A thousand years into the future, Earth has been destroyed by powerful aliens known as Gauna. Although mankind has fled into space, the giant spaceships they now call home are still constantly being targeted by the strange creatures. Piloting mobile weapon units called "Gardes," humanity is able to take a stand against their adversaries by destroying their cores, preventing the monsters from regenerating their protective shell of placenta.
Within the vessel Sidonia, a boy named Nagate Tanikaze surfaces from its depths for the very first time in his life. With an incredible amount of time clocked into pilot simulators during his isolation deep within the ship, he quickly proves to be an indispensable asset to humanity's defense force. With the opportunity to pilot the legendary Garde Tsugumori, he fights to protect Sidonia from a grim demise.
Sidonia no Kishi won the 39th Kodansha Manga Award in the general category.
The series was published in English as Knights of Sidonia by Vertical, Inc. from February 5, 2013 to April 26, 2016; in Italian by Panini Comics under the Planet Manga imprint since October 22, 2011; in Polish as Rycerze Sidonii by Kotori since April 8, 2016; and in Brazilian Portuguese by Jbc since April 2016.
Our favourite cyberpunk artist has finally gone mainstream, dumbed his latest work down to a level that we mere mortals can consume & digest without difficulties.
Nihei Tsuomu's works are very unique. 'Blame!' was a manga you had to re-read a few times to actually realize the plot. The magaka refused to narrate even the most critical things. Compare that to the typical manga/anime with text-bubbles, notes & what-nots... you were left with your own devices(imagination, wit & interest) to parse the story. Yet the story was complex, layered and you were free to come up with your own interpretations. But, whatever your impression was
based on his previous works, you had to admit one thing:
That his works were utterly, massively, absolutely cool.
One definite improvement is the artwork. There's now a unprecedented clarity, unseen on Nihei's previous mangas. Now the human are drawn with equal grace & fluency as he did with the cyborgs, monsters & robots before. Although there's the issue with generic human faces. But seeing the author's depiction of conflict on a grand-scale & mind boggling mega structures, there aren't many manga with better artworks than this. Characters in this manga are designed & developed in a traditional way. Now there are conversations, multiple panels are dedicated on clarifying a character's intentions or actions. Not many things are left to imagination. Some of the fight scenes are a bit confusing maybe, but the anime will help you up on that. Multiple readings are not required to finally get to the bottom of the story.
If you were expecting a gritty, dark story without any emotional fat & shallow story-telling.... you might be disappointed. Although "Mecha" is not a genre that can naturally produce anime/manga with actual depth in the story-line. The basic idea of human shaped fighting machines doesn't scream 'grown-up' in the first place. Yes this is tagged as "seinen", but not for the right reasons.
Truth is, this manga(and anime adaption) is & will continue to be a bigger success in Nihei's career compared to 'Blame!' or 'Biomega'. If you are a mecha/space-odessy fan, you must give it a go. There aren't many better ones than this.
Just finished the whole manga a second time; Was again a binge-read within 8 days;
Got hooked on the Manga after watching the first season of the anime on Netflix; If you saw the anime you know the main direction, but there are differences, major and minor;
* Action/War/Survival in space with mechas
* the world is a mixture of dystopian and utopian elements
* one main enemy (most of the time)
* characters are not very multi-layered; but the whole story isn't too;
* the story does not go very, very deep
* Easy to have an overview, there is basically only one main story (survival, destroy the enemy) and
very, very few sub-plots
* Happy End
MEGA-Pro for me: NO philosophical questions; NO existential questions (maybe some hints)
Thank god something like this exists!!!
Also be aware: If you are the kind of reader that needs an explanation for everything in a story, do not even start; There are so many open questions at the end, but that`s just like reality and I do not mind that; You can't get an answer for everything that happens.
A quick note: should you be interested in picking up this manga after viewing the 2014 anime adaptation, you can expect the same general story with a few very noticeable differences. The adaptation has streamlined and condensed the events depicted in chapters 1 – 26 or so, leaving out several events that are key to the manga. You may be confused if you don't start right at the beginning, which I greatly recommend. Both do certain things better than the other. The manga does include a “chapter 0” that was not adapted; make sure to look out for it!
Tsutomu Nihei's “Knights of Sidonia” is an
ongoing space odyssey manga with mecha elements, set in a bleak yet hauntingly beautiful vision of the future. It's an exciting story with a slightly formulaic but overall unpredictable narrative crafted with the utmost attention to small details that make the world feel alive. It is, however, not without its flaws.
Humanity's enemy, the Gauna, are mysterious alien creatures composed of “true bodies” encased in regenerating placenta. A Gauna can shape its placenta into anything it desires, frequently doing so to resemble human beings. Should the placenta be breached and the true body be pierced with a mysterious material called “kabi,” the Gauna will immediately disintegrate. Simple enough.
The titular spacefaring megastructure, Sidonia, at approximately five kilometers wide and 29 kilometers long, has too much bulk to directly combat the Gauna. Instead, it relies on a battalion of humanoid robots that require the manual control of pilots (Sidonia's "knights"). These robots, known as Guardians, engage the Gauna while the ship provides support with an arsenal of doomsday weapons such as energy cannons, mass drivers, anti-planet warheads, and a 28 kilometer railgun that would make Mikoto Misaka proud. The latter are so incredibly destructive that the crew needs to assess the repercussions before firing. When Sidonia does fire, you brace yourself and hold on tight.
To keep the formula fresh, new technology is constantly introduced on the human side while each Gauna the ship encounters is unique in some way. Even fights against hordes of your standard disposable Gauna grunt are made interesting by new weaponry or a drastic change in terrain.
The previously mentioned technological breakthroughs are occasionally the answer to a problem, resulting in several instances of deus ex machina. While Tsutomu still manages to make these situations exciting, I would have much rather seen the obstacle overcome with simple ingenuity. This does, however, positively affect the overall story, as Sidonia gradually transitions from prey to predator. Even then, some tech simply blew me away with how cool it was (one word: Mizuki).
Battles are cleverly depicted from two alternating perspectives: the battlefront itself and Sidonia's bridge. Tsutomu uses the bridge, which is dominated by a massive digital display that monitors ongoing activities, to help us better understand the current situation as well as the tactics and maneuvers (which, might I say, are very interesting) that are being employed by the crew. I've found it to be a very effective system.
Perhaps what I love most about Knights of Sidonia is Tsutomu's vision of the future, where the continued survival of the human race has been put above all else. Humanity has resorted to cloning and genetic modification, creating people that can photosynthesize in order to save food rations and a third gender capable of mating with either sex or asexually. It's dark, it's clever, and it's all firmly rooted in real science. Higgs particles - a form of energy utilized by Sidonia - for example, were discovered by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in 2012.
Tsutomu adds another layer of depth by depicting advanced technology being juxtaposed with slightly more contemporary instruments. Higgs-based weapons, for example, are used in conjunction with both kabi-based weapons and standard, seemingly powder-based munitions reminiscent of our own time. The technology is not perfect, either; Sidonia is not capable of faster than light travel and must make good use of its limited resources.
As the war effort devours the vast majority of these resources, the ship's residential sector has developed into one of the most imaginative places I've seen in fiction: an intricate patchwork city of suspended lodgings, piping, twisting stairwells, and a variety of colorful OSHA violations - all curving around the ship's railgun barrel. I fell in love at first sight.
Prefacing nearly every chapter are full-page images excerpted from the “100 Sights of Sidonia,” a photographic guidebook of the ship mentioned on occasion throughout the story. One of my favorite entries depicts Izana pressing himself/herself against the oldest “converter pipe” on the ship – a massive industrial pipeline designated as sacred by shimenawa (traditional Shinto rice ropes). Other entries include wind tunnels, fish farms, factories, and bathhouses, all of which secure the vastness and diversity of the ship while simultaneously painting a picture of its culture. It's a subtle addition but it adds a lot.
I can't emphasize enough just how well Tsutomu incorporates these subtle details. One particular supporting character, a Guardian pilot by the name of Norio Kunato, is named after edible seaweed (known as “nori” in Japanese, which is notable for its use as a wrap for onigiri and sushi). During Sidonia's millennium adrift, seaweed has “fallen out of production” and has become a precious commodity, rendering the name culturally acceptable. I absolutely love it.
The people who occupy this world sound interesting enough; Knights of Sidonia delivers a cast of mole men, human/bear hybrids, hermaphrodites, clones, androids, immortals, aliens - you name it. Unfortunately, for characters with such interesting backgrounds, the majority seem to fall flat. It's not that they're unlikable - they are and can prove to be quite fun - it's just that their actions have a habit of seeming... two-dimensional. Perhaps the most prominent example is our beloved hero, Nagate Tanikaze.
Throughout the story we might hear that Nagate vocalized his opinions on an important matter, such as demanding the reinforcement of the armor on certain Guardian models, but we never explicitly witness it. What we do see is a young man who likes to eat and is just about as submissive as he is stereotypical and oblivious to his harem, which slowly but surely grows stronger. Again, he never manages to be unlikable per se, yet he can prove to be boring and undergoes practically no character development after the opening chapters, which is a shame.
The other recurring characters manage to be somewhat more lively and, well, more feminine (this includes the hermaphrodite). I find the most interesting ones to be those operating the bridge, especially Yuhata Midorikawa and the mysterious masked captain, Kobayashi. While the horrors of the Gauna and the reality of death almost never act as a catalyst for character development, these characters are noteworthy exceptions.
Ultimately, the strongest character is Sidonia itself.
Sidonia is alive. It's a living, breathing place. It's familiarity and safety. It becomes home; for not just the characters but the reader, and I eagerly await the next chapter that will bring me back.
Tsutomu Nihei's “Knights of Sidonia”
UPDATE 1: July 1st, 2014 (revised for clarity and grammatical errors)
UPDATE 2: July 2nd, 2014 (paranoia)
This review will continue to be revised as more chapters are published.
+ Incredible attention to detail
+ Unpredictable narrative
+ Alternating perspectives during battle
- Deus ex machina
+ A vast, beautiful, and everchanging world to explore
+ Sidonia's 100 Sights
+ Interesting backgrounds
- Two-dimensional mannerisms/idiosyncrasies
- Lack of character development
+ Incredible world
+ An exciting narrative
- Deadpan hero
Story - The story is strange and will not go exactly where you expect. When I first started reading, I thought he was just doing a mecha for fun but now I realize that he is trolling us really hard. This series has all the standard mecha features, but everything is twisted and insane and delightful.
Art - The art is great, even if it's a little different from his other works.
Character - The characters are really fun. I can't say that there is lot of what I would call actual character development, but they are
all interesting and weird. And the love triangle between the boy, the girl, and the boygirl that transforms, somehow, into a love triangle between a boy, a boygirl, and a gigantic monster made of space goo is just....I don't even know. I don't even know.
Enjoyment - There are plenty of epic space mecha battles for action, and then also details of the really strange sci-fi setting, not to mention the mysterious past. It's very enjoyable to read.
Overall - If you already like Tsutomu Nihei stories I'm sure you'd like this one as well. And if you like something really weird and different, that includes a gigantic monster made of goo who behaves like teenage girl, then seriously take a look. Really I don't even know what to say about Shiranui. Like I really thought I knew what he was doing with this story and then she showed up and I didn't know anymore. Anyway go read it, it's pretty great.
On April 6, Dai Sato and Justin Leach stopped by The Japan Society to talk about the state of Japanese animation post Hayao Miyazaki. How has it been since his retirement, and is anime moving in a good direction? Or bad direction? Here's a recap of the event.
It's not easy being human in Knights of Sidonia. Earth has been destroyed and we're confined to a rickety space station, stalked by a mindless force that wants to eat us. Our only defense is the Garde: a type of mecha capable of fighting the alien threat. Let's take a walk through its history!