Ongoing Investigations: Case #237

hisui_icon_4040 If any one remembers a little while back Kate looked at the first volume of Knights of Sidonia. She definitely had mixed feelings on the series but I was still intrigued to see what the series was like. We don’t get that much legitimate mecha manga in English so I figured I should seek it out when I could. I read the first four volumes myself to see if I had a different opinion. After diving pretty deep into the series I agree with Kate’s overall assessment but I found what threw me off about the series was very different from the things that bothered her.

The premise is fairly interesting. After Earth is destroyed during a horrific first contact scenario the remnants of humanity have been forced to live on colony ships. While fighting the relentless creatures bent on wiping out humanity it seems that the survivors have modified themselves to use photosynthesis, cloning, third genders, and other forms of genetic engineering to survive the greatly reduced resources on their ships. Nagate Tanikaze was an unmodified human who was living outside the system in the bowls of one of the ships until he was caught trying to steal food. When he is forced to fly a fighter which puts him in contact with many of the great secrets of the battle with the Gauna.

Kate really did not like the characters. I understand that feeling. They all seem so inhuman. And that makes sense. It is very clear that the crew of the Sidonia have been so heavily modified that while they are still technically human they are so removed from a modern person that they are practically aliens. The problem is the characters don’t feel uniquely alien. They don’t seem like fulled fleshed out others with distinctly aliens mindsets and personalities. They feel less like creatures apart from humanity and more characters without humanity. But even Nagate who is mostly human feels this way.

That was not a deal breaker for me. On the other hand it did not help my main problem with the series. The death blow for me was the narrative structure. Everything read like “this happened, then this happened, then this happened.” It is easy from that description to assume that Knights of Sidonia is extremely exposition heavy with lots of talking heads and walls of text. But overall the series is fairly light on blatant info dumps and long speeches. In fact you can read through any given book of Sidonia fairly quickly. It is more that Nagate just drifts from plot point to plot point. I never felt any weight or tension to his actions. If he is hanging out with his fellow pilots, fighting for his life in battle, adrift and space on the verge of death, or learning dark and terrible secrets it all was has the same feel to it. If I were a bit more well versed in the language and mechanics of manga I might be able to put my finger on what is off about the story. I do know it is deeply mechanical. It is not just the overall narrative. It is something as systemic as the flow from panel to panel.

But that is the manga in a nutshell. It has a lot of strong elements that should make it a series that Kate and I loved. But in the end it is an interesting dance performed by someone who is constantly not in synch with the music. They are off just enough that it does not look wrong but it never feels right. You want to like what they are doing but you can’t ever enjoy yourself even though you feel you should.

I do wonder if this is actually a series that could be saved by the upcoming anime. Theoretically a talented director could take what is good about the series and bring it to the forefront while minimizing or even removing what keeps the series from congealing. Also robot battles always just look better animated. I’m not saying that is guaranteed to happen. But I feel if anything could save the series it would be a well produced anime. Since Netflix picked up the series it will be a while before Kate and I will be able to watch it legitimately. But considering how cool we were on the manga this is hardly the hardest wait for us.


narutaki_icon_4040 Last month I was excited for The Heroic Legend of Arslan manga by Yoshiki Tanaka and Hiromu Arakawa to be licensed, imagine my surprise when it was promptly added to Crunchyroll Manga! So I sped through the first volume over the weekend.

Prince Arslan’s strained relationship with his parents is apparent from the start. His father is a warrior king while Arslan isn’t too bad with a sword (no matter what his attendants have him believe), he is more of a thinker. The people surrounding him are going to be of the utmost importance as we watch him grow from boy to ruler.

Ms. Arakawa has done a great job creating the sweeping epic feel of this fantasy series as a major battle embroils the kingdom in the last couple chapters of vol. 1. Her farming experience (manga and otherwise) is sure to be helping her draw all the calvary! The intensity of the battle, or perhaps massacre is a better word, feels horrific so it should come as no surprise that this series has a high body count.

This story has been adapted into anime and manga before but this may prove to be the best incarnation yet.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching, reading, or playing outside of our main blog posts. We each pick three things without much rhyme or reason; they are just the most interesting things since the last OI.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #211

I did not realize until recently that Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn episode 6 came out. The bloom has really fallen of that rose. When the first few volumes of Gundam Unicorn came out everyone was talking about it for a few days leading up to its release. It was an event. Now I see more talk about the latest episode of Oreimo. I guess the gap between episodes has really killed the enthusiasm. I think episode four did not help the matter.

Two Worlds, Two Tomorrows continues the feeling that this is the most accurate Tomino style fan fiction you will ever get without it actually be written by the Bald Wizard himself. It starts with a big battle as part of an unusual alliance, then moves into people switching sides and betraying each other, main characters go around making philosophical speeches sometimes to an audience and other times to people at gunpoint, and it ends with a race to the final location of Laplace’s Box with a familiar interrupting cow appearing at the end. At the same time all the old people in power plan to do whatever it takes to keep the status quo, all the radicals are going to do whatever it takes to realize their mad dreams, and everyone else is stuck in the middle trying to find something that does not get everyone killed. Classic Tomino.

This is a solid penultimate episode. It begins to lay down all the elements that will be resolved in the final episode. They still have not revealed what exactly Laplace’s Box is or the actual identity of Full Frontal. Those are the two big mysteries everyone watching wants to know. My other question is how much Newtype Voodoo magic is going to win the day and how much will piloting be the deciding factor. If this is a true Tomino tribute then some mystical magical psychoframe sorcery is going to be on display.

I’m really just waiting for someone to kill Angelo already. He is clearly the Jerid Messa of Unicorn so he could at least have the common curtsey to die early on in the next episode so we can get to the real fights. Marida Cruz is the only member of Team Banagher that I am seriously concerned about. Will they kill the last of the Elpeo Ple clones or will they let this one-off the hook? (Unless you consider Gundam Evolve 10 canon.)

By the way here is an article of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere if you want a better understanding of what the writers were making allusions to in this episode.

Audrey Burne is still the best character. She does not pilot a mobile suit or beat people down with her fists. She just has an immense presence which is a striking as those of the other main characters. When she talks people listen. But she is not someone who just barks orders at people. She takes in what everyone is saying and often can be silent. But when she is needed to step into a conversation she has a royal presence that is undeniable. If anything makes her a non-Tomino character it is she is such a clearheaded woman even when everyone else is losing their minds. If you are going to break the Tomino mold that is the best way to do it. With one of the strongest women in the UC timeline.

Oh well. It is going to be awhile until we get the final volume of Unicorn even if it is released without a single delay. So it will be a year before we can get Somewhere Over the Rainbow and see the end of the series. I wonder if the release of the last episode will bring back some of that initial enthusiasm or if the lag between episodes has just proven to be too great in this era where you get episodes near instantly.


 I picked up the first volume of sci-fi mecha manga Knights of Sidonia. The aliens they are fighting have quite a horror, grotesque bent to them. The entire setting has a weird, off-kilter feeling; a pretty strange place where the food supply only allows for people to eat once a week. Everyone looks human but they all act very oddly.

The main character is purposely socially awkward for sure, and boy is he. The rest of the cast aren’t awkward per se but are written in an awkward manner. It felt so stilted that it was difficult to connect with any of the cast; they feel so artificial but that may be the point the more I mull it over.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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