3 out of 5
A thrillingly twisty ending and a well-executed battle lead-in can’t overcome the hit or miss effect of this volume’s first half.
Tsutomu Nihei has well proven to suffer from an excess of creativity. In Blame!, things started out incredibly scattershot as, it seemed, Tsutomu defined the world as he went along. The frustrating thing with Sidonia is that it feels much more pre-plotted, but that doesn’t mean Nihei has been gifted with the skill of stringing all those plots together, and when too many aspects are trailed out in quick succession, it’s almost as though you’re reading several short stories instead of a whole.
To which I’ll add that I recognize these tankoban are not like American trades: The collected works aren’t strictly written to be collected. So I can somewhat imagine reading these chapters separately in whichever magazine makes the patchwork focus less problematic. Still, whether we read our comics weekly or monthly or collected, I’d think that a minimum expectation of a single title reading like a single title can be expected, and with Sidonia – particularly this volume – certain chapters felt like we were starting fresh again.
The gauna death star rush has both an awesome (the propulsion destruction) and underwhelming (the hawk moth bit) conclusion, giving way to some Ren / En comedy, some Ochiai development, a randomly placed attempt-at-subplot-building cutaway of Hiyama making a mysterious phone call, and some more Midorikawa / Izana drama – again ill-juxtaposed against all the gauna warfare. There’s valid stuff in there, but it doesn’t come across organically, jumping from character to character. Tsutomu also tried out a new angle for his character faces which makes them look undesirably chibi in a few spots. I hope that goes away.
Thankfully, the volume shapes up excellently right at the end, as Tanikaze has to rush into battle in an untested upgrade suit when a gauna appears close to the ship. The pacing in this section is breathless, building up to (if I understand it) an excitingly creepy twist.
The Vertical English edition also includes two short bonus chapters showing Nihei’s trip to a convention in Vienna.