Relentlessly grim and relentlessly good.
What They Say:
A thousand years after the alien Gauna destroyed the Earth, a small remnant of humanity still fights on to survive, fleeing on the gargantuan asteroid-based spaceship Sidonia. But centuries of flight and warfare have changed mankind in incredible ways: genetic engineering has allowed humans to photosynthesize like plants, reproduction occurs through cloning, and a third gender has been created to balance the population.
Even though it’s been a century since the last encounter with the Gauna, military service is mandatory, with all those able enough enlisted to pilot the Garde robots that stand as Sidonia’s front line of defense. For Nagate Tanikaze, whose grandfather secretly hid him in the forgotten bowels of the asteroid, it’s a strange new world as he’s forced to come to the surface and join the ranks of defenders.
Yet his recruitment comes just in time, for the Gauna have suddenly reappeared, and what could be man’s last battle will require every resource humanity has left. And what no one knows, yet, is that Nagate is not exactly what he seems, and a secret buried in his past may change the fate of all mankind!
For this viewing, I listened to the English audio track, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. A Japanese language track, also in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and a Spanish language track, in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 were also available. English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also provided. The audio quality was quite good, with no discernable issues other than the volume increasing during dramatic fight scenes, but that’s a problem I have with 90% of shows, so it’s not fair to criticize this show for going with the crowd.
Knights of Sidonia is a gorgeous show. Each episode is shown in 1080p High Definition in 16×9 aspect ratio, bringing out the show’s quality to its fullest.
The set’s twelve episodes are spread across two Blu-ray discs housed in a standard Blu-ray case. The front cover shows the protagonist, Nagate Tanikaze, standing in the palm of his Garde, the legendary Type-17 “Tsugumori.” Nagate also appears on the spine under the show’s title. The back cover features the standard format with the show’s synopsis taking up most of the real estate. Screenshots from the show and a picture of Shuzuka Hoshijiro frame the synopsis, and underneath that rests the Blu-ray credits and disc specifications. It’s a solid package that’s small and doesn’t take up too much room on the shelf, which I appreciate.
The menus follow the same basic format: a single image dominates the screen and superimposed over it on the right-hand side is the episode list and other features. The first disc shows Nagate’s mobile suit “Garde” shoving a spear through a Gauna (the alien antagonists of the show). The second disc shows Shizuka Hoshijiro after she has been absorbed by the Guana. The show’s main theme plays in full in the background, which I like because it’s a very good song. Overall, this is a pretty standard menu design that works well. The images are exciting and provocative and the menu options are clearly labeled and easy to navigate.
This set comes with some nice special features: a clean Op/Ed, a behind the scenes feature, advanced screening, press conference, and feature on the sounds of Sidonia. Fans of extras should be happy with the selection on this set.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The year is 3394. One thousand years ago, the alien race known as the Gauna destroyed Earth, and humanity fled to the stars on the asteroid-based spaceship Sidonia. Besieged by constant threat of Gauna attack, human civilization became more militaristic. Military service is now mandatory, and the government functions more like a fascist dictatorship than a representational democracy. The human species also changed to match its new home and situation. Reproduction is accomplished through cloning, a third gender was created to balance out the population, and humans gain most of their energy through photosynthesis.
Enter Nagate Tanikaze. He lived his entire life in the bowels of Sidonia with only his grandfather as company. His grandfather taught him, loved him, and trained him to fight the Gauna, but now he’s dead. Hungry, Nagate sneaks into a food processing plant to steal some rice. He’s caught, and this event sets him on the path of becoming Sidonia’s lead Garde pilot.
Knights of Sidonia is kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s an excellent show. The quality of the writing and the animation is superb. On the other hand, it’s a relentlessly grim show that made me feel like I swam miles through fetid water. Fans of dark stories will no doubt love this, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.
This is not to say that I disliked this show in any way. I liked it quite a bit. As I said, the writing and animation are superb, and the world building is breathtaking. Sidonia feels like a real, living, breathing place thanks to the meticulous attention to detail, and this sense of verisimilitude alone makes this worth the price of admission.
Just as much time and attention was paid to the plot and the characters. Unlike 90% of anime, Knights of Sidonia is logical, well organized, and possessed of a consistent tone. The same goes for the characters, who are sympathetic and engaging. Nagate functions as a convincing protagonist and audience surrogate, and the people around him are distinct and interesting. Moreover, they tend to get under your skin. Hoshijiro is realistically adorable, and Norio Kunato—the human antagonist—is so damn smug and grating that I wish I could punch him through the TV. If that’s not the sign of good writing, then I don’t know what is. Incidentally, my favorite character is Lala Hiyama, a talking bear who serves as the dorm mother to the pilots—especially Nagate. The fact that my favorite character was a talking bear probably shows that I’m not the right audience for this show, but I digress.
While I can appreciate the show from a critical, writerly standpoint, I couldn’t quite emotionally connect with the story. The older I get, the less I care for grimdark, and this is about as grimdark as it gets. This creates an interesting paradox, because while I emotionally didn’t care for the show, intellectually, I thought it was great. Stories are funny like that—sometimes the most technically perfect tales are the ones that leave us cold.
From a purely technical standpoint, Knights of Sidonia is a damn fine show. The plot is solid, the world building excellent, and the characters engaging and empathetic. However, from a purely emotional standpoint, the show kind of just sits on your head and doesn’t let up. The tone completely fits the story, but it’s not one that I react to well, emotionally. If you enjoy (or simply don’t mind) bleak stories, then by all means check this out. If, however, it’s not your bag, then I recommend skipping this one. Dr. Josh gives this an…
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, English subtitles, Spanish subtitles, French subtitles, Behind the Scenes, Press Conference, Advance Screening, Sound of Sidonia, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: A-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date:9 June 9th, 2015
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection