Knights of Sidonia, etc

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Today, I’d like to talk a little about anime. I’m an anime and manga fan, and there are a few things going on at the moment which I find really exciting.

Knights of Sidonia is a spectacular sci-fi manga written by Tsutomu Nihei. This is the longest thing he’s written, but everything he does is larger-than-life ambitious. His first series had a 10 volume run, Blame! which is, unfortunately out of print currently and a little hard to come by. He followed that up with a six volume run of Biomega, continuing on a theme of mysterious protagonists exploring archaic sci-fi megastructures, with brief glimpses into the Toha Heavy Industries corporation. Knights of Sidonia is his most accessible work to date, incorporating a wider cast of recurring characters and a deeper investment into their relationships, while also maintaining his signature style.

Knights of Sidonia has recently been adapted into a 12 episode anime, the American rights to which has been bought by Netflix as a “Netflix Original” anime series. I believe this is the first of its kind.

As Tsutomu Nihei is one of my biggest inspirations, and Knights of Sidonia is one of the few manga series I’m keeping up to date with, this is so exciting for me. I watched the first episode today and it was goddamn fantastic.

And it’s been renewed for a second season, which will go to air in Japan towards the end of the year.

Anime fans will no-doubt be aware that Attack on Titan has become really popular. I was late to the party. I’m currently about 11 or 12 episodes into the show. When I found out about it, however, I began with the manga and read about 7-8 volumes in before picking up the anime series. It’s got great action and plotting and to me it feels like it has a similar appeal to something like Claymore.

And I love how great the animation quality is. It was directed by the same guy who did Death Note and Highschool of the Dead, and the quality shows. I have also seen that there is a live action film planned, as well as two animated feature films in the near future.

And then there’s the work of Shinichiro Watanabe. The dude who introduced me to anime in a big way. Cowboy Bebop was the first anime I watched. Shortly after, I watched Samurai Champloo. Both are great. I would highly recommend both of them without hesitation.

Those series came out in 1998 and 2004 respectively, and then he didn’t do any more shows for another eight years. Then came a show about kids and jazz. No crazy genre action and heavily stylized soundtracks. Cowboy Bebop was this wild space adventure with a loose jazz soundtrack, and Samurai Champloo was an edo period rogue samurai series with a hip-hop soundtrack, and Watanabe comes back with Kids on the Slope. It’s this coming of age romance/drama about kids who love to play jazz music.

The soundtrack is so intricately tied to the plot, it produces this very particular aesthetic that lacks the edgy humour of Bebop and Champloo. It was its own creation, and it felt very much like a passion project not just for Watanabe, but for Yoko Kanno, the soundtrack composer who crafted that iconic Bebop jazz all those years ago. But in Bebop, you don’t get scenes like this:

I love it for completely different reasons.

At the start of this year, so soon after Kids on the Slope, Watanabe came back with a sci-fi action comedy. It sounds like a dream come true for Bebop fans. I watched one, maybe two episodes a while ago, and Cowboy Bebop it aint. Space Dandy is about an alien hunter called Dandy, and he loves boobies. I hesitate to judge before checking out more of the series, but it doesn’t hook me in like Watanabe’s others. It’s got a second season, currently airing now. I just don’t know. Maybe it’s just too much comedy for my liking.

What really has me excited for Watanabe’s recent return to anime is yet another show which will be starting very soon, Terror in Resonance. The humour has been dropped in favour of something more… dramatic. It seems to be set in the present, more ‘grown-up’ I guess you’d call it, than Kids on the Slope, and I’d say it shows a lot more ambition. Where his other works have been genre or historical pieces, this one looks much more ‘real’. The trailer reminds me a little of Eden of the East. I don’t know too much yet, but I’m excited, and I can’t wait to check it out.

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