Knights of Sidonia Volumes 14 & 15: Manga Review

It’s interesting looking at Knights of Sidonia’s ending on context of the endings of Blame and Biomega, and the tones of those series overall. Blame and Biomega were stories with a generally small cast. Blame with one person, later 3 people. Biomega with 3 people. Those stories were also generally travelogues, with the protagonists traveling the Megastructure or the World (respectively) to find a solution. Knights of Sidonia on the other hand, has the story more (generally) locked down to a location, and has a much larger cast. So, the question becomes how does the ending pan out. There will be spoilers in this post.

Cover of Knights of Sidonia 15

Well, the big conclusion of Knights of Sidonia basically comes down to the question of whether our heroes can find a place to make their home. These two volumes lead into that final battle for the ninth planet of this star system (creatively named Planet Nine), with the Sidonia’s Guarde mechs trying to defeat the Greater Cluster Ship and it’s accompanying Gauna, while also facing a rogue Hybrid unit.

So, in a lot of respects, the end of the series feels a lot more like a conventional Real Robot space opera final battle. Big pitched battles, super high stakes, lots of character deaths, and the main ship getting some heavy damage, before the big showdown between the hero and their nemesis. And also a title drop for the manga.

With this, though, the manga’s ending is a lot more hopeful, particularly in context of the borderline Pyrric endings of Biomega and Blame. This is much more of an unequivocal win. The Sidonia does successfully settle Planet 9. Tanikaze and his love interest do get together. Characters die, and the Sidonia takes a massive beating, but they accomplish their goal. It’s practically a “Happily Ever After.”

And that’s what makes things interesting in comparison with Nihei’s other works – most to all of his other stuff is kind of bleak, dark, with protagonists who are loaners, and which openly eschew most of the conventional tropes of anime and manga. This is far more “tropey” with accidential fanservice, sexual slapstick, alongside a degree of New Battlestar Galactica level darkness.

It works well for me – in part because of how interesting it is to see Nihei take up a radically different set of narrative beats compared to his other work. It’s clear that he’s familiar with the concepts, it’s just that he’s never bothered to do anything with them. It’s like listening to Turistas’ cover of “Rasputin” by Boney M. Their work prior to it is such folk metal, an utter rejection of stuff like ‘60s and ‘70s disco – and indeed most metalheads would turn their nose up at that. But not only did they do a disco cover, they did a cover of a really camp disco song, and while it’s still metal, it’s also still super camp.

That’s probably the ultimate take away from Knights of Sidonia. Nihei doing his own take on these more campy anime concepts, making them his own, while still still embracing that camp.

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