Isekai, Ranked

If Anime is escapism, there is no better way to escape than Isekai’s theme of plunging Into Another World, where our niche skills and routine possessions may shake the fabric of reality! From MMO-inspired, to hard fantasy, there are many types of Isekai on this list. However, there are no movies, nor series we haven’t seen recently. Bring all disagreements to the comments below!

1. Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World
Re:Zero takes Isekai’s love for fish-out-of-water stories on step further: through brutal, expectation breaking blind sides, it makes the viewer a fish out of water too! Dripping with fantastic animation, Re:Zero’s true strength is the balance of its highly detailed world without over explaining its magic system, time loop mechanic and political systems. It also earns bonus points for  limiting the application of its protagonist’s powerful magic and technological advantages.

2. Sword Art Online (1st season) 
In the narrowest of second places, SAO pairs top shelf animation with an approachable cast and easy to appreciate central conflict. Put its lovingly constructed MMO setting aside, and Kirito’s mistakes and occasional darkness elevate him above his potentially generic good-at-everything character type and Asuka plays the strongest heroine/love interest on the list.

3. Now and Then, Here and There
Imagine if Digimon told a bleak story about sex trafficking child soldiers trapped on a waterless world with a maniac king? NTHT’s intense swerve from adorable into darkness is on par with Re:Zero and, much like Natsuki Subaru, HTHT’s Shu must rely on ‘durability’ and ‘heart’ to make it through. While some of it’s later tragic moments are predictable, this f’ed-up little anime scores major points for telling a complete story and having that story grow Shu from simpleton into a conflicted young adult.

4. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
While Ledo’s post-earth scifi origin may stretch the common definition of Isekai, being trapped in a primitive culture that treats him (and his AI-driven mech Chamber) like a hero of old does not. Beautifully, Gargantia flips the script and makes Red’s overwhelming power, and killing in general, counter productive and at odds with the local people.

5. Yōjo Senki / The Saga of Tanya the Evil
Give us World War I with magic, a gender swapped villain as our protagonist, and God as our antagonist, and you’ve given us something pretty damn original. Like Gargantia, this reborn in another world captures thinking differently about the world can be as powerful and terrifying as unworldly strength. Without question, Yojo Senki’s cast is the most uniquely imagined on this list.

6. No Game No Life
Like Tanya, the Blank twins piss off god and are sent to another world as punishment. However, their punishment is much more stylish and… harem. Underneath NGNL’s acid-soaked panties, over the top protagonists and the psychedelic color pallet, is a show featuring thoughtful puzzles and imaginative spins on classic gamble-to-win story telling. Sadly, its story ends unfinished…

7. KonoSuba
One part jab at Isekai and one part love letter to the starting town of every fantasy MMO, KonoSuba is all parts ruthlessly funny! While this reborn in another world (with a goddess!) show is not as smartly written as NGNL, and it becomes repetitive after a time, the constant frenetic action more than makes up for it.

8. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Quiet, thoughtful, and full of sadness, this hard fantasy Isekai doesn’t care if its heroes are reborn in another world or trapped in a dungeon crawl afterlife. Building family bonds and connecting with people who would not normally be friends is all that matters… and it’s lovingly animated to boot!

9. ReCreators
As a reverse Isekai, ReCreators distinguishes itself by bringing the other world to us. The experience is fantastically animated and packed with clever dialog that somehow breaths sincerity into a profoundly silly plot. The cast is quite diverse, both in design and personality, which keeps the action fresh, yet somehow cohesive throughout. It’s only major flaw is, the final act, which is way to drawn out.

10. The Devil is a Part Timer
No I’m not kidding! This reverse Isekai’s premise that the Devil is trapped in our world and must work at McDonnald’s to get by is charming. While DiaPT’s humor isn’t particularly specific to the devil, the jokes are punchy, and the overall plot develops at a respectable pace. As an added treat, the opening gothic fantasy fight scenes are surprisingly well animated.

11. Log Horizon (1st season)
Most exposition heavy, trapped in an MMO themed Isekai featuring ‘top ranked’ players crumble after a few episodes. More often than not, these shows try too hard to sell the coolness of their game worlds, user interfaces, and central characters. Miraculously, Log Horizon gets better mid season with a simple question: if former NPCs have personalities, can grow and learn, and even die, are they more human than the former players that dismiss them as background texture? Still, it takes Log Horizon six episodes to get going and good lord is it gray looking…

12. Overlord (3 Seasons)
This transported into an MMO Isekai mirrors its main character: it is competent but not sure what it should be doing at any given moment. Sometimes the protagonists are villains and sometimes they are heroes. More often than not, characters are given lavish screen time to develop, only to be slaughtered whimsically. The resulting narrative is full of call backs and revealed foreshadowing… yet hasn’t gone very far in 3 seasons and hasn’t asked any interesting questions along the way.

13. El Hazard – The Magnificent World (OAV/TV)
Predestined paradox, trans-dimensional time jumping high school students (and their drunk gym teacher) are trapped in an Arabian Nights’like land besieged by sentient bugs, a secret tribe of assassins from another dimension, and a death star like eye of god orbiting nearby. If you watched anime in the 1990s it will all be familiar but it still manages to feel original yet cohesive production. The character abilities are wonderful, the tragedy is nice, and plenty is left up to your own imagination to fill in the blanks. A bland, fault free, protagonist and a boy-crazy harem vibe are the only reasons it isn’t higher on the list.

14. Gate: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri
This invading the other world Isekai flips the script to deliver political intrigue, clash of culture, and commentary on Japanese society. It loses points for being a overly harem, relying on super dumb/super evil antagonists, and a dull protagonist but it’s fun enough to watch.

15. Juuni Kokuki (The Twelve Kingdoms)
This brought back to the world you actually were born in Isekai begins with a whiney good-girl who doesn’t want to be queen pissing off her not-friend, who would really like to live in another world, but no one cares, because she’s not the chosen one. Whiney protagonist who has limited agency over the plot aside, that central theme, and the magic and political intrigue around it grow nicely over time. Sadly, the second arc introduces a new character, tons of vocabulary heavy exposition, and just drags. The result is a slightly dated looking show but completely watchable show.

16. Drifters
Stylishly violent, strikingly ugly, historical character filled and utterly bonkers, this reborn in another world Isekai’s uniqueness will hold your attention. Even if you do not want it to.

17. Rise of the Shield Hero (2 Seasons)
On paper, this transported to an MMO world Isekai’s “treat the hero like crap,” “watch him accept the role of a slave-buying villain” and ultimately “rise to become the true hero” concept is great. Revealing that the world he’s saving may be less redeemable than the world the invaders are trying to save is also great. Too bad its padded and many of the arbitrary delays and narrative dead ends feel like cop outs.

18. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
While it lacks the initial hardcore’ness of Shield Hero, this reborn in another world Isekai is pleasantly animated and full of heart. The idea that naming monsters grants them power is a pretty neat mechanic too. It just sort bounces from idea to idea without a sense of purpose of resolution. One minute it’s a story of unlikely friendship, then magic destiny, then town builder, then harem, and onto magic school and isn’t about anything in particular until a hastily thrown together plot ties it up at the end. It scores points for making its hero a slime… although the reborn aspect never feels played with or justified.

19. Angel Beats!
If the gun fetish, kids fighting a loli-angel instead of attending school in the afterlife plot weren’t so dumb and drawn out, this rebirth story’s touching moments would push it much higher. There’s a really good tale of life cut short, reunion after death, and again after rebirth here and it gets major bonus points for finishing the story it had to tell. Totally squandered.

20. Death March / Kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku
Like Shield Hero, this reborn in an MMO Isekai is actually quite good looking. However, its Gary-Stue protagonist, harem and absurd narrative padding make it far less interesting.  OMG how many episodes are about making lunch?! That’s too bad because the concept of code-like “copy and paste” magic system is pretty neat.

21. Wiseman’s Grandson / Kenja no Mago
Despite opening with a modern day man being killed, this reborn into a fantasy world Isekai is more Magic School than Isekai. The only thread that connects the protagonist’s lives is that he can look at magic with an eye for process instead of outcome. The result is harmless easy watching but harem elements, a slow pace and lack of getting anywhere narratively hold it back.

22. How Not to Summon a Demon Lord
This summoned into an MMO Isekai starts off as charming, but ecchi-heavy, before abruptly turning dark at the end of the season. We’re talking ‘make a child watch as her best friend is slowly tortured to death’ and creepo ‘finger-bang a loli cat girl in order to give birth to the demon inside her’ level dark. While those elements elevate HNtSaDL above niche appeal of its harm and MMO content, they aren’t so interesting to earn my recommendation.

23. Problem Children are coming from Another World, Aren’t They?
T
he non-ecchi poor man’s No Game no Life features a talking cat that only some characters can understand and dreadful music. TFW smooth jazz? There’s some cuteness to be had, and the solutions to gambling games can be clever, but the overall vibe is low energy. It loses drama points because its protagonist is as smart as a god and physically stronger.

24. Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?
This poor man’s Konosuba is occasionally funny, satire of RPG conventions and family relationships. Mama’s skill that interrupts whatever her son is doing, no matter what it is or where he is in the game world, is particularly charming. Unfortunately, there’s no avoiding the creepo factor of sexualizing that family relationship.

25. Restaurant from Another World
My mom is secretly from another world and my restaurant’s front door connects back to that world each day is certainly unique, but it’s structured more like a food-porn show than Isekai. While the linkages of each patron become clear over time, few characters are not aware of those connections themselves. The result never feels like it gets anywhere.

26. Dot Hack//Sign
This stuck in an MMO Isekai dedicates too much animation and story to grunting, chuffing, whimpering, and sighing. Combined with a grotesque color pallet, hilariously terrible early 2000’s character designs, and awkward ‘weapon up’ pose each character takes, and it just bleeds out before you can invest in the character drama.

27. In Another World With My Smartphone
Stories without risk are still watchable when they immerse us an interesting world, or delve into niche details like food or how magic works, or hilariously us with harems and sex appeal. Smartphone fails all of these things. Worse, it does nothing with it’s one idea: protagonist Touya is reborn in a fantasy world with smartphone. Except, GOD GIVES HIM GOD TIER MAGIC FROM THE GET-GO! Ironically, Re:Zero and No Game No Life both use of a cell phones in more interesting ways, and Tanya’s God isn’t even comparable. Unoriginal, unfunny, not dramatic, not sexy, not worth watching.

28. Maou-sama, Retry!
This transported to an MMO Isekai’s trash production values, and bizarre characters are hard to take seriously. The results are sometimes so terrible they are funny, such as incompetent background music transitions and detailed horses hiding at the edges of the frame. Sadly, a bland harem and complete lack of narrative objective kill the mood.

29. Isekai Izakaya
Imagine a low energy, public access style show, with a tourism theme, that featuring a modern Japanese restaurant that serves fantasy world patrons…

30. Isekai Cheat Magician
A loveless summoned to a fantasy world Isekai who’s protagonists are the most powerful and purely good characters could deserve a niche rating. Not this one. The narrative sort of ‘skips the boring stuff’ and, in doing so, skips character development. Hilariously, what the narrative does show is poorly animated, always underwhelming magic battle scenes or people standing around talking.

31. Endride
Without dialog, this stumbled into a magic world Isekai’s vibrant color and crisp art would be watchable. The fact that the world is somehow inside of Earth’s core and the sparse use of mythology are unique, but its dumb-as-bricks whiny teen protagonists have the maturity of a small children. There are many unintentionally funny moments like scientists using gigantic laptops or the king’s magic weapon looking like a safety pin. Ultimately, the cast is so unlikeable that the show itself is unwatchable.

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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 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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Space Dandy – 01

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Solaris author Stanislaw Lem wrote: “We don’t want other worlds, we want mirrors.” We long for a distant future in which we travel the stars, but the creepy unknowns that await us out in space must be tempered with the familiar trappings of life on our planet, like restaurants stocked with hot waitresses. Space Dandy dwells in that tasty world between the comforts of the familiar and the thrills of the truly alien. This is no hard science fiction; it gleefully mocks stodgier archetypes of the genre, like Gundam. This is Science Comedy; It’s a circus mirror, and it’s an absolute gas from start to finish.

While taking place in a bafflingly vast and complex universe, Space Dandy’s underlying story is blissfully simple: Space Dandy travels the cosmos with his robot pal QT, hunting for new aliens to register; wacky adventures ensue.  Oh sure, interstellar wars between huge empires are waged, but far in the background. Space Dandy has a great head of hair, passable fashion sense, and a penchant for surprisingly deep monologues, while preferring asses to boobs. At the end of the day, he’s a bit of a boob himself, surrounding himself with obsolete or substandard technology (which is still pretty cool to us) and goes wherever the tides of fate take him, which is a fancy way of saying he just goes wherever.

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There’s a lot of Star Wars influence in the sheer diversity of aliens we encounter, but packs a pulse and joie de vivre Coruscant’s streets were sorely lacking. One alien they pick up is Meow, who looks like a cat but is really from Betelgeuse, who they thought was an unknown because of the sticker on his cheek. Meow wouldn’t look out of place in a Chuck Jones cartoon, nor would the rocky landscape he and Dandy find themselves clambering around after a quick succession of decisions that send Dandy’s ship screaming in and out of normal spacetime and into the middle of a menagerie of gargantuan alien baddies.

In keeping with the episode’s cheeky attitude, in the end Dandy has QT activate an explosive device that obliterates the ship, the planet, and him, leaving us with the narrator proclaiming “No one will ever forget your gallant, appropriate actions…probably.” We like a show that’s not afraid to blow everyone and everything up in the first episode and start off fresh next week with a different observation of the human (and not-so-human) experience through the lens of a super-weird, ultra-colorful, manic universe where anything can happen and even the narrator doesn’t bother fully explaining everything. A great start to the Winter 2014 season.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)