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 – 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 2 – 06

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All ye Izana+Nagate shippers can rejoice, if only briefly, as the two settle into a lovely little domestic situation, complete with Izana making Nagate dinner and tripping on the tatami. The hungry Nagate has the choice of saving the onigiri or Izana, and in the moment when both she and the onigiri are in the air, I wondered which he would save. He made the right choice.

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Their honeymoon doesn’t last long, however, as Tsugumi manages to find a path into Izana’s house and lets herself in, having made creepy noises beforehand that made Izana happy to see Nagate’s face. What I imagined was residual damage from deceleration was only their friend trying to reach them.

Tsugumi may be awkward within Sidonia, but out in space her thrust enables her to accelerate eight times the speed of the Type 18s, even if she meekly admits she has no idea how she can do it.

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Not as far as I can throw you, mate.

Discovering the how she can’t explain is certainly one of Kunato’s objectives, along with Ochiai, Yure, and Kobayashi. The mad scientists and megalomaniacs with dwarf planet-sized chips on their shoulders are now running Sidonia, and I’m not sure they’re the best people to keep the colony safe. More like they’re about to plunge it into oblivion to satisfy their hubristic desire to dominate the Gauna.

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On a more personal level, Tsugumi’s new pilot Mozuku can tell that Tsugumi really likes Nagate, and I imagine her performance and efficiency increase when he’s around. That makes Nagate a valuable asset to Mozuku’s brother…for now. But when they’ve developed a new chimera who’s faster and stronger than Tsugumi, all bets will be off. Tsugumi’s sentience, and desire to live a peaceful life with Nagate, mean nothing to these people. She’s a tool, and Nagate is grease.

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That grease is on a mission to find a new home on the outer wall, leading him to the Residence Bureau and its enthusiastic, yellow pantsu-wearing realty officer. I’ve said this show is a bit clumsy with comedy, but one beat that elicited a good chuckle was Nagate’s “I’m not looking up your skirt” look as he rapidly turns away the moment she turns around. Her “You lucky dog!” line refers both to his dispensation to live wherever he wants (owing to his rank and status) and the fact he got a peek.

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Both the residential office and the hobby shop Yuhata frequents are nice world-building moments that expand the scope of Sidonia beyond the military we see every week. People are going about their normal lives amidst all the shooting and fighting and exploding outside. Showing us these places lend the episode a distinct calm before the storm feeling to this episode.

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Izana is understandably disappointed when she learns Nagate is moving; the liked the thing they had going on, she’d given him a spare key, and she was just about to tell him he could stay for good if he wanted to. But Nagate isn’t leaving Izana; he’s inviting her to move in to his house with him and Tsugumi, and she accepts, after making him squirm a bit. Izana has always had the best facial expressions on this show, and she displays some great ones here.

Did I mention the new house perched on the outer wall is amazing? Sidonia regularly elicits “I want to go to there” feelings, but rarely as strong as here. It’s also nice to see Nagate actually reaping the rewards of putting his life on the line day in day out for Sidonia. Tsugumi’s wish to sleep in bed with him is sweet, if a little weird. Nagate may either want to set some house rules or procure a bigger bed.

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We transition from domestic bliss on the outer wall to an epic multi-shot pull-in to a research facility where Ochiai and Yure’s new Graviton Beam Emitter is about to be test-fired. In addition to providing a sense of the ships humongous scale (though peanuts compared to their ultimate target), the bright lights on the ship’s barren, crater-pocked surface evokes the iconic moon scene in 2001.

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The bring white lights give way to the piercing red of the unsettlingly Gauna-ish light of the beam, which punches a 100km-wide hole in a passing dwarf planet the crew thought would be a good target for mining. Nope, just target practice. The ambitious new class of leadership is interested in one thing: taking out that giant Hive Cluster. If it means hundreds of people will die horribly, so be it.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 05

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Last week’s violent, harrowing battle took place just a third of the way in the season, so a cooling-off episode was expected and not entirely unwelcome. Now that we know the lengths Tsumugi will go to protect her friends, it’s nice to spend time with them as the recover from their wounds and try to make it up to her.

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Since Izana was alive and in contact with Sidonia at the end of last week, I knew Nagate was alive, I just didn’t know how bad her injuries would be. So it’s with great joy and relief to see her recover from those injuries. She lost an arm and a leg, but in this sci-fi world limbs can grow back, she chose mechanical prostheses so she could recover faster and get back on the line.

While part of this choice is her not wanting to be left behind or to be useless for too long, I still respect her going with her non-mad scientist grandma’s suggestion, and I liked her positive attitude about the whole thing. Nagate and Yuhata’s reaction to her suddenly splitting the fingers on her new hand from five to ten is pretty priceless: by turns surprised, fearful, and impressed.

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Tsumugi was the big question mark last week. We learn after the battle she’s lost 90% of her body mass, and as we know, that kind of diet can kill a human. But she’s super tough, and all she needs is time and patience to grow her placenta back. Nagate, extremely concerned for her well-being, sits at her proverbial hospital bedside.

In what turns out to be a tease from last week’s preview for this episode, the nude Shizuka Nagate encounters is merely in his dream, albeit a dream he’s having while a recovering Tsugumi has her “arms” on his head.

Nagate calls the girl in his dream “Shizuka”, the name he first assigned to her face, but it might’ve been more accurate to address her as Tsumugi, as this could be her unconscious avatar, hinting that she can communicate this way, in addition to her half-cute, half-unsettling dolphin balloon puppet.

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When Nagate wakes up, he’s so elated Tsumugi is okay, he hugs that puppet, whose reaction to the sudden intimacy rivals Asahina Mikuru for pure adorableness. She moves to beautiful new digs with a view of the stars and a bookshelf to read from (her studious bookworm persona is super-endearing, BTW), but Nagate is troubled with how isolated she is, which is confirmed when Tsugumi, all alone in her tower of solitude, lets off a sigh.

Nagate and Izana ask Yuhata if she’ll let Tsumugi move to the residential area where she can be closer to everyone else, but she refuses them flatly. As much as I love Tsumugi, I knew their request would be a long shot, practically speaking. Tsumugi could cause a lot of damage in there if the ride gets bumpy.

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And it does get bumpy, as Sidonia is closing on the Lem solar system and must initiate another harrowing deceleration maneuvers. This is where Sidonia the character comes into play in the episode; simply slowing down in space is a momentous event fraught with peril. An air raid siren pierces the tranquil residential block, warning everyone to lock their harness into something sturdy.

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Unfortunately, Nagate and Izana don’t hear the sirens or the warnings, because they’re spending their downtime deep in the guts of the ship, finding themselves in a ladder shaft when the bumpy ride begins. Thankfully, due to Nagate’s incredible luck and physical toughness with an assist from Izana’s bionic limbs, they survive the maneuver with bumps and bruises.

Those are a small price to pay for achieving their goal: locating a hatch in a pipe that leads to Tsumugi’s room. She can now stick her balloon avatar out and gaze upon the gorgeous residential block.

Giving her her first look at the civilization she’s protecting, and feeling the community of the res area, is Nagate and Izana’s way of thanking her for saving them, and doing their best to quell her loneliness. It’s a great feel-good, non-battle victory.

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The feel-goodness continues when Nagate heads home to find he’s been evicted an his dorm is now the home of a new recruit. But that’s okay, because all he has to do is call a friend and crash with them until he can find a place of his own! Who does he call: Kunato? He probably labels his food. The Honoka sisters? He’ll walk in on them naked and get thrashed again. Yuhata? “Fraternizing with a superior officer” issues.

No, he calls Izana, who is relaxing and soaking in her very cozy-looking bath, talking with her grandma on the videophone. Izana has been trying to get closer to Nagate since before Shizuka died. Now, thanks to fate, Nagate has come to her. Will she capitalize on this latest chance? Her initial reaction suggests she’ll have to overcome some nervousness.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 04

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Sidonia sticks to its strengths—intricate space battles, mayhem, and impending doom, not comedy and romance—with an episode-long epic battle of adernaline-pumping perfection. G550 is gunnin’ for Sidonia, literally. Its kill or be killed, and the episode never lets you forget how thin the line is between life and death.

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Tsumugi uses her man-made kabi claws to bust out of the trap the first wave of Gauna built around her, and in the process she seems to glean the Gauna’s intent for the humans, including her friends. Whether it was just another Gauna biological reflex in response to external stimuli, or a conscious, sentient effort to provoke Tsumugi, she reacts badly,  disobeying everyone’s orders and going on a destructive rampage of every Gauna in sight, despite being heavily damaged herself.

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The deus ex machina has a screw loose, and it informs the overarching peril of the situation rather nicely. What ultimately finally stops her attacks is when Izana tries to go after her and calm her down, and gets heavily damaged in the process. It’s been a little while since pilots I actually knew and cared about turned red on the CIC board, so when it’s Izana’s turn my heart sank into my stomach. Thankfully, Tsumugi gets to Izana and agrees to retreat for now, for her sake.

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The Guardes manage to take out the second wave of Gauna without Tsumugi’s help thanks to a shift to long-range tactics, and then enter ring formation to destroy G550’s core. But even this tactic backfires, as the equatorial trench they create is the perfect aperture for a massive Hyggs cannon the surviving Gauna fuse into.

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Sidonia is huge and slow, so I knew any beam launched at her would have to be somehow prevented outright, blocked, shifted, or absorbed by someone. In another case of the computer displays creating visceral reactions, the amount of red the damage analysis predicts makes it clear if none of those above things happen, it’s Game Over.

Tsumugi manages to deflect the beam enough so it misses Sidonia, but only by a few hundred meters to starboard. At this distance, the mere force emanating from the beam is enough to nearly shake Sidonia to pieces, and alarmingly, all the CIC displays go to static as the shock hits, and it was all I could do to pray those displays wouldn’t go dark, and that breaches wouldn’t occur.

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With G550 charging for another salvo, and both Tsumugi and Izana unaccounted for, Nagate decides to rush in headlong and uses his engine pack as a precision projectile, causing a Death Star-style chain reaction that brings that sweet, sweet sound of Bubble Desintegration. Once again, Nagate one-ups Kunato and emerges the hero.

It’s a costly victory: Nagate and Izana are both found, but Tsumugi is in tatters, and Izana fears she’s dead. They didn’t lose a lot of Guardes, and Sidonia wasn’t seriously damaged and didn’t need to carry out emergency maneuvers, but with Tsumugi’s fate unclear and the Gauna stronger than ever, it’s no longer simply “nice” to have Chimera on their side; it now appears absolutely essential for the battles to come.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 03

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Kobayashi’s coup went off without a hitch, and she immediately changes Sidonia’s course, both literally and figuratively, in a chilling scene that makes it obvious there was no love lost between her and the not-so-Immortals. And yet this doesn’t mark any kind of sea change in the day-to-day operations of the ship, nor do higher-ranking officers like Yutaha have any problem with the new change of leadership. After all, Kobayashi’s bosses never were in the spotlight; it’s hard to mourn their loss. Or maybe Yutaha is simply being pragmatic.

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Either way, big changes in how Sidonia wages war are being implemented, from upgrading the armor of the Type-18 frames, to impregnating Placental Hoshijiro with a human seed, making her Tsugumi’s mommy. I really like the creep-factor this kind of sci-fi body mod/body horror stuff lends to Sidonia’s “world,” one already full of oddities.

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At the same time, this episode doesn’t forget about the sheer majesty of simply floating outside Sidonia. The careful camera placement and motion really sell the idea of how vast space is, and how the terror of that vastness can cause people like Kobayashi to take extreme steps to preserve their tiny civilization.  

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Where Sidonia continues to flail and fail is at comedy, particularly anything involving Nagate seeing naked ladies. All of the careful physics go out the window as they resort to cartoon violence, smashing a heavy metal door into Nagate, who hits the wall hard, and then has the door smash down on him, a sequence that would surely have put him in the hospital.

Like a previous instance in the first season where his face swelled up after getting beaten for a similar transgression, seeing his CG face get bent up here breaks the uncanny valley in a bad way. But most of all, this attempt at lightweight comedy comes off as ham-fisted and obvious, nothing like the expert precision of other areas of the show.

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This is more like it: giving us a glimpse into Yutaha’s spartan quarters gives us a glimpse into her character off-bridge: she dresses down, builds scale models, and tries to keep up with the news. Sure, emergency maneuvers would send most of the contents of her room flying along with her, but those are rare enough.

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While checking the logs of who’s gone to see Tsumugi, Yuhata discovers Nagate and Izana have been occasional visitors. I was expecting some kind of confrontation, but instead Yuhata is merely curious, and the others even invite her to lock hands with them, as they had come to do with Tsugumi (or rather Tsugumi’s balloon “sock puppet” avatar). Tsugumi continues to nicely toe the line between cute and creepy.

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When her sharp eyes spot a 500-core Gauna force heading their way, Kunato requests to intercept it with Tsugumi. Yuhata wants to see how she works in a formation, and so denies the request, but she’s overruled by Kobayashi, who is eager to see the full extent of the chimera’s powers. Perhaps because Kunato wasn’t among those who locked hands (a pilot superstition I’d expect him to shun), things go very wrong when he flies Tsugumi into a Gauna placenta trap. This, after Kunato guaranteed defeating the force would be a cakewalk.

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Two more of Sidonia’s strengths are its thrilling launch sequences and visceral pilot POV shots, both of which contribute to an adrenaline-laced sci-fi spectacle to end the ep. With Tsugumi neutralized, it’s up to the conventional Guardes to avert disaster on the very first leg of Kobayashi’s very possibly ill-conceived new course.

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To that end, all the Guardians that launch—96 in all—lock hands into a ring formation and blast away with authority, which is another Sidonia strength: immensely enticing cliffhangers. The strengths definitely outweighed the weaknesses this week, as they usually do with Sidonia, while building great anticipation for next week’s big battle.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 02

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There’s been some super sketchy stuff going down behind that big KUNATO logo, especially now that Ochiai is in the mix. We see the fruit of his labor in full display this week in the Human-Gauna hybrid “Chimera”, Tsugumi Shiraui.

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The newest enemy Gauna with its “Onion Placenta” is proof the Gauna are not standing still when it comes to developing new weapons with which to attack Sidonia, so it makes sense that the humans should innovate or die. Competing factions among the humans clash over the best way to do this.

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At least here, the ends justify the means, as Tsugumi is able to destroy the enemy Gauna, finishing it off by blasting straight through it. Yuhata and the Guardians are more confused than anything, but it’s Nagate who decides Tsugumi isn’t their enemy, allowing her to do her work unfettered.

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There was probably a better way to sell Tsugumi to the crew than a King Kong-style unveiling, but Kunato has never struck me as being very good at P.R., and the fact he’s now a host for Ochiai made him even worse. Tsugumi is uncommonly courteous and friendly, but when she gets excited upon spotting Nagate in the crowd, her sheer mass shakes the entire assembly hall, scaring the masses and turning them against her.

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Tsugumi is huge and extremely creepy-looking. But in good sci-fi, one can never judge a book by its cover when it comes to aliens who look or act differently from us. Nagate, being the decent sort of chap he is, is willing to keep an open mind, and even visits her at the Kunato lab, convinced she could use some human company, as she is half-human.

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She greets them with a more human-sized but still very alien appendage, and Tsugumi is overcome by glee when Nagate allows her to “touch” him, which she takes as carte blanche to lift both him and Izana up with numerous tentacles and grope them both thoroughly.

But again, it’s not scary, despite the awesome destructive power she’s capable of, because she’s so gosh-darned earnest and adorable. Not sure about the goofy music that announces this is a comedic scene, but whatever.

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As for those factions I mentioned earlier, Kobayashi makes a decisive move against the ruling Immortal Ship Assembly, sending Ochiai’s clone to murder them all, including her would-be replacement, after they vote to impeach her from the captaincy.

While the good old-fashioned acquisition of power is probably a motivating factor, Kobayashi was also diametrically opposed to their defensive posture and refusal to entertain innovations such as Tsugumi. With her and other Chimeras, she’ll be able to take the fight to the Gauna, and presumably start winning the hearts and minds.

Even if she doesn’t manage to achieve the latter (Nagate, for instance doesn’t like how Tsugumi is being forced to fight and kill right out of the proverbial womb) it’s Kobayashi’s ship now, and those who oppose her will do so at their peril.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 01 (First Impressions)

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I was pretty dejected when Sidonia’s second season didn’t air in October as I initially believed, but I’ve been waiting patiently like a good anime blogger for six more months and two seasons. Now the wait is over…and boy, was it worth it.

Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki (Battle for Planet Nine) the best premiere of the spring – a rich, soaring, booming, squirming sci-fi masterpiece that lays out a fresh batch of challenges and conflicts for the spacefaring remainder of mankind, already hanging on a string last season.

The cold open mirrors the first season’s, in which a space battle turns out to be a simulation run by Nagate, only this time he’s a decorated veteran putting up a high score for the fresh crop of Guardian recruits to aspire to, even if he doesn’t have any inspiring words to say to them.

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We then cut back to whatever it was Kunato was up to with that big door in the first season finale. Even if it means the end of his family, he opens it and steps inside, and his loyal sister Mozoku follows him. This secret forbidden nook of Sidonia turns out to be Ochiai’s lab, and they’re not alone in there. In quick succession, Mozoku loses a digit, then her head, and Norio’s body is taken over by parasites as a strange, not-quite-human figure looks on. Talk about setting the tone!

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Not too much later, a girl who looks like a white-haired Shizuka in Mozoku’s clothes fumbles with her dinner, apparently still getting used to her body (if they switched heads, her high collar hides the signs). She calls Norio “Ochiai”, and “Norio”, really Ochiai, corrects her. A tentacle slithers in “Mozoku”‘s eye. Just like that, it’s the end of the Kunato siblings as we knew them.

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The transformed pair then visit the lab to inspect Placental Shizuka as representatives of Kunato Corp. As he puts Numi under full-body paralysis with one prick to her cheek, “Norio” also hits her with a dose of anti-human vitriol (calling them naught nothing but filthy insects, far inferior to Gauna, etc.) before giving her a parasite. Things are moving very quickly.

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Meanwhile, we see why Nagate was so distracted at the simulator, and why he isn’t eating much or acknowledging Izana much: he’s having semi-sexy, semi-horrifying dreams about Placental Shizuka, whom he hasn’t seen in some time. When he crosses paths with Norio on an escalator, Norio insists he forget about Shizuka, who is dead, and stop worrying about the placenta that shares her appearance.

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Yuhata steals Nagate from Izana on a day they’re to go on a trip to the shrine, but only to tell him what Norio did: to give up on Placental Shizuka. Possibly out of pity for having to order her friend to do this, she lends him a rocket pack so he can meet up with Izana at the top of the stairs, surprising and delighting her in the process. It’s a great little glimmer of light and hope in an episode steeped in darkness and dread.

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That glimmer doesn’t last long, as the Gauna alert sounds and Battle Stations are ordered. The third-person shot of XO Yuhata entering the CIC as it comes to life with Gauna threat information, is audiovisual perfection.

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So is the battle that commences, though that’s nothing new where Sidonia is concerned. Using a combination of wide, slightly shaky shots and in-cockpit POV shots, all supplemented with maps, schematics, and other digital information, all of which reveals that this latest Gauna is unlike any they’ve fought before.

In addition to being heavily armed, it has dozens of layers of placenta, like an onion, and it looks like the Guardians are simply going to run out of ammo and/or fuel long before they reach the true body. This force Nagate to move dangerously closer in with his all-new, powerful but untested frame to try to take the Gauna out. Ren, who’s been through some stuff with Izana, stays by his side.

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Sidonia also excels at stepping ever so close to the brink of total disaster and destruction, before being pulled back by some last-minute miracle. Usually it’s Nagate who pulls these off, making him the shining new hero, but this time, he can’t do a thing. In fact, when another Gauna appears on radar (or whatever they use) and heads toward Nagate and Ren at 10x the speed of their guardians, it appeared like the Gauna had Sidonia, and humanity, in check.

But then the second Gauna blows the Onion Gauna to kingdom come with one shot. Everyone gawks at this strange Guardian-sized Gauna, which is being piloted by Norio. Look out, Nagate: the guy who always considered you his nemesis is now faster and stronger than you…and he’s not even really Norio anymore.

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As for the reveal that the “Gauna Guardian” he’s piloting has Shizuka’s voice and talks to him like a beloved master, well, this fake Norio also went and stole Nagate’s fake woman, who introduces herself as Shiraui Tsumugi. The shot of the delicate yet frightening-looking Tsumugi floating in space even bears a striking resemblance to the bone/satellite match cut of 2001, lending it a powerful, mythic aura. Move over…everything else: Sidonia is back, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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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 – 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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