The Knights of Sidonia is the first anime I’ve watched on Netflix. One of the reasons I wanted to watch it was to encourage Netflix to buy in more – and they did do the heavy lifting on this one. The other reason was that the Knights of Sidonia looked like an interesting but relatively safe bet.
I was wrong.
I had pegged the Knights of Sidonia as a mecha versus alien craft anime. There’s mecha, yes, but the aliens are very strange. They’re huge. They’re also invulnerable to pretty much all the weapons the tattered remains of mankind has except for some lances.
Watching on Netflix was a treat. They’ve worked very hard on the subtitles – to the point of pointing out sound effects (which the hard of hearing need in subtitles generally) and to, sometimes, letting you know who is speaking. That’s useful in Knights of Sidonia because so many characters look so similar.
There are two reasons why the characters in Knights of Sidonia look similar. One is the art style. This feels like a CGI heavy anime. That’s appropriate for the genre and only really bothered me in two ways; in the animation of the strange (and never explained) mutant bear-cum-cook who’s walking around and in the bubble like explosion created when the aliens explode.
The second reason why the characters look the same in Knights of Sidonia is because most of what is left of the fleeing remains of humanity are clones. There’s a group of 11 sisters in this anime who are identical. They only make a joke about this one in the entire series.
In fact, humanity’s kinda messed up in the future. Due to food shortages in their centuries long escape from the aliens that destroyed Earth mankind has adapted itself to photosynthesis and the ability to get plenty (but not all) energy from the sun.
Our hero is a little different. Nagate grew up in the bowls of the giant Sidonia spaceship and only surfaced when he ran out of food. He needs to eat. He’s not like the clones. Nagate begins to notice he’s different from the rest of the crew in other ways too and worries he’s not normal. The plot does touch on this a little but I suspect there’s a lot more going on in the Knights of Sidonia than the first season reveals – and this is a good thing.
Knights of Sidonia shouldn’t be dismissed as “interesting but a relatively safe bet” as I had. This is an anime with many layers. You can watch just for the mecha combat if you want but there’s a lot going on in the background and in the plot. You’re left to work out a lot of the hidden threats for yourself. In many ways the viewing experience is a lot like the hero Nagate’s – we’re both comfortable with the mecha fights to the death; it’s the humans on the ship which are the scary alien types.
I watched the Knights of Sidonia over three days on Netflix and am theorising as to what comes next. This means, despite some animation foibles, the plot has its hooks in me. This is what I want from an anime. I’ll watch more and gave the series four out of five stars for Netflix’s recommendation engine to ponder over.