Knights of Sidonia is a science fiction comic created by manga artist Tsutomu Nihei (the chap responsible for Biomega, Abara and NOiSE.) The series takes place in the year 3394, which makes me feel rather old. Anyone remember the days when futuristic tales took place in 2000 A.D? It’s 2015 and I am still awaiting the advent of flying automobiles and teleporters. Anyway, as the title suggests, this manga is set aboard the star ship Sidonia that is venturing through the cosmos seeking out a new home world for the human race. Earth is sadly no longer habitable after mankind had a run in with a hostile alien race known as the Gauna.
This opening volume in the Knights of Sidonia saga follows the exploits of a young chap named Nagate Tanikaze. Nagate has spent most of his life loafing about in the recesses of the Sidonia’s sub-decks, where he spends his days learning how to pilot mechs on a virtual reality simulator. His daily routine is forever changed when he decides to venture out of his quarters to grab some rice. The hunt for tasty Uncle Bens goes awry when the Sidonia’s security personnel apprehend Nagate just as he is in the middle of raiding the ship’s larder. Nagate is subsequently whisked off to the ship’s upper levels where most of the crew reside.
As punishment for his thieving ways Nagate is assigned to the Guardian fleet, where he is expected to utilise his robot piloting skills to protect the Sidonia from assaults by the nightmarish Gauna. Despite the setup, the book only has a few pages dedicated to interstellar dogfights between the Sidonia forces and their gigantic extra-terrestrial nemesis. Volume one’s focus is mainly on covering how Nagate adapts from a hermit existence to co-habiting with other people. The transition from loner to crewmate isn’t a smooth one though, especially given the Sidonia’s unique composition. Unlike Nagate, who is a regular human, the Sidonia’s roster is composed of numerous clones, hermaphrodites and an articulate teddy blessed with a cybernetic arm.
My rating for Knight of Sidonia’s inaugural volume is a three out of five. Tsutomu Nihei has succeeded in fabricating a unique universe that has me keen to check out volume two. In particular I am interested to learn more about how the Sidonia’s society functions and the origins of the mysterious Gauna. Aside from the world building I was also impressed by Nihei’s artwork. The design of the characters, mechs, residential quarters and the alien adversaries all caught my eye. The Gauna resemble space faring foetuses complete with deadly tendrils. Anyone who is easily unsettled may want to avoid reading KOS at bedtime, because those creatures are a nightmare waiting to happen.
I can’t give the book a higher score though because none of the characters have made an impression on me. Nagate works well as a vessel that readers can latch onto to learn how the Sidonia operates, but I can’t say that I much cared for his personality. The gag of how he is perpetually hungry, aboard a ship were most of the crew gain nourishment via photosynthesis, gets so tiresome that I rather enjoyed the moments when the protagonist gets battered by unfriendly colleagues. The tone of the book is also a little uneven. There are moments when the narrative is grisly and dark whilst at other times the story gets downright silly with slapstick comedy or fan service scenes displaying nipple shots and girls in their underwear. Well I assume they are girls. With so many genderless clones running about I fear that hooking up aboard the Sidonia is rife with danger, just like flirting in lady boy saturated Thailand.