Sidonia no Kishi – 12 (Fin)

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This was a fitting and thrilling end to the most thrilling series of the Spring, and certainly the finest show I’ve seen so far this year. Summer 2014 has some big shoes to fill. We’re also glad to report Sidonia isn’t over, but will return in October; no show this season is more deserving of a second season. But before that, there was work to be done to ensure everyone would be around for it!

“Flying/battling inside planetary body” scenarios have always been a big draw for me, and I was sure at last week’s end that Nagate would be one to enter the dwarf planet and slay the Master Gauna. Turns out I was wrong; that task fell to the supporting cast led by Samari, Seii, and Tsuruuchi. That’s because I forgot that Benisuzume was still out there, and wasn’t just going to stop after annihilating one platoon.

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Samari & Co. are able to enter the lair of the Master Gauna before the placenta closes because Nagate steps forward to be Beni’s playmate, and they engage in one hell of a duel; the longest and most sustained fights of the show. With his new experimental upgrades, he and Beni are pretty evenly matched, and the two bebop and scat all across the screen in a cosmic lyrical dance.

The show has admittedly not done a great job developing the Honoka twins, or even getting us to tell them apart, but nor has it ever been that concerned with trying; after all, they’re five-year old clones with only the most basic of personalities. But before he goes after Beni, Honoka Ren gives him a bullet she meant to use to exact her revenge, but leaves it to him.

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The way he ultimately uses it (explosively firing his frame’s fist clutching the round right into Beni’s core at point-blank range) is pretty awesome. (When the battle’s over and they’re back home, Ren thanks him, apologizes for her and her sisters’ past hostility, and even flirts with him a little, causing “love-rival” alarms to sound in Izana’s head. Speaking of Izana: despite all her doom and gloom, she not only survives the battle, but saves her love Nagate’s life…before being saved, ironically, by Ren.

With the destruction of the first Death Star as a classic example, there’s nothing like the underdogs finally landing their shots in just the right spot to blow up the previously implacble enemy and watching it all go boom. In Sidonia, there’s also a specific whining groan that accompanies the bubble disintegration of a Gauna; it’s a sound that grew increasingly assuring and satisfying this week.

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Honoka isn’t the only side character to get their just due, development-wise: the show refused to forget about Kunato, even though he’s just been moping in his dusty manse for the last few weeks. Nagate visits him and delivers a heartening speech that seems to win him back, about how he loves everyone on Sidonia and wants them to be happy…including Kunato. But what if Kunato can only really happy if his boot heel is soaked in Nagate’s brains? Or if he’s dead? I guess we’ll see next season!

Nagate himself certainly looks happy as he struts to the top-secret research facility where Placental Hoshijiro is being held. But when we cut to her empty cell where “Nagate” remains written on the wall, it almost seems like she was destroyed when he defeated Benisuzume, but the second season teaser reveals she’s still around in some form, only no longer aboard ship.

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Regardless, the real Hoshijiro Shizuka he knew and loved (and who loved him) died back in episode 7…right? Nagate’s parting words to Benisuzume were that she was “neither human nor Shizuka,” and ultimately that’s just as true of the tamer version back on Sidonia.

Not that knowing that would make Nagate feel any better about her being gone. Nagate is “Sidonia’s light of hope”, and that weird Shizuka-Gauna hybrid is his. Can Yuhata, Ren, Izana, or anyone else make him as happy as he wants to make everyone? When he ever cross paths with Shizuka again? Will Kobayashi get fed up and feed the Immortal Committee to the Gauna? We’ll find out in November.

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Final Cumulative Score: 8.75
MAL Score: 8.05 (On the rise, but still too low, IMO.)

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Sidonia no Kishi – 11

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When Kobayashi first told Nagate she needed a new savior, he’s honest: he has no idea if he can live up to previous heroes, but he’ll do his best, because he’s a Knight of Sidonia. Compare that to Kunato Norio’s mopey, nihilistic attitude that seems to say “Bite Me, Sidonia”. Ever since he lost his cool in the cockpit, he’s been a ghost, with only his loyal little sister to keep him company in his musty mansion with huge ducts coming out of the walls, Brazil-style.

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He doesn’t even bother answering the call to sortie, but Nagate, Izana, and 46 others answer the call. Some, like Nagate and Samari, have duty in their hearts. Others, like Izana and the other greenhorns, have hawk-moths in their stomachs. With the planet-sized Hive Gauna bearing down on the much smaller Sidonia and evasive maneuvers ineffective, the only remaining option for XO Yuhata is to send two platoons armed with the experimental weapons, in the hope they can take the Gauna out.

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After they outrun the anti-planet missile Exterminatus launched as the prospective coup-de-grace to their assault, the 48 frames look fierce, but quickly take on the appearance of tiny mosquitoes bizzing around the head of some great beast. There’s no immediate challenge to their arrival or their first volleys into the placental surface, as if the Gauna can’t be bothered with such a weak enemy. But the Gardes eventually draw some blood; enter Benisuzume.

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The platoon almost successful in disabling the hive’s propulsion system, is utterly annihilated in a matter of seconds. We only catch glimpses of Pilot’s POV video feeds until one after another they cut out to static. She may be the only Gardes-type Gauna, but she’s clearly enough, forcing Yuhata to change gears and call for the activation of Sidonia’s Super-Ultra-Bad-ass Hyggs Cannon to blast a hole into the hive the sixteen surviving frames can enter and take out the Master Gauna.

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As crew members informed Yuhata of the risks to the residential area inherent in firing the cannon, the episode cuts to that area, panning past various structures, but the only actual people we see are Lala, Kunato and his sister, which begs the question: where’s everyone else? I know all of Sidonia is on the line, but what is Sidonia? How many people are left? Why don’t we see them evacuating, hiding in their homes, or running around panicking? Their plight is left to the imagination.

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It’s hard to feel for what amounts to a largely unseen cipher of a population, but that isn’t really a big deal, because I do care about Izana, Nagate, Yuhata, and a handful of other characters, and I’m rooting for them to somehow prevail. They know what they need to do; now it’s a matter of how (and whether) they can do it, and what else the Gauna have up their slimy sleeves. Izana lamented the fact they have “basically no time left together”; Nagate insists they still do. I hope he’s right!

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Sidonia no Kishi – 10

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With Shizuka either dead or no longer human and thus more or less out of the picture (for them, anyway), Izana and Yuhata are both committed to spending as much time with Nagate as possible, even if it means they have to reluctantly do so as a trio. There’s only so much of Izana’s whining I can take, so it’s a good thing they half-intentionally stumble upon a secret lab.

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That lab houses the incomplete masterpiece of one Dr. Ochiai, someone who’s name has been darted around now and again. He fused human and Gauna material together into a war machine, and that machine is being used to manufacture new experimental weapons to fight the Gauna. Nagate isn’t in trouble for his trespass; on the contrary, he’s named the test pilot for all this neat new stuff.

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Between this reveal and the first character Gaunazuka writes on the glass looks like a Christian cross, this episode had a serious Eva vibe. It captured the dual-sided loneliness that both the one learning all these secrets and the ones being left out of the loop experience. But no one’s more lonely and frustrated than Izana, who is neither the XO, a Gauna replicant, nor the clone of Sidonia’s ace.

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Punctuated by her very natural reaction of fear and dread upon learning she’s been made an official Gardes pilot—fully aware of the attrition rate of late—Izana has been consistently portraye as a thoroughly “normal” person. Despite the status of her grandmother, she leads a relatively normal life, and has normal fears: fear of being left behind; fear of dying before she’s done and said all she’s wanted to. It makes me feel like there is some kind of crucial secret about her we just haven’t found out about yet.

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Meanwhile, her best friend continues to visit a product of the enemy on the sly. It’s worrying to me that Nagate seems to get more and more excited about the prospect of getting his old Shizuka back just because the being behind the glass is writing his name with magic marker and manipulating the shape of her placenta to make a kind of maid outfit. The fact she snapped that marker into jagged shards was a nice way to show that she’s still very dangerous and it’s fairly clear no good can come of having her aboard.

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On that note, all the demilitarization people were finally granted permission to emigrate to a planet, but their exodus is interrupted by a Gauna attack. I really like how Kobayashi half-wanted them to get their comeuppance for opposing her, and while she allows Nagate to sortie in the experimental equipment (a quick but awesome battle in which Nagate fights his own frame as much as the Gauna), she considers a possible future in which she doesn’t let him do what he wants, and he does it anyway, and she can’t stop him.

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The immortals who rule Sidonia in the shadows are faced with quite the conundrum: they resent Nagate’s very existence, but need him to assure their own. The more powerful he becomes, the more effective their defense against the Gauna, but at the cost of their absolute control over everything. To whit: a Gauna mass eight thousand times the size of Sidonia (which isn’t exactly small) is bearing down. Nagate would have to become terrifyingly powerful to defeat that.

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Stray Observations:

  • I wasn’t a fan of the sound Izana’s sandals made either, but they were cute. And her shiny new black Gardes uniform is badass.
  • In a conventionally animated show, the punishment Nagate’s face receives from Izana in the dark would have constituted a stack of bumps. But here, in CGI land, Oh my God, his injured face is fuckin’ scary as hell. It was very jarring to see it back to normal a couple minutes later.
  • I liked Yuhata’s willingness to immediately abuse the power and security clearance she’s been given now that she’s XO by exploring restricted areas. But when it comes time to send Nagate out to fight, she doesn’t hesitate, despite her feelings for him.
  • Was it just me, or were Sasaki’s boobs a little too big?
  • Maybe we’re wrong: maybe Gaunazuka is perfectly harmless, and in time, will develop back into a fully-functioning human much like Shizuka was. Maybe…but I doubt it.
  • After a smoking start, Sidonia’s in a bit of a “9” drought…perhaps next week’s huge-looking battle will end it.

Sidonia no Kishi – 09

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After the stress of losing Shizuka and the strain of dealing with Kunato’s power games, this week Nagate settles into a stable new routine. Named lancer and squad leader, he pulls off one victory after another, gradually repairing his reputation, while spending most of his free time hanging out and trying to communicate with the new Gauna-Shizuka he brought back.

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Her/it’s behavior could indicate that the Gauna didn’t just replicate her body, but her mind, personality, and memories as well. They just have to be teased out by the one she trusts most: Nagate. That grates not only with Izana, a horrible part of whom probably thought she’d at least get more time with Nagate with Shiuzka gone, but with Yuhata as well, who goes so far as to call Izana a man to deny her status as a rival.

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The show does a nice job subtly bulding up a kind of obsession in Nagate regarding Shizuka. It’s clear he wants the Gauna sample to be the same girl he all but fell for, and even if from a scientific standpoint she very well could be the same girl, the fact remains, she’s also a Gauna, the ever-assumed mortal enemy of Sidonia, and as such not to be trusted.

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This episode is called “Gaze”, but the chilling significance of that title isn’t clear until the scientist studying the Shizuka knock-off notices she’s always staring in the same general direction. Piercing through the hundreds of barriers and bulkheads of the ship, her gaze is always locked upon the ship’s repository of Kabizashi spears. Uh-oh.

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I guess all the progress Nagate made with the sample would seem to be for naught, as it’s merely a tool being used by Hawk Moth to pinpoint the location of humanity’s only effective weapon against the Gauna. Nagate’s affection for the girl that was, and the curiosity of the scientists who studied her, are looking very much like the unwitting architects of their own doom. Hawk Moth Comin’.

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Stray Observations:

  • The Shizuka sample’s confines are striking in their stark simplicity…Very Kubrickesque.
  • Elsewhere in the bowels of the ship, and with the help of Izana, Kobayashi is working to access the “auxilliary brain” from the clone of Ochiai.
  • Kunato, sulking in his manor with his sister and tapping into various observation feeds, doesn’t seem in a particular hurry to arrest Nagate’s latest rise.
  • Izana certainly isn’t subtle in her displeasure with other girls interacting with Nagate, and we’re sure Yuhata’s “man” remark stung. But Nagate is far too dense to ever realize her feelings unless she beats him over the head with detailed diagrams illustrating said feelings.
  • Also, Sidonia seems to be nearing a world where thousands of colonists will be able to emigrate to. That’s probably good news for those who think the Gauna will leave mankind alone if it surrenders the Kabizashis.

Sidonia no Kishi – 08

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The Gauna may be frightening and powerful and immensely creepy, but they’re still life forms, which has us wondering what their beef with humanity is. Do they act out of pure instinct, or reason? When they make a placenta clone of Shizuka who giggles and reports each time she takes out a Gardes frame, are they fucking with them, or is the perceived sadism mere coincidence?

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I could fill a review with what I don’t know about the Gauna, and another with questions, but you know what? I kinda like not knowing. The Cylons in the re-booted Battlestar Galactica were a classic example of the age-old problem with learning way too much about the “Bad Guys”: they get less scary. Right now, the Gauna still frighten me, and that’s the way it should be in a show where two of them are enough to cripple Sidonia if they find their way inside.

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On the other hand, the more I learn about the “Good Guys”, the more I can connect and care about them surviving. We learn a great deal more about Sidonia’s history through flashbacks. The first half of the episode reinforces why we should fear the Gauna; the second half shows us the people who shaped the present Nagate and Izana inhabit.

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Some of those shapers are still around, like Kobayashi, Lala, and Izana’s “grandmother” Yure; others, like Nagate’s “grandfather”, Saitou Hiroki, aren’t. The four were among less than 450 colonists to survive the Gauna slaughter a century ago. They all danced on the razor’s edge of oblivion that day; to avoid falling off, they had to turn to creative genetics.

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Immortals were forbidden from procreating, but when an aged Hiroki, who had been Sidonia’s ace, returned after being lost for eighty years, Kobayashi broke the rules, collaborating with Yure to clone him. After a kick-ass sword fight with bows and arrows (!), Saitou fled to the bowels of Sidonia, where he raised and trained Nagate—immortal from birth—all by himself.

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And that’s pretty much where we stand today: Nagate is a threat to the old guard, tolerated only because of Kobayashi’s influence and because she repeatedly sends him out on ridiculously dangerous sorties. But he’s also the hope of humanity, someone you imagine will blow by Kunato (who didn’t look so good this week) to become Sidonia’s new ace.

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He didn’t get to face off against “Hawk Moth” (what they’re calling the Gauna-Shizuka), this week, and he doesn’t seem quite ready to do so, but I feel like that battle is coming sooner or later. In the meantime, Sidonia’s eggheads have a creepy placenta clone of his would-be girlfriend. Is she a Gauna instrument of communication? An insidious weapon? A biological by-product? As I said: I hope we don’t learn too much.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 07

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I had a feeling Hoshijiro Shizuka (whose kanji I’ve learned also mean “silent star”) would fall at some point, and stay fallen (note that I didn’t say “dead”, more on that later), based on the simple fact she’s only listed as a supporting character, as opposed to Izana’s main billing. But last week, that fact was dropped in my—and Nagate’s—lap like a dead cat, so it didn’t quite feel real…yet.

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This week, we get to see the doomed mission that claims Shizuka, and learn that it was Kunato—using the private channel, the sniveling punk—who caused Nagate’s screw-up, which led to a momentary lapse in concentration. And all space needs is a moment to kill you or someone you love. Despite knowing how badly this would all turn out, it was still thrilling every step of the way, right up to the point the knife was twisted.

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What’s even darker about Kunato’s vendetta is that he’s seen enough of Nagate and Shizuka to know that if one of them got into trouble, the other would go after, against orders or reason. Heck, his little scheme could have ended up destroying his precious Tsugumori, too. In both cases, getting back at Nagate takes precedence over all other considerations, including defeating the Gauna.

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Kunato is just one of many enemies and critics of Nagate to come out of the woodwork, not counting Nagate’s harshest critic: himself. Fortunately, he has allies as well; powerful ones like Kobayashi, who willfully ignores all calls to “do something” about him, almost as if she’s aware someone could be trying to sabotage him. Or maybe she just doesn’t want to admit to being wrong about him, or anything else.

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Nagate also has his landladybear Hiyama and his not-presumptuously self-appointed best friend Izana to drag him out of his dusty room and his funk. A food vender mistakes Izana for a girl, probably because that’s what she’s slowly becoming because of Nagate. But most significant of his allies is his late gramps, who he remembers talking about a pilot having to show Resolve with a capital R—not coincidentally this episode’s title.

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“The Gauna won’t wait for you to dry your tears,” Nagate recalls him saying. But whether it’s fear of (or grief from) loved ones dying, or one-sided rivals fucking with him, a pilot must shut it all out in order to perform. The Elite Four couldn’t do that, and got slaughtered. Kunato clearly can, but one day his recklessness could blow up in his face. Even Yuhata, promoted to Kobayashi’s XO (Damn, she rose faster than Amane!) exhibits an ability to Keep Calm and Carry On.

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Shizuka let personal feelings affect her judgement out there, and as we see, the Gauna have little mercy for those who do so. The detailed-yet-split-second destruction of her frame was as heart-wrenching to watch as it was inevitable. The sight of her Gauna-corrupted frame emerging from the gas giant debris (an explosion we only saw in 8-bit, sadly) sent chills up my spine.

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That’s because the “702” raggedly scrawled on its flesh-like coating (a stark contrast to the tidy fonts the humans use) suggests the Gauna aren’t as mindless as I first thought, inadvertently lending credence to the growing portion of the populace that believes the Gauna will cease their aggression if they cease theirs. But that won’t happen as long as Kobayashi’s in charge. She’s like an anime Adama.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 06

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Hero. Idol. Tug-of-war Rope. Pawn. Fuck-up. Scapegoat. Nagate’s a little of everything this week, like the episode itself. We start off with the jubilation of him and Shizuka being rescued by all the other Gardes (a goosebump-inducing scene we’re glad was repeated), and he gains instant celebrity status upon his return.

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Before the celebrations, Nagate and Shizuka undergo extensive medical tests. A little yellow light on Shizuka’s readout appears to be nothing serious, but it sets a foreboding, optimism-eroding precedent. Nagate, Shizuka, Kunato and En are promoted to full Gardes pilots; a mere formality considering they did what the Elite Four couldn’t: defeat the Gauna and return alive.

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Nagate makes a point to visit the huge memorial to the Fallen Four, which only ingratiates him further with Yuhata, who enters Full Pursuit Mode at the post-promotion party. Izana remains thoroughly annoyed she has to share Nagate with anyone, but Shizuka takes a more pragmatic approach.

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In the ensuing bathysphere excursion, we get the closest thing Sidonia’s had to a harem quarrel, as the girls are literally jammed in the door, with Shizuka ending up alone with Nagate by sheer dumb luck (and physics). The mere fact they’re in their own bathysphere blushing at one another is more foreshadowing, lest we forget what became of the last couple we saw in one of these.

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As his peers revel in Nagate’s heroics and much of the greater public slurps up the feel-good narrative, Kobayashi consults with the elder council (whatever they’re called; I forget), who see Nagate as a valuable pawn in the never-ending quest to extend their own lives preserve Sidonia. And if he proves less pliable or competent than they envisioned, Kobayashi is to dispose of him.

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That leads to Nagate’s final roles this week: fuck-up and scapegoat. He and Shizuka can’t even complete their love cruise when they’re ordered to sortie against a very nasty and tough-looking “hive-type” Gauna. But we don’t see the battle; that’s likely to come. Instead, we go straight from Shizuka giving Nagate a parting salute the camera dwells on (the episode’s title) to him waking up in hospital.

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Like him, we have to piece together what happened, but unlike him I know immediately it’s nothing good. When the Honoka sisters give him eye-daggers and Izana says nothing, he has to get it from the TV, which slowly, cruelly reveals by steady text crawl what has happened: much of the Gauna was defeated, but Shizuka was lost. Another devastating gut punch, driven home by locking the camera on his stunned face.

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Throughout this episode we saw an adjustment in Norio: while watching Nagate receive All The Laurels, he resigns himself to absorbing rather than outwardly projecting his contempt for it all. He extends an olive branch, bides his time, and in the end, it looks like he comes out on top. Because to the masses, the only hero that matters is the one that just saved you.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 05

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Sidonia belts out yet another BADASS episode, that’s very different from the four that preceded it. In fact, one of the only things that held it back from a 10 was the somewhat meaningless cutaway back to Sidonia in the middle for what was nothing but an infodump by Kobayashi and the wierd Bear woman (?)(Why is she a bear? Inquiring minds want to know…). But the badassery of this episode wasn’t due to any flashy battles or explosions.

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No, this was a bottle episode, the majority of which took place inside Takane’s frame after rescuing Shizuka. They’re beyond the point of no return and his fame is out of juice anyway, so they have to do a lot of sitting and waiting for one of two things: death or rescue. This is by no means original, but I have to say, I’m hard-pressed to recall better executions of this kind of lost-in-space scenario.

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Leaving aside the convenience of two love interests being in such close contact for so long. And Shizuka strips down to her birthday suit for a totally practical reason: to photosynthesize! Despite how cold and terrifying space looks out there and how tiny the frame looks compared to it, there’s a warmth from the two of them that permeates their scenes. You get the feeling everything will be fine, because at the very least, if they die, they’ll die together.

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Ten days pass before any hint of rescue, and food and water are exhausted, the latter an example of over-complicated technology coming to bite them ass at the worst possible time. When Takane starts to succumb to dehydration, that same fancypants tech is his savior, as Shizuka is able to filter her urine for him to drink, a touching scene with shades of Princess Mononoke. The act also gives Takane the idea to filter the frame’s lubricant for more water. Wonderful things, these filters!

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The victory is enough for the couple to try a closer embrace, forgetting their suits are on. Further hanky-panky is interrupted by One Hell Of A Dramatic Entrance by the entire defense wing, which disobeyed orders and formed a 256-frame relay ring to come back for the pilot who defeated the Gauna (along with his would-be girlfriend). Their arrival is a powerful moment of jubilation and relief, and a happy ending that neither felt like a cheat nor an inevitability.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 04

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Like Sidonia’s Kabizashi, I prefer to use “Holy Craps” sparingly; preferably no more than five per season, but in the case of this episode, I feel perfectly justified in exhausting one. Holy Crap, that was one awesome tour-de-force of an episode. My heart rate remains elevated some time after watching it. But worry not, Braverade is near a fresh-air-providing open window, and no harm will come to her.

Going into this episode, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to say the same of Sidonia. When your elite subjugation squad is annihilated and a Gauna manages to dodge the HMD, you know Sidonia is in for a rough ride, and so we get a “Gravity Alert”, in which those bulky safety harnesses prove so crucial to survival. Good thing Nagate put his on! I appreciated the hard sci-fi approach to everything Sidonia does.

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For instance, a small moon-sized colony ship can go into evasive maneuvers without seriously messing up the structures inside. Kobayashi’s job is truly thankless and unenviable: she must either choose to destroy a big chunk of the ship, killing hundreds of people, or lose the whole ship. No wonder she wears a mask. Her’s is one of many choices that make the episode’s title “Choice” so fitting.

It was a single choice—a bad, emotionally-fueled one—that got Sidonia into this hole in the first place: Akai and Momose tried to save one another, when victory hinged on their ability to let each other go. As I assumed, the next four-man group to be sent out would include Nagate, along with Shizuka, Kunato, and En. Izana is notably excluded.

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But this team isn’t supposed to fight the Gauna, it’s merely charged with retrieving one of the two Holy Craps Kabizashis still barely in their frames’ range; if they don’t hypermile, they could end up stranded in space. When Nagate spots the Kabizashi, Kunato is quick to run ahead and grab it, but that puts him in the firing zone of the Gauna, which fires its own Hyggs cannon, disabling all but Nagate’s frame.

From here on, the choices are Nagate’s, and he makes what could be called an emotional choice in going after the Gauna instead of towing his colleagues home. But he’s a clever chap, and his frame fits him like a glove, so he’s able to ice the Gauna, earning him instant ship-wide recognition and celebrity, along with more even ire from Kunato, no doubt.

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But of course, all is not yet well—the emergencies never relent, right until the end, with Nagate making another clearly emotional choice: to search for Shizuka’s ejection pod, flying past the point of no return in the process. Following an episode in which such chivalry ended in disaster and after witnessing how sacrificing a few to save the many worked out, Nagate isn’t following Kobayashi’s lead: he won’t leave a (wo)man behind.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 03

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This episode demonstrated how simulations and tournaments are no test of a pilot’s true mettle, any more than good looks and celebrity. The Elite Four won the team competition while Akai took the individual trophy handily, but when it came time to face a real Gauna in battle, their skills and teamwork were all for naught, because Akai chose to be a good boyfriend which was the only slip-up required in such a fast-paced, tense battle to throw the entire team into chaos. When they stopped fighting and started trying to save each other, they had lost.

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This is quite a gut-punch, both to me and to everyone watching back on Sidonia, hoping for a quick and easy victory. I imagined one or two of the team members to be taken out, tops, based on the death flags they were throwing beforehand, but all four of the best pilots Sidonia had to offer, all at once, without even finishing off the Gauna? To understate matters, that’s not good. Now, as a matter of necessity, a new four-person group must be formed from the best pilots still alive.

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In most cases, the fate of Akai’s Elite Four would be taken by Kobayashi and Sidonia’s bosses as a cautionary example of how chemistry comraderie, and a sense of family are a double-edged sword; it’s what made the Four such a great team, but against the Gauna, it turned out to be a fatal weakness. Thus, one would think they’d pick four pilots who didn’t know each other or even particularly like each other. But because they’re prominent characters, the most likely candidates are Nagate, Izana, Shizuka, and Kunato.

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I’m well aware that three of those four are involved in a love triangle, which means the very same thing could befall them when the Sidonia hits the fan. But then, maybe Kunato harbors enough hate and angst to balance that out. In this week’s “Kunato Gets Pwned” segment, Akai beats him in the individual competition. He’s so pissed off afterwards that when poor Izana accidentally bumps into him he smacks her to the ground, and she takes a candy apple stick to the leg, which…ouch.

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Let’s not also forget Izuna’s jealousy towards what she sees as Shizuka (the “conventional” woman) getting along too well with Nagate. Izana bumps into Kunato because she’s distracted by that jealousy. When Nagate and Shizuka of all people come to Izana’s aid, we see what could be the next dream team together for the first time. Meanwhile, strategic genius Midorikawa Yuhata, fueled by the death of her brother, could well be the one planning their future battles. But I fear I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 02

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Tanikaze Nagate’s grandfather pushed him to become the best pilot he could be, but he could only teach him so much. In order to realize the dream of becoming a true guardian pilot, Nagate had to face real action. The first appearance of a Gauna in a century on his very first sortie obliges.

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The Gauna itself is a frightening, implacable hulk of a monster somewhat resembling the Giant Warrior from Nausicaä—not at all a bad thing to imitate—with a medusa-like tangle of tentacle-like protrusions, one off which grabs Yamano Eiko’s frame and swallows her whole, then morphs into a rough approximation of her. Very creepy, dark stuff, though notably lacking in gore, at least in this instance.

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Nagate is slammed down early in the battle and would seem to be another casualty, but he gets a somewhat preternatural second wind, picks himself off, and hangs with the Gauna long enough for the others to escape, until a “Heavy Mass Cannon” projectile—essentially a big weight—fired by Sidonia impacts with the Gauma, driving it back, but not killing it. While the mining mission was a bust, the fact they were able to push it back with only one trainee out of eight lost is accepted as a victory.

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It’s something else entirely for Nagate. He does well in battle, but not afterwards. The innocence he lost in the battle is on display in flashbacks to the moments before the battle, when the haughty Yamano refuses to shake hands with Nagate and Izana for good luck, which it turns out she could have used. After the battle Nagate definitely showing signs of PTSD, and is unable to keep his food down. He has the skills, but he has yet to build the fortitude, for the trials ahead.

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So far the show seems to be punishing arrogance and rewarding meekness: in addition to Yamano’s comeuppance, Kunato is shot down (figuratively) for the second episode in a row, being totally ignored and passed by by Akai, the leader of the Elite Four Guardian Pilots tasked with finishing off the Gauna, who is only interested in Nagate, and why wouldn’t he be? Nagate fought the Gauna head-on. That fact also attracts Midorikawa Yuhata, who has the makings of a Nagate groupie who would wedge between the quiet rivalry brewing between Shizuka and Izana.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 01

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“You escapist fools.”

This is how Kunato, a Sephiroth-looking stick-in-the-mud, voices his disgust to a meager but passionate group of protesting pacifists, but it could also describe me. I’ll fully admit it: I’m a bit of an escapist fool. Sometimes I blithely ignore reality entirely preferring to dive into new worlds and new systems. Due to its very-similar but better-executed cel-shaded animation style (still clinical and stiff, but also warmer and grittier), I’m reminded of a world in which humans battled sentient Machiavellian sexually-frustrated naval vessels.

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After just one visually impressive episode of Sidonia, this looks like a show I can really sink my escapist fool-teeth into. Like the third Eva film, it starts promising, in the midst of heated action: a young lad named Tanikaze Nagate pilots a mecha through space and defeats one of the alien monsters called Gauma. But then his score is tallied—a perfect 99999—and he emerges from a pod; it was only a simulation. It’s a clever way to serve up a brief taste of the action that’s sure to come.

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After a stirring OP, accompanied by an equally stirring national(istic) anthem, the show zooms out on Tanikaze’s small, dingy, isolated world deep within the bowels of a much larger world, Sidonia, a huge, hive-like mass of civilization with a highly militarized population. Tanikaze goes through quite a bit of physical punishment until he ends up spat out into the society he’d long avoided, where his latent skills as a simulation ace will be almost immediately put to the test.

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Along the way Tanikaze meets the friendly, third-gendered Shinatose Izana (Toyosaki Aki) and the friendly, definitely-a-girl Hoshijiro Shizuka, quickly establishing a potential love triangle. (There are also a great deal of Kitamura Eri clones!) Tanikaze totally bombs in a simulator for the new and unfamiliar Type 18 frame (I can relate, having to adjust from a Gen-6 to Gen-8 Civic!), but when he’s called to sortie on his first day—he’s given a legendary Type 17 frame that Sephiroth Kunato was itching for, thus instantly establishing a rivalry.

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The frames are very cool looking; everything is very cool looking, come to think of it. Like Blue Steel, if this kind of animation turns you off, it turns you off, but I loved the vivid hyper-reality of it all. The episode also lies in wait with a truly holy-crap-this-is-awesome moment when the frames launch into space and we finally get a good look at Sidonia: an insane-looking hexagonal beam thingy stuck through an asteroid, hurtling through space. And of course, what should be a routine mining mission turns into the first real Gauma attack in a century, with Tanikaze right in the thick of it.

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If you visit RABUJOI frequently you’ll notice I haven’t gotten around to Captain Earth’s second episode. There’s a reason for that, while it was a great-looking, competent anime in the best Bones tradition, we found ourselves weary of delving into something we’ve seen so often in the past; something beautifully executed but lacking in the originality department. After this first episode, Sidonia was even better-looking, but also bolder and more inventive, at least to this escapist fool’s eyes.

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