We’re back once again with more sci-fi action from manga author Tsutomu Nihei (Blame!, Biomega). Knights of Sidonia takes place in a world where humanity has achieved photosynthesis, and gender is blurred and split into new categories, leaving protagonist Nagate Tanikaze as the last real example of humans as we know them. Life aboard the titular seed ship becomes hectic, however, when Nagate and others are thrust into roles as mech pilots in the fight agains alien creatures known as Gauna, and the second volume chiefly focuses on the reverberating effects of their latest successful sortie.
Nagate goes from zero to hero and back again when he nearly sacrifices himself to save a fellow Garde pilot. Though it goes against protocol to rescue the two as they drift in space following the destruction of a massive Gauna, the rest of the pilots eventually come together to bring them back, and everything seems more or less hunky dory for a brief moment. As it turns out, however, not every human aboard Sidonia is thrilled about the way those in charge are handling the battle against this so-called alien threat.
While the Gauna are responsible for the destruction of Earth, Nihei keeps their true intent fairly ambiguous. In this volume we learn much more about the history of the conflict through secondary sources, but it’s also unclear whether or not the Gauna would even bother with those on Sidonia were it not for regular preemptive attacks from Garde pilots like Nagate. As a result, he ends up on the receiving end of a beat down that serves as a warning to those who would put human life at risk for what appears to be a selfish quest to eradicate an entire alien race.
This is hands down the most interesting aspect of Knights of Sidonia thus far. It takes what would otherwise be a fairly rote mechs vs. aliens story, mixes it with the unsettlingly homogenous state of humanity, and comes out with something that will definitely keep me reading through subsequent volumes. Nihei’s art remains mostly solid here, but many of the action sequences aren’t quite as clear as they could be. More often than not I’m left just as unsure as to what happened as Nagate himself after regaining consciousness. Perhaps this was intentional, but the amorphous style of the Gauna as presented in the tighter panels tends to lead to a bit of confusion as limbs lash and slice at Gardes in disorienting blurs.
While the similarity of each human is essential to the story, it sometimes comes off as lazy and unimaginative, and picking characters other than our lead apart from one another can be difficult. Outside of those nitpicks, though, there are definitely a few standout spreads here. A massive humanoid Gauna careens toward the Earth’s surface in a two-page marvel. Waves crash and bodies are hurled as Sidonia takes sudden evasive maneuvers that rock the interior dwellings. In a more serene sample, the first simulated snowfall in ten years peppers civilian areas with white powder.
It’s the depictions of everyday life and the thought and detail put into all aspects of this harrowingly sterile future that makes Knights of Sidonia unique. For every victory within, another tragedy unfolds, and Nihei is doing a decent job of keeping the story moving despite a few hiccups along the way. Thus, Sidonia remains recommended.
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Story & Art: Tsutomu Nihei
© 2013 Tsutomu Nihei