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.
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.read more
Sidonia no Kishi is an excellent work by Nihei Tsuomu.He has improved his style, adapting it to the more usual manga style but still keeping his lines and proportions.
Nihei uses the "Gauna" from other works(Creatures able to change the outer layer of their body into armor,limbs,weapon, etc.).
The main character, Tanikaze Nagate, is a quiet guy who is confused from the new world that he has discovered.It seems that he will have to choose between two girls(one being from the third gender-not male nor female).
The Gauna is a very powerful race nearly indestructible, but they can be killed by using a special spear on their exposed body.
Overall it's an excellent manga, very good art,very interesting background and an open plot witch keeps you wonderingread more
Knights of Cydonia will intially come as a surprise to long time Tsutomu fans, deviating from his recently established stylised realism and grim isolation for a more standard anime caricature approach and deceivingly lighter tone to go with it.
The series is a take on the 'real mech' genre [similar to Gundam and other space based mech series] in the way only Tsutomu can do it: mega structures and scale that boggles the mind. Ready to challenge conventional sci fi tropes at every turn this is a series that takes its context to heart.
Artistically it could be described as 'pruned back', relying on less hatching then previously. Characters are drawn rather plainly, even by modern shonen standards, though there are red herrings that rationalise this and the series does a sufficient job differentiating the main ones. The attention to detail and patchwork world he creates coupled with an uncanny ability to depict speed and impact while also introducing uniform and fixed robot designs make the final result unique and completely fitting.
But more significant is the inclusion of clever and slightly bent deconstructions of harem and slapstick comedy that will take you off guard. This is juxta-positioned against a now disturbingly real sense of danger and impending doom... death is not unusual in Tsutomu universes but this time it is framed to be more of an impact.
It's in that which this series marks a strange deviation for his style. It is more conventional in the sense that it is more approachable and considerably less incoherent but it is exactly in that which it manages to be the strangest and arguably the most compelling series he creates yet: for once you actually care about the characters and want to see where it all culminates.
The plot plods ever onwards and as of writing this it can only be guessed where it will go, but looking back after 10 volumes you marvel at just how far you've come... not in the same dizzying and aimless way you did with Blame! and his other works, but how far you've come with the crew and the ever looming threat of a universe that you start to understand is a lot bigger and more mysterious than we are normally able to believe.read more
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!