So, this show defies any sort of easy explanation. It is weird, even by Japanese standards. And that is saying something.
The first season was actually fairly normal. It belongs to a popular genre of anime, the one in which future humans are on the run from aliens and use giant mechanical robot warriors to fight them. In this show, they happen to be on a space rock (made of old Earth) hurtling through the galaxy which is called Sidonia. A Chosen One kid named Nagate who had been living in a ventilation shaft or something, who is the immortal clone of an ancient hero who is also his own grandpa, pops up and saves the day by defeating the aliens, who are grotesque blobs made of some kind of indescribable space gunk. When the alien’s weak inner core is destroyed (which can only be destroyed by using some kind of material that is similar to but not exactly the same as the core) it dies.
So OK, that shit is pretty bananas, but by anime standards, also sort of typical. You’ve got the usual trope of a young kid (does this one have daddy issues? – not really, I guess, although let us not forget he is the immortal clone of his own grandpa so, yah, I guess that could qualify as a daddy issue) overcoming shyness and self-doubt while being surrounded by a cadre of buxom, submissive teenage girls who get nutrients by photosynthesizing, thus requiring them to be artfully nude in some scenes. He eventually saves Sidonia, and it is revealed that the aliens are starting to change and mimic humans. There is also a giant talking immortal bear with a Luke Skywalker hand. Yup. You read that right.
The action in the first 13-episode arc is quite good, the animation is great and the story hooks you in that weird anime way. If you’re into it, you’re into it. If you’re not, then you’ll never get it. The serialized format means each episode ends with some weird reveal that keeps you wanting to watch, the world building is quite competent and the character designs for the real outliers - like Bear Hand – are so very unique, in the way that only a truly whacked out society like the Japanese could do. One thing that always bugs me about American monster or fantasy movies – the monsters always look the same. But if you come to a Japanese manga or anime, you will see creature design quite unlike anything you see elsewhere. It’s got to have something to do with the fractured and repressed collective psyche of the culture or something.
The second season is mostly about an Evil Main named Ochiai who died a long time ago but has come back to life by infecting the brain of some unimportant side character. Apparently, Ochiai was just like living in suspended animation inside a test tube in the form of an ear slug for 100 years. Go figure. So, in the previous season Sidonia managed to capture one of these aliens which has taken the form of Nagate’s girlfriend who died in a space battle. Nagate is, understandably, in love with this dead girlfriend-looking alien clone creature. The core is gone, so all this empty vessel can do is obsessively follow our hero around with a loving gaze and a pair of exquisitely drawn breasts, making her perhaps the pinnacle of Japanese ideal woman fantasies in anime. Anyway, Ochiai immediately impregnates this thing and it gives birth – the details are mercifully left hazy – to a human-hybrid alien creature.
So now, in addition to giant robot space warriors, Sidonia has a giant half alien half human space warrior who can talk and think, and actually talks like a little girl, and looks like a horrid nightmare creature with no mouth and is the colour of bubblegum tooth polish in a dental office. This creature is truly horrifying, which gets back to my early comment about creature design in anime. A normal, functioning adult just wouldn’t think of this thing. But in Japan, not only does this thing exist but it has this really complicated back-story, and is even supposed to be considered cute.
Now, I know this next sentence is going to seem incredulous but it’s true: this is the part where this series truly starts to get weird. To summarize, up to now an earworm containing the soul of a 100-year old evil scientist has taken over the body of some hateable secondary character, and impregnated an alien in order for it to give birth to a giant alien/human hybrid flying nightmare creature. This nightmare creature almost immediately falls in love with the protagonist, who, I will remind you, is the immortal clone of his own grandpa.
The season opens with a few dynamic battles, then falls into a mid-season lull devoted to character development. I ask you – is it possible to develop these characters I just described? Well, apparently, the creative team behind this show thought not only was it possible, but it was necessary! What follows is the most bizarre love triangle in the world wherein a giant mutant alien creature drawn from Dante’s Inferno begins pining for our hero, who is also being sought after by another character, a buxom androgynous photosynthesizing sexpot who suddenly develops breasts.
Now, how does a giant space beast pursue a human? Simple! The aliens in this show are shown to have tentacles made out of some undisclosed material, which they can shoot out of their bodies for just about any purpose. The alien sends her tentacle out into Sidonia’s ventilation system and into Nagate’s house, where it appears like a giant puffed up marshmallow and begins to converse and interact with the other characters. At one point, it even snuggles up and sleeps next to Nagate. It is worth mentioning at this point, that this alien tentacle attached to a giant nightmarish space beast is essentially the daughter of an alien that looks like Nagate’s dead girlfriend (who he still pines for).
Japanese shows and movies and especially anime can be weird. But this has to take the cake. Eventually, the season ends with a climactic battle sequence, but the whole idea underpinning this series truly ran off the rails in season 2. I can deal with the existence of a pink human-hybrid nightmare space creature, but having its swollen, phallic tentacle flirt with Nagate was truly a delirious act of lunacy. The season ends with another spectacularly bizarre scene in which another alien worms its way into Nagate’s cockpit, also appears in the form of his naked dead girlfriend, and kisses him, spooling countless tentacles into his mouth. It had to be one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen in an anime.
The real shocker? I looked the manga up on Wikipedia and, well…. Season 3 is going to get even weirder.