23 CommentsKnights of Sidonia / By Inushinde /

Knights of Sidonia Episode 1: The Characters Look Like Fish-People


The Innsmouth Look aside, I haven’t slobbered over anything this much just from the first episode since Penguindrum. What really managed to sell the series for me is two really brief scenes, and how it makes them work in conjunction with each other to create a vibrant, breathing world with only a few minutes of natural dialogue. It’s proof that exposition and dodgy CG mechs being groped by tentacles can live in perfect harmony. I feel like a kid in a candy store, except the candy is subtly-woven exposition and tentacles.

I tend to rag on exposition a shit-ton, but the first episode of Knights of Sidonia does it in an effortlessly compact way that blends character development with the current political and social state of Sidonia. What’s more, it distills the exposition into one scene, where peacenik protestors rave about the militaristic government being run by lich lords, clinging to their power through martial law, medical science, and creepy masks.



The protest isn’t shown for long, but does give a glimpse into changing public opinion regarding martial law, and the increasingly tenuous grasp that the leadership has on their absolute power. Right away, this sets up plenty of potential intrigue to build on, promising more than rock ‘em sock ‘em woefully-rendered CG action.

Later, this scene is indirectly supported by a short glimpse into Sidonia’s medical science, with a character belonging to a now-biological third sex. Given the extensive chromosomal alteration it’d take to make this happen without fucking with fertility, it makes sense that Sidonia’s leaders would make use of it to prolong their own lives, as either direct rulers or a shadow cabal. How the ruling class will act in future episodes, whether as direct antagonists who eat babies to retain youth, or as a sort of necessary evil who make the right calls for the greater good, remains to be seen, but Knights of Sidonia has a strong enough starting point for either approach to be viable with the material shown.

It’s a super competent example of world-building that shits on nearly everything else in the medium that’s tried to build a sprawling, detailed setting (cough Shinsekai Yori unconvincing cough) with more time and effort. Seeing characters mill about the world, with their thoughts and behavior very noticeably affected by (and affecting) their surroundings, and without exhaustively pointing it out, makes for a surprisingly palatable 23 minutes, given the volume of material crammed in.


The characters leave a lot to be desired in terms of development, but I assume that the episode’s smart world-building will allow for more room for growth in the future. Similarly, the nature of the mechs and school life could be expounded on reasonably, as could the full role of the new third sex—this doesn’t strike me as the kind of series that would have it as an arbitrary element. It’s a good sign that I definitely want more of this, even if the cliffhanger’s almost criminal. Not bad for the closest thing to stop-motion CG.

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  1. gedata
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    I’ll survive the CGI, it’s regrettable I guess, but I stopped caring by the time the episode finished. Good hard sci-fi with plenty of intriguing backdrop as you mentioned. Some minor quibbles though would be the weird stomach growling sound effects I guess. Also the fact that Nagate can land buttfirst after a huge drop like that and not ruin his spine seems weird considering how easily knocked out/broke his fingers earlier.

    Also, the anime didn’t mention this, but people of Izana’s gender can reproduce asexually on top of being able to get it on with other partners (source: http://i.imgur.com/0aoFbDs.jpg?1). I’m curious regarding they work “down there”. I also want to know if there’s a pronoun for this new gender.

    • Ramiel
      Posted April 16, 2014 at 5:07 am | Permalink

      C86 can’t come soon enough…

  2. kai
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    As with the ability to photosynthesize, third gender and asexual reproduction is a handy trait to maximize the survival probability of a species on the run in space. Modifying humanity is a constant theme in Nihei’s works so the baseline Sidonian resident is pretty tame compared to some of his other works.

    As a Nihei fan I’ve been looking forward to this show and it looks like a good adaption of the source material.

    • Jaysus
      Posted April 13, 2014 at 3:24 am | Permalink

      This. While it’s not my favorite of his works, I’m just stoked that we get a real anime adaptation of one of Nihei’s works. I need more architecture porn and grotesque humanoid creatures.

  3. Akuma
    Posted April 12, 2014 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t have checked this out due to the kinda bad CGI if I had not read about it’s interesting setting. I’ve never been sold on CGI for anime, the tech’s not really quite there to make good looking CGI cheaply. Although since the show might be setting focused rather then character maybe the terrible CGI people will help enforce that? Haha.

    The episodes a bit quick, there in quite a hurry to perform the setup. Introducing all the characters and the situation we want them to be in. Our main character is a kind of retarded fish out of water so he gives us our window to look at the setting, though if he was already ingrained in the setting I think that would have helped slow the pace down a little.

    I do like that he has a rival that has already attacked him, but that he probably doesn’t even know he exists, lol.

    For all the gripes I have about the show the setting stuff really does make up for it. The third gender thing threw me for a second, cause that’s one of those way out there sci-fi ideas you don’t normally get anymore. So interested to see where it goes.

    • Inushinde
      Posted April 13, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      I can see the third gender being played with to great effect. Definitely want to see more about it.

  4. Mr. Anon
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    So far better than the manga, which didn’t really have much subtlety when doing exposition.

  5. Curious George
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    I really enjoyed this episode. Hopefully they fix the character animations as the show progresses.

  6. kuddlesworth
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    I just wished that the show wasn’t using CGI. All CGI looks terrible. The show will go down in the future as a don’t bother watching because the CGI looks terrible. If they had just used the standard drawn animation it would have done much better even if the animation was sub par. For me it ruins it entirely but I will watch the show anyway because the writing and storyline is interesting. Please anime industry stop with the CGI crap.

  7. Scamp
    Posted April 13, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink


    It’s sooooooooooo goooooooooooooooood

    Whyyyyyyyyyyyy does it have to be CG

    • Inushinde
      Posted April 13, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Guess there was a shittiness quota that had to be met, and the only way they could do it was with horrid CG.

      • shytende
        Posted April 13, 2014 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        What was partciulary bad was the fact people looks basically the samme with or without creepy mask. Kinda defeat the purpose of them.

        But it’s honestly pefectly OK (even actually good) as long as we don’t see a human face.

      • Posted April 13, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        You’ve got a point. Everyone in the series except for our main character could wear the admiral’s mask and visually, at least, it would be a much better series.

      • spazer
        Posted April 13, 2014 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

        Some people are meant to look the same because they’re clones. But you’re still right, because even some of the non-relatives have some same-face to them.

        The masks are fantastic in cg because it really gives off that uncanny valley vibe.

  8. Posted April 13, 2014 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    *coughcough*youre wrong bout SSY*cough*because its problem was*coughcough*in characters not worldbuilding*coughcoughcoughdeath*

    Either way, Sidonia looks to be in the top tier of this season’s shows. I personally think that the stop motion CGI works in a strange way, in kind of the way the rotoscoping kinda worked in Aku no Hana. Its like the show is saying ‘its human…but not quite’, which is not very far from the show’s subject matter.

    Also, commander’s hugging motion looks like Postman Pat.

    • Wodes
      Posted April 16, 2014 at 3:02 am | Permalink

      SSY’s characters weren’t bad, SSY’s main characters were bad (well if you don’t consider Squealer MC). I thought that was the whole point though, show a really interesting story through the perspective of what ultimately amounts to an extra.

      And i suppose the accidental(?) innsmouth look is better than Nyaruko on the “induce lovecraft to turn in his grave” scale.

      • Ben
        Posted August 27, 2014 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        Thank you, I totally agree. Walked away from the pilot laughing my ass off at the sheer volume of exposition.

        I am flabbergasted that the author of this post saw it as well blended with character development. What development? None of these characters had personalities to develop. You don’t tell, you show, and KoS doesn’t do anything but telling.

        That part where the rival shows that he’s a rival by saying “It should be me piloting that suit!” made me roll my eyeballs down the hallway. It’s like something out of Egoraptor’s “Girl Chan In Paradise.”

        Seriously, they can’t even show a rivalry without having it be explicitly stated out loud in the first episode?

    • Inushinde
      Posted April 16, 2014 at 3:17 am | Permalink

      SSY focused on its setting at the expense of its characters, which fails both in the long run. Sentient, human-shaped bricks aren’t exactly compelling to watch. Knights of Sidonia has one of the most elegant first episodes that I’ve seen, bypassing this issue for the most part, and I hope that it keeps it up.

      • Posted April 17, 2014 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        Sidonia hasn’t really bypassed the issue as much as it has onverridden it with sheer stylistic force. The characters so far are pretty standard, especially for a mecha show; its their circumstances that are amazing, and amazingly told. Nagate is our mecha-loving action junkie, white-hair is our ambitious white-haired ace(though I expect he’ll be getting a comeuppance -or death- soon), Izana is just nice, and the mechanic girl, who is best girl btw, is a mechanic girl who likes her robots.
        I think that Sidonia can afford to wait until later, when the shit goes flying into that fan in whatever way, to give its characters memorable or distinctive personalities, so long as it keeps the background interesting, which I am confident it can.

        Btw, as you can probably guess by my avatar, I saw no problems with SSY’s characters, even the ‘bad’ ones, though I suppose this isn’t the place for that argument.

      • jherb33
        Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

        i was having trouble telling the girls apart unless they said her name in the dialogue..

  9. Ramiel
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 5:04 am | Permalink

    The CGI animation was a bit wonky, but at the same time the backgrounds and scenery were awesome. I have a feeling that over time the character animation will improve, as it did with Arpeggio, as the animation team gets more experienced.

  10. Posted April 21, 2014 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Is no one disturbed that all of the girls/guys? look pretty much the same? I suppose it’s intentional but I had to work to tell apart the girls apart.

    Also, that talking bear…

    The masks that those creepily watching higher-ups wear look like Noh masks, which I think also tend to be gender ambiguous in appearance.

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