Sunday, June 29, 2014

Knights of Sidonia

Sidonia no Kishi, or Knights of Sidonia, is a space opera.  It occurs in the far future and follows the inhabitants of a massive space ship, who are all that’s left of humanity after an alien race called the Gauna destroyed earth.   The ship is called Sidonia, and its inhabitants are essentially fleeing and fighting the Gauna as they go, with no real destination, just a drive to survive.   From the outside the ship looks like a long box embedded in a misshapen lump of clay. 

Sidonia is led by woman commander, Captain Kobayashi, and a Council of Immortals who exist in containers.  Kobayashi is also immortal.  They have led the ship through a long series of wars and were nearly destroyed during the last, Fourth Defensive War.  Having lost most of the population at that time, as well as most of the food supplies, humans took to cloning to restore the population.  The remaining fighters after that War became immortal, started cloning, and developed the ability to photosynthesize in people.  Thus the current humans need very little food, being able to live as long as they have sunlight to photosynthesize. 

At the time of the story, the inhabitants of the ship have been free of Gauna interference for most of the lives of the current generation and now they are coming under attack again and fighters who have only trained must learn to fight for real.   

The main character in the series is a boy names Tanikaze Nagate.  He has been hidden deep in Sidonia and raised by his “grandfather” who taught him to fight the Gauna from the time he could walk.  He comes to the surface and is found by the rest of Sidonia about the time they have to begin fighting the Gauna again, and Nagate is really good at it thanks to his training.  He is also the only human who cannot photosynthesize and must eat to survive. 

Later in the series it comes out that Nagate is the clone of Sidonia’s greatest fighter, who didn’t want to be cloned  and so stole Nagate as a baby and disappeared with him to raise him as a fighter.   Kobayashi and the other immortals know who Nagate is and send him out repeatedly to face the Gauna, and not just because he’s so good at it.  It turns out the Nagate himself is immortal, and he continues to get fatally wounded in battle and to survive it. 

The other main characters in the series are mostly the fighters Nagate’s age.  These include Shinatose Izana, Hoshijiro Shizuka, Midorikawa Yuhata and Kunato Norio.  Yuhata has an amazing skill for battle tactics and although she wishes to become a pilot, she is promoted to commander and develops and leads the battle strategies.   Izana and Shizuka are both pilots who have feelings for Nagate.  Izana is also a hermaphrodite and Nagate’s best friend, as well as having feelings for him and being jealous of Shizuka.  

Shizuka and Nagate like each other.  He rescues her in one battle and then in the next battle Shizuka is killed by the Gauna in a battle, and then Gauna in her shape appear as the Gauna use her DNA to create them.  One Gauna form of Shizuka is taken back to Sidonia by Nagate to be studied, and it seems to remember and respond to him.

Kunato is heir to one of Sidonia’s heavy industries and a pilot who thinks he’s better than he is.  He’s so jealous of Nagate’s abilities that he sabotages a mission he’s leading in order to destroy Nagate, and directly causes Shizuka’s death.  Nagate is the only one who knows this but doesn’t tell anyone, preferring to fight Gauna rather than his fellow pilots.  Kunato cracks when Shizuka’s Guana forms appear and spends the rest of the series hiding in his home.

This series is awesome.  It’s one of those series that I hate was so short – 11 episodes – but the good news is that there will probably be another season.  There is so much they can do with this series it would be a shame to end it here.

I liked pretty much everything about this series.  The animation style took me an episode to begin liking, but I like it a lot now.  The Opening theme song is awesome, and even though the plot is not unique, the characters and situations make it really watchable.  And best of all, although this is a mecha series, the mecha is almost beside the point.  They have fast-paced battles using the mecha, but other than that they spend almost no time focusing on it, which is one of the reasons this series is so watchable.  I’m delighted that they will have another season.  

Sunday, June 15, 2014


I’m struggling to decide what to post about today.  I’m watching some great new series, but almost never post about a series until it’s done.  That’s because the ending often makes or breaks the series, from my perspective.

Maybe I’ll go with Scryed, or s-Cry-ed if you prefer.  This story takes place in the future when some sort of geological disaster (the Great Uprising) has fractured an area of the earth near Tokyo.  That area is now known as the Lost Ground.  After the Great Uprising, people began being born with the ability to deconstruct and reshape material with only their mental power.  These people became known as “Alters”.  There are two groups of Alters in this series.  One is the Native Alters who go their own way using their power for their own purposes, and who all live in the Lost Ground.  The other group of Alters makes up the members of HOLY, a special task force of HOLD, the government police force.

The story centers around two Alters, a Native Alter named Kazuma and a HOLY Alter named Ryuhou.  These two meet early on, detest each other on sight and spend a good portion of the series trying to annihilate each other.

The story plot starts out with HOLY and HOLD capturing any native Alters they run across and sending them to the mainland for their own good and to get them out of the way.  Along the way it’s determined that the native alters who are being captured are being “refined” by the mainland and used as the puppets of the government.    During story background it’s also discovered that the Great Uprising was caused by a similar phenomenon in an alternate universe in which everyone is an Alter.  Both Kazuma and Ryuhou seem to be able to access this alternate universe when they use their powers fully.  In one of their many battles Kazuma and Ryuhou break through to the alternate universe and cause another geological uprising to occur.  The government becomes aware of the alternate universe and decides to use its power for themselves, using their ‘refined’ Alters. 

Specifically, one particularly nasty government guy and Alter himself, Mujo Kyuoji, decides he wants to be most powerful, supreme overlord of the universe and kidnaps Kazuma’s Alter friend Kanami to help him achieve that end.  Kazuma and Ryuhou work together to defeat him and free Kanami, all the time despising each other.

This series has a good-sized cast of characters.  Many of these are HOLY Alter users whose various skills are showcased, but then who are killed off along the way. Both Ryuhou’s closest friend among the HOLY Alters, Scheris, and Kazuma’s closest friend, Kimishima, are also killed.  Several other characters are pivotal to the plot besides Kazuma, Ryuhou and Kanami.  These include Mimori, a non-Alter childhood friend of Ryuhou’s, and Tachibana, a HOLY Alter who begins helping Mimori and the native Alters.  These five actually survive the series so that’s something.

I liked the basic story and the concept of this anime series, but I really hate the whole, testosterone-filled, I-must-be-the-strongest-and-defeat-you mentality.  Even after they worked together and even though they have friends in common, Ryuhou and Kazuma cannot stop trying to kill each other.  In fact the series ends with them fighting and Kanami and Mimori waiting for them to come back.  If not for that, and the fairly high death toll, I would have liked this series much better.         

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Tokyo Ravens

Tokyo Ravens is an anime series that was adapted from a manga which was adapted from a light novel series.  The series is about magic users, in particular two cousins, Harutora and Natsume, from a powerful onmyouji clan, the Tsuchimikado.  Natsume is the next heir in line to be clan head and is a powerful magic user with the ability to call and use a magic dragon.  She’s socially awkward and doesn’t make friends easily and through a weird clan tradition, is required to present herself as a male (you find out why later).  Haratoru starts out the series basically magic-less.  He's been raised by a side branch of the family, but he's out-going and has lots of friends.   Harutora and Natsume have known each other since they were very young.

At the start of the series, Natsume comes home for a visit from her magic (onmyouji) school, and she and Harutora and his friends foil a plot to use forbidden magic.  One of Harutora’s friends dies in the process and so he asks Natsume to make him her shikigami (magic servant), and allow him to serve and protect her.  Natsume has been hoping for this ever since Harutora told her when they were children that he would protect her.  Since Natsume needs the protection and since becoming her servant will allow Harutora access to magic, Natsume makes him her shikigami.  Natsume, Harutora and friends return to the onmyouji school in Tokyo.

The politics in this series are basically like this:  The onmyouji school where the kids are training is a power unto itself and does it’s best to protect the various kids.  Trying to grab Natsume (and the reason she needs a protector) are the members of the Twin Horn Syndicate, a group who is waiting for the re-incarnation of Tsuchimikado Yakou (an extraordinarily powerful onmyouji from the past).  The Tsuchimikado heir is said to be that reincarnation, so they want Natsume.  The Onmyouji Agency, a large force intended to police magic use and fight evil magic users (including 12 magically powerful “divine generals”), is ostensibly helping to protect Natsume, but really want her for the same reasons the Twin Horn Syndicate does.  Powerful onmyouji’s from the Souma and Kurahashi families who are working with or within the Onmyouji Agency also want to get hold of Yakou’s reincarnation.  So Natsume and Harutora-tachi are up against nearly everyone who’s not within their circle of friends, as well as a few who are.
The story here is fairly predictable.  Harutoru levels up time and again when he needs to, and in the end it turns out that Harutora is the re-incarnated heir to the clan rather than Natsume.  His clan sealed his powers and hid him from the people trying to take control of his re-incarnated self, putting Natsume out there as a decoy and requiring her to pretend to be a male to make the deception hold.  Late in the series, in the process of Harutora discovering all this and in the battles ensuing between the various groups, Natsume is killed.  Harutora, who loves her and is remembering his past life as Yakou, then uses forbidden magic that was perfected by Yakou to bring her back to life.  He and his own magical servants then take off.    

So although the main characters essentially all survive the series, at the end they are spread out and recovering, with Harutora on the run due to use of forbidden magic and all the various people after him for his power. 

I’m not sure why I watched this one all the way through other than it was interesting enough to keep me watching.  The animation style is good and the music is decent.  Parts of it are pretty derivative though, so you won’t find anything unique here, plot-wise.  It’s watchable though, and some of the characters are quite interesting.  Plus there’s no major character death, so I give it marks for that.  All in all, pretty decent.