Thursday, June 6, 2013

Knights of Sidonia vol. 3

In volume two of 'Knights of Sidonia', Nagate was set up to take the blame for mission failure by Kunato and he wondered if he would ever be allowed to pilot the Tsugumori again. But after the discovery of a Gauna shaped Garde, there was no question that he would be needed to fight once again.

Volume three kicks things off with a fight against three "Garde Form Gauna" that are able to take their new shape after ingesting Nagate's friend, Hoshijiro, and her Garde unit. Now, not only are the Gauna able to mimic the appearance of the Garde mechs, but their weapons and tactics as well. And they seem to be mimicking human intelligence, going as far as speaking some words, laughing and perhaps showing some personality. This drastic change in appearance and actions has greatly improved the actions scenes, and it chips away at my past complaint that the Gauna are just formless, faceless blobs of an enemy that are hard to have any feelings about, let alone hate as a main antagonist. Not to mention, their bastardized Garde copies take their level of scary up a few notches. The opening color spread is a testament to that, showing an up close look at this truly frightening, skeletal mech and its human copy pilot.

There was a lot of Garde vs. Gauna action in this volume. At least three, well choreographed sequences. I think that I am either getting better at being able to follow the action, or Nihei is drawing the action scenes more comprehensible. Maybe both. But it's not all about fighting in this volume. There is a little down time too, and I can really appreciate that. It's important to show the life of the Sidonians beyond the war so that we know what they are fighting for. In this volume, that comes in the form of a date of sorts between Nagate and his third-gender friend, Izana. They go to Izana's grandmother's house for vacation and end up having to fish for some food. Comically, Izana ends up snagging Nagate right in the mouth with her fishhook, when guess who shows up? That's right! It's Yuhata Midorikawa from volume two, who has a crush on Nagate and is officially the romantic rival of Izana competing for Nagate's attention. The mild and kind of cheap laughs from this love triangle and a few other situations may be mild and cheap indeed, but they are an important mood buffer to break up the darkness and death that comes with this space war against the Gauna.

The real highlight of this volume for me came with two very informative flashbacks that acted as more than just info-dumps. The first flashback tells us the story of how the Sidonia came to be in the possession of the only effective weapon against the Gauna. The rare Kabizashi lances. Interesting and entertaining in its own right, the flashback features some familiar characters going on a mission six-hundred years ago to research a seemingly harmless, yet mysterious structure. I thought I was getting a bit of adventure, and it kind of was, but I should have known it would have turned bad...The next flashback tells us how the population of Sidonia was nearly wiped out one-hundred years ago. There are some fascinating revelations that I don't want to spoil, but just know that we do learn about Nagate's true origins and why he is special. Along with all the information we learned from these flashback chapters, we also got some great world building through the history being told, and well done characterization for Captain Kobayashi and Lalah, the talking bear.

While reading this volume, I noticed that I'm getting used to the art. Before I thought it was a shame that Nihei didn't stick to his more gritty style that he was famous for, but now I'm just starting to see Knights of Sidonia as its own project with its own artistic identity. The color covers and color pages have especially helped me take a liking to the art. I'm starting to find the softer, more round features of the character designs to be kind of attractive.

If I wasn't hooked with volume two, I am now. Most of the complaints that I had from the first volume I seem to be either getting used to, or they are actually being improved upon in story. I'm really glad that I stuck with this series and my anticipation for volume four couldn't get any higher. Thankfully, it comes out at the beginning of August, so we won't have to wait long.