Knights of Sidonia, Ep 1: War makes fascists of us all

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The titular space station/city of Sidonia is ruled by a group of upper elite who wear creepy masks, and prolong their lives with special machines. Sidonia has been at war with the dangerous war mongering aliens Gauna for quite a while(we don’t know when the war started,) except it’s been a hundred years since the last actual battle with a Gauna. But all this means is that the war has been on a “ceasefire”, and these same undead leaders have been ruling Sidonia under martial law all this time, and possibly plan to do so indefinitely.

Both the rulers and us the audience know that there is in fact still an eminent threat of the Gauna, but the public of Sidonia doesn’t know for sure, and civil unrest over the military government is rising. At one point in the episode there’s a group of civilian protesters outside of the government headquarters, of which one of the protesters exclaims to a couple of passing pilot trainees: “Sidonia is ruled by undead! They wage a false war to prolong their lives!” In the eyes of the public, these rulers are just exploiting a long dead war for their own gain, a war which not even the elderly have any memory of—assuming the people here still have normal life spans. And the idea of being ruled by undead generals indefinitely is an awfully unsettling idea.

And just looking at Sidonia makes it clear that it’s in a state of decay. Outside of the government building and pilot school, everything about Sidonia is awfully run down. Each of the “lower” buildings are made of concrete and wooden structures instead of metal, and the concrete and paint is chipping away everywhere you see. And when even the police station hardly looks like the house of a poor person, you can only imagine what the living conditions of the actual civilians are. Hell, even the mechas and pilot suits look fairly beat up. Things just aren’t looking too bright for the people of Sidonia.

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But we also don’t know the full picture yet, so it’s hard to judge how justified these conditions are. For all we know, Sidonia could just have really limited resources—they are just a giant space station floating through space after all. And we also don’t know what exactly the situation with the Guana are, so it’s hard to tell whether the government really needs all the resources it can or not. What are the Guana really like as aliens, why haven’t they appeared in a hundred years, and why are they at war with Sidonia to begin with? We don’t know yet.

But lets assume that there really is a huge Guana threat, and that they really are just primitive, raging aliens bent on destroying all humans. Does that justify Sidonia’s authoritarian rule over its people, and its negligence  of them? Well, yes and no. Amidst a alien threat that threatens the lives of every civilian, it’s arguable that the relinquishment of certain human rights is a necessary evil. If it’s for the sake of humanity’s survival, you gotta do whatever you can to protect it, right? No use giving the people a just and fair democracy if that’s just going to get them killed. But it’s important to keep in mind that that’s exactly what the military government is in this situation: a necessary evil.

Authoritarian governments suck, and by necessity martial law often suspends civil rights for the sake of keeping things under order. Even if the government is limiting the resources and rights of the people for the sake of focusing on the impending Gauana threat, that’s still limiting the resources and rights of the people—rights which everyone is entitled to. Sometimes you really do have to suspend these rights in an emergency, but that doesn’t make it any less okay. It’s a necessary evil. Or in other words, best case scenario is that Knights of Sidonia is presenting us a grey versus black morality.

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• Not really sure what to make of the protagonist. I guess he’s s a wiz as long as it’s a Type 17…possibly. We’ll see what he’s made of next episode, especially since VR simulation is always different from real life. In general none of these characters are all that compelling; it’s mostly the plot and setting that makes this one of the more promising shows of the season.

• Sidonia also has it’s own separate third gender of intersex people. Which is cool I guess. I mean, intersex people are an actual thing in real life (more commonly known as “hermaphrodites,” but that’s considered a slur,) so I’m a little confused with how Sidonia “developed” this third gender. Did they just find away to make these genetic abnormalities more common and make it easier for them to procreate with the other two genders? They can adapt to the genitals of their partner, apparently. Or maybe the writers just don’t even know about real-life intersex people and thought it was a cool idea. (To be clear, I’m not too knowledgeable about intersex people myself.)

• With the obvious re-use of the same model over and over again, this seems to be a colony of clones to some extent. But at the same time, the third gender girl mentions how they can still procreate viviparously and pass on genetics. Maybe it’s a mixture of clones and normal people. Either way, it’s pretty lazy to have eleven of the exact same character model in one room, even if they’re clones. You could at least put some slight variations in each character, show that they’re still individuals.

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• The FPS of the animation is pretty shoddy. The first few minutes of the episode it was mostly nice and fluid, but then got shot pretty badly afterward.  And the character models in general are rather bland and uncanny looking. The rest of the visuals are great though; particularly the background art with the level of detail and grunge they give the setting, and the use of lighting is clever.

• Whilst in some sort of changing room, a talking bear comes up to him and explains that she’s the dorm mistress; probably the most random and weird part of the episode. Is she a robot, or have certain animals evolved to be more human-like?

• The long white-haired dude seems like a smug asshole. Not that that’s a bad thing; just pointing out how he comes across to me. He coerces a fellow classmate to “come to his room”, since apparently being associated with him will aid her career as a pilot. And then he also feels entitled to use this Type 17 mecha, which for some reason is supposed to be super good even though it’s outdated. I sense a rival for the main character!

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6 Responses to Knights of Sidonia, Ep 1: War makes fascists of us all

  1. gedata says:

    Also another weird thing I discovered while diggin around in the Knights of Sidonia manga was that folks of Izana’s gender can make their own clones too strangely enough

    Anyway I liked this premier, pretty much like an Attack on Titan in Space except it doesn’t try to hook with shock and tragedy right out of the gate

  2. Real life space travel is also a heavily controlled business, with restricted access, restricting rationing, and restricted timetables.
    We know from the fact that Sidonia has been operational for over a hundred years, and the fact that the writers decided to start with a mining op that Sidonia, overall, very much lacks resources.

    I also find it odd how people tend to look down on authoritarian governments so much when democratic governments have an equal tendency to devolve into oligarchies. That said, there is no shortage of countries where a military rulership emerges to combat an initial threat and ends up persisting for incredibly long periods of time. Examples that come to mind are Egypt and Pakistan, but the idea that governments use the idea of an external threat to keep their subjects in line is an allegation made on every country from Korea to the USA.

    P.S. it looks to me that Tsugumori has more cultural/historical significance than it has power.

    • omg Pebble stop defending authoritarianism you commie

      But well, by definition an authoritarian government is one which considers individual freedom subordinate to the power of the state. I agree that democracies have their own fair share of problems, but it’s certainly the better option compared to authoritarianism. Even if democracy do tend to devolve into oligarchies, they at least still make it more possible for change to happen through the people via peaceful means.

      That’s a good point though about military governments not being uncommon in real life, as well as the use of enemy threats to keep order being pretty common.

      Yeah, chances are Sidonia really is lacking resources, but who knows…

      • Well, democracy is sometimes referred to as the next stage of autocratic rule. The argument used is that democracy provides a limited range of options (Go Democrat, go Republican or go home), which does excludes a colossal number of opinions, but still maintains the pretense of representativity, despite it being, well, a fad, so democratic tyranny, which responds to ‘why this unfair policy?’ with ‘this is what you wanted’, is more stifling.
        Sidonia hasn’t gotten this far in the evolution of governance despite being born from a society that used it, so if anyone wanted even more parallels with SnK, we now have social regression to add to the already stacked list.

        Commies gotta comm. Fascists gotta fasc.

      • The two party system in America could probably be fixed if only we got a better voting system. I agree that as the “defender of freedom” democracy is pretty overrated, but still, it’s the better option compared to authoritarianism. I see where you’re coming though.

        I wonder if the similarities with SnK is the reason this is being simulcasted on Netflix.

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