“Tanikaze… It’s you who gets all the special gear again, huh? It’s not fair.”
Well, that’s because Nagate’s nearly perfect. Seriously, if you take a step back and look at his character arc, our hero has almost never failed. The one time it looked as though Nagate had fucked up majorly, it wasn’t even his fault; Norio had set him up. Alright, let’s just come out and ask the question: is Nagate a Gary Stu? For what it’s worth, even if he is one, he’s not as bad as the other fine examples of Gary Stu-ery in anime. There isn’t an air of arrogance or condescension with Nagate. He doesn’t make you think as though he’s looking down on the rest of the peasants as he single-handedly saves them from every single situation. He doesn’t feel like an author insert character, necessarily. Nagate, for the most part, is a rather clueless guy who just tries to do what he thinks is right. He’s rather socially awkward, and not only that, he has been a bit obsessed with the Shizuka-lookalike recently. As a result, our protagonist isn’t perfect. Having said that, I still have to insist that our hero doesn’t actually have much of a character arc. He goes into every single situation and succeeds without question. He might not be perfect, but his actions are about as perfect as they can be given the situation. Nagate can’t defy logic, but you won’t find any fault in him or what he does either.
Saito Hiroki was such a hero to Sidonia that its people still revere the mecha he piloted. Hiroki then gave Sidonia his own “son” in the way of Nagate, who goes on to become Sidonia’s savior. You could even argue that cloning is a form of immaculate conception. But you can make any deeper connection you want, I still think there’s something dissatisfying about watching a character whose arc is so flat and unchanging. At the moment, Sidonia no Kishi is a decent enough time waster, but for its story to elevate itself to the next level, I really do believe Nagate’s character has to develop more depth. You’ll note our hero hasn’t actually expressed very many opinions of his own throughout the story. He almost lacks a personality. At the moment, Nagate represents Sidonia’s greatest light, humanity’s only beacon of hope against an alien foe it has struggled with for over a thousand years. That’s great and all, but Nagate doesn’t, however, feel like an individual. He doesn’t feel like a character with his own thoughts, concerns, feelings, expressions, etc. We never really get inside his head nor does it feel like there’d be anything inside it even if we did. Nagate perhaps accepts his role as Sidonia’s savior too willingly. Yes, he loves Sidonia and its people — even Norio! — but that’s just typical shounen fare (“Minna~! Daisuki~!).
Because of Nagate’s greatness, he ends up overshadowing almost everyone in the story and not just Norio. Ren hands Nagate a shot that she had intended to use herself. After all, she wanted to avenge her sister’s death. But because Nagate’s role in the story is to often act as Sidonia’s sole savior, the girl gives up the one thing that makes her character even remotely stand out. At the moment, only a few characters are spared from Nagate’s all-consuming heroic light, and that’s because they fulfill roles he can’t currently perform at the moment. Nagate can’t currently be the no-nonsense leader that Sidonia needs, so Kobayashi stands out as an individual. Nagate might be an ace pilot, but he’s never going to formulate battle strategies on a macro level. As a result, Yuhata has a unique role to play. Whereas Nagate lacks in strong emotions and feelings of his own, Izana tries to make up for this void by ever-pining for true love and happier, more idyllic days. And finally, Norio injects a bit of pathos in the story since Nagate is seemingly infallible. Everyone else in the story, however, are indistinct. Not only that, they can’t do anything to stand out because Nagate is always the hero. Ren’s own revenge story is subsumed by the hero, and that’s a pity. Still, I’ll give the show credit where credit is due: Nagate doesn’t single-handedly save Sidonia from G542.
Instead, the remains of the first platoon ends up flying into the planet-sized Gauna to defeat the aptly named Master Gauna. That’s not to say they didn’t get any help from Nagate. Of course they do. Without Nagate’s distraction, Benisuzume would’ve prevented all of them from entering G542 in the first place. As a result, Nagate’s job this episode is to have that epic one-on-one duel with the Gauna’s greatest imitation of humanity’s combat prowess. In fact, our hero even gets knocked unconscious at one point, necessitating a heroic action from Izana to save his life. He is thus able to wake himself up and defeat Benisuzume. For once, everyone can call themselves heroes after such an attritious battle. So rest assured, Nagate is no Shiba Tatsuya or Kirito. Having said that, nothing I’ve said in the preceding paragraphs is rendered irrelevant by the events in this week’s episode. Nagate’s character arc is still flat, and he lacks a strong personality. Because of his role in the story, he often overshadows everyone but the main girls in his life — and Norio, naturally. Yes, other pilots helped to save the day, but after eleven episodes of being The Nagate Show, we hardly know anything about Samari, Ichiro, and Koichi. There are other pilots with those three as well, but they didn’t even get speaking parts!
Anyway, it’s time to wrap up Sidonia no Kishi‘s first season. Yes, there appears to be a sequel in the works, but seeing as how advanced screening of the second season’s first two episodes won’t take place until Nov. 23, we have a looooooong time to wait. Does this mean I’m looking forward to the sequel? Kind of. The setting itself is interesting. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to know what the Gaunas are or what they represent. Plus, the first season never really wrapped up the whole Ochiai business. I’m sure he’s destined to play a larger role in the sequel. You don’t just keep a mad scientist around for funsies. Still, the anime is not without its flaws. I’ve already talked about our hero’s weak characterization, so I’ll mention everything else. The adaptation’s world-building is not very strong, and at the moment, we still don’t know much about the inner workings of Sidonia itself. Worst of all, the show is plagued with one too many fanservice-y moments. Whenever a female character appears (there’s a dearth of male characters in the show as well) in one of her skin-tight bodysuits, her breasts have to jiggle if she so much as flinches. They don’t even have to be talking about sex or anything sex-related. Oh, look at this special prototype I’ve been working on–… oops, there goes my jello tits, teehee!
Sidonia no Kishi has a solid sci-fi backbone underneath its layers and layers anime-isms (and not the good kind). The potential’s there, but the execution is often lacking. Grade: C+/B-.
— In the end, Nagate is able to slay one Shizuka-lookalike, and as he does this, he screams, “You’re… neither Hoshijiro nor human!” But is this a sign that he can get over his former love interest’s death? After all, he’s saying this to the wrong Shizuka-lookalike. It isn’t the Benisuzume that our hero is obsessed with. Rather, he needs to say the same thing to the placenta specimen they have locked up in one of Sidonia’s research labs. I’m not saying he needs to kill the placenta specimen the same way he kills Benizusume. Nevertheless, in order for our hero to truly get over Shizuka’s death, he needs to confront the very thing that is currently keeping him attached to Shizuka. Benisuzume doesn’t actually represent anything other than that Sidonia’s greatest champion can defeat the Gauna’s greatest imitation (to date). Her defeat isn’t even emotional or cathartic. It shared a nice action scene with our hero, but nothing more. But I digress. What’s the last thing we see in the episode? Nagate going to pay the placenta specimen a visit. There’s just one small problem: her cell seems to be empty.
— I laughed at this slow-motion dodging scene.
— Yeah, I didn’t mind Benisuzume’s giggling when she first appeared, but it’s just ridiculous now. It doesn’t add any actual creepiness to the scene, nor does it even reflect Shizuka’s true personality. It’s just a lame distraction from an otherwise solid duel between our hero and Benisuzume.
— Nagate gives up a part of Tsugumori in order to defeat Benisuzume; he fires off one of his mecha’s hands in order to take his opponent by surprise. Eventually, Tsugumori will be replaced piece-by-piece, and we’ll run into another example of the Ship of Theseus. But on a more important note, Tsugumori will eventually become Nagate’s own mecha, and not just something that was handed down to him.
— Really? I have to see the impact of the missile from Sidonia’s screens, but not the actual impact itself? Sure, we see the aftermath of the explosion, but c’mon, man… You’ve already given me a Star Wars-esque moment in which the pilots flew into the “Death Star” to blow up the core, but you can’t give me a Death Star-esque explosion?
— Nagate didn’t even end up coming to save Izana after she had saved him. Well then…
— Even in the end, the newscast says, “Due to Tanikaze Nagate’s heroic conduct, G542 was defeated.” C’mon, are the rest of the pilots chopped liver or what?
— Nagate’s magnanimity ends up magnifying Norio’s personal failures. He’s destined to be a tragic figure.
— Ren confesses that she and her sisters are only… uh, five. Great. And look, Izana’s jealous of our hero talking to yet another girl. Christ, she’s a stage-five clinger in the making. As important as a her role might be in the story, this is why I don’t like Izana’s character one bit.