On the 7th Day of Anime — CG Faces and Space Photosynthesis

There aren’t too many CG shows that are able to fight their way to the top of a given season, but Sidonia no Kishi had a fabulous setting and story to push it into the limelight this past spring. Sure, the vast majority of characters were exact templates of one another and I sometimes couldn’t tell the difference between one girl from another, but the original concept of the main character and his world held me enthralled. I’m reminded greatly of one of my favorite sci-fi television shows, Battlestar Galactica. Like in Sidonia, theirs is an existence shaped by alien invasion and the last resort for survival. They float boundless through achingly beautiful, yet cold, stars, constantly on the lookout for hostile encounters and natural resources for harvesting. As terrifying and abnormal as such a life may sound, their many years in space have given them the time to adjust to their new reality.

The first time I met Hiyama, I honestly didn’t think about it too much given my previous exposure to series like Polar Bear Cafe. So what if a brown bear stands upright and serves food and drink like any other person? But as we explored the ship and met others, I realized the strangeness of Hiyama’s appearance and placement. She is the only animal-hybrid character on Sidonia, and no one makes mention of it other than the protagonist’s “grandfather.” It isn’t until much later in the show that we pick up on the negativity between her and the original crew; even then, the choice of appearance doesn’t make much sense other than as a reference to another work by the creator. Regardless of the reasons, I approve of Hiyama’s bear face, claw hand, and motherly cooking style. One more paddle-full of rice, please!

While we’re on the topic of food, let’s continue on to the way Sidonia’s people survive. Nagate’s necessity for foodstuffs is immediately remarked upon by others, and it’s revealed that inhabitants no longer eat regularly for nourishment. Their bodies have been engineered to feed off of light via human photosynthesis. As useful as this seems, I can’t help but shudder at the idea of chopping the pleasure of biting, tonguing, crunching, chewing, and talking into food out of my daily routine. So many sensory pleasures satisfy me when I eat.  Another oddity of the photosynthesis move is its sexual connotations. At the beginning, one of the main girls is propositioned by another man to photosynthesize together. The request sounds very much like an invitation for something else entirely. The reasons for this become clearer when we see that same girl later on in the series remove all her clothing to fully let in the light and save on their meager rations. Although Sidonia’s residents can now clone, the desire of physical intimacy remains. Us viewers don’t really receive much information on this whole process of photosynthesis and intercourse, but I still find it remarkably fascinating that the new setting has adapted a couple of the things that give such vibrancy to every day life.

5 thoughts on “On the 7th Day of Anime — CG Faces and Space Photosynthesis

  1. The setting of Sidonia was good enough to make up for the terribleness, especially early on, of the character animations. It was something you got used to, and they did a bit better with them as the went on, but the first episode was really terrible (that “black eye” blue circle which immediately appeared after a punch…).

    I’d imagine that if instead of the sensory inputs you get from needing food are less of the things you mention, but rather mostly that unsettled pain of being hungry, one wouldn’t mind trading (not) eating (enough) everyday for some time lazing around in the light. I do think that the photosynthesis, like the “3 sexes” thing, was mostly just a throw-in to make it be all ‘future-y’. They did play it pretty well in the one scenario with Hoshijiro, but it was kind of a convenience.

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    • Hah! I think I recall you back when it was airing mentioning that black eye :p I underwent a similar adjustment in Sanzoku no Ronja Musume, which has the same CG work, but different, though still strong, source material to make up for the character designs.

      The whole thought that fantastic ideas like the photosynthesis and third sex are more for genre setting kind of upsets me since I honestly wanted to know more about them. With one of the major characters being that third sex, I would have thought that more time would have been spent on Izana’s eventual decision. Simoun is a show that melded its setting and characters well, making that final decision of girls to remain female or become male pivotal points for the pilots and the story. I’m hoping that the second season of SnK will spend more time on at least the third sex aspect.

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      • There are other shows where the CG character animations aren’t such a liability, tho. I love Arpeggio of Blue Steel, and think they did well with the characters in that show, even though there was a little shortcutting (like Gunzou’s arms being practically welded to his chair armrests) and characters who were not very expressive. But they didn’t feel like they were the thing dragging down the show, like Sidonia did.

        I think it’s a good thing when we want a show to explain more about things, especially things that are plausible yet unknown. Sometimes things that aren’t explained are a total liability (the entirety of the 3D gear in Attack on Titan was farcical, completely unworkable, and halfway ruined the show for me because something that could not possibly work in the setting they portrayed the show in was so critical to the story, with the other half being ruined by the dumb story, imo), but sometimes leaving it a sorta mystery works, especially if they stay consistent. I really think that the 3rd sex thing is just a drop-in, “this is the fuuuuutuuuure!” thing, because I can’t see how it’s something that matters if everyone accepts it. Maybe they’ll come up with a story where some faction wants to kill off all of the thirds, but then it’s just a plot McGuffin, which isn’t a lot better.

        Maybe one of these days I’ll get back to Simoun. I watched 3 episodes of it a year ago, before I decided to try Maria-sama ga Miteru (which turned out to be one of my all-time favorite stories).

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      • I really want Sidonia to not have suchh interesting aspects thrown in for flavor, but you’re right in that it’s highly unlikely they could elaborate upon the third sex without significantly deviating from the plot’s direction. Maybe a special? :p

        I actually have Arpeggio on a backlog for a rainy day, and absolutely forgot that it, too, includes plenty of CG. As for Simoun, I picked it up on DVD after I found a good deal and reading a friend’s raving review. While I appreciate what it does, I didn’t actually like it as much as I had hoped.

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      • I think Arpeggio is a really good series and it’s all CG rendered. One thing they do even better than Sidonia does is integrate the look of the battles with the rest of the series, while being able to take advantage of using CGI.

        Maybe it’s me being square, but I just don’t see where, in the end, a third sex really adds anything if it’s still going to end with monogamy, which is what the show seemed to indicate with Nagate’s harem. That ends up just boiling down to “Are the two people into each other?” If so, then the only relevant thing left belongs in a different genre of anime.🙂

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