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 – 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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