Saturday, April 20, 2013

Knights of Sidonia vol. 2


After being unexpectedly disappointed by the first volume of 'Knights of Sidonia', I am very pleased to say that volume two didn't continue that trend. Things kick off with some nice color pages that lead in to a a battle scene with a Guana that I found to be far superior to the first volume's battle choreography. Perhaps due to the increased length, making everything a little more coherent, but Nagate's heroics also spiced things up a lot. Though the Guana as an enemy still don't really excite me. It doesn't help that they are mostly just blob tentacle monsters that can take on any form, so they are essentially a "faceless" enemy with no known motivations, and that makes them harder to hate.

Not only was the battle scene more entertaining this time around, but it brought on another development. In the first volume, the characters(besides Nagate) seemed inhuman and unrelatable. Only the very last scene of the book showed a small display of emotion that saved things for me. This volume is much improved in that area. When Nagate went to save Hoshijiro's life after the fight with the Guana, it inspired the entire Garde battalion to break protocol to save them both. I did not expect this at all from them. And this small detail made me feel more connected to the Sidonia population in general.

This same scene also created a new layer to the story that is much welcomed by me. Romance. Nagate and Hoshijiro were stranded in space in close quarters for about two weeks. Not only did Nagate save Hoshijiro's life, but she saved him from dehydration by giving him her pee to drink! How could they not bond after that haha? This romantic development is followed up with an actual date where they tour the underwater floating tanks. Both of these scenes have a slight twinge of comedy to them, which is also a welcome element when things can be pretty gloomy in the vastness of space with giant monsters constantly attacking. And it's not just Hoshijiro that Nagate is coupled with. He's on the verge of building his own harem with new girl, Yuhata Midorikawa, having a crush on him and the memorable third gender character introduced last volume, Izana Shinatose, seemingly wanting to monopolize our main character's company.

One of the simple yet effective details of this volume was an info dump courtesy of Nagate looking up the history of Guanas and humans on the computer. We learn about the very first Guana attack on Earth and how everyone evacuated. We even learn the dates and that there may be other ships out there. They lost communication long ago, but meeting up with another colony is something I wouldn't mind seeing later in the story. It could add a lot to the story. 

A second battle scene, while not as entertaining as the first, ignites a shocking development that both upset me and really hooked me in to the story. While fighting a "cluster ship" Guana(many Guana cores clustered together to make a massive super-organism), Kunato Norio, that jerk from the last volume that is jealous of Nagate, sets Nagate up for failure with bad orders. It was Kunato that was suppose to be the pilot of the special Tsugumori Garde mech before Nagate showed up, and he seems to be taking it quite hard. To the point where he basically tried to get Nagate killed and endangered the rest of the battalion as well. Nagate survived, but now everyone hates him because the failure appeared to be his fault. It's a shame too, because everyone had just started to warm up to him after his earlier display of heroics. Forget the Guana. For me, Kunato is the real antagonist of this series, and I really want to see him get what's coming to him. As an interesting side detail, Kunato seems to belong to a prestigious family who's company developed the Garde mechs. This same company seems to have replaced Toha Heavy Industries as the primary contractor of Sidonia. Anyone who has read Nihei's previous works might recognize that company name. Probably just a reference, but it could lead to interesting plot developments.

I've got to say, I was quite pessimistic about continuing this series before I sat down to read this volume. I was even bouncing around the idea of canceling my volume 3 preorder(and I would definitely have if this volume didn't deliver). Instead, I'm off to preorder volumes 4 and 5. This volume renewed my faith with more varied and dynamic art, great character interaction, exciting fight scenes, and an all around better pace and story structure. If that wasn't enough, the preview pages for volume 3 imply some interesting questions will be answered. I can't wait.

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