This has certainly been the season of throwbacks so far – they’re all over the schedule in many shapes ands sizes, and in many ways Sidonia no Kishi fits right in with that theme. With it’s technologically-driven, intellectual hard sci-fi focus and themes of alienation and dystopia it fits right in with what anime sci-fi mostly looked like ten or twenty years ago – though there are some modern concessions in terms of character that one suspects were every bit as uncomfortable for Nihei Tsutomu to write as they have been to watch.
The sore thumb here is, of course, the CGI – though the CGI here is so awkward at times that it almost looks like it could be from 20 years ago. After having watched Polygon’s Ghibli co-production Sanzoku no Musume Ronja it’s puzzling why the 3D animation is so much more stilted and unnatural here – it was hardly natural in Ronja, mind you, but especially on the character side it was an order of magnitude better than Knights of Sidonia. Those who know how good Nihei’s steampunk art from the manga is especially can only lament what the transition to anime has done to the look of the series.
“Stilted and unnatural” would also be a good way to describe Nihei’s character interactions – Izana remains the only one in the cast that really feels like a person. But the big battle scenes continue to be awesome, the best showcase for Polygon’s technology. And the source of some of the first season’s worst character moments, Kunato, has happily been taken over by some of sort of nematode brain-sucker developed by Ochiai in his lab, along with his imouto and that poor tech at the Hoshijiro lab – all seemingly part of a scheme by Ochiai to score himself a new body and assert command over the Sidonia colony once more.
His scheme, seemingly, is to manufacture a gauna-based super-weapon using placental-Hoshijiro as a template (though that’s pure guesswork on my part), a weapon that makes a surprise appearance when Nagate and his squadron are on their latest suicide mission against an enormous gauna with regenerative powers. She blasts it from space where the Gardes (even Tanikaze’s) have failed, and introduces herself as Shiraui Tsumugi (Suzuki Aya). On the plus side this is the first time I can remember the humans taking out a gauna without part or most of their squadron being wiped out, but it doesn’t take a weatherman to see the wind is blowing trouble with this turn of events.
What is Ochiai’s long game here? Well, he certainly seems to admire the Gauna – he calls them “superior” to humans – though just what his connection to them is I’m not sure. Obviously he has no personal moral standards whatsoever, so he’ll do whatever he has to do to achieve his plans, and thus may be shaping up as the big bad of the season. As I did when the first season ended I find myself longing for more background, more explanation – why this conflict started in the first place, and why the Gauna keep attacking humans. Whether we get that this season remains to be seen, but the more Daikyu Wakusei Seneki focuses on the sci-fi and the less on the awkward character drama (and comedy) the better off it will be.