The story follows a ragtag group of survivors aboard a massive generational spaceship called Sidonia. It’s made from the remains of Earth after it was destroyed a thousand years before by an enigmatic alien invader called Gauna. Aboard the ship, humanity has taken a startling trajectory, where cloning is prevalent, a third gender exists, and humans combat the need to consume so often by adapting for photosynthesis. What’s more, the mysterious governing body of this bizarre society is immortal.
The fate of the other Earth ships is uncertain, so the half million people populating Sidonia are likely the last surviving humans. Though, at this point, Homo sapiens seems to be a redundant phrase, there is one good old-fashioned, non-photosynthesising Homo left. Nagate Tanikaze has been scrounging in the bowels of Sidonia, watched over only by his grandfather. After his grandfather dies, Nagate is forced to venture up to the surface in search of food, but is quickly embroiled in the complex politics and pressing Gauna situation. Having obsessively trained as a Guardian pilot, albeit with a simulator, Nagate has plenty of skill and cunning when it comes to actually piloting the mecha. He’s soon taking on the titular ‘knight’ mantle and fighting alongside the other pilots.
The manga certainly had its fair share of readers and racked up plenty of critical acclaim, but for many, the Netflix/Sentai Filmworks anime adaption was the first point of entry. Sparked by the success of the manga series, the anime has garnered massive popularity both in the West and its native Japan. For all its depth of storytelling and character, dazzling combat sequences and brilliant plotting, it was the show’s visual approach that was most immediate and impressive. It utilised 3D animation and CG cell shading to give a truly breathtaking and overwhelming majesty to Sidonia, and a delicate nuance to space (when the Gaunas’ weren’t wreaking bloody havoc, of course).
The anime, while only loosely based on the manga, still has plenty of content to rifle through before it catches up with printed events, so expect many more additions to the series. It’ll soon be bon voyage to the brilliant manga, set to end its run in the September issue of Monthly Afternoon, but in the meantime, both series of the anime are available to stream on Netflix.