My posts are primarily about video games, but recently I haven’t really been playing anything new so I thought I’d switch it up and talk about anime. This is a nerd culture blog after all, and anime definitely fits that category. The truth is, I’ve only seen a handful of anime (I know, I’m a casual) but I’ve always had a love of Japanese culture and that includes anime. I’ve always been kind of wary with anime, though—I was afraid that its addicting nature would cause me to never leave my room. Luckily, that hasn’t quite happened yet.
Anyway, I was browsing Kotaku one day and saw an article declaring Knights of Sidonia to be the best anime on Netflix. I had my doubts that anything could surpass Code Geass or Deathnote, but I decided to give it a shot. Turns out Kotaku was pretty on the mark.
If you’re used to traditional anime, Knights of Sidonia’s style may throw you off a bit. It’s kind of a weird mix of CG and hand-drawn styles, that makes movement seem kind of less fluid, almost like characters are moving through molasses, but after you get used to it, it actually becomes kind of beautiful.
Moving on to the story, it’s a familiar premise but with its own unique take: a long time ago, alien monsters called the “gauna” attacked Earth, forcing humanity to escape via several hundred huge ships. To combat the gauna, people developed mechs that can fly through space and are equipped with weapons like particle beams and lances. The story centers around one character, Nagate Tanikaze, a very gifted pilot of one of these mechs, on the ship Sidonia.
There’s a huge backstory to the entire world and, like most anime, it can be kind of overwhelming at first. But it’s okay if you don’t understand everything, because each episode is so jam-packed with action and romance and tension that it never loses your attention. I would’ve been sold on just mechs fighting giant space monsters, but Knights of Sidonia is so much more than that.
What makes the show stand out is its attention to detail and masterful world-building. Sidonia is enormous, it is basically a city with perhaps millions of residents. The viewer is treated to many of the different sights, from local restaurants to under the artificial ocean. It really feels like a living, breathing place with real inhabitants, each with their own lives. Even with oddities like a talking bear chef and people photosynthesizing for food, I was able to suspend my disbelief long enough to become invested and start to care about the characters.
Speaking of characters, don’t get too attached to any of them—Knights of Sidonia is not afraid to kill them off at a moment’s notice. If you have seen Game of Thrones or Attack on Titan you might be used to this by now, but this constant tension really makes the show dramatic and engaging. I had a pit in my stomach throughout the entirety of the season finale.
The characters are interesting, though they sometimes fall into the traditional anime stereotypes. There’s the main character, a talented, somewhat naïve young man, who is constantly bombarded by women seeking his attention. This was one of the only things I didn’t really like about the show—it falls into this trapping of the genre. It never gets too overbearing, luckily, but there were times when I wished that the show would move on from the pointless romances and actually advance the plot. The one main romance between the main character and a female pilot is the only meaningful one, and—well, you’ll have to watch the show to find out what happens.
Nagate’s best friend, Izana, is an interesting character. Izana is androgynous, able to have sex with either gender, and falls for Nagate almost as soon as they meets him. Unfortunately for them, Nagate never sees Izana in that way. It’s kind of heartbreaking to see Izana constantly making sacrifices for him and never really getting the appreciation they deserve, which makes you care about the character. And just speaking of anime in general, an androgynous character is something that isn’t done very often, so it’s pretty cool to see it done well here.
Even if you’ve never watched anime before, I would still recommend Knights of Sidonia as a place to start. It may be complicated and give you a knee-jerk reaction at first, but if you stick with it you will be rewarded. It’s only one season long so far (12 episodes) so it’s not much of a time investment, and the season finale was open-ended enough to allow for more, but honestly if the series ended there it would feel complete. If you have Netflix, you have no excuse—give it a try!
Not to mention, the opening song is freaking epic: