Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 12 (Fin)

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We left Nagate in a very bad, but at the same time very sexy way, with placenta in the precise form, sound, and probably even smell of his first love Shizuka, whom he’d once shared a very meaningful period of time while stranded in a cockpit. But the senses are deceiving; this is not Shizuka and never was, it’s a predator, and she looks primed to eat him.

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Or…well, do something with him. The French kiss she/it initiates, and the whole slow pace of her attack on Nagate, suggests something other than mere feeding. She’s taking her time with him, restraining him, and about to become one with him; I wouldn’t be surprised if this is Benisuzume either conducting an experiment of her own or something built into her genetic profile.

In any case, Beni didn’t count on Izana being inside Nagate’s frame. She’s able to use her bionic arm to activate aux power and close the neck airlock, separating the Shizuka placenta from the rest of Beni and releasing Nagate, who stabs her in her core, causing not one but two of those sweet, sweet bubble disintegration sounds that tell you a Gauna’s gone for good.

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That’s not the end of this decisive battle, however; Planet Nine remains a battlefield, and Nagate, the crippled Tsumugi, Izana, and whatshisname are soon surrounded by seemingly all the Gauna on the planet. Nagate prepares for another last stand, but he’s bailed out by a cavalry of Hayakazes led by Samari, who have finally arrived in orbit, one hundred strong (grouped in 25 Hayakazes). As Nagate and Tsumugi serve as bait, the rest of the planet’s Gauna are mopped up with overwhelming firepower.

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It’s a great feeling when that last Gauna disintegreates, but due to the nature of this show, it never felt quite right to let my guard down until everyone was back aboard Sidonia, and even then, there could have been some ginormous ship-to-ship battle in space to close us out.

Instead, Nagate (with a still-alive nude Placental Shizuka in his arms) carries Tsumugi and launches away from the planet to join the Hayakaze squad, and they return to the mothership without incident.

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With the titular Battle for Planet Nine won, the balance of the episode, and perhaps the Sidonia series, is spent in Epilogue Mode, similar to the last episode of UBW. Nagate is awarded a medal (the first awarded in decades) by Kobayashi in order to continue building him up as the Great Hero to inspire the rest of the soldiers; there’s a party where the Honoka clones cluster around Nagate to Izana’s disapproval.

Nagate asks what’s become of the new Placental Shizuka, and Kunato tells him she’s being treated as a valuable specimen for further research, citing “important things must have a spare.” The march of “progress” goes on, and I imagine it also entails one day creating a spare Nagate.

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The series then ends where it began, which I thought was a nice touch (though my one major gripe about this finale is that we didn’t get to see any more Izana after that awards ceremony). Nagate hadn’t just come a long way in becoming a decorated, respected, and fawned-over pilot and war hero; he also came a long way geographically, as the same journey through the bowels of Sidonia from his cloistered domicile to the rice thresher is played in reverse, only instead of an urchin on the run for theft, he has an entry pass and is welcomed with salutes once the staff knows who he is.

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Nagate inspects the simulator his grandfather and him used to learn how to fight Gauna, giving him the tools to make a contribution to society should he leave the confines of his sheltered home. He did, and he doesn’t regret it. He’s seen and done amazing, extraordinary things with a host amazing people of all stripes.

Yes, he’s still technically a pawn of the junta, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a Knight of Sidonia, who will keep fighting to protect his home and its inhabitants until he draws his last breath—or at least until his new-and-improved Chimera replacement takes over for him!

As for me, I shall deeply miss Sidonia’s dark, gritty, sexy, terrifying, and always gorgeous and impeccably-rendered sci-fi milieu. From the start it’s reminded me of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, only it managed to maintain the mystique of its primary foe (the Gauna remain alien and terrifying by the show’s end; the Cylons, not so much). Sidionia told and showed us a lot,  but never too much; it’s deepest mysteries remained so through to the end.

I really wouldn’t mind a third season, or failing that, a Blame! anime, a peek of which we saw on Nagate’s TV. I want this style of anime to continue.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 11

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Sidonia 2’s second-to-last episode is another brutal, no-holds-barred battle for survival between human and Gauna (and Chimera). Whether it’s in the duel between Tsumugi and Benisuzume or Nagate and seemingly all the other Gauna on the planet, it’s all about staying one step ahead, and constantly worried about looking over your shoulder at the next damn thing that could kill you in the blink on an eye.

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Izana’s battle is more of a race, as she and the lollygagging bearded redshirt pilot run for their lives from an absolutely terrifying Gauna Giant who seems intent on sampling a couple of hors d’oeuvres to go. The show actually subverts the predictable by  keeping the bearded guy alive throughout, but by the end of the episode, who knows who’ll survive this thing.

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They’re driven to the precipice of a cliff, and just when the Gauna’s tentacles are about to grab them, Nagate saves the day with his particle beam. But rescuing the two pilots is only a small and temporary victory; now he has to rendezvous with Tsumugi (who it’s assumed will make quick work of Benisuzume) past a humongous gauntlet of Gauna.

Nagate digs into one of the floating islands and lets loose with his cannon until he’s out of ammo, then takes care of the last three Gauna with his new sword, laughed off earlier as something one would use on themselves, but proving crucial to survival here. And once he defeats every last Gauna that surrounds him, he still has to meet up with Tsumugi.

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As Benisuzume giggles and grunts and gasps while locked in battle with Tsumugi, Mozuku is convinced it’s only a matter of time before the under-matched Beni slips up and gets her core penetrated. She, not Beni, is the “Ultimate Being,” or so it’s been drilled into her psyche. But that superiority affords a certain arrogance that proves decisive. After Tsumugi has blown most of her placenta away, Beni plays possum, and a seemingly human Shizuka crawls out of the placenta.

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In that moment of confusion and possibly fellow feeling, at the sight someone the same size and makeup as her friends, Tsumugi lets her guard down, and Beni jams a stake through her neck and starts sucking out all of her Hyggs particles (i.e. go juice). Now Benisuzume has the upper hand, presumably since she’s not bothered by sentiment, and proceeds to literally nail the poor outsmarted Tsumugi to the wall, almost as bait.

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Nagate saves Tsugumi in the nick of time, but again, only temporarily, as Beni has summoned thousands of her friends to their location, and she herself gloms onto Tsugumori. Nagate blasts her with the beam in his head, but she fires back, blinding him. She then sneaks up from behind and sticks all of her tentacles into his frame’s hull, and all of a sudden it looks like game over…but only if Benisuzume’s only goal was to kill him, which it clearly isn’t, because she forms another human Hoshijiro Shizuka inside his cockpit.

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When “Shizuka” opens her eyes to reveal they’re both human, it resparks debate on what elements of Nagate’s old flame are still extant, and the nature of what it means to be someone, especially someone you love. Is Benisuzume merely taking her time for creulty’s sake, or does she intend to mate with Nagate.

Nagate, for his part, is literally cornered, strapped into his cockpit with absolutely nowhere to go. But Izana and Beardy are still in there somewhere, so it’s not ridiculous to think they might have a role to play in the immediate future in freeing Nagate somehow.

Until then, we’re left with one strange, sexy, frightening scenario: Nagate either about to be killed, fucked, and/or eaten (in no particular order) by a monster with the face and body of his believed-dead first love. Yikes.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 10

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After a season and three-quarters of familiarization with its combat information displays, you know the Sidonia has hit the fan when pilots start turning red, including Izana. Sure, it’s due to a loss of communication, but I still found myself tensing up with apprehension at the sight of those graphics, especially considering you could call Izana and Nagate’s off-camera experience a death flag of sorts, and as I stated last week, none of the other three pilots are anyone we know, and are hence disposable.

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Kobayashi tends to agree with that assessment, as she orders Yuhata to formulate a plan to eliminate the Gauna, not support the recon platoon, a course of action that essentially abandons the platoon to their deaths, Izana included. This is certainly upsetting, but it keeping with Kobayashi’s M.O.

Surprisingly, it’s Kunato who manages to get Nagate and Tsumugi/Mozuku to sortie, stating that it’s as good an opportunity as ever to test both the Tsugumori Mk. III and chimera in non-zero-g anti-Gauna operations. Kunato couldn’t give two shits about Izana or the other recon pilots, but he knows the loss of Izana will negatively affect his “hold” on Tsumugi.

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As Nagati and Tsumugi enter formation and race to Planet Nine, Izana loses her kabi cannon when swarmed by Gauna, and notices they follow the cannon. When she releases her fuel tanks, they follow those as well. These moves buy her some survival time, but the planet is hardly hospitable-looking to humans, and with no fuel and very limited survival provisions, Izana is hoping for a speedy rescue.

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When Nagati and Tsumugi are suddenly separated by a powerful Hyggs beam, and Nagate starts hurtling backwards into the planet’s atmo, it looks like the rescuers are going to need rescuing as well…

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But even though his impact with one of the countless islets floating in the upper atmosphere (which look so tiny when far away, but are actually quite big compared to Tsugumori), his Mark III is tough enough to withstand that impact unscathed. Nagate himself is stunned, but eventually comes to his senses and stands up, very surprised he’s alive.

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But Considering the one who fired at him and Tsugumi turns out to be a resurrected Benisuzume, complete with giggles, will he regret surviving that impact? Tsugumi orders Nagate to find and save Izana while she duels with the red Gauna girl, but Beni looks like her equal in combat, if not her better.

Far from the relative safety of Sidonia, on a strange and hostile planet crawling with Gauna, faced with an old foe previously believed dead, and with Izana plummeting into the soupy clouds to an unknown fate, things couldn’t be worse for Tanikaze Nagate. Can he save his friend and maybe-lover, without losing Tsugumi to Benisuzume? It’s snuck up on us, but there are just two eps left to sort everything out.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 09

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So, here we are, and it’s apparent that Nagate isn’t going to read into Yure’s bizarre assignment for him at all, both because he’s primarily worried about getting his head blown off, but also because he’s got nothing but dust bunnies floating around inside that uncommonly hard skull. Or, to be more charitable, he simply doesn’t possess the means to express how he feels.

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His obliviousness doesn’t keep Izana from being charmed by the “code” he’s using to take her on a date (especially when he inspects Chekhov’s Bed), and Yuhata and Tsumugi are also convinced that they’re up to no good, and manage to locate a vantage point to spy on them.

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That point turns out to be a gorgeous (and expensive) zero-gravity onsen with an omnidirectional view of the stars outside. When Izana, bless her, takes off her jacket and asks for Nagate to join her in the bath, she’s also asking him to drop the pretense, not knowing there is none; this really is a mission for the dolt.

That’s made clear when Izana gets a peek at his tablet, which has her grandma’s scribbling all over it; this was all a setup orchestrated by her, with no input or even awareness on Nagate’s part. Rather than charmed, she’s pissed, and throws a couple of cybernetic punches at her would-be partner in frustration.

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Where she’s wrong, though, is that Nagate “doesn’t care about her at all,” as no matter how much punishment she dishes out, he sticks close to her, determined to apologize, and make things right. It’s also an opportunity to tell her exactly how he feels about her.

But we don’t get to hear it, or see Izana’s reaction, or any other part of their evening. Like Shirou and Rin in UBW, Nagate and Izana are two kids who really like each other and are always at risk of being killed tomorrow. But while the UBW couple had a tasteful if sedate intimate experience that we at least got to see.

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Instead, Sidonia leaves everything to our imagination, cutting from the onsen to Yuhata and Tsumugi, watching from afar, unable to hear, like us. The next morning is a little more telling of what happened: the two enter the house, and while on the stairs momentarily forgot they sleep in separate rooms, because last night, they slept with each other.

That’s my take on it anyway, and it’s supported later on in how both of them act. Your mileage may vary on what went on, but I think the show’s point is to think what you want to think, at least until more information comes to light.

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All I knew was, after their little vacation, things were almost certainly going to turn perilous again, testing the bond they just took to the next level. The show doesn’t do this in the most subtle way, but in this case, unsubtlety is welcome.  When a disgruntled pilot defects at the sight of the new hayakaze armor, which looks to her like a kamikaze ram for the Gauna, Izana is called up to replace her on the recon mission to the dark side of Lem system’s ninth planet.

The kicker is that Yuhata makes this call to Izana. Yuhata, who stayed up all night worried and likely also upset about what was going on with Nagate and Izana. Is she Yuhata only acting in her official capacity as XO, and Izana truly the best person for the job, or did Yuhata put Izana on this mission as some kind of payback? I certainly hope it’s the former, but the latter can’t be ruled out.

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As for the mission, it’s one of those rare instances when Izana is out there while Nagate is on standby, and Nagate is a nervous, pacing wreck, more than ever if it’s true that they’re now lovers. He’s also concerned because Izana is attached to a device he heard the deserting pilot call a death trap, and we know that Kobayashi plays favorites wouldn’t hesitate sacrificing lesser pilots for a second if it meant furthering her goals.

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So like Nagate, my heart was also in my throat the minute Izana left the (relatively) safe confines of Sidonia…especially with three redshirts. The cloaked Gauna they find in the rings of Planet Nine is a nasty customer, and promptly takes out one redshirt.

Please make it home, Izana—the last and most important moment you have with Nagate can’t have occurred offscreen…unless, of course it is, and we only revisit it in Nagate’s memory or dreams. Then again, if Hiyama is right about Kobayashi putting Sidonia on the wrong course, even if Izana makes it back, everyone’s doomed anyway.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 08

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First of all, a hearty bravo is in order for the show’s opening, in which we see a totally different character battle some kind of cyborg in a Sidonia-style setting. From last week’s cliffhanger, I imagined we were suddenly thrown into the events on Planet Seven, so I was pleasantly surprised when it was revealed Nagate, Izana, Yuhata and Tsumugi were merely watching a very well-produced TV show.

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The fact they’re gathered ’round the tube after a hard day’s hull reconstruction, and that Tsumugi is getting more playful and spontaneous (sometimes leading to non-lethal accidents) all contributes to the family atmosphere in Nagate and Izana’s new home.

When Yuhata moves in and she and Tsumugi turn Izana’s room into a communal space with a kotatsu, it’s disrupting Izana’s ideal living situation with Nagate and Nagate alone, but at least in Tsumugi’s case, she means well. In Yuhata’s case, she uses her rank and the need for further conservation of resources to move in, but we know she has the sorta-hots for Nagate.

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Her increasingly lively household, paired with the strenuous labor of reconstruction, and the fact she’s dealing with fundamental changes to her body (both her mechanical and female parts), all contribute to make Izana look like a person who needs to relax and take a break.

Her ageless grandma Yure notices this, and also notices how Izana is starting to blossom into a younger version of herself. To that end, she requests that Izana wear one of her fetching old dresses and the two Shinatoses go out on the town. Those outfits strike the right balance of revealing (with that nice back latticing) and practicality (they still have carabiners in case of gravity fluctuations). Even Izana’s clear weariness with being dolled up like this doesn’t change the fact that she looks fantastic.

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Naturally, she runs into Nagate while trying to hurry home without being seen, and since their home is the same now, it makes for an awkward walk, but also a flattering one. Like myself, Nagate has always found Izana cute, but now that she’s more overtly feminine, he can’t help but blush in her presence, and whenever they accidentally touch, neither quite knows what to do with themselves.

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Nagate takes the route of passivity, but when he straight-up fails to notice Izana is behind him while he’s headed back to base in formation with the Tsumugi, Izana gets upset with him. Again, Yure takes notice, and decides to take matters into her own hands, knowing she’s witnessing a romantic stalemate in progress.

Nagate is never going to ask Izana out, or vice versa, so Yure puts it into terms he can understand: duty and orders; life and death. She suddenly summons him to her presence, timing how long he takes to get there, then starts to tell—not ask—him to go on a top secret snap “Cultural Properties Inspection” of the Thousand Year Village, and telling him to ask Izana to accompany him.

Yure gives him the distinct impression—in surely the funniest use of the show’s omnipresent schematics yet—that if he in any way fails to complete his mission to her satisfaction, she may sever his head with an explosive she planted in his neck vertebrae. What’s so great is that you can’t be sure at all whether she’s serious. This is how you move things forward.

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When Nagate comes home and discusses their “mission” with all that official-sounding terminology, Izana picks up on what’s going on, accepts that this is the only way Nagate can ask her to go on a vacation with him, and says yes. The couple’s body language here, and throughout the episode, really, is really well done.

All the while, their privacy is violated by a too-curious-not-to-look Tsumugi, who suspends Yuhata in the air so she can peek too. In the morning, they’re both kind of put off by Nagate and Izana’s not-too-subtle subterfuge as they sneak out one at a time.

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When they arrive at the entrance to the Thousand Year Village, and the doors open to reveal a gorgeous traditional building amongst a grove of cherry blossoms, it’s like they’re walking into another dimension. The metal and concrete walls of Sidonia are still there, but this place is a warm rejection of that cold science.

Izana is so bowled over by the sights, she doesn’t even realize she’s taken Nagate by the hand. But in a nice change of  pace, they don’t both turn beet red, quickly let go and back away. They continue holding hands, look into each others’ eyes, and say each others’ names. How romantic is that?

While I’m sure there are detractors to this kind of character-focused “Sidonia Lite”, I’m loving and savoring every minute of it. The next horrific threat could pop up at any time, and with the likes of Kobayashi in charge, it certainly will; but in the meantime I’m perfectly happy watching Nagate and Izana live their lives and draw closer to one another.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 07

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Of the four people in this shot, I only trust the ones sitting down, which is troubling, because she’s the one with by far the least power aboard Sidonia, despite her formidable scientific prowess. Heck, I even have a problem with Yure, who seems to have cultivated a kind of scientific tunnel vision, realizing the wild dreams of her superiors without regard for the consequences.

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We watch in horror the fruits of this dream team’s labor this week: the Graviton Beam Emitter goes berserk when they try to shut it down, and it starts acting like a wounded Gauna, extending its tentacles out across Sidonia’s hull. The familiar blue and green computer displays turn a alarming red hue, and the Kubrickesque neatly-framed control tower contrasts nicely with the unhinged chaos taking place outside its windows.

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Worse still, the head, at least the substitute head in XO Yuhata, has no idea what the body is doing. When you stop and consider for all they know they’re all that’s left of humanity, Captain Kobayashi testing highly dangerous experimental weapons without informing the bridge crew is a bridge—or rather space elevator—too far. It’s a testament to Yuhata’s confidence, decisiveness, and calm under fire that things don’t spiral completely out of control.

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Watching the emitter continue to swell until collapsing on itself like a miniature supernova, leaving a huge gaping hole in the ship, made for a very disturbing, visceral sight, especially considering how many people either got gobbled up in the implosion or were left floating free in the vacuum of space.

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Goshdarnit, there are enough perils in space without the Hubristic Triumvirate of Kobayashi, Kunato, Ochiai serving up new ones from within! Yet in the aftermath of a very close call, Kobayashi is so seduced by the “weapon of wonder” that she orders Yure to keep trying until she gets it right, despite the fact Yure, a gifted scientist, just told her it was a failure.

I’m telling you, if Kobayashi retains power much longer, it’ll be a miracle if Sidonia doesn’t end up a fine cloud of dust in the inky black vastness. At least Yure has the common sense to talk with her old friend Sasaki about her predicament. “My boss is a megalomaniac who’s finally gone off the deep end. Any advice?”

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Meanwhile, down on the flight deck, the Gardes and their pilots continue to get upgrades, like an armor that links up four frames into one with an artificial kabi hull well-suited to ramming Gauna. The leftover kabi was used to make katana for the pilots, to serve as combination low-tech last-resort sidearms and good luck charms. But Samari doesn’t see good fortune in her new blade; she sees that things are only going to get hairier. She can feel the “Rumbling” that is the title of this episode.

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Speaking of rumblings, there are some about the prospect of a full-on Tanikaze Nagate harem, what with Ren convincing her sister En to stop by Nagate’s post to deliver some food, only to find Samari of all people has beaten her to the punch. I for one dig the Sidonia hoodies, not to mention En’s acrobatics.

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Turns out Samari wanted a drinking buddy to vent to, and it may as well be the person who, along with Tsugumi, seems to be leaving her in the dust with all the new weapons, and in the midst of all the recent bloodshed. Samari is doubting her abilities—never a good thing for a group leader—and not looking forward to sending more comrades to their deaths. It’s a welcome look into another underling struggling as a result of the callous actions of the powers that be.

When she apologizes for whining, Nagate cheers her up, saying he believes she’s saved more pilots than lost, and that she has his ear anytime. Her lips loosened by many cups of sake, she proposes “photosynthesis”, perhaps to see if she can claim more than his ear—but he takes one swig of the booze and passes out, ruining her tentative plans to conquer the young hotshot—and blow of steam in the process.

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For an episode with so much dark stuff going on, there was also a fair amount of comedy, most of which I can report actually laughing at, a rarity in a show where appeals for laughs can feel as mechanical as the vivid computer schematics. In fact, Sidonia’s comedy has never felt as well-timed and confident as this week.

The centerpiece, in which Izana’s suit rejects her because it has detected “modifications” that turn out to be her sudden development of female physical attributes (i.e. boobs), telegraphs its impending joke with the glitch she can’t clear, without spoiling the shock of the suit suddenly “ejecting” her, giving Nagate a show that shocks his head right into a bulkhead.

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Izana’s sudden but not unexpected transformation into a woman services both fan (at least in my case), plot, and character. Nagate had always been more comfortable around Izana in part because she wasn’t quite female or male. But she’s been emotionally female for a while now, and now her body’s caught up, it should change their dynamic drastically. That frontrunner status is confirmed by Yuhata, who already has boob envy.

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That’s not even the whole joke of the bath scene, though. When Izana retreats from the an uncomfortable situation, Tsugumi and Yuhata continue talking and playing in the bath as Izana joins Nagate on the floor below…and learns that he could hear everything they were talking about.

Watching this realization gradually wash over Izana’s always expressive face is delightful to behold, matched only by Nagate’s innocent look and meek “What’s up?” before she drives her bionic arm into the table, splattering his scalding-hot ramen broth all over him in a nice moment of Physics.

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The cold close focuses on a team of astronauts surveying Planet 7 in the Lem System (likely named for Stanislaw Lem, author of Solaris), about to have a Very Bad Day, as their comrades suddenly start screaming until drowned out by alien sounds and static. This, just after they mocked Sidonia’s obsession with weapons.

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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.)

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 – 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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