I’ve had this one sitting on the backburner for quite a while. Like a lot of people, I have my reservations about the usage of CG in anime. At its best it can blend with the 2D art to create something itneresting, but at its worst it can look clunky and really out of place next to hand drawn characters. And this isn’t just limited to traditional animation, when mixed with live action it can look even worse. Luckily, Knights of Sidonia is 100% CG with cel-shading applied to give it the look of your average anime, and the end result is something truly spectacular.
Knights of Sidonia takes place far into the future where humanity had discovered and been at war with a mysterious extra-terrestrial race known as the Gauna. The Gauna attacked unprovoked and with no clear way to communicate with them, humanity entered into the First Gauna War. After 14 years, Earth was attacked and split in two. Many seedships fled from Earth, each one with a single destination and the hope of ensuring humanities survival elsewhere in the galaxy. After many years adrift in space, the Sidonia found an alien construct thar housed a strange sort of material, the only known material able to kill a Gauna. Named Kabi, they were fashed into lances to be used by mecha known as Gardes. Using the Kabi, the Gardes have defended Sidonia from numerous Gauna incursions during the Second, Third, and Fourth Gauna Wars. And now, in the present day, a young man named Nagate Tanikaze stumbles out of the underground of Sidonia and finds himself pulled into the war between humanity and the Gauna.
The story was so interesting it sucked me in from the first episode and I refused to stop watching. Three days later and I’ve bunged the current two season of Knights of Sidonia and it was time well spent. The characters are great, even if the harem aspect is a little... odd. From the righteous Tanikaze, the mecha enthusiast Yuhata, the hermaphroditic Izana, and the talking bear Lala, its a strange yet interesting cast. The setting is the kind of scifi that I feel like I haven’t seen in a long time. The aesthetic combined with the soundtrack created something that felt reminiscent of Zone of the Enders for some reason, but I love it for that. I was also intrigued by the humanity that the show portrayed. Advances in science led to genetic alterations which created humans that only need to eat once a week because they can photosynthesize, and then you have humans like Izana who are neither sex until they find a mate and take on the opposite sex. It’s something different and it intrigued me.
The Gauna of course are the other stars of the show. Its sometimes hard to tell if they’re intelligent or not. They attack without provocation, absorbing humans, and don’t try to communicate, but then there are some that make attempts at speech or can outwit human pilots as well as the ability to adapt rapidly to advances in human technology. Which is strange sometimes because there are no clear signs of communication between Gauna, so it’s confusing as to how Gauna that appear not long after were aware of these new developments. It’s fascinating just as much as it is confusing.
As mentioned earlier, Knights of Sidonia is an anime created from 100% CG, no 2D animation involved. To bring it further to the look of an anime, cel-shading is applied though obviously it can only get so close to 2D animation. I was worried at first that the animation would be god awful, but I was mostly wrong. The mech battles are a highlight of the show and show just how great CG can be, it’s also the most fluid animation in the whole show. However, the actual human characters seem to have very... jerky animations, like they’ve been overexaggerated. Sometimes this works to the shows benefit because it resembles your typical anime-style, but when combined with CG models it doesn’t always look great, especially at whatever framerate its running at. There were times where I thought the framerate had dipped, but considering this is a pre-rendered product, whatever it was that I was noticing was caused by something else, be it my connection to Netflix or simply the way it was animated. After a while though I got used it and there were times where I did mistake it for 2D art and animation. It’s strange like that.
All in all, I was quite impressed with the end result and it wasn’t detrimental whatsoever.
The soundtrack for Knights of Sidonia was composed by Noriyuki Asakura and while there aren’t very many tracks that stand out, those that do are typically the ones that get reused the most and I never really got tired of hearing them. There isn’t much to be said about it though.
The sound effects are pretty good and suit the show, but there were times where they were so loud or did... something that made it sound like my speakers were being blown out. It actually made me panic because I thought the speakers on my television had busted.
As of right now there is an English dub for both seasons and its a pretty decent dub at the end of the day. I didn’t listen to the Japanese dub, but as always you can default to that if dubs aren’t your thing. The dub here definitely won’t hurt your ears. It could definitely be better in places and it does sound like the voice actors were having trouble matching the lip flaps at times. There would be pauses in the dialogue that felt unnatural, not to be confused with the times where this was supposed to happen and felt right. There were also times where the voiceover stopped, but the mouths of the characters kept moving for another second or two. Not a long pause and very rare at that so it was a non-issue.
I won’t go so far as to say that Knights of Sidonia is a masterpiece. It’s damn good, but it isn’t perfect by any means and the techniques used to make it could definitely use some refinement. The second season also ends without resolving the plot, leaving it on a cliffhanger of sorts teasing a third season. However, its been over a year since season two concluded and statements from both the original manga creator and the director have suggested that it isn’t being planned at the moment, but is possible in the future once the director is finished with his current project, Blame!, which was teased in the second season of Knights of Sidonia oddly enough.
I highly recommend giving the show a try and you can find it on Netflix with both English and Japanese audio options. I also highly recommend viewing it in HD if possible.