Production Studio: Polygon Pictures
Was this provided by the publisher? No
More Info: Anime News Network
It’s been a thousand years since humans fled Earth. The remnants of humanity fled the planet’s destruction, which came at the hands of the Gauna, a race of giant shape shifting aliens. People now live on massive seed ships, built from the remains of the very planet they abandoned. The residents of one such ship, known as the Sidonia, enjoy a heavily regimented life. The residents of the Sidonia are special folk, who are able to pilot the guardian mecha known as Gardes.
Nagate Tanikaze lived in the lowest layers of Sidonia for most of his life with his grandfather. With no other human contact, Nagate was left with little to do aside from training himself on an old Garde simulator every day. When his grandfather passes away, though, Nagate is left with nowhere to go but up. He makes his way to the surface, and is quickly selected as a Garde pilot. Nagate’s only hope is to protect the ship he’s called home from the attacks of the Gauna, using the skills he’s spent a lifetime honing.
Knights of Sidonia is unique in the world of anime, as it’s the first title to be licensed exclusively by Netflix and streamed as a Netflix Original Series. Contrary to popular expectation, the Netflix did not simulcast the series as it aired in the Spring 2014 season. Instead, the company waited to release the series in its entirety, dubbed in three languages: English, Spanish, and the original Japanese. Closed captioning and normal subtitles options are also available.
On the surface, Knights of Sidonia is not very different from other shows in the genre. Most of the set pieces, from the characters to the situations, are similar to other shows of its ilk. Where the series stands out is mainly in the way it actually tells the story. Nagate isn’t very different from the standard lead for the typical mecha show, in the sense that he grows as he rises the ranks from some unknown mecha pilot to a well-known ace. He doesn’t come across as someone who would be arrogant or boastful of his abilities. To be frank, he isn’t even fully aware of as to why he possesses such incredible skills. While genre staple elements like the requisite rival or mysterious ruling council are present, their execution stands out as more than just a cliche that was added for the sake of having them. Between fights, the pacing keeps the show moving foward, and prevents any one element from overstaying its welcome.
Knights of Sidonia’s strongest aspect, though, has to be its setting. It’s not something that many could call “enjoyable.” Humanity lost Earth, and may be on its final steps toward extinction. They’re fighting an enemy with whom they can neither communicate with, nor understand their movies. The elements come together to create a world that shows the true terror of the situation. This is helped by the show’s reliance on “hard” science, rather than soft science.
Produced by Polygon Pictures, Knights of Sidonia is a fully 3D CG anime series, which proves to be both a blessing and a curse. The 3D visuals shine when it comes to finer details on objects like the Gardes or Sidonia itself, and generally offers a higher level of detail than a traditionally animated piece with a standard TV budget. The visuals really when it comes to combat, though, which comes to life with fluid animations between the Gardes and the Gauna.
There are limitations to the formats, though. These limits are especially apparent in the character models and movement. Facial expressions tend to be wooden and lifeless. During times of fear or shock, characters exhibit what appears to be a midpoint between mild surprise and the Uncanny Valley. In addition, the CG visuals make it difficult to tell characters apart from each other. Early in the show, character movements feel choppy, though this becomes less problematic as the series progresses.
The score for the show is strong, especially with its opener Sidonia, which combines dance beat music with militaristic lyrics, and the rocking ending theme Show. The English dub features numerous veteran voice actors, which include Wendee Lee (Captain Kobayashi), Johnny Yong Bosch (Nagate), and Todd Haberkorn (Norio Kunato). The casting choices are adequate, and the actors tend to provide a similar tone to their Japanese counterparts.
Knights of Sidonia isn’t the most original mecha series on the market. Where it lacks originality, though, the show offers a strong overall execution. While the CGI may be a risky aesthetic choice that will turn away potential viewers, those who can look past it will be treated to fluid action scenes, and an impressive attention to detail.