Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Expanse S1 E4: CQB

"We are nothing like you.
The only thing Earthers care about is government handouts---free food, free water, free drugs so you can forget the aimless lives you lead. You're short-sighted, selfish... and it will destroy you."

The title CQB doesn't grab the attention in quite the same way The Expanse, Season One, Episode 4, CQB should. The acronym CQB stands for Close Quarter Battle and for some skeptical viewers that would do it.

CQB is about as thrilling and original as space battles and space deaths get. The story continues to move forward and remains riveting while plunging viewers into the heat of space battle every bit as good as some of the very best from Star Trek The Original Series (1966-1969). And those were suspenseful, exciting and just plain gripping.

Character moments are in evidence like a tender spot between Naomi and Amos, but CQB is indeed a first class thriller in the vein of the best. This is the kind of action-based science fiction that weaves seamlessly with a mystery yarn that offers science fiction fans something fresh and original that's not just a clone of the frontier discoveries of the Star Trek Enterprise. This is a frontier saga of a different kind entirely.

The Martian vessel Donnager is under attack but by who or what? A mystery entity is working hard to spark a war between Earth, Mars and the Belters but why?

This is the first episode that introduces a new character in the form of butcher Fred Johnson (see The Expanse novella The Butcher Of Anderson Station by James S.A. Corey) now on Tycho Station.

CQB is also notable for introducing fans of the book and TV series to what would become Holden and crew's ship of choice, the Rocinante.

The Donnager is a Martian warship and thought to be too big to fail. No one aboard imagines the possibility of being attacked and actually losing and yet the vessel is crippled and Holden and crew must resort to a daring escape aboard the smaller MCRN ship that would soon be named the Rocinante (in E6 Rock Bottom) before the massive warship is scuttled and is ultimately left to self destruct.

This is indeed a thrilling entry and remembered for the surprising death sequence that would take one of the five crew members before their narrow escape, as much as it is recalled for the Roci, as its often referred, in which they depart amidst some outstanding space thrills.

With an epic book series to draw from, The Expanse continues to move from strength to strength.

Writer: Naren Shankar. Director: Jeff Woolnough.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Knights Of Sidonia S1 E8: Immortality

"I generally prefer to read stories that explore the settings, and the universe where the action takes place, what's the environment of the world that the author has created. I prefer these types of stories because they let me immerse myself in a different world."
-Tsutomu Nihei, Anime News Network-

Artist/author Tsutomu Nihei suggests he prefers his alien landscapes over human drama, but to be clear he is deft at weaving both with precision and looking at real world emotion through a complex landscape and alien lens built from his own imagination.

Knights Of Sidonia, Season One, Episode 8, Immortality demonstrates yet again Nihei has crafted a story that is immersive in both world building and emotional subtext and the drama surrounding the human condition.

The politics. The safety belt rails. The photosynthesizing humans. The structures and locations within the epic seed ship. All of these details. It's all about creating a universe. This massive microcosm called Sidonia is indeed an extension of Nihei’s extensive world building. It’s a stunning work of imagination.

The story continues as the Sidonia military take offense against three Garde-shaped Gauna creatures. Thanks to the loss of Garde pilots and units in previous missions including the loss of Hoshijiro the Gauna lifeform has mimicked and evolved.

Two of the three units are destroyed, but a fast-moving, third, projecting the voice of Hoshijiro, escapes. The Sidonia pilots abort the mission rather than give pursuit, but not before Nagate manages to secure a Gauna specimen in the shape and form of the late Hoshijiro. Whilst some of the command center is against Nagate's effort to retrieve the specimen in the heat of battle, commander Kobayashi overrules and orders the specimen secured. But why? There are indeed questions surrounding the shadowy ruling body that leads the microcosmic world of Sidonia.

Additional mythology weaving is handled throughout the story entitled Immortality. Captain Kobayashi and the bear, Lala Hiyama, are crew Immortals that chose to lead Sidonia to one day populate a new planet.

A series of flashbacks throughout the episode's second half reveal the historical timeline on the strange origins of Nagate Tanikaze as well as the Immortal Council and some of the players involved in Sidonia including Kobayashi, the bear and Hiroki Saito, Nagate's grandfather.

The final shot of the Gauna specimen, a life form in the image of the late Hoshijiro is at once unsettling and beautiful. In containment the final words uttered by the creature are "Tanikaze."

Immortality is a great entry in the series mythology and world-building with swirling questions of immortality abound. Propelling the tale forward the entry continues to build upon this already original, strong and fascinating science fiction. Knights Of Sidonia too should stand the test of time in anime for those who like their animation intelligent. It succeeds so completely where so much of anime just fails with shortcomings too many to count.