"You should do whatever you have to do to survive in any situation."
Japanese manga artist Tsutomu Nihei has created some pretty dynamic, eye-popping artwork. The manga artist is the brains behind Biomega (2004-2009), Noise (2001), Blame! (1998-2003) and of course, our spotlight here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic, Knights Of Sidonia (2009-2015).
With the release of Netflix original animated film, Blame! (2017), and to celebrate the work of Nihei, it was time for another look at the anime adaptation of his soon to be heralded classic. Knights Of Sidonia (2014-2015), by Sadayuki Murai and director Kobun Shizuno, is something special and remains true to the Nihei manga. Murai would collaborate with Nihei for the Netflix film Blame!.
Thus far, the first four episodes of Knights Of Sidonia have delivered the perfect balance of action and character in the classic space opera mold but with plenty of twist. The latest installment offers another completely unexpected approach in style to science fiction conventions with which the series enjoys to challenge us.
Knights Of Sidonia, Season One, Episode 5, Adrift is here.
The story focuses almost solely on Shizuka Hoshijiro and Nagate Tanikaze.
Adrift in her orb-shaped escape pod following her defeat at the hands of the Guana Hoshijiro is rescued by Tanikaze.
Tanikaze's Garde unit is damaged and limited with a severed arm following his success in destroying the Guana as covered in Episode 4, Sacrifices here.
Tanikaze is warned not to proceed toward Hoshijiro's trajectory because it will take him away from the lifeboat vessel that is Sidonia unable to return safely. Tanikaze defies the odds to rescue Hoshijiro. He passes the point of no return.
Heroically Tanikaze reaches Hoshijiro's life pod. He exits his Garde now on reserve and back up power. Using a jet pack he makes his way to her pod to bring Hoshijiro back to his Garde unit.
Back at the damaged Garde unit Tanikaze, clearly smitten with Hoshijiro, and Hoshijiro with Tanikaze, take residence and the two work together to insure their mutual survival.
Adrift in space the two work their intellect to ensure survival manually attempting to restore the Heigus particle supply through a type of solar capture. The Heigus particle supply is what powers the Garde unit.
All of this happens appropriately in the quiet of space. The dead of space is never interrupted by annoying J-pop tunes or needless noise. The episode is effective for its embrace of silence as the two pilots simply exchange simple ideas and normal banter with nothing more than their own company. These quiet moments are quite beautiful.
The use of music is minimalist in approach if at all. It's affecting and quite reminiscent of Makoto Shinkai's exquisite Voice Of A Distant Star (2005) here.
The simple fact these two have one another further highlights just how alone an individual would be in space alone. It's not nearly as lonely with two.
The bravery of Tanikaze to rescue Hoshijiro speaks to his incredible character.
So often in anime there is this idea of a chosen one, both male and female. Some may be reluctant and not at all cock sure. You had reluctant pilot Shinji Ikari in Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996). Thanks to director Hideaki Anno Shinji was a psychologically traumatized fourteen year old with serious parent issues but with some degree of skill or destiny.
The number of young male, never mind female, pilots in anime are almost too many to count. Reluctant, head strong, cocky. You name it and anime has it. Noah Izumi (Mobile Police Patlabor), Asuka (Neon Genesis Evangelion), Noriko Takaya (Gunbuster). The list goes on.
Tanikaze is skilled and well-trained but certainly not infused with confidence and bravado.
In live action film, you even have young Ender Wiggins in a film like Ender's Game (2013).
But here in Knights Of Sidonia, Tanikaze is determined and focused if not also in love.
Together the two assess their life support and estimate they have ten days between them. The two work in a very small compartment inside the Garde to stay alive.
Survival episodes in science fiction are often quite thrilling. UFO's Sub-Smash (1970), Battlestar Galactica's You Can't Go Home Again (2004) and Stargate Atlantis' Grace Under Pressure (2006) are just a few splendid examples.
At one point Hoshijiro sheds her suit and simply floats as she is able to gain sustenance from simply photosynthesizing. Naked and with Tanikaze turned away from her the two simply talk and the moments continue to fill in these character voids beautifully.
Breaking from the drifting couple, Adrift takes us back to Sidonia for some historical back story regarding the Gauna and the discovery of a mysterious pyramid-like structure with a substance called Kabi, the only known substance capable of penetrating a Guana core because a Guana will literally stick to it.
We also learn Captain Kobayashi and Lala Hiyama, the talking bear, are the last two surviving members of the original strike team 600 years ago placing them amongst the Immortals. Nagate's grandfather, Hiroki Saito, was one of the Immortals who went underground.
Intriguing, and this writer is not versed enough to make the connection yet if any, but a talking bear (not Lala) also appears in Tsutomu Nihei's manga Biomega (2004-2009) (see image below) complete with the hand hook. So there is indeed some cross universe mythology building from Nihei.
Also, the Earth was split in two by the Guana and may explain why survivors were launched aboard the seed ships.
And when the Guana came they were shaped like humans. This is a very Japanese theme. Think of the human-like creatures in Attack On Titan (2013-present) or the humanoid creatures of kaiju eiga like the one found in Daimajin (1966). Consider if you will the man in a rubber suit. There is something to these often humanoid features that speak to humanity's battle with itself. Knights Of Sidonia works with these very Japanese science fiction conventions.
And so, not surprisingly, Hoshijiro believes the Guana may desire communication, but because we are different and perhaps communicate differently are unable to work with us. This, again, speaks to humanity's own inability to communicate across cultures. And of course with one culture desiring to kill another or another with a hardened, unwavering belief system it makes healthy communication difficult.
Dehydrated and with time running out Tanikaze grows weaker due to an inability to photosynthesize. Hoshijiro filters her urine for water to nourish Tanikaze.
In the end the two young pilots are rescued by a full fleet of Garde units violating normal protocols to bring Tanikaze and Hoshijiro home. But why? Because Tanikaze is special.
Adrift works magnificently well as a simple lifeboat tale for two in the dead of space. It's simple, affecting and beautifully executed. Not to mention Knights Of Sidonia continues to be a gorgeously rendered animation with a wonderful color palette for space. This is animated science fiction at its very best.