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Manga in Minutes: Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 1

knightsofsidonia1Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 1
by Tsutomu Nihei
Verical, Inc., 186 pp
Rating: Not Rated

From Tsutomu Nihei, creator of Blame!, Biomega and Wolverine: SNIKT!, comes his latest sci-fi action series to hit America, Knights of Sidonia. Set in the far future humanity journeys through space, searching for a new home world while being pursued by massive biological terrors known as Gauna. Their only hope, the young men and women who pilot mecha known as Guardians in an attempt to stave off the giants attacks.

The most shocking and surprising thing about the first volume is how much it reads like the standard set up for your average mecha series. Young people piloting robots, serving as the last of mankind against massive biological nightmares. Our young hero, Tanikaze Nagate, who is seemingly clueless and clumsy just may be the secret to humanities salvation. It’s an incredibly recognizable set up, and because of this it does help make the series a bit easier to get into than some of his other works. Nihei also does a pretty good job at using Tanikaze Nagate as our introduction to the world, by making it his first time as well. Instead of being tossed head first into the action with someone who’s already fully aware and equipped to deal with it, we’re led into it a little more gently by the awkward Tanikaze Nagate. As he learns and explores and finds out about the current situation, we do as well. This, combined with the familiar mecha trappings, makes the introductory volume very easy to get into. Meanwhile there are plenty of interesting sci-fi elements, such as the creation of new genders, the ability to birth your own clones, psychics and more that will hopefully be explored and fleshed out as the series progresses. What really caught me off guard was the strain of humor running through the volume. While Biomega certainly had some comedic elements, in Knights of Sidonia Nihei ramps up the slap stick elements a bit as he treats Tanikaze Nagate in a manner reminiscent of how Sam Raimi treated Bruce Campbell in the Evil Dead films. Thwacks to the head, broken limbs, fainting spells and more are dumped onto our poor hero for comedic effect, with some more effective than others.

The artwork was another surprise. Far from the hyper detailed, thatch heavy artwork that adorned things like Blame!, NOiSE and most of Biomega, instead Knights of Sidonia sports the cleaner and simpler look that was present in Biomega towards the end of its run. I think this will take me a little while to get used to as I was really expecting his older style. The mecha designs also leave a little something to be desired. They’re full of sharp angles, oddly shaped heads and surprisingly thin and fragile looking limbs. They’re not horrible, but at the same time they don’t strike me as terribly memorable either. He does manage to pack in a bunch of interesting and nasty weapons though, several of which get a workout in the volumes main action scene. It’ll be interesting to see whether he introduces different designs or sticks with this basic one as the series continues. Despite my nitpicking over the mecha designs, the visuals remain one of Nihei’s strongest points, as this volume is full of interesting settings and some truly disturbing biological terrors in the form of the Gauna.

Knights of Sidonia is off to a solid start with its first volume. While it’s not quite as gloriously, or violently over the top as some of Nihei’s other works, it still maintains his trademark sense of scale, both in terms of physical dimensions and in terms of the vastness and scope of the story. The familiar premise and heightened comedy will hopefully make it easier for people to get into as well. All in all it’s a promising and entertaining offering and one that’s left me chomping at the bit for the next volume.

Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 1 is available now from Vertical, Inc.

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