? the hell even Izana will be better. At last we could relate to them more. And it could add a subtle layer of sexual identity in a new society.

  14. d


    If you cannot rate Sidonia very high, please recommend to me some titles, you think is done a lot better and a few words why.

  15. G

    "it seems with the destruction of the dwarf planet Gauna – and Benisuzume – the placental clone is gone too" — Well, that sucks. I thought the show went to great lengths explaining the placenta, if cut off the core before it's destroyed, can outlive the core indefinitely.

    Actually if I remember correctly, placental Hoshijiro was cut off of a different gauna, not Benisuzume, which was then destroyed. Was there a link between all three "robot transforming" gauna and the dwarf planet? If so, that would make sense — it would explain why Benisuzume hung out there, and might explain the cascade effect that happened when the "core's core" was destroyed. Seriously, that "super core" inside the mega gauna was really something else. Love the CGI in the space battles and any of the destruction scenes.

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