Knights of Sidonia S2 Ep. 1-4: Uninspiring

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The second season of Sidonia bores me, but that’s bound to happen to any story that loses two of its major characters. Nagate is the first biggest loss. He is noticeably missing in action. Oh sure, there’s a crack pilot walking about Sidonia, and he just happens to look exactly like Nagate, But no doubt about it, this guy’s a fake. Ironic, isn’t it? Norio is the supposed to be the one who gets possessed, but Nagate is the biggest fake of them all. Our hero’s character development has come to a screeching halt. In fact, he displays almost no unique personality traits whatsoever in the first four episodes. He has no presence within the story. At one point, he suggests that perhaps humanity could communicate with some of the Gaunas, thereby negotiating some sort of peace between the two sides, but that can hardly be considered noteworthy. It’s just the same, ol’ peace-loving idealism that we can expect from 99% of the anime protagonists out there.

What made Nagate potentially interesting in the first season has pretty much disappeared. ‘Potentially’ is the key word here. It’s not like his portrayal was perfect in the first season by any means; Nagate all too often felt like a harem lead in space. Still, he had potential. He wasn’t just some savior, destined to lead his chosen people through the vast, unyielding emptiness of space. It turned out that he is just as unnatural as the rest of them. He is a clone, a stark reminder that his “grandfather” hardly renounced his immortality. He simply chose to be immortal in another way. But none of that matters here. As I’ve previously stated, Nagate’s character development has come to a halt, and as a result, his past is, well, a distant thing of the past. No one even talks about it anymore, but I don’t remember it ever being resolved. Nevertheless, Nagate has almost nothing to say or do beyond playing the role of the generic anime hero.

What is most apparent about this is the disappearance of his potentially fatal flaw. Near the end of the first season, our hero became seemingly obsessed with the placenta specimen. There was something dangerous in his attachment to the Shizuka lookalike. It’s as if the people’s hero might just be unraveled by a woman, but this here was no woman! The placenta specimen couldn’t even form a sentence! But there Nagate was, running to the Shizuka lookalike after every mission and battle. This subplot could have led to a closer study of Nagate’s character, especially with regards to his guilt surrounding Shizuka’s demise. But for story reasons, the placenta specimen is no more and so is Nagate’s flaw. Even Kobayashi’s sinister attachment to Nagate has also disappeared. Have the two even interacted since the start of the second season? Nagate just doesn’t carry the show anymore, and no one has emerged to fill his absence. There’s only a protagonist in the technical sense of the word.

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What about the antagonist? Where has he or she — or perhaps even it — gone? Yeah, space is gone. That’s right, I’m talking about space. Space is the true threat to humanity… well, it was. Space’s presence, however, is also noticeably absent from the story. In the grand scheme of things, humans live a horribly brief and futile existence. We are individually only meant to exist for seventy or eighty years before our bodies succumb to death and decay, deterioration and decline — our highly structured and highly organized bodies giving way to disorder. Entropy is the rule of the universe, and make no bones about it, our seventy or eighty years of existence is naught but an indiscernible flash of nothingness when juxtaposed against the undeniable vastness of space. But humanity struggles. Humanity fights to extend its life far beyond what is natural, leaving Sidonia a society of recycled humans. Never to grow, never to evolve and thereby allowing the old to die and give way to the new, humanity instead becomes zombies.

Zombies that must ride this phallic-shaped protrusion that finds itself thrusting away at the cavernous maw that is space. But there is no escape. The Immortal Council and its ilk can never escape. Space is literally all around us. It is all-consuming. It is the unfathomable Real that cannot be disturbed or made absent by humanity no matter how much we struggle. It is only fitting that the Immortal Council can only extend their lives long enough so that they are done in by one of their own. It is a sign that given immortality, humanity will simply drive itself mad and thus consume itself. It was ironic when one of the council members suggested that perhaps gravity had affected Kobayashi’s judgment. Instead, they are the ones who had ost sight and thus control of the situation. They were done in by their own immortality and obsession with it, and I suspect Kobayashi’s all-out assault on the Gaunas, as if they were her very own white whale, won’t be too far behind.

But that’s the thing: it feels as though space and its presence — its menacing, sinister, unfathomable presence — has all but disappeared from the narrative. In the first season, we came face to face with the sobering reality of space’s vastness. Nagate and Shizuka found themselves drifting away from Sidonia, and all that waited them was a cold, slow death. It was a stark reminder that there is no promised land out there for the wandering people of Sidonia. How can you hope to find the promised land when space is so immeasurably large? Where is Sidonia headed? Where can Sidonia head? It seems forever doomed to wander aimlessly through the “desert” of space. Even if you settle down, Ochiai has a point. Humanity will simply use up all of the resources, and find themselves wandering yet again… until what? But let’s get back to how our hero was once stranded and helpless in space.

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At one point, Nagate faltered as a result of dehydration, and Shizuka only nursed him back to health by allowing him to drink her filtered urine. And how were they ultimately saved? When Sidonia’s rescue team disregarded the captain’s orders — orders meant to preserve their finite existence — in order to save Nagate and Shizuka. It seemed foolish to go back and save two pilots. We’re wasting valuable time and resources. We may not even find them. It seemed taboo and wrong to drink another person’s urine. Disgusting. Inhuman. We are above that. Yet, these acts — acts which went against the symbolic order established by society — yielded the most favorable outcome. Unlike the others, it was as if these characters weren’t afraid of death, a stark contrast to some of the more influential members of Sidonian society. Yes, those like Nagate, when he decided to go after Shizuka against all logic, wanted to save their allies from death, but they also had to put their own lives at risk to do so. So death is natural, and Sidonia — with it’s cloning, genetic engineering, photosynthesizing humans, so on and so forth — is not. And space is this unfathomable death that we fear.

Space is this thing that Sidonia is forever running away from only to one day realize that it is right dab in the middle of it. Nagate was saved from space back then, but he’ll eventually return to it. No one can run forever. And the Gaunas are just an extension of space. They are the unfathomable made tangible, discernible, etc. The Gaunas are the horror that chases and stalks us because our minds can’t even begin to comprehend the all-consuming reality of space and how much it dwarves us. So the Gaunas become real. Their existence seems unexplainable, but at the same time, it makes so much sense: even though the Gaunas have seemingly hunted humans to the brink of extinction, they still respresent the thing that humanity can hope to struggle against. That is because we cannot even hope to struggle against the real Real. And one day, perhaps our heroes will come ever so closer to understanding the Gaunas and their literal existence, but this knowledge will mean nothing in the big picture for those who are striving so hard to free from themselves from Death’s embrace. Kobayashi may yet slay her white whale, but something else will simply take its place.

The ultimate fate of the universe is irrelevant. Whether we die a cold death, whether the universe rips itself apart, whether another universe “crystallizes” into existence and erases our false stability once and for all, it doesn’t matter. Our finite existence will eventually peter out, and we will soon become just another collection of matter indiscernible from any other speck of matter in space. But like I’ve said, this angle is noticeably absent in the second season of Sidonia. Space and its presence seem almost nonexistent, and as a result, the Gaunas don’t even feel like much of a threat. In the first season, humanity felt so, so very weak. Battles shook the foundation of Sidonia to its core. The air stunk with the smell of death. Sidonia and its inhabitants didn’t really stand a chance, really. Even battles that they “won” were hardly victories when the survivor counts were so low. But here, we have Tsugumi as some half-Gauna, half-human chimera, and the results are anything but tragic. In reality, she’s more 99% stereotypical female anime character and only 1% Gauna.

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And it’s this fucking arms race that every goddamn anime seems destined to fall prey to. A hero will emerge, then another character will emerge with powers to rival the hero’s. And you can just put to rest the idea that hero’s strength is symbolic. No, everything will eventually be conveyed in quite literal terms. Nagate starts out as a crack pilot because he is an extension of his “grandfather.” Through cloning, it is as if the savior has been resurrected as he literally emerges from the depths of Sidonia. It’s as if he is born from Sidonia itself. On the other hand, Tsugumi’s existence doesn’t carry any sort of allegorical parallel. She’s just a human-Gauna hybrid. A talking mecha. A talking mecha who seems to be falling for the harem lead in space already. And her personality is no different from that of the average anime school girl. Holy shit, why even make her half Gauna at all, then? There is nothing remotely disturbing or horrific about Tsugumi’s existence. If anything, she is just fucking goofy, because she is a talking penis with tentacles.

Right now, Tsugumi can punch her way out of Gauna. She can zip around like Mighty Mouse in space. She can literally deflect a giant, fuck-off laser from a Gauna and save Sidonia all by herself. But she’s not the hero. That’s Nagate, so I can’t wait until he also proves himself in some ridiculously overpowered way. You can just bet on it that he’ll eventually receive a better, strong mecha because we are in that anime arms race. And with that, the Gaunas no longer seem threatening. Oh sure, people still die. People that the story doesn’t care about will die. You can totally tell, because they will have red portraits on the computer screen. That is truly a compelling way to convey death. And there’s no doubt in my mind that some new character will eventually show up and eclipse Tsugumi in power. And it’ll be a girl because that is the anime way. And it’s going to be all too boring. That really is the heart of the issue. These last four episodes were incredibly boring. It’s like watching any other mecha anime, really. Generic, flat characters, bouncing space boobies, and a bevy of girls all in love with the main character.

With Nagate and Tsugumi by our side, not even space seems all that scary anymore. We can just have them dance amongst the stars as if they are gods.


8 Replies to “Knights of Sidonia S2 Ep. 1-4: Uninspiring”

  1. Even though this show has been disappointing I still am hoping for a anime that actually handles the ideas of inevitability and the lack of consequence an individual has on the grand scheme of things. After all Dark Souls exists.

  2. I like serious mode like this once in a while.
    You nailed it, the weakness of this second season.
    During the first season, I keep thinking, “Shit. Life is bad. I can’t imagine being in their position. I am lucky to have an earth to live on.” I love to see how they are stranded through cold, desolate space, without a place to arrive. They are barely surviving.

    But this second season, this anime has become some kind of Gundam or Star Trek. The OP song shows it all. How Tanikaze and Tsumugi hold hands and sour through the space like some gods they are. While some portraits turn red, they are clearly in advantage now, after killing the Gauna who has taken over another human spaceship. Now they can visit the probably inhabitable planet. It might be infested with Gauna. But jugding from the anime’s tonal change, they might be doing just fine.

    Meh. Disappointing.

    1. Totally saw this coming. Of course I read the manga and pretty much after the part in the manga where season 1 ended, the show gets stupid really quick. they drop a bit of backstory later on but it’s still not enough to stave of the writer’s utter failure at completing his story he so meticulously built up. Its going to get a lot worse from here on out.

  3. I never understood this “insignificant in the grand scheme of things” regarding mankind’s place in the universe. Grand scheme of what? Space? Big ol’ empty blackness filled with balls of gas, sparkling transience and holes leading to nowhere. Space is amazing, yes. Awesome in many aspects. However it’s only awesome in scope. As far as we know for certain Earth is the only planet with life on it, and on that planet we humans are the most advanced in consciousness. That makes mankind the most valuable thing in the universe, for now, and thus humanity is easily the most significant thing in the universe. The “grand scheme of things” is just a vague term meant to illicit self-deprecation.

    Now, that’s just how it is. Different works works convey different things, though, and Sidonia was absolutely a work that managed to convey “insignificant in the grand scheme of things” in a brutal and cold way. The tone of the story perfectly paralleled space itself, and the ever-present threat of the Gauna coupled with the cloning aspects truly made it feel like a hopeless, worthless situation, yet one that must be fought if only because mankind was still technically alive ergo “we must survive”. The human drama gave context to the specs that drifted through this uncaring expanse. Sidonia was fascinating because of how well it pulled this off and really made you feel like humanity was insignificant, because space had a presence.

    The fact that Sidonia is going “anime” (aka “typical anime”/”what people who hear anime think anime is”) is really disappointing. It’s following in the footsteps of Tokyo “Gorey Emo Naruto” Ghoul.

    “And it’s this fucking arms race that every goddamn anime seems destined to fall prey to.”
    The power arms race. Nicely put, mate. It’s a narrative system that’s common and accepted for shounen battle stories like DBZ, Fist of the North Star and the like, but it’s incredibly frustrating that this system intrudes on so many shows that initially showed a much different tone and narrative structure.

    Well, at least there isn’t a couple loli moe-moes.

    1. The point is that in a universe that has existed for tens of billions of years, our 70 years of consciousness is less than a speck of dust.

      And who decides that the human race is valuable? Humans. Well, that is a touch biased, isn’t it? If the universe was somehow alive, however, we are smaller compared to it than a microbe is to us. So why are we valuable again? Why should we assume our consciousness matters in the grand scheme of things when we can hardly get off this rock?

      1. “Well, that is a touch biased, isn’t it?”
        Haha True, mate, but hey: only come, only served. Nothing else in the entirety of existence matches mankind eye-to-eye, so it’d make sense that mankind would be the only force to judge itself as valuable (barring the supernatural, anyway).

        “If the universe was somehow alive, however, we are smaller compared to it than a microbe is to us.”
        Also true, and nicely put. Yet the universe isn’t alive. You can only refer to the universe as alive in metaphorical standards, and the topic of “grand schemes” and human value is one that spans the metaphorical and the literal.

        “Why should we assume our consciousness matters in the grand scheme of things when we can hardly get off this rock?”
        Haha Interestingly put. I’d say our inability to create a global alliance and venture into the stars to explore the other earth-like planets we’ve already found doesn’t make our consciousness any less valuable, though. We still don’t even have evidence that there’s equivalent life on other planets so even then it’d be a discussion of hypotheticals.

        And again, what is this “grand scheme of things”? What does the term mean? Where did we get this notion from? Excluding the concept of a greater purpose or “grand woven fabrics of fate” etc. all “grand scheme” means is “big space”. “Space is nearly incomprehensibly big and by comparison we are small, and so we ultimately are inconsequential.” But what is the consequence we’re discussing here? Nothing we do will ever directly affect Pluto, but does that matter? Why do we need to have consequence on things that have no consequence on us, i.e. the vastness of space?

        If we only viewed life by size, both literally and metaphorically (ex class, station, etc.) then we wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice so much to save human beings. We (generally) judge human lives as more valuable than buildings not merely because they are like us and therefore should be valued, but because of what that human life is to us. The reason we mourn so deeply for those who have been literally beaten or ravaged to the point of mental retardation, or arguably worse, to the point of a vegetative “brain dead” state, is because our value as humans is derived from our personhood, which itself comes from our minds. Without our mind, our conscious identity and working faculties, we lose our value. This is why animals will never and can never stand equal with humans in any real sense, and why diseases like Alzheimer’s are so horrific and tragic to us. Alzheimer’s erodes our brain, our identity, essentially killing the “us” within our mind. To put it poetically: humans find value in humans because of our souls, and its our souls that make us so incredibly valuable.

        And check this out: While not everyone is altruistic enough to be willing to sacrifice for a stranger, even a child or pregnant mother, most everyone is willing to lose limb and life for someone they love. Friends, lovers, and families all hold an even greater value than basic human life to pretty much everyone. It’s why the “my wife was murdered” trope is used so frequently in storytelling, because the very concept of that kind of loss is immediately arresting (if presented in an intimate way). Our loved ones are more important than other people, who are more important than animals/wildlife, which are more important than the cosmos. This is the general chain of consequence in existence, that which directly effects us and which we directly effect.

        So yes, humans have a bias. Haha! Yeah, that’s to be expected. Yet isn’t that bias warranted?
        And yes, we may be inconsequential to the “grand scheme of things”, but it’s equally as inconsequential to us. The sun is unbelievably important to all life on earth, but for all of us the loss of a loved one can be just as devastating as losing the sun itself. I’m not even being entirely metaphorical there. It’s just a sad fact that some people don’t heal from loss and they either die from the sorrow or kill themselves over it. Certainly our own physical or mental death would be as cataclysmic for us as the sun vanishing. That being the case, it’s safe to say that a single human life is equivalent to the sun.
        How much more valuable are we, then, when compared to stars so distant from us that their existence is utterly inconsequential to our grand scheme of things?

        1. Dude, no one is saying that when someone dies, it isn’t sad to them. Or that we have to get into some pissing match where we stomp our feet and swear that if human lives don’t matter on the grand scheme of things, then distant stars are equally not as inconsequential. Yeah, of course. They’re glowing balls of energy. I never claimed otherwise. The main idea here is only to give us a little perspective, because that perspective has gone flying out the window when Knights of Sidonia started shounening this shit up. You are taking this beyond a discussion of the anime. So I’m not going to start arguing with you about whether stars or human lives matter more, because I never even implied that human lives were worthless. Just obviously, we make up an infinitesimal part of this universe. That’s undeniable.

  4. Nice post I wish I could have followed your posts in the first season. I didn’t even realize what made this tale so haunting until you mentioned the whole vastness of space and how, in the grand scheme of things are insignificant. The season has been disappointing indeed. The moment the placenta was taken I though something would have went wrong and then they’d have to deal with a gauna on the inside too. The blood nematode thing “kunato” used was really cool too but man it’s become too anime.

    Tsugumi has to be the worse thing about this season.

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