Blu-ray Review: Knights of Sidonia – Season 1
02/09/2015 Leave a comment
CGI-Animation meets Attack on Titan in Space with Knights of Sidonia; the series may have been a hit on Netflix recently but how does this UK Blu-ray release by Animatsu Entertainment fair? Find out in our Review.
A thousand years after the alien Gauna destroyed the Earth, a small remnant of humanity still fights on to survive, fleeing on the gargantuan asteroid-based spaceship Sidonia. But centuries of flight and warfare have changed mankind in incredible ways: genetic engineering has allowed humans to photosynthesize like plants, reproduction occurs through cloning, and a third gender has been created to balance the population.
Even though it’s been a century since the last encounter with the Gauna, military service is mandatory, with all those able enough enlisted to pilot the Garde robots that stand as Sidonia’s front line of defense. For Nagate Tanikaze, whose grandfather secretly hid him in the forgotten bowels of the asteroid, it’s a strange new world as he’s forced to come to the surface and join the ranks of defenders.
If you have a Netflix account then you’ve most likely come across the CGI-anime sensation known as Knights of Sidonia; but if, like me, you don’t have a Netflix account then you are probably thinking “what’s all the fuss about?” I too was thinking that; but after watching two episodes of this attack on titan themed show in space I instantly became hooked. It’s hard to pinpoint “why” it is so good; everything just seems to fit together; the artwork, the mecha designs, the suspense, the fast paced space fights and of course the music – it all combines together to create a highly entertaining and engaging series that, in terms of visual appearance at least, shouldn’t draw your attention. But it does.
It all starts off quite mysterious with a lone male, known as Nagate Tanikaze, scavenging underground and looking for food; it’s all a bit of bizarre especially when he enters a room filled with food and ends up getting arrested. It turns out he’s aboard the Sidonia; a giant spaceship filled with humans (if you can call them that) whereby everyone tries to lead a peaceful life despite the threat of Guana, an alien life form that destroyed the earth hundreds of years ago, hanging over their heads. Nagate on the other hand has been unaware of all this due to living underground with his grandfather who coincidentally trained him how to pilot a Garde mecha – which is used to kill Guana – using an old training system. It may have been 100 years since the last Guana made an appearance but even so the humans of Sidonia still recruit and train Garde pilots just incase one appears. Nagate meanwhile, after learning ofall this, agrees to become a fully-fledged Garde pilot trainee and it’s here where the real story begins.
Nevertheless Nagate begins his new life inside the Sidonian Garde academy with other humans and at first glance he doesn’t seem to fit in; for starters Nagate doesn’t have the ‘advanced ability’ to photosynthesis like those around him, additionally when he comes to Garde pilot training he’s not as good as what he initially expected to be despite the fact that the opening few minutes of the first episode shows him acing a training simulator. It’s not entirely explained but you know it has something to do with the different Garde models being used; and when Nagate gets a chance to sortie on a routine mining mission he is given an older model Garde model and one more accustomed to his fighting style; much to the annoyance of another Garde pilot. This is where Knights of Sidonia changes from an ‘outsider attempting to lead a normal life’ to ‘brutal space age survival combat’ and it’s a pretty swift change.
So far the series has been relatively friendly and tame; but when a Guana makes its appearance during this routine mining expedition all hell breaks loose and everyone becomes unsure of what to do. Nagate meanwhile, running off instinct, manages to take down the Guana and in the process becomes considered a hero among the civilians of Sidonia. From here everything changes; and it makes for an entertaining and suspense filled viewing experience. For the most part its very reminisce of Attack on Titan; whereby the ‘military’ must fend off attacks from large enemies and in the process losing loved-ones and as each episode comes and goes the danger and loss becomes greater. However unlike Attack on Titan there is a better story to be had; although you do have to look for it.
On the surface the story is about survival; but underneath that there is the origin story of several characters and their roles within the universe. For starters there’s Nagate Tanikaze’s origin of birth and his intentions for the future; theres also the love interest between him and several female friends – non-of which actually make any progress on screen – and then finally there’s the mysteries of the Guana when they start to appear in human form piloting once thought destroyed Garde mecha units. Ironically hardly any of these are explained; but Knights of Sidonia is a ‘continuing’ series and despite the climactic battle – which sees a massive planet sized Guana attempting to destroy the Sidonia – it’s left open for another season.
Knights of Sidonia is a truly entertaining CGI-styled-anime series from start to finish; it provides everything you want at the right time and the characters all have their own unique personalities – despite them looking pretty much the same. Even though the series progression is pretty much ‘rinse and repeat’ with each episode seeing a new Guana threat (or continuing on from a past episode) it all feels fresh and new; as some episodes will see friends hanging out while others will see flashback to past events. Ironically however its nothing that hasn’t been done before; such as the jealous teammate, the rookie mistake or the last ditch effort to save the day. It’s all here but yet it still feels fresh and it’s worth watching.
In a surprising turn of events this Blu-ray release of Knights of Sidonia comes with a large array of supplementary bonus features ranging from development to public presentation; but of course that’s not all as viewers can also expect the usual additions such as textless songs and trailers.
- Behind the Scenes Part 1
- Behind the Scenes Part 2
- Press Conference
- Advanced Screening
- Sounds of Sidonia
- Clean Opening Animation
- Clean Closing Animation
The supplementary content, as always, is located on the second disc; and as you can see there is some variety to be had – especially when it comes to production and promotion. The two “behind the scenes” segments, each of which last well under 10 minutes, take a look at how the show was created where as the Sounds of Sidonia, which yet again last around 10 minutes, takes a closer look at the sounds used within the series and how they came to be used. These three segments alone are more than what we are used to seeing on anime discs but it bridges the gap closer between viewer and creator.
The remaining content meanwhile, namely the Press Conference and Advanced screening, are two 20 minute long segments which see the Japanese staff and cast discussing their roles with the public on the first ‘promotional’ screening of the series. Once again its not often we see these included and while they are not to everyones taste they are definitely worth watching. The trailers on the other hand include Super Sonico, Muv Luv Alternate: Total Eclipse, Ninja Scroll and Atelier Escha & Logy; most of which have been licensed for UK release by MVM Entertainment.
It’s pretty obvious that Animatsu Entertainment replicated the disc masters from the US release; not because the original bonus content is included but namely because the extras menu lists Sentai Filmworks social media icons. Amusingly that’s not the only reason; as the discs themselves are both Region A and B compatible which suggests that Sentai Filmworks have, potentially at least, authored the discs on behalf of Animatsu Entertainment.
Media: BD50 x2
Region: A & B
Running Time: 2:46:48 (Disc 1), 1:23:24 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English & Japanese),
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish (Yellow)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps
Knights of Sidonia is a relatively fast-paced action show that tends to focus more on delivering the right amount of content when you need it rather than its story; which can be a good thing but some context is always required. Nagate Tanikaze is the protagonist and after being recruited into the Garde pilot trainee school finds himself constantly going-up against the alien race known as the Guana alongside fellow team-members but as each episode progresses the fights become harder and the losses become higher; that is until the final fight of the series which sees a last ditch effort for survival.
It’s pretty much ‘rinse and repeat’ in terms of the mecha space fights and action but alongside it is the relationships between several female characters. Nagate Tanikaze is the ‘focal point’ for everything and as a result a three-way ‘potential’ harem between Shizuka, Izana and Yuhata begin to unfold. It’s clear to the viewer that they all have feelings for Nagate; and it’s also clear that Nagate has ‘some sort of feelings’ for them but nothing ever happens and their relationship never changes; its basically one of those “what if” moments that never happens but it perfectly breaks the tension and suspense around the Guana fights. There is a more darker storyline to be had as well; namely the background behind selective characters, and while it makes a brief appearance it still remains a relative mystery but for once I’m not disappointed by this fact – as it hardly gets a mention. Story wise it’s mostly shrouded in secrets; but the constant mecha fighting and the detailed visuals of these fights more than make-up for it; I guess in a sense everything else, such as the training and character building, is just a build-up for when the fighting begins – but somehow it all works out.
When it comes to this Blu-ray release then I do have some mixed views about it; for starters when watching the English Dub, which is actually pretty impressive, there are no subtitles for translated text/signs and as a result a fair amount of scenes might lose its desired impact; impact which is ‘crucial’ to make you care about the characters. It’s such a simple addition and yet its absent here; furthermore the only way to view these subtitles – on a Blu-ray player at least – is by watching it in Japanese with English subtitles as the subtitles are locked to selective audio tracks. Interestingly enough however this leads on to another problem; the subtitles haven’t been Quality Checked correctly and in some instances typing mistakes (or even translation mistakes) occur with one notable example being the phrase “It’s are still heading towards Sidonia” in one of the earlier episodes. It’s pretty basic stuff and yet they somehow managed to get it wrong; fortunately however the chapter markings are all in the correct places (unlike those MangaUK Blu-ray releases last year).
The high quality continues in both the visual and audio departments as well; as the inclusion of DTS-HD and the superior quality of 1080p High Definition really does make Knights of Sidonia shine; it’s definitely a title worth watching on Blu-ray and it’s native HD Resolution. The positives also continue with the bonus features as nearly everytype of bonus content you could imagine (excluding Japanese trailers and commentary) are included and it’s nice to see them included. Overall despite some negatives with the disc, and the fact that some CGI character models look the same – theres even a joke about it in the show itself – Knights of Sidonia is an entertaing product and this high quality Blu-ray release by Animatsu Entertainment (with discs authored Sentai Filmworks) makes it another worthwhile addition. Sure enough it’s not your traditional anime series; but give it five minutes and it will feel like any other anime show out there.
Knights of Sidonia – Season 1 will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from the 7th September 2015.