Shelf Life
Knights of Sidonia Season 2

by Paul Jensen,

One thing I've noticed about reviewing anime is that strange things happen when you try to type too quickly. I have, on several occasions, turned Magical Girl Raising Project into "Magical Girl Raisin Project" while writing episode reviews this season. I'm not sure if a battle to the death between magic-wielding dried grapes would make for a terrible or amazing show, but now it's stuck in my head for the foreseeable future. Welcome to Shelf Life.

Jump to this week's review:
Knights of Sidonia Season 2

On Shelves This Week

Aoharu x Machinegun - Complete Collection BD, DVD
Sentai - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98|$59.98
Currently cheapest at: $42.34 Barnes and Noble|$39.99 Amazon

Synopsis: Hotaru Tachibana forces her way into a host club in order to settle a grudge, but ends up getting recruited to a survival game team by one of the hosts.

Extra: Our review coverage of this one is currently limited to the Preview Guide, but we should have a Shelf Life review ready in the near future. In the meantime, you can stream the show on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.




Castle Town Dandelion - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Nine siblings in a royal family are given one year to claim the throne by winning the hearts of the people in a town full of surveillance cameras that will record their every move.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this series, and it's available streaming on Funimation and Hulu.




Chaos Dragon - Complete Collection BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After an invading army kills his family, the heir to the throne of a small island nation must harness the terrible power of a dragon in order to reclaim his country.

Extra: We have episode reviews for this one as well, and you can watch it on Funimation and Hulu.




Charlotte - Set 2 BD
Aniplex - 168 min - Hyb - MSRP $94.98
Currently cheapest at: $74.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Yu has a chance to save the rest of the world's ability-wielders from a terrible fate, but unfortunately that salvation may come at great personal cost to him.

Extra: Episode reviews for this series can be found right here, and it's available on Crunchyroll, Hulu, the Aniplex Channel, and Viewster.




Sailor Moon S - Part 1 DVD, BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Viz - 470 min - Hyb - MSRP $39.99|$69.99|$79.99
Currently cheapest at: $26.99 Amazon|$52.89 Amazon|$62.19 Amazon

Synopsis: The Sailor Guardians face off against the Death Busters, a sinister new group of villains who have targeted innocent victims in their search for pure heart crystals.

Extra: We have a very old review of the first few episodes of this season, along with a more recent review of the preceding season. You can watch the whole series on Hulu and Viz.com.




Ultimate Otaku Teacher - Season 1 Part 1 BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: Junichiro Kagami's comfortable life of avoiding anything he doesn't want to do comes to an abrupt end when his exasperated sister gets him a job as a teacher.

Extra: We have a review of the first 12 episodes of this series. It's available streaming on Funimation and Hulu.




Shelf Life Reviews

I feel like we've had a lot of rental-ish weeks lately, but that ends today. I watched the second season of Knights of Sidonia, and gosh darn it, I enjoyed it.

Officially titled Knights of Sidonia: Battle for Planet Nine, this second season of the spacefaring mecha series faces the same problem as many other sequels. How do you follow the big, climactic battle at the end of the first season? Plenty of approaches have been tried over the years, and I'm personally rather fond of the route that this series ultimately takes. Rather than trying to reset things with all new conflicts and all new baddies, it mostly just keeps the story going and shows us how the characters have responded to the events of the first season. No point in trying to fix what isn't broken, after all.

The story continues to follow Tanikaze and his fellow Garde pilots as they protect Sidonia from the ever-evolving Gauna. They're joined by Tsumugi, a half-Gauna hybrid who's described as a chimera by her creators. There's no doubt about Tsumugi's abilities in combat, but not everyone believes her when she claims to be loyal to humanity. Unfortunately, with Kobayashi consolidating her power over Sidonia and pushing for a more aggressive strategy to defeat the Gauna, the Garde pilots are going to need all the help they can get. With a major conflict looking inevitable, trust and personal loyalty may be the only things holding the ship together.

The introduction of Tsumugi has some interesting consequences, especially early in the season. While her creators are hardly trustworthy and her origins are somewhat disturbing, her desire to get along with humans comes across as genuine. With Tanikaze now largely accepted by the other pilots, she takes over the role of a protagonist that no one fully trusts. Even if you've seen this kind of “half-monster hero” setup before, it helps to add a little unpredictability to the story. As for the returning characters, the show does a reasonable job of continuing to develop them as they settle into their roles on the ship. Yuhata's uncertainty over her ability to lead missions makes her a compelling character, and Tanikaze feels like less of a blank slate now that he's gotten used to life on Sidonia.

The competent storytelling and likable cast are all well and good, but this is still a “big epic space fight” series at heart. Knights of Sidonia is at its best when things are blowing up, and this is also where the show's CG animation makes the best case for itself. The biggest upside of this style of animation is that it can keep up with ambitious visual direction without any risk of characters or machines going off-model. This season uses that advantage to strong effect with some neat shots that would be prohibitively hard to animate by hand. The downside continues to be stiff character movement and reduced freedom in depicting facial expressions, though both of these have been improved slightly over the first season. CG animation still isn't the weapon of choice when you have an abundance of time and resources, but it's continuing to improve as the years go by.

If mecha action is Knights of Sidonia's strong point, then romantic comedy is probably its biggest weakness. The love triangle (perhaps quadrilateral or pentagon at this point) around Tanikaze does help to provide some variety in tone, but the series just isn't as good at romantic hijinks as it is at space opera. The only real point of interest here is Izana, whose body begins to change in response to her feelings for Tanikaze. Having a character with both male and female traits is one of the more notable things this series has done with its sci-fi setting, and it's something I wish the show would do more with beyond making it a topic of discussion in the ongoing battle for Tanikaze's attention. If I'm making a character development wish list, a little more insight into morally ambiguous figures like Kobayashi and Ochiai would also go a long way.

This season mirrors the first in terms of coming in both standard and limited editions, with the limited version featuring a fancy box and some physical extras. Even the standard edition offers more stuff than usual: along with the usual trailers and clean openings, there are some more substantial video extras including two versions of the final episode and a compilation movie of the first season. The English dub also returns, largely on par with the previous season. It's a decent effort, though my personal preference leans towards the Japanese audio track for this series.

On the whole, this is a strong continuation of Knights of Sidonia. It remains an effective genre piece with exciting action scenes, and the story includes plenty of interesting details even if it rarely has time to make best use of them. It's an easy recommendation for mecha fans, especially if you're a bit of a space exploration nerd, and there's enough substance here to make it worthwhile even if this isn't usually your genre of choice.
-Paul[TOP]

That wraps up the review section for this week. Thanks for reading!

This week's shelves are from Stefan:

"My name is Stefan. I live in the UK, and I have been collecting anime DVDs sporadically since first becoming a fan in 2007. Within my modest hoard, I am rather proud of my Evangelion tinbox and my imported copy of Macross: Do You Remember Love. There are always various additional titles I desire, as is surely the case for anyone, though sadly my dear little shelving unit is now fully occupied. Wish me luck in acquiring additional space!"

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I see some really good mecha shows on those shelves, including a few classics that I really need to get around to watching. Thanks for sharing, and best of luck in the neverending search for more shelf space!

Want to show off your own anime collection in a future installment of this column? Send me your photos at [email protected]!


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