Tag Archives: Netflix Original

Knights of Sidonia Season 2 Review – Don’t Mecha Around

Knights of Sidonia

While the first season of Knights of Sidonia managed to blend realism with robots and aliens into a decent drama, the second season stumbles just as much as it flies off into the great beyond. It often fails to deliver its narrative with any appreciable pacing and occasionally dips into unfortunate cliché territory, but it still crafts a worthwhile, character-driven story.

Picking up right where the first season left off as a streaming Netflix Original, we find Nagate Tanikaze in the throws of fame following the spectacular battle with the Crimson Hawk Moth. But of course, the Gauna once again are at the doorstep of Sidonia, but with an interesting twist: they’ve developed countermeasures to the previous silver bullet armaments of core-piercing rounds.

This is where we’re introduced to the big impetus for the season in Tsumugi Shiraui, a Gauna/human hybrid “piloted” by “Norio Kunato.” Now let me explain the scare quotes. First off, as a hybrid, Tsumugi doesn’t actually need a pilot. Instead, she is a fully conscious being that can simply be directed how to act in battle. Second, Kunato isn’t actually Kunato. He’s been taken over by a parasite and now is under Ochiai’s control.

On her own, Tsumugi is a pretty interesting creation. Standing at the same height as a mechanical Garde with a Gauna-like complexion, she is as unsettling as the things that have been ravaging what remains of humanity for the past millennium. However, she only bears the awareness of a newborn, though her intelligence seems to be fully developed.

Tsumugi, much like everyone aboard Sidonia, doesn’t quite understand what she is. Her first formal introduction to the Garde pilots is disastrous as she causes what is basically an earthquake with her gentle swaying, rekindling the fears of those present for the previous hybrid debacle a hundred years prior.

It’s fascinating to watch her meander around the trust and admiration of those aboard Sidonia, just as she delves more personally into the lives of Tanikaze and Izana Shinatose. Despite being part Gauna and bearing the voice of his mostly dead girlfriend Shizuka Hoshijiro, Tanikaze is immediately engrossed by Tsugumi’s existence. This happens simultaneously while Izana, a middlesex friend and fellow pilot, nurtures feelings for Tanikaze that emerged last season.

Knights of Sidonia – Season 2

This makes for a strange but entirely interesting love triangle that informs a great deal of the drama in the season. It makes for each character’s arcs and resolutions and actions all the more weighty and believable. (Well, as believable as a space opera about mechs and aliens can get.) You mix in Tanikaze’s lingering memories of Hoshijiro and Tsugumi’s rapid and tumultuous integration into human society and you have a delectable story.

It would be a lot more digestible, however, if the pacing was simply better. It’s incredible how much of each episode is incredibly pointless in both the overall plot as well as character development. If you wanted, you could get away with just watching the little recaps at the beginning of each episode and nothing else.

The show seems to mire itself in frivolity while giving the viewer an incredibly compressed retelling of major events. It’s not that all of the side dishes are fluff, but they seem to come up at the immense sacrifice of providing any meat. For example, the aforementioned Ochiai parasite controlling Kunato? It played like an everyday event. So did the sudden acceptance of Tsugumi with the vast majority of Sidonia. Weren’t these people angry at her existence just, like, five minutes ago?

Knights of Sidonia – Season 2

There seems to be some additional transformation into a stereotypical anime as well. While the first season seemed to relish the idea of only wearing an anime’s skin and steeping itself in the rigors of a Battlestar Galactica, this go-round falls for far too many traps of the genre.

The drama of going into a Garde seems to have all but evaporated as the constant worry over space logistics has disappeared and the suits have reached Gundam-levels of durability. Tsumugi starts out and never leaves the realm of a deus ex machina with a voice, basically bending previously established rules to her will.

And then there’s the thick smattering of anime-style sexuality and the jokes that derive therefrom. The number of times Tanikaze stumbles across a set of barely covered breasts or visually vulnerable upskirt even in the first few episodes is laughable, eye roll-inducing, and generally off-putting. Then the predictable recourse manifests: punched in the face, kicked into a wall, girly scream while cutting to an exterior shot.

Knights of Sidonia – Season 2

Perhaps it won’t bother many other viewers (if you are part of a genre, sometimes you just have to embrace it), but it came across mostly as childish in terms of both craft and content. And when you throw in the talking penis with tentacles that is the extremely mobile, expressive, and handsy appendage of Tsumugi’s, it only serves to remove you from the previously compelling and well-developed world of the show.

There are so many problems with the second season of Knights of Sidonia, but with a quality story involving a handful of complex characters, it’s hard to see them as much more than quibbles. Once it’s all over, though, you can’t help but look back and see them all piled up in the corner and wonder how it is you managed to look past it all. It’s still a good show, but not as good as you’d like it to be.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

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Sense8 Review: All for One

Sense8

Sense8 is a befuddled web of narratives that’s just as hard to watch as it is to stop thinking about. In its grand ambition of a premise, it actually fails to go much farther than the idea stage and calls it quits just after qualifying as a show. But it weaves in such interesting and engaging moments and characters that you can’t quite dismiss it completely.

Coming from the Wachowskis of The Matrix fame and the infamy of just about everything else they’ve done, it’s safe to say that the announcement of this Netflix original garnered a tepid response at best. Just as they’ve always done, though, they cook up one hell of a pitch.

In Sense8, eight strangers from around the world are mysteriously tied together by seemingly supernatural means. Slowly their past and present merge together to form their futures, taking their experiences and emotions and skills and blending them all together. They are “sensates,” people born into their own respective network of other sensates that share their, well, everything.

It is fascinating, to be sure. Through each character, wholly different cultures and identities and struggles are represented. They are each thoroughly and impressively fleshed out with entire backstories that could span individual features just as well as they fill in their slots in the show.

For instance, there’s Nomi Marks (Jamie Clayton), a trans woman and former hacker and current political blogger. Not only is her current predicament lovingly crafted and intricate (perhaps informed by Lana Wachowski and Clayton’s own lives?) but you then get insight on her troubling past, all of which is simultaneously built alongside the overarching plot.

And there’s Riley Blue (Tuppence Middleton), an Icelandic DJ residing in London as she attempts to evade her past. Wolfgang Bogdanow (Max Riemelt) reveals his layers of loyalty and latent romanticism amidst his strangely dissociative behavior. Each main character is a deep and necessarily real one.

Sense8

The problem is that they don’t do much besides that. With eight individuals to tend to across the 12 episodes, very often it feels like the narrative thread that ties them together is far too thin. (And we’ve already seen the “strangers connected” trope before.) Their individual stories offer a remarkable amount of depth but then when it comes to the season-wide antagonist and set of complications, it all come crumbling apart.

We don’t find out much about the villain other than he/they exist, nor do we learn much about why the sensates exist, much less the reason the bad guys want them dead. All the treachery is instead imbued into the isolated character stories which tend to tie in the other characters through happenstance and deus ex machina. It almost becomes a game during viewing of wondering how situations can be carefully constructed to require sensate intervention.

As real as the characters themselves are, the situations they find themselves in become all too predictable. Lito Rodriguez (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) is thrown into an especially trite arc despite being one of the more compelling sensates as a closeted movie star. And then the ones that fail to find maturity in their own stories are just confusing, like Will Gorski (Brian J. Smith) and a presumably unsolved murder form his past that doesn’t seem to involve him enough to matter.

Sense8

This could be a problem of the writing. It seems like the show is more interested in telling you that it is poignant rather than being just that, almost as if in the writers room, they kept chopping out words until it felt mysterious enough to count as cerebral. And then too many oddly crafted sentences were left untouched. Especially when it comes to Nomi, it’s hard to not sigh and think to yourself that no one talks like that, like they’re constantly trying to impress James Lipton.

Many of the bits surrounding the core of the show, however, are rather impressive. The logistics, for example, of filming all these parallel scenes on location and effectively cutting them all together is awe-inspiring. And each scene is beautifully shot with clear framing and digestible movement. All that practice with the action of the Matrix movies has paid off.

The editing is simply admirable as well. The story (and stories) move so slow and meander between nowhere and the middle of it but with the cuts moving between locations and characters with slick transitions makes it all look and feel like a much faster show. It’s almost enough to keep you awake for all of it.

Sense8

Perhaps they fell into a trap of making a play of the word “sensate.” At times, the attempts for resonance is far more laughable than potent. There is an—ahem—”origin” montage that starts out relevant and points toward emotional but by the fourth sensate and what feels like its tenth minute, it’s hard not to roll your eyes and laugh.

It’s obvious the Wachowskis have a lot of stories to tell, each one seemingly more interesting and gripping than the last. They certainly have the sense of grandeur to do so. I just can’t wait for when they finally finish one.

Final Score: 6 out of 10

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