It’s been high time for a really good, predominantly mecha anime for a really long time, and I’m so thrilled and excited to have been completely blown away by the first episode of Sidonia no Kishi. Of all the first episodes of Spring 2014 anime that I’ve seen so far, Sidonia takes the cake and if the rest of the show is as impressive as the first episode, then it’s definitely a show to watch out for this season.
In terms of plot, the story revolves around a “mole man” called Tanikaze Nagate (Osaka Ryouta) who had been living underground with his grandfather since he was born. The implication is that he’s had no contact with the outside world at all, yet with his supplies running out he takes it upon himself to journey skyward in search of food, where he’s caught stealing rice and apprehended. While underground, however, he’s been training himself with flight and mission simulators and has therefore been selected to train amongst the elites to become a garde pilot. Sidonia itself is a city contained within a manmade structure and floating in space. At some point in history, the humans encountered a space-dwelling species, the Gauna, and have been waging war against them ever since. Despite this, they haven’t encountered a Gauna in over a century, leading many of the students to become quite lax in their efforts and training. Predictably, however, it is on a sortie mission that Tanikaze and the rest of the students are attacked by a Gauna and the century of peace is shattered. If that sounds familiar in any way, I suppose we could liken it in some ways to the incredible Shingeki no Kyojin, which bears similar themes and developments from the threat to humankind to the determined, natural soldier, to the suggested rivalry with another soldier. However there are a number of similarities to other iconic shows, such as Evangelion, where young soldiers and a surprising hero battle to save a world heading towards the apocalypse. We might also find some elements from Gundam 00, just without the political developments and inter-character drama. The conspiracies and internal conflicts are quite evident from the get go, however, but I think Sidonia has already carved itself out a niche of its own and could do extremely well for a long time to come if the writers and animators plan it well.
It’s difficult to separate the plot from the characters because everything is so intertwined and woven together quite intricately. I suppose Tanikaze is the easiest because he’s a newcomer into modern society and snapped up really quickly by the military. On the other hand his body hasn’t been genetically engineered to photosynthesise and go through long periods of not eating, unlike the rest of the recruits. He’s woken up to a very alien and futuristic world, the implication being that he’s possibly the only true human around. Cloning has clearly been going on for a long time as we see through the pink-haired Honoka sisters, all voiced by Kitamura Eri. There’s also a character whom I’m particularly interested in and who has taken an interest in Tanikaze. Shinatose Izana (Toyosaki Aki) is a hermaphrodite, belong to a new genetically created third gender. I think Toyosaki did an incredible job on Izana’s voice, as his/her voice could totally pass for either gender, which is quite reminiscent of Ciel’s voice from Kuroshitsuji, done by the amazing Sakamoto Maaya. I’ve already invested myself in seeing the way Izana and Tanikaze’s relationship grows throughout the course of the series. Another intriguing character, though, is the arrogant, hot-headed Kunato Norio (Sakurai Takahiro), whose role of protagonist/antagonist is yet to be decided and he could honestly go either way. Not only is he extremely ambitious and proud, but he’s got little respect for the rest of his recruits and seems to just be in it for himself. It’s suggested that he’s sleeping with Hoshijiro Shizuka on the pretence that it’ll help her in her position as a pilot due to his high status, yet she seems to timid to break it off. Still, I think there’s something more than mere ambition; there’s a goal to pilot the Tsugumori, an older but powerful model that Tanikaze gets assigned, much to his delight and Kunato’s jealousy. Although, that might just be my wishful thinking for a cruel character’s chance at redemption.
I didn’t come into the show with any expectations but having seen the first episode, I’ve come out with a multitude of hopes for the rest of the show. There’s so much potential for this to go amazingly but a fairly big chance for it to fall short. On the positive side, though, the graphics are incredible, sharp and precise – just what you’d want for an action-heavy, mecha show such as this. The music is another plus for me, with a stunning opening sequence and an appropriately punk rock ending. The soundtrack itself has, so far, been quite typical of a mecha anime but we should be in store for some great tracks, composed by Asakura Noriyaki, who featured heavily in the Rurouni Kenshin soundtrack.
This has been a very impressive first episode, regardless of the rehashing of a familiar plotline, but there’s enough originality, suspense and intriguing characters that could potentially make this a blast to watch. 9/10 for a great start.