Knights of Sidonia vol. 14 – Tsutomu Nihei

3 out of 5

Man, I gotta tell ya, for a massive, end-of-the-world sci-fi soap opera series in its penultimate set of chapters, Knights of Sidonia has really fallen off. It’s still entertaining, having built up a robust cast and populated its world with enough good ideas to turn over and let simmer, but after delivering the perfect POV character – Tanikaze – for sidling us into the pseudo hard-sci-fi of the KoS world, and then building up all of this tantalizing plotlines, Nihei swerved into penis monsters and harem comedy and, like, never really came back. We’re gearing up for a final battle and then sidelined into, like, three more final battles here, but for some reason the stakes never quite connect like they once did. The Captain is holding back on releasing Tanikaze into the fight, which sets up our cliffhanger for the next volume, so perhaps that’s partially the lacking aspect – we’re literally waiting on the sidelines – but it’s also a lack of payoff with a lot of other things leading here, forefronting the relationship stuff instead (and tossing in a weird “why not?” bit on that trash pit fire in this volume).

…If we’re willing to accept the face value of what Nihei’s been giving us, though, as mentioned, this is still pretty fun, if just less complex and intense than I had maybe hoped, given how things started. Volume 14 is strong in its linearity – it’s a very cross-cropped run of events – and I do dig just how wrong the final mission is going. The art is also otherworldly. While I might ultimately prefer the hefty sketchiness of Biomega-era Nihei, by this point, it’s amazing how skilled he is at narrowing down the lines he wants / needs for his detailed machinery and aliens, and the exact ways he’s differentiated that large cast is masterful – I know who everyone is at a glance, and that’s not an easy chore in ensemble works like this where a lot of people are almost background characters.

Fingers crossed for an insane conclusion…