Thursday, August 13, 2015

Knights Of Sidonia

Knights Of Sidonia (2014) is simply one of the finest science fiction undertakings in anime in some years. It is quite simply a fully transporting, immersive experience. Rarely in science fiction does a viewer feel they have been transported and delivered to a place so authentically foreign but real and authentic.

Perhaps the closest example of an outer space excursion into live action to transport this reader in such a vivid fashion would be Stargate Universe (2009-2011), a live action equivalent of this level of quality made for television. Ridley Scott's Prometheus (2012) or Danny Boyle's Sunshine (2007) are also two fine examples in film. For anime though, Knights Of Sidonia deserves a place of recognition among such treats for fans of deep space-oriented sci-fi.

The last bastion of humanity lives aboard a lifeboat-like ship called Sidonia that is literally built inside an asteroid seemingly as a form of camouflage.

To match the beautiful animation there are beautifully articulated science fiction touches, be it tech, a talking bear or other, within its story based upon the manga work of Tsutomu Nihei. The story surrounds a people literally on the brink of extinction by an alien race known as the Gauna. Compulsory service by the able-bodied and skilled is required to stem the tide of the Gauna yet life hangs in the balance with a great deal of fragility.

Earth inhabitants have adapted to their future environ through genetic engineering. Earthlings reproduce through cloning. Life is sustained through photosynthesis. Even a third gender has been created.

There is so much detail thoughtfully built into the series that it manages to weave an exciting and credible world within its first twelve episode run. What of this vast ship called Sidonia? What of its inhabitants? And what of this talking bear? You could explore the vast universe and world within Sidonia as much as you could the outside world. There are deep probing questions surrounding certain characters like Nagate Tanikaze once hidden deep within the bowels and recesses of this massive ark-like vessel.

This is a masterfully written concept based on a number of basic science fiction and mecha precepts or conventions, but taken to dark and surprising places. There are echoes of Neon Genesis Evangelion from the reluctant pilot to a battle with a returning enemy, but such similarities end there as it departs into a fresh reinvigorating new direction for sci-fi.

While ultimately a tale of survival characters are generously handled and skillfully woven into the story without giving too much away too quickly, yet offering enough to keep science fiction fans intrigued and riveted throughout its yarn. Nothing is rushed. This is one of the reasons why Stargate Universe was so very good.

A stellar review was even submitted at by writer Kenneth Brown who noted "confidence and purpose" in the direction of the series by director Kobun Shizuno and scriptwriter Sadayuki Murai. He accurately writes, "No decision is without consequence, no plot twist without proper groundwork, no suspense without a fitting build-up, no assault without a genuine fear that someone -- or everyone -- you've come to care about not be around to see Season Two."

That review is appreciated simply because so many miss the beats of this science fiction drama just as they missed what made Stargate Universe work so well. Brown gives the respect Knights Of Sidonia is due.

For those willing to invest in this space drama he suggests it is sometimes a "slowburn" but "rewarding" and "character-driven." Brown notes this is a "convincing universe." Indeed. It is as lived-in a world as the mythology-building that infused Attack On Titan. Knights Of Sidonia is an authentic space tale conjured by some very thoughtful creators.

So step into your mechanized Garde unit and prepare for battle against the Gauna. There are no caveats people. Knights Of Sidonia is the real thing when it comes to a science fiction saga. This primer is meant as nothing more than a signpost of things to come as we delve deeply into its world. I had high hopes for Knights Of Sidonia going way back to my announcement of its arrival in a year end retrospective post here.

I eventually viewed and enjoyed Knights Of Sidonia with great enthusiasm watching it via Netflix without an English dub. I discussed my general reaction to that series and Attack On Titan here.

Finally it has arrived on Blu-Ray, with an English dub, and I must tell you the English dub is exceptional. Whether it remains faithful to the written word and the original material has yet to be determined, but it is a terrifically professional work with proper inflection.

I certainly hope science fiction fans and aficionados out there will give Knights Of Sidonia a chance and discover this intelligent and suspenseful sci-fi gem. It's not just great anime. It's great science fiction.

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