The first deaths in a show are almost always the most impactful. Hell, even the ones that involve inconsequential background characters, so long as they happen early, leave at least enough of an impression that they won’t be immediately forgotten after the episode finishes. There either has to be an emotional connection between the soon-to-be-departed and the audience, or the narrative has to be advanced for the characters’ deaths. Now that Knights of Sidonia is murdering its background characters with reckless abandon, the stakes feel much lower. There’s less reason to care. Death is less fashionable now that everyone’s doing it.
I definitely see what the series is going for. The more that the gauna have murdered everyone of talent on Sidonia, the more that Sidonia’s had to rely on the less experienced/talented to fill the ranks, who in turn are easier to kill. The status of pilot, once a coveted symbol of rank, is now a designation of dread. Chances are that newly designated pilots will have one mission, maybe two if they’re lucky, before they’re diced to bits by pieces of sentient, tentacled hamburger. Hell, there doesn’t even seem to be much of an academy left, with most students having been drafted and subsequently diced to bits.
This should be a depressing, affecting situation to watch, but the constant off-screen elimination of bit characters, after the deaths of previous key players, makes it feel staid, especially since the bit characters only exist for the sake of soaking up damage. At this point, Knights of Sidonia is offing people in large numbers almost out of obligation, rather than an understanding of how to make the deaths hit home. I’m not sure if it’s because of Original Anime Ending Syndrome or because of genuine shortcomings with the plot, but Knights of Sidonia is attempting to ramp up the stakes, without the results keeping pace. The halfhearted conspiracy/cover-up business doesn’t help either.
It’s still mostly a fine show, but Knights of Sidonia is showing signs of wearing thin as it attempts to conjure a climax from the ether, while painfully underutilizing Izana and other potentially interesting characters. That, and Hiyama hasn’t ridden a frame into battle, which is the biggest disappointment of the season by far.