Even though it was a short-lived anime, my first experience with Knights of Sidonia is with the new master edition released by Vertical Comics this week. Originally published between 2009 to 2015 in Japan, the 15 volume series is getting reprinted in a beautiful extra-sized format. Once you crack this book open you’ll see why.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
One of the manga world’s most intriguing artist returns with a science-fiction tour de force which combines post apocolyptic action, modern sci-fi video game tropes and a traditional Japanese aesthetic in The Knights of Sidonia.
Why does this matter?
A somewhat crude comparison of this series would liken it to Attack on Titan meets Gundam. Essentially humanity is barely holding on as they fight giant humanoid-looking monsters in space and have super cool mech style spaceships to fight them off. Sound rad? Give this a try.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This is an easy manga to appreciate due to the art and the subtle storytelling. It follows a mysterious boy named Nagate Tanikaze who was found after years of hiding in a giant spaceship containing the last known humans in the universe. He’s soon deemed special and given a mechanized weapon/ship called a Gardes. This puts him on the front line in fighting the near invulnerable Gauna. These giant beasts have swinging tentacles, humanoid features, and a near impenetrable core that is designed to protect a placenta. Kill the placenta and you kill the monster. Nagate serves as a surrogate to the reader allowing us to learn about what human life is like on this mysterious spaceship which is giant, has weather, and a wild sci-fi look.
Probably the most fascinating element about the people in this story is how humanity has evolved to allow for energy consumption via photosynthesis, cloning asexual people, and the culture that now exists. There are moments of tender intimacy that aren’t over making them feel genuine and true. They involve sometimes awkward moments that seem true given the circumstances, like a moment where Nagate must drink a love interest’s filtered urine to stave off death, or in another moment where we learn how the pee tubes in the Gardes work. There’s nudity, but it also seems well-placed so as to show frailty or humanity.
You get a glimpse at what happened to Earth nearly a thousand years prior which helps convey how dangerous the Gauna are. That said, there’s a mystery in regards to this alien race which will pique your interest and drive home a subplot for Nagate to investigate. This is a fascinating element since these aliens are so malleable and alien.
The imagery is fantastic from the sometimes grotesque Gauna to the clean styles of the interior of the main spaceship. Tsutomu Nihei’s work looks amazing in this larger format, helping to convey the beauty in a simple drawing with incredible space backdrops. The scope and size of things is done very well with panels stretching to allow more space. This is no ordinary manga when it comes to its visuals and it’s more traditional to modern American comics. Double-page layouts help stretch the images horizontally and there are epic double-page splashes too.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
It’s at times difficult to understand what is going on with the action. Explosions can lose sight of main players and the dialogue is necessary to help detail what it is happening. You’ll linger on the page due to the beauty, but it can be hard to follow. This is made more confusing when action scenes sometimes abruptly end. It certainly works to create a bit of confusion and force readers to catch up, but it can make for a frustrating turn in the story when you’re not sure how anyone made it out alive.
Is it good?
Visually stunning and always captivating, the new extra-sized Knights of Sidonia is a sci-fi fan’s dream come true. It’s like Attack on Titan meets Gundam meets space opera. Read it for the fascinating sci-fi world but stay for the incredible sci-fi visuals.
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