First Impression – Knights of Sidonia

Move over, Ars Nova.

Well here it is, the CG anime of the season. It’s honestly not bad, though the whole CG thing still takes a bit getting used to.

 

On CG

Cool, shiny mecha.

If you’ve sworn off all anime CG, I don’t know why you’re here reading this post about Knights of Sidonia. But if you’re like me and you’re open minded about a different style of animation, then read on. Seeing as it is obviously the big deal, let me get it out of the way right now and say that the CG is actually pretty good here. As far as our brief glimpse of the mecha goes, it was some of the better CG that I’ve seen. But of course, that’s not what we’re concerned about. Applying it to the characters (and everything else) is the novelty, and in this case I didn’t find it very off-putting. The movements and expressions of the characters do appear a bit stiff at times as usual, but it wasn’t anything so bad as to make the show unwatchable.

A few weird moments here and there.

The fact of the matter is that the fundamental problem lies with the CG character designs approaching reality enough that we start expecting the detailed human mannerisms that we might not expect from more traditional animation. I think you’ll find if you watch any other typical anime that the characters are technically no more expressive and move no more realistically than the CG ones in Knights of Sidonia. But in any case, this isn’t an excuse for CG animation to rest on its laurels at this semi-comfortable spot. I think that if animators can continue to develop this method and better nail down the little minute details of realistic human movement and expressiveness, there is a great deal of potential for CG anime in the near future.

Sci-Fi Galore

Somebody get this man some chloroplasts.

And now on to the show itself. In terms of plot, Knights of Sidonia has the typical dark horse protagonist who rises (in this case literally) from obscurity to fame overnight. In this show, the trope is applied in the context of mecha pilots in the far, dystopian, space-venturing future. Pretty standard fare, but a good story nonetheless. I’m a big fan of the sci-fi genre, and mecha space combat aside, I find the biological engineering talk quite fascinating. There’s mention of humans being capable of photosynthesis, which might sound like a great idea to a rather niche crowd (myself included). Overall though, I doubt such a thing would ever be accepted because I’m sure the majority of people are not willing to sacrifice the experience of cutting a juicy piece of steak and putting it in their mouth. Think of all the world hunger problems that could be solved if photosynthesis were made available to mankind though. If you’re ever hungry, all you have to do is walk out into the sun (or really any visible light source). That’s amazing!

I think there are enough of them.

Continuing on the sci-fi frenzy, there’s the apparent development of cloning into a seemingly viable procedure. I highly doubt all of those pink-haired girls are just a large family of x-tuplets. Though clearly not everyone is or has a clone, so perhaps there are still some kinks with health or longevity to be worked out. Finally, there’s this weird thing about a third gender, which suggests further biological manipulation beyond the splicing of photosynthesis into the human genome. Makes you wonder if children are born naturally any more in Knights of Sidonia or if they’re all “grown in test tubes.”

The song Detachable Penis comes to mind.

The only reason I can see for making everyone capable of reproduction with each other in an isolated colony is to get rid of gender ratio issues and thereby prevent decreasing birth rates (I would expect overpopulation to be the real issue given their limited resources). I can’t see this really working in principle though. Most problems with birth rates stem from behavioral issues and not from the availability of partners of the opposite gender. The only example I know of gender ratio being a real problem for birth rate is a story I once read about China coming dangerously close to being vastly male overpopulated, but I’ve not followed up on that story and China still exists and pumps out babies so I digress. You don’t see any others like Izana (though it is implied she isn’t alone) so I can only surmise that the third gender, like the pink-haired clones, is an experiment.

So yeah, as you can tell from my post there’s not too much to talk about plot-wise so far, but certainly plenty to talk about in the geeky sci-fi department. And aside from these matters, I’ve said all I want to and care to say about the CG, so I guess I’ll leave it at that for this premiere.

Come back for more Arai Satomi bears!

About

A mechanical engineer who spends too much time watching anime and reading manga.
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55 Responses to “First Impression – Knights of Sidonia”

  1. Di Gi Kazune says:

    Frankly speaking, only Ms. Bear looks interesting. He actually didn’t get his Midichlorian fix…

    This show is exactly why Humanity should always go exploring with a big badass battlecruiser. Space is a dangerous place.

    • skylion says:

      Yeah, they had me at Arai Satomi, lost me on just about everything else.

    • BlackBriar says:

      Sometimes fate just isn’t kind and humanity has to make do with whatever is available. Look at what happened with Titan A.E. Oddly enough, excluding the characters themselves, the rest of that movie was pure CG.

      • Di Gi Kazune says:

        Titan AE is what happens when you don’t devote enough $$$ into a proper space program. NASA should have its budget massively jacked up at the expense of the Department of Defending Busybodies.

      • Irenesharda says:

        I really liked Titan AE, and that movie is what I thought of when I first heard this synopsis. Now, even though that movie came out years ago, I’ll admit its CG looked better than this. However, I think (and hope) that this story will be a little deeper.

    • Bonk says:

      So Kozlov from Biomega did find someone to mate.

  2. cm_1 says:

    Battlecruiser? Sidonia itself a Self Sufficient Colony the size of Mars’ largest moon…but no warp drives here, need 1000 yrs to get into other stars…

  3. skylion says:

    How do they fix nitrogen; stick their hands in some enriched dirt? How to they respire; is still the same oxygen/carbon dioxide thing or does that all change? I mean it’s one thing to say “hey we photosythesis now” but that leaves way to many unanswered questions.

    This one felt fair weak to me. Ars Nova doesn’t have to budge an inch, and it appears to be moving faster in comparison.

    I’ll probably stick with it for a bit more though, as I would like to see them actually battle the enemy before I condemn it to the drop list.

    • Overcooled says:

      I would really appreciate it if they elaborated on these super cool sci-fi things too. They’re so cool! Tell me more!

      • skylion says:

        Yeah, they trying to get a way with the old, “How does that work?”, “It works very nicely, thanks!” routine. C’mon throw me a frikken bone here.

        • Di Gi Kazune says:

          *insert technobabble here* :P

          I have a feeling here that this series is one that is focused on the human development that uses a “sci-fi” setting as its background. Like a certain gravitationally challenged movie.

    • Irenesharda says:

      I agree, they need to explain this whole “humans are doing this photosynthesis” thing.
      Also, and how do they balance that with the normal digestive process as well?

      Also explain this third gender thing as well! Can he/shes be born or just created artificially? And if so, do men still decide the gender? And how does a third gender completely change all their genes from one sex to another? Do they get rid of some chromosomes all of a sudden? Also, if they can be born naturally, then does the man still decide the sex of the child? And if so, what is the combination of chromosomes that a third gender is given? Is it XX, XY, and XZ, now? Yet, wouldn’t that change the amount of chromosomes that a human has, as a human being?

      Oh, the many questions!

  4. Highway says:

    This show was kind of two separate things. The story, setting, and tracking animation was very good. And everything regarding seeing the characters was atrocious. Absolutely terrible.

    In comparison to Arpeggio of Blue Steel, I felt this was a huge step back in character animation. They made the CG character animation in Tesagure look good with this, for crying out loud. And the character designs themselves looked ripped straight out of Aku no Hana, and that’s not the show anyone should pick for basing your look on. Facial animation wasn’t just undetailed, it was bad. Characters stopped talking and just left their mouths open (or just stood around with their mouths open). The main character gets punched and instantly gets a circular blue dot over his eye, presumably to represent a black eye, but that’s totally contrary to how it works, especially since it disappeared in the next scene (when you’d actually GET a black eye after being punched). And that’s on top of moving like a bad video game.

    Really, the story drew me in pretty well. I didn’t even get hung up on the low detail of the bioengineering. But the characters were so distractingly bad to look at, that might be why.

    • zztop says:

      I looked at the manga, and I’d say the CG characters definitely suit Nihei’s drawing style.
      Here’s a comparison with the manga:
      http://mangafox.me/manga/sidonia_no_kishi/v01/c001/27.html

      • Highway says:

        Unfortunately, that doesn’t look to be available any longer (although you can see the characters on the MAL page). But a lot of the problem I have isn’t solely with the way the characters look, although that’s a big problem. I think that flat style doesn’t translate well to anime, where without shading they look completely pasty (especially the way the rest of the show is lit). But more than that was the motion and the terrible expressions.

    • Di Gi Kazune says:

      Aoki Hagane actually looked like traditional animation except they could have upped the frame rate. It works since there is a lot of mechanization which looks good in CG. I suspect they went CG beause of the mecha in Cydonia but it looks like they are using poor lighting to disguise the non-mecha parts.

      Unless they decide to be Gundam heavy with their mecha weekly, I think CG isn’t for it. Aoki Hagane’s focus is actually on the ships.

      • Highway says:

        I also recognize that in Arpeggio of Blue Steel they did a lot to minimize the problems with character motion, sometimes overly much (Gunzou was frequently more glued to his chair than Stephen Hawking). But their minimization tactics worked, and allowed the rest of the show to shine through.

        In this show, because the characters have been so forward in the first episode, you can’t help but focus on the poor look of them, to the detriment of the whole show.

  5. zztop says:

    Sidonia’s based on the ongoing manga by Nihei Tsutomu, well-known for his cyberpunk-postapocalyse themes and signature megastructure drawings in all his works. The 2nd is a carryover from his architectural studies. (ie. the architectural sprawl of Sidonia).

    He’s got an overseas fan following in Germany and has produced quite a few manga of his own, such as Blame! and Biomega.

    Sidonia’s manga came out a few months before Attack on Titan, so technically Sidonia is Titan’s senior. However, Isayama Hajime seems to have struck a bigger popularity goldmine with his only debut work compared to the more experienced Nihei.

    • BlackBriar says:

      It’s all about what pleases the masses in the entertainment business, no matter what form it may be.

  6. BlackBriar says:

    There’s a somewhat relief to this. I wasn’t sure about giving Knights of Sidonia a go because of all the CG. Sure it worked out for Arpeggio of Blue Steel but doesn’t mean others that try the same route will get the same success. Fortunately, I was tolerant based on how interesting the first episode presented the story so far plus the nice sounding OP.

    In my opinion, it’s a smart move to have the students undergo their training even though nothing has happened yet. At least some of them take possible situations in consideration. It’s naïve to think that since there haven’t been any attacks from the Gauna over the past 100 years means it’s the end of the very conflict. Space is as unpredictable as it gets.

    The creepy part in their civilization was the “advancements” in science. Mainly the fact they now have a third gender, one that’s neither male nor female. Also they’re able to successfully procreate with both men and women and their bodies adapt when they choose their partner. My only theory to that is the desperation facing a dwindling population density. However, I find that more disturbing than the higher-ups wearing masks being referred to as the undead waging a false war to prolong their lives by that senile looking protestant helping the others in abolishing the military.

    The wild card is Satomi Arai’s bear character. Where does she fit in all this?

  7. Irenesharda says:

    Well, after finally getting to see the first episode, this show actually rose pretty high on my list. Unlike Aoki Hagane, the CG of this didn’t distract me as much as I thought it would.

    I think the plot and the grand scale of things just really got to me. I’m really liking the world building here, as well as the MC and side characters. The idea of 3rd gender is rather weird as well as the fact that people now do photosynthesis. From a scientist’s perspective, this is weird and yet interesting. So, with 3rd genders, they are basically beings that can change their sex by will. This can be seen in nature with some creature such as certain frogs. However, I do find the physical and emotional and hormonal changes that a human being would have to go through would be rather drastic, and to be able to do so at will and in a natural process rather interesting and would like to see the explanation of that.

    Also, he/shes are so hard to talk about in our language. Japanese gets to have a unisex pronoun, but what do we use? :( I guess I can keep calling them he/shes but that’s rather weird sometimes.

    As for the photosynthesis, that would be really interesting to see the process of. Are humans using chloroplasts and chlorophyll now? If so, why aren’t they green? Also, is it really possible for them to be able to be out in the sun enough to absorb enough energy to make enough glucose to power the entirety of all the process of the human body? I know they also eat some food as well, but I’m interested in how a photosynthetic and normal metabolic process would balance each other?

    Anyway, the space scenes are beautiful and the fights are really nice. The OP is absolutely awesome and will be going in my music library. I already like it more than Captain Earth (thought that one is beginning to look good as well) and it’s so far my favorite mecha of the season. I’m interested to see if M3 will top it though.

    The MC while not fully realized yet, is on a good start. The he/she friend of his is a nice supporting character even though he/she has a giant death flag already.

    Silver-haired dude is normal rival material, and the leaders are the right amount of shifty. However, the story itself is the best part. It seems like Attack on Titan in Space.

    Hmm…maybe I should get out my quotes again? :P

    • skylion says:

      I would love to know the science fiction they come up with to explain how integrated the cells are. Part animal and plant? A new combination of both? As for the extra gender, I just don’t know. What happened? What niche did we find ourselves in that this evolved? What niche did we create?

      Of course, watching the latest episode of Cosmos was a great help to me here.

      So was Crash Course.

    • Highway says:

      Heh, we’re back to me and Irenesharda disagreeing on things. :)

      There was so little about the biology that I’m surprised anyone is hung up on it. To me all that wasn’t world building, it was just throwaway lines to create separation between the world of the people watching the show and the world of the show. Just “Oh yeah, we do this and that, not that and this” like Star Trek technobabble. Mostly meaningless, maybe helpful for a plot contrivance.

      • BlackBriar says:

        Heh, we’re back to me and Irenesharda disagreeing on things

        It’s fun having you two lock horns with each other again. If only I had a front row seat. :) And here I thought skylion and I had civil disagreements.

        • skylion says:

          You learn more with civil disagreements. Everyone sitting around agreeing is kinda boring.

          • d-LaN says:

            As long as ppl are waving hands to each other on a posh chair with a cup of champagne in hand instead of hurling insults at one another.

      • Di Gi Kazune says:

        Oi, leave the poor Star Trek Technobabble(tm) out of this. :P They actually use it as plot device and development. :P

        Part of making a good sci-fi show is the background or at least a brief synopsis of the current situation. All the good SF series actually do this. I would suggest to wait for a few more episodes and then marathon 4-5 episodes in one go to see if there is improvement. Right now it looks like they are not doing the background setup adequately. Almost all the scifi series I enjoy I started out when it was at least more than half a season old. But all have one thing in common: The series should be showing what humanity should be doing instead of where humanity is lagging.

      • Irenesharda says:

        Ahhh, we meet again.

        I was thinking we were beginning to agree too much recently what with Nagi no Asukara, Buddy Complex, and recently, Kamigami no Asobi.

        But alas, everything is now back to it’s rightful place… :P

        I don’t know if I would equate it with technobabble since it’s more about biological conditions that are affecting our central characters,and thus it’s calls more attention to it. One of our main supporting characters is a 3rd gender, so now we want to know what that means and what it means for that character and his/her relationships with others. Our MC is one of the very few who doesn’t have this photosynthesis process. Why? Is this process something that you are now born with or does it need to be engineered into your genes at some point? And what will this mean for Nagate? Will he lose energy faster than his comrades and it will become a liability? Or will he later have an advantage over them if they ever find a place with little to no light?

        Also, since I’m a biochemist rather than an engineer, biologic advances in sci-fi catch my eye faster than technobabble.

        • Foshizzel says:

          Yay! I welcome you back and I have to ask are you watching Captain Earth!? I think you would like that one so far it feels like a mixture of Star Driver and the original Eureka Seven <3

          The third gender is kind of interesting and it adds more scifi to the mix which I feel is missing from most of the mecha lately, but I can’t wait until we see more fighting and learning about the MC and discovering WHY he is so important.

          • Irenesharda says:

            Yes, I am watching Captain Earth. I wasn’t too sure about it on the first episode because it was very confusing and the whole thing left me bewildered,and not in a good way. However, the second episode was better and I’m beginning to get a good idea of the MC as well as the plot. I’m really interested in the evil CEO and his sinister AI, Puck. I want to see this “Macbeth Revolution” and how it unfolds.

            I’ve actually never seen Star Driver, and Eureka Seven, I dropped after about 10 or 12 episodes. I didn’t like most of the characters, and after trying to stay with it for that long, it still felt so incredibly boring and aimless.

            As for Sidonia, this does create a sci-fi element that is not often seen in mecha of recent years. I love a lot of the recent stuff too, but this is kind of new. Also, I’m excited to see some fights too. I want to see Nagate show his stuff and also I’ve heard this show is going to have about as high of a body count as AoT, so I say: Bring it On! :)

            • skylion says:

              It’s always great to have you back. I was considering giving this show the drop, but if you stick around, I might just hang on!

            • Highway says:

              Star Driver is a lot better than Captain Earth so far. It gets a bit repetitive, but overall, the fabulous nature of it just carries it a long way.

            • Irenesharda says:

              Thanks, I might be in a little sporadically for the rest of the month because we’re down to the wire in school. However, I’ll be here regularly in May. Yay!

              Will stick this one out together, sky. :)

  8. akagami says:

    Ugh. I’m with Highway on this one, the CG reminds me of something 10 years ago. Besides being horribly distracting (to me at least), I started to get a minor version of motion sickness. Bleh.

    But haha, the whole “I can switch genders when I start mating” had me going lol. I wonder how quick the change would be… minutes, months, years? “I’m going to date a guy for a month, then date that girl for the next”… hmm…. I can already start picturing the doujins.

    • Di Gi Kazune says:

      Reminds me of that show I cannot remember the name that all are born female and have to choose their gender at 21 but they lose their ability to pilot those flying machines if they become male… the name escapes me at the moment… You know.. that excessively yuri show…

    • Highway says:

      Really, only a part of my problem with the characters is the CG animation. The CG was what it was. But the character design, on top of that, was just awful. That’s my biggest problem, and then the direction, to just do terrible things with them. The things I mentioned above: Leaving characters mouths open when they’re just standing around. Why? That terrible ‘black eye’. Why? That’s not because it’s CG. That’s because it was done poorly.

      • akagami says:

        Well, there is that. But in this case I would say CG exacerbated the problem, since you can take shortcuts. (Disclaimer: I’m not a CG expert so this is just guessing based on what I know, which could be incorrect).

  9. Foshizzel says:

    At least the CGI robots look unique I will give them that much, but yeah the characters up close look freaky especially when they add in movement? Whaaaa?! That said I will watch it anyway cause I think the story and themes are really interesting! I am happy they are going more scifi on this.

    I loved all the first person stuff! Now that was cool~

  10. BlackBriar says:

    Again? Spammy has really been gnawing at my leg lately.

    • skylion says:

      I still don’t have Spammy slaying privileges. The Boss Lady is supposed to give me one last secret mission before I get that status.

      So enjoy Spammy. He needs the company!

  11. BlackBriar says:

    If anyone’s wondering which Spring series are the most popular this season right now, here’s the list from ANN.

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