A brutal dystopian future full of moe.
So, the prevailing opinion on the internets seems to be that Sidonia started out as this awesome sci-fi space epic but somehow turned into a crappy harem anime. While it’s pretty indisputable that Sidonia is indeed a harem anime, the part I take issue with is the “crappy” part. Sidonia is not crappy. It is, I would claim, at the pinnacle of both the harem and the sci-fi genres. Having harem elements doesn’t negate everything else Sidonia did. I would actually claim that the harem aspects are an essential part of the story which improve upon the rest. There’s nothing inherently wrong with harems that makes an entire story unclean. Look at the Tale of Genji and the Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I haven’t seen anyone argue (yet) that they’re completely worthless because they happen to be harems.
What makes Sidonia such an entertaining harem (and, perhaps, such an entertaining sci-fi epic as well) is how it takes the standard elements of a harem and brutally and indifferently twists them, and plays it completely straight, as the inhabitants of such a world would, refusing to even acknowledge that there’s anything unusual about the situation. For example, in season two, one of the haremettes is the standard innocent pure and beautiful girl, who just happens to be a moe jellyfish space monster who kills other space monsters. Then there’s another girl who is neuter-gendered, turns into a female, and also gains a robotic limb at one point which is capable of some unbelievable wanking action. There’s also of course the girl who dies (after some embarrassment about peeing in space of course) who is revived as a space monster, and the gunpla girl. It takes the elements of the usual harem and twists them to such an extent that they’re nearly unrecognizable, tossing them into a world vastly different from our own and just seeing what happens.
I think this is one of Sidonia’s strongest points in general, both with the harem elements and for the rest. It’s one of the most well-developed worlds I’ve seen in anime. It pays attention to all of the details, and it’s unlike anything we’ve seen before. It’s unique, detailed worlds like this (such as in Code Geass, Simoun, Denno Coil, and others) which got me interested in anime in the first place.
The second strongest point of Sidonia is the atmosphere. It’s a horrifying, brutal and unforgiving world. In most shows, you know that the protagonists will emerge victorious and good will triumph over evil. In Sidonia, that’s pretty darn unlikely. One second everything will be fine and dandy, the next second you’ll be gored by a space monster. Or splattered against a wall when the spaceship turns. Or a space parasite will run into your eye and possess you for the rest of your life. Or your arm will be cut off. And I’ve lost track of how many times the main character has broken all his limbs in the most brutish ways imaginable.
This atmosphere (along with the setting) is so believable because it’s presented so matter of factly. None of this is presented as horrible or unbelievable, as many other anime try to do. That backfires. Sidonia is terrifying precisely because its world is presented as perfectly normal and the characters are wholly nonplussed at what it offers. For example, in the first episode, one of the characters is a talking bear with a robotic arm. Needless to say, this is kind of weird. But no one even comments on this. The characters don’t even register it as anything unusual. The show never even bothers to explain it (and they don’t need to!).
And, while many have complained about the 3D computer generated animation, this animation style greatly complements the story. The characters approach the uncanny valley and appear unnatural. And that adds perfectly to the atmosphere the show is trying to convey.
- Storytelling – A – Only disappointment is it didn’t entirely finish.
- Voice – A – One of the most unique atmospheres I’ve ever seen.
- Characters – A – Best harem characters ever.
- Attention Grab – A – Something horrible is always just about to happen.
- Production – A – Looks great.
- Overall – A-
Recommendations – Shin Sekai Yori, Noein