This past July 4th, Netflix entered the anime distribution world with their release of Knights of Sidonia. This marked the first time that the company not only got the exclusive rights to a title but translated and recorded the English dub.
But did the company pick a good title to jump in with? And if so, how did the handle the logistics of producing the English version? Here’s our first look.
Knights of Sidonia is an anime series directed by Kobun Shizuno and is based upon a manga of the same name by Tsutomu Nihei.
The series opens with our main character Nagate Tanikaze (Ryota Osaka/Johnny Yong Bosch) training in an old Guardian simulator in the underground of the massive ship Sidonia. Guardians are giant armour mech suits that are used to defend Sidonia from attacks.
After finishing his training, Nagate tries to steal food from a near by factory. The theft doesn’t go well as he ends up breaking fingers and getting arrested shortly after. From there Nagate is taken to a hospital above ground.
Soon after we’re introduced to the other cadets of the series; Shizuka Hoshijior (Aya Suzaki/Stephanie Sheh), Izana Shinatose (Aki Toyosaki/Joie Marlowe), Yuhata Midorikawa (Hisako Kanemoto/Lindsay Torrance) and the Honoka sisters (Eri Kitamura/Cristina Valenzulela) as they all interact and discuss the under-dweller.
While being questioned by the local police force, Nagate is brought before Captain Kobayshi (Sayaka Ohara/Wendee Lee) the military leader of Sidonia. The Captain agrees to be Nagate’s benefactor if he joins the Guardian cadet force. The episode then closes with Nagate going on a mining exposition that leads to the awakening of a Gauna, the giant alien threat that humanity hasn’t seen in over a hundred years.
The first episode of Knights of Sidonia tries to get a lot across in 20 plus minutes; The setting of the ship, the human cloning, asexual reproduction, giant robots, giant aliens, a military complex that people think are abusing their power and not to mention all of the characters. As you might expect not everything comes across well in that time.
That being said, what they put forward is quite interesting, especially for science fiction fans who are looking for something a bit different. These elements could be the strongest parts of the show if they’re done properly in the rest of the series. However, there was one thing that was clear during the show’s opening minutes; Knights of Sidonia is a bit confused about what it wants to be.
Is it a serious show or is it a comedy? I ask this because the introduction of our main character isn’t treated with the weight of past mech piloting heroes. Instead we see him trip and fall into a rice-packing machine and later faint due to lack of hunger; the type of slapstick that anime comedy’s fall upon. After this the rest of the episode is played so straight that the opening only stands out more.
That being said, the tone of the show isn’t my main issue. What really bothers me is the animation.
Over the past 10 years, the meshing of 2D and 3D animation has become more and more predominate and while some of them work, these titles still have the normal 2D animation to fall back on. This time the show is all done completely in a computer animated style. At times the characters movements are jittery and awkwardly like frames are missing or weren’t rendered properly during production.
The style works well with the mech and alien parts of the show, but when it’s people walking or talking the animation doesn’t seem that fluid almost like my Internet connection isn’t coming in at high speed (don’t ask I already checked that).
So the point I’m making here is; I don’t like this style on animation. It doesn’t look good to me. That being said, the show has more going for it than it’s animation style and it’s plot will make viewers want to power through.
Past the animation the workings of the show are solid. The English cast is made up of staples of the anime industry with Wendee Lee being one of the better examples. The music is good with the opening theme being quite catchy. Even the odd character designs are part of the greater plot.
After watching one episode the shows characters all seem to blend together, but that’s kind of the point, after hundreds of years of human cloning and engineering, the majority of people would look the same. It all plays into the concept and themes of the show.
Ultimately, Knights of Sidonia is a series that has a lot of promise. It has a interesting concept, cool setting, solid voice acting and decent music. The animation just needs to grow on you, and with a plot this unique that’s not going to be an issue.
Knights of Sidonia was produced by Polygon Pictures and licensed by Netflix.